Let's be truthful with ourselves, sex scandals are not new in Christendom, they happen every day around us.
Busola Dakolo, Pastor Abiodun Fatoyinbo
Let's get this straight, the church is no longer safe for anybody, not even the sinners seeking redemption. There is a strong possibility that they might even get hardened in the church just like the offenders in Nigerian detention facilities. The church which is supposed to provide hope and solace to the people has turned into the home of actors-cum-motivational speakers wielding the Holy Bible to enhance egocentrism.
Most churches don't even harp on soul-winning anymore, it's now about raising money to fund one project or the other. Evangelism is now about stealing the members of other churches. Once you are confident, eloquent, and can read, all you need to do is get some decent suits and mount the pulpit to share what you understand about the Holy Bible. The book is very subjective so any decent interpretation goes!
Don't preach too much about holiness, people find keeping the 10 commandments unrealistic and might get uncomfortable and bored when the criticisms are too much. Nobody wants to hear what awaits them in heaven or hell if they die, rather they want to enjoy their years on earth. Don't tell them Jesus Christ is coming soon because nobody is really waiting for that anymore. Focus on the prosperity gospel which preaches that a penniless man today might be richer than Jeff Bezos in less than 24hrs if God wants it or if he sows a good 'seed'. You can match this with some fake prophecies to make the ministry grow faster. Nigerians love unmerited favour and will go to any length to a partaker of 'His grace'.
I have tried as much as possible to avoid writing or publicly commenting on the Pastor Abiodun Fatoyinbo and Busola Dakolo saga but the drama has refused to go away. I watched the latest special report anchored by ace journalist, Adesuwa Onyenokwe which is certainly giving credence to the allegations of rape made by Busola Dakolo against the senior pastor of COZA. I had to download the almost 1-hour long video named "The Pulpit and the People - Rev Ost & Pst. Busola", after watching it on YouTube for the purpose of several replays in order to understand every allegation made against the Christian cleric. It is very difficult to believe Pastor Abiodun isn't culpable, but I will try as much as possible not to make any accusations because the issue is in the court of law.
Let's be truthful with ourselves, sex scandals are not new in Christendom, they happen every day around us but the church covers them up. All 34 of Chile's Roman Catholic bishops offered their resignations in May 2018 over a child sexual abuse scandal, Father Paul Moore, 82, who is a Catholic Priest in Scotland was jailed for nine years for sexually abusing three children and a trainee priest. Moore previously admitted he had an attraction to young boys and had a desire to abuse minors. The statistics of cases of sexual abuse in Pennsylvania, US might force you to dump Christianity. In August 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a sweeping grand jury report on sex abuse in the Catholic Church listing hundreds of accused clergy and detailing 70 years of misconduct and church response across the state. About 1,000 children were abused sexually and the cases were covered up by the church leaders. Every now and then, you read stories of pastors either extorting or raping or impregnating vulnerable church members in the newspapers, social media or blogs, and we live with it like it's a norm.
Back home, one Pastor Timothy Omotoso of the Jesus Dominion International in South Africa allegedly abused over 30 young women and girls. He was caught by the police at the Port Elizabeth Airport restroom while he was trying to elope to avoid justice. This is a man that is so influential that he runs churches in different areas in South Africa such as Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein and in the United Kingdom. Additionally, busty actor Cossy Ojiakor keeps insisting that she did 'good business' with Apostle Johnson Suleman who was also accused of having an affair with one Stephanie Otobo. Only Bishop Francis Wale Oke was bold enough to come out clean about having an affair with his secretary many years back. Pastors are scared of removing the facade of 'perfection' placed on them, so they fail to admit their wrongdoings and seek help for the selfish purpose of staying in business.
I will never blame you if you don't fully buy the story of Busola Dakolo. Her account has a lot of loopholes that we might find less believable but it's normal about human beings. Rape is hard to prove especially when it's not recent with evidence destroyed; even the almighty FBI cleared the Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Brett Kavanaugh when it was obvious something was amiss.
Victims of sexual abuse hardly come clean completely. They tell the stories in a way that fully absolves them of all faults and later leaves gaps in it. For youths exercising their waists in the name of bachelorhood, you must have come across women that would subtly encourage you to sleep with them without protection and then blame you when pregnancy comes knocking like you jinxed them during sex. Another example is that only a handful of women would totally admit they made mistakes in their previous romantic relationships, the man is always the devil while the women are the white angels devoid of blemish. What I'm driving at is that women by nature are more liable to play the victim card, it's their natural behavioural pattern. Now, on the basis of this premise, let's do a brief overview of the story of Busola.
Personally, I don't believe she was actually raped by Pastor Abiodun. What I see is a case of a naive teenager/mentee being manipulated by her idol or mentor. Women by nature love God, they easily get too religious and see pastors like idols. Most women who disrespect their husbands bow down and lick the feet of pastors who might be far below the social status of their spouses. Whenever they go, they keep reiterating the views of their spiritual leaders and what you hear regularly is 'my pastor said, 'according to my pastor', 'my father in the Lord', 'Papa' and others. They forget the fact that these figures they worship like demigods also have demons they battle. Some of these pastors have viable waists that could impregnate women in an entire village and also half of the ones in the nearest city. The women end up positioning themselves for attacks by being off guard. There is a level at which you will adore someone that whenever they make a demand from you, you will find it difficult to decline their request no matter how costly. This is the psychological state of female fans that collapse when they see their favourite celebrities. Some even go as far as throwing underwear at them or offering sex immediately. Singer Innocent '2Baba' Idibia would have handled this sub-topic better than me.
These vulnerable women one day get shocked when the shepherd becomes the wolf but most times, it's already too late for them to retrace their steps. All they do is nurse the pains of the abuse and die in silence in order to avoid stigma or public condemnation. Pastor Abiodun is a handsome, intelligent, and a stylish smooth talker; match these attributes with a pastoral persona and you will realize no woman is entirely safe around him. This is like the case of a football striker who can use both legs and also the head to score goals like Cristiano Ronaldo; any inexperienced defender pitched against him is in hot Egusi soup!
A 16-year old Busola (as at that time of the alleged incident) against a Pastor Abiodun would be tantamount to assigning ill-trained Peace Corps operatives against the Boko Haram terrorists. The outcome might be a replay of the disastrous atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. This is what I feel about the fate of Busola. One doesn't expect her to come out painting the truest picture of what played out. She must tell the story from a position that gives her an advantage. It's a natural phenomenon but does that absolve Pastor Abiodun of any wrongdoing? My answer is NO!
Sex with such an underage girl is not only morally wrong, but it's a grave sin against God and it should never be tolerated in the Christendom in order to maintain the sanctity of the temple of God and retain public trust. As Pastor Abiodun's former spiritual leader - Busola Olotu, Pastor DODIM Ilorin, Kwara State said, he is not the only successful and popular pastor in Nigeria. Why are several women making allegations against him? At first, it was Ese Walter in 2013, other faceless ladies made similar allegations but couldn't boldly come out due to stigmatization; Busola followed in 2019, another lady also joined and told her story to online news platform, YNaija with a concealed identity. Chude Jideonwo of YNaija claims to have other women corroborating the revelations of Busola. Pastor Abiodun's former spiritual mother also claims to know other ladies who have also been under his 'anointing' but can't come out due to fear of opprobrium. Adesuwa also added that in the course of reportorial, she also came across one married woman who was allegedly raped by the pastor even while being pregnant.
This is getting close to the saga of the Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, R. Kelly, and Bill Cosby. It will be very myopic to term these allegations as an attack on the church. We shouldn't treat religious issues like political ones to prevent eventual total system collapse.
The bad news is that the truth will never surface. Pastor Abiodun is back on the pulpit and with the different narratives out there, people don't know what to believe. The Nigerian judiciary hardly convicts the rich and influential at least at the rate of common criminals, they easily manipulate the weak structures of the system and go scot-free or get a slap on the wrist.
The weakness of the church system has been exposed once more. There is no sanctioning body to maintain sanity and hold churches accountable for misdeeds; the likes of the Christian Association of Nigeria and Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria can only sit down and watch like spectators. Busola and other women alleged to have been abused might be forced to wait till we get to heaven before they get justice. Before that day comes, other pastors can have a field day continuing with the business of enjoying the best of women and making easy money from their followers.
Osayimwen Osahon George is a journalist and a PhD student at the University of Ibadan. He can be reached via his email; [email protected]