It is sad to see the media replete with stories of violent crimes and the seeming helplessness of the people in tackling this malaise. Armed robbery, banditry, rape and kidnapping have become so widespread. There are chilling stories of pedophiles that prey on minors and in some cases even their own children. Rape is such a despicable crime which all right thinking people has to condemn in its totality. It is, therefore, not surprising the level of reactions and coverage Bukola Dakolo’s allegation against Pastor Abiodun Fatoyinbo of Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA) has generated. Various people commenting on this alleged rape are doing so from various background and orientations. While some may be speaking from their gender solidarity and sensitivity mind – set, others may be doing so from a fanatical disposition or even the legal perspective. In all, this has thrown the ‘Man of God’ into media limelight and frenzy where the media have been awash with various stories relating to this sad development. If Pastor Fatoyinbo were an obscure ‘man of God’ who has not been ‘abundantly blessed’ by the God he serves would this matter have attracted the volume of coverage we are already seeing in the media? I said abundantly blessed because most Pastors today measure God’s blessings solely in terms of monetary and material acquisitions.
I wrote a critical piece on pastors and churches titled “The Miracle is the Pastor” which was widely published online and in Print highlighting some of the obnoxious and unwholesome practices of some of the prosperity preaching and Mega Churches owning pastors. However, I would not want to fall into the error of mob mentality where one acts first before thinking. For a typical lynch – mob in our cities, a shout of thief (Ole) and one is arrested, tried and summarily executed on the spot. Many in such mob may not even know actually what the victim was alleged to have done. I have just read a story of an innocent man who was killed and dumped into a lagoon in Badore, Aja in Lagos for allegedly stealing a phone. I am not trying to pull a garb of innocence on Pastor Fatoyinbo but I would want all to have a clear logical and open mindset looking at the scandal before rushing to conclusions. Doing so will give one the opportunity to comprehensively know the level of involvement or otherwise of each actor, motive and the appropriate steps or sanctions if required. Doing so will help one better understand and appreciate the problem. After all, it is not the first time he had been accused of sexually exploiting a member of his congregation.
Busola’s interview with Chude Jideonwo started with her narrating how when she was below the age of eighteen and a virgin her elder sisters introduced her to Divine Delight Club which she herself admitted was not a church to meet people. She also stated that she was not comfortable with what was going on there. Well, I will not question her age but the tendency for people to lower their age especially in a society were public record is poor or non – existent just to exploit the legal axiom that for a minor there is no consent in rape cases. Her elder sisters who led a minor to a club meant for adult to meet people are no less culpable because it was not as if the sisters never envisaged the scenarios that were to play out. Having introduced the minor to the club, it never bordered them that a man who was engaged to be married quickly became very close to her that on the day the alleged rape took place he drove confidently into their family house, walked majestically into the house, did whatever he wanted while the sisters were holed up in other rooms. He drove away unnoticed. How massive that building must be? This also gives an inkling of nature of her family. In other climes they may be charged for endangering a minor too.
Similarly, by repeatedly making reference of her not having a father figure and of being close to her mother only was a mere appeal to pity (arguementum ad Misericordiam) for there are many single mothers who not just protected their children but also raised them with the greatest level of discipline.
The account of the second alleged rape was even more bizarre. The wife of one who had raped her barely a week before invited her to come to their home and help with some domestic chores. She obliged and was raped when the husband on taking her home pulled up somewhere by the road side and both came down and she was again raped while bending over. The victim had many options here. She should have just run, raised alarm or threaten to expose him. The last alone would have made him cold or at least killed his libido for that time after all she used the same tactic successfully while she was in his house. It seems like it was a routine thing and how can one be sure that the two incidences she narrated were the only cases. How can I equally believe that this ‘man of God’ may not have been sexually intimate with her other sisters because many cases of sexual abuse or exploitation like this follow same pattern. Could it be that someone in the family was using the minor as bait in milking him?
Moreover, the circumstances leading to her going public are shadowy. There were insinuations that her husband, Timi Dakolo made a comment on social media in relation to some pastor’s sexual impropriety and was thrown a gibe in one of the comments. Could it be that the undercurrent and ripples in their family forced them to adopt the strategy of going public as a form of damage control?
The matter became a major issue within the Church with the involvement of Busola’s brother and some prominent pastors in the church and this culminated in ‘plea bargain’ and amicable resolution. The victim not only stuck to the church but also went on to date the alleged abuser’s cousin and both were contemplating marriage before he dissuaded his cousin from the relationship. This presupposes forgiveness on her part. Why suddenly did she go public almost two decades later? What the account was not explicit on was the time line. At what point did she become an adult? Could it be possible that Pastor Modele Fatoyinbo, the wife of the man in the middle, was aware of all these as it lasted? What baffles me is why young girls and women keep flocking to these pastors. One Ese, few years ago, was also reported to have accused the same man of sexual malfeasance.
I was poised to pick up my placard and protest in my own way when I remembered the story of what happened when Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate. The crowd had already made up their mind that even when Pilate gave them option of giving up a known criminal the crowd yelled that Jesus Christ would be the one to be crucified. Many in the crowd obviously had an axe to grind with Christ mainly because Christ teaching was upturning the existing order and believe. To some others, it may be nothing other than mere jealously of his rising profiles and popularity. But there are others who may have shouted “crucify him” just because others were shouting. This is never in anyway a justification or exoneration of the accused but in carrying out our social activism we should be very careful lest we unwittingly play into the hands of people with a whole different agenda. Now some people who believe and even endorse the marriage of minors have jumped into the fray. In every human organisation there is the quest for position and the church is not immune from this power play. Who knows?
Moreover, both main actors in this celestial dance of shame are slaves and victims to their own carnality. The family of Busola is as guilty as Pastor Fatoyinbo in creating this mess. Pastor Mrs Modele Fatoyinbo deserved the chastisement she has gotten so far from the press with some even alleging that she was complacent and may have been involved in arranging some of these girls for ‘Man of God’. It is common knowledge that many girls and young women travel several kilometres to worship with celebrity pastors in their mega churches in their quest to hook – up with the rich and mighty in the society. And who says that they may not go for the Pastor himself as the main trophy. Devil is a liar! However, He should have known that to those who have been entrusted with great positions, higher responsibility was expected. The wife of Caesar is expected to be above reproach. Is the biblical story of Samson and Delilah or David and Uriah not enough to teach him enough lessons?
The media coverage has been massive and it is not just about the volume of coverage but clearly Pastor Fatoyinbo is already on trial in the media. The social and traditional media for close to a month have been awash with the scandal and we are not close to hearing the last. What has been served so far is the news brief and the major story is bound to follow if this case should ever go for litigation. I am surprised why nobody had gone to court yet. However, despite the media frenzy and trial, the ‘Man of God’ remains innocent until proven otherwise unless his stepping down is an admission of guilt. But if none of them fail to go to court, we should leave this matter between them and God who is the Judge of all Judges.
Uja is a researcher and wrote from Abuja.