The former minister says T.B. Joshua was close to many world leaders but kept it close to his chest, never flaunting his connections and relationships.
A former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, discusses his relationship with the late Prophet T.B. Joshua, who died on Saturday at 57. He also provided insights about Mr Joshua’s persona and why he was not liked by some Nigerian pastors.
You seem to be close to late Prophet T.B. Joshua. What kind of man was he?
Femi Fani-Kayode: He was my friend and brother and a great man of God whom I had the utmost respect for and who I hold in high esteem. He was deeply courageous, kind, compassionate, gentle, faithful to his own, intelligent, humble, selfless, generous and enlightened. He was also very accommodating of contrary views. I learnt a lot from him and we spent many hours discussing current affairs and the state of our nation. He was a profoundly good man. He was one in a million.
When was the last time you spoke to him and what did he tell you?
Femi Fani-Kayode: Two weeks before he passed. He told me that we should pray for Nigeria.
What were his fears? Why did he ask you to pray for Nigeria?
Femi Fani-Kayode: He was a man of faith and he always prayed for our country even at the best of times.
How did you guys become friends?
Femi Fani-Kayode: It was in 2016. I was in detention. In an underground cell and all alone. I had been detained for the second time and it was quite an ordeal. I had been in for 3 months and was later transferred to a facility in Kuje prison where they keep only Boko Haram terrorists. It is like Guantanamo Bay and I was there with only Boko Haram suspects and convicts.
The place was built by the British Government and it is almost like a secret facility away from the main prison. It was terrifying and a clear attempt to intimidate me and endanger my life. I was sure that they would either maim or kill me in that place because the people there were all Boko Haram except one Okah who was also accused of terrorism.
I prayed to God to give me strength and courage because I would rather die than bow or break before my enemies. I also asked Him to watch over my family in case anything happened to me. The following day one of the wardens came and told me someone wanted to talk to me on the phone. He gave me his cell phone. I asked who it was and he said Prophet T.B. Joshua.
I said but I have never met him and I don’t know him. I thought it was another set-up or that the man was lying. He said that it was really him and that even though we had never met he insisted on speaking to me. I took the call and we spoke. He encouraged me and assured me that all would be well. That I would come out soon and even stronger. That even though we had never met he had been following my ordeal in the hands of the Government and that he was inspired by my defiance and courage. He said he knew that I was innocent of what I had been accused of and that it was nothing but persecution because of my strong stance against the tyranny of the government. He said that he wanted me to know that he was praying for me and that he loved me with the love of God.
He was humble, compassionate and kind and he showed me so much love in those few minutes on the phone. Before he dropped the phone he also told me that he would reach my family and keep an eye on them for me so I should not worry about that. That really moved me because that was my greatest concern. I didn’t really care what happened to me but was worried about how my two wives and children were coping. At such times everyone usually abandons you and yours. People you thought you could rely on and trust will stop taking calls from your wife and family members and shun you out of fear of the Government. You know I have been detained several times over the years by different Governments and this is what always happens. Mostly we were abandoned by friends. However, TB, who I didn’t know, reached out to me and my family and stood by us throughout.
I was really moved by his call and though we never spoke again whilst I was in detention he honoured his word, kept in touch with my loved ones and encouraged and stood by them too. The day I was released I called to thank him and that is how we became friends. From that time our friendship and love for one another grew from strength to strength until we became almost inseparable. I spoke with him on the phone virtually every day and I saw him at least once a month from 2016 until 2021.
T.B. Joshua was my brother and virtually everything he told me concerning my future and life has come to pass. Do you know that he actually told me the day I would eventually get bail and be released and he was right. It blew my mind. He was more than a friend: he was a brother. I learnt a lot from him and I will never forget him.
I will do all I can to honour his memory. Most people live for their pockets and their stomachs but T.B. Joshua lived for God and humanity. He was very different to most. He was a great man who always looked out for the weak, the despised, the vulnerable and the oppressed. It was an honour for me to be considered as one of his friends.
Can we say he was your spiritual mentor?
Femi Fani-Kayode: He was my brother, my friend and my confidante. There was nothing we did not discuss. Our relationship was not really based on spiritual matters. We were simply brothers and that is worth more than anything else.
A lot of people consider his death to be sudden. Did he struggle with any ailment?
Femi Fani-Kayode: I spoke to him two weeks before he passed on and he appeared to be fine. I was in Enugu at the time. I wanted to see him in Lagos but needed to pop up to Arewa first before coming back South. My plan was to go and see him after my visit to Bauchi state after stopping in Abuja to see my children. Alas in the early hours of the morning on the day that I left Bauchi I confirmed that he had passed on. The rumours started from 1.00 am and I could not sleep. Even though a relative of his lied to me that he was still alive at 3.00 am and claimed that he was just feeling a little unwell. By 5.00 am, it was confirmed to me that he was dead and that was it.
I left Bauchi later that day and went home to my children in Abuja. I have been in shock ever since but I will see his wife and children. I will always be there for them because he was always there for me and mine. I do not know whether he was ill or not but his passing really was strange, sudden and devastating to millions of his friends and followers all over the world. Many still cannot believe it. I have had calls from virtually every continent in the world over this issue. Everyone is so sad. I guess it was just his time to go and when God calls you home there is nothing anyone can do about it.
He was only 57 and would have been 58 a few days later on June 12th. For goodness sake that was too young. He was three years younger than me! It is very sad indeed because he still had so much to offer the Church, Christendom, Nigeria, Africa and indeed the world. I just give God thanks for giving me the privilege of knowing this extraordinary man who did such great exploits in the name of the Lord, who put so many smiles on so many faces and who did so much for God’s kingdom.
You have painted the departed clergy in beautiful colours. Then why was it that some Christian leaders were sceptical of his ways and methods?
Femi Fani-Kayode: If that is so then it is misplaced. There is no big man of God in this country that I do not know and respect. Like all human beings they all have their weaknesses and strengths. If they were sceptical about T.B. Joshua, that is their choice and view. That is merely their opinion of him and they are entitled to it. I do not share that view. More importantly, I do not need anyone’s validation to make me feel good about myself and neither did T.B. Joshua. Let God judge us all. He alone sees our hearts and knows what we do behind closed doors. He alone knows whether we are truly good or evil.
All I know is that, from all I saw and witnessed, this man Prophet T.B. Joshua was a good man who served a mighty God to the best of his abilities and he did so well. He shook the world for Jesus and he won many souls for Christ. He was a star in Christendom and like all stars, he was bound to attract a bit of envy and jealousy from his peers. I am not sure any Nigerian living or dead has had as much of an impact on the gospel worldwide as T.B. Joshua did. Go to places like South America and South-East Asia or Israel and you will be shocked by his following and the impact he had on the lives of ordinary people.
He was also close to many world leaders but kept it close to his chest. He never flaunted his connections or his relationships. His legacy is outstanding and many of his peers cannot handle that because they felt that his humble beginnings did not warrant or deserve it. On his part T.B. Joshua did not give a damn, he never defended himself publicly and he just kept looking to God and doing his work. And he did all this with the greatest humility, always being polite and kind even to his greatest detractors. He was much misunderstood, often misrepresented, often falsely accused and often maligned but the truth is that he was a very good man that was totally dedicated to his flock, his family and to his work.
The same way in which the Jews hated Jesus is the way many in the Kingdom hated T.B. Joshua. Even in death, some have insulted him. I do not see or know the basis or justification for such hate and I believe it is evil and divisive.
It is actually a shame and a disgrace for any Man of God to hate another. The Bible says “who is he that lays a charge before elect?” It says “it is Christ that justifies”. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ Himself said, “let he who is free of sin cast the first stone”. Who are these people that speak ill of T.B. Joshua and judge him? Are they God? Are they angels? Are they infallible? Are they perfect?
Unlike many others, T.B. Joshua did not judge others and he did not think only of his pocket. He thought of humanity. And I do not know any man of God in this country or outside this country that cared and catered for the poor and needy like him.
Maybe that is why a few of them hated him. He reminded them of what they ought to be doing but are not doing. I do not know and I do not care. I respected him, I loved him, I admired him and I always will.
Do you have insight into how the work he started will continue now that he’s gone? Who’s likely to step into his shoes in the ministry?
Femi Fani-Kayode: I have no idea because I only ever worshipped in his Church once. Our relationship was one of friendship and brotherhood rather than me being a member of his Church. I watched Emmanuel TV from time to time but I know little about how his Church is run or who is in charge now. What I know is that he has built a great Church, a great legacy with a great and loyal congregation and I have no doubt that his many disciples and excellent team of Pastors will keep the flag flying.