By Devaan M. Mom
Busola Dakolo’s decision to call her pastor out could not have been an easy one. She is after all, a successful professional photographer, married to one of Nigeria’s prominent musicians, and the incident occurred many years ago.
Her accusation came a few weeks after her husband, Timi Dakolo’s allegations of sexual misconduct meted to female members of the church by the same pastor, Biodun Fatoyinbo.
Biodun Fatoyinbo came to most Nigerians’ consciousness in 2013 when salacious allegations were made about him by a female member of his church who claimed to have been in an extra-marital affair with the founder of the upcoming (at the time) Pentecostal church, the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly, COZA.
Dapper, young, charismatic and good-looking, Nigerians were more sympathetic to the pastor whom it was assumed by most had fallen prey to some Delilah determined to bring him to ruin and pull the church down. Indeed, there are those who opine that the scandal served to make both pastor and church even more popular and sought after.
So, it was with a sense of unease and dismay that many read Timi Dakolo’s allegations when they first hit social media in June 2019. Still, many gave Fatoyinbo the benefit of the doubt. That debate was still being whispered around when Busola, Timi’s wife dropped her own bombshell. Apparently, this same pastor had raped her in her parents’ home when she was just 17 years old. One can only imagine that the constant allegations of sexual impropriety levelled against him by a staggering number of women, mostly members of his church, brought back memories which spurred Busola to pitch in her 2 cents to give credibility to the stories.
It seems to have worked.
Suddenly a tsunami engulfed social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, as more people watched the revealing interview on Youtube and drew their conclusions. However, if Pastor Fatoyinbo of COZA had hoped to weather the storm as usual, it seemed Nigerians and particularly women weren’t having it this time around. In less than 48 hours a peaceful protest was organized and held at the church premises in Abuja and Lagos, 2 of Nigeria’s biggest cities.
COZA’s attempt at a pushback, having the Church premises cordoned off by state security agents, hiring random strangers to stage a counter protest, only outraged Christians and served to rouse scorn and deepen suspicion. The hue and cry would not die down this time and the church had to get Pastor Fatoyinbo to step down (even if temporarily) and yet there are still those insisting on litigation.
Described as a serial rapist, many on social media claim he has a history spanning back to his time before he became a pastor and speak of how he left Ilorin, Kwara state in a dust cloud of sexual impropriety including statutory rape, abortions, and getting kicked out of university. They insist his relocation to Abuja was an attempt to remake his image which has since fallen through owing to the constant trail of the same kinds of allegations.
His wife, Modele Fatoyinbo, who handled service the Sunday after the scandal, defended her husband. A bit of an irony really, since several of the women speaking up claim he blames his behavior on her inability to satisfy his sexual desires.
The sexual scandals COZA has found itself engulfed in are not new to the Christian faith. The Catholic church, the biggest Christian institution in the world, is currently in the process of reconciliation and healing after thousands of faithful brought such allegations against priests spanning many decades. The Anglican church had to deal with a split when it took the controversial decision to ordain gay priests, a stand the African arm of the church refused to accommodate. Every now and again, the random randy pastor is named though hardly ever shamed and life goes on.
However, what makes this situation stand out is the instant mass action embarked upon especially by non-COZA members to try to get the situation redressed. It serves as a watershed in the history of the church in Nigeria and indeed the culture of silence and shame which generally attends such occurrences. For one thing, it makes evident the fact that Nigerians are no longer willing to look away when clergymen are accused of sexual impropriety in any form as was the case in times past. Many challenged Christian regulatory bodies such as the Christian Association of Nigerian CAN, and the Pentecostal Federation of Nigeria PFN, to speak up. Both have since condemned the act while calling for investigations and also revealing that COZA is not registered with either of them.
The public uproar, however, has served the purpose of ensuring COZA’s postponement of a planned weeklong church activity tagged, “7 days of Glory”. These are remarkable achievements as far as holding the Church to account goes. It is also an indication that Nigerian women are finally finding voice and losing shame where rape stories are concerned.
There are still several people who disbelieve Busola’s story and wonder why it took her so long to raise the issue, despite the number of women who have chimed in since the story broke. The Pastor still has a strong fan base within and without his church.
Pastor Dave Ogbole wrote, to the ire of many, on his Facebook page, “My loyalty is stronger than correctness. I run to the battle right or wrong, we never leave a comrade alone in battle. It is one for all, all for one. I stand with Biodun Fatoyinbo, I am Bidoun Fatoyinbo”, following which he also promptly got called out for similar conduct by a certain Nguter Uja.
Also, in support of Pastor Fatoyinbo were the following Twitter accounts, with @funshographix tweeting: “It’s pure lies that Jesus was born through holy spirit (sic), God actually raped another man’s wife to birth Jesus Christ, Pastor Biodun was just following God’s steps.” Yet another tweep, @RenoOmokri described Busola’s account of the rape as being totally without merit. Tweeps like @DrJoeAbah, @Omojuwa, @BukkyShonibare, @Adeola, @AuduMaikori however, had a different perspective and kept the debate alive on Twitter.
Shortly after the video was publicized, Pastor Fatoyinbo, wrote a strongly worded rebuttal in which he threatened to take legal action to clear his name. Many on social media do hope the matter goes to court to reach a resolution on the matter. Twitter account @AyodejiOsowobi appeared to be soliciting for complaints of a similar nature perhaps in hopes of carrying out a class action or having other victims willing to testify should the matter go to court. As at the time of writing this article, her request had generated almost 10,000 likes and been retweeted by over 12,000 tweeps.
Should this action actually follow through, and an investigation is carried out, regardless of what is ultimately uncovered regarding Pastor Fatoyinbo’s guilt or otherwise, it would have served to send a very strong message to sexual predators that the days of shameful silence are over.
Devaan Mom is a journalist, development worker and politician. She writes from Abuja.