There has been understandable uproar and hoopla on social media especially, since Friday morning when Busola, the wife of a popular singer, Timi Dakolo, alleged in a pernicious interview conducted by a media cum public relations practitioner, Chude Jideonwo, that she was raped by Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo of the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly, COZA.
According to her, the purported rape occurred about 20years ago when she was about 17 and a new convert in Fatoyinbo’s then non-denominational ‘youth club’ which embraced all kinds of people and focused on worship and fellowship in a modern way. It was the youth club, based then in Ilorin, Kwara State that transmuted into what is today known globally as COZA.
While the interview has become a hot-button issue online and offline, among adherents and activists and Nigerians across the world, it bears putting it in proper perspective. Busola, who was then a secondary school student in Suleja, Niger State, said that while home on one of her holidays in Ilorin where she lived with her mother and siblings, she was prevailed upon by her sisters to attend Fatoyinbo’s Divine Delight Club where she claimed she caught the then young pastor’s attention because of her boldness and bluntness. A pastor-adherent relationship began with the pastor becoming a regular face in their house.
One day, very early in the morning, while her mother was away and her sisters were in their rooms in the duplex the family maintained, Busola said Pastor Biodun came to the house. She was still in her nightgown when she went to open the door and the pastor purportedly pushed her to a chair, speaking only to command her to do as he said. In the interview, Busola did not say that she raised an objection or that she screamed for help despite the fact that her sisters were home. She recalled that after they had sex, he went to his car, returned with a bottle of Krest and forced her to drink it, probably as some crude contraceptive. She recalled that Pastor Biodun told her, “You should be happy that a man of God did this to you.”
Until the interviewer, Jideonwo, interjected and mentioned the word ‘rape’, Busola did not use the word. A few days later, she was in the pastor’s house (her alleged rapist) to visit his wife who had just put to bed. When it was time for her to leave, Busola recalled that Modele, Pastor Biodun’s wife, insisted the pastor drop her off at home against her will. On their way, she said the pastor veered off the main road to a deserted corner and had a go at her again. This time, she said that he pulled her out of the passenger seat, forced his way into her and later moved her to the bonnet for ease of access. Still, she did not cry for help. And she did not report to the police or to her family. Busola reportedly kept the incident to herself for so long until one of her sisters had a dream and forced the story out of her. How convenient. When the story blew open, she said that her family was begged not to make an issue out of it and she remained a member of the church until she started dating Pastor Biodun’s cousin. Indeed, rape is a very sensitive issue in Nigeria and everywhere else across the world. Rape is not acceptable no matter the victim, the sicko who did it and the religion of the debaser. It is a crime against the individual so debased, a crime against the state and a crime against God irrespective of your religion. Rape is a scourge that has brought down many powerful men. It brought down Mike Tyson from his Olympian heights as a heavyweight boxing champion when he was accused by a beauty queen, Desiree Washington in the early 90s. Tyson was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison. Popular American comic actor, Bill Cosby, is currently serving a three to ten year jail term for a catalogue of rape cases dating back several decades. So, rape is as heinous a crime as it is reprehensible. Perhaps the most influential rape allegation of contemporary Nigeria, Busola’s allegations have sparked many conversations in the media and around the country about rape culture and pastoral privilege. But beneath the sound and fury of the viral allegation; beyond Nigerians’ fixation with sensationalism, there is a need for circumspection. Pastor Biodun is not just any other man in the street. One of the most successful new generation pastors of his time, he is blessed with enviable oratorical prowess and smouldering good looks that can set off fire alarms, neither of which is his making. Add to the fact that he is wealthy too; many have described as an Adonis, a dandy and a very suave pastor who spares no cost to look good. Indeed, he will conveniently give Denzel Washington or Will Smith a run for their women fandom. Perhaps that is why his church has grown exponentially in the last couple of years we would not know. What we do know is that he is happily married and there has never been any case of a crisis in his marriage unlike many equally popular and prosperous pastors (Pastors Chris Okotie and Chris Oyakhilome readily come to mind). While Pastor Biodun cannot claim to be perfect or even infallible, there is need to sieve through the excitable and laughable cacophony of voices asking him to step down as pastor. There is a trending hashtag to that effect; #PastorStepDown. Thankfully, not all Nigerians are gullible or wilfully follow the bandwagon to sound or look cool or for social correctness. One of the most discerning responses to the allegation is that made by Reno Omokri, a former aide of former President Goodluck Jonathan. In a flurry of tweets, Omokri stated that although he never liked Fatoyinbo for personal reasons, “However, I am mature enough to divorce my emotions and be led by logic. And I counsel those now condemning him to do the same,” he wrote, adding, “Think. Don’t emote. A pastor comes to your house early in the morning. He does not know who will open when he knocks, or who is at home. He knocks and immediately you open he pushed you to a chair and raped you in your pyjamas. Do people think? He went on; “Even the most useless movie director won’t accept such a plot in a B-rated Hollywood/Nollywood/Bollywood movie. A movie has to have PLAUSIBILITY (emphasis his). I don’t like Pastor Fatoyinbo, but I won’t suspend my intellect because of my dislike of the fellow. After he allegedly raped her, she kept quiet for enough time for him to go to his car and get a soda drink for her? It does not ADD UP. My dislike for Biofun Fatoyinbo won’t make me become a SLANDERER by default. This story rings very FALSE.” Also a pastor and author, Omokri wrote further, “I am an advocate of morality. For years, I publicly preach against premarital and extramarital sex. I pastored a congregation in Abuja for years. I will NEVER, EVER, support RAPE. But Satan is going about like a roaring lion seeking whom to consume! Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo is sleek. Too sleek for my liking. What type of sleek man will rape an underage girl in her parents’ house while her siblings are at home? And then leave her to go get a drink from his car. Is this mass HYPNOSIS? Omokri, who has a Masters in Law from England, added, “The story cannot stand up in court. The story cannot stand up in the light of cross-examination. I give you my word that if you gave Satan 10 minutes to manipulate the minds of Nigerians, he will get a sizeable number of Nigerians to believe that Jesus is evil and the Satan is good. We are too gullible, excitable and emotional.” He concluded his posts with the hashtag, #ForTheBodyOfChristNotForFatoyinbo. It is instructive to note that prior to the outbreak of the allegation, a popular pastor had reportedly sworn that even if at the cost of his life, he would ensure that no soul remained in COZA, a declaration borne out of a deep-seated envy for Pastor Biodun. Was that why the interview was conducted in a church? And by a young man who has become infamous for being a professional mercenary and willing tool for organisations or governments? Again, it bears reiterating, why is everybody clamouring for him to step down from his role because of rape allegations brought against him? Is this about emotions or the law? Is the ongoing media trial of Pastor Biodun even godly? Let the Dakolos file a formal complaint of rape and let us see how Fatoyinbo will defend himself. If found guilty, let the law take its full course otherwise, he will prove to the world that the trees that remain standing are those that bend best in the storm.
Boma Stephens, a lawyer writes from Abuja