TB Joshua’s widow and the battle for his Nigerian church

 TB Joshua’s widow and the battle for his Nigerian church

Evelyn Joshua has become the head of one of Africa’s most influential evangelical churches, but the 52-year-old is faced with the challenge of maintaining her late husband’s legacy.

TB Joshua’s unexpected death in June at the age of 57 unleashed a succession battle that took months to resolve.

But the giant gates at his Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in Nigeria’s biggest city have swung open again to welcome worshippers for the first time in five months.

He was famous for his prophecies and self-proclaimed miracles, attracting tens of thousands from across Succession is rarely discussed at Nigerian Pentecostal churches and often passes on uncontested to the spouse of the deceased founder.

But at SCOAN, Mrs Joshua, who is an ordained pastor, faced competition as she was not a member of the church’s board of trustees.

This was taken by her opponents as an indication that her husband did not consider her his successor, the world to Lagos, including top politicians from Africa and Latin America.

Unlike other wives of Nigeria’s mega pastors, she mostly stayed in the background during their three-decade marriage.

TB Joshua, known by SCOAN members as “the prophet”, worked with a group of close disciples he called the “wise men” – one of whom it was believed was being groomed to succeed him.

But after his death, those loyal to Mrs Joshua obtained a court order making her a member of the board and so smoothing the path for her to assume control.

The church has since announced Mrs Joshua as the new leader “under the guidance of God”, enraging some factions of the church unhappy about the lack of transparency.

In particular the group known as Global Congress of SCOAN Members (GCSM), purportedly backed by some senior members, has questioned the choice.

But she has left no-one in doubt as to who is in charge, leading the first SCOAN service on 7 November since her husband’s death.

She reportedly lost no time in stamping her authority on the church, using the last few months to carry out some house-cleaning.

Videos have emerged of some members, mostly foreigners, who had lived in the vast compound for years, vacating amid jeers.

One member euphemistically described it as “an audit”.

Those removed from the premises were said to be opposed to Mrs Joshua’s leadership.

“After the demise of the prophet some of his disciples did not approach Evelyn with respect and maturity,” Patrick Iwelunmor, a former media aide to the Joshuas, told the BBC.

There have also been allegations of fraud and Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency, the EFCC, confirmed to the BBC that it was investigating a case of theft at the church.

Leading members of TB Joshua’s inner circle were accused of fleeing with bags of cash after his death.

It is unclear if this is what is under investigation, though Nigeran newspaper The Punch has reported that this was why some members of the church have gone into hiding.