Controversy surrounds Nigerian ‘healer’
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Lagos - TB Joshua is one of Nigeria's most famous -and controversial - evangelical preachers, who inspires such respect among his thousands of followers that he is rarely referred to by name.
Instead, members of his Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) call the man who claims to work miracles and predict the future “The Prophet” or “The Man of God”.
But claims he can work miracles and raise the dead mean he has also been dogged by controversy.
The SCOAN website portrays the life of Temitope Balogun Joshua as a story of rags to selfless riches, from his birth into poverty on June 12, 1963 in southwest Nigeria to international renown.
He dropped out of high school and worked in a poultry farm, taught children at evening classes and washed people's feet on the muddy streets of Lagos before a revelation to set up a ministry while on a 40-day fast.
“The life of TB Joshua is a story of amazing grace and unwavering focus,” his biography on scoan.org says.
“Today, he is a mentor to presidents yet a friend to the widows and less privileged, a role model to his generation yet a humble and hard-working man, toiling tirelessly for the advancement of God's kingdom.”
Certainly, his ministry through the church he founded in 1987, has an international reputation: claims of miracles, deliverances and prophecies have attracted not only ordinary people but celebrities and heads of state.
Forbes magazine in 2011 named him as one of Nigeria's five richest pastors, with an estimated net worth from SCOAN and his emmanuel.tv network of between $10 million and $15 million (8-12 million euros).
Photographs that adorn the walls of his waiting rooms are a who's who of African leaders - from Malawi's former president Joyce Banda to Zimbabwe's former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
The South Africa rugby star Jaco van der Westhuyzen credited TB Joshua with healing him of a career-threatening injury.
Joshua has been involved in humanitarian work, providing relief to victims of disasters such as wars and earthquakes, including the one that devastated Haiti in 2010.
But it is his prophecies, claims of miracle working and “deliverances” from evil spirits that have attracted controversy.
Among his predictions are the death of pop star Michael Jackson in 2009 and the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, which went missing earlier this year.
His alleged miracle working includes raising the dead and curing the sick of HIV/AIDS and terminal illnesses. Last month, he is said to have claimed “anointed water” could cure Ebola.
Doctors have dismissed the claims as unscientific and provided ammunition for critics who dismiss Joshua as a dangerous fraud preying on the poor and vulnerable who are desperate for hope.
But van der Westhuyzen said the faith healer should not be underestimated.
“He looked at me and it was if he had x-ray vision, like he could see immediately what was wrong with my knee,” he said in a 2004 interview with Britain's The Observer newspaper.
“He said to me, 'Stand up and run'. The brace had been on for weeks and running should have been impossible. Well, I trusted my faith and started to run - and at full speed. There was no pain.”
Sceptics track his every move on sites such as “TB Joshua Watch”, which has led calls for him to be prosecuted over the deaths of 80 people in a building collapse at SCOAN last Friday.
Joshua, a father of three, has brushed off the criticism and thousands of worshippers flock to hear him speak every Sunday at his sprawling church in Ikotun on the northern outskirts of Lagos.
He is always ready with a quote to denounce his detractors.
“Whatever I am today is a product of the conviction that victory through Christ Jesus is victory indeed,” he said in a 2006 book “The Mirror”. “The rest is history.”