Sunday, June 30, 2019 7:44 pm
Outrage over rape allegation leveled against Abuja-based Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo of the Common Wealth of Zion (COZA) by Busola, wife of popular soul singer, Timi Dakolo, continued on Sunday as scores of protesters stormed the church headquarters located at the posh Guzape District of Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
The protesters who were armed with various hues of placards, asked the clergy man to step down from his position as the presiding pastor of COZA, to allow for independent investigation of the rape allegation against him. Some of the protesters also used taped their lips with black tapes to indicate that the issue of rape is still not openly discussed in the country.
Tight Security, Hired Protesters
Getting near the church was, however, not a smooth sail for the protesters as the church deployed hooded security operatives, policemen, soldiers and officials of the Nigeria Civil Defence Corps in an attempt to frustrate and keep them far away from its premises.
The security operatives, some of them hooded, also corked their guns in an attempt to scare away the protesters and journalists.
But they gave in to resistance of the journalists as they were eventually contented with using their bodies to form a barricade which ensured that the protesters were kept away some metres from the church premises.
The protesters were contented sitting few metres away from the church with their placards. Even then, a man believed to be an official of the church was seen coordinating the assembly of a group of hoodlums around the church for what later turned out to be a counter protest.
The hoodlums later emerged with different placards expressing support for the COZA Pastor. Some of the pro-COZA protesters cannot recall the name of the Pastor they were protesting for when challenged by journalists, just as some of them held the placards upside down.
One of the hired protesters later confessed to journalists that they enticed for the pro- COZA Pastor protest with an offer of N10,000 per head among other promises.
But the organisers ensured that the protest did not degenerate into rowdiness despite the incursion of the intruders. “Based on this allegation that has been leveled against Pastor Fatoyinbo, investigation must be carried out so as to establish whether he is guilty or not. When that investigation is being conducted, we expect that he will be asked to step down from his leadership position. This will ensure that there will not be any form of bias or impartiality in the investigation,” Bukky Shonibare, one of the organisers of the protest which was held under the hashtag #churchtoo movement told journalists.
She added that the protesters also want Christian Association of Nigeria and every other body managing religious affairs in Nigeria to take a stand and speak against human rights abuses, sexual violation going on in churches.
Shonibare also asked for an end for threats and intimidation of those who have taken up the campaign against those who have taken up the campaign to ensure justice for Dakolo and others: “ And then, the fourth thing that we are asking for is that every threat and intimidation against Bukola Dakolo, against #meetoo movement must stop. I personally have come under a lot of threats; people have asked me not to walk on the streets of Abuja, that they will pour acid on me. All those threats must stop.
“But one thing is clear that we will no longer be silent about incidents of human rights abuses and sexual violence going on in the churches which have gone on for too long. When Ese Walters came out in 2013, nothing was done. Now that Bukola Dakolo has come out, many people are narrating their stories. If nothing is done about it, that will be simply promoting the culture of silence.”
Another leader of the protesters, Ayo Oyalowo said though the Pastor has not been found guility of the allegation of rape by a law court, the fact that others women have come out to level that same allegation against him since the scandal involving Dakolo’s wife broke means that he must be investigated thoroughly.
Unraveling of A Scandal
Busola had set off the latest scandal involving Fatoyinbo in an interview broadcast last Friday by YNaija channel. The mother of three had narrated how she was raped at 16 as a member of Divine Delight Club at Ilorin, the precursor to Fatoyinbo’s Commonwealth of Zion Assembly at two different times in a week by the pastor
According to her, while the pastor raped her for the first time at her parent’s home, the other incident took place in a secluded area. “I have kept quiet over the years. I had to come out to say this because another narrative was being said,” she added.
Busola’s husband, Dakolo had some days before in a social media post on Instagram, accused Fatoyinbo of indulging in rape of church members. One Ese Walter, a former member of COZA church had in 2013 detailed how she had a week-long sexual relationship with the COZA pastor during his visit to London in a blog post. The revelation generated a lot of furore in the media, but later died down and was virtually forgotten until the latest rape allegation surfaced last Friday.
However, Fatoyinbo had described the allegation of rape leveled against him by Busola “as a false and baseless claim targeted at destroying his reputation and that of his church” in his first reaction last Friday. “I have never in my life raped anybody even as an unbeliever and I am absolutely innocent of this,” he said in a statement addressed from the ‘Office of the Senior Pastor.’
He had also threatened to institute legal action against his accusers.
Fatoyinbo’s wife, Modele also buttressed her husband’s denial of the allegations at the service of the church held as protesters were sitting outside the church last Sunday: “Not even as an unbeliever will my husband rape someone.”
Nigerians Pastors, Experts At Riding Storms
But since last Friday others have come out to narrate sexual harassment encounters involving them or those they are familiar with.
Such encounters led to the exit of the members from the church, according to the narrations.
Fatoyinbo had at the end of service last Sunday announced the cancellation of a seven day event of the church billed to begin on Monday because of the demonstrations.
He said he cancelled the events because he did not want guest ministers invited to be subjected to unnecessary security checks.
This implies that the security cordon witnessed around the church in Abuja last Sunday will continue. The #ChurchToo and #PastorStepDown protesters have also promised that they will continue their protests at COZA branches in Lagos and Abuja to ensure that Busola and other alleged victims of sexual harassment of Fatoyinbo get justice.
But Nigerian pastors are famous for not only riding such storms, but coming out of them stronger, richer and more ‘blessed.’
For example, another Abuja Pastor, Joshua Iginla of Champions Royal Assembly announced his acquisition of a private jet about two months after he confessed that he had cheated on his wife and impregnated a woman. A video of the private jet was posted on the social media handles of the church after the announcement.
This was why the admonition by the protesters to members of COZA at the close of the church service to hold their Pastor accountable was also apt.