By Olusesan Laoye
Arigidi in Akoko North West Local government of Ondo State is a sprawling town that takes more than two hours to reach from Akure the State capital of Ondo State.
The road to get there is rough but the town itself is conspicuous and very popular, despite the stigma that clashes between farmers and herdsmen and kidnappings are rampant, which makes travelers, especially those passing the route for the first time to be scared, the people of Arigidi who are mostly farmers of note, are very friendly and accommodating.
Ironically, that is the town where two of the prominent and powerful figures in South West Region of (Yorubaland) are from.
Iba Gani Adams, the Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, who shot into the limelight in controversial manner, when he was the Director of operations of the Oodua Peoples’ Congress (OPC) a liberation movement for the emancipation of Yoruba race.
Prophet Temitope Joshua Balogun popularly known as T.B. Joshua, who died on June 6th 2021 at the age of 58 was the other great man from Arigidi Akoko, who as well came into the limelight in a controversial manner as a prophet from the blues, who people and other men of God believed he did not go through any spiritual mentor or be under the tutelage of any known men of God before he just suddenly became famous.
As prophet, his act of healings and deliverance became doubtful and was subject of controversies as people, till he died, still queried his source of power, which gave him such enormous popularity across the globe.
The controversies that trailed his missionary success which people believed he acquired by diabolical means continued right from the day he was pronounced dead in a mysterious circumstance which still baffled the whole world as an international figure.
Since he died, a lot are being said on daily basis about him, some of which are derogatory and not palatable to hear. Even right now, there is still conflict over his final resting place, which has become so controversial between his immediate family and members of his church in Lagos and his people at home in Arigidi.
While uncomplimentary remarks are still going on about him, even from his co men of God, who still can’t believe how he shot into stardom spiritually, the perceptions about him from his people in Arigidi in Akoko, is different.
They saw him as a messiah. He was a man so loved and adored and his people are proud that they had such a son, who brought Arigidi into international focus. They claimed that throughout his life time, he was attuned to the people and never left them alone because he took Arigidi and the entire Akokoland into the world map which would forever remain indelible.
A visit to the home town of T.B. Joshua showed that the people are still in grief for the loss of their great mentor, provider and backbone. They doubt if they would be able to have such a person who did so much for them in centuries to come.
In the town, the death of Prophet T.B. Joshua was on the lips of everybody and everywhere you went, market place, restaurants, hotels, mosques and churches people gather to discuss him and what he has done for the town both collectively and individually.
Condolence registers were placed in many strategic locations in the town, especially the central Mosque where his parents were prominent, the palace of the monarch of the town and his elder brother’s place.
From the comments of all those who spoke with the Businesshallmarks at Arigidi, they all indicated that they were not missing him just because of his popularity, but because of the great impact he had made on the lives of the people.
They claimed that he had touched all homes and shaped lives of many who today would forever be grateful for his kindness and generosity towards them. Right in front of his family house there were some elderly women he was looking after who clustered around and lamenting in disbelief that their provider had died.
As one of them told Business hallmark “we do not know how we are going to keep surviving without him, because he has been the one taking care of us and other people, windows in Arigidi.
Apart from the aged, the youths in the town too are also crying because there are many who benefitted from his philanthropic gestures and personal contact in the payment of their school fees.
Other youths who are not going to school have been empowered in learning one trade or the other which T.B. Joshua catered for.
Although T.B. Joshua established a Foundation to take care of the people, from the reactions of those interviewed, their worries were that since the Foundation was yet to take off while he was alive, who then would remember to fulfill his dream.
Apart from the Foundation, T.B. Joshua’s uncompleted pet project, a gigantic edifice which stands on hectares of land at Oke Agbe and which is meant to serve as a multipurpose building that would house an hotel, shopping mall, office complex, school, radio and television houses as well as other things which are not mentioned, is also a source of concern to the people, as they were not sure how such a big project would be completed, now that the initiator is dead and hope that the project would not die with T.B. Joshua.
According to the monarch of the town Zaki Arigidi – Akoko Oba Yisa Olanipekun whose palace has sort of turned to a Mecca with the arrays of visitors being received to commiserate with him over the death of their great son, the 10 storey building still under construction is a phase1 of more edifices that T.B. Joshua planned for the site which is on an expanse of land that runs into several hectres.
The monarch said “that is the place where he promised that he would turn Arigidi to the Jerusalem of his dream but unfortunately this has not been achieved before his death.”
The Zaki Arigidi also said “this project is also part of our concern because we don’t know whether he made provisions for how it would be completed, so that it would not be an abandoned project”.
Oba Olanipekun told BH that his death was shocking to him because T.B Joshua brought economic relevance to the town due to his empowerment of the people who engaged in different kind of trades.
Joshua as he called him “was a kind hearted person; I did not believe that he died until it was confirmed to me that it was real. I am saddened, the whole town is now in grief but there is nothing we could do about that because that is the way God wanted it. Honestly I am the most affected by his death because Joshua and I were very close”
The Oba argued that the whole of the four local governments in Ako land would miss him a lot because of his tremendous contributions which the people would never forget.
According to him “the four Local Governments in Akoko was in darkness when they were cut off from the national grid by the distribution company. Prophet Joshua had to contribute about N 31 million for the restoration of electricity to the area.”
It was also said that if it were not for Prophet Joshua who ensured that light was restored to the affected councils, through his donation of N8.1 million remitted to Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC), and followed by another donation of N8.1 million for transformer replacement and other accessories, all Akoko communities would still be in darkness up till today because there would not have been anyone to dole out such huge amount for that kind of project.
These two donations it was said were different from the sum of N9.4 million paid for the provision of electricity.
Before him, there had been series of protests over the disconnection of the entire Ondo South from the national grid. Both politicians and other notable people in the zone had tried without result but T.B Joshua ensured that his people were connected to the national grid singlehandedly.
It was also revealed that apart from restoring electricity to the people, he donated vehicles to the Police and Army to patrol the four council areas in order to check incessant kidnapping and violent crimes in the area, while during the lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, T.B Joshua ensured the distribution of palliatives to all the four local governments in Akoko.
Also, Chief Mrs. Agnes Dada who is the Chairperson of Council of Iyalode in Akokoland said the people would have loved their son to be buried at home and not outside the domain. The head of the women who spoke at the palace of Zaki while signing the condolence register said “the death of our son is so disheartening, from the four Akoko local governments; we know that we have lost a great soul.
“Our son T. B Joshua has done a lot to help Akoko, to help Ondo State, Nigeria and the world at large, what a great pity to hear that he is dead. We didn’t believe until we heard it on the media. Our son; our father, our all has gone. All the Akoko women chiefs are sad because T.B Joshua is a great man. He is a man who God has chosen and during his life time, he helped many people even outside Nigeria. Other countries in the world, they know his impact.”
“He did not devote himself to only Arigidi-Akoko or Nigeria alone but the whole world at large. We are very proud of him and I know that God has received him in His own right hand. How we wish we have his grave here with us to serve as a monument and tourist centre that would bring revenue to increase the welfare and continue all his projects here.”
“He has a lot of projects going on here. If his remains are brought home, I know that his church members, and the world at large will be coming to Arigidi-Akoko and that will give us condolences and anybody can go to his grave to pray because he is a mighty man. The ongoing church pavilion and school have not taken off and nothing would make people to come to the town if he is not buried in the town.” Mrs. Dada argued.
Also his elder brother Sunday Balogun who spoke with the BH said he was sad that he lost his brother so soon. He said he has been the bread winner of the entire family and that they would miss him a lot.
Sunday Dada then went memory lane as he debunked the insinuations and what he described as unfounded malicious and damaging remarks about his brother by those he described as ingrates and enemy of progress, who would never see anything good in those who are doing good and helping humanity.
He argued that contrary to the blackmail of his brother about his spiritual power and the way some men who claimed to be working for God were talking about him “my brother Temitope Joshua Balogun was called by God. Many of them are not aware of his background right from birth and his school days.”
“I want them to know that my brother T.B Joshua had his spiritual power as a child. When he was in school he used to heal his mates who complained of headaches, stomachaches such minor illness like fever by praying for them and they would get instant healings.
This earned him then the nickname of “woli kekere” meaning little prophet”.
He argued that it was erroneous that men of God who should know better are involved in this campaign of calumny against his brother doubting his spiritual power of healing and deliverance, which he possessed naturally from God.
A youth leader Fisayo Oluba who as well spoke with BH at Arigidi said the youths in the whole four local governments in Akoko would miss T.B Joshua who did a lot to help the development of the area. She said that he was loved by the people and the youth he empowered.
According to her, “that was why the youths held a candlelight procession for him to appreciate him in death and to show that we would not at any time forget him. I am also using this opportunity to appeal to those who would manage the affairs of the church now that our father and provider is no more, not to allow all the projects he started in Arigidi which would benefit all in Akoko land to die:”
She said that the youths in Akoko land would take part fully in all T.B Joshua’s funeral programmes both at home and In Lagos.
While the people of Arigidi and the whole Akoko land are still not at home with the arrangement of T.B Joshua being buried in Lagos at the premises of his Church, Synagogue Church of all Nations, and how the on-going projects in the area for the benefits of the people would be completed, a senior Apostle in his Church Prince Tunde Olanipekun has assured that the church and the family of the prophet would take care of all that.
He said there was nothing to fear about, as all arrangements have been put in place to finish all the projects.
He even raised the hope of the people in Arigidi that hope is not yet lost about where would be the final resting place of TB Joshua. According to Prince Olanipekun who is a staunch associate and confidant of T.B. Joshua for 28 years “I think the people are just not patìent enough about some of the things put in place by Prophet T.B Joshua in Akoko land. We already have a foundation which was put in place by the T.B Joshua and which would continue his projects in all the places he had them.”
This foundation too he said would look after his charity works to both the young and the old, especially, all the people who were being catered for before he dìed. “The church and the board of trustees would not allow all these projects to end just like that.”
He pointed out that there is still the possibility of his remains being exhumed later in the years to come and taken to Arigidi as his fiñal resting place.
“We are not ruling out that possibility yet and this could still happen later”.
He explained why it was decided that he should for now be buried in Lagos, saying that where he should have been buried at Oke Agbe is bushy and lonely and if buried there anything could happen and to “forstal that, we have to bury him in Lagos where his remains and tomb would be protected”.
He said that they would not allow the over N2billion he had spent on the projects in Arigidi, including the multi-purpose shelter which would serve as hostel, super markets, residential and for other activities of the church to go down the drain.
He condemned those casting aspersions on T.B Joshua especially the so called men of God.
According to him, the remark of all these men of God could be borne out of jealousy and ignorance of the Scriptures.
“Some of them I will say are jealous of him because they are not as internationally connected as our own man of God who we know was actually called by God himself. They only talked with their canal knowledge”
“T.B Joshua could be said to be Jesus Christ personified because he preached the gospel according to how it was laid down in the scriptures. He exhibited love and invested in the unity of all saints. He is generous to a fault, he was very humble and not flamboyant and has no religious bias and very humble, honest and always willing to elp others all over the world; honestly this man has touched lives”, Prince Olanipekun said.