Biodun Fatoyinbo aka “Robust Reply” Visits Ibadan
by Deji Yesufu
A few weeks ago, I saw a billboard that announced that Biodun Fatoyinbo was coming to Akobo, Ibadan. He would be guest minister to Gbeminiyi Eboda’s church – the Harvest House Christian Centre. I made up my mind that I was going to attend.
At least to behold this gentleman who had long promised Nigerians a “robust reply” but whom somehow has refused to speak on the matter almost five years after the allegations of his sexual philandering hit the news in this country.
Gbeminiyi Eboda is the reigning “man of God” in Akobo, Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria, this moment. Mr. Eboda has not always been big. He used to pastor a tiny congregation in Basorun, Ibadan, in a certain building called “Iya Ni Wura House”. There his church shared the building with two or three other churches within the office complex. Today he pastors the “Alpha Cathedral” in Akobo.
The one and only time I listened to Mr. Eboda was when he was a guest speaker at the Vine Branch Church, Mokola; where he ministered at a Tuesday service – about 7 years ago. That day I was not impressed with his preaching at all. For whatever reason best known to him, he chose to preach like T. D. Jakes. Mimicking his manner of speaking and all that. When I saw Mr. Eboda this last Wednesday, he had indeed “evolved and increased”. He was no longer preaching like T. D. Jakes.
Gbeminiyi Eboda and his congregation have built something close to a cathedral at the Iyana Olopa Bustop at Akobo, Ibadan. It is arguably the fastest growing congregation in that vicinity of Ibadan. Populated mostly by young people, some of whom are young and rising professionals in various fields of occupation in the humble city of Ibadan.
On the street that Eboda built his church, there are no less than seven other churches – all competing for members. I noticed that even the break away Bishop Bolu Martins, who left David Oyedepo a few years ago, also has his church facing that of Eboda. I also noticed the conspicuous absence of the pastors of these churches in Mr. Eboda “revival” meetings.
I arrived the opening night of the meeting on the 14th of March, 2018 on top of an Okada at exactly 6pm. It was my first time at Mr. Eboda’s church. As I paid my fares, I noticed Mr. Eboda arrive the same venue in a Pajero Jeep. Two rows of about 30 young men and women had been set up, in the midst of which Mr. Eboda walked into the church. As he walked, these young men and women were singing his praise, while he waved at them like a newly elected government official.
That night, Mr. Biodun Fatoyinbo was to be the guest preacher. Mr. Eboda introduced him to the congregation with fanfare and after a short “worship” session, Fatoyinbo launches into the meat of his discuss for that night. Usually in meetings like this, the invited minister spends the first few minutes of his message to “praise” his host; stating that he is the best to have happened to that congregation since the invention of pounded yam.
Fatoyinbo said nothing less; just that he said a little more and I just could not but wonder at how things have deteriorated in these charismatic assemblies since I stopped attending them some four years ago.
Fatoyinbo said “I knew that Pastor Eboda will make it…” That statement is pregnant with meaning because Fatoyinbo goes on to explain how he had always been friends with Eboda when he was little known.
How he used to visit his home when he was a student in Ilorin. He states that this was his first time visiting Eboda’s church. And I just could not but wonder at the dichotomy of these words: you never visit your “friend”, until this friend of yours built a cathedral – one large enough to contain your person.
These prosperity preachers never change, I said to myself.
Fatoyinbo continues: “Heaven has come to Ibadan…” I say to myself: I can imagine. “Eboda is a great man. He oozes out wisdom. He is a genuine man of God. Pray for the gift of such a friend… This is a church to cling to… Only beautiful people come to my meetings… I have come to master three things in life: what I say, what I think and where my money goes to…”
The last remark elicits a lot of laughter from the congregation as the guest minister invites us to take our seat. He launches into his text for the night and this is where I must make a point. Fatoyinbo is preaching a message in this opening night of the meeting themed “evolve and increase”.
It is incumbent on him to find a biblical text that will support this theme. The trouble however with preachers like him is that they go into the Bible, find a text that supports a particular theme or topic, reap it out of context and make that text say what they want it to say; not what it really says.
Fatoyinbo goes for the mother text of all Faith Preachers: Mark 11:24. It reads: “Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them”.
Mr. Fatoyinbo closes his Bible, turns to the congregation and asks: “when do you have them?” He goes on to answer: “You have them the very moment you pray.” Then he ditches the text and proceed to tell the congregation what he wants them to know and not what the text is saying: “You are made for movement… God expects you to go forward… You need to continually evolve and increase… There is more out there for you… Everything you will be, you are already… Not one person here will miss their destiny… This is the least that you can be… The Lord has instructed me to declare things… Prayer is not only the key, it is the master key…”
Preaching the same sort of nonsense that prosperity preachers long before him have been preaching, Fatoyinbo fans the embers of the congregation’s ego and self, and positions their mental state to believe that God exists to satisfy their lusts.
He takes a perfectly spiritual tool, prayer, and uses it in a clearly unspiritual manner, to bring about the desires of the congregation. The prosperity theme of the meeting remains: evolve and increase.
It is the same with all the other big churches in Nigeria, including the “Open Heavens” and the “Shiloh” or whatever “Experience” that people are seeking in these churches. The aim is to use God to satisfy human lust. God somehow has lost control of his world and he is now depending on men to make him do certain things: particularly to brings blessings and prosperity on all men, so preach these men.
To drive home his point, Fatoyinbo laces his messages with anecdotes that will arouse the greed of the congregation. He explains that he does not think he has arrived. He has a friend in the USA who pastors a big church – this guy is just 36 years old. He explains that Beyonce once visited this church and gives this young man $10 million to advance the gospel. In the midst of the hues and cries, I wonder at the congregation and thought to myself: do these people know who Beyonce is? What has Beyonce done to ever advance the gospel through her music that to plainly glorifies sex and vanity? Will a gift of $10M suddenly absolve her of all her ways?
Fatoyinbo is not done with stories. On his second night preaching, he tells the story of how he was given a beautiful car which he discovers that his five year old son loves so much. So one morning, he calls the boy and gives him the car. He told that story to say that although his son owns the car, he cannot drive it. He wanted the congregation to grow in maturity to be able to own and use the things God wants to give them.
While the congregation hails his point, the other fact of how pastors subtly or directly compel members to give them things is carefully overlooked. The vision of the pursuit of mundane things etched on the listeners is not seen. And the disguised pride in his own wealth comes out in a veiled form. He tells us of how he had to silence a proud preacher once. He simply took the man around his congregation and showed him his wealth. The congregation was just like “wow!”
I have intentionally reported Fatoyinbo in the negative in this article because I am hopeful that Nigerian young people would some day discover the deceitful manner ministers like him can defraud them.
But Fatoyinbo was not all negative in the two nights encounter I had with him at Eboda’s church. He came out to me as a man that has minimum education: he speaks very well. His father was a politician and he and his siblings were raised with some silver spoon.
He regarded himself as a “rich kid”, who got away with certain things in the home of his relatives when he visited them in the village because his father had money. After making that statement, Fatoyinbo prayed that the congregation will have the kind of money that will make them “somebody” in society.
It was at the second night of his ministration that Mr. Eboda introduces Fatoyinbo as “his lordship”. Where I sat, I just cringed at the manner to which these men take the praise of other men to.
I have long suggested that two of Nigeria’s leading trouble are her politicians and her preachers – especially those of the Prosperity/Pentecostal ilk. While Nigeria’s politicians defraud her, the preachers lend legitimacy to their actions. Fatoyinbo himself alluded to this when he said that what most young ministers do now is to come to Abuja and be errand boys to politicians. He says these young men will spend hours praying for politicians and when they are done, they are rewarded with some cash as honorarium. As he recounted this story, I say to myself: but, sir, you also left Ilorin for Abuja at some point too now. It is working for you; hopefully, it would work for these boys too.
I end this essay by stating emphatically that there is nothing Christian in many of the gatherings that call themselves “revivals” in Nigeria Pentecostal churches today. They are simply the gathering of a people to rub the ego of one man and to source for more membership for him. Pentecostal churches are ponzi schemes that cause the people at the top to increase in wealth as their base line followership increases.
These gatherings are devoid of the Christian gospel and the foremost call of the Christian church, which is to make disciples for Jesus, is not even a motive for them. The whole motive is to get members, so as to grow a church, that will have people “sow” into the life of the “man of God”.
In late 2013, a young woman by the name of Ese Walters came out to accuse Mr. Biodun Fatoyinbo of indulging in months of sexual philandering with her. She claimed that they both carried out the acts in hotels far away from this country. She had severed relations with the pastor as of the time of making these allegations. Her own way of finding healing was to make the whole matter public.
Mr. Fatoyinbo came under fire from that moment on. The Sunday after the scandal broke out, he promised Nigerians to give a “robust reply” to the allegations. Five years down the line there has been no response. Rather, Mr. Fatoyinbo has only continue to “evolve and increase” in ministry, bringing his friend, Gbeminiyi Eboda along with him.
These men are in their early forties and they are the new face of Pentecostalism in our nation. As they continue their business, some of us will continue to track them and hold them accountable to their words and ways. The only people one pities in this whole drama are the young men and women, whose mental faculties these men eat into with their nice words. Their judgement lingers not (2 Peter 2:1-4).
I spent fifteen years of my youth in these environment and I know the toxin these people are instilling into the life of young people. I advise that parents should guard their children and wards, and keep them from these people.
This article was first published in www.mouthpiece.com.ng this day in 2018