Pastor Fatoyinbo’s case reinforces Nigeria’s legitimacy problem
One issue we have in Nigeria is that most Nigerians visualise corruption just in terms of theft of money. Generally speaking, corruption is a form of dishonesty or criminal activity undertaken by people entrusted with positions of authority. These forms of dishonesty include but are not limited to bribery, embezzlement, misconduct and theft.
Security corruption is misconduct where law enforcement officers end up abusing their power for gain, either personal or for friends. This type of corruption is a challenge to public trust, public cohesion, human rights and society itself.
In China, there is ongoing concern about collusion between corrupt police officers and the leaders of criminal triad gangs. Since the 1990s, a lot of China’s anti-corruption campaign messaging has focused on organised crime, corrupt government and security officials who protect criminals. Why is this? The ruling Communist party believe, correctly I might add, that such corrupt activities bring a legitimacy crisis to the police, which eventually affects them: the ruling party.
But such campaigns can only work when society finds the behaviour of such people in positions of trust to be abhorrent. So in the United States, for example, Reverend Amy Butler, the first female pastor of New York’s famous Riverside Church was recently removed from her post. The Riverside Church, had announced that they would not be renewing Rev. Butler’s contract but did not give a reason. Journalists went digging, and as it were, a video of the good reverend visiting a sex shop called Smitten Kitten during a conference in Minneapolis emerged. The church, naturally, was not amused, so she’s gone. Of course, the church reacted because they knew that if that video had emerged before they took action, their legitimacy as the shepherd of God’s flock would be cast in serious doubt. But that is in a normal country.
For some weeks now, Nigeria’s social media space has been on fire over rape allegations made against Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo of Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA). Fatoyinbo is also known as “Gucci Pastor”.
The allegations, which led to a protest around the church’s headquarters in Abuja, and other branches nationwide, were made by Bisola Dakolo, a celebrity photographer and wife of Timi Dakolo, a musician. Mrs. Dakolo’s interview with Chude Jideonwo was the stuff that hydrogen bombs are normally made of, in normal societies.
What was interesting was that on the Sunday of the protests, COZA was protected by a detachment of the Nigerian Navy’s elite Special Boat Service. A few weeks later, after presumably the storm had cleared and Nigerians had started to, as usual, move on to other things, there was an attempt by the police to intimidate the Dakolos into recanting their accusation.
Mrs Dakolo’s interview came months after her husband, Timi, called out Fatoyinbo over his alleged sexual relationships with female church members. Timi also encouraged other victims who have gone through similar experiences with the man to speak up.
This is not the first time that Biodun Fatoyinbo would be accused of sexual impropriety. In August 2013, he was entangled in an allegation of infidelity with a former member of the church, Ese Walter. The allegation snowballed into a huge sexual scandal that many said was going to undermine the church. Days after Ese Walter, a former church member, and worker of the COZA, confessed to having had an affair with Mr Fatoyinbo, another former female member alleged an encounter with the same man in a hotel in Lagos. Fatoyinbo denied both allegations, and told us to expect a robust response. It’s been five years since we have been waiting for that response…
For me, the problem is not so much Mr Fatoyinbo, as it is the proof that in Nigeria, law enforcement is an entrepreneurial activity.
When we have members of the Navy’s Special Boat Service, and then members of the police’s Special Tactical Squad being deployed to protect a non-governmental actor, then we should be extremely worried, all of us. Who authorised the deployment of the SBS to COZA three Sundays ago? Who approved the dispatch of the STSF unit to the Dakolo residence last Saturday? Who is abusing important national security assets?
I did not dwell on Mrs Dakolo and her accusation for the simple reason that the alleged rape happened years ago, and even in a normal society, it is hard enough to prove rape a few days after, not to talk of years later in a society as deeply patriarchal and messed up as Nigeria is. What I wanted to mention are two things: first, Mr Fatoyinbo has form; and second, he has made use of his position of power, to abuse the system. Permit me to add a third; that the clear collusion between the security organs and someone close to the pastor, or the pastor himself, adds to the many things undermining the legitimacy of the Nigerian state in the eyes of its people.