By Louis Odion
Not only the charge against the preacher appears abominable, his defence and the chorus of his supporters sound even strange. What would make the sin of rape that Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo is accused of more grave is the suspicion – let alone, the high probability – of deep trust being betrayed in the exploitation of the vulnerability of an under-age girl.
Thus, he trampled first on her dignity as a human being, then robbed her of her pride as a woman.
Inferrable from Busola’s narrative on her beginning is the absence of a father. That was the vacuum Fatoyinbo exploited. Her mom was not only pious but also charitable enough to agree to share parental dominion over the sixteen-year-old with the clergy as the “spiritual father”.
And the “Gucci Pastor” apparently began to thirst for something beyond the sonority of her voice as a choir-girl in the musical interlude to his Sunday sermon at the Ilorin temple of the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA) ministry back then.
According to Busola, Fatoyinbo started priming her for the carnal attack by ironically deploying ecclesiastical weapons: Christian books and sermons in audio. Being so close to the family, he knew the Sunday that her mom and siblings wouldn’t make the service because they were out of town.
So, like a seasoned marksman, the stalker perfectly timed his raid for the first light of the next morning, a Monday. In nightgown, trusting Busola opened the door for a man she had innocently mistaken for her “spiritual father”, but who allegedly turned out to be a merciless hunter and could barely wait to fire his cocked dane gun.
Apparently to wipe the faintest trace of fingerprint, as well as foreclose possible foetal germination of any kind, a bottle of Krest (lemon soft drink) was reportedly brought and administered by the accused on the victim at the crime scene, almost immediately.
More in shock than the sensual consciousness of what just happened, all Busola could recall hearing next was: “You should be happy this was done to you by a man of God”.
The assault, she recounted, was repeated another day, now in the open on a desolate street. And several more of such coital encounters.
What has given Busola’s voice uncommon trenchancy on the national airwaves since the story broke last weekend is that she is not just a wedded mother of three but also the wife of Timi Dokolo, a successful musician. (And the minstrel deserves a salute for extraordinary courage and character in standing by the wife to speak out in an environment that ordinarily promotes the culture of silence by feeding the fear of shame).
By now telling her story, there is no doubt Busola is seeking healing for a trauma that must have haunted her over the years.
Mrs. Dakolo’s testimony is only the latest in what has become an epidemic of accusations against Fatoyinbo in what would make the proverbial randy he-goat look like a novice. In 2013, the “Gucci Pastor” was also enmeshed in allegation of infidelity with a church member called Ese Walter.
After Mrs. Dakolo’s bombshell at the weekend, another lady named Dolapo Oseji came up with the allegation that Fatoyinbo had similarly tried to take advantage of her years back while visiting Lagos, despite being a close family friend. She refused a reported solicitation to spend the night with him in his hotel room because “He made it seem so innocent but I was already in my twenties and knew it was inappropriate to spend a night alone with him for whatever reason.”
In another testimony, Nollywood actress, Stella Damascus, alleged the “Gucci Pastor” had raped her friend.
One other Franca E. was even more graphic in her own accusation of attempted rape against Fatoyinbo. She recalled being lured from Abuja as church worker to accompany him on “envangelical mission” to Lagos and, for effects, named the plush hotel in highbrow Ikoyi.
She claimed capturing a glimpse of him in bathroom towel with her phone camera, his derogatory remarks on his wife and audio recording of his allegedly offering N200,000 to buy her silence following her refusal to get laid.
When traumatised Franca later confided in a former COZA church-worker, she would receive more shock. She alleged that the unidentified lady confessed to have indulged in a year-long assignation with the “Gucci Pastor” and, upon being jeered at as “Ashewo Mary Magdalene” during a quarrel with someone one day, later sought her own emotional healing by simply excommunicating herself from the church.
Interestingly, Fatoyinbo’s initially vociferous choir of defenders, notably led by his coterie in the church and a few internet Good Samaritans, has since gone mute, if not entirely offline as more voices rise up.
From official quarters, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, never timid when underprivileged are oppressed, has lent her voice to the public outcry for justice.
With protesters barricading COZA temples in Abuja and Lagos on Sunday, it is clear more “victims” would be emboldened to speak out in the coming days in what is beginning to look like a replay of the Harvey Weinstein scandal that rocked Hollywood in the United States last year.
Given such overwhelming history, it becomes very difficult indeed to keep giving Fatoyinbo the benefit of the doubt.
From my own experience in pursuing similar leads to the often staggering outcome as newspaper editor over the years, I am strongly persuaded to believe Mrs. Dakolo more than I would accept the “Gucci Pastor’s” fierce denial.
Indeed, when actresses Rose McGowan and Ashely Judd first accused Weinstein in 2017 in New York Times of sexually assaulting them several years back, the Hollywood mogul had dismissed her with a straight face. But with eighty-five more compelling testimonies pouring in, the hitherto “almighty” movie producer was eventually forced to confess. The world would later know how one rampaging he-goat had parlayed his power over the decades to exploit vulnerable women seeking movie career.
The more reason one, therefore, finds Fatoyinbo’s threat to sue as apparent defence strategy to be grossly inadequate. Much more is certainly expected of a cleric in the circumstance, especially one in whom ordinary folks often repose trust as God’s agent on earth.
So, the least expected of a supposed man of God is to submit himself to unfettered investigation by an independent body.
With more allegations eroding trust, the threat to sue only looks more like a familiar page from the sin manual of the proverbial guilty running when no one pursues. It is a reminder of the now common joke of someone accused of receiving bribes in U.S. dollars and rather than submitting his pocket to public scrutiny as a mark of honour, begins to threaten litigation.
As a newspaper editor, I treated a story of someone linked to international credit card fraud and who, as a defence strategy, chose to hire a senior lawyer to intimidate a media house with funny epistle in a shameless gambit to barricade the truth.
It is gratifying to note that the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and PFN (Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria) have reappraised their initial indifference by announcing an interest in the unfolding drama.
Good enough, with the police authorities already declaring they only act on petitions, advocacy groups should not have any difficulty on how to proceed. It is important that CAN and PFN join in the quest to establish the truth in this matter with a view to curbing further erosion of public confidence in the presbytery.
They should realize that what the rest of the nation find confounding is how a mouth obviously made soggy already by so much alleged iniquities could still affect confidence to profess salvation to anyone.
It is reassuring to hear the pastor has finally agreed to step down in responce to public outcry. But that is not enough. If Fatoyinbo indeed has any honour, he should prove that by also quitting this sick comedy of threatening litigation and then follow up his stepping down with submitting himself to an independent inquiry to prove his innocence.
Overall, there are surely few preliminary lessons from the development of the past few days. One, we need to teach and encourage our daughters to speak out, never to be afraid.
Two, parents should realize that neither the tranquilizing drudgery of provincial existence nor the understandably choking pressure of city-life is enough alibi to outsource their sacred responsibility as the primary moralizing and socializing agents of the children to any “spiritual daddy”.
They should be wary not to put their wards in the care of those who easily take advantage of them.
Louis Odion is a Fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (FNGE).