BY IHECHUKWU NJOKU
Front Page Africa, Liberia’s leading investigate online magazine, has released a report claiming controversial Nigerian Pastor T.B. Joshua is set to play a critical role in the ongoing elections in Liberia.
In an article titled, ‘Who Gets PYJ? Nigerian Pastor Reportedly Courting MDR Standard Bearer’, the media house suggests that Joshua will sway influential Liberian Senator Prince Yormie Johnson to support George Weah in the runoff elections in Liberia.
“Multiple sources speaking to Front Page Africa say… plans are in the works to fly the Nimba County senior senator to Nigeria where efforts are reportedly being made to have his pastor in Nigeria, T.B. Joshua intervene,” reported the online magazine.
Johnson, who finished fourth in the first round of this year’s elections with a total vote count of 127,666, was initially said to be indecisive about whom to back in the upcoming runoff between current Vice President Joseph Boakai and footballing legend Weah.
If the former warlord throws his weight behind Weah, it will significantly bolster the former footballer’s chances in the runoff, after he won the largest number of votes in the initial round by a sizeable margin.
“Despite the nearly impossible odds stacked against his bid for the Liberian presidency, Johnson continues to be quoted by mainstream politicians,” Front Page Africa explained, adding that Johnson commands huge followership in the vote-rich county of Nimba.
“With the run-off elections already in play, both Weah and Boakai are said to be making aggressive moves to land the Senator’s endorsement, with some sources suggesting that Johnson’s pastor, T. B. Joshua, is being courted by both sides,” it noted.
Yormie Johnson has a long history of visiting Joshua, whom he said was instrumental in his conversion to Christianity and whose prayers saved him from an addiction to alcohol.
In November 2000, Joshua mediated a historic reconciliation between Johnson and the family of the late Liberian President, Samuel Doe, who was gruesomely murdered under Johnson’s watch.
However, not all Liberians are happy with Joshua’s involvement.
Hassan Fadiga, a political activist and blogger, angrily wrote on Facebook, “The peace-loving people of Liberia are sending an unequivocal warning to Bishop TB Joshua to STOP meddling in our presidential election… Bishop Joshua, the blood of Liberians will be on your hands if you don’t stop interfering in our election.”
This is not the first time the Nigerian cleric has been controversially named as a major influence in African politics.
Joshua played the role of a peacemaker in the aftermath of the Tanzanian elections in 2015, visiting the country to meet and hold reconciliatory talks with President John Magufuli – a member of his church – and opposition leader Edward Lowassa.
His visit caused a media storm in the East African nation, leading BBC Africa journalist Clare Spencer to question whether the cleric was ‘the most powerful man in Africa’.
Days after the late John Atta Mills became President of Ghana in 2009, his first port of call was Joshua’s church for a thanksgiving service where he revealed the cleric had accurately ‘prophesied’ his ascension to power and specific details relating to his narrow victory.
South Africa’s firebrand opposition leader Julius Malema, Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangarai and former Malawian President Joyce Banda have all visited his Lagos-based church, as did the late Zambian President Frederick Chiluba.
Njoku is a freelance writer based in Lagos