By BAMIDELE JOHNSON
Anita Oyakhilome, the disaffected wife of Chris Oyakhilome, will be the loser whichever way the ongoing marital feud ends. If nowhere else, Anita is unlikely to continue enjoying the scale of admiration she has always enjoyed among Christ Embassy members. This has nothing to do with the validity or otherwise of the allegations she has leveled against her husband. There is a chance that those allegations, including that of adultery, were invented to divert attention from the real issues. There is also a chance that they may be true.
Not many women in the church (and outside of it) will pass up the chance to creep under the same duvet with a man of Oyakhilome’s wealth, influence and matinee idol looks. Not many. Certainly not in a congregation that teems with ambitious women (single, married or in between), who are shopping for marquee bedmates. It’s a safe bet that he’d provoke a stampede (not an orderly queue, mind) should he remove the sign restricting access to his bedroom.
Anita will lose for the simple reason that what she enjoys is admiration, one that flows strictly from being married to the superstar preacher. Oyakhilome , on the contrary, enjoys unfettered adulation, the hysterical type experienced by teenage girls when they come face-to-face with their pop idols. To most of his followers, he is a divinity. A few years ago, one member described him on a Facebook page opened for his birthday as “Jesus Christ in white suit”. As crass as the post appeared, it provoked no criticism from other posters who, in fact, showed they were up for a contest for the most obsequious descriptions.
Oyakhilome is bullet-proof. His followers’ perception of him gives him an armour-plated body. Even if he burns down an orphanage, his followers are unlikely to change their view of him. What the general public considers a scandal is nothing more than a mosquito bite in the preacher’s gilded world.
C’mon, this is a dude capable of making you feel good seeing him flying in a chopper (bought with your money), while you walk to his church or crusade. It takes some intelligence to that. So, credit where it’s due. The UK branch of his church, according to the UK Charity Commission, had an income of 13million pounds in 2011. Of this sum, 12. 2million came from donations. Here is a chap, whose church, at least among his followers, suffered no reputational injury despite admitting that he was a receiver of “stolen goods”.
In 2003, a cashier in Sheraton Hotels and Towers in Lagos, stole N39million, which he donated to the church in installments. Oyakhilome wrote him a commendation letter for “giving” to the ministry. The letter was concluded with the prayer that “God will notice you”. But it was the man’s employers that noticed he’d been stealing their funds and reported him to the police. The police wanted the money returned, Oyakhilome ignored them. The excuse given by his followers was that he did not know the cashier had donated stolen money. They’d been so entranced that they were incapable of asking a simple question: “Were his calls to God’s direct line (through which he receives those horoscope-style revelations) going into voice mail when the stolen funds were going into church coffers?” Instead, they rounded on his critics. A month later, it emerged that another member, a staff of a now defunct bank, had donated N10million of the money stolen from his employers. The reaction was the same. The same pastor once charged entrance fee for a church service and people happily, perhaps lustily, paid as though his church was Silverbird Cinemas. An involvement in laundering $35million did nothing to him, just like numerous allegations of pretended miracles have not. Even if Anita’s charges of “adultery” and “unreasonable behaviour” are proved, she’d get little, if any, sympathy from followers programmed to love Chris. Love, in any case, is a want-all process. Therefore, no weapon fashioned against Chris can prosper.
All isn’t lost for Anita, who is likely to have financial security from the compensation that may be awarded by London court, where the divorce case is filed. It wouldn’t matter to the court whether, as Oyakhilome claimed: “I already started Christ Embassy before I married her. I didn’t marry her and said we should start Christ Embassy together…I only said ‘come and help me.’ It wouldn’t matter. But in image terms, at least among those who have known them closely or fairly, Oyakhilome will win at a canter.