After six years of chasing rumours about the cases of sexual assault and rape and the public humiliation of Ese Walter-Ark, another high profile victim of Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo, the Commonwealth Zion Assembly has come forward. Busola Dakolo, a celebrity photographer and the wife of singer Timi Dakolo was a teenager in the Divine Delight Club, the precursor to Biodun Fatoyinbo’s Commonwealth of Zion Assembly when she alleges she was groomed and raped by the pastor.
YNaija has been on the forefront of the discussion around the accusations against Fatoyinbo with Eromo Egbejule conducting an investigation into the allegations by Ese Walter in 2013, an op-ed by commentator Japheth Omojuwa and an in-depth profile into how Fatoyinbo is emblematic of a church industry that is rife with scandal. With great responsibility, we offer our platform for Busola Dakolo’s story.
The interview is paraphrased for clarity.
This is Busola’s first time of publicly speaking about her experience with Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo.
ON MEETING BIODUN FATOYINBO FOR THE FIRST TIME
Busola Dakolo was born and lived most of her early life in Ilorin. The first time she left Ilorin was for secondary school at Suleja and that time away allowed her really find her Christianity. She joined the Gifted School Academy Suleja’s fellowship of Christian students, rose to become its vice-president and embraced a conservative approach to Christianity, growing to become distrustful of churches and fellowships that tried to copy worldly trends as a way to reach people outside the church. She returned home for the holidays to find that her sisters had started attending a non-denominational ‘youth club’ that embraced all kinds of people and focused on worship and fellowship over doctrine and legalism. It took a while but her sisters convinced her to go by telling her she needed to meet different kinds of people, especially former prostitutes and cultists that have given their lives to Christ thanks to the club’s ministrations.
Busola reluctantly joined her sisters for the youth club, but she wasn’t comfortable there, partly because of the way they worshipped and because she was the youngest person there. After the service, there was a first timers call, and Busola stood up and introduced herself, explaining her initial skepticism and how their worship had changed her mind about the club. After the service, the pastor of the club, a much younger Biodun Fatoyinbo came looking for her after the service.
He expressed his surprise at how bold she was for someone so young and encouraged her to keep speaking up for herself. He also managed to convince her to sing at their next meeting before she left back for school. To sell this idea, he offered to personally rehearse with her, mentioning that he played the keyboard. This was before mobile phones and internet, so Busola’s sister had to take her to Fatoyinbo, who was living with his parents at the time.
Though Busola remembers the song they rehearsed, their rehearsal was uneventful, and at the next meeting she performed, her performance moving enough that a former cultist who was attending the club public renounced his past and embraced Christianity. After, the members of the club affirmed her and Fatoyinbo convinced her through gifts of books and cassette tapes to keep attending their club when she was back home from school.
Returning to school and the more conservative worship environment she was used to was harder than she had anticipated. For the rest of her secondary school year, she struggled with guilt, shuffling between her role in the conservative Fellowship of Christian Students (FCS) and the more liberal world of Fatoyinbo’s COZA. She felt she was living a dual life. Eventually she graduated and returned home to find that Divine Delight Club had grown into a church headed by Fatoyinbo, and her sisters had convinced her family to join the church. It felt like the only option she had to join as well.
A YEARNING FOR UNDERSTANDING LEADS TO RAPE
Busola had embraced conservatism because she’d grown up in a polygamous family and she wanted some control over her own life in service of something bigger than herself. Her father was largely absent in her life, traveling for work and her mother had tried to shield them from the financial difficulty that came with parenting her and her sisters alone but she saw and it affected her deeply. Conservative Christianity gave her purpose and the structure she desperately craved. She joined the choir at COZA as a way to integrate into the church and rid herself of the discomfort she felt towards the church. Being in the choir made her visible and eventually Fatoyinbo would take an interest in her, inviting himself to her home under the guise of getting to know her better.
The first time he visited, he asked if she’d join him on an errand run. Her mother was concerned but didn’t really push when Busola insisted that she wanted to go. They drove in his white Mercedes Benz and finally spoke for the first time. Though she was normally guarded around men, Fatoyinbo was charming, using his knowledge of her family and the absence of her father to gain her trust. Before long, he was visiting the house regularly, engaging her in ways her unavoidably distant sisters weren’t.
“You should be happy that a man of God did this to you.”
At this time, his wife had just given birth to their first child, Oluwashindara.
AFFLICTION STRIKES A SECOND TIME
Busola spoke up because her husband, the singer Timi Dakolo put up a social media post on Instagram accusing Nigerian clergy of condoning rape and sexual assault. People had approached him anonymously about Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo targeting underage girls for sexual relationships and he felt obligated to publicly speak up on their behalf. His posts had created intense backlash and support and sparked rumours about who the subject of his post was and who the victims were. This wasn’t the first time Timi Dakolo had spoken up about sexual assault and he was aware of what had happened to her from the beginning of their relationship.
What motivated her to speak up about her alleged rape was a social media post from an anonymous account that had insinuated that she had been promiscuous as a teenager and had affairs with pastors when she lived in Ilorin and questioned the paternity of her children.
Feeling she had no options, she went to her pastor’s house, Fatoyinbo tried to isolate her later that night from his wife and their daughter by insisting she slept in the family’s guest room. She managed to thwart his plans, appealing to the pastor’s wife to let her sleep in their master bedroom.
“No one ignores me.”
He would tell her this the next morning, smacking her butt. It was an ominous enough statement that Busola became apprehensive and tried to leave for her house once it was past twilight. It was the first of many threats she would get from the flamboyant pastor. Fatoyinbo would insist on dropping her off at home, even though she protested several times. Instead of dropping her off at the junction as he had promised, he detoured, driving her away from safety and towards a secluded spot. He threatened her the entire drive, making proclamations about how he owned her and how he was angry that he had thwarted her the night before. He opened the car, pulled her out of the passenger seat and allegedly raped her a second time in the space of a week. First behind the car, then moving her to the bonnet for ease of access.
She didn’t fight, she had lost all her will to. She’d protected her virginity for so long that having it forcefully taken this way broke her. He guided back into the car when he was done, and told her he loved her, speaking of how he’d told his pastors that men of God raped women, that there was nothing special about what he did. He dropped her off outside her home as though everything was normal. She bathed immediately after and didn’t leave her room for three days, but while her siblings were worried about her, no one made any connections between her sudden mood and her married pastor. Busola’s family was a ‘church family’, a family so involved in church activities that their home was routinely used as a hostel for visiting ministers and guests of the church. Fatoyinbo had exploited that, and did it again when he showed up the next Sunday, to ask why she hadn’t gone to church that Sunday. She was afraid of drawing attention to herself, so she went to church the next Sunday, and kept going, even though she left the choir and began to voice her dissent towards Fatoyinbo.
THE BEGINNING OF RELIEF
A dream was the catalyst for Busola opening up for the first time about Fatoyinbo raping her. Her elder sister had relocated to Lagos, and she pleaded to visit, drained from avoiding the pastor. In Lagos, her sister who she believes has the Sight, told her about a dream she had had, where she’d seen Busola crying, blood on a chair and Fatoyinbo smiling. She asked her pointedly, breaking months of silence and starting a flood of admissions about the alleged rape and everything that had happened. Her sister convinced her to return to Ilorin and together they told her other sisters and her brother, who was studying at the University of Ilorin. Her brother flew into a rage, grabbing a pocket knife and taking her to Fatoyinbo’s house. He was able to intercept them before they reached his house, and together with Wole Soetan, who she suggests is now the pastor of the COZA Portharcourt branch, convince them to return home and that Fatoyinbo would follow.
The pastor and two of his church members would eventually come to pacify her family, blaming the devil and Soetan even promising to leave the church to show how little tolerance he had for promiscuity. After Soetan would confide in Busola that he couldn’t leave the church because he felt Fatoyinbo was ‘weak’ and needed spiritual guidance and support. He convinced her siblings to keep the alleged rape and assault from her mother. Numb to all emotion, Busola pretended to concede and after two weeks of constant visitation from the pastors and the unspoken implication that Fatoyinbo was an alleged reformed cultist with a lot to lose if news of her alleged rape went public, she returned to the church to protect her family and project normalcy. It was clear to her at this point that she would never feel comfortable within organized religion.
Fatoyinbo continued to target Busola in the intervening months, organizing prayer sessions and specialized deliverance sessions with guest pastors to help ‘repair’ her ‘bondage’ and suggesting to her that the violence he had meted towards her was a problem they both had in common and needed communal deliverance, Busola would find out that Fatoyinbo had been telling church members that she wasn’t ready for a relationship when the pastor’s cousin befriended her. Their time would eventually develop into a relationship and she would confide in him about what had happened to her.
With his help, she would leave the church and join another congregation.