Yesterday, I chanced upon a list put together by an African blogger chronicling Nigeria’s most internationally known celebrities. Intriguingly, the name sitting at the pinnacle of the pack of film stars and musicians was a Christian pastor who seldom leaves Nigerian shores.
Above the likes of musicians D’Banj, P Square, Wizkid, Flavour, 2Face and Nollywood legends Genevieve Nnaji, Omotola Ekeinde and Ramsey Noah Jr, the controversial Pastor T.B. Joshua was ranked as Nigeria’s most popular international icon.
The question begs – is this just a bloggers personal opinion masked perhaps under an impressionable meeting with Joshua or is it a true reflection of international outlook toward Africa’s most populous nation?
Well, a quick look at the facts certainly gravitates towards the latter conclusion. Social media stats put Joshua near the top of the pack with nearly 1.3 million Facebook followers, bettered only by Omosexy who has over 1.6 million. The other celebs on this list to have topped the million margin are P-Square with 1.1 million and D’Banj with 1 million.
Joshua’s international acclaim is certainly evident in Nigeria’s tourism industry, recent statistics from the Nigerian Immigration Service stating that six out of every ten foreign travellers coming into Nigeria are bound for The Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN).
Even the recent threat of Ebola and the menace of Boko Haram have not stemmed the tide of international visitors to Joshua’s ministry, an estimated 10,000 having flown into Lagos to meet ‘the prophet’ in the last month.
When it comes to headline-making activities, it appears the Nigerian pastor is a hands-down winner. This week alone, Joshua has featured in newspapers from UK, USA, Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, France, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Namibia and even China (to name but a few) in respect of his unique response to the deadly Ebola outbreak.
Followers of online blogs, particularly within Africa, are inundated almost daily with T.B. Joshua related news, more than any of the other celebrities chronicled in this piece. The controversy surrounding his persona is further mirrored in the comments sections of such articles which often turn to heated debates over authenticity and relevance.
Malicious messages sent through social media gain untold momentum when attributed to Joshua, the alleged ‘salt-water’ Ebola cure that swept across Nigeria being a recent example. There was even a time when nationwide panic ensued among 2go users due to a purported message ascribed to Joshua that calamity awaited users of the popular service.
Although the likes of D’banj, 2face and PSquare regularly have sell out concerts in foreign countries, none have neared the feat Joshua accomplished last month when he packed an Olympic Stadium in the South American nation of Colombia, a reported 100,000 in attendance.
Joshua’s television station Emmanuel TV has been touted severally to be among the most viewed stations in the African continent as the name ‘T.B. Joshua’ has become increasingly synonymous with the nation of Nigeria in the eyes of onlookers.
As a Nigerian who travels frequently throughout Africa, I can affirm that the question most commonly asked me once Nigerian nationality is established revolves around the popular pastor and his ‘supernatural’ antics.
Although it is practically impossible to gauge exact levels of popularity, I think it is safe to say that the bearded cleric certainly ranks in the upper echelons of Nigeria’s international flag bearers – and there seems to be no signs of his influence waning.
Here is the list as opined by the aforementioned blogger:
1. Pastor T.B. Joshua
2. 2Face Idibia
5. Ramsey Noah Jr
7. Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde
8. Genevieve Nnaji
Do you agree with this list? Is anyone missing? In your opinion, who is Nigeria’s most internationally recognised celebrity?
Emeka, a media consultant, is writing from Lagos, Nigeria