By Sunny Ikhioya
I have followed the series of reactions trailing the disaster at the Synagogue Church of all Nations with a sense of shock and disbelief. It is as if some people have been waiting in the wings for the man of God to fail, forgetting that he is a mortal indeed, like the rest of us. No human can be God, so we must make our comments with a great sense of responsibility, in the spirit of fairness and objectivity.
Take away the religious aspect, TB Joshua is not a small man in the society, judging by the impact he has made on people’s lives all over the world. Apart from the entertainment industry, as represented by Nollywood and our musicians, no single sector has made more impact to the world like our men of God. The Adeboyes, Oyedepos, Oyakhilomes and, yes, TB Joshua and their likes, yet we treat them with disdain. Little minded individuals, criticising only for the purpose of bringing down and not to build. We use to have our men of God running to America for crusades of the Kenneth Hagins, TL Osborne, Billy Graham, Oral Roberts and others but, now they come to Nigeria. They, indeed, preached prosperity and this has made America great but, I never saw a write up that ridiculed, for example a Billy Graham.
In 95 per cent of cases – if not more- the religion we practise are determined by our places of birth and environment we grow up from; therefore, the religion or faith that we practise were already determined before our birth. You only escape this either through migration or interactions with other faiths. All religious denominations preach piety and righteousness; even the animists are more decisive with backsliders. To me, the biggest edge Christianity has is its elimination of all types of blood sacrifices forever. Psychology and other behavioural sciences have, very often, emphasised the importance of faith to the success of any venture we engage in, including, of course, healing. Faith is a very strong weapon, that is why so-called ‘infidels’ thrive when they practise simple Christian doctrines of fasting and praying; whereas, the so-called brothers and sisters, or brethren in the faith, do not conjure up anything.
We have an abundance of sanctimonious and self-righteous critics in this country, especially those of the Christian faith; they want only their opinion to hold sway. When the Bible says that we should not judge, our sanctimonious Christians are busy raining down judgements. It is not for us to condemn anyone as long as he or she confesses Christ. In the Gospel of Luke chapter 9 verses 49 to 50, it says: “…Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbade him because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, forbid him not; for he that is not against us is for us…”. Why are fellow Christians criticising TB Joshua when he openly uses the name of Jesus Christ in his ministrations? I repeat, it is not for us to judge, let us leave judgement to God.
I have also followed the barrage of criticism following Joshua since I arrived Lagos in the eighties, attacks that were purely meant to destroy him. But God has given him grace to rise above all his critics and, you will never hear him respond in kind. Some have taken his humble beginnings for granted; it is the almighty God who chooses whom he wishes to bless, never mind the cunning devices of man. In the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 5 verses 34 to 40, Gamaliel, a doctor of law, with big reputation among the people, intervened in the matter of some of the apostles that were being persecuted. “…And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought…”. It is over 20 years now, and the man’s ministry has been growing in leaps and bounds; heads of states and rulers of men have been coming to seek his counsel. So, why are we in Nigeria trying to bring him down?
Although, it is a matter for debate, it is well known that majority of Nigerians do not receive approval from the authorities before commencement of building projects. This is because of the terribly slow bureaucracy involved in the process of securing approvals and the attendant corruption and extortions that pervade the whole system The Synagogue Church must have followed this pattern. Do not forget that amongst the congregation are qualified architects and building engineers of all kinds; Joshua must have received professional advice from them. We should, therefore, not rush into conclusions; we must allow a thorough investigation to be done and causes of failure identified to avoid a re-occurrence; we must eschew sentiments.
Whether we like it or not, TB Joshua is an icon in Nigerian and must be accorded that respect. It is not easy to draw foreign attention to Nigeria with all the negative propaganda that has been put out about us. The likes of TB Joshua and other men of God are the ones attracting dignitaries into the country, the advantages of this cannot be quantified, it goes beyond the religious; it helps the economy and posts a positive image about the country.
We notice that majority of those that met their demise in this tragedy, were foreigners, the import of this must not be lost to Nigerians. It is not only a tragedy for the individual families and South Africa, or for the Synagogue Church of all Nations, it is for Nigeria. These times calls for sober reflections and absolute patriotism. It is an unfortunate incident and the whole nation should mourn with the congregation of Synagogue. Joshua is the chief mourner, nobody should pretend to cry more than the bereaved. The civil rights group must know when to draw a line between patriotism and agitation for human rights. What happened at the Synagogue was basically an accident; most accidents are caused by human error and nobody should feast on the Synagogue tragedy for further destructive or PhD – pull him down- purposes. It is unfortunate that some of our brothers in the pen profession are using the opportunity to play hero. If Joshua is involved, it is news and you are a hero, such tactics should be discouraged.
In Terry Goodkind’s book The Pillars of Creation‘, he says, “No one individual is important, except for what value he can contribute to others”. Joshua has done much for humanity; scholarships to indigent students, feeding of deprived families, succour and shelters for the homeless. Have we forgotten so soon his contributions to the nation of Haiti, in their hour of distress? Those of us criticising him now, what have we done for humanity?
Sunny Ikhioya, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Lagos.