No dirge for victims of Synagogue building collapse, two years on

• Church keeps mum on remembrance
• Hoteliers bemoan losses
By Tope Templer Olaiya
It is exactly two years since 116 people died at the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), Lagos, when one of the ancillary buildings collapsed.

The six-storey guesthouse belonging to the church, which was under construction in the Ikotun area of Lagos collapsed, killing over 100 people, 85 of whom were South African worshippers.

The Guardian yesterday observed that the church seems to have given an unofficial closure to the tragedy. Unlike last year when Prophet Temitope Joshua, founder of the church, held a memorial service in honour of the victims, there was no dirge for the departed , whom Joshua had two years ago described as ‘Martyrs of Faith’ during yesterday’s service.

The collapsed building

Mum was the word during church service held yesterday and also on the social media pages of the church. On Joshua’s official Twitter account, @SCOANTBJoshua, which has over 146,000 followers, it was last updated on Saturday, September 10, with the following quote: “Nobody is too good or too bad to qualify for God’s grace – T.B. Joshua”.

The Facebook page of the church, TB Joshua Ministries, which has nearly 2.5 million followers, was regularly updated yesterday with proceedings from the service, particularly testimonies and messages of the Prophet; yet no mention of the tragedy or prayers for the victims. Attempts by The Guardian to get an official reaction met a brick wall as church officials refused commenting on the memorial.

At the first anniversary of the unfortunate incident, which held simultaneously in Nigeria and South Africa, Joshua had maintained that the victims, many of whom had visited the church to seek spiritual help and were staying at the guesthouse before it collapsed, were on an appointment with God when they met their death and therefore believes they did not die in vain.

Prophet TB Joshua ministering

Prophet TB Joshua ministering

This has, however, not dissuaded the Lagos State government from seeking prosecution of the contractors that handled the building of the collapsed structure.

After exhaustive legal fireworks between the state coroner and lawyers representing the church spanning many months, the case was eventually filed before an Ikeja High Court, where Akinbela Fatiregun and Oladele Ogundeji alongside their companies – Hardrock Construction and Engineering Company and Jandy Trust Ltd and the trustees of Synagogue Church – are facing a 111-count charge bordering on gross negligence and criminal manslaughter.

At the last adjourned hearing of the case on June 22, 2016 before judges’ yearly three months vacation shut down the courts, a former Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Olutoyin Ayinde, told Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo at the Ikeja High Court that the auditorium of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) did not have a valid building permit.

When former President Goodluck Jonathan visited the site of the collapsed building in 2014

When former President Goodluck Jonathan visited the site of the collapsed building in 2014

Hoteliers in the Ikotun-Egbe axis area are, however, bemoaning their losses due to low occupancy rate , blaming the situation on the Synagogue building collapse, which in turn affected influx of worshippers to the church.

Before the accident, thousands of Nigerians and foreigners alike thronged the church in search of miracle healings for various afflictions. The miracle-seekers, all of whom could not see Prophet Joshua in one day, took accommodation in hotels in the area.

But since the collapse, the throngs have thinned out, while the hotels have lost revenue running into billions of naira. According to an official of the Pilgrims Hotels Association of Nigeria, Chief Jerry Omorodion, the total number of bed spaces of different categories for all the hotels in the Ikotun area is about 3,500.

Before the accident, the hotels record nearly 100 per cent occupancy rate due to the church programmes, which hold three times a week. Sadly, the occupancy rates now fluctuate between 10 and 20 per cent all weeklong.

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Manager of Phonix Pilgrims Hotel in the church’s vicinity, Paul Ogbeide, noted that since Joshua resumed ministering after his retreat following the tragic incident, religious tourists from across the world especially from Africa and Asia are returning in their thousands to attend the weekly deliverance services at the SCOAN.

“From Thursdays, our rooms are fully booked by foreign visitors who stay for one week to one month while those visiting from different parts of Nigeria stay about two days.

“Aside hospitality operators, these religious tourists affect the livelihood of many people positively and various sectors benefit from their financial resources,” Ogbeide explained.

A resident, David Efiong, who makes a living by connecting visitors with hoteliers, added that banks, currency changers and market men and women in Ikotun and its environs also depend solely on these religious tourists for survival.

synagogue

Ogbeide, however, recalled that the tragic incident of September 2014 had nearly brought the bubbling activities in the area to a standstill due to loss of patronage.

“The number of church visitors, who come with dollars, euros, pounds and other foreign currencies to enrich the local economy has reduced drastically. Many hoteliers converted their guesthouses to residential apartments because they thought government would seize the church. But today, normalcy has gradually returned to SCOAN,” he said.

According to an hotel booking website, http://www.hotels.ng, areas surrounding the popular church in Ikotun have a total of 110 hotels.

 

No dirge for victims of Synagogue building collapse, two years on

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Tales from Onilewura II… The number game continues

By Tope Templer Olaiya,
Assistant Lagos City Editor
IN the last few days, Prophet Temitope Joshua has taken time out of the flurry of activities arising from the building collapse and rescue operations to, at intervals, give reassuring messages to his teaming multitude of members across the world, effectively using the social media to preach to his followers.
With a membership base of over one million, the prophet personally posted on the his face book on Tuesday: “The purpose of life is to glorify God in both good and hard times.”
This was immediately followed by another personally signed post: “Hard times may test me, they cannot destroy me.” And with this, there was a more elaborate message for his flocks.
“To withstand hard times, stand with Christ. When you face trials, hard times, you can ‘count it all joy’ (James 1:2-3).
“It is through hard times that you gain the necessary experience and maturity to handle whatever responsibility given to you.
“We are most likely to go astray from God and forget Him when things are easy with us in the world because we often become proud and stupid with wealth and pleasure. God visits His people with hard times that they may learn His way. His ways, though hard to the ungodly men, are desirable and profitable because they lead us to safety unto eternal life.
“God allowed the enemy to overcome Israel so that they may learn the difference between serving God and serving the devil. If not for our hard times, we would not have sought the face of God. I mean, if not because of hard times, man by his wicked nature would not have sought the face of God. This means, God sometimes uses hard times to draw us to Himself so that we can take our proper position and possession in Him.”
That post did its intended magic as a temporal soothing balm, which went viral across the world with over a thousand shares, 5,000 comments and 7,000 likes in less than an hour.
Prophet Joshua must probably have also heaved a sigh of relief coming at a time situation report from site was somewhat depressing, with recovered dead bodies climbing to 65, as at Tuesday.

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Prophet T.B. Joshua

Further damage struck later when news rented the social media space that South African President, Jacob Zuma, announced on Tuesday evening that 67 of its citizens died in the Synagogue building collapse that occurred on September 12.
The South Africans were in Nigeria to seek spiritual help and were staying at the guest house before it collapsed. It was announced by a BBC Africa tweet: “President Zuma announces 67 South Africans died in the Lagos building collapse on Friday, disputing the 60 dead cited by Nigerian officials.”
In the midst of the chaos and grief at the Synagogue was the cherry news of a 45-year-old woman, who walked out of the rubble alive, after being buried under the debris for four days.
Joshua had attributed the collapse to a ‘mystery’ aircraft, which he said hovered around the building for about 30 minutes before the building came tumbling down. This was further corroborated with the release of a footage captured by a CCTV camera attached to one of the church’s buildings.
This prompted officials of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) to visit the site and assess the debris.
Though officials of both airport agencies refused to respond to media inquires, saying they would come up with an official reaction after investigations would have been concluded, an unnamed official rejected the link between a hovering aircraft and the building, as claimed by the church authorities.
According to him, Ikotun, Ikeja, Shasha, Iju, Egbeda and environs around the airport and a plane approaching the Murtala Mohammed Airport could be sighted hovering in these areas due to congestion in the air and delayed landing.
“It is not unusual for an aircraft to be seen hovering around in these areas until it is cleared to land, particularly in Ejigbo and Ikotun areas because it is on the flight route on the east of the airport, which is the outbound traffic route of most flights. All incoming flights descend to the airport from the west around Agege, Ogba, and Iju-Ishaga.”

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The crowd that assembled at the Synagogue Church immediately after the building collapsed.

A public affairs commentator, Dr. Nick Idoko, in his reaction to the incident, urged Prophet Joshua to be more scientific and come up with tenable explanations for the building collapse.
“Rather than his half-hearted attempt at attributing a fatal collapse to a hovering plane, he should tell the world how that building was approved to be increased from a two-storey building to six and he must apologise to all Nigerians and families of the dead.
“I even understand that there is an ongoing expansion on the main auditorium of the church as we speak, which is why the government must act fast to prevent another calamity. That ministry has for a long time been very notorious and corrupt, especially in land deals. The state government should also investigate all the lands acquired by the ministry in the area,” he added.
Rescue workers have been picking through the rubble with heavy lifting equipment and using sniffer dogs, although the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) said the search for survivors could end on Wednesday.
“The church is not co-operating with emergency workers at all,” NEMA’s spokesman for the southwest region, Ibrahim Farinloye, told AFP, giving the latest toll as 67 with 131 survivors.
“For the first three days of the incident, the church people were very hostile and prevented rescue officials access to the site.
“It was after the visit of the (Lagos state) governor (Babatunde Fashola) when he threatened to close down the church that we were allowed to work.
“Perhaps if we had had early access to the place we would have been able to save more lives.”
Already, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has commenced investigations into the causes of the building collapse. The head of inspectorate and compliance of the organisation, Bede Obaye, made this known when he led a team to the site to take samples of some of the materials used for the construction.

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Ongoing rescue operation at the site of the building collapse.

According to Obaye, the investigations will be comprehensive as the organisation intends to get to the root cause of the collapsed structure.
“We have come here to see exactly what happened, we have watched the clip of what happened, but beyond that we are here to investigate the remote causes of the collapse, to look at the materials and to ask questions about the engineers and contractors that handled the project.”
When asked on his findings from his inspection so far, he said, “We cannot say for now. There are lots of questions to be asked. Structures don’t just collapse like that. Our investigation will not be limited to the materials alone. The materials may be right, but the selection and combination maybe wrong.
“The contractor and engineer who handled the project will have to provide us with vital information. For now, it is too early for SON to say what the cause of the collapse is but when we are through, we will brief Nigerians on our findings.”
Similarly, the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) on Monday vowed to unravel the immediate and remote causes of the collapse of the six-storey building. The council, in a statement issued in Abuja and signed by its President, Kashim Ali, said it had mobilized its team of Engineering Regulation Monitoring Inspectors to visit the site of the collapsed building.
It said while preliminary report of the visit had been received and is being processed, a more detailed investigation is ongoing.
The statement reads in part: “Council wishes to commiserate with the Executive Governor, the Government and people of Lagos State over the loss of lives and properties as a result of this unfortunate incident.”

Tales from Onilewura… The other side of Synagogue City

By Tope Templer Olaiya,
Assistant Lagos City Editor
It’s been one week since the quiet Onilewura community, in Ikotun, Lagos, lost its serenity after it was robbed of peace by the cruel angel of death, and it may take many more weeks before the former state is restored, if it will ever be.
For residents of the area, particularly adherents and visitors to the famous Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), it is still a long dream they are yet to wake up from, especially how in a moment, a significant part of their alluring city became a crash site, attracting citizens and dignitaries alike.
To those who were eyewitnesses to the disaster, one week is not enough to shake off the shock of the building collapse that has claimed over 60 lives.
The church founded and shepherded by Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua, truly lives to its billing as a church for all nationalities under the sun and its architectural masterpiece tells a different story about Nigeria. Everything about the church is beauty come to life.
Visitors and tourists who flock to the church in their multitudes have one aim in mind – the elusive search for healing.
Meeting the down-to-earth man in the Synagogue, Prophet Joshua, is a lifetime opportunity many would relish reliving and that aacounts for why they keep coming back from all over the world.
But beyond the frontiers of the church is where the scenic sights ends. In seconds, you are transported from fantasyland to the grim reality of a Lagos ghetto, replete with its trademark shanties and bad roads.
That community, known as Onilewura, is the other side of the Synagogue city.
Onilewura is partly an industrial area but mostly residential. It comprises seven streets namely, Sadiq Estate, Leona Ajayi Close, Akerekoro Close, Ise Oluwa Street, Orija Street, Onilewura Street and the entrance into the community, which houses the Synagogue church, Segun Irefin Street.
There are a host of companies and warehouses, prominent among which are Albert Company, JMG Generators, IPI and Olam, an agro-allied firm. A noticeable impact of the church’s presence in the area is the clusters of hotels and guesthouses, ranging between one star dormitories to three star lodges. There are over 50 in the area.

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TWO WORLDS… ONE STREET: Segun Irefin Street, Onilewura, Ikotun, is entrance into Synagogue City

Until the latest tragedy that befell the church, residents were resentful that not a trace of the good life at the synagogue city was filtering into the community.
As neighbours, they only see the beautiful life and miracles on television, while every Sunday, members of the church ‘oppress’ them with the exotic cars that line their streets and give undue pressure to the roads already in urgent need of rehabilitation.
For the community, the building collapse is an unfortunate incident and as a group, they have been rallying to convey their sympathies to Prophet Joshua but it has been unsuccessful.
Chairman of Onilewura Landlords and Residents Association, Mr. Olusola Adisa Oseni, told The Guardian that they are using the opportunity of the present media spotlight to bring to the fore their plight and concerns as a community.
According to him, the church’s fame has only brought pain to the community. “On Saturdays and Sundays, it is a no-go area for everybody, the whole community is turned into a garage with transporters and car owners crowding out residents in every available space and the church is not doing anything about it.
“Unfortunately, he doesn’t allow his members to park around the vicinity of the church. They don’t have a parking space despite the fact that he has been acquiring properties around the church. Members of his Church litter the whole community with cars, while the church keeps its serenity even on worship days.
“Also, there has not been any effort to make the roads motorable, apart from tarring the street up to where the church ends, leaving the rest of the street in bad shape. It is a serious issue that is even difficult for people to believe,” he said.
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“Unfortunately, for over three months, we are yet to be granted access to him. You can see how close we are yet far apart as neighbours. When you are not able to see him, no help is forthcoming and there would be no benefit to members of the community.
“Before the building collapsed, we had requested for a heap of broken blocks from the site to be given to us to use as palliatives on the road. One major issue why we wanted to hold a meeting with the prophet is the closure of the road during service to all road users and residents.
“We have been trying to see what we can do as it is not only affecting us but other churches on the same street like Foursquare, Redeem and WOSEM. Their members cannot bring their car in and they have complained to us that they are losing a lot of their worshippers, many of who may not know the windy long alternative road to use.
For us residents, we have accepted our fate since many years now, and only sought his (T.B. Joshua’s) assistance to, at least, make the road motorable. We have through communal efforts tried to rescue the situation but no contribution from our biggest neighbour. We keep appealing to our members to be patient with SCOAN and not resort to violence.
“At our meetings, we had even suggested writing to the Inspector-General of Police and Governor Babatunde Fashola, but some among us suggested we should meet with Joshua first as our neighbor before we start reporting him to somebody else and if nothing comes out of it, it won’t be a surprise to him if we approach the authorities.”

Inside TB Joshua’s Synagogue… The Myth, The Reality

By Chuks Nwanne

The Synagogue Church of All Nation in Ikotun, Lagos.

The Synagogue Church of All Nation in Ikotun, Lagos.


PROPHET Temitope Balogun Joshua, or TB Joshua, as he’s fondly called all over the world, is like a prism, offering different perspectives to different viewers. He is an enigma that is yet to be fully understood by many including members of his church — The Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN). Yes, he’s a very controversial figure, especially among Lagosians, who seem not comfortable with his man of God status. But outside Lagos, and beyond Nigeria, TB Joshua is treated like a ‘god’, with popular figures, including African heads of state, trooping in and out of his Synagogue on a daily basis.

Controversies aside, TB Joshua is a man you can’t ignore in Nigeria. Aside from his large followership, the prophet is known for his charity deeds, a trait that has endeared him to many, especially the poor folks, who look up to the Prophet for daily bread. In fact, his Emmanuel TV, which shows his church’s activities, is very popular across the globe, except in Lagos.

Unlike the days when orthodox Churches held sway, the coming of Pentecostalism in Nigeria has given religion a new outlook. The pastors and bishops in town are distinguished by their flamboyant life style: impeccable suits, jaw breaking grammar and you know? Private jets.

You need to live big — expensive outfits and designer’s perfumes — to belong, unless, you’ll be a ‘backbencher’.

Prophet TB Joshua is very endowed with these high tastes. He is perhaps more interested in preaching the word of God because there is one verse in the bible that says it will be easier for camel head to go through a needle eye than for the rich man to make heaven.

Dorning designer clothes, speaking through the nose, riding on SUVs and globetrotting in private jets are not part of the things that marked him out.

Could this be the reason TB Joshua is not getting acceptance from his fellow men of God? Well, no matter what, people still look forward to his football predictions, especially when it favours the Super Eagles.

Prophet Temitope Joshua

Prophet Temitope Joshua


On June 12, Prophet TB Joshua will be marking his 50th birthday. I bet you, a lot of people will have a big smile on that day. Yes, Joshua’s birthday is usually an opportunity for some people to eat or be happy. I don’t mean just laying hands on people; some pockets will surely swell that day. In fact, by now, workers will be struggling with the bagging of Joshua’s Rice, which will be shared on that day; the bakery boys too will be on duty 24/7, baking bread for the poor. Erh, I doubt if any casual worshipper would be able to make it into the church’s auditorium.

International guests should be arriving by now, including top dignitaries; I bet you, one or two presidents would come. As usual, the security will be tight, no cause for alarm.

Notwithstanding, you might just hang around the church’s corridor if you persist. A lot of people prefer to take positions close to the prophet’s altar.

Generally, anointing would flow! Well, in case you won’t be able to make it to his Ikotun, Lagos Synagogue, Emmanuel TV will be screening the event live!

Now, I know you will be wondering where I got all these info? Okay, calm down. I’m not a member of SCOAN; I’m just an observer, who had the opportunity of being a ‘special’ guest of the ever-busy Prophet in 2010. That day, all protocol were relaxed, even with the long list of visitors waiting to see the man of God, I got the first slot, a VIP one for that matter.

It took over a month to get that link to man of God. All previous efforts had failed. The plan was to have an exclusive interview with him, something he hardly does.

“I’ve spoken to his people, the Prophet has agreed to grant the interview. I will take you to him. Just call me on phone when you get there,” my link’s man said.

Driving to TB Joshua’s Synagogue that day was not an easy task. The heavy traffic that characterises the Ikotun-Ejigbo route worsened that day and vehicles crawled. The long stretch of road was in terrible condition.

As I drove to see the prophet, I kept wondering if that axis was actually part of Governor Fashola’s Lagos Master Plan. For more than two hours, I was in the heavy traffic, for a journey that would have lasted between 25 and 30 minutes.

For fear of missing Joshua’s appointment, I had to squeeze my tuketuke into one of the adjacent streets, praying that LASTMA boys won’t do their worst. Thank God for okada; that was the only option to the Synagogue within a short time. Unfortunately today, okada is banned from major roads in Lagos.

That evening, the Synagogue was bubbling with activities; guests were trooping in and out in their numbers. While some Nigerians were heading for South Africa that night to be part of the 2010 Nations Cup opening ceremony, a large group of South Africans, numbering over 700, were in the Synagogue to celebrate with the prophet.

From the gate into the main building, excitement filled the air. Somehow, we looked like strangers; even the congregation knew that. At that point, I made contact with my guide, who later ushered me into the Prophet’s special room.

Though not your massive apartment, the room is properly furnished, with a connecting door from the back. I was still admiring the furniture, when TB Joshua, dressed in a simple three quarter short, a polo shirt and a slip on sandal, stepped in from the back door.

The Prophet... In the beginning

The Prophet… In the beginning


To be honest, his simplicity baffled me. I expected some little drama and razzmatazz before the coming of the man of God, but it was not like that. If not for his Afro hair and beards, I would have mistaken the Prophet for some lowly member of the congregation.

“Sorry for keeping you waiting; I had to leave some of my important visitors just to grant this interview. I like The Guardian newspapers; if you go to my house, that’s the paper I read. So, when they told me about this interview, I felt it’s something I should do. What do you want to know about me?“ he quizzed, beaming with smiles.

Look, Prophet TB Joshua is a fine man. Oh, yes, he is. Imagine if that Afro hair is trimmed down a bit and the beards shaved?

Right, have you taken time to look into his eyeballs? Albright, imagine Joshua dressed in one of those expensive suits, like the ones Pastors Chris Oyakhilome and his brother Chris Okotie usually wear? Now, you see.

BORN into the family of Mr. and Mrs. Kolawole Balogun of Arigi village, Ondo State, Joshua was brought up as a Christian. His farmer father was then the secretary of St. Stephen’s Church in his community; he played the role of a translator, whenever there was a visitor that couldn’t speak Yoruba.

“He was not well lettered, but was better than most of his peers around then. Though he died while I was still small, I was like his pet. He would carry me to the Church and as a little boy; I would always run around and jump from the choir stand to the catechist’s table. I miss him dearly,” Joshua said.

With early exposure to Christianity, young Joshua developed interest in Bible knowledge; it was his favourite subject in school. He finished the New Testament book twice while still in primary six.

“My interest in the subject grew to the extent that I could read the whole Bible on the average of two months during my secondary school days. I was also the leader of the Scripture Union (SU) of my school,” he informed.

From all indications, TB Joshua’s large heart has little to do with his status as a prophet; it is an inborn thing.

“I had always wanted to be like any other person; when others are crying, I cry, when they are happy, I would be happy. I was really concerned about humanity; I mean people’s interest. I always want to make people happy by helping them.”

His wife... Evelyn

His wife… Evelyn


In school, Joshua’s charity heart was always at work. On many occasions, he used his school fees to settle other students’ fees.

“Not that I was rich, but because I could not withstand their tears. After giving out my school fees, I would go to the farm or construction sites to do menial jobs to settle mine. I did that many times and missed my classes, too,” he recalled with a smiling face.

And your mother is happy with you?

“Well, the first time I did that, my mother was not pleased with me because she was the only one financing my education. My father died when I was still a boy.”

Instead of endearing him to his mates, Joshua’s kindness yielded negative results.

“I was alone; they derided me, called me names and described me as a dunce that could give out any of his property to people. I repeated a class for about five times because I was always outside looking for menial jobs to pay my school fees. Then, I was propelled to do good by forces. But today, all that has changed; what I do right now is to help people to stand on their own and to be a channel of blessings to others,” he said.

From all indication, the ‘hatred’ on Prophet TB Joshua is actually not a new thing to him; the man seems to be used to it.

“As for me, I want to help people; I really want to help them. Not for anything, but because Jesus Christ wept with those that were weeping and celebrated with those celebrating,” he harped.

At what point did you realise that God wanted you to serve Him?

“The moment you start obeying His instructions, you’ll start hearing His voice. The moment you begin to obey that voice, He will start using you,” he said.

According to the prophet, Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN) is beyond the physical structure; it’s more than that Gothic architectural masterpiece you see along Ikotun Road, Lagos.

“It started right from my childhood. It goes beyond the physical structure you see, but that which comes out of the structure. My mission is to see people succeed in life; I’m not cut out to be materialistic, but to make people happy. For every thousand Naira I get, there are a thousand people to spend it on. So, making people happy, putting smiles on the faces of the downcast is my mission,“ he said.

If not for his calling, Joshua would have been a soldier; he would have perfectly fitted into the army with his stout frames.

“My first school was Ansar-Ud-Deen Grammar School, Ikare, Ondo State; I couldn’t finish my studies there because of my magnanimity. And my mother, who was the secretary of a co-operative society, was not happy with it.”

Left with no other option, he obtained the form for the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna. He passed the examination and was actually invited for the interview.

“Going for the interview, the train I boarded broke down at Jebba. As I had no money to continue the journey, I stayed there for the train to be repaired. By the time that was done, I set off to reach Kaduna, only to discover that the interview had ended. That was how I missed the army,” he recalled.

TB Joshua... in his element

TB Joshua… in his element


Like Eddie Murphy’s Coming To America, TB Joshua’s Coming to Lagos is another interesting story. I wonder when Nollywood producers would discover the synopsis of the Prophet’s journey to Lagos. This will surely make a good movie script.

“How I came to Lagos was a very long story. I came through the buses that carried farm produce such as cassava and cocoa. We spent five days on the way before getting to Lagos. When I alighted at Mile 12, I stayed about 10 days washing the feet of traders coming out of the muddy market for money, until I came across some people speaking my native dialect,“ he breathed.

He quickly introduced himself.

“I told them I was from Arigidi and could not trace my sister. Luckily, one of them directed me to some people that linked me up with my sister at Egbe, a suburb of Lagos. I have done different menial jobs including being a conductor. And today, I have an NGO for motor park boys, because I was once among them,” he narrated.

While in Lagos, Joshua made efforts to complete his secondary education, but somehow, it never happened.

“I attended many schools in Lagos, but the ones I could remember are the New State High School, Mushin; Metropolitan College, Isolo; and Ansar-Ud-Deen College, Isolo.”

Why the frequent change of school?

“This is because I don’t want to see people suffer. I was always sacrificing my comfort, including my school fees, to make people happy. Whenever I see people suffering, I always feel bad even though I’m poor; I would get out the little I have to save the situation and go without anything. It was this path of life that made me to change school so frequently. I attended one school for two months, only to be sent away because of school fees. I was contented with what I was doing, using my fees on others.”

And you repeated classes?

“Oh, yes; in fact, I couldn’t finish my school. I left secondary school and decided never to go back to it. But when I started gathering children between the ages of five to 10 years, I felt the need for it and enrolled in adult education class in Mushin. I would teach the children from 8am to 2pm, then leave for my evening classes at the New State High School, Mushin. It was the money realised from the morning lesson that I used to pay my school fees and registered for GCE. I attempted entering the University several times, but it didn’t workout.”

Done with academics, Joshua took up his first major job in a poultry farm. “I was among those taking care of the birds and clearing their droppings. I did the job with some foreigners from Niger Republic, Ghana, Cameroun and Benin Republic; I was the only Nigerian among them and I never let people know I was a Nigerian. I declared myself a foreigner too; in my own country.”

How much were you paid then?

“I did it for a year to raise money for my GCE and to do other things. Let’s not talk about that because the amount was too small, but I was able to keep some for my studies,” he said.

Asked to give a brief assessment of his progress so far, TB Joshua simply said, “Well, I don’t know, but let’s put it this way. As we all know, the race is not always for the swift, and the battle for the strong. It’s too early for me to assess myself. If God raises you, you are to raise people, who would be able to do what you are doing or do even better than you did. If today were your last day on earth, what would people remember you for? Is it properties or what,” he quizzed rhetorically.

In case you don’t know, the prophet loves football; he’s been churning out stars; the likes of Daniel Amokachi, Ogeyi Onazi and Sunday Emmanuel have links with the Prophet’s football team. However, football is just an aspect of his activities in the Synagogue.

“It’s not only a club; we are into different areas of life. All the carpentry works you see here (the Synagogue) are all made within the church premises. We empower people to be self-reliant,” he said.

One of the controversies about TB Joshua is his wife. While some said he has none, others alleged the women left him so many years ago. But in the room, his wife portrait is conspicuously hung on the wall — a pretty, tall, fair lady. You wonder how they met in the first instance?

“She is better placed to tell you; she will surely tell you that whenever you meet her,” he responded with laughter.

What really attracted you to her?

“What exactly do you think would attract a man to a woman other than her virtue? Nothing, but virtue of God in her.”

In some quarters, it is believed that TB Joshua has no child. But that day, we saw one of his daughters, a first class material in the United Kingdom, who was on break in Nigeria at that time. Joshua invited her to the room, but did not mention his media guests. Minutes after that call, the young lady stormed the room playfully. But seeing her father in the midst of strangers, the ebony black lady withdrew to her shell, though she kept on beaming with smiles.

“She’s one of my daughters; she just came in for holidays, but she’s helping with works in the Synagogue. I have a very big family. All the children you see here are mine; I don’t think you have a larger family than I do,” he said jokingly.

At the end of the session, SCOAN members, including two Japanese volunteers, conducted us round the premises. From the private room, we moved to the Synagogue proper, where those miracles you see on TV happens. We also got the opportunity of seeing the Emmanuel TV studio, with young chaps busy with buttons; their editing suit is fully loaded.

From the studio, we were at the rice bagging session, where a group of young men were packaging bags of rice for the poor. On our way to the bakery section, where thousands of loaves of bread were baked on a daily basis, we met a young guy constructing a special car; he is under the sponsorship of the prophet.

“This car will run on the road, on water and will also fly,” the ‘engineer’ said.

Well, we saw the construction process, though we are yet to see the vehicle on Lagos roads. Yes, we also saw the mini football pitch, where some of those star were made.

The hotel section is massive; the furnishing was in progress when we visited. From the rooms to the laundry section, kitchen… the facility is finished to taste; I’m sure the structure is complete by now.

So, behind that structure called Synagogue, there are hundreds of activities going on; both spiritual and physical. Behind the man TB Joshua, there’s more than just a religious leader.

How it all started

THE Synagogue, Church of All Nations did not just come by chance. Many years ago, a small gathering of eight members came together to hold their first meeting in a humble shelter in a squalid, swampy jungle, in the location of Agodo-Egbe in Lagos, Nigeria.

As time went on, it became increasingly clear that T.B. Joshua was not just an ordinary pastor, preaching ‘ordinary’ words and doing ‘ordinary things’; clear evidence of outstanding miraculous occurrences began to arise. The lame began to walk, hopeless cancer patients were lifted from despair, and desperate situations were turned to scenes of life, joy and peace.

Questions started rolling in: ‘Can this be true in our days?’ ‘Can a human being perform such feats?’ ‘Is the Bible still true for us today?’

Purportedly, on the instruction of the Holy Spirit, The Synagogue, Church Of All Nations moved to a large expanse of land in Ikotun-Egbe, in the outskirts of Lagos. Thousands began flocking to the services as they heard about the miraculous events taking place there.

In a very short space of time, an area without walls and barely a roof was transformed into a mighty cathedral. Hard benches were replaced with comfortable chairs; poor lights were turned to intelligent lighting; fans were exchanged with refreshing air conditioning. The great changes that took place in such a limited time span have become a subject of debate.

Onilewura… The Other Side Of Alluring Synagogue City

By TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA

The Synagogue Church of All Nation in Ikotun, Lagos.

The Synagogue Church of All Nation in Ikotun, Lagos.


THE Synagogue Church of All Nations in Ikotun, Lagos, founded and shepherded by Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua, truly lives to its billing as a church for all nationalities under the sun, and its architecture masterpiece tells a different story about Nigeria. Here, at the Synagogue city, beginning from the long tarred road lined on both sides by flowers, is beauty come to life.

For a first time visitor, who is cleared to access the hallowed auditorium, the welcome becomes cordial and everyone greets you with ‘Emmanuel’ (God with us). The large splendid church of 140 by 70 metres often called cathedral has been built with the church’s people and resources and it’s being expanded daily.

The emerging Synagogue city is a beautiful fancy to behold. There is a place for 20,000 people and they have almost 30,000 members. There is also a shop where you can buy ‘everything’.

Beside the church is a large area with open tents where education is given to the young and the old, who are full time workers in the church and it is a mixed body of Nigerians and expatriates. When not receiving instruction, they carry out their assignments conscientiously, singing to themselves.

At the other side of the road is a large area with many workshops: garage, metal and wood working. Beside it, are a large kitchen and a bread bakery. There is a little parking space for buses, which bring down members from all parts of Lagos.

A walk along the church shows how nicely it is finished. On the church walls are beautiful murals of the last supper and Jesus in conversation with Nicodemus.

Prophet Temitope Joshua

Prophet Temitope Joshua


It is not for anything that world leaders, African heads of government and notable personalities have had course in recent past to visit the church, particularly the man in the Synagogue. During an encounter with The Guardian last year, he said the source of attraction to the church is a simple answer: “It is because their needs are met.

“People will always be attracted to wherever their needs will be met and the needs of men vary. What I want and like might be different from what you want; but it is not in my power, it is God, who is answering the needs of His people.

“Even in the Bible, people travel far and wide to where their needs will be met. Also, the work of God is like honey. Wherever honey is, insects seek and find it. When God is doing a new thing in a place, people are attracted there. So, these presidents and other foreign nationals come to the church, because of what God is doing here,” he said.

Just recently, the land flanking the church on the eastside, which once housed a petrol station and residential buildings, were acquired and construction has already begun to annex it to the church’s auditorium.

The other side of Segun Irefun Street, entrance into the Onilewura community

The other side of Segun Irefun Street, entrance into the Onilewura community


BUT beyond the frontiers of the church is were the scenic sights ends. In seconds, you are transported from fantasyland to the grim reality of a Lagos ghetto, replete with its trademark shanties and bad roads. That community, known as Onilewura, is the other side of the Synagogue city.

Onilewura is partly an industrial area, but mostly residential. It comprises seven streets namely Sadiq Estate, Leona Ajayi Close, Akerekoro Close, Ise Oluwa Street, Orija Street, Onilewura Street and the entrance into the community, which houses the Synagogue church, Segun Irefin Street.

There are a host of companies and warehouses, prominent among which are Albert Company, JMG Generators, IPI and Olam, an agro-allied firm. A noticeable impact of the church’s presence in the area is the clusters of hotels and guesthouses, ranging between one star dormitory to five star lodges. There are over 50 in the area.

Residents are, however, resentful that not a trace of the good life at the synagogue city is filtering into the community. As neighbours, they only see the beautiful life on television, while every Sunday, members of the church are ‘oppressed’ by the exotic cars that line their streets and give undue pressure to the roads already in urgent need of rehabilitation.

The voices of the embittered residents were echoed by the chairman of Onilewura Landlords and Residents Association, Mr. Olusola Adisa Oseni, when The Guardian visited the area last week.

According to him, the church’s fame has only brought pain to the community. “On Saturdays and Sundays, it is a no-go area for everybody, the whole community is turned into a garage with transporters and car owners crowding out residents in every available space and the church is not doing anything about it.

“The community has succeeded in having an audience with the founder only once in the last three years. Unfortunately, he doesn’t allow his members to park around the vicinity of the church. They don’t have a parking space despite the fact that he has been acquiring properties around the church. He is content allowing his members to litter the whole community with cars, while the church keeps its serenity even on worship days.

From the junction to my house, which is a distance of just 10 houses, there was a day I spent over two hours to get home. Sadly, there has not been any effort to make the roads motorable, apart from tarring the street up to where the church ends. The company next to the church also followed suit and tarred the road to its entrance leaving the rest of the street in bad shape.”

After countless letters sent to Joshua by the community explaining their plight, he eventually gave community leaders audience in November 2011, where he promised to do something about the roads. In the mood of the season, which was close to Yuletide, the promised Onilewura residents bags of rice and two cows. Nearly 18 months after, the residents are still awaiting the promised Christmas package.

“We were happy when he told us that after doing so much for outsiders, he is now ready to extend his hand of fellowship to the community since we are his immediate neighbours and in the past, he used to walk across the road on foot. He also said to make us happy during Christmas, he would give us two cows and bags of rice to share. Sadly, we haven’t seen a grain of rice since then.

“And because of the general attitude of the church to the community, companies and factories in the area have also been nonchalant about giving back and being socially responsible. The other option is to look up to government and that is a dead-end, because the local government is only interested in harassing citizens to pay council rates,” Oseni said.

Chairman of Onilewura Landlords and Residents Association, Mr. Olusola Oseni, points to a broken culvert filled with debris, which caved in under pressure from heavy-duty trucks.

Chairman of Onilewura Landlords and Residents Association, Mr. Olusola Oseni, points to a broken culvert filled with debris, which caved in under pressure from heavy-duty trucks.


In the CDA’s account books, the community has expended N953,000 on road rehabilitation alone in 2013. To carry out the palliative measures, residents were taxed with a monthly levy of N200, N100 for shop owners and N50 for one-room occupants.

“We had to go to Ladipo where they were peeling asphalt to source for materials to fill up the roads, but to our dismay, MTN came to begin defacing the roads again on the excuse that they have sought permission from government to lay optic cables. They just dig the road and abandoned it.

“It got so bad that for some days, some residents were denied access into their homes. We had to secure parking spaces for some of them in other peoples homes because it is not all cars you can leave on the road overnight.”

Another community leader, Henry Nwosisi, said the influx of church members posed huge security risk to the community, as so many strange faces are loitering around the area. “We don’t know who is who. A lot of phones and bags have been snatched from people in this area and they hide under the cover of the crowd.

“Apart from the church’s immediate environment, there is no much concern for the welfare of the community. It is giving us sleepless nights that the church and the companies are not socially responsible to the community. We have done a great deal of appealing to our youths to maintain peace, if left for them, they know what to do to get what they want.

“The community cannot spend millions to put the roads in shape without Joshua’s contribution only for his members to park their cars in every available space on Sundays. That would raise some negative sentiments and feeling towards the church and its members,” Nwosisi noted.

Attempts to get the church’s response were stalled by the church’s protocol personnel, who stood firmly in the way of The Guardian. None of the church’s workers was willing to speak on behalf of the founder, while access to Joshua was bluntly rebuffed.

From The Archive: TB Joshua Is Like Every Other Man On The Street…

DATELINE: September 29, 2009

Earlier this year in an interview with The Guardian Newspapers, the presitigious and renowned Nigerian newspaper, TB Joshua spoke on a range of intriguing issues…

Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua, founder of The Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) was recently mentioned among the world’s leading faith healers by America’s TIME Magazine. He was also awarded the National Honour of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) by the government in recognition of his humanitarian activities. He spoke to TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA at his church’s headquarters in Ikotun, Lagos on what the award means to him and why his church attracts high-profile visitors.

“If not for the grace of God, I would be like any other man on the street…” TB Joshua

 

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First, how do you feel with the National Honour bestowed on you by Mr. President?
Honour where? You mean the one that was given to me in January. Well, that is not new to me and is not something special to me. As you can see for yourself, a lot of people, organisations, government, home and abroad and even foreign missions have been honouring the grace of God upon my life. Just last week, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) presented me with an award. But then, the honour is not meant for me, it belongs to God. I am just a vessel God is using.

 

First, it was your meeting with the Governor General of the State of Bahamas in the early 90s, followed by the visit of President Frederick Chiluba of Zambia, a few years later. Since then, other world leaders have come to visit you, most recently, was the new President of Ghana, Prof. John Atta Mills and you are preparing to receive a South African leader in the next few days, what do you think is the source of attraction?
It is a simple answer; it is because their needs are met. People will always be attracted to wherever their needs will be met; and the needs of men vary. What I want and like might be different from what you want; so, you will always go to where your needs are met. It is not in my power, it is God, who is answering the needs of his people. Even in the Bible, people travel far and wide to where their needs will be met. Also, the work of God is like honey. Wherever honey is, insects seek and find it. When God is doing a new thing in a place, people are attracted there. So, these presidents and other foreign nationals come to the church, because of what God is doing here.

 

Despite this, most Nigerians have still not acknowledged what God is using you to do. Why is it so?
You see, every man of God has his gift. This is my own area. In the academic world, we have professors of English, Chemistry, and Mathematics. If some people do not need my gift, this does not mean that it is not needed somewhere. If what you have is not needed now, that does not mean that it will not be needed tomorrow. So, it would be too soon to begin to say this and it would be too soon to praise or come to the conclusion you have drawn now. God’s time is the best. Sometimes, what you need at the end might be the most important thing to you. Let me give you a good example: a friend you discover later in life may be the most important friend you would cherish more than the friend you have had from the beginning of your life.

 

Apart from the headquarters’ church in Lagos, which has become a tourist attraction, do you have other branches of the church?
Branches everywhere is not the issue, what is the issue now is making disciples of Christ out of men, making another T.B. Joshua. If this could be possible in the life of Elisha and Elisha came out of Elijah even more powerful than his master, why not also in our time, so that after I am gone, there will be men who God would raise up to achieve His purpose in the world. That is the biggest reward God can give to his servant. Like they always say, there is no success without a good successor. The greatest honour will be to make disciples who will do better than what we are presently doing.

 

Do you see your children taking after your ministry in the Synagogue?
The ministry is not a will; it is not a property you can will to your children. It is a spiritual inheritance and the Bible talks about the inheritance of saints. You must meet God’s condition and no human hand can be employed to do the work of God, neither can the mouth do the work of God. It is not a matter of ‘I can speak good grammar’, it is only God that will choose who He wants. It is predestined, as it should be by divine will. I cannot force my children to follow in my footsteps, they have to decide on their own, and I can only point them to the way we also have followed. I cannot give them the power because I am not the owner of the power. I can only do my best to train them in the way of the Lord and if they are ready to follow and make a difference, it is their choice, not mine.

 

Who is T.B. Joshua?
Joshua is a man like you. I am like anybody else on the street; the only difference in my life is the grace of God. That is the difference and that is what separates me from the man on the street. But with that, because I am a man who has known what it is to lack, I do not close my eyes to the needy. Because I am somebody who has experienced what it is to be poor and without money, I give of what I have to help the poor, because I am a man who knows what it is to be hungry, I give food to feed the poor and those who are hungry, as a way of appreciating the grace of God upon my life because if not for the grace of God, I would be like any other man on the street.