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.

Sy 1

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

When President Jonathan came to town

Syn 2

By Tope Templer Olaiya,
Assistant Lagos City Editor

LAST Saturday, September 20, 2015 political movement was activated at the nation’s commercial capital, Lagos, as adherents of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the South West trooped out in large numbers to receive President Goodluck Jonathan at the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) for a Southwest Sensitization and Unity rally.
A mammoth crowd of supporters across the six states of the South West geopolitical zone had defied the early morning downpour to express support for the president’s re-election bid in 2015. They were buoyed by the party leadership’s adoption of Jonathan as the PDP’s presumptive presidential candidate.
As expected, there was lockdown on citizen’s movement as some roads leading to the TBS and on other locations where the president was being expected were blocked.
The Lagos Bus Transit Service (LAGBUS), had early on Saturday morning, tweeted: “President Goodluck Jonathan is expected in Lagos this afternoon. As a result, roads around TBS and CMS area have been closed.” Other roads on Lagos Island, including Adeniji Adele road, were also cordoned off.
One of such locations that witnessed airtight security was the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), Ikotun, venue of the president’s first public appearance last Saturday.
Visiting the collapsed guesthouse of the church in company of the state’s Deputy Governor, Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire and PDP National Chairman, Adamu Mu’azu, Jonathan had vowed to investigate the cause of the tragedy, which left at least 115 dead.

Syn 3 “My coming here is to express my personal condolences to Prophet Joshua, the Synagogue of All Nations and of course the bereaved families,” Jonathan said during the visit.
The president, who arrived by helicopter at the sprawling church compound in Ikotun, said he would hold talks with the construction industry and state governors on how to prevent a repeat of the tragedy.
“We will work with the people to ensure that such an incident does not happen again,” he said.
Jonathan said he deeply regretted that scores of South Africans had died in the tragedy, and that he had already expressed his sympathies with President Jacob Zuma.
After a private meeting of the church leaders with Jonathan, which lasted a few minutes, the president hopped into his chopper, flew over Lagos skyline and alighted at the palace of the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Aremu Akiolu I.
For this visit, the president’s delegation was boosted by his advance party team, which was led by Vice President, Namadi Sambo, top government officials and PDP stalwarts including PDP Deputy National Chairman, Uche Secondus; Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha; former Sokoto State governor, Attahiru Bafarawa; PDP chieftain and member Board of Trustees, Chief Ola Bode George; Chief of Staff to the President, Gen. Jones Arogbofa; Special Adviser to the President on Interparty Affairs, Sen. Ben Obi; and Group Managing Director, Energy Group, Jimoh Ibrahim.
President Jonathan, who expressed gratitude to the Oba and his Council of Chiefs for the warm reception always accorded him each time he visited, said royal fathers are custodians of the nation, as such he could not be in Lagos without paying homage to the Oba to receive royal blessings and prayers.

Syn 1 He noted that Lagos is key to the economy of Nigeria and gave assurance that the Federal Government was committed to ensuring that nothing negative happens to the state. He said this informed the reason the Federal Government rose to the challenge against the spread of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in partnership with the governor, Babatunde Fashola.
“We thank you for the service you have been rendering right from when you were in service as a police officer and now as the Oba of Lagos. We assure you that we will continue to do our best in infrastructure development of the country and maintenance of peace and security in the country.
“We are here for the PDP Southwest Unity rally. We are not here for campaign but we will still come. Before we go, we need your royal prayers and blessings because you (traditional rulers) are the owners of the land,” he said.
While responding, Oba Akiolu, ‎who noted that leadership is given to anybody by God, prayed that God will be with President Jonathan and protect him to realise his vision for the country. He appealed for free and credible elections in Lagos and Nigeria next year.
“I have special love for Mr. President. God has put you in that position, He will be with you, God will not abandon you. On the current security challenges, I know God will bring it to an end. I urge you to continue doing whatever you have in mind for Lagos, not minding politics,” he said.

Syn 4 After the exchange of courtesies and pleasantries, it was time for the president and his entourage to leave for the day’s biggest assignment. And at exactly 1:15pm, the president’s motorcade made a grand entry into the bowl of TBS to kick off proceedings at the rally, where Fuji maestro, Abass Akande, popularly known as Obesere, kept thousands of rain-soaked party faithful entertained.
It was especially an opportunity for the many gubernatorial candidates in Lagos State to sell themselves to supporters ahead of the party’s primaries. They took turns hounding the opposition and throwing support for the adoption of the president as the party’s sole presidential candidate.
Aspirants from other states in the Southwest were also represented but were not as vocal as the agents of the gubernatorial aspirants in Lagos. Of the pack, it was supporters of the Minister of state for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro that stole the show and overwhelmed the rally.

KorobucciByVPUN8CMAEz--m
The rally, which was a colourful display of music, dance and politicking, was dominated by supporters of Obanikoro, popularly known as Koro by admirers. His banners and supporters, clad in different costumes could be seen conspicuously everywhere across the rally. A creative highlight of the Minister’s presence at the rally was a group of young stuntmen, skaters and young ladies who were all over the place dressed in t-shirts with the inscriptions; #Korolette, #Korobucci.

Syn 6 Before now, the minister, who was the party’s governorship candidate in 2007, had only made a feigned interest in running again for office, but all doubts were dispelled at the weekend as towering posters littered TBS and its environs welcoming the president to Lagos. The subtle declaration of his intention was his imposing image on the posters, with the rider: “Dream Team: Jonathan+Obanikoro=Winning Together.”
And there was more. The minister’s mobilization at the rally took many Lagosians by surprise, not leaving out many of those who had earlier signified interest to run for governorship ticket in the party.
Other aspirants, which included Jimi Agbaje, Babatunde Gbadamosi, Ade Dosunmu, and Deji Doherty, all made an impressive showing with their throng of supporters, but their efforts were glaringly overshadowed by the Obanikoro buzz, which ringed loudly at the square.
For special effect, the minister’s buzz took several sobriquets that appealed to various segments of the society, such as: Korolette, Koro Bucci, Koro for Better Lagos, Lagos can be greater, Jonathan+Koro=Winning Together, Koronated, among many others.
And it was to a rousing applause when firing the first salvo, the minister, who spoke on behalf of the body of Southwest ministers, flanked by Minister of State for the FCT, Mrs. Olajumoke Akinjide; Minister of State for Works, Prince Dayo Adeyeye; Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adeshina; Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson; and Minister of Police Affairs, Alhaji Jeilili Adesiyan, assured Jonathan of their unalloyed loyalty and further promised to mobilise for him (Jonathan) when the campaign gathers steam.
Obanikoro explained that the president has done well and therefore deserves a second term to continue with his Transformation Agenda. “The party in the west has resolved to “work for the re-election of President Jonathan and we are committed in working for him so that he can continue with the good works he has started not only in the south west but in the country. With all the good things he has done, he deserves a second term.”

Syn 7Responding, Jonathan expressed gratitude to the members of the PDP in the region for giving him the right of first refusal as the party’s sole candidate for next year’s presidential polls.
He said: “Let me sincerely thank the leaders of our party; from the chairman, committee members, our governors, our National Assembly members, our Board of Trustees members, and all members of the party for giving me the right of first refusal of the presidential ticket.
“There are no dictators in the PDP. There is no one that is so powerful to determine who becomes councillor, local government chairman, state House of Assembly member, House of Representatives member, senator, governor, and even president, in the PDP. The decision is by the people, for the people, and that is why the PDP will continue to do new things and give right leadership,” he said.
The Lagos chairman of the party, PDP, Tunji Shelle, however, said the party would not adopt candidates for the various positions including governorship in the 2015 elections.
Speaking against the backdrop of the party’s adoption of President Jonathan as its sole candidate for the 2015 presidential poll, Shelle said the president’s emergence as a consensus candidate was different from the situation in Lagos State.
“The president is going for a second term and the party decided to let him continue and finish the good job he is doing. In Lagos State, it is different. The PDP is not the party in power; therefore, all aspirants must go for primaries, as it is the tradition of the party.
“There is no preferred aspirant. The candidate that would emerge would be decided by the party delegates,” he said.

Syn 8

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.

Sy 1

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.
Sy 2 Oseni explained that all efforts to take their grievances to Joshua met a brick wall and their last stop was the church’s Chief Security Officer, who promised to broker a meeting between the community and the prophet.
“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.

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.