I know many will be surprised at this opinion but it is an honest and frank progression of thoughts from an open-minded individual, not emboldened by any personal bigotry, political agenda or religious connotation.
T.B. Joshua is a name I was distantly aware of prior to the tragic collapse of a guesthouse within his premises on September 12th 2014 that plummeted over 100 salvation-seeking individuals into a premature grave. Indeed, I don’t think there is any Nigerian who can feign ignorance of Joshua’s fame and miraculous claims.
However, by virtue of both location and vocation, there had been no specific reason for me to form any particular opinion or premonition concerning him despite the volume of vitriolic reports I believe we have all heard or read to some degree in time-past.
I certainly respected Pastor Joshua for his commendable humanitarian services, just as I do anyone who gainfully uses their resources for the benefit and benefaction of others, but my train of thoughts had not travelled toward any further conclusive trajectory.
Therefore, the tragic incident and wave of attention bestowed relentlessly on Joshua in its wake provided fodder for reflection. Although I am not a personal adherent to the rather cryptic ‘marmite philosophy’ of ‘you either love it or hate it’, T.B. Joshua’s case appears to aptly illustrate this. Just look at the vast chasm between unreasonable detestation and irrational devotion displayed by Joshua’s foes and fans alike in online commentaries and debates!
I would opt more on the side of neutrality, governed hopefully by rationality! As a Christian, brought up under a strict moral barometer, I certainly consider myself a ‘spiritual realist’. I would like to believe I am governed by the indomitable principle that forces for both good and evil exist in this world and an individual has a candid choice as to which direction he swings in and thus which influence he operates under.
Therefore, the barrage of negativity and scathing personal attacks on Joshua that spread like wildfire in the wake of the tragic incident certainly irked me. I pose a question at this point – why would a tragedy provide any logical yardstick for determining the authenticity of an individual related to it?
Let me state a few points I observed. Firstly, unreasonable assertions founded on inconclusive insinuations were published as if they were sacrosanct. For example, the statement attributed to a NEMA official who had just arrived on the scene claiming the building’s foundations were not sufficiently strengthened to withstand the additional floors being added was widely quoted and formed a core basis for criticism. However, his arrival at such conclusion without actually digging up the foundation to test its strength was neither questioned nor queried. Also, are disaster management personnel in the right position to give authoritative information on construction matters?
Numerous reports questioned the empathy and efficiency of The SCOAN’s initial response, alleging that emergency workers were refused access to the site. An article published in South Africa’s best selling newspaper theatrically titled, ‘Blood On Their Hands’, even suggested the secrecy that shrouded the incident’s aftermath resulted in a higher death toll. These reports were accentuated whereas conflicting reports detailing the efficiency of The SCOAN’s response and the ‘miracles’ behind the rescues of over 130 were significantly downplayed.
T.B. Joshua’s statement shortly after the incident noting ‘a strange plane’ that flew over the building several times, alongside the release of security footage that captured the horrific incident, was widely condemned as irresponsible, irrational and insensitive. Yet, to date, no NAMA official has made a public statement explaining the plane’s mission in Ikotun that day, if indeed nothing sinister was involved.
Emmanuel TV’s release of a video showcasing controlled demolitions and their remarkable semblance to the manner in which The SCOAN building collapsed was similarly left out of many media reports as the conclusion of structural defects had already been suitably positioned in people’s reasoning.
At this juncture, I must posit that as an individual with some knowledge in construction matters, the manner of the ‘pancake collapse’ I witnessed from The Synagogue security footage certainly doesn’t suggest structural deficiencies. Let’s hope investigators unravel the truth!
Calls for Joshua’s incarceration and prosecution were championed by even respected Nigerian scholars abroad even though the official investigation has not (as yet) declared any shred of culpability on the part of The SCOAN.
To buttress my point, take a look at a piece penned by one skeptic named Leo Igwe on Sahara Reporters. It is titled, ‘T B Joshua: The Collapse Of A Charlatan’ and basically opines that Joshua’s collapsed building signals ‘the slow and gradual crumbling of a mega charlatanic ministry being spearheaded by one of the most notorious evangelical con artists Nigeria has ever known.’
The article contains no substance or systematic thought processes whatsoever; it is simply a barrage of incensed accusations of fabrication and deception against Joshua and Christianity in general. Why was it that Igwe’s openly anti-Christian rantings were given such free advertising? Surely, the focus should have been on the wellbeing of those who lost loved ones in the tragedy (to whom I send my sincere and heartfelt condolences) and not Pastor Joshua’s spiritual legitimacy?
Similarly, a laughable report in Nigeria’s Vanguard newspaper shortly after the incident questioning Joshua’s miraculous abilities was prejudiced to the point of embarrassment. If a similar report had been filed on another subject matter, it would have been rejected for its blatant disregard for journalistic ethics and lack of credibility, yet it was not only published but disseminated on various online sites and foreign newspapers.
People repeatedly and usually sarcastically questioned on social media why Joshua had not ‘prophesied’ his own building collapse despite his famed divine insight to foresee events of international significance. The question certainly has validity but it is by no means a factor by which genuineness can be ascertained. Are we positioning Joshua on the level of our Creator by suggesting he must be ‘all-knowing’?
I ask the question here – had this tragic incident happened in the premises of a business tycoon or prominent hotelier, would the venom unleashed towards its owner have been proportionate to that leveled at T.B. Joshua?
It appears to me that people had already prepared and preloaded ‘ammunition’ against Pastor Joshua, awaiting an opportunity to unleash them in a concerted attempt at character assassination. The tragic incident simply provided the sufficient media and public attention to respectably mask motives yet spew forth venom.
In this respect, the amount of criticism leveled toward Joshua actually had an adverse affect on me. Why would people fight someone to such an extent, straining to paint him black, if he was not standing up for what is right? Why would such vehement personal attacks arise against an individual, who has not been found guilty on any counts as yet, without another sinister motive at play? What evidence is there of a man who stands for light if darkness does not attempt to snuff him out?
The more I listen to T.B. Joshua’s teachings on Emmanuel TV, watch the miraculous activities, eye-opening confessions and touching testimonies, the more I begin to understand. What happened that day was an attack, not just on T.B. Joshua or Nigeria, but on the kingdom of God.
In this matter, although it may be against popular opinion, I humbly yield to the promptings of my conscience – T.B. Joshua is a servant of the Most High.
Johnson Abayomi, a football coach of Nigerian origin, wrote this from his base in Atlanta, Georgia, USA