I was in far away Ajaokuta Steel Company in Kogi State that day; my phones kept ringing like hell. Since we were in the middle of a guided tour of the abandoned multi-million dollars steel company, I switched them to vibration mode. Yet minute-by-minute, the phones kept buzzing, forcing one to attend to the caller, who happened to be an old classmate.
“I just finished reading your story in The Guardian. In fact, I had to call someone who gave me your number. Please, I need to see you,” he said excitedly as if he had just won big money from Baba Ijebu.
At first, I was confused, but at the same time, I played along and promised to meet him in Lagos on my return. However, in my mind, I kept wondering, which story could this be?
I had written few copies before I embarked on that revealing assignment, so it was a bit difficult to ascertain the particular story my good friend talked about.
Thank God for Blackberry; I quickly logged on to The Guardian website. Low and behold, it was the story on TB Joshua titled, ‘Inside TB Joshua’s Synagogue… The Myth, The Reality’, published in the Guardian of Sunday June 10. I actually did that report ahead of the prophet’s 50th anniversary. In fact, I had totally forgotten the story was to be published that week.
Without waiting to return back to Lagos, I called my friend back that evening just to know his interest in the story. “When I saw that you were the one that did the interview with TB Joshua, I told some of my friends that we were classmates. My brother, if you know how people, including some of my relatives, struggle to see the prophet… Since then, I’ve not rested o; they want me to link them up to you so you could help them see the man of God,” he revealed.
At this point, I recalled my experience with a group of South Africas during a training workshop in Bramfontein, Johannesburg last year. As soon as I introduced myself as a journalist from Nigeria, prophet TB Joshua’s name came up; they seem to know him very well in that part of the world. In fact, the way the ladies spoke about The Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN), one would think they were talking of Jerusalem or Rome. Without being told, you could tell that they are ardent followers of the Emmanuel TV; they know about the miracles.
Just recently, I laid my hands on a copy of the Mail & Guardian newspapers of September 6, 2013. On the cover of the leading South African newspaper, is a story on the visit of the ousted ANC Youth League Leader, Julius Malema, to the Synagogue Church Of All Nations. According to the spokesperson for the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, who was part of the pilgrimage to the ‘super prophet’, Malema stayed for a week at the church doing “lots of reading, watching sermons and prophecies.” He reportedly met with the prophet, though details of of their meeting were never disclosed.
In South Africa, it is believed that Malema’s visit to the prophet is unconnected with his effort to “create friendship with his son of Africa and his congregation, and ask for blessings for the journey ahead,” in his political struggle.
Written by Varashni Pillay, the report also took into account some influential men, who have once visited TB Joshua in Lagos. The list included Malema’s on time mentor, Winni Madikizela-Mandla, Malawi’s former president Bingu wa Mutharika, who later died after a prophecy by TB Joshua to that effect, and Zimbabwe’s Morgan Tsangirai. Some popular South African rugby players are also regulars at SCOAN.
In the same edition, another reporter. Monica Mark, also did a report on how residents are cashing in on the thousands of tourists, who attended TB Joshua’s church. Titled Super-pastor’s cup runneth over, the reporter’s diary chronicled the economic side of SCOAN, with focus on the ancillary businesses that have since cropped up around the church. From hotels to money-changers, hawkers, restaurants, mama put… it’s a whole business chain, with residents constantly making brisk business.
Aside from South Africa, the UK Guardian of September 2, 2013, also devoted its half page to a story on TB Joshua titled, preacher’s spiritual healing brings big bucks to Lagos, with a rider, Business booming in streets around church that draws 50,000 worshipers a week.
By the time you do your arithmetic with this figure, then you begin to understand the level of economic transaction and foreign exchange SCOAN ears for Nigeria on a daily basis. Now, is this not a typical case of ‘a prophet is without honour in his own country?’
Last year in Zimbabwe, the police investigated a Harare church, which claimed to be affiliated to TB Joshua, after scores of people reported to have paid thousands of dollars for trips to the Nigeria, which never materialised. The church, which is based in Sunridge, Mabelreign, allegedly promised members trips to TB Joshua’s Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN). Of course, TB Joshua is reputed across Africa to have mythical healing powers, which has seen thousands of people from around the world with various personal problems and ailments flocking to his church.
So, don’t blame those who paid their way just to see the prophet.
Claiming to be operating under the express direction and instruction of TB Joshua, the Harare church was also selling bottles of”holy water” allegedly used by the preacher for his healing sessions. Dozens of desperate people seeking a quick solution to their life problems were shelling out up to US$50 for a bottle of the “miracle water,” which TB Joshua is said to give out for free.
But the scam was exposed after TB Joshua issued a statement distancing his organisation from the Harare church, forcing its members to rush to the police in a bid to recover their money. Hmmm, at last, the world is the world is seeing something positive in Nigeria. Unfortunately, back home, it’s a different ball game.
Notwithstanding, on June 12, TB Joshua’s 50th birthday, the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) was fully loaded with guests. But surprisingly, the prophet was not at the event to celebrate his birthday. Instead, he preferred to go to the mountain to commune with his creator. Notwithstanding his absence, the birthday bash went on as planned – his men took charge of events.
Notable among guests at the event were former PMAN president and renowned flutist, Tee-Mac Itseli, who performed some of his evergreen songs. Comedians Julius Agwu, Lepacious Bose and MC Abbey were also present, including the King of Comedy, Ali Baba, who anchored the programme.
All through his Golden Jubilee celebration, Joshua hammered on job creation and need to help the poor. “We must get jobs for people who are jobless. This is the number on project for my 50th birthday; I’m going to purse it. Graduates are everywhere without a job.” he said.
The following Sunday, Prophet Joshua set the ball rolling as part of efforts aimed at fulfilling his promises. Already, some organsations, within and outside the country, are buying into his job creation project, including the MBA Tour group, who visited the church that Sunday, to announce their partnership with Emmanuel TV.
Speaking at the event, the West African representative of the MBMA Tour, Ms Hannah Bertillia Acquah said her organisaton and SCOAN share mutual goals. “You have a wonderful man of God, who is passionate about people. He sees success from failure; he sees gold when there’s still clay. It is a pleasure to associated with Emmanuel TV and Prophet TB Joshua.”
Describing the MBA Tour as a platform that encourages people to look beyond their limits, Ms Hannah said that based on the partnership, Prophet Joshua has agreed to assist some youths with financial scholarship to take the programme.
“Our partnership will enable African students, who demonstrate outstanding potentials, access to fellows at the world’s top business schools and academic institutions, including MIT Sloan School of Management; Yale School of Management; Columbia Business School; Harvard Business School; Erasmus University and others.”
That day, the whole church erupted in jubilation as the prophet read letters from big organsations from around the would, ready to provide jobs for young Africans through the prophet’s initiative. With national flag of different countries held high by some members of the congregation, it was obvious that SCOAN has become a worldwide movement; that was my first time in the Sunday service.
While those that made it into Synagogue early soaked in anointing, latecomers struggled to gain access. No way! “If you don’t have number, you can’t go inside,” one of the security operatives warned.
Even at that, a certain lady, who acted as if her continuous existence in this world depended on her seeing the prophet that day, begged uncontrollably; others followed. Before you knew what was happening, three was a large crowd, seeking to set their eyes on the man of God. Could all these people be wrong? Again, don’t forget that upon release from prison, Major Hamza al-Mustapha, a Muslim, made TB Joshua’s Synagogue his first port of call…
With all these, I counted myself lucky to have had the privilege of meeting the super-Prophet one-on-one. Unfortunately, my mission has nothing to do with seeing miracles; it t was purely an official assignment and I intend to keep it at that.
But he, a ‘bad egg’ would have used that opportunity to make so much money from gullible ‘miracle seekers;’ like those chaps in Zimbabwean church did. Oh, you doubt it?
All right, look at it it this way… what if I had collected $50 each from those ’miracle seeks,’ including my former classmate and his group, with the promise of linking them to the prophet? With the thousands of people trooping there daily, how much do you think I would have made by now? Don’t bother how I would convince them to drop; that interview with TB Joshua is enough ‘seeing is believing’. Now you are laughing abi?
But on a serious note, behind that structure called Synagogue, there are hundreds of activities going on; both spiritual and physical. Behind the man TB Joshua, there’s even much more going on. Most importantly, while Nigerians jet into Mecca and Jerusalem yearly to spend their hard earned money to seek the face of God, we now have our Synagogue, where miracle seekers from all over the world come on a weekly basis to spend their hard currencies and return home with a positive news about Naija.
Written By Chuks Nwanne