by Debo Adejugbe
We live in a hugely euphemistic society. One that deftly explains calamities away; with people accepting avoidable and catastrophic human errors as ‘acts of God’ which is geared towards the common good. This is a scenario that resounds well with each and every one of us irrespective of religious leaning. Recent happenings have reinforced my beliefs that we have a very long way to go before ours can take up the title of a ‘realistic and just society’.
There is every probability that our opinions differs on this but the facts are painfully too glaring to ignore or wish away as we examine the basic premise of what a realistic society is. Enter the building collapse at the Synagogue Church of all nations (SCOAN) on September 12, 2014 and the various untruths that has followed in trying to cover up the story, for us to move on as we are wont to do.
The immediate reaction to the tragedy falls in the “murder” bracket. The spins on the story in trying to minimize the damage to the church’s name and image conveniently sent more people to their graves when prompt rescue efforts from everyone that should be involved would have saved scores of lives. How, in 2014, people would prevent government’s rescue effort just to protect their spiritual leader is still baffling, as well as idiotic. I’m trying to keep my emotions in check here and that is the most harmless world I could come across.
In a country where everyone praised government’s efforts in swiftly moving to nip the Ebola epidemic in the bud (may God rest the soul of Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh whose heroic decisiveness is a major factor in the control) with only Eight deaths confirmed amidst the tremendous public panic, it is a shame that we have been unable to put a correct figure to the casualties at the Synagogue which has claimed more lives than Ebola.
Amidst the criminally-inspired cordoning off of the site from rescue workers and journalists by zealots masquerading as church members came the gospel of the hovering aircraft from TB Joshua and a reference to the latest fall guys whenever a tragedy befalls any part of the nation: Boko Haram; he did not stop there as he canonized the victims of a building whose original permit is now a subject of contention, martyrs for God’s kingdom. The Lagos State government, despite Governor Fashola’s cat and mouse game on this issue, had released a statement stating that the building was originally licensed as a two-storey building while investigation at the scene revealed that the foundation could only withstand a maximum of four flours and further evidence that the building was sealed up days before the collapse points to a more sinister cover up.
There are several glaring inadequacies in T.B. Joshua and SCOAN’s attempt at a spin (from the hovering aircraft to Boko Haram to the physical assaults on rescue effort workers and the flooding of social media by members of the church to scare people who rightly asks the important questions away) but it seems our governments would rather play politics with this issue than sit up and initiate the proper course of action as it applies to collapsed buildings and further in this case, file criminal proceedings against those who authorized the construction.
When news of the collapsed building broke, the ‘Prophet’ moved to downplay the severity of the situation by posting on his facebook page: “A building, not the church auditorium as was reported. The few people that were there are being rescued…” and when he knew the cover up couldn’t be maintained anymore, the mysterious aircraft footage culled from a CCTV facing the sky surfaced with the words: “The evil one did it- aircraft flew over the building just before it collapsed.” And on further realization that the charade was not having the desired effect, the usual fall guys – Boko Haram – took center stage with a promise that God will, in due course, reveal those behind the attacks. A convenient outsourcing of personal responsibilities to God, how Nigerian!
Let’s take nothing away from this poorly executed attempt at a cover-up as it gives us a peek into the mind of T.B. Joshua and how gullible he views Nigerians. Here is a man famed for controversial miracles and predictions of future events (presidential elections, football events, building collapses of this magnitude and several other after-the-fact predictions) but seemed to go into a lull when a mysterious aircraft or Boko Haram (depending on if you believe his cock and bull stories) decided to attack a building in his church premises. Even in an attempt to believe this silliness, we should request that he make public the approvals he got for the 6-storey edifice he was constructing and ask why were there that much people (despite his initial embellished and outrageous downplaying tales) in a building under such heavy construction.
In a country where everyone praised government’s efforts in swiftly moving to nip the Ebola epidemic in the bud (may God rest the soul of Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh whose heroic decisiveness is a major factor in the control) with only Eight deaths confirmed amidst the tremendous public panic, it is a shame that we have been unable to put a correct figure to the casualties at the Synagogue which has claimed more lives than Ebola. Our struggle with numbers has been further exacerbated by the South African government’s astuteness in taking the lead at every turn, quickly repatriating injured nationals for treatment. We now rely on their casualty numbers.
So, it wasn’t that surprising when a journalist with Premium Times, Nicholas Ibekwe, released an audio to support his claims that journalists were “bribed” with 750,000 Naira to embellish their stories about the building collapse and the church’s culpability in the collapsed building. How else do you explain a token of 750,000 Naira and the question “so what are you going to write?” in tandem?
I’m not qualified to pronounce anyone guilty until the right investigations are conducted according to the laws of the land and he is found wanting but I know where I stand in all of these and those who are screaming murder at the journalist who exposed this fraud (which wouldn’t have been the first time it is happening) should take a chill and keep worshipping their ‘god of men’ while others take a stand for those whose sin is to believe in a ‘prophet’ who keeps playing chess on their graves.
This again brings to fore the topic of accountability in our polity. A nation where politics and church business seem to be the most lucrative of businesses; where the people makes it a point to worship their tormentors and when the writings are clearly on the wall, invent tales to absolve such individuals of faults isn’t one that will stand the test of time. If this is our path, it is important we make a sharp U-turn and demand for justice or else this storm will sweep us all when it gathers fully.
And while the harvest of deaths is going on in the synagogue with no obvious course of action; we the living should not ‘take it as it is’ anymore. We need to demand for proper investigations and the total weight of the law on those found culpable. These are really sad times! My heart goes out to the families who lost their loved ones in this tragedy.
Debo Adejugbe is a trained Telecommunications/Electronics Engineer, certified IT professional and FHI PEER educator living in Lagos. Tophi’s husband, Dad to Hailey and Ryan; he is an advocate against sexual and domestic abuses. Debo has political sympathy for the Labour Party.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.