The founder of the Synagogue Church of All Nations located in Ikotun area of Lagos in western Nigeria is so controversial that even though millions of people almost worship him around the world, some of his most ardent critics are right in his backyard.
He brands himself as a healer, a prophet of doom, gloom but also bloom. He reportedly heals all kinds of sicknesses and drives away demons from people’s bodies. He can also tell Africa and the world about occurrences yet to come.
With his prophecies about plane crashes and global calamities, including the death of world leaders, Prophet TB Joshua has earned the nickname of prophet of doom and gloom. But in fairness, he has also predicted peaceful events and positive occurrences.
Some of his predictions came to pass while others did not, leading some to question whether he was doing guesswork or was hearing directly from God. In response to those skeptics, Prophet TB Joshua often says his work speaks for itself.
At his ‘crusades’, thousands of people often attend, from Colombia to Israel to Mexico and most recently South Sudan where he traveled to meet the leaders there, and preach love and peace in a country torn apart by needless wars.
For those watching him from outside, from their television or phone screens, for those ones who see him on Emmanuel Television, a Christian television stations watched by millions of people around the world, Prophet TB Joshua is always as strong as an angel, strengthened by God himself and anointed by the holy spirit to continue to cast out demons and shame satan and his foot soldiers.
His magnificent church building in Lagos in an area ravaged by poverty and misery, his sea of workers from all over the world, paint a picture of man on top of his game, a strong, empowered man who heals, cures, revives and delivers others from all sorts of entanglements. That’s true most times.
But when on 12 September 2014, a guesthouse located within the Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN) premises around the Ikotun-Egbe area of Lagos State collapsed completely to the ground, killing at least 115 people, 84 of them South Africans, I saw a rare vulnerable side of Prophet TB Joshua.
I was at his office shortly after the tragedy struck and got there as the world was just beginning to learn about what had just occurred.
If I remember well, I was amongst the very first persons he told the tragedy was linked to a strange aircraft “hovering” above the building shortly before it fell.
He showed me a video he later posted on YouTube that showed the plane hovering around the building before its collapse.
There is still a controversy as to what caused the building to collapse, especially after the coroner’s report said the collapse was due to structural failure.
Three government agencies, (the Nigeria Building And Road Research Institute (NBBRI), the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) and the Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG)) examined the site and found the following inadequacies:
- Inadequate beams of 750mm by 225mm (should have been 900mm by 300mm)
- Inadequately reinforced columns (should have been reinforced with 12 x Y25 bars or 20 x Y20mm bars. Instead they used 10 x Y20 bars (as seen in the video released by SCOAN).
- Inadequate bearing pressure for the central column due to the 2m x 2m x 0.9m foundations.
- Failure to introduce rigid zones for bracing the structure and did not design the frames as an unbraced structure.
- Failure to provide movement joints that could have absorbed any movement due to creep, contraction, expansion and differential settlement etc..
- 8 out of the 12 main beams of the structure failed because they were undersized, under-reinforced (both in tension and shear), the tension bars were poorly anchored to the column supports and 8 x Y20 was used instead of 14 x Y20.
- The ground floor columns were slender and readily gave in to buckling.
Mr. Joshua has challenged the findings and the matter is still in court five years after the tragic incident.
Many of Mr. Joshua’s followers have accused the government of targeting him unfairly even though he was not a building engineer but only a preacher sent on earth to deliver the good news.
While that is still being debated and the court case nears an end, I remember that being there with him alone at his Ikotun office, and seeing him vulnerable as church members tried to clear the site outside, and rescue those who were trapped was instructive.
Before then, every time I met him at his office, he was all smiles, he would make me wait and then someone will usher me in. As a busy man, our conversations were short and long, depending on how many people were waiting for him outside.
But on this day, it was all a sober Prophet, trying to comprehend the tragedy that had just hit him and his church.
This article will be continued.
Simon Ateba is a journalist and publisher of TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington, District of Columbia.