Synagogue church going to Israel: What residents, neighbours say
• ‘It Is Because Of T. B. Joshua’s Presence We Are Enjoying Constant Electricity Here’
News that The Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in Ikotun–Egbe, Lagos, is relocating to Israel is everywhere. Since it broke, not only followers of the church have expressed concern, but also those who do business around the church, as well as those benefitting in one way or another from Prophet Joshua Temitope Balogun, the General Overseer of the church. It has also stirred controversy as to why the man, popularly known as T. B. Joshua would want to relocate to far away Israel. The Guardian wanted a confirmation from the man of God himself, but at the time of this publication, he was yet to be reached because of the water-tight bureaucracy/security around him.However, The Guardian decided to feel the pulse of Nigerians, especially those living in Ikotun-Egbe axis, where the church is located.
CHIEF Felix Ergwemen is a retired police officer, and the owner of O.J Guest House, located opposite the church. He knew Prophet T. B. Joshua as far back as 1990, when, according to him, the area was not as popular as it is today. Ergwemen had been away from Lagos and just returned from Benin. He was surprised to hear the church was moving to Israel.
He said: “It is strange to me. Prophet T. B. Joshua is my man and the one that is controlling this place; we are very close. I built this house in 1990, while he came in 1992. Sometimes, he would come to my place here and that was when I was the Crime Officer at Zone D, Mushin Police station. One of my sisters, now late, was a member of the church. In fact, it was through her that I got to know Prophet. If he decides to relocate, the impact on us will be too much. The man is trying for Nigeria. If we have two or three pastors like him in Nigeria, it will be marvellous. We will pray to God to make him change his heart, if the news is true. I am not surprised though, as even Jesus Christ was never honoured in His own country.
“Concerning business, in fact, we are going to lose. It was his advice that made me open this place in 2013, when he appeared to me in a dream, where he told me ‘my friend, why should you allow your building to be deteriorating? A time will come, when this area will be like Israel, where people will be coming to worship God. Go and open the place.’
After that dream, I came here and gave all the tenants quit notice. And since 2013, we’ve maintained a cordial relationship. My customers are mainly from his church. For instance, this lady you are seeing here is a Liberian. I have more than 30 customers patronising this place weekly. Some of them left and will return on Friday. This place is more or less T. B. Joshua’s house.
“Our prayer is that it’s not going to happen. He can be going and coming, because he belongs to this country. We don’t even want him to appoint a deputy. He can send his deputy to Israel, because we want to have him here. He is the god we know and can see physically before the Supreme God. We pass through him to God. If he is planning such a thing in his heart, we pray he has a rethink. He is our spiritual father and brother. Before I came here, you can’t stay at the junction, where his church is, up to 9pm. A lot of evil things were happening then. Sometimes you would see all manner of sacrifices by herbalists, juju men and women at the junction, but since this man came to this environment, he has sanitised the place. He has empowered many of the villagers, and given scholarships to many.
“Those I know that are being fed by him are more than a million. He is a man who doesn’t think of himself, but only of others. If we have 15 pastors doing what he is doing, Nigeria would have improved. He is a philanthropist to the core. After praying for people and they get what they want, he would tell them they are free to return to the church they came from. He would say, ‘I am not forcing you to worship with us.” He is not like other pastors that will insist you must attend their church. We will continue to pray, so that he doesn’t leave us. T. B. Joshua is like a mortar, which doesn’t move. Rather, people take their yam to where the mortar is and pound it there. That is what he is.
This house is not a brothel. We have about 18 rooms here, and we charge between N2, 500 and N3, 000 per night. But in some hotels, people pay N15, 000 per night. It is mainly for our church members, who come on Friday and stay till Sunday. By Monday morning, they are gone until the following week.”
CAROLINE Swen, a Liberian in the guesthouse is visiting Nigeria for the first time. She explained that she was in the country to see the man of God concerning her health. So, what is her opinion about the church moving to Israel? Caroline, who has spent a week in the country, said: “I think it’s not going to be easy, especially for the poor ones, because it’s not everybody that can travel to Israel to see the man of God over there. While there are some that can afford to travel to Israel, this place is like Israel for many. It’s because of this man that a lot of people are coming in and out of Nigeria. News about this man of God is everywhere, which is why many people are watching Immanuel Television, just to see him and listen to his sermon. After watching him, you get prepared and then come to Nigeria.
“I came here purposely for healing. I was booked for a surgery, but for the fact that I saw the man of God on television healing people with diverse problems, putting people’s kidney together and making people to see, I decided to come. This is the only man I’ve seen doing what Jesus Christ did, which is why I am here to get my touch and as I came, I have received my touch and I’m well again.”
JOHNSON Nwerem, a Catholic, who has a drug store close to the church, told The Guardian many Nigerians would be disappointed, if T.B. Joshua is allowed to relocate his church to Israel. He said the presence of Synagogue Church has made Ikotun very attractive, so moving it to Israel would cause pain in the hearts of people because a lot of businesses would collapse.
He said: “I first saw what you are telling me on the Internet a couple of days ago. I think Synagogue makes this place look attractive in terms of business, so it will not be advisable to move it, because many people will be affected. Many people come here to see the man of God, and there is an improvement in our sales whenever they are around. For example, they come here on Saturdays to patronise us ahead of the Sunday service. We’ve been benefiting from them. I am not a member, I am a Catholic.”
He advised the Federal Government to do everything possible to ensure they prevent the church from being relocated. “It will negatively affect not just the people in Ikotun, but Nigerians as a whole. People who come from different parts of the country are getting answers to what they come for and we are also benefiting from it.”
STANLEY Oghian, who lives at No. 6, Nick-Chuks Street, said he used to worship with the church. “If this church relocates to Israel as we are hearing, of course, it will affect many businesses, including hotels and foodsellers around the church. If you move away the church and Alibert Company from Ikotun, the place is finished. This company and the church are the lifeline of Ikotun people and any attempt to remove them from here would make life meaningless.
“For instance, this three-storey building on Nick-Chuks Street is a hotel. Do you know how much the owner has spent to erect that building? If Synagogue goes away from Ikotun, who will lodge there? It will be a waste, if Synagogue is no longer here.
“I will feel very bad, as it will affect businesses, welfare and the social life of people. This is because whenever the church is having its programme, the whole of this place is agog with visitors and the impact of that on businesses is huge. As for transporters such as Okada, Keke drivers and taxi/cabs, they carry these visitors to their various hotels, and very often they charge them extra money.
“Behind Nick-Chuks Street, there is a lodging there, and visitors pay N3, 500 per night. These are things that will affect us here, if the man leaves. Things will become difficult and electricity supply will dwindle. It is because of T. B. Joshua’s presence we are enjoying constant electricity here. The news of his going away will affect my spiritual life, as well as other members. His church members like the man so much. When the building collapsed, I remember vividly how members in my compound stood up to defend him. You dare not speak ill of the man, when they are around. They are so dedicated to him.”
Oghian said it would be bad for Nigerians, the government, as well as tourism if Synagogue is allowed to go.“Many Nigerians are working in the church and they are paid N3, 000 per day. If the church goes away from here, the workers will be affected. The choir members receive as much as N150, 000 monthly. There was a period they had a special programme and visitors were begging for accommodation. Then, a room was N3, 000 per night. This storey-building opposite us, the tenants converted their rooms for lodging overnight and they were collecting N3, 000 per night, because hotels in the area were fully occupied and some of the foreigners wanted accommodation very close to the church. That is why I said it would be very difficult, because businesses will crumble and electricity will reduce.
“Even the agberos/areas boys benefit from the church’s presence, as they help to coordinate traffic, whenever there is gridlock in the area. It will be like taking food out of their mouth. Some of the worshippers who come with their cars are ready to pay N1, 000 to these boys to secure their cars, until service is over. Another set of people that benefits from the church are God Is God Motors and other transporters. Every time service is over, you hear them calling for passengers going to Benin, Asaba, Onitsha, etc. and I hear they charge N4, 000 per commuter. Some of these foreigners come on Thursday and would lodge till Monday. A plate of food in some of these hotels is between N500 and N1, 500.”
ALOYSIOUS Ekoro, 65, sells beer, soft drinks and other items very close to the main road. He told The Guardian the economy would suffer, if government should allow the Prophet to move his church to Israel. Disturbed Ekoro queried: “Is it not the same thing as those who go to Jerusalem and Mecca for pilgrimage? Is it not our money they spend over there, but here foreigners are coming on their own to see this man of God, and we don’t value it. If you don’t value what you have, outsiders will help you to value it. If the Federal Government allows this man to leave this country, they don’t know what they are doing.
“Whenever our government officials travel out, what do they go there for? Jamboree! But this one that God gave to them, they are not maintaining it. They are busy peddling different kinds of allegation against the man. I am not a member of Synagogue Church, but I don’t like the way government is treating the man. Go to Calabar and see what the governor is doing to attract foreigners. If the church goes to Israel, is it not the same Nigerians that will go there and spend our money? It is not because of my business. I have spent 30 years in this area. The government should create an enabling environment to attract foreigners and not to send them away.”
GRACE Solomon, a resident believes that the church’s planned relocation to Israel is the perfect will of God. Grace, who calls the man of God, her father, said: “Nobody can change God’s will and it is not because of the collapsed guesthouse, that issue has been resolved. If he wants to go, government cannot stop him. He can only go and come back. The man of God is not closing this church. If he is going to Israel, do you think the church will be busy adding new structures? Look over there, there are additional structures going on in the premises. In fact, that is even enough to convince anybody that the church is not moving away from here. And he is not going to appoint a deputy to run the church, while he is away.
“Let me tell you, no other person can control this church. He is the one doing everything, so the information is not true. He only goes to Israel on a visit. For instance, as we are talking today being Monday, he is not available. We only enjoy him on Sundays. He goes to Israel every week. They’ve given him a piece of land over there in Israel, but he is not going to close down the church here in Nigeria. This is his fatherland. How many people do you think can go to Israel to see him?
“He can go to Israel today and by Sunday morning, he is back and he would go straight to the church. In fact, we are seeing more foreigners now than before. He once told us that God told him to have land in Israel. He said if it were the will of God, he would gladly take it. And when Israel offered him a place in their land, he told us he had taken the offer. He told us that God has instructed him to take the offer, but that he would not be there permanently. Rather, he would go and come back and that is exactly what he is doing now. Other people can enjoy him from Monday to Saturday, but we are sure to enjoy him every Sunday.”
ANNE Mannah is another foreigner from Sierra Leone and a regular face in Nigeria, but she has a different view. “I want him to go to Israel because Nigerians don’t appreciate this church, they don’t like what the man is doing and they don’t know that the glory is here in Nigeria. If the man moves his church to Israel, Nigerians will lose a lot. In fact, this place will be like a village, where nobody will like to visit. So, what they have to do is to appreciate the man of God and what he is doing. What they are saying about the man is not good. If Nigerians really appreciate what the man is doing, he will not want to move his ministry to Israel.
“Most of the people that are coming here are foreigners and when foreigners come into a country, you know what that means— they bring in so much money. I am a member of the church from Sierra Leone and I have been here for four months. I am lodging in one of the hotels around. We have been benefitting a lot, which is why some of us are here to see him. If the people here do not appreciate the man of God, we appreciate him. If Nigerians do not appreciate their own, and he relocates to Israel, of course, we will go there to see him and who is losing?”