The declaration by Prophet Temitope Babalola Joshua, popularly known as TB Joshua, to relocate his church, the Synagogue Church of All Nations, SCOAN, to Israel has raised serious economic and spiritual concerns among Nigerians.
On April 30, Prophet Joshua, speaking at his church service, disclosed that he had just returned from the ‘Holy Land’ after holding meetings with three prominent Israeli mayors of Jerusalem, Tiberias and the Jordan Valley.
The reason for his proposed relocation he said was because he and his ministry were being persecuted.
The generosity of Israel, who offered him both land and facilities in an area around the biblical site of the Sea of Galilee for the Nigerian Pastor to organise meetings for international pilgrims may have also swayed his mind.
“This is the most persecuted ministry in the world. Who are the people persecuting the ministry? My people, Africa,” he said.
He explained that “that is why I choose to live a lonely life. If you want to see me, come to this church. I don’t go out. It has not been easy – because I don’t know who is a friend or who is an enemy. Anytime you pray, remember Africa in prayer. Many heroes and great people have been chased out of Africa. There are many geniuses in the Western world who are originally from Africa.”
Who has been persecuting TB Joshua?
Despite the huge crowd that throngs his church for service, his philanthropy and trademark prophecies, TB Joshua does not enjoy the same level of admiration accorded some of his prominent colleagues in the clergy. His exclusion from the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, is a testament to that.
Nigerians on social media have also not threaded carefully. They have been quick to attack the clergyman when his prophecies are inaccurate. The reaction to his prophecy on the American election won by Donald Trump might have rankled him.
The collapse of a guesthouse located within the Synagogue Church premises around the Ikotun-Egbe area of Lagos State on September 12, 2014, that led to the death of about 126 people, mostly foreigners, is still fresh in the minds of Nigerians.
The government claimed the church did not get government approval before construction. The prophet was accused of attempting to bribe journalists to favourably report the incident.
On the cause of the collapse, TB Joshua blamed a strange aircraft “hovering” above the building shortly before it fell. However, the coroner’s report unequivocally found the cause to be due to structural failure.
The call from the Minister of Communication, Lai Mohammed, for the prophet not to relocate but should come for negotiation with the government to address the issue of persecution is an indication that the prophet is valued in his town.
Femi Fani-Kayode also believes that the prophet is needed now, more than ever.
Why will Nigeria miss him?
One of the reasons for the unanimous call for SCOAN not to relocate to Israel might be because of the revenue loss it could cause to the tourism and hospitality sector.
Apart from the notable dignitaries such as late Ghanaian President John Evans Atta Mills, Winnie Mandela, former Malawian President Joyce Banda etc., that have found their way to SCOAN, it is said that the ministry accounts for more than half the presence of foreigners that come to Nigeria. Some commentators claim that part of Nigeria’s goodwill abroad has even been traced to SCOAN and the prophet.
Businesses that rely on the crowd that worship at SCOAN are bound to suffer if the relocation materialises.
The relocation might also deprive religious minded Nigerians of spiritual cover that the prophet provides. Those seeking for healing, deliverance from demons and breakthrough may have to start making plans to travel to Israel to see the prophet.
His philanthropy will also be missed. Irrespective of religious affiliation or lack thereof, SCOAN’s relocation is not good for business in Nigeria.