Again, we have shown the world how we are as a country. The collapsed guest house at The Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) offers a template of many things that are wrong with our society.
Perhaps, nothing gives us a sociological window into how our leaders treat us the way they do, why pseudo-Christian preachers who practise syncretism dot our landscape, and why our churches are full of willing and docile followers so beguiled that they cannot remember where their Bibles are, not to talk of its contents. Otherwise, why would hitherto rational human beings surrender their will to charlatans who, under normal circumstances, should be students, and not teachers of the word of God?
At another level, the incident reveals how and why the Nigerian media, which has been a vanguard of transformation and so much change, might not be able to take us to the Promised Land. Or how do we explain the vilification of a fine professional that other journalists should be proud of who had the sense of mind and history to release an audiotape of how officials of the SCOAN offered reporters covering the macabre show a tidy sum of N50,000 only? I’m glad to announce that I was once the reporter’s editor in his last place of work. With folks like him, I think all hope is not lost for the profession and the nexus between a vibrant media and democracy will no longer be tenuous in Nigeria. By the way, I wonder why some of my colleagues pretend not to know that even certain editors routinely collect money for stories published or aired.
It is equally worrisome also that the progressive government of Governor Babatunde Fashola suddenly went numb on this matter. Under Mr. Fashola’s watch, 90 people, including foreigners, died and 17 people remain unaccounted for. It was his government that set up the Lagos State Building Control Agency 2010, an agency whose consent every prospective building owner must secure before laying a block in the state. This commendable action was sequel to the increased frequency of collapsed buildings and it was for the enforcement of building control regulations and implementation of the 2010 Physical Planning, Urban Development and Building Law.
The agency is tasked with the enforcement of compliance with building control laws, regulations and national building codes, inspection of buildings under construction and keeping records of construction process. It also has powers to remove illegal and non-conforming buildings, issuance of certificate of completion and fitness for habitation, and provision of building services, such as material evaluation and testing, fire and public health control, among others. The Lagos state government further announced then that it would take over any collapsed building until investigations are over in such incidents. Why then is the SCOAN building different? Why has the Lagos State government not taken over the collapsed building nearly two weeks after the tragedy happened? Perhaps the answer lies in a Reuters’ story last week where it says “Nigeria’s megachurch leaders are so influential that few politicians dare upset them, especially just before a national election”.
The less said about the hogwash explanation of the SCOAN leader that an aircraft was responsible for the collapse, the better for one’s sanity. Perhaps too much money can dull someone’s cognitive ability especially for someone who, according to Forbes magazine estimate in 2011, has a net worth of between $10 million and $15 million. By the way, a synagogue is a building where Jews meet for religious worship, says Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. Of course, the devil is the most accused in a country where poverty and diseases reign without coherent and serious governmental efforts to stem the tide. It is also a known fact that just as many drown themselves in alcohol to battle depression, religion offers an escape route out of a life filled with misery and other psychosomatic challenges.
This has also led to the rather delusional belief that so-called ‘men of God’ are not just infallible but immune to criticism or admonition. When people brandish the verse “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm,” seen in 1 Chronicles 16: 22 and later in Psalm 105: 15 as defence against criticism, I weep for the lack of scriptural understanding. Since this is not a Bible study outline, I would only refer them to what happened in the early church as recorded in Galatians 2:11-21, specifically in verse 14, “When I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all…………” That was a gentle admonition to the de facto leader of the church after the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, Peter, by a new covert, Paul.
I dare the Lagos state government to prove cynics who said nothing would come out of its investigations into this matter wrong and also to take over the building as its law says. My heart and prayers are with those who lost loved ones in this avoidable tragedy, the most fitting memorial to their deaths will be justice for those who sent them to their graves.