In one of his series of intellectually charged articles that he contributes to the national newspaper Business Day, the distinguished African scholar Adekeye Adebajo writes about how the majority of Africans had expected the pope to come from the continent; and as it is always the case, their hopes were dealt a devastating blow and South America gave the world ‘the closest image to God’. In a sharp article titled ‘Despite devastation in His name, God is not African’ Adebajo makes a subtle yet adept observation of the vast distance that is forever widening between Africans and God-if such a super being exists.
I deliberately make reference to this piece because of what took place in Lagos, Nigeria on 12 September 2014 after a building belonging to the leader of the Synagogue, Church of All Nations (Scoan) ‘Prophet’ TB Joshua collapsed, resulting in the death of 86 people-84 of those South African-and many injured while some are still missing-probably still under the rubble. According to sources the edifice was not designed according to correct engineering standards and the ‘prophet’ was very much aware of this major crime as he had been the one who had issued instructions for the illegal floors be added to the structure so he could fit more of his blind and equally aggressive disciples. Avarice has never been noble and it certainly should be viewed with scorn in the man of God, but again who am I to judge? Only God can judge. The absurdity of it all is baffling to say the least.
In the aftermath of the tragedy the South African government to their credit after learning of this painful disaster immediately dispatched a group of experts, including a rescue team to Lagos and to their shock and dismay they were denied permission to enter the premises by the Synagogue. God indeed works in mysterious ways. The Nigerian government which is now globally famous or more like infamous for being timid as a township dog too lazy to even bark was initially not helpful. Goodluck Jonathan must have hidden under the bed after the Synagogue released a misleading statement suggesting that Boko Haram were behind the dramatic implosion of the building. Brave fellows I must say; they are not even afraid of the man of God-the closest image to God in Africa. By now you should know who Boko Haram are-the cowardly terrorist group responsible for the kidnapping of over 200 women and girls, the invasion of north-eastern Nigeria and the self-imposed mutism of Goodluck Jonathan.
Ever since the announcement of the collapse of the building in Lagos, Africa’s largest airport O.R Tambo-named after the ANC and South African struggle hero Kaizana Oliver Reginald Tambo-has resembled a centre for waiting, with some survivors flying in to the relief of their relatives while many families have begun mourning their loved ones who are still stuck in Nigeria-Pretoria has promised to shoulder the costs of bringing home the departed for burial. Unfortunately for them what they had to contend with were those poignant words that none of us ever wants to hear: ‘Your loved one is no longer.’ We can never accept that it is in the nature of things that at some point in life we have to sadly bid farewell forever to our loved ones, particularly having died so far from home. While other families rejoice or mourn, there are others who are hoping that their loved ones make it. These are families of the injured survivors who were flown into the country with a military plane similar to the-if not the very same-one that flew our beloved Madiba home to the luscious Qunu in the Eastern Cape to lay eternally on the grounds that he played and herded livestock on as a young boy. Allow me to slightly move off the topic dear reader and congratulate our usually lousy and tortoise slow South African government, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), the medical personnel and everybody involved in the process of bringing our fellow countrymen home. Their stellar work during this difficult period of grief is worthy of our gratitude.
Those families will once again kneel on the floor, raise their heads and mournful hearts to the heavens to the very same God who has never really revealed his care and love for Africans. They will beg him to put his warm, healing hand over the ailing bodies of their loved ones to calm their pains. But as Adekeye Adebajo so emphatically states, ‘God is not African.’ We do not have to cast our eyes far for Adebajo’s message to make perfect sense. In West Africa thousands of Africans have been snuffed out by the deadly Ebola virus while those whose origins are rooted in the West have miraculously survived this disease. Of course my statements will be dismissed as paranoia and I will not be surprised or shocked; as Africans we have come to make peace with these things.
During this terrible tragedy a lot has been said with those supporting TB Joshua continuing to sing his praises and those opposed to his charlatanism saying for all they care he can jump from the bottom step. It is the order of things for people to have differing opinions despite facts stating clearly where the fault lies. But one thing really caught my attention and for a moment I lost my bearings. One lady who is clearly a die-hard supporter of the ‘prophet’ put it bluntly: ‘It is the miracle of God that they survived.’ She was referring to those who had survived unharmed. My small brain was flabbergasted and I found myself bombarding it with multiple questions: ‘What about those who had passed on? What about those lying in hospital fighting for their lives or the ones who are yet to be found? Whose miracle was it that they find themselves in this predicament?’ And then it dawned on me: under the illusion of religion the idea of logic and sense tends to tread fearfully in the shadows. What is rational and reasonable becomes irrelevant. Kgotsong!