Nigerian ‘Prophet’ T.B. Joshua’s prolonged public absence is not only raising concerns among his followers but severely damaging local business in the area where his church is situated.
The last time Joshua was seen in public was nearly three months ago at a ‘Miracle Crusade’ in Mexico City, allegedly attended by over 150,000 worshippers.
However, since his return to Nigeria, the cleric has uncharacteristically not appeared in any church service at The Synagogue, Church Of All Nations (SCOAN), all of which are broadcast live on Christian television channel ‘Emmanuel TV’.
On June 7th 2015, Joshua released a statement via Facebook, stating, “I came back from the revival trip last week Saturday, waiting for God’s command on what to do next. I can’t wait to join you.”
However, almost two months down the line, which has seen the controversial conclusion of a coroner’s inquest into the tragic building collapse of a guesthouse within his church last year, there’s been nothing but silence.
Last Sunday 26th July made it 12 consecutive weeks of absence.
It’s the first time in over 25 years of ministry that T.B. Joshua has missed a church service, barring foreign ministration and his arrest and 2 week incarceration by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) over charges of drug-dealing in 1996, which were later dropped.
A report by Nigeria’s Sunday Guardian newspaper chronicled the economic effects Joshua’s ‘disappearance’, coupled with the reduction in church services since the building collapse last year, has had on the local environment.
“If you come here on Sunday, you will find that a lot of shops are closed. There’s no more business,” a shop owner on the street close to the church lamented to The Guardian reporter, the welfare of most businesses in the area connected to the church’s fortunes.
“If you go there now (Ikotun-Egbe) and see the market, you will realise how bad things have become. If it were before, at this time, you would be seeing many people, foreigners, coming and going… Even those hotels – the workers are crying because people don’t come there again.”
“I think all you newsmen should come together and talk to this man and see what is happening,” a Nigerian cab operator angrily told The Guardian.
“Programs have totally stopped. Foreigners don’t even see him on TV live. If they just see him on TV in the Sunday services, they will come. A lot of them bought their tickets. But there has been no prayer line,” he continued.
“We are just waiting and praying to God to make him restart the programs. The bitter fact is that there is nothing that can be done to stimulate business in this area. Without foreigners coming and injecting their resources, there is nothing, virtually nothing else to fall back on.”
A Muslim fabric trader in the region, Mrs Eyitayo, however, stated that the evolving events were ‘retribution’ for the selfish antics of local house owners who evicted many tenants in order to cash in the church’s popularity by converting their houses to hotels.
“The man (T.B. Joshua) is doing good but some people are doing bad because of the money they are seeing. When you drive tenants out, and they don’t have anywhere to go, some of them will cry to God. This thing that has happened will let them know that there is God.”
Eyitayo reminisced the time she regularly ordered new clothes from Dubai when visitors, especially foreigners, streamed en masse to the area to worship at the church.
“Two years ago, if you came here, you would think you were overseas because we traded in dollars,” she stated, bemoaning the regions recent drop in fortunes.
Engr. K. Y. Aminu, owner of Kaywy Lodge, a hotel along Segun-Irefin Street near The SCOAN, admitted that his customers were currently paying half-price.
“Business is zero,” he lamented. “I am partially closing down. The 10 rooms here are undergoing conversion,” he explained, adding that he was forced to reduce his staff due to inability to pay their wages.
According to The Guardian report, even international airlines are feeling the impact, as one of Nigeria’s foremost tourist destinations is passing through an uncannily ‘dry’ phase.
Joshua’s supporters believe the pastor is in a period of ‘fasting and prayer’ but the call for him to reappear is certainly heightening, evidenced by various petitions on the cleric’s Facebook page.
“I know that when he eventually steps out, it will be with an explosion of prophetic fire,” a shop owner near the church in Lagos optimistically told the Guardian reporter, hoping that Joshua’s eventual re-emergence will revive the waning local economy.
By Ihechukwu Njoku, a freelance Nigerian journalist.