It started as a simple traffic jam, in and of itself not unusual in Accra, or Ghana or the world over for that matter. Many different causes account for traffic congestions everywhere. Eventually however, the news trickled in, and like most news reporting here, facts often get mixed up with rumour and innuendo. Progressively though, the facts begun to congeal around a common story – a certain T.B. Joshua, a self-proclaimed curer of incurable diseases, miracle performer and “the Man of the men of God” was in town to visit his synagogue in Accra, the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN). The Ghanaian “faithful”, eager to get this rare share of blessings from this incredible “man of God”, trooped loyally on foot, by motorbike and bike, by car and any other vehicle of commute, perhaps even a donkey cart, to the synagogue to behold this wondrous creation of…, well, who knows anymore??? For this man now bestrides our beloved people like a colossus. But to the crux of the traffic jam. It turns out that the arrival or the rumoured arrival of T.B. Joshua, was the sole cause of the traffic jam on Spintex Road and surrounding areas. For once, most Ghanaians were consistent in their agreement on this issue – the traffic was unbearable and never before seen. Some even ventured that no President of the Republic of Ghana has ever caused his people such traffic anguish. Still what remained largely confused and debatable was the identity of who was really in town. Some said it was T.B. Joshua himself; others said it was his son; others still said it was one of his “Eminent Underlings”, sorry, Pastors. Like many things that have characterized the modus operandi of these churches, the story is never straight. It is always a moving target. Still, it is the formula – the continuous deception that has formed the bedrock of a business model, perfected and infused with venom, that is now killing our people.
Those who believe in a Supreme Power, called by many different names according to usage and language, also believe that it is He who gives life and also takes it away. That may be true, but a senseless death is a senseless death, period. If indeed T.B. Joshua is a “Man of God” then he should bring life, not death and destruction. Jesus Christ brought life to people, wherever he went, without exception. He brought Lazarus back to life, he woke a little girl from sleep, he fixed a man’s ear that was cut off, he made the blind see, he made the cripple walk, he made the deaf hear and the dumb speak, he fed the hungry, he calmed the sea, etc. etc. etc. He gave Life! God gives Life, and God is the only One who can also take it away, according those who believe in Christian scripture. But T.B. Joshua has brought us death, and unless we have the courage to stand up and call it what it is, unless we have the backbone to say “Never Again!” Never should T.B. Joshua, or should the T.B. Johsuas of this world hold individuals to ransom, driving them to a painful death, the way these four souls have perished, then we have completely lost our humanity. For if there is a God, He did not mean this to be so.
Yesterday, May 20, 2013, I heard a so-called Public Relations Officer, yes you read right – a P.R.O. – of T.B. Joshua’s synagogue, talking to the media about the incident, and he sounded just like any other P.R.O. – deflecting and dodging questions from journalists, appearing to take responsibility, and still finding the space to interject that T.B. Joshua is “troubled” by the unfortunate incidents. Really? T.B. Joshua set this all up, from beginning to end. Bear with me a moment as I return to my introductory remarks, to explain this setup; it is neither new nor complex. These charlatans have used this setup so repeatedly that one should be able to recognize it with both eyes shut tight. It is a shameless scheme of deception and abuse of our people…for money. Yes, it’s all about MONEY.
It started with hype, just like a sales promotion. “Something big is coming to a place near YOU!” Who wouldn’t take notice? In this particular case it was that “T.B. Joshua is coming to Town”; not exactly their words, but that is what it sure sounded like. Word spread like fire in the Savannah, aided by strong Harmattan winds – the gossipy, gullible, zombies of the nouveaux religieux. Husband repeated the message, wives pushed and prodded husbands, girlfriends pushed boyfriends, boyfriends wanting to impress girlfriends even took the initiative to suggest it…. “T.B. Joshua is coming to town; let’s plan to attend the function”. People travelled from afar, even from outside this country I am told, to mark his arrival. Then what happened? “Settey!!!” As we used to say in school. T.B. Joshua – No Show! Oh! What happened?, the loyal asked in confusion. Then “Squeeler” surfaced, to explain artfully that “Comrade Napoleon” could not be here personally due to other pressing calling on the “Man of the men of God”. However, to compensate us for our loss in not beholding him in flesh, His Eminence T.B. Joshua will be sending to us, his beloved worshippers, the Next Best Thing – his popular Holy Water. Thus, the multiple emotions that beset the loyal followers in the beginning – from Anticipation, Excitement, and Disappointment, finally settled on Acceptance. Acceptance of the crumbs that falleth from the table of T.B. Joshua. T.B.’s sales pitch was finally in full flight, complete with rumour mills, taglines and additional sales promotion gimmicks – (“Buy one, get one free… later”, “Fifty percent discount on all purchases above 10 bottles. Conditions apply”, Text code TJB to 999 for a chance to win Holy Water in a vial”).
It worked magically. Multitudes of followers were finally hooked; hooked to the wondrous liquid in a vial that is said to have performed miracles – curing HIV/AIDS, making the barren and infertile bear children, making men and women materially prosperous, casting the spell of the ole’ witch who in reality is just your poor grandmother or mother-in-law with whom you have a minor disagreement; casting demons of the likes of Michael Jackson, to the Ojays (Yes, I heard that Michael Jackson is demonic; they may even throw in Papa Yankson and Reggie Rockstone; I wonder – would they have turned down a Ten Million Dollar donation from Michael Jackson? Your guess is as good as mine). But, yes, these are the ailments T.B. Joshua’s Holy Water in a Vial is alleged to have saved us from – the mother of all ailments that if the world is rid of, would make this world a better place, as indeed the Creator had intended. Intelligent, rational, sensible men and women swear to it, but that’s all they do, swear. There is no way to objectively verify the matter. All those swearing to it are either sufficiently manipulated, willingly or unwillingly – instruments or stooges and captives in this vast and complex web of deception for money and power. Do not be fooled further by the so-called simplicity of their apparel.
In most human interactions, when someone tells you something is not about something, it is exactly about the very thing they are saying it is not about. Confused? Here is a simple one – if someone tells you it is not about money, it is about Money! So all this elaborate setup, from T.B. Joshua is coming to town, to it is his son, to it is one of his “Four Stooges” or “Wise Men”, to it is his “Holy Water”, is ALL ABOUT MONEY! So how does the money factor in, one might ask? Simple – the Holy Water is NOT FREE. Why do you think there was such a stampede for it? Why was there almost such cannibalistic enthusiasm to outdo each other to acquire one of these vials of Holy Water at ANY PRICE? Ironically, as gullible as we are, and having lost all our humanity and faculties, we are even incapable of asking the simplest, basic questions – who puts the Almighty God in a bottle, a tiny little breakable bottle? Who puts the Almighty God in a breakable article made by the hands of man?
After all, faith and logic tells us that if God indeed is Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, and any other Omnis you can come up with, then His Power, His Healing, His Spirituality and His Compassion are too grand, too vast and too powerful to be contained in the fragile confines of a bottle. Still, you may be surprised by “Squealer’s” answer – the best medicine is found in small bottles; indeed, they will postulate that precisely due to this power, tiny amounts of this Holy Water work wonders beyond our wildest imaginations; that the sharing God, has enjoined T.B. Joshua to share this Holy Water, which is why it comes in small bottles – of course, at a price. Since when did actual SHARING have a price tag? In the end though, these powers are simply just in our wildest imaginations, but paying the price tag, the money for it is REAL.
The “miracle Men” of today have truly found a way to make miracles happen, literally. For instance, a story is told of a man who was a deputy to a senior position in a company for a very long time. Expressing his frustration of not being promoted to the substantive position, a friend invited him to his church to meet his “bishop” for prayers. Within 3 months of the bishop’s prayerful intervention, the man’s boss died, under bizarre circumstances and he was promoted to occupy the boss’ position. A few years later, transferred to a different city where he was again a deputy, and still “fellowshipping” at his friend’s church, his next boss also died under strange circumstances; but before he could be promoted, the man fled his post, abandoning everything. This for him is not what he signed up for. Motivational speechmaking and oratory have transcended the art form that they once both were. They are now the instruments for dark manipulation, to the extent that you see sane women and men doing absolutely strange things. If sometimes you wonder why otherwise mature, competent, ostensibly sane people exhibit bizarre and irrational behavior, especially in the presence of, or at the mention of, people like the T.B. Joshuas, Duncan Williamses, the Agyin Asares, the Korankye Ankrahs, the Mensah Otabils, the Douglas Heward-Millses and the Pope, to mention a few, it is because some of these people have almost perfected the art of deception by manipulation and inducement; and in that perfection they have found a readymade market, at once gullible and malleable, and vulnerable to their very nefarious designs, occasioned by the following collection of facts: that we are often incapable of understanding our own environment, explaining our circumstances or rising above the challenges that confront us as a people; that our system of education is based on outdated bodies of knowledge, rather than a new, fact-based evolving one; that our system of jurisprudence is still based on an elitist and routine assumption that a lawyer is automatically smarter than the rest of us; that the doctor must not entertain a common-sense question or suggestion from a patient who needs help; that the student however sensible and rationally inquisitive and seminal his question might be, risks being seen as disrespectful if they pose that question to their teacher; that an employee lives and works at the pleasure, and under the tyranny, of his boss and has no right to suggest an alternative way of doing work even if that suggestion leads to a better result; that in our civil service, a smart employee keeps their mouth shut if they value their own career development within the service or they do not want to suffer untimely death or affliction by strange diseases. The result is that we have created that brainless, malleable creature that is extremely vulnerable to the machinations of the T.B. Joshuas of this world.
To be absolutely clear, faith and damnation are very personal. I have no right telling anyone who and how and where and when to worship, if they so choose to do. It is no business of mine, if a person decides that consistently they will give 10 per cent of their monthly earnings to a lazy, bloviating, obfuscating fool, with enough brains to trick the next gullible mortal. Perhaps I shouldn’t even care that four people have died, with thirty more injured severely, chasing what is to me a phantom of wishes. Yet I feel compelled because collectively, we live in something called a country, and it is called Ghana, of which we are all citizens. Within that context, there are certain matters that affect us all; a tragedy such as the unwarranted death of these four and the injury of the thirty is a national tragedy, just as if our President conducted himself poorly on the world stage would constitute a national disgrace. For example, a good education affects us all in that it provides skilled professionals who will run the country competently; a good health delivery system is good for us all because a healthy nation is a happy and productive nation.
Therefore, a good national conscience is good for our nation; a national consciousness that is capable of articulating our collective aspirations in such a way that each one of us can grow, bereft of exploitation by a crooked collection of manipulative charlatans, serves the collective security of our national conscience. In a sense therefore, as individuals we are still connected, which is why the tragic death of the “Anointed Water”–seeking-four and the injured are my business; in fact that the deception and manipulation of our fellow citizens should be of concern to us all. It is called “consumer protection”, much the same way that religion and faith have now assumed for-profit business models. If religion is now a consumer good, it follows that it is susceptible to the ills of fake goods, price manipulation, unfair labour practices, transfer pricing, etc. Therefore, as a people, we must implement some consumer protections to assure our individual and collective sanity for the foreseeable future.
The question of what faith we profess or what denomination we are is completely immaterial here. We are human, and so are those tragic four. In a sense, one may say they are responsible for their end in that they weren’t dragged there kicking and screaming – they went there freely; but so are the many sticky situations in which we find ourselves daily, yet helped by people who have absolutely no hand in putting us in such sticky situations in the first place. Pick any religion – Islam, Christianity, whatever – they all enjoin us to be our fellow’s keeper, to help people, in need, the poor, etc. That is a sacred trust that separates mankind from all other animal species. It used to be that ordinary people did extraordinary things. There has never been extraordinary people because extraordinary people are not mortal. All of us – the Nkrumahs, the Lincolns, the Obamas, the Kenyattas, and yes the T.B. Joshuas are all mortals. We may do extraordinary things but we are not extraordinary; we are ordinary people and the T.B. Joshuas know this fact. Which then begs the question why they do not dissuade their congregations from worshipping them?
The allure of adulation especially for the person idolized is extremely tempting and strong. Few of us have the temerity, indeed the humility and common sense to tell groveling admirers that we are ordinary people. In fact, we often fuel the adoration ourselves. The T.B. Joshuas of this world conceive and orchestrate schemes to advance and perpetuate them. In fact, many of them spend extensive resources and effort trying to plan their legacies, long after they come to that equalizing end for all of us – death. If they could, they would write their own eulogies. In the circumstances, they settle for second-best: their offspring or very close family relatives. These band of common criminals are more narcissistic than you and I, and for all the heavenly rewards they tell us to prepare for, they are busy amassing wealth and human glory right here on earth. They are frantically building hegemonies here on earth, pillaging our collective resources and consciences, and in some cases, literally stealing from us. They, not us, are the ones who need salvation; they, not us, are the ones who need to return to the Bible; they, not us, are the ones who have sinned and fallen short of the glory of the Almighty God. Yet, because of our vulnerability and our abdication of our responsibility to be personally accountable for our faith and our spiritual life, leaving such responsibility to these charlatans, they have run riot with our spirituality.
I started writing this piece before the publication of the Daily Graphic story on the subject for Wednesday May 22, 2013, in T.B. Joshua declares he “…compensate the bereaved families”. My question is how much is human life worth? Make a pick – currency and amount. One Billion Dollars, Ten Billion Dollars? How much is human life worth, I ask again? T.B. Joshua, the self-proclaimed miracle worker, who is said to be capable of performing extraordinary feats, in the name of God, and who has been promising poor souls these same miracles, now has a perfect chance to truly demonstrate and manifest his claim to this power and his answer is what? Compensation??? Earlier in this write-up, I said this is a sales gimmick. Read the Daily Graphic publication referenced herein and you see all the sales lines in the PR gymnastics of the so-called Pastor Emmanuel Excellence. For instance, that the so-called “Anointed Water” was to be “repackaged” as “New Anointed Water”. Doesn’t this ring a bell somewhere? Haven’t you seen this on TV – the new, improved, say KeySoap or LifeBuoy? Now let’s look a little closer at this compensation nonsense. Assume that human life is worth a fixed reasonable sum of money that ordinary people can afford, how do you think Mr. T.B. Joshua is going to pay for it? He can for example, pay for it from the sale of the New Anointed [and Repackaged] Water on sale at the synagogue where the tragedy unfolded. Yes, proceeds from the very product whose acquisition led to death and injury will come right back to “compensate” the victims. But he won’t even touch that if he wants. He can for instance leave that in a bank, gaining interest, and then launch a prayer and thanksgiving service to honour the dead and injured, at which service multiple collections tapping into our collective somber emotions would be taken. Then, he will get a bunch of number-crunching accountants to model compensation packages which will ensure that there will still be some balance left after all compensations are paid; and that balance will find the fastest route to a bank where it will continue to earn interest. In this case, you live off shamelessly upon the tragedy of the dead so that the very people whose deaths we mourn and injuries we nurse, are now the ones paying for their own funeral and medical care, and the sorrows of their loved ones, families and friends. How insulting and wicked!
Arise Ghana! It is time to wake up, and reclaim our untainted spirituality, realizing that if there is God, He will hold us individually responsible for our actions here on earth; that, He will not for instance say due to the T.B. Joshuas of this world, He has forgiven our individual and/or collective transgressions here on earth; that we cannot say because of our genealogy to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, etc., we are automatically qualified. That thinking is the human thinking; that approach is the human approach. In discussing the demise of these unfortunate four and the related tragic circumstances, people from different walks of life have proffered their opinions on the matter. A security guard took my mind back to those heady days of “Ninety-nine Days in Agege”, when scores of Ghanaians flocked to Nigeria in search of greener pastures. Yaw Brenya’s experiences were in reality typical of the experiences of many of these immigrants, who felt too embarrassed to tell Ghanaians the truth about their trips. A few got lucky, returning to Ghana with a few household items, including the famous Trident tape recorder, electric fan and TV. Some never returned at all, and to this day have never been heard of or from. During that period, a small industry however surfaced, in which people sold bizarre black-and-white half-person-half-beasts pictures.
The most popular of these pictures was the half-serpent-half-man. It was said to be the quintessence of money-making tragedies unleashed by some charlatan Nigerians. Many of the alleged victims were Ghanaians, because of our supposed appetite for get-rich-quick schemes and our susceptibility to manipulation. The security guard recounting this story then makes a rather startling conclusion: that the death of these four in T.B. Joshua’s Anointed Water stampede, are perhaps unwilling sacrifices to the occult world, as some atonement for the so-called “miracles” that the T.B Joshuas of this world claim to perform. Far-fetched?
Perhaps so, but plausible because religions all over the world are in accord over one particular issue – the devil can hold humanity captive, with magical works and powers of the dark, often in return for and exacting an extremely high price – human life or human body parts for sacrificial purposes. If the security guard’s analysis is true, in this particular case, it is human life itself which is the high price, exemplified by the loss of the lives of the four people who died, and so the T.B. Joshuas allegedly perhaps, have succeeded in appeasing their Dark Masters for the time being, and for the time being, and as long as we remain gullible and ignorant and irresponsible, will continue to hold many of us to ransom, in some cases, driving some of us to such ignominious ends.