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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Ekerete Udoh: Prophet TB Joshua And The Making Of A National Icon

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by Ekerete Udoh

While spending time in Akwa Ibom during the holiday period, I became addicted to Emmanuel TV- the broadcast arm of the Prophet T.B. Joshua led Synagogue Church of All Nations  (SCOAN.) Not only were the testimonies and the miracles the Man of God had performed mind-boggling and a testament to the manner God can meet peoples’ needs at their most critical moments, but the sheer size of men of power and influence who flock daily to that church in search of a spiritual loadstar that will direct their lives as they navigate the sometimes treacherous path to self- discovery and fulfillment was to say the least, impressive, and that, forms the thrust of this column today.

There is no doubt that the man-Prophet T. B. Joshua has been severely misunderstood by a large swath of the Nigerian population- no thanks to certain spurious and baseless stories that the prophet’s enemies had manufactured and  thrown into the public space. But going by what the Man of God has done, I think Nigerians should begin to see and examine the prophet for what in my opinion he truly represents: a national asset, whose awesome spiritual gifts should be appropriated for national development and the edification of our spiritual platforms.

There are few men of God in the entire African Continent who command the sort of power and influence that the T. B. Joshua wields. A man whom the mighty and the powerful kow-tow to and seek spiritual direction, but who, nonetheless remains so simple and so unaffected by the power he wields, is truly a phenomenon you don’t expect to see in our part of the world.

All over the world, there are certain religious people who are seen as national treasures- a sort of custodians of the national moral foundation- a voice so beloved and so revered that when they speak, the nation listens. In the United States, the Reverend Billy Graham comes to mind. Since President Eisenhower, Billy Graham has been the unofficial spiritual counselor to presidents and to the larger American society. He has received in audience at his Virginia church, countless number of leaders, kings and queens and other men and women of influence.

Prophet T. B. Joshua, whose ministry is centered on prophetic pronouncements, has welcomed presidents, prime ministers, and top people both in business and in pop culture from across the globe. That these men and women of influence, would leave their respective nations, and undertake a private visit to see a private citizen, speaks volume about the sheer trust and faith these leaders have in Prophet T. B. Joshua and his ministry.

During the holiday, the President of Botswana-Mrs. Joy Banda and her husband and some key officials worshipped the SCOAN. A representative of the South Sudanese president- a country currently embroiled in tribal skirmishes was also in attendance, a follow –up to an earlier visit by the country’s First Lady. Prophet Joshua had last year correctly predicted the crises the country is currently facing.

As a student of international politics and diplomacy, watching some heads of sovereign nations pay private visit to a man of God, completely devoid of  the paraphernalia of office, I began to wonder why such a religious figure would not be seen as a national icon. Diplomacy should not be a sole preserve of the bureaucracy of government, private individuals, can help advance a nation’s diplomatic interests, and help get things done where it would otherwise have lumbered along bureaucratic lanes.

One area of Prophet T. B Joshua’s ministry that the world may not have known is the charity work that church has done. I was amazed by the number of people that had directly benefited from the church’s many charitable undertaking- the scholarships, the different intervention in the circumstance of the less-privileged and when you place this against some obtuse things that had been written about the Man of God, you begin to wonder what the motivations of those naysayers are.

Prophet T.B. Joshua should be correctly defined for what I think he is: a gifted man of God, a man that has possibly outside of what Nollywood and the larger Nigerian entertainment industry, has done more than any other private individual in promoting the image of Nigeria, getting people to look at Nigeria differently. He should be applauded rather than his motives being questioned.

Last year, in an interview I had with him, (the interview will be published in the second edition of our newspaper-News of the World’ whose maiden edition is coming out later this month) I had marveled at the simplicity that surrounds him, his passion for philanthropy and the prediction on the 2015 elections.)

If we are to move forward as a nation, I think we should begin to applaud some of our nationals who have done great things in promoting and projecting the image of this country. Engaging in unnecessary campaign of blackmail and subterfuge should be discouraged. Prophet T. B. Joshua is indeed a national icon and should be seen and treated accordingly. Those who do not understand him, should take time and watch him, go to his church and see why all nations are flocking to the church and worshiping God and getting results for believing in the power of our Lord Jesus Christ

The definition of APC has started

Beginning this week, the PDP appears to have bought into the playbook of American presidential campaign strategists: the art of defining a party or a candidate before he or she got the chance to define himself. The PDP came out with guns blazing to tell Nigerians that they are concerned about the religious tilt of the APC and its leading officials. In a truly devastating and hard to manage public relations nightmare, the party was defined as a Muslim party, with its leading lights all Muslims. The subliminal or overt message was clear: APC is a party that is rooted in a particular religion, and in a secular nation such as Nigeria and where religious passions are strong, that may be a hard sell.

The efforts by the spokesman-Lai Mohammed to tam down that perception can only do one thing: help deepen the nightmare the party may face in re- calibrating its message. In political marketing, once you have been negatively defined, it takes a lot of efforts to correct that perception however misleading the perception may be. APC currently is reacting to this issue and may spend considerable time reassuring Nigerians that it is not a party that is surreptitiously attempting to foist one religion over the other on Nigerians. While they may be doing so, PDP would be busy convincing Nigerians why they should continue to invest their hopes in its structure and programmes.

I remember the 2004 presidential election in America. Senator John Kerry- a man who fought the Vietnam War and won Purple Heart in combat and was clearly better informed about national security than his GOP challenger, George W. Bush was defined as a flip-flop and everything that should have been his strength was diminished because of that definition. Americans never trusted his judgment. The rest as they say is history as an intellectual lightweight, a man who did not fight the Vietnam war, and was instead posted to the ‘safe arm’ as a Texas National guard pilot-George W. Bush was elected president

The 2015 election seems like it will be pretty interesting to watch, given what has now appeared to be an early injection of American style campaigning.

This piece was originally published on ThisDay.

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