If there is any major economic lesson learnt by businesses operating on the Ikotun-Egbe axis of Lagos during the lockdown, it is the realization that the economy of that area is essentially built around T. B Joshua’s Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN).
Well, perhaps in addition to whatever is left of other small businesses in the area. It wasn’t as though they didn’t know this before the pandemic, to be sure, but the lockdown and its ripple effect made the point clearer.
So when news filtered in yesterday that T.B Joshua passed on, my mind raced through a zillion thoughts, one of which is the possible effect of his demise on the socio-economic make-up of Ikotun and environs.
When we arrived at our Igando residence in the midriff of the 1990s, the Igando-Ikotun axis was a Lagos backwater riddled with bad roads and gulleyed streets. Principally because of the interconnectivity that exists in communities around the larger Alimosho zone at the time (People in those communities have shared linguistic connections, being indigenous Awori people), the traits of under-development was evenly shared, and sadly so, from Governor’s Road through Ijegun, Ikotun, Idimu, Isheri, Akowonjo, Egbeda, Igando, Egan, Akesan, Egbe, Abaranje, even all the way to Obadore and Iba.
It was so bad that in most of the swampy areas connecting Igando through the Abaranje area, where my bosom friends and classmates lived, we only had makeshift bridges built with Bamboo and ropes!
Yet in the midst of this, especially in the years on the cusp of the Millennium, T.B Joshua’s Synagogue Church stood as a major driver of socio-economic development, attracting local and international tourists who would in turn breathe life into the economies of those communities, particularly Ikotun-Egbe.
The ripple effect was a surge in the number of businesses springing up in and around the area. Hotels. Kiosks. Shopping outlets. Communication Outfits. Schools. Name it!
In a sense, the government looked in the direction of a few of those communities, and provided infrastructure in a few cases, essentially because of the presence of SCOAN and its worshippers, particularly foreigners. At least, I know of one such road leading to the house of a classmate in Ikotun at the time.
T.B himself would later build a larger-than-life reputation as a philanthropist, providing help to people from far and wide, irrespective of religious background, including those who worship not in his church. By default, residents of the Ikotun-Igando axis were prominent beneficiaries.
And so it was no surprise that when he announced in 2017 that he would relocate his church to Israel, residents of Ikotun were thrown into melancholy.
In terms of our conceptualization of spirituality, T.B Joshua represents different things to different people. I really don’t care much about this, at least as far as this piece is concerned, even as I do reckon now that T.B’s death may have put paid to the various myths surrounding his presumed invincibility.
Yet, as a student of economics, I understand that economic development isn’t necessarily cut in the neatly-ironed shirts of pristine morality—–however we choose to define it (morality) in our individual spaces. World over, development is driven by a chaos of ideas and activities, all of which can then be perfected and brought under checks at different stages of economic growth.
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And that’s why I am more concerned about the socio-economic import of T.B Joshua’s presence in a grossly neglected Lagos corridor that defined my years of innocence.
For now, I do not know what his death would translate to in terms of commercial activities on that axis. But I attended Igando High School and I do know for a fact that not a few people’s survival is tied to SCOAN and its operation in Ikotun-Igando and environs. In a nation where significant economic buffers come not from the government, this is very important.
So when people mourn and celebrate him in their ways, which some other people may find “in-appropriate” based on their own conception of religion, life and death, perhaps this may throw a little insights into the dynamics of what’s likely playing out.
Death is the only debt we all collectively owe and would pay someday, because, in the end, especially for theists, the ultimate lesson here is that we are not God.