By Chika Abanobi
Journalists who visited The Synagogue headquarters, Ikotun, Lagos, yesterday morning, to monitor and report on the situation of things, following the surprising announcement of the sudden death of its founder, Prophet T.B. Joshua, narrowly escaped physical attack by some angry members said to be uncomfortable with news carried about the church in the past.
The journalists involved were drawn from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), The Sun, Premium Times, News Agency of Nigeria and Africa China Economy magazine.
Spread out around the expansive premises of the gigantic church building were two groups of crowd. While the first found loitering around the outside perimetres comprised of a motley crowd of ordinary members, neighbours, curious passersby who were there to ascertain the veracity of the news which broke out on social media and journalists from the electronic, print and social media, the second comprising mainly the church workers and members of the inner caucus of the church were gathered inside the church compound but outside the gate leading to the administrative offices.
It was this second crowd that became agitated the moment they saw Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) crew leading the way with their TV camera and other recording gadgets at about 9am. When they tried to prevent them and the church’s protocol and media officials asked to receive them from gaining entrance into the room prepared for their reception, and could not, because of the presence of uniformed security officials, soldiers and policemen manning the gate, they resorted to the use of abusive words against them.
“Go back we don’t want you people here,” some of them said. “What have you come here to do? Our father is dead, and so what? Is he the first person in the world to die? So, you’ve come to report our Daddy’s death, abi? Don’t worry, your own will be the next, stupid people. Na so una they carry nose they chook for the matter wey no concern una, yeye journalists. Abeg, make una comot here.”
The NTA correspondent who led the TV station crew was overheard telling his camera man not to allow the angry crowd see or seize his TV camera, warning that from their mood they could smash it. Our reporter understands that actually it was the TV camera that tipped off the crowd about the presence of Pressmen and aggravated the situation; otherwise they had no way of knowing who-was-who among the teeming crowd of visitors trooping to the place.
The angry members some of whom threatened to beat up the church protocol officers detailed to take care of the journalists were overheard using expletives and abusive words on them. When the crowd became unruly and threatened to storm the place where the journalists were kept, despite the presence of well-armed soldiers and policemen detailed to guard the gate leading to the room, decision was quickly reached to take the newsmen out of the gathering danger.
One of the female officials who described herself as simply as “one of the secretaries”, because she was not officially authorized to speak to the Press apologized profusely over the members’ unruly behaviour, while reiterating the church’s earlier statement about TB Joshua’s family wanting to be left alone to mourn his passage without any intrusion into their privacy.
The lady who, on the behalf of the church, and Emmanuel TV, thanked the journalists for coming to condole with the church, regretted that there would be no questions this time around as the church is mourning the shocking passage of their Founder. “But we will make sure you are kept posted on developments,” she said. “Just keep watching Emmanuel TV for updates as official statements will be issued on it from time to time.”
While she was busy addressing the Press, news came that the members outside are becoming uncontrollable and are threatening to storm the place to physically manhandle the journalists over what someone described as “transferred aggression” if they don’t leave the place immediately. It was at that juncture that she cut short her briefing and allowed a group of soldiers and policemen to lead them out of the compound.
Outside, the angry members still mouthing expletives, tried in vain to reach out either to manhandle them or destroy their newsgathering gadgets. “Make una dey go, we no want una here, amebo people,” one of them, a female worker, was overheard, saying. But the crowd was prevented from attacking the journalists by the heavily armed uniformed security men who shepherded them and got one of the church administrative buses to quickly ferry them away out of danger through a getaway gate before things get out of control.
Daily Sun was told that their open hostility has to do with some of the news reports on TB Joshua, the church and its activities, carried in the past, especially on social media, and by some section of the electronic and print media, and which the aggrieved members considered biased.