We make our peace with

CityPress - - Voices -

South Africans are bereft at Nige­ria’s lousy of­fi­cial re­sponse after the col­lapse of a build­ing on the premises of the Synagogue Church of All Na­tions left 115 peo­ple dead and scores in­jured. At least 80 South Africans died in the tragedy. But it was not just the in­ci­dent that has left South Africans ap­palled. They didn’t even know the num­ber of dead un­til Pre­to­ria told us almost a week later. And yet, that sin­gle in­ci­dent could be one of the worst, in terms of ca­su­al­ties, in the past 20 years.

How can peo­ple die in num­bers and those who have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to save lives or com­fort the be­reaved all end up wring­ing their hands as if to say: “Let’s just bury the dead and move on?”

In a Sun­day Times ar­ti­cle ti­tled Blood on their hands, the au­thor pro­vided a di­ary of how a com­bi­na­tion of fear, caprice and neg­li­gence led to the tragedy, and com­pounded its af­ter­math.

Ac­ci­dents hap­pen. The prob­lem is that not only do we make them hap­pen, we al­low all that can go wrong to hap­pen. It’s this de­press­ing nar­ra­tive that left the au­thor of the Sun­day Times ar­ti­cle ask­ing ques­tions. I can say for free that there would be no an­swers.

How did Synagogue get ap­proval to raise the church build­ing from two storeys to six? Why were first re­spon­ders pre­vented from ac­cess­ing to the site?

Why are the au­thor­i­ties be­hav­ing as if TB Joshua, the man on whose premises this tragedy oc­curred, is above the law?

There will be a probe, all right. There will be a big cer­e­mony to re­ceive the re­port. And there will even be a big­ger prom­ise that the gov­ern­ment will do ev­ery­thing to give the dead the jus­tice they de­serve. But that would be it – un­til another tragedy oc­curs.

Ac­cord­ing to the Nige­rian In­sti­tute of Build­ing, 84 build­ings have col­lapsed in 20 years, mostly be­tween 1999 and 2009, claim­ing more than 400 lives.

In a 2012 study, Dr Ad­edeji Adeni­ran quoted the in­sti­tute as say­ing that in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the in­ci­dents re­vealed that 50% of build­ing fail­ure cases were due to de­sign fault, 40% to con­struc­tion fault and 10% to prod­uct fail­ures.

He re­ferred to another study, which states: “About 37% of the col­lapses are be­lieved to be caused by care­less­ness and greed on the part of con­struc­tion pro­fes­sion­als.”

En­force­ment of build­ing codes has im­proved in some places, es­pe­cially in La­gos, but Synagogue is a re­minder that we still have a long way to go.

Re­ports after the tragedy clearly showed the build­ing was a dis­as­ter wait­ing to hap­pen. Only God knows why the town-plan­ning au­thor­i­ties al­lowed Joshua’s church to get away with a sky­scraper on wooden stilts.

Pas­tor Joshua wants the world to be­lieve an uniden­ti­fied fly­ing ob­ject was re­spon­si­ble for the col­lapse of the church build­ing. Or that it was a ter­ror at­tack. That, to say the least, is laugh­able, and not just be­cause the Nige­rian se­nate finds it con­ve­nient to say so. Would the se­na­tors have been able to speak up if the Yonggi Chos of Nige­rian Chris­ten­dom – those with the con­gre­ga­tions and the con­nec­tions – had been the ones in­volved?

We may not even dare ask for rea­sons and ex­pla­na­tions as to why Synagogue hap­pened, and Joshua can ex­pect to get away with his ridicu­lous ex­pla­na­tions. This be­cause, in Nige­ria, common sense is to­tally at the dis­posal of faith-based re­li­gion.

We wear God on our sleeves, but make our peace with hypocrisy, turn­ing a blind eye when the rules are bro­ken.

In­stead of ask­ing why Synagogue hap­pened and de­mand­ing an­swers, we re­sign to fate or cringe in fear that pre­ventable dis­as­ter could ei­ther be “divine pun­ish­ment” for our sins or Satan’s war on the saints.

How Joshua could have de­scribed the dead as “martyrs and God’s gen­er­als” when his church re­port­edly blocked ini­tial res­cue ef­forts beats me. But what is even more con­found­ing is that he has not once been called in for ques­tion­ing about how the worst build­ing col­lapse in two decades hap­pened in his church.

Maybe the po­lice think it would be a sin against God to ques­tion the pas­tor the same way town plan­ning au­thor­i­ties in La­gos might have thought it “heresy” to stop the church from ex­tend­ing the build­ing up­wards.

Pol­i­tics spoils ev­ery­thing. As elec­tions draw near, re­li­gious lead­ers have be­come ma­jor re­cruiters for politi­cians. The church and mosque have be­come cam­paign grounds. What­ever the out­come of the La­gos probe, Gov­er­nor Ba­batunde Fashola, a Mus­lim, would

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