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2 strange fires and matters arising

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Two strange fires struck in two far-flung areas of Lagos last week; one at the headquarters of Pastor Chris Oyakhilome’s Christ Embassy church at Oregun and the other at the fledgling refinery of Africa’s touted richest man, Aliko Dangote. Who dunnit? If the fire at Christ Embassy can be described as an act of God or the carelessness of one person or the other, that at Dangote’s refinery was really suspicious, coming, as it were, a few days after a top official of the refinery had cried out that they were being frustrated by oil cabals bent on perpetuating the country’s profligacy of importation of refined petroleum products with the concomitant payment of fuel subsidy that has run the country’s balance sheet jaded.

Let us discuss the Christ Embassy fire first. A news medium reported it thus: “Worshipers and members of Love World International, commonly known as Christ Embassy, are recounting their ordeals, following yesterday’s mysterious fire that razed both the administrative block and the main auditorium of the church headquarters, in Oregun, Lagos State. The cause of the fire, which completely razed the ground floor of the church, leaving it in ruins, remained unknown at the time of this report.

“However, unconfirmed reports blamed the incident on a power surge from the electrical appliances. Church workers and other members of the church who were preparing for the Sunday service were said to have scampered for safety..,. The fire started around 7am and was put off around 3:10pm (thus) preventing worshipers from holding service at the church auditorium. They were taken to Asese, the Crusade Ground along Lagos/Ibadan expressway, Ogun State to hold service…

“On his part, the President of Love World International also known as Christ Embassy, Reverend Chris Oyakhilome, urged members of the church not to worry over the incident, saying “We built that with what we knew, imagine what we are going to do with what we know now. When things like this happen, do not be moved.

“When something like this happens, God gives us an opportunity to build a better one and a more beautiful one.

“We must look at life from the spiritual, this is not an accident. We are going to do something better “

Thank God no life was lost! Thank God firefighters were able to, first, contain the fire from spreading to other properties before finally putting it out. My concern here is not whether or not the fire was a spiritual attack. In Africa, Nigeria especially, there is hardly any occurrence that is not attributed to spiritual attack. Satan or Devil and its legion of demons are the easily available fall guys in these climes. Every misfortune is the work of the devil. A thief who gets caught blames the devil. A 70-year-old who defiles a toddler attributes it to the devil. But when the criminal goes free, it is a miracle or God’s blessing!

I understand that the Christ Embassy people will rebuild their church; that is to be expected, but I want to caution moderation here. Pastor Oyakhilome’s boast that the king’s palace that gets burnt only invites a more befitting edifice worries me. What is the cost implication of such an exercise at this point in time when cries of “We are hungry” have seized the land? How many billions will the pastor commit to building a better edifice? Where will the funds come from? From the same “We are hungry”congregants?

Much of the bricks, mortars, iron and steel, fittings, furniture and equipment that will make the new Basilica the envy of all will be imported, meaning more stress on the Naira, thereby worsening our forex situation. More inflation. More exorbitant costs of foodstuffs, goods and services. More poverty and more impoverishment of an already traumatized populace. These are no times for show off and extravagance.

What is needed now are factories and industries to create jobs for the teeming army of jobless Nigerians. Rather than build cathedrals, till the land and send our youths to feed the nation. Don’t pile more misery on the Naira! Your ego is not what our hungry people will eat. I wouldn’t know if you understand what I mean? If you do, fine! Otherwise, when push becomes shoving, we shall all be here to reap what we sow.

Have you noticed the competition between places of worship, especially churches, to build the best cathedrals? Ostentation, opulence and extravagance in the midst of grinding poverty! You cannot but wonder if these people are still followers of Christ!

The fire at Dangote refinery was said to have occurred at the effluent treatment plant. Mercifully, that, too, was contained and there were no casualties or serious damage to the plant. But because a witch had cried a day earlier, before the child now dies a day after, eyebrows were raised. Sabotage was suspected. Forces that do not want the government refineries to work are also trying to prevent the private refineries from working. Where do we go from here?

Nigeria has become a huge crime scene. There are cabals everywhere gradually but assuredly snuffing life out of Nigeria. Political cabals will not allow honest Nigerians smell power. Generator cabals will not allow PHCN work! Cabals in the education sector will not allow appropriate funding of education by the government. Cabals benefiting from insecurity will not allow the trillions pumped into the sector bear fruits. Cabals everywhere. Saboteurs everywhere. Importers will not allow local production of as little as toothpicks! Forex racketeers will not allow the Naira appreciate against other currencies. In all of these, the government is helpless or complicit.

Nothing is working. The public sector is not working. Now, again, the private sector is also not working. Those feeding fat on Nigeria, sector by sector, are bent on sucking the country unto death. What they have failed to realize is that their own survival is impossible outside of the survival of Nigeria! Oh yes! They will soon see! My people have a saying: The tapeworm thinks it is killing the dog but what happens to it when the dog dies? Will it live?

Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of the Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Bolawole writes the On the Lord’s Day column in the Sunday Tribune and the Treasurers column in the New Telegraph newspapers. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television. He can be reached on turnpot@gmail.com +234 807 552 5533

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