Reflect, learn and act as church collapses
“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
My thoughts at this period first go to the lives lost, to the families and friends bereaved, to the injured and to the generality of the concerned. May the souls of the departed rest in peace, may the injured recover speedily and may the good Lord be the true comforter for the bereaved and all well-wishers.
While ruminating on the “shocking” event of yesterday, my thoughts could not but quickly leave aside the condolence, the sympathy, the lamentations, etc. My thoughts have shifted beyond these and other sentiments and are focused on the causative practical realities of such calamities which have appallingly become a common feature of our national space.
Building failure is not a new phenomenon in Nigeria. What is relatively new is the collapse of church buildings. But whether church, residential or other buildings, the effect and the attendant lessons of a collapse are similar. At the very root of building is the compromise of building standards.
There is this attitude of cutting corners all over. For example; where 10 bags of cement are required, five or three bags are used. Where qualified, certified and experienced engineers and professionals are required, quacks and inexperienced people are settled for. The list is endless and whenever confronted, the contractors, engineers and owners of such buildings argue that they are merely cutting cost. At what risk? Human lives!
To my mind, the Church in Nigeria should, however, be a different case. Not because I have any illusion that the Church leadership is, mandatorily, populated by people of integrity but because I believe, as a Christian, that our leaders in the church should be able to live up to the tenets of the faith and abide by Kingdom principles which definitely not support cutting corners or “cutting costs’ at the risk of human lives!
The Holy Bible in the book of 1 Corinthians 14:40 unequivocally admonishes that “Let all things be done decently and in order.” Not some things or certain things but ALL things, including, of course, the construction of churches and mega worship centres.
I cannot forget an experience, some years ago, when a newly constructed building of one of the numerous branches of a popular Pentecostal church in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State was marked by Uyo Capital City Development Authority (UCCDA) for demolition, having violated building and environmental standards. The Pastor in Charge immediately launched a campaign of calumny against UCCDA and the members of the congregation followed suit. I was then a member of the church and I was very appalled to hear comments like; “How can you (UCCDA) mark the House of God?”, “You (UCCDA) go die!”
Obviously, these people are Christians in name only who have not bothered to read the admonitions of Christ to his followers to obey the laws of Caesar (government). One very sad thing about the Nigerian situation is that the leadership of the church has not been able to live up to expectations. Rather it is the same rot that we see everywhere else that we come to experience in the so-called House of God!
It has been reported that the Akwa Ibom State Government has ordered the arrest of the contractor who handled the collapsed church building. That is a step in the right direction. However, like the proverbial journey of a thousand miles, there are numerous other steps that ought to be taken. The contractors and the engineers are not to be made the sole scapegoats in this affair. The General Overseer of the church who hired them also has a case to answer.
Even though the contractor and the engineers are supposed to be the experts in this matter, the practical reality of the overwhelming influence that building owners in Nigeria have on such categories of people cannot be overlooked. For whatever it is worth, let their hirer and owner of the church come and state his case before a public commission of inquiry and let his guilt or otherwise be determined by such commission. No one should be treated as untouchable. Nobody is above the law!
My sincere hope is that a probe and prosecution would be instituted and all found culpable should be made to face the highest possible sanctions and punishment. We owe that much to the lives lost and many wounded. However, I still nurse a fear that, after initial sound and fury, signifying nothing and in the typical corrupted Nigerian spirit this whole matter will eventually be swept under the carpet.
With the Synagogue Church case still fresh in mind, the questions that really bother me at this moment are: when would we as a people begin to learn from our mistakes? When will these avoidable calamities and deaths really teach us a lesson? For how long would we continue to repeat history?