By Josef Omorotionmwan
SOME caveat is necessary here. This is not an advertorial for the Deeper Life Bible Church. Rather, it is more in keeping with the tradition of seeing something and saying something. That is what Nigeria desperately needs today to pull her out of the doldrums in which she finds herself.
The penultimate weekend, my WhatsApp and Facebook platforms were inundated from every direction with the news of unveiling of the biggest and best-equipped Hospital ever built in Africa. This Hospital is owned by the Deeper Life Bible Church.
Located in the Gbagada area of Lagos, Nigeria; the Hospital has many interesting features. It is a 10,000-bed mega facility intended to cater for the health needs of well over 35,000 indigent people annually.
It has Pediatrics, Psychiatry, General Out Patient, Burns, Oncology and 15 other major Departments, all stocked with the latest equipment necessary for such a world class facility.
The Surgery Department has state-of-the-art equipment and easily rivals John Hopkins Hospital or any of the best health-care facilities anywhere in the world. The facility will be thrown open to all, irrespective of their financial or social standing.
In the estimation of the General Overseer of the Church, Pastor William Folorunso Kumuyi, the Hospital will employ thousands of Doctors, Nurses, other paramedics as well as other sundry administrative staff. This provides a ray of hope for our teaming youth population who are pouring out of our health institutions annually. It will also provide a speed-brake to the issue of brain-drain of our people who rush abroad in search of greener pastures. Most importantly, it will drastically reduce the billions of Naira in medical tourism that the Nigerian elite squander abroad. With just a fraction of what they were spending abroad, the Nigerian elite can now get in Nigeria, what they used to go abroad for; plus the fact that they can now save themselves from the vagaries of the harsh European and American weathers.
Pastor Kumuyi emphasises the fact that services at the Hospital will be rendered to indigent members of society, free of charge, while the rich will be required to pay, thus lending credence to the time-tested Socialist manifesto, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”.
While declaring the Hospital open, the obviously elated Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, went down memory lane and quoted copiously from several verses of the Bible showing how Jesus Christ healed the sick, fed the poor and generally looked after the welfare of thousands of poor people around him.
Vice President Osinbajo commended the church and the people who provided the facility and summed up his impression this way: “At least, some people are thinking in the right direction and emulating their Master, the Messiah, instead of accumulating wealth that cannot travel with them to the great beyond”.
The Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akimummi Ambode, who was visibly excited, was full of praises for the church and those who provided the magnificent and well-equipped Hospital. Hear him, “I hope others would emulate them rather than giving their money to jet-acquiring Pastors who litter the landscape and build mega businesses for themselves and their families to enjoy, yet they teach their followers to pray to God to solve their financial needs….”
The Deeper Life initiative provides a new challenge to other churches. The general practice hitherto has been for the church leaders to involve all their members at the stage of providing the facilities only to cut them off after completion. The members would put everything they have and sometimes even borrow to support the university or hospital building. They would go and carry blocks, iron rods, wood, water and supply everything from morning till night, sometimes without food – only for the facilities to become the property of the General Overseer and his family. At that point, the poor members no longer see the brake-light of the institutions and their owners.
At the tax front, these owners boldly display the names of the churches and engage tax authorities in their out-dated argument that churches should not pay tax. Modern tax authorities have maintained that churches per-se should be exempted from taxation; but if a church engages in a business venture, it is duty-bound to pay tax on the profit from such business.
It is the dawn of a new era. As we enter into this glorious era, we must begin to constructively engage some of the Churches that the world is dynamic and all well meaning people must approach it in its dynamic form.
In the light of the current dynamism, there are churches that should begin to revisit the issue of blood. Anaemia has assumed a new dimension as a major killer disease in today’s world. The upsurge in cases of anaemia may not be unconnected with changes in our food and our eating habits, as distinct from the biblical times when the food was more organic. Yet, in Nigeria today, some church-owned hospitals abhor blood transfusion. Their patients die daily like poisoned rats.
This writer once worked as a contractor to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH, where I renovated some of the Wards, including the Consultant Out-Patient Department, COPD. Almost on a daily basis, patients were Brought-In-Dead, BID, from a nearby church-owned hospital where blood transfusion was forbidden!
In Nigeria, government is still at war with itself. When are we going to stop equivocating and start showing that no Government official should be flown abroad for the treatment of any ailment, including the executive ones? When are we going to start believing that no Nigerian should die for want of superior treatment here?
At least, we can say bravo to Pastor Kumuyi and his followers. They have demonstrated that Nigeria is still possible; and that the good life is still here. We search no further.
But in all this, how much assurance do we have on maintenance culture, the lack of which has been our albatross? Here is a major challenge to Deeper Life and the rest of us!