Their practice was pristine, undiluted by the affairs of the world. As years rolled into centuries, the religion entered its dark age, so much that the churches were in government and Catholic Bishops, in their sacerdotal influence over the society, kept private armies. It was the age of inquisition by the Catholic Church whereby heretics, through a system of ecclesiastical justice, were tortured or executed. Worse still, sinners were made to pay some money to the clergy who promised them forgiveness of sins. It was as a result of that practice called “the indulgence” that Martin Luther, a priest and theology professor, initiated the Protestant Reformation in Europe. In his 1517 work, which he called The Ninety-Five Theses, Luther strongly disputed the claim of the Catholic Church that “freedom from God’s punishment of sin could be purchased with money.” For his radicalism, Pope Leo X, in 1520 excommunicated and condemned Luther as an outlaw. The fire of reformation brought European preachers on proselitising mission to Africa – and Nigeria. Over the years, tepidity set in.
In Nigeria, Pentecostal Christianity developed out of the lethargy of the orthodox churces. But the creeping in of compromises here and there, materialism and abandonment of salvation, has started to create its own contradictions within Pentecostalism.
Right or wrong, it is all these that Bakare, whom his admirers see as the Martin Luther of Nigeria, has taken upon himself to confront, lest Christianity slip into philistinism. However, his advocacy also goes beyond pointing out the contradictions in religion; he passes comments to challenge the country’s political leaders for their misgovernance. According to a statement posted to E Line, a Christian online network, “Pastor Bakare is the only pastor in Nigeria who could look at any government in the face and say you are wrong. The Nigerian populace get to hear of other pastors only when their comments are complimentary of governments. Who is this man?”
Born on 11 November 1954 to a polygamous Muslim family at Iporo Sodeke in Abeokuta, Bakare did not know his father – he died when he was two – but was brought up by his mother, Abigail Ebudola Bakare. He attended Lisabi Grammar School Abeokuta, Ogun State, after which he studied Law at the University of Lagos. According to the online network, “it was [on the] night of his circumcision as a little boy that God showed him a glimpse of his future, which manifested in a dream from which he woke up in a pool of his own blood.”
Ten years later, in September 1974, he, as the publication put it, had gone to a Baptist Church to take photograph of a friend being baptised and the “pillar of light” he had seen in his vision 10 years earlier was replayed inside this church. It was so dramatic he could not hold back. He recognised it as a vision from God and as a call to service. Thereafter he was converted to Christianity.”
In 1984, he started his private law firm – EI-Shaddai Chambers. That was after his legal tutelage at the chambers of the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Chief Rotimi Williams. That same year, Bakare married Olayide, with whom he has five children. In 1994, after nursing the dream for 15 years, he established the Latter Rain Assembly, which he called “an Apostolic Community of believers whose purpose is to carry forward the purpose of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.”
Bakare’s admirers readily cite his prophecies that scored a bull’s eye. For example, when Chief M.K.O Abiola contested for the presidential election in 1993 Bakare advised against it, prophesying that “he might not come out alive”. Abiola died in detention. In April 1993, Bakare predicted that neither of the two existing political parties, the Social Democratic Party, SDP, and the National Republican Convention, NRC, would attain political power. Less than two weeks after the June 12 presidential election, General Ibrahim Babangida, then military president, cancelled the election. And when Nigerians were not sure whether Babangida would leave, Bakare prophesied, according to his people, that “on or before 27th August 1993, he (IBB) would make mistakes that would make him go.” Babangida stepped aside.
The Interim National Government that came to power, headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan, was not spared either. Bakare described the government as the “Ishbosheth factor”; a mere stopover. “As Ishbosheth was disgraced and his head cut off, so would the regime of Ernest Shonekan,” he was quoted as saying. Shonekan resigned at gunpoint.
According to E-Life, Bakare, in 1998, went to Kano and at the Conference of Prophetic and Apostolic Churches, COPAC, prophesied that the city should expect the corpse of another head of state –Murtala Muhammed was the first. Abacha died on 8 June that year.
However, Bakare’s critics like to point at his prophecy that missed the mark. On 7 March 1999, Bakare said: “Obasanjo is not your messiah. He is King Agag and the prophetic axe will fall upon his head before May 29.”
The former Nigerian leader was so angry that he told a gathering of other pastors after his inauguration that they should warn one of their own or he would start wearing the cassock!
Notwithstanding this, Bakare has not stopped speaking, a disposition that once put him into trouble. When he travelled to Ghana, he called his lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, on 28 February 2002, and told him that on his arrival he might be arrested. He was picked up by the State Security Service, SSS, but was soon set free.
Recently, Bakare fielded questions from Senior Editor, BABAJIDE KOLADE-OTITOJU; General Editor, ADEMOLA ADEGBAMIGBE and Associate Editor, BAMIDELE JOHNSON. IDOWU OGUNLEYE, Photo Editor, snapped the shots. Bakare spoke on the state of the nation, the rot among Christians and the conflict within the clergy in Nigeria.
A: I have no fears about our nation. What I have are concerns because fear itself is the antithesis of faith. And it is not that I’m trying to be super-spiritual or over-religious, but because I have faith in God that Nigeria will flourish again. I don’t entertain fears. But I have deep concerns because it appears that the worst set of people are often thrown up to steer the ship of the nation.
They are either uncooked, untrained or just don’t care. So you have the worst of us leading the best of us. The problems that we have are not peculiar to Nigeria. But it appears the brightest in other nations have the frame of mind, the intellectual capacity, the energy, the resolve and the will to get results. They attack their problems and they begin to solve them. We have ours compounded and often, we just leave the substance and chase the shadow. That is my concern.
Q: How did we get to this sorry state?
A: It’s a combination of many factors. You are from Kogi State and your colleague is from Ekiti State. Brilliant people. If I ask why you are not in politics, you could say ‘that’s not my calling.’ You could say ‘politics is dirty and I don’t want to get sullied.’ And you know that as long as good people stay away from that terrain, it is like saying let the bad people continue. That’s one aspect. Another thing is that those who are benefiting from such a system are not ready to relinquish power and they would do all within their power to ensure that they do not only discourage the brilliant and the brightest, but also discourage good quality people from coming in. They could use anything from assassination, whether of character or actual termination of life, to terrify the people who might want to come in there. As the good book says, a strong man who keeps his palace would deploy everything he has to ensure nobody can invade his territory, except the stronger than he who comes and binds him. Then he can do exploits and redistribute what he has accumulated over the years. So, you have many factors. I’ve heard people say you cannot put the cart before the horse; that there’ll be no motion. That’s not true. If you put the cart before the horse, there’ll be motion, but you’re going backwards. But mainly, as far as I’m concerned, the fundamental issues in Nigeria are never dealt with. We have an identity crisis. We don’t know who we are. Are we a republic? Are we a federation? What exactly are we? These are issues for me, as a person, because I need to know whether I am a male before I can ask a female to marry me. If I don’t know whether I am a male or female, I’ll be confused. The corporate Nigeria persona is a confused entity. It’s not just the amalgamation of 1914, it’s an amalgam of political tendencies that you don’t even know. When it stands there, you don’t know what it is. And those who know how to hijack and take advantage of that just keep on driving on and the rest of us look hopeless and helpless.
Q: Our electoral system discourages good people from putting themselves forward. What is the way out of that?
A: Of all the elections I’ve been privileged to be alive to witness in Nigeria, probably the freest and fairest election was the 1993 election that resulted in the June 12 crisis. It employed Option A4, brought by probably the most hated leader in Nigeria, Ibrahim Babangida. I recently read that he is advocating the same thing as part of the solution to our many problems. I have participated in several elections. I didn’t vote in the 1964 elections, but I was alive and active. I saw all the campaigns. M.I Okpara and H.I.D Awolowo were in my hometown, Abeokuta. We did not belong to any party, but we sang for them because at the end of the whole campaign, we knew we would get something.
I remember the songs well. There is insincerity in all the attempts to reform our electoral system. What is difficult in having a sound electoral system? Ghana is a nation next door. They’ve built that institution that it can now function on its own. A system in which a sitting president appoints you and you owe your allegiance to him is not good. He who pays the piper calls the tune. For as long as we continue to dance and swim in the whirlpool of insincerity and hypocrisy and we don’t mean well for this nation, it would remain the same. That’s why you and I ought to rise. Regardless of the toga we wear or our occupational identity, we’re first and foremost Nigerians. Until we rise and say enough is enough, it’s going to continue. Because freedom is never granted to the oppressed. It must be demanded from the oppressor by the oppressed. So, if there’s going to be change in that area, it would be something that will permeate the entire atmosphere and the whole nation would say this is the way forward. But it would have to be championed by people of goodwill who desire change in this country, not those who want to maintain the status quo. I was talking to a friend of mine a few minutes before I came here and he asked what I think of the situation of the church? I said the church is as polarised as the world because there’s no difference. In Nigeria, I don’t see the difference between the man who goes to church and the man who doesn’t. I don’t see the difference between the one who calls the name of God and the one who doesn’t anymore. Why? Because immediately there’s crisis or corruption, you find area pastors and senior leaders participating in it. So you have status quo churches and churches who are asking for change and neither is exclusive to any denomination. I’ve seen Anglican priests and bishops who are very forthright. I’ve seen Catholic priests who are very forthright. I’ve seen Penterascals, who call themselves Pentecostals. I’ve seen Pentecostals who are upright. So you cannot really say who is where. But if that is going to change, all hands will have to be on deck.
Q: President Umaru Yar’Adua is into his third year in office. How would you rate his performance?
A: That’s a question I wouldn’t even want to touch or answer because for the first time in my life as an adult, looking at his antecedents: his late brother, his father–a First Republic minister– and his level of education, I was so excited. But I must admit my humanity here that I was fooled. This is the first man I said I am willing to call my own president, looking at what he left behind in the treasury and his attitude to life. This is the first Nigerian graduate, not to mention a lecturer as head of state. Now, I’ve found out that the hood does not make the monk. Because if you ask me to rate him, I have only one rating: Umaru Yar’Adua, go home. You’re a round peg in a square hole; totally unfit in this day to lead this nation.
Q: What exactly is he doing wrong?
A: Too many things.
Q: Mention some of them.
A: I’m yet to see what promise out of his Seven-point agenda he has kept. And if there are circumstances hindering him from fulfilling them, an honest man would come and say ‘fellow countrymen and women, before I came to power’–I hate the term ‘come to power’ but that’s what we’re used to in the military environment. ‘Before I came to this office, these were my thoughts. Now, I’ve seen that it cannot work that way. I’m explaining to you the situation, the factors militating against it and these are things I am trying to do.’ Here’s a man who is battling with his own health. And he couldn’t care less whether Nigeria is sick or healthy. An honest man would have thought that he owes his nation the duty to say that he does not have the mental capacity or the energy to continue to lead. I wonder if he is able to even read through any memo presented before him or people just read for him. Because if we take electricity for example, what have we got? The things that were imported by Obasanjo were left at the ports to either acquire demurrage or to waste away with unnecessary lies told that he spent so much. The man who said he didn’t spend up to that was fired, only to find out that was exactly what was spent. It’s a lot of propaganda. It is after all these things that I sat down and said, wait a minute, if the reason I was excited and I was jumping and calling this man my president and singing for him was because he left money in the treasury, I think he fooled me successfully. Money was not meant to be left in the treasury. While he left billions in the treasury, Katsina people were busy selling firewood for survival. The man who squanders resources and the man who is stingy with it and does not touch it are two sides of the same coin. I think he is happy as he sees money rising up without being deployed to provide what they call democracy dividends to the poor people of our nation. My personal regret is that I expected too much and I am totally disappointed. This government diverted money meant for education and health towards building a five-lane road into Abuja that was not in the budget. Diverting funds of education and health into that kind of project when it is not that there’s so much traffic or there are no existing roads shows what the government’s priority is. Of what use is the money he left in the treasury of the state he served?
We have now found out that the greatest smuggler in the North is his best friend. And all the looters of our treasury before he became president are all round him. Show me your friend and I will tell who you are. You can’t lie down with dogs and not get up with fleas.
Q: How would you rate government’s efforts at fighting corruption?
A: Government’s crusade against corruption or government’s efforts at establishing corruption as a culture? When the likes of Ibori walk free in this nation and no one can touch them and Aondoakaa will not cooperate with anything that will touch Ibori? As we read, except we’re being misinformed by the press, they put Aondoakaa there. You should just say campaign for corruption.
Q: Many Nigerians feel that the Obasanjo administration was corrupt and rudderless and that the Yar’Adua administration should, at least, probe him. Are you not disappointed that it has not happened?
A: Did you expect this man to probe Obasanjo? He gave him power just to watch his back. Did he qualify? Was there any election? Would you expect the governor of Lagos, with all his zeal in the right direction and all the wonderful things he appears to be doing for the benefit of the people in Lagos, to probe Asiwaju Bola Tinubu? I’m not assuming or saying there’s something to probe, but if you ride to power on my back, you’ll be careful what you do because I could remove my back. So, I am not disappointed that Yar’Adua is not probing. It’s obvious why he cannot. It’s unlike a military regime that comes with ruthlessness to discredit the outgoing one and then performs worse until another one will come. Nigeria has been bedevilled by these prodigals. If Obasanjo was blatantly corrupt, I think Obasanjo administration is the type that calls the thief to come and steal and calls the owner to come and see. That is if he’s not interested in the thief anymore. I think Obasanjo just passed the baton to a man who cannot do anything about corruption and is even protecting those who have been accused of corruption.
Q: Was that why he had to treat Nuhu Ribadu the way he did?
A: Perhaps so. They have their own allegations against Ribadu, but Ribadu as a human being could have made some mistakes. He made some efforts at bringing sanity into public sector. For once, he touched the untouchables. And for once, he displayed a level of fearlessness and fairness to the best of his ability until they found out that they needed to nip this man in the bud. They thought that at the rate at which he was going, he might jolly well become the head of state. And they did all in their power to frustrate him until he fled the country. But our loss is the international community’s gain because I don’t think Ribadu is eating from hand to mouth. He’s being consulted by those who want probity in their public life. And I am still watching and waiting to see where this tree of Ibori will fall. Whether his people are brought back to face the law here or one day, he is taken out to face the law. If the likes of Anthony Enahoro were extradited, based on an agreement between us and Britain, anything is possible. Until those daylight robbers who have stolen this nation to a bleeding point, a profusely bleeding point, are dealt with, don’t listen to anyone who says there’s a campaign against corruption. There’s campaign for corruption and they’re all benefiting from it. And that’s why legislators are now looking for immunity.
Q: But the President does not appear to be in favour of immunity and has said it is not necessary….
A: Why didn’t he do something about it. He only said it. If you are serious, take action. Remove that immunity if you’re serious about it; don’t talk about it. Did he do anything about it? Don’t believe them. Integrity is the best immunity anybody can have. No law can give it to you and no law can take it away from you.
Q: What is your assessment of the National Assembly?
A: What do they assemble there? Completely knocked down vehicles or what? Just tell me.
A: What law? What law have they made in recent times that they can say this is one law they’ve made that is not retrogressive; that is in the interest of the people of this country in the area of education, for instance. Maybe I live in my own cocoon and don’t have understanding. Why would nothing be done about the most important things? Look at electoral reforms. Instead of doing something about that, they are busy with who will or who will not be the chairman. These are men who are only interested in themselves.
Q: The federal government has been congratulating itself on the amnesty programme in the Niger Delta. What will you suggest for the post-amnesty period?
A: What is amnesty? They use phrases that we just take from their mouths and dance. By definition, amnesty is a legislative act to pardon political prisoners. So, where are the political prisoners that they have pardoned? If you’re saying amnesty, it means they have found them guilty, they are in prison and are now pardoned. That’s the definition of amnesty. When I played football or table tennis as a young child, I would run away if I saw my parents or elderly people, who would think I should be studying. Children would see older people and run. Amnesty is older people seeing children and running. It’s because all the military might and all the exploitation and oppression have failed and the men had taken to arms to defend what is legitimately theirs. That is the why the government is now saying amnesty. If they put $50 million dollars there, it would disappear as it did in OMPADEC (the defunct Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission) or Niger Delta Development Commission or whatever was established. The reason we are probably paying attention to them and looking for peace at all costs is because of the international pressure, our partners in development and trade, the oil companies and above all, the fact that these guys are ready to blow everything. And this is what the North, East, West and South depend upon. So, it’s like saying let us appeal to them. I’m not against peace. But peace is not the absence of tension. It’s the presence of justice. There could be criminals among these people.
There could be those who are hiding under the guise of freedom to do all kinds of criminal things. But what is the cause?
Have you been to that area? I’ve been to Opobo Kingdom. After Opobo, the next place is the Atlantic Ocean. What is there? Let’s hope that the peace that we have now will produce some progress in the environment. We’ll be able to distinguish the governor who has been hiding under militancy from the one who really means well for the people. OMPADEC made billionaires out of ruthless people in this country, without any concrete development on ground. It is the same way they will share any money that is provided for the development of the place.
The fact is that the government has robbed the people of what is legitimately theirs. In the days of groundnut pyramids, nobody piped groundnut. In the days of cocoa boom, nobody piped cocoa to Kaduna. Now, we are not only piping what is their own natural resource to other parts of the country, which is good enough, but we are not developing the source that is producing that. Rather, we maim, kill and silence the people and we think we can continue forever. When you meet daredevils, you would backtrack and retrace your steps. This President is helpless and the amnesty is just an attempt to buy time. The money you’ve introduced into the environment will buy more arms. If there’s no further development, it’s all talk and no action. You must know the people who released the arms did not release everything. They are not stupid. You think they submitted all? Would you do that?
There is a worry over the lack of credible opposition to the Peoples Democratic Party, which seems like an unstoppable train as we approach 2011.
Many years ago, the British administration wanted to come to Abeokuta for taxation. The means of getting there was train. The Egba warriors removed the rail! You can check in history. We were the first people granted independence in Nigeria. Long before then, there was the Oyo rule and the Ajeles of Oyo (tax collectors) came to Abeokuta. Until Lisabi started the Egbe Aaro, a sort of a cooperative, which demanded that all the men should take turns to help themselves on their respective farms. So, about 200-250 strong men would visit your farm and help you cultivate. Then you would also visit other people’s farms and cultivate. Lisabi was their leader and they asked him when they were going to his farm. He said he could take care of his farm. He said he had only one land to till. The farm, he told them, was the visit of the Ajeles. He said any Ajele that showed up should be killed. That was what they did. From that day, no Ajele tax collector from Oyo ever visited Abeokuta again. And as a matter of fact, the present Alaafin of Oyo was raised in the palace of Sir Adetokunbo Ademola, a former Alake of Egbaland. What am I trying to say? A time is coming when a people will say enough is enough. Go to biblical history. Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, King of Israel came to the throne and he said: ‘My small finger is thicker than the loin of my father. If my father beat you with whips, I’ll beat you with scorpion.’ And they rose up and said: ‘To your tents, oh Israel!’ Rehoboam wanted to go and fight, but God sent a prophet to him. The bible says when you see oppression and violent perversion of justice and judgment in a province, do not marvel. Higher officials are set over higher officials and higher officials are set over them. There’s a syndicate.
But they are not going to have it forever. You’ll see the people rising up and saying wait a minute, let’s unblock the minds of our people, let them know that these things are theirs; that it’s the tail that is wagging the dog and not the dog wagging the tail.
Sovereignty is not in the hand of Yar’Adua. It’s not in the parliament. It’s in the people of this country. But because they have monopoly of violence and they have ganged up to continue to hold Nigeria in their grip, they think it will continue endlessly. It’s not going to be forever. Don’t underestimate the resolve of a people who have been oppressed for too long. So PDP is not an unstoppable train. And if it is, it cannot remain from East to West, North to South, on the rail permanently. Even if its a moving train and the rail is removed, it’s going to derail. The attempt to start a mega- party is also an exercise in futility because there is no difference between PDP and the other parties.
Q: In an interview published a few months ago, you were unflattering in your assessment of today’s church, describing it as a theatre. Why did you do this?
A: You go to the theatre for amusement or relaxation. You want to be entertained. But the Church of Jesus Christ was not designed to be a theatre where one celebrity performs and the others are just spectators. In most churches today, one lone star rises and others come to watch him perform. That is not church the way Jesus established it. The purpose of the five-fold ministry that he handed over to the apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastors is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry so that they should only come here (church) to refuel and go out to actually carry out what they have learnt. If you run a church where on Sunday, people come for service; on Monday, they come for special meeting; on Tuesday, they come for another thing; on Wednesday, they have Bible study; on Friday, they have special prayer and on Saturday, they have house fellowship, where are they going to live the life? Everything is tied around the building. You know a good church if the building does not exist and the church continues. And I’m not trying to say one church is better than another. When they mention Latter Rain Assembly, what name comes to your mind? Tunde Bakare. When they mention the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, it is Adeboye. If they say Deeper Life, it is Kumuyi. That is not church. That is superstardom.
Q: That sounds like celebrity Christianity.
A: It is. What should happen is when they mention the Redeemed Christian Church of God, you should think of a people that believe in what God has given as a vision to that place and are willing to defend it with their lives. We have many churches, but a negligible amount of righteousness in our land. The recent banking crisis revealed that some prominent Christians were among those who caused it.
And so you wonder what is the benefit of holiness, of sanctification and righteousness. We are supposed to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth.
Why would this happen? Because pastors don’t even care where their people get the money. Just bring it and let life continue. How many pastors ask for the source of the money followers give? Most of these treasury looters and robbers sit in the front row of our churches and donate the largest amounts and pastors don’t care. They’ll even be praying for them like some people pray for armed robbers. That’s why I said the church has become a theatre: a place where people come to amuse themselves. Because they don’t know that the church is a war zone, where soldiers of the cross are trained. It’s where the standard of discipleship is raised; where you become an agent for change in a nation. I’m not talking of rascality. I’m not saying let’s go on the streets and be displaying rascality. I’m talking of constructive engagement and constructive dismantling of the oppressive forces over our nation. It is not only about praying, but having a head-on collision with them and calling a spade a spade. If that’s the role the church had been playing in Nigeria, we wouldn’t be in this mess. But we’ll rather take them to a side and tell them to come to a particular location once a week or once a month to get special prayer and lay empty hands on empty heads. That’s not Christ, that’s not church.
The once-a-month special prayer you mentioned brings to memory your criticism of the Lekki 98 programme of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. You’ve also criticised the yearly Shiloh programme organised by Bishop Oyedepo’s Winners’ Chapel.
How did I criticise that? You have to remind me because I will not even dignify that (Shiloh) by a comment. I’m not criticising them. For the Redeemed Church, the theme was the visitation of God or something to that effect; so that you don’t miss the day of your visitation.
And I said this is how you know if people are backward. Is He visiting us now or does He want habitation after He had died and He has risen from the dead and He’s now in heaven and the Holy Ghost is here? It’s no longer time of visitation that you might be built up a habitation of God. A visitor is different from one who is inhabiting. Because He’s a visitor, He comes and goes. That’s why people don’t have His presence to carry Him in their hearts. It’s not an empty criticism, it’s just that you know how we as a people are. That’s all.
Q: Why are you saying Oyedepo’s Shiloh does not merit a comment?
A: I’m not dignifying it with a comment because there’s no difference between him or whoever is perpetrating the things they are doing and the man they’re trying to crucify called T.B Joshua. What’s the difference in their practices? Very little. The Christianity of chattels, of oil, of mantle, of washing of feet? Where are those things? They should show it to me in the Bible. And I can tell you where it is from. ‘Is any among you sick, let him call for the elders of the church.’ Do you know it was written to Jews in Diaspora. Besides that, ‘is any among you sick, having called the elders of the church, let them anoint the sick with oil and pray over the sick.’ You want me to read it?
A: Okay. At least we’re beginning to learn little by little so that you don’t think we’re hotheads, just not seeing anything good in other people.
Q: That’s the impression people have.
A: Well, anybody who criticises others just for criticising sake is sick because the critical spirit itself is evidence of false ministry. I’m not a town crier. In the course of life, Oyedepo and I had been in the same hotel suite–he and his wife in one room, myself and my wife in another. We were meeting and praying until during the Gulf War, I said you’re departing from the faith; you’re bringing in substitutes. This is not Christianity that we received and some people must rise in the defence of the Gospel and contend for the faith that was once given to the saints. That’s what the Bible says. It says contend, fight for it. Because they’re one generation away from paganism. The pre-conversion disposition of these people from ‘Aladura’ churches and those who were raised in such environments have now being carried in so that people now go to work with mantle in their pocket and they take photographs to hit the mantle. I know how many converts from them have left because they are now seeing the truth. These are my friends, we took sweet counsel together. Let God be God and let every man be a man whether I’m a critical person that has no brain or just pulling down every man’s house. How can you pull other people’s house down and yours will stand if that is the agenda? But let me read this to you because I want to first and foremost show you something. ‘James, a born servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes, which are scattered abroad.’ Are you part of the twelve tribes?
A: Okay. It’s because it’s their culture. You see it in Mark Chapter 6 that they were the ones that took oil. It’s part of their culture because they lived in open space and if you rub yourself with oil, mosquitoes and things like that would not bite you. That’s the medicine they had in their day. Now, in Chapter 5, the Bible says: ‘Is anyone among you suffering, let him pray; is anyone cheerful, let him sing Psalms. Is anyone among you sick (from verse 13), let him call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.’ Now, would that heal him? Let’s read further. ‘And the prayer of faith will save (not heal) the sick.’ It’s like a wounded soldier that is taken from the firing range.
That prayer of faith would stop the attack that is coming, but only one thing will heal him. Not the oil, not just the prayer of faith. ‘The prayer of faith will save the sick and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much, makes available tremendous power of God.’ Now, are all the people that you give oil to carry about elders? The truth is you sell the oil to them. At the point that I really got beside myself, so to say, was when Oyedepo said that the anointing oil is not the symbol of the Holy Spirit, but the life of God in the bottle. I tore the book openly that this is heresy, this is error, this is taking advantage of people. And after that we met; we met abroad and Oyedepo said: ‘Look, what I didn’t like, really, was my book that you tore.” I said David, I didn’t tear your book. I bought it; it is mine. You wrote it. I tore the book I bought because it contained an error.
If the Holy Spirit is oil, then Jesus is a Lamb of God on four legs. He was never human. These are metaphors and symbols until the real thing would come. You don’t get the substance and pursue shadow. The Holy Spirit has come in person and He is dwelling with us today. Tell people to live right, to eat right and to drink clean water. Tell them to take advantage of medicine when it is necessary. Jesus said they that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. Here I am, and you can ask him also and all these men who will tell you fast and pray, if they don’t use vitamins, eat good food and live in clean environments. Why are you fooling people that all things are in prayer, prayer, prayer, prayer, prayer. I pray, I believe in God and I believe in miracles. I’ve seen miracles happen. But I will not take advantage of a person.
Q: What was Oyedepo’s reaction when you made your observations known to him about this perceived heresy? Was there a debate of some sort?
A: No, I will tell you how it happened. I really do not want to be dragged into this because it’s in the past. But for the benefit of the public, I will tell you what happened. Between 1994-1996, I was not physically present on a daily basis in Nigeria. I was in England. I was travelling with my mentor, Dr. Lester Sumral of blessed memory now. Sumral and I were travelling, to Europe and the rest of the world to do mission work. And in 1996, to be precise, I organised a global mission conference here, when we brought all missionaries on the West African coast to nurture, encourage and strengthen them so that they could re-equip and have materials to go back to the field. They were not necessarily Nigerians. Many of them were from abroad, many from West Africa. Oyedepo, being my friend, sent his books here and the books were being sold in our bookshop. This is how I got to know this. And God is witness, and he knows too. The missionaries bought some of the books. The day they brought the books to me, I just told the bookshop to take them and pay whatever it had to pay and then, the bookshop could sell them.
Q: These people carried the materials away. And the head of their organisation, Living Word Missions, called me on phone after the conference and I was in Britain. He said: ‘Why did you allow occultic books to be sold in your church?’
A: I said occultic books? Impossible. He said there were two books that people bought and had been complaining about. One is written by one David Oyedepo, the other by his wife. And they were on communion and oil. I asked what was wrong about communion. I said it’s one of the things that Jesus left for the saints and that oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. He said I had not read the book. I asked him to send me the relevant pages of the books by fax or by e-mail. I thought it could be some people doing mischief. I believed the mistakes must have been made by those who edited the books. That was my thought. These are men we pray together. We didn’t get born-again because we wanted money. I didn’t come into ministry because I wanted money. God blessed me before I came into the ministry. So, the pages were sent to me. I said no, this cannot be. When I read the one that says oil is not the symbol of the Holy Spirit, but the life of God in the bottle, I said this cannot be. I also read the portion that says you can take communion and fly like a bird. I said wait a minute, this is extending truth beyond its limits. So, on my next visit to Nigeria, I requested for the books to match them with the copies I had so I could be sure that nobody was playing a cruel joke on me. Immediately I saw it, the first thing I did was to call Oyedepo. They said he was not available, but that his wife was available. I asked to speak with the wife on the phone. And they said oh, she just stepped out.
I said no problem. In handwritten form, I sent him a fax. Those were not the days you leave messages for people. Phones were not common. So, I sent a fax saying I thought those editing his books were adding garbage in them. I said we needed to meet. There was no response. There is a pastor in his organisation, his name is now Dr. Robert Johnson. We called him Abdullahi. That was his name. He came here. I spoke into two tapes to do a critique and I gave to Abdullahi, who is now Dr. Johnson. He has left his organisation now. I said ‘could you give this to him so that we can meet to talk’. And response came to me that he said these were revelations given to him by God, as God gave revelation to Paul. At that point, I took a step further. I was in America and I was in the house of Wale Oke.
I’m mentioning names because if you want to lie, you don’t have anyone to mention. I said Wale Oke, this is what I’ve seen. Wale Oke and I were in the university together. He said he had also seen it. He said he had gone to him but this was the response. I said if he is teaching heresy to his people, it doesn’t matter to me. But the moment he put it in print form, on radio or television, he is poisoning the public water. Some of us will have to rise up. So, I started a series called the Synagogue of Satan. And I began to deal with those issues, bringing truth.
Because you don’t just shout that piece of stick is crooked. Lay the stick on its side, all eyes will see it. That was what began. And Bishop Mike Okonkwo now met me in Ghana and said don’t let us wash our dirty linen in public. I asked what he had done about it. He said he had gone to Oyedepo, who insisted that it was the revelation that he received from God. I said Mike, if you see me on top of my secretary, not my wife, and I said I’ve just got a revelation from God, will you leave me to die in sin?
When it got hot, he began to curse and swear that my television ministry will go off-air in Nigeria; that I will not have money. There was no curse he didn’t place. Whether that’s the truth or not, time will tell.
Why do I mention names? I’m not doing to so to be a critic. I have a clear agenda and I have a clear mind. If you teach and say to your wife that while you are eating, your wife should not eat and sit down, it’s your home. But don’t extend it to me and raise my children that way. Then you’re looking for trouble. If you teach your people error and they believe in it, it’s between you and them.
But don’t put it in the public arena. I have responsibility over those that look up to me, over those that I pastor and over those that benefit from knowing the truth. It is going to create conflict. There is only one faith, one Lord, one baptism, one God, father of all, who is in you all, through you all. When I was a Muslim, on Juma’at day, when they said Allah U Akbar, we all bowed. You don’t know who is Ansar-Ud-Deen or Nawar-Ud-Deen or Islamiyat. But here we are talking one Christ and seven different ideologies about one thing. So, we must know what is the truth. That is our passion; that is the reason to warn people that these are the apostates and they are only interested in the gospel of wealth.
Q: We’ve seen churches setting up universities with contributions from members, most of whom are unable to afford fees charged by these institutions. What do you make of this?
A: A good leader does not make unnecessary comments. And I’m not trying to say amongst thieves there must be honour. That’s not what I’m saying. I do not know where they got their resources from. It could be bank loans. They could have sourced funds to do it. I am not aware. If you have proof, let me know.
However, I was asked this same question by Newswatch. And I said it is not a new thing. Emory University was set up by the Methodist Church. Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, were all established through Christian initiatives, to raise the standard of education and create an environment that would not be permeated by occultism. That’s the reason for Christian initiative in education. If the government cannot deliver in that sector properly, private initiatives must place. And these universities don’t charge pittance.
But if these universities are missionary endeavours, they should have a human face to the extent that even pastors labouring in such ministries should enjoy some benefit and scholarship for their children. Because they labour side by side with you, I would think that’s what a normal, rational person would do. But these, if you examine them, are not missionary endeavours to raise the standard of education and to benefit people. I think they are just a business venture. And every man in business wants to maximise profit.
Q: What is the position of Christianity on tithing because some argue that it doesn’t have a place in Christianity?
A: I don’t have an opinion. I live by the book. I’ll tell you what is in the book. The first man to pay tithe was Abraham, when he met Melchizedek. And when he gave that tithe, the book of Hebrews says even Levi, who became a priest later, paid tithe while he was still in the loins of his father, Abraham. So, there was tithe before the law. There was tithe during the law. And Christ Jesus now came and said, this you ought to do, but you neglect the weightier matters of the law. This you ought to do and the other you do not neglect. If you are asking what is the agreed position in the New Testament, listen to Paul in I Corinthians Chapter 16, verse 1. At least I’m not reading from the Old Testament. I can tell you by the grace of God that at the Latter Rain Assembly, you can come and watch us, stay for about five or six weeks, you will not hear such a thing mentioned. You will know a church by the time you worship there for six or seven weeks.
We encourage our people because even the running of the place requires support of those who are worshipping there. Do you belong to any club or organisation? To join Ikoyi Club 1938, there are fees. It is the abuse that is the problem because it must come from your heart. Melchizedek did not demand tithe from Abraham. It was what Abraham did willingly. My opinion is that let every man be persuaded in his own heart. If it is not honour, then it is robbery. What the Bible says is honour the Lord with your susbstance and the first fruits of your increase so that your barns may be full. It has to be honour. It is the same word you use for your parents. The first time I gave my mother an allowance was when I was a Youth Corper. I gave her N50 out of my N200 monthly allowance because I was the only one she depended on. And from that year till today, my mother’s monthly allowance has increased, although I won’t tell you how much she gets now. She was 100 in October. I lost my father when I was two years old. So God allowed my mother to stay to see me through. Would I neglect my mother? So also will I not neglect the God who is the source of everything I have. But it has to be a matter of honour. There are three priesthoods in the Bible. The priesthood of Midian, the Levitical priesthood and the Melchizedek priesthood.
This is what is causing the problem. The priesthood of Midian is that of Jethro, the father in-law of Moses. It deals with strategies, administration and dedication of duties. It teaches you how to delegate so that you are not overworked. It does not raise sons, it raises workers. So in such ministries where Jethro principle is what they’re following, you’ll be hearing workers, workers, workers, instead of raising sons of God. Leviticus priesthood is mainly about offering. And remember they were in the wilderness; no supermarket, no work and they didn’t go anywhere. There was nowhere to spend all the money they took from Egypt. So, it’s offering in the morning, offering at night and offering in the evening. When you find a ministry whose major emphasis is bring, bring, give, give, its the Levitical priesthood. They are still in the wilderness. But we have moved out of the wilderness. The priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ Christ, according to Hebrew 6, 7 up to 8, is after the order of Melchizedek who was already a king before he met Abraham. He did not need the offering of Abraham to be king. So those who are practising Melchizedek priesthood do not depend on their congregation. They don’t wait because they are lazy for them to go and work and bring resources to them. They also labour with their own hands to have resources and when the church contributes, they probably contribute more. You can find out these things. So it depends on which priesthood is being practised.
Tithes are to be used to take care of widows, the helpless, and services in the house of God. Why should they come to you to say we want to pay NEPA bills, we want to pay church staff? People that are working in the ministry have to be paid and the organisation has to be run. But it’s never compulsory. If anybody tells you if you don’t pay tithe you will remain tight, greed in his heart is influencing that because Christ has become the cross for us. For it is written: ‘Cursed is anyone that hangs on the tree that the blessing of Abraham now come upon the Gentile’ If it is from your heart, like it was with Abraham, it will bring blessings. But if it is teleguided, it is no longer spirit-led and does not activate anything in heaven. I think what is causing it is that we embark on projects God did not give to us and put ourselves under financial pressure, which we transmit to people. Do I pay tithe? Definitely. But I don’t make it a law for everybody. I do from my earnings because I don’t depend on church offerings. My hands, like Paul’s, provided for my necessities. I pay my tax like any other citizen of this country. I pay from my legitimate earnings. If I have to wait for them to give on Sundays before I send my children to school and eat, then something is wrong. If this church folds up, I cannot live anymore. And in a depressed economy, so many churches have opened up that are not at the instance of the Holy Spirit.
Q: You were once with the Redeemed Christian Church of God and you were among the youths who started the model parishes. Why did you leave?
A: I had kept quite hitherto. And because if you don’t let sleeping dogs lie and you don’t allow lying dogs to sleep, they will continue to bark. Let’s back-track. I got born-again on 24 September 1974 in the Baptist Church. I remained in the Baptist Church until I became a youth pastor. And if you go to Yaba Baptist Church, you will see my name on their plaque. While I was in there, I started attending Monday Bible study at Deeper Life, just to deepen my knowledge. Deeper Life was not a church then. And I stayed in Deeper Life for five years. While I was in the University of Lagos, I was attending Foursquare, being mentored by Dr. Odunaike. I knew him at close range, up to his bedroom. When Deeper Life started as a church, I was invited to be among the core leadership and I stayed there as national legal adviser for five years before I left for the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG. My first visit to the Redeemed Church was on the first Sunday of March, 1984. It was my photographer who invited me. At that point in time, I had reached the point where I said I was tired of churches. It was as if what they were saying and what they were doing were miles apart. I told myself I would not go to church any longer. I remember Brother Kumuyi sending for me and saying: ‘You left Deeper Life for the Redeemed Christian Church of God. You have just jumped from frying pan to fire.’ This is the first time I’m saying this in the open. I said if the fire burned me, I would warm myself in it because I was tired of what I was seeing here because I didn’t see them in scriptures. I didn’t get born-again in the Redeemed Christian Church of God. I didn’t get baptised in the Holy Ghost in the Redeemed Christian Church of God. I had served in leadership capacity in different churches ever before I came to the Redeemed Church. That’s why I say you can’t say I am one of the youths that started this. That is one.
Two, the first day I got to RCCG, Pastor Adeboye was looking for professionals. And when they said all God’s children should wait, I told my fiancee, now my wife, that they were talking to their members. And she said we should wait till the end. I sat there, at the back. Pastor Adeboye said: ‘That brother in blue white blue.’ I said: ‘Me?’ He said: ‘What’s your profession?’ I said: ‘I’m a lawyer.’ He told me to see him that day.
I was running away from responsibilities in the church and I ran into another one. I went to see him and he said the church had some cases in court. I handled them free of charge. His approach was really gentlemanly and I thought I should give him a chance. That was how I started in that church. The first house I ever built in my life is at the Redemption Camp. I built it in 1986-87. I built it to just live there and serve God. I didn’t want to be a pastor. I’m a trained lawyer. I trained under Gani and trained under Rotimi Williams. I wanted to practise my profession. I had three things at the back of my mind in my life: to be a successful legal practitioner, to get to the peak of my career and to be a successful millionaire. And by 1986/87, I already had seven lawyers in my chambers, working full-time. I won my first Appeal Court case on my 21st day at the bar. I learnt under the masters. That’s why Gani’s death shook me. If you see some of the books Gani wrote, you will see my name in them. He dedicated some of them to me, to our industry while we were with him, before I crossed to Chief Rotimi Williams’ chambers and later to start my own practice. I was doing business. I brought Skoda into Nigeria. I had factories in Nigeria and I was doing well in international trade. I wanted to use both law and business to go into politics. That was my triangle. I feel lazy souls look for ways and means of manipulating people for what they cannot get through their own skills. God blessed what I was doing. And if it’s the other way round, time will tell because the records are there of my giving to the church. I remember my external auditor, Mr. Dupe Adubiaro, who is still in the Redeemed Christian Church of God and who is the chairman of their building committee in Festac. I took him to Redeemed. He’s my external auditor till today. He’s the one preparing my tax papers. He came one day and said at the rate you’re going, you will go bankrupt because every cheque I see is to the church. I said I don’t give people my money; I give it to God, whenever there is need in the house of God. Secondly, the vision for the model parishes was given to me, not to Pastor Adeboye, regardless of all propaganda and lies you have heard. It was on 3rd of May 1988 that God gave me the vision. There was no other person in the place where God gave it to me. I went to Ladipo Oluwole Street. And I have witnesses. One of them is dead, two are alive. Babalola, who was electrician in the church; Olufunlayo, who was the builder that built my house at the camp; and Olugbemi, a painter in that church, who has left now to start his own church. They were the three people I took to this building and we started. It was the fourth day and I said, wait a minute, I’ve not told Pastor Adeboye what God told me. And they took me in their car and we rushed to the camp and Pastor Adeboye came the following day. And when he saw what I was doing, he said: ‘What would you call this?’ God is witness and let God be the judge of every man in life. I said: ‘Sir, I have no desire to be a pastor. I received this vision that what you are doing can never catapult the gospel to the nations of the earth. Because everything is marooned in Ebutte Metta among the old (what they called classical). And it’s like reading the Bible upside down.’
I asked how we could reach the next generation and suggested that we should call this Model Parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. The concept then was to have one Model Parish in every city. So, we did one in Lagos and we did one in Ibadan until 1 October 1988, when God said my time was up. And I told only two people that day. Tony Rapu and Niyi Adefowope, who were MC’s at my annual El-Shaddai Day for my chambers. And we do that El-Shaddai feast once a year. Instead of giving bribes to civil servants, I’ll call them together once a year, give them a feast and bless them. I’m writing my memoirs and one of the chapters is titled The Model Parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God: Fiction and Facts. If you have heard all kinds of lies and propaganda that were issued out, falsehood may go for years, when the arrow of truth shoots, there will be no trace of falsehood. That’s why I will mention persons and names so that these things can be verified at the right time. I left them when God said it was time to move. And I went to Adeboye to tell him. And what he said to me, which we call the 14 points, are all written. He had a copy, I have a copy. That’s why when I publish my memoirs, you will not find me saying ‘I think God said’ and ‘I think this is it.’ I would tell you what happened.
I am a student of history and I am a lawyer by discipline. I’m not trying to expose anyone, but we better leave lying dogs to sleep or allow sleeping dogs to lie or else when they begin to bark, they will bite. I remember immediately I left, they quickly groomed Tony to take my position. One professional has gone, then another.
Q: Where’s Tony? Is he still there? Or are the two of us imbeciles?
A: Your wife is not visible unlike the wives of other pastors. Is this deliberate or is she just a reclusive person?
I would want you to ask her directly, but she is not in the country. We have five children. You look in the Bible and you see Eli. Have you ever heard Mrs. Eli? Did you see Mrs. Samuel? I’m not saying women should not be in the ministry. Those who are called by God to serve in pastoral capacity in churches side by side with their wife should receive that call and fulfil it. But my wife does not become a pastor because I’m a pastor. It’s the same mentality that the head of state’s wife must be first lady and must have an office. No. The call of God can be upon a family, can be upon an individual. My wife supports me absolutely. Did she play roles when she was here? Yes. But we have five children. Who wants to save the world and lose his own children? So, we decided that she would hold the home front. I don’t think I’ll be what I am without a solid wife behind me. She’s not a nuisance or somebody that can be silenced. She functions in the areas that she has received grace.
Any animal with two heads is a monster. Your wife does not become a co-pastor because you are a pastor. There’s no such thing in the Bible. If not, Peter’s wife should have been a pastor. So should have been the wives of others who were married. It’s just a mess that is in the world.
Q: And when the man dies the woman steps in…
A: Because it is a family business.