•As The Mantle Of Leadership Falls On LAYO
Late Primate Omolaja Olorunwo was one of the few men of God who walked in the real power of God in his generation. He lived a life of service to God and humanity. He left his job as an Architect to face the ministry full time and in the process, the Lord used him mightily. It was recorded that he was taken up the wind for seven days where he encountered the mighty power of God in the early days of the ministry, and from there, he started living in the miraculous. God used him so mightily that he touched the lives of both the mighty men and ordinary people on the streets. A former president wept profusely when he heard that Primate Olorunwo was dead because he will be missed, while another young man came to reveal how Baba paid his school fees from primary school till he graduated without even knowing his parents. Such was the kind of influence Baba Adua, as he is fondly called, had.
After his death, the question on everybody’s lip was who can wear the huge shoe Primate Olorunwo left behind? Who would be able to take over the mantle of power at the Olorunwo Cathedral C&S church and still influence the people as Baba did?
However, one of his children, Venerable Layo Olorunwo, who is a Lagos Lawyer & the Provost of the church has now taken up the mantle of leadership. He was abroad with his wife & family when Papa told him to come back home to witness his 85th birthday which was celebrated low-key. His decision to obey his dad and return home has turned out to be a blessing, because he enjoyed a few days of unusual intimacy with his dad before he passed after his birthday celebration.
Those days were days when Papa & Layo had heart-to-heart talks. He gave Layo instructions on what he specifically wanted Layo to do for him. The situation could be likened to a father who wanted to go on a trip and left instructions on what he wants to be done when he is away.
City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE and the Head of Brands Desk, DAMILARE SALAMI 08113412 spent quality time with Venerable Layo last week during which he told City People all his father told him before he passed on to greater glory. Below are excerpts from the interview. Read on.
What will happen to the church in terms of administration and all that?
When we had a press conference to announce Baba’s death, it was such a surprise that that was the same question all the media houses that were in attendance were asking; about fifteen of them. I can tell you with so much conviction and assurance that Baba left a good spiritual arrangement. The church is one, the board of trustees is one, the entire members are one and the children are also one. So, we don’t have any issues as regards the succession plans or the administration of the church. I am the provost and the venerable in charge of the church; so, in terms of administration, we are still operating the way we should. Myself and my siblings are all working together as a team. The church is even getting better; I can say this with all confidence. Before Christ died, the gospel was just within the communities he could walk or travel to but after his death, we had Paul, Peter, Philip, James and many others travelling to Ethiopia, Samaria and different parts of the world to preach the gospel and make Christ more popularly known. Now I can assure you that the church is going places and the gospel will reach wider cities than when Baba was alive. Baba’s death is a blessing to the church, it is not going to set the church back because we know that he (Baba) was someone who was always pursuing progress and we know that his death definitely is going to be progressive for the church. So, the church is being run smoothly, nothing is holding us back and we are set to do more.
Let me ask this, you mentioned a lot of signs about Baba’s departure especially to you personally. What messages were you deriving from those signs?
You just asked a very apt question because I didn’t realize why Baba was doing all he did until after his death. I never knew why he wanted me to come home and the very first day I returned from the US, I went straight to his house and Baba, my mum, my elder brother and I were together when I asked him in these exact words ‘you have been pestering me to come home and now that I’m home “ki lo wa fe sele bayi”, meaning that what is now going to happen?’ I never knew this was what was going to happen but now I know. And when I asked the question, he didn’t answer me but thinking backwards now, I could remember that I saw sadness on his face, he didn’t respond, he was just quiet.
How is Mama taking it?
Well, for Mama, they’ve been together for over 60 years and their relationship is not just about love but also spiritual. It’s like the relationship between a snail and its shell, they are always together. One thing we grew up to know about them is that if Baba doesn’t eat, my mum will not eat. What they shared wasn’t a joke, it was a serious bond but then, she is a Christian and the book of Thessalonians tells us not to mourn like unbelievers but like those that have hope because we are sure that we are going to meet and see Baba again. I was with her today and I can tell you that Mama is now closer to God because she wants to see the love of her life again, she wants to be with Baba where he is. I met her reading her Bible and she was even encouraging me to get even closer to God and do more for Him. All she’s doing now is to walk in holiness. She said “Layo, a gbodo sise Olorun dada kale pade Baba.” Meaning we must do God’s work properly so that we can meet Baba and she knows that the only way to meet her love is by living a holy life. She made a statement today when I was with her, she said with all the signs we saw before Baba died, we also must strive to be closer to God. Before Baba died, we saw that two angels came to visit him and we realized that they were ready to take him away; that was on Monday after his 85th birthday but my sister who is a judge did some supplications and God answered her. But we could only delay him, we couldn’t stop him. God said the angels are already here and they had to do their job. So we delayed them from Monday till Thursday before he died. And on the day he died, there was heavy thunder and it rained for three days non-stop from the second of September to the fourth. Check 2nd, 3rd and 4th September weather forecast, it rained non-stop to confirm that a great man has gone.
If you look back, how would you say Baba prepared you for the new role you are now playing in the church and the work of ministry in general?
I don’t want to talk about roles now but let me tell you that Baba prepared me very well for the work of God. He did this over 12 years ago during one of our Christmas Carol services; it’s actually 15 years ago when Baba called me and said he has been led by the Holy Spirit to elevate me to the position of a venerable apostle of the church. Of course, I have been a member of the church for over 40 years and an ordained worker but our church is not like other Pentecostal churches where they give people titles because of their contributions to the church or number of years. They have to be led by the spirit. I said no to the offer because I know what it means, I insisted that I wasn’t going to take the title and I went back to my nuclear home to tell my wife what Baba said but I told her that I want to remain in my law practice instead. I stood my ground and insisted that it was too much a responsibility for me at my age but Baba came back to me and said “Layo, I’m not giving you this title because you are my son but because the Holy Spirit told me to do so.” And then, he explained what he saw to me. What he said actually got me and I gave in because it was God’s order. He said that he saw that he was leading a big boat and he saw that people were going off the boat until I came to the boat and I captained it, then people started coming back until I captained the boat to shore and everybody got down safely. He said so many other things as well and then I admitted that this is a call to service because we have an understanding of the word of God, we know that when you are a leader, you are called to service just as Christ said that you are the number one servant or slave. You are meant to serve the people you think that you are leading. Remember in the book of Matthew where Jesus was telling his disciples that he didn’t come to be served but to serve. So I have that understanding, Baba has told us and we have also read it in the scriptures that leadership is not about carrying titles or being served, it is about you serving the people, that was why I felt that the title was too big for me. I had to take the oath of office and add it to my already cumbersome law practice and family life. Baba did all the grooming I needed for so many years, for more than 30 years.
Let me take it up from there. Looking at where Baba left the church and where we are now, what are we expecting in the near future?
City People, you people are very powerful with your questions and your questions are prophetic too. You may think that you are just asking questions but I believe that the hand of God is upon you people. Baba was a prophet and you cannot question the works of a prophet. When Baba was alive, there were so many things that many of us including myself would want to do in the church but we couldn’t because of Baba. He hears directly from God and we cannot question why he does things the way he does them. But now that he is gone and he has left the legacy for the entire members of the church, and also for the children, I’m telling you that it’s a new dawn and a new beginning. We are not deviating from his legacies but we are starting on a different platform. When Jesus Christ died, he told his disciples that the gospel must go round the world; likewise, we are also taking the church higher. If you look at our church, you will see that it is Olorunwo Cathedral Church, Nigeria and Overseas, we are not just remaining in all the states we have already covered, we are going beyond those shores and our major objective is to convert souls for Christ. Baba has said ‘ka pade layo’ meaning that we should meet again in joy and the only way we can achieve that is by making sure that we do the work so that when it is time for us too to go home, angels will come and take us. We are all now on our toes, I mean the entire church members, we want to move the work beyond where our father left it. We have inculcated new programmes into what we used to have before, our punctuality has improved, we are all working to achieve the goal of doing better because we all want to meet Baba in joy.
As a lawyer, are you considering quitting law practice to face the ministry full time?
Well… your question is too direct but I will answer you (laughs). We are six really and Baba has appeared to all my siblings and I and he has given the directive as to what will happen in terms of succession and leadership. That is not an issue at all and I can tell you that as a family, we are united. Talking about quitting my profession to face the ministry full time, well, I’ve been doing both as a venerable and provost of the church, I have been combining my law practice and ministry well. I have so many colleagues and even senior friends that are senior advocates and also pastors. Wemimo Ogunde is a SAN and he’s a pastor in Redeem. Alex Ekoh is the DG of BPE, that’s the Bureau of Public Enterprises and he’s also a Pastor. He travels from Abuja to Ikoyi to Minister at his church every weekend. Even the Vice President, His Excellency, Prof Yemi Osibajo, he’s a SAN and a Pastor and even if he can’t travel every weekend, he still finds a way to combine so many things with being a Pastor; these are facts that you can verify. So combining law practice and the work of the ministry for me is not new, I’ve been doing both perfectly but I know that it will be more challenging now because Baba is no longer there to do some things. But I know that the spirit of God is there to strengthen us and he will help us to do more. The little I can say for now is that the God that called us has started opening doors for us, he has started providing the enablement to do it spiritually, financially and emotionally because the things that were not happening before have started happening. And that is a confirmation for me that God is really behind me as a Pillar of support. Managing both will not be a problem but there will be more pressure on the chamber because I have to devote more time to God’s work. However, we have senior lawyers that are capable of handling cases even when we are not available. So we are not closing our law office (laughs).
In the course of your Christian journey, have you had any reason to attend any Bible school or Seminary to aid your call or ministry?
Theological or Bible school I went is right from birth. It is not all about Theological school, it is all about inspiration, they call it ‘imisi’. You get that inspiration when you study the word of God. You don’t need anybody to move you closer to God, you don’t need anybody to interpret the Bible to you, we grew up in a Theological family so we need not attend any school of Theology. I grew up reading my Bible and I have lost count of the number of times I have completed the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. They are not saying anything new in the Theological school and most times, what they teach is the literal interpretation of the Bible. But when you read the Bible and you have that spiritual inspiration, it makes a lot of difference. When you read a portion of the Bible and I also do and interpret it with spiritual inspiration, you will be amazed at the depth of the inspiration. So that is the Theological school I have attended from childhood to date with the guidance and assistance of our father, Primate Omolaja Olorunwo. He will sit you down, teach you, our father can quote so many Bible verses and he will support them with Yoruba proverbs and you will agree that he is correct. So there is so much wisdom, so much training and so much tutelage that one has gone through from him, right from childhood. So attending a Theological school is just a plus for us.