•Reveals What To Expect At The 83rd Edition
There are some churches in Nigeria and Africa, with ties to Western Orthodox Churches. Then, there are some roots that are authentically African. Long before ‘Americanised’ styled churches that cover the length and breadth of Nigeria now, white garment churches like ALADURA, Celestial and Cherubim and Seraphim reigned supreme, it will be a thing of marvel that a few are almost a century in existence. Indeed, The Church Of The Lord Prayer Fellowship Worldwide is one of them, as it is set to mark 83 years of its annual prayer convention, popularly known as Tabieorar.
Interestingly, the Church, with a global reach, long before any Nigerian indigenous church had branches abroad, hardly courts publicity. Last week, City People Reporter, Titi Oshunlalu, who was born and raised in the Church (as her Mother had been a member since 1971) spoke to Primate of the Church, His Holiness, Most Revd Dr Okikiola Ositelu in a very rare interview.
He was so gracious to grant us an audience just hours before he climbed Mount Tabieorar, which will see him having limited contact with the outside world to observe 13 days of white fast, which will culminate in the TABIEORAR Convention on the 22nd of August 2019. It’s going to be a big gathering, in its 83rd year, with hundreds of thousands attending, at the headquarters of the Church at Km 60, Ogere Remo, along the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway, Ogun State. Below are excerpts of the interview.
Kindly tell us about Primate Ositelu?
I am His Holiness, The Most Rev.Dr Rufus Okikiola Olubiyi Oshitelu (Phd) Computer Science Phd Religious Studies) The ALADURA Patriarch and primate of The Church Of The Lord Prayer Fellowship Worldwide.
The church of Lord has had 3 elders or founders. Your late father, Oshitelu, Oduwole and Adejobi. Many worshippers knew Adejobi, but the younger ones don’t know the others. Kindly tell us about them.
First and foremost the question is wrongly put and I don’t blame you. Even my workers and ministers don’t know the story. They say the wrong story and pass it round to others, The truth about the history of the 3 elders is this, Apostle Oduwole was not born, when the church started, The church started in 1925 and Late Primate Adejobi joined the church in 1940. The truth is that the 2 men were very great people and they performed wonderfully well during their time and their names cannot be forgotten in the history of the church. But there was nothing like founding members among the 3 of them. When you say, founding, it means 3 people came together to set up the church, the 2 men of God were sent abroad by my late father, Primate Josiah Olunowo Oshitelu. Both of them did very well home and abroad. Late Adejobi pioneered the church in Sierra Leone and late Apostle Oduwole pioneered the church in Liberia. Both of them went on the same ship, as there was no flight by then and the ship is Lagos to London. The ship stopped in Accra as Liberia was a colony of United States then. The next stop is Freetown in Sierra Leone. Late Adejobi and Late Oduwole went together, but, 2 weeks later, Oduwole travelled from Sierra Leone to pioneer the church in Liberia.
Virtually all extended members of your family were involved in the church years after it was founded, do you think it helped in keeping the legacy of the founder and the expansion of the church?
By the Grace of God, there were 2 things involved. The Yoruba adage says, though, I don’t believe much in Yoruba adage,(Eni to ba mo yin ihun la n gbe oye fun, For example Late Primate Adejobi was the Primate for 25years and I was just Primate for 21 years and I did 10 times what Adejobi did. As far as spiritual, physical, administration, material and development, no one can develop the church like Oshitelu family, not even Adejobi. Though, Adejobi tried his best anyway, and because we are a spiritual church and believe in what God says, we have 5 different men of God that saw vision in 1998,even before I emerged, that Opa Alade ko ni kuro ni Ile Oshitelu Lailai, meaning, the kingship crown will never leave Oshitelu house and because we believe in what God says, being a spiritual church, so it is, Hannah was told, though, I was not there (laughs)
What do you think has changed as per the direction the church is going over the years.
So much development in all spheres, both material, spiritual, name it, things the church has not seen in the last 40 years, even in the last 50years, it has experienced it now.
When you were called to be primate, what was the biggest thing you felt you were giving up apart from your professional life?
We are all humans, there was nothing I felt than money (Laughs) But, what I have gained is more than what I left. I gave material things, but, I gained spiritual. There is nothing better than to gain Christ. I had already known Christ and I was a part time Pastor before I was called.
Tabieorar is 83 this year, what do you think your late father, Primate and founder, Josiah Olunowo Ositelu would have said about it, especially as he kicked it off decades ago?
To my late father, he is concerned about what God says. My father is a spiritual father, his focus is only on spiritual things
What does TABIEORAR mean to you and your siblings?
TABIEORAR has always meant and will continue to mean a period of spiritual sovereignty and a time of festival, a time of celebration, a time to commune with God and to pay your vows and expect more from God. Also, I always tell journalists and intellectuals, that there is no where on earth you will see 100 of thousands of people coming to pay their vows, no testimonies other than this.
Tell us about 2019 Tabieorar Celebration?
The Holy Mount Tabieorar Celebration is a sacred festival inspired by God through the Founder and First Primate Prophet & General Superintendent Dr. Josiah Olunowo OSITELU of blessed memory, in 1937. Ever since, it has waxed stronger. The Tabieorar Festival is similar to the biblical yearly Pilgrimage of the Israelites to Shiloh. Tabieorar started in August 1937 as directed by the Holy Spirit. It is a place of covenant where hundreds of thousands come to give thanks and to receive from the covenant God of Tabieorar.
On the Tabieorar Day, the power of God will descend on all the pilgrims with intensity. Many will receive cleansing, mercy, favour, Holy Spirit, salvation, miracles, victory, good children, fresh anointing, perfect peace, progress, success, joy, overflowing blessings and satisfaction. And Jesus alone will be glorified.
Prior to the Tabieorar Grand Finale, we usually observe 13 days of White Fasting and prayers for Peace and Progress in all countries of the world and particularly in our country, commencing from the 10th of August of every year. The Grand finale is always on the 22nd of August of every year, when people of diverse denominations and backgrounds gather on the Holy Mount Tabieorar to receive the 13 prophetic blessings. The figure 13 stands for total victory.
Since 1937, the faithful’s have been thronging the Holy Mount Tabieorar to pay their vows as a form of Testimony and Thanksgiving for answered prayers. This is a great testimony of the efficacy of God’s prophecy, promise and faithfulness towards the Holy Mount Tabieorar.
GOD BLESS NIGERIA!
The 13 days White fasting towards the TABIEORAR convention is quite unique to the church of the Lord. Kindly explain it to those who do not know. Also, what else is unique to the church of the Lord?
So many things are unique in the church. For example we are the only church in Nigeria that the express road came to meet. All other churches came to meet the express, while express came to meet us. (CL) TABIEORAR started in 1937 and it was a dictate from God to late Primate Ositelu that TABIEORAR should be celebrated every 22nd of August, if late Primate Ositelu wanted to use flesh, he would have chosen dry season for the celebration of TABIEORAR, but, God chose the date himself and as we know other churches ,big churches and not small small churches, now fix their convention in August and had to also rush to the express. Meanwhile, some of the churches do their convention in December and some did their convention in bar beach, where so many people die in the process and they had to rush to the express. I will not mention name of the church (laughs)
One could say the Church of the Lord is the Landlord for Churches along the Express, how does this make you feel when it’s almost a given that Churches have their biggest gatherings and sites along it years after your Church?
Like I said earlier, other churches came to meet us on the express and we don’t cause traffic on the express. There was a time Tell magazine came to me and asked why is it that we don’t cause much traffic whenever we have a TABIEORAR festival. I gave him the same question, come during TABIEORAR, you will see it yourself. People drive in, into the town and don’t need to obstruct the traffic, like other churches do.
Many people, some who aren’t even Christians buy the Book of Visions from TABIEORAR. Is there any pressure to deliver, as other Churches who came years later after Church of the Lord to give it even more publicly?
We don’t have any pressure at all. We are doing the vision book because of what people say. We are doing it because God says we should do it, that was why we go on 13 days dry fasting before the commencement of the TABIEORAR festival. No other church is doing this, but, they can only copy us. We started it. I am not surprised as God has said, other churches will copy what you are doing. We are doing it for people’s expansion and through God’s direction and not as a business as other big churches do. Just like people, Jeremiah was complaining to God, Jeremiah said negative things and people were telling him, don’t mind him, a lot of men of God, these days will say, God says, let us not confuse people with God says, but let us know what we tell people that God says. There was a time many journalists rushed to me from diverse media and said, Sir, who is a true servant of God. In 2003,a man of God said, Gbenga Daniel will win the election against Osoba in Ogun State. I told them in 2002,that 2003 is just next year, we will see who is truly a servant of God. Many journalists have not forgotten, in 2002,before the election in 2003,I and my lieutenant went to pray with Gbenga Daniel and God gave me a message and saw Gbenga Daniel being crowned against Osoba. Meanwhile, Osoba had gone to a man of God, who told him, Osoba will win the election.
Many top VIPs and popular people in the Society were either born in the Church or grew up here eg Majek Fashek used to light up Taborrah with his Saxophone, can you recount some other people who came up through the Church and how does it make you feel?.
Dele Momodu was born in CL, As you mentioned Majek Fashek was also born here and we all know him as a musician and many more of them and they are doing their bid. Last year, Majek Fashek performed in one of our churches in Lagos and we thank God for their lives. Dele Momodu will be present at the coming TABIEORAR 22nd August 2019. You can come around and interview him also
At 83, and with global Worshippers and generations who remain in the Church, yet many people cannot differentiate CL from other African based Spiritual Churches, do you think more should be done as per Publicity?.
Church of the Lord is known for positive things. You cannot hear or see a minister in our church engaging in bad atrocities, though, there is room for improvement as per publicity, I do tell people there is publicity and there is publicity. If you want to be popular, you just commit atrocities. Unlike what we know that other churches do, even what most white garments do, there are some churches where the pastor is engaged in raping young girls. There are some, that will perform rituals. Once journalist hear this, they jump in there and get interested in the news. Before you know it, the church is popular. Church of the Lord is not like that, every one knows CL as a spiritual church, in terms of spiritual and material things. But, spiritually, they know we are number, I met a manager some where in Lagos, he recognised me and ushered me into his office to attend to me well and said he likes my church, though, he belongs to another church. He likes what we are doing and he was just following his friends to his present church, just to feel among. But, he does not believe in what they are doing and every Cross over night 31st of December, he attends our Tabs branch, and meets our bishop there one on one after the Cross over night service and tells the bishop to pray for him and the bishop will tell him all that will happen in the new year and all the vision will come to pass. God is not interested in the church or doctrine we do, he is only interested in our soul, when we die, it is our soul that matters to Him and not the church we belong to.
How does CL impact the community as per religious and social obligations?
CL has really impacted the community. Take for instance, we have our health center very close to my office. The 1st woman that gave birth there is an Hausa woman and a Muslim. We don’t restrict any one from our health center. Also, we have our schools and our tuition are free. People don’t want to come because of our low fees. But, in our secondary schools when people see our Waec results and see that our children are making A’s and B’s in their WAEC result, they started partronising us. We are not like some churches who will start a school with the contribution of the workers and at the end of the day, the workers cannot afford the school fees. It’s only outsiders that will be able to afford the payment of the school fees, so what are we talking about. When missionaries came, it was free to all.
There was a large migration of youths from white garment Churches to Pentecostal ones when Pentecostal got bigger, how did this affect CL?
It does not affect the church, because we teach our youth how to drum, play instruments, but, they go to other churches where they will pay them 2,000 and now I was told they pay them 2,500. Why should we pay our youths for working for God. I don’t blame them, when a mother of one of our youth told us that why will she not allow her son to go to a place where they will pay him 2,000 or 2,500 every Sunday. She even told us that as she was talking to us she was left with 100 in her pocket and did not know what she and children will eat tomorrow. So she encouraged her son to go ahead with the paying church.
Continuing with the Youth Theme, what can be done to build even a more vibrant Youth fellowship in the Church?
The youth have series of program s like if you come on the 21st of August, you will see our youths performing in Halleluyah nite.
Infact, the guest minister they invited was surprised if this was white garment because of the performance of the youth. We also have Campus fellowship all over our universities. The fellowship is now holding our youths and it makes them feel at home and it has been helping the youth, and also we are planning to give free hand to the youth, but we will have to supervise them also
Back to Tabborah, what roughly is the number of attendees per year?
Like 1.5 million or 1.2million per year
Are there any special preparations to mark 83 TABIEORAR?
Yes, there are 2 special artistes and also Dele Momodu will be in attendance, Infact, the VIP’s we will be having this year. We have never had such before, so many artists have also been called, and they will be in attendance,
Your brother, the late Primate must have had his own ideas about the office, kindly briefly assess his time as Primate.
My brother was head of Agriculture in Ife. Administratively he was good, What he left behind is what I am enjoying. His predecessor left nothing for him. His predecessor was a teacher, but, my brother left something for me, which I am enjoying today. My brother is an administrator and his leadership was good
Does it defer from yours?
By His Grace, I continued from where my brother stopped, all the files in this office was created by my brother and I continued the good work.
Having been a Primate for a while, do you think you have achieved some of your vision or direction for the office?
Yes, because 85% of vision has been achieved in the last 21years in my office and I will take TABIEORAR to the next level by His Grace.
What are the things you feel can be improved upon especially in the general programme of the Church?
To have youths drive everywhere. We will give our youth more vision as to create campus fellowship in all the universities
Was it deliberate for the Church not to be very much out there, concerning publicity of it’s various events compared to it’s contemporaries?
We do a lot of publicity. For instance, we do TV publicity, we also do publicity with few news paper e.g Guardian, Punch and Tribune news papers.
-Part 2 next week