By Oladele Ogunsola
Auditorium of the Christ Life Church of the Sword of the Spirit Ministries, Garden of Victory, Ola-Ogun in Old Ife Road area of Ibadan was agog penultimate Sunday for the Presiding Bishop of the church worldwide, Bishop Francis Wale Oke at a special Thanksgiving Service to celebrate his recent election as the 7th National President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria [PFN].
The epoch-making event had in attendance the powerful representations of the political class through the governor of Oyo State, Engr. Seyi Makinde, the traditional class through the paramount ruler of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Akanmu Adetunji, Aje Ogungunniso 1and expectedly, the spiritual class in dozens led by the National President, Christian Association of Nigeria [CAN], Rev. Dr. Olasupo Ayokunle.
It was really a period of soul-searching for the country before the Lord as the CAN President, Dr. Ayokunle minced no words in addressing the various ills plaguing the country, just as he pointed it to out to the new PFN President that he came on board at a very difficult time.
Likening Oke’s election to the call of Moses by God in the Bible as recorded in the book of Exodus 3:1-15, the CAN President said Bishop Oke was being called to lead the PFN at a difficult time.
While enjoining the new PFN President to be of good cheer and courage because the unanimity process that his election took confirmed that the call was divine, Dr. Ayokunle, who is also the 7th CAN President noted that it was God’s design and not mere coincidence by God to bring spirituality Headquarters of the country to Ibadan. Dwelling on his experience, he asked Bishop Oke to prepare for the worst, saying, “nobody talked about you when you were not there”. The CAN President also reminded Oke that leadership is a tough assignment and not bread and butter thing. “Those who fight tooth and nail to occupy leadership position don’t usually end well”. He recalled that he did all he could to pray off the revelation of his emergence as the CAN President which God had shown him months before the issue came up, but God did not answer his prayers and that was how he became CAN President against his wish.
“The enormity of the challenges a leader faces make it scary for the elect of God and they are always reluctant of coming forward to take leadership positions. Despite all the assurances God gave to Moses, he didn’t still jump at it, rather, he asked God to send another person”, the CAN President recounted. Having accepted the PFN leadership which came through unanimous voice, he called on the new President to hearken to God who has chosen him at this difficult time. According to him, “Nigerians are crying and God has called you to lead His people. Carry your burden to him, because He’s the one that called you”.
Dr. Ayokunle asked Oke to speak against and proffer solutions to the problem of insecurity in Nigeria, stressing that those in authority seem helpless. He reminded him that people would hate him, but, he urged him to remain steadfast and committed to the cause of God and the welfare of the generality of the people. Religious leaders, according to him, “are watchmen over Nigerians. You must speak against religious tension. The future of many Nigerians is hanging on you. Leadership is about diligence, delivery, and satisfying God-the caller, it is time to douse religious tension in the country”.
To make the job of the religious leaders light, the CAN President admonished those in secular authority to be very careful and be conscious of the country’s diversity in whatever they do or say. He remarked, for instance that skewed appointment is dividing the country the more.
Recalling the recent appointment of Appeal Court Judges, Dr. Ayokunle described the incident as very absurd, asking that why would 13 out of the 20 Judges appointed come from the Northern part of the country, leaving only seven for the entire Southern part and to worsen the situation, not a single Christian could make the list from the North. “Are we saying all the Christian Judges in the North are dullard”, he queried?
To douse the current agitation for self-determination from across some sections of the country, he insisted that everybody must be assured of sense of belonging, noting that “our inability to respect our diversity is the cause of agitation for self-determination. I’m not preaching secession, but, where some people will be confined into perpetual slavery in the fatherland and voice of reason will not be listened to, it may be to your tent oh Israel”.
Another vital area that should be of concern to the new PFN President in the sermon by Dr. Ayokunle was mass unemployment, a phenomenon the CAN President said had put the country on edge. Stressing that not until the millions of idle hands of the youths are productively engaged, he maintained that it may be difficult to talk of peace in the land. He asked Bishop Oke to let God alone be his sufficiency, because the call to lead the Christian body at this particular point in time in the history of Nigeria was divine, asking him to be strong in the Lord always, show courage in leadership and always obey the voice of God.
Responding to the charges by the CAN President, the new PFN President acknowledged the enormity of the challenges posed by the new position. He told the congregation that the PFN is composed of seven zones and all the zones have capable hands to lead the body at the national level. Being a spiritual house and not a political party, Bishop Oke explained that he vowed not to campaign for the post. Rather, he said he decided to pray and said to himself that if called upon to lead the body, he won’t turn it down. Eventually, he said the decision to make him the President was the unanimous decision of all the seven zones, a kind of confirmation that it was the wish of God as earlier noted by the CAN President.
Asking the congregation to read his seven-point agenda of- “The Save Nigeria, agenda, The PFN All-inclusion/expansion agenda, The Abuja Office Project, The Youth on Fire agenda, PFN in Diaspora, PFN Multi-Media and Partnership for strength” he urged for prayers for their accomplishment. Bishop Oke agreed with Dr. Ayokunle on the multi-faceted problems confronting the country with particular reference to the menace of Fulani herders and the accompanying vices.
The PFN President recalled that he had been praying for the birth of a new Nigeria since 1983 and he would not now abandon the worthy cause, recalling that God raised Church to save the people. He also enjoined the people saddled with the responsibility of directing the political affairs of the people to diligently do their bit while the clergymen do theirs.
According to him, “those in power should deliver justice. A good government will not negotiate with bandits, no good government will negotiate with kidnappers, people are voted into office to bring judgment to offenders. Those in power are not there to negotiate with the wicked. Don’t expect us to kill the killers, it is the responsibility of the government to punish offenders according to the law of the land, government should be courageous, they are elected to act and deliver”.
On the agitation for self-determination, Bishop Oke admitted that it was the function of the frustration being experienced by the people. Stressing that the country would be better as one united and indivisible entity, he however counseled that the political leaders of the country must listen to people’s complaints. If the people’s complaints are genuinely addressed by those in authority, he expressed optimism that reason would prevail and agitation would die down. On religious tension, he enjoined Christians to embrace love, a virtue the only begotten son of God, Jesus Christ epitomized.
Recalling that the most powerful force on earth is love, he remarked that evil would bow before the good in Nigeria. He disclosed that God spoke to him in the Bible, through the book of Romans 12:17-21, asking people to live in love and peace. “As Christians, they have killed us before and they will still kill us. We cant continue to multiply violence, our terrain is love, sacrificial bleeding not violence, not retaliation, we are enjoined not to be overcome by evil”, he admonished further.
Wrapping up the glorious moment, the governor of the state, Engr. Makinde, who was accompanied by his wife, Mrs. Makinde, his deputy, Engr. Rauf Olaniyan, the Chairman, the state Advisory Committee, Sen. Hosea Ayoola Agboola among others noted on a lighter note that having been surrounded by three spiritual Presidents in the state- CAN President, PFN President and the newly installed worldwide President of the Christ Apostolic Church [CAC], Pastor Samson Oladele, there’s nobody to be afraid of.
While alluding to Number “7” as a symbol of completeness and perfection, the Oyo State helmsman prophesized that by 2023 when the current political experience marks its seventh tenure, all the current challenges would have led to perfect redemption of the country.
The Oyo State Governor urged Nigerians to pray for the country and the people in leadership positions. He remarked that the problems of insecurity, ethnic and religious tension are rearing their ugly heads now because God wants to redeem Nigeria and it would start from Oyo State. Tasking the people to remain focused in the midst of all the confusions pervading the land, Engr. Makinde said, “in the midst of all these confusions, we need to think straight so as not to throw away the baby with the bath-water”.
He used the occasion to charge the Christians on the imperative of their involvement in politics so as to ensure the raising of leaders that would be God- fearing and people-conscious in administration. The governor remarked that with the population of the Christians, in the country, the dearth of quality and God-fearing leaders should be unheard of.
Just before Dr. Ayokunle began his sermon, he had told the congregation of an Award of Outstanding Leadership that had earlier been bestowed on the new PFN President ever before his election in recognition of his marvelous contributions to humanity in both secular and spiritual spheres and to encourage him to do more. The Award, which was given by the Baptist Convention in Nigeria could not be personally conferred on Bishop Oke at the colourful ceremony because of his absence then, according to Dr. Ayokunle, who being the number one Baptist in the country used the opportunity of the thanksgiving service to present the Award to Bishop Oke amidst loud ovation.
Coming before Bishop Wale Oke in the leadership position of the Christian body that came into being in 1985 were Dr. James Abayomi Boyejo [1985-1992], Pastor Enock Adejare Adeboye [CFR] [1992-1995], Archbishop Benson Idahosa [1995-1998], Bishop Mike Okonkwo [MFR] [1998-2005], Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor [OFR] [2005-2013] and the immediate predecessor of the new President, Rev. Dr. Felix Omobude [2013-2021].