Former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, on Sunday, revealed for the first time how and why he converted the squash court in Aso Rock Villa into a church.
Today, the church, popularly known as Villa Chapel, has become a Mecca of sorts to senior government officials and others who lobby to worship there as a ploy to have easy access to either the president or vice-president.
In fact, some presidential aides make quick cash from desperate lobbyists who sometimes pay millions as bribes just to have access to either of the first two citizens of the country depending on who is leading at the time.
Speaking during the first service at First Baptist Church, Garki, Abuja, Obasanjo said when he arrived Abuja as president in 1999, he wanted to be a regular member of the church, which he actually started doing.
Unfortunately, he said each time he attended service, there was too much security checks, which caused so much disruption and inconvenience for other worshipers.
“I want to tell you what this church had done unknowingly for the nation. When I came to Abuja, I thought that why should I establish a church in the seat of government?
“I should rather worship in a place of worship just like everybody else. And my intention was to come here every Sunday.
“And I did it for a while, including bringing President Bill Clinton, to worship here with you. But, then, I found that every Sunday, when I was coming, the security will come with me and I believe everybody was put under pressure and I felt that why should my worship be a source of discomfort to other people?
“I did not become president to inconvenient other people. I became president to make life more comfortable for people,” Obasanjo explained.
As a result, the former president, who commended the Senior Pastor of the Church, Reverend (Dr) Israel Adelani Akanji, who is also chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), North Central Zone, for preaching good sermon, said he then decided to begin to worship at the Villa.
“So I began to use the squash court. During the week, I will play squash there and on Sunday, I turned it into place of worship.
“Then by deciding to worship there, God did something wonderful. God made it possible to actually build a permanent place of worship within the highest seat of government of Nigeria.
“And that was done by this church indirectly. I thank you as a Church, I thank you as a member if Baptist family.”
“As for me, this worship is nostalgic. I have listened to, and watched the Senior Pastor. I have also noticed that the older they are, the better the pastors they become.