The Presiding Bishop of Sword of the Spirit Ministries, Bishop Francis Wale Oke, speaks on national and religious issues and how he feels clocking 60. KEHINDE OYETIMI and RITA OKONOBOH provide excerpts.
The ‘rise’ in the ministry
I would say it was just the grace of God. I wanted to go to Obafemi Awolowo University but I made a mistake in the concessional examination. When they admitted me to the University of Lagos, I didn’t want to go because I didn’t like Lagos but it was at UNILAG I met my destiny helpers. That was where I met Pastor Enoch Adeboye, who was my lecturer in Mathematics in 1977. That was where I met Pastor W.F. Kumuyi. So, it’s divine grace and arrangement. I thank God for His wisdom. It is the blessings and grace of the Lord that I can say is the reason for the rising. Bishop Oyedepo and Pastor Ashimolowo are my friends. When we became friends, we had nothing.
Best and worst moments
There are so many glorious times. For instance, when I got to know who my wife would be, when I got married, the day I had my first son, the day we possessed this land, the day we opened the university, the day God opened the door for us for international ministry; there are so many. And for the challenging moments, when you think everything is going to collapse and that there is no hope. The greatest challenge I have had is with men. Jesus Christ has taught us to walk in wisdom with everybody. When God makes you big to any degree, you have all kinds of people around you. And if you’ll be a great leader, you must have a large heart and know that nobody is perfect. You must respect people’s identity. If I had the opportunity to begin again, I would travel the same path. By the grace of God, I was the one who anointed Former President Olusegun Obasanjo as the next civilian president of Nigeria after he left prison. Who am I?
How did that anointing happen?
I’m at liberty to tell it now because I gave him a commitment that while he was president, I wouldn’t talk about it, to respect him and the office. A day after he came out prison, I saw his photograph on the front page of a newspaper, looking so haggard, skinny and I said ‘how can a nation do this to its former president?’ and I found myself praying for him for the next 45 minutes. The Holy Spirit then directed me to anoint him as the next president of Nigeria in 1999. That evening, about 400 pastors were present at a meeting with me and I asked if any of them knew how I could connect with General Obasanjo. Nobody knew. However, I knew that God’s word would come to pass. Two days later, Apostle Lawrence Achudume, who is based in Abeokuta, called me to come and preach for him. I asked him if there was some way I could connect to Obasanjo, and he said his late wife, Stella attended his church. He arranged a meeting with Obasanjo. After the service at Abeokuta, we went to Obasanjo’s place. For the first one and half hours after we met, we were talking about his experience in prison; how he fasted, read the Bible about three times; how he wrote five books while in prison, and he said he had promised God to serve him if God took him out of prison. When he finished, I told him that God sent me to him to pray for him that he would be the next president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The response was instant. He said he was not interested. To quote him verbatim, he stated that he had been a very important person in Nigeria and a very important prisoner. I just want to rehabilitate my life. I told him God sent me and he still said he wasn’t interested. I then asked to pray with him. We were four at that meeting: myself, General Obasanjo, Apostle Achudume and a personal assistant. He removed his cap and I prayed for him and anointed him and proclaimed him executive president of the federal republic of Nigeria by the word of God and I left. It was not two weeks after that IBB visited him to draft him into politics, and the rest is history.
When the Yoruba politicians heard that I went to pray for Obasanjo, they sent a team to me, and advised me against getting into politics and stated that they wouldn’t vote for him. I told them I wasn’t a politician, but that God asked me to pray for him. When eventually Baba won the election, he sent a letter appreciating what God did. After being sworn in, he asked what next, and I told him to hold a thanksgiving service. And that was what he did. Unfortunately, I was out of the country on the day the thanksgiving service held. And throughout his tenure, I was close to him. I must have visited him at the villa over 40 times. For me, I don’t play to the gallery. I’m not looking for the praise of men but I just want to do what God asked me to do. I’m not claiming to be very close to him, but I know him and he knows me.
On clocking 60
I’m grateful to God for clocking 60. I thank God that they have been 60 productive years, 41 of which have been spent in the service of God’s kingdom. Life is not about duration but the impact one has made. The most challenging period of my life was when I was young and struggling because my parents were poor. I trekked barefooted to school and led every class I attended until I got to the university. My father had to sell his cocoa farm to educate me. I had to supplement by weaving baskets, selling firewood and working as a farm labourer. Those times when my parents struggled to give me a better life, those were the challenging times and I’m so grateful to God that they lived to see me rise. My father died at 97 and I gave him a royal funeral. My mother will be 90 next year and she’s living fine. The beginning of the ministry was also challenging. Praying and fasting for the means to spread the gospel and as the ministry grew, God taught us not to be proud and forget our beginnings.
Every mega church has a structure. There is a limit to what one person can do. The better structured a church is, the bigger they are. Take for example the RCCG, they have a very strong structure of various levels. If there is a structure, then there is a succession. If God calls me today, the church will grow bigger. There will be no crisis about succession because the arrangement is clear. But the greatest headache of church leaders is the question of ‘who is capable?’ Leading a big church is not a piece of cake. It is not our church but the church of Jesus Christ and He will give leader to each church when the time comes. If your first son or towns man succeeds you, there’s no problem with that, as long as it is what God wants. Take for example, the RCCG. Baba Akindayomi and Pastor Adeboye were not related. God told Baba Akindayomi that his interpreter was his successor, that is Pastor Adeboye and Baba Akindayomi wrote it down and sealed the document, called a member of the council and asked him to promise not to open it until after he passed. He wrote in that document that Pastor Adeboye should lead the church after him, Pastor Adeboye should lead his funeral service and that no one should anoint pastor Adeboye. He said that by the time he was being buried, the mantle would fall upon Pastor Adeboye and that was what the church did. Although there was criticism, time has come to prove that the old prophet was tight. Every genuine leader seeks the heart of God.
The church’s 34th annual convention
Participants are coming from around the world. It started last Sunday and will take place till Sunday, September 4th, 2016. We want everybody to come and get blessed because one word from God can change a man’s life forever. People have problems everywhere and challenges vary from people to people but God alone is the ultimate solution to all these problems. Let’s pray for our nation. If our leaders are confused, let’s pray that God gives them wisdom. If we put our future and destiny in the hands of politicians, we are finished. Let us put them in God’s hands. We are calling this meeting so we can pray for ourselves and our nation. Nothing is too difficult for God to solve.
On Precious Cornerstone University (PCU)
Very soon, the university will take off. The National Universities Commission (NUC) has approved that the convention ground serve as the take-off campus for between three and five years, during which period we will work on the permanent site. The vision of the university is to contribute to correcting the rot in the educational system. Cultism, strikes, and the like are affecting the years of our youths, especially as it disrupts the academic calendar. These are some reasons we want to contribute our part as a mission – the PCU is a mission university – to societal development. The NUC has given us a nod. We want our youths to have sound education in all areas – spiritual, physical and mental. The PCU will promote excellence in morals, academics and even sports. We will also promote entrepreneurship among youths so they can become job creators. We will have zero tolerance for cultism and strike because we don’t want to waste the years of our children. On the cost, we will give scholarships to deserving indigent students. Establishing and running a private university is very expensive and we are on a drive to raise a N2 billion endowment fund. From our master plan, we were told that there is no breaking even until the seventh year. We are for all classes of persons in the society. We are not in it to make profit but to contribute to correcting the rot in Nigeria’s educational system and to raise a new generation of leaders that will give us a great tomorrow.
State of the nation
The state of the country calls for prayers. We pray God gives this administration the wisdom to diversify successfully, so that we can have many streams of income and that the welfare of people can be improved. Let us not lose hope. Let us look up to God. The spate of insecurity in the land is alarming. While I commend President Muhammadu Buhari for his efforts on Boko Haram, other issues are coming up and we shouldn’t live in denial. I read a report recently that the Commissioner of Police stated that the persons set ablaze were looters, and my heart sank. That’s not right or just. Don’t explain away evil. Even if we assume they were looters, should anybody take the law into their hands and burn them down? Should it be the police that would justify jungle justice? Who says they’re looters? Has a court of competent jurisdiction convicted them as looters? Even if they have been convicted, is killing the appropriate punishment for such offence? What law in Nigeria guarantees that? Such statement coming from the police is discouraging. The police are asking Nigerians to lose confidence in that institution because they should be the ones who should uncover the truth and bring the culprits to justice. The Inspector General of Police should look into the case. As a spokesman of the church and as a leader in the church in Nigeria, we refuse to believe that those people were looters. We want the case to be investigated. Those people were Christians that were worshipping and some Muslim fanatics rounded them up and burned them alive. That’s wickedness. The police should call a spade a spade and give us justice. We want to call on President Muhammadu Buhari. We love and trust him, that’s why we voted for him. He has experience as an elder statesman to father the nation without discrimination. What we’re seeing is not pleasant. We’re seeing discriminatory appointments, insecurity multiplying and people not being brought to book. However, we have not lost hope. Our mandate given to President Buhari is still valid. We urge him to use the remaining three years to father the whole nation and let all Nigerians feel a sense of belonging.
Declining moral standards, church proliferation and the youths
When sin abounds, grace abounds much more. It depends on how one looks at it. There are youths who are very fervent for the Lord. At our church, they have the consciousness of working for the Lord. I’m not saying all youths are doing very well, but for those who are, they are reaching out to their colleagues. At the convention, we have the youth mega jam which is open to all youths, within and outside the church. Other churches also have activities targeted at the youths. We need to reach out to the youths of today so that we don’t lose the hope of tomorrow. We are conscious of that and we are reaching out to them.
Corruption, past administration, economic woes and way forward
I didn’t enjoy the benefit of being able to give the past administration counsel, I prayed for them. However, because of a particular revelation, I knew that the past administration would not continue. It was after they left that things began to come to light. Not just the corruption, but the wickedness behind the corruption. For example, fake bulletproof vests and armoured vehicles that ak47 bullets could pierce through were bought to fight insurgency. Why should someone steal at the expense of human lives? It is mindboggling. How can people be so cruel? If their children were in the military, would they put them at such risk? I think God saw this wickedness and threw them out. And they did everything to remain in power, even shifting the election by six weeks, which in itself amounts to monumental corruption, because you don’t shift the goal post while the game is on. However, if they had changed it for six years, they would still have lost because God wanted them out.
So, for this current administration, I want to advise them on effective diversification of the economy which should be done urgently and diligently because Nigerians are suffering. They should oil their information machinery because they are allowing Nigerians to run away with the wrong information that they are the cause of our economic woes. There should be a medium of educating Nigerians properly on the cause and steps taken to solve the problem. Thirdly, they should call on Nigerians to pray for God to intervene.