I disguised as a mad man so as to sleep inside abandoned vehicles —Oyebanji
HOW has the journey of life been for you?
I trained as a mechanic in Akure, Ondo State, with Mr Dokun Oladejo. When I came to Lagos, my condition was so bad that I was sleeping inside an abandoned vehicle at Oniwaya in Agege. Even then, some guys conspired to deal with me. It took my wits to outsmart them and to rescue myself. I was then working with Mikky Mikky at No 1, Union Road, Dopemu. Every evening after work, I would go to Ogba where I was living with a couple. Though I was the one paying the rent for the room and parlour apartment, the man’s wife didn’t know this. I was doing this because the man had no job. The woman, however, made life so difficult for me. Each day after work, she would stretch her legs on two different chairs and watch television far into the night, preventing me from spreading my mat in the parlour, knowing that I would leave for work early the following morning. It was so bad that if I dozed off on the chair, she would tap me to watch the television at a time when the then governor, Lateef Jakande, would be on television all night. When it became too terrible for me, I left in frustration. I couldn’t sleep in the workshop because if anything got lost there, I would be a suspect. I ended up sleeping inside an abandoned vehicle. So, when these guys threatened to deal with me, I was worried because I couldn’t go back to the couple again. I then came out with the idea of disguising as a mad man. I tore my clothes into shreds, making myself look very dirty and like a mad person.
That must be a very terrible experience.
Yes. One day, I overheard one woman telling her children that the mental illness of this man was fresh and that if his relations could be reached, he could still be saved. I wept on hearing this. From then, I started saving money. One man at Isale-Oja, Oniwaya Road, helped me with a land at Mangoro. That was the beginning of my breakthrough. Thereafter, I met the chairman of Pyramid, Jubril Martins-Kuye, from Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, who later became a minister and Seni Shodipo, chairman of Leeka Nigeria Limited. Both were dealers in paper products. They helped me. I started selling used vehicles and registered my own company, ABG Motors. When I didn’t heed God’s call, the business collapsed. But today, I have God to thank. My experience as a homeless person informed the idea of accommodating the homeless. It is because I was not able to have education that I sponsor indigent students.
What prevented you from going to school?
I was in Primary Four at St. Theresa School, Akure. One afternoon in the presence of my teacher, one Mr Olowo, a strong wind blew and my sight was blurred. After a while, I could not see again. Since then, I have not been able to read. But I thank God today for what I have been able to achieve.
Tell us more about your background, particularly about your parents
I am a native of Efon Alaaye in Ekiti State. Two of the prophecies my mother told me had come to pass. My mother was Esther Oyebanji from Efon Alaaye. Her father was Chief Aro of Efon Alaaye and my mother was well known in the community. My father, Ige Oye, was from Ejigun Quarters and was of the Ologbo chieftaincy family in Ilogbo area of Efon Alaaye. He was a farmer. According to my mother’s account, my father was the least privileged of all her suitors. The other suitors were children of the high and the mighty. Each of them, except my father, had a car. Somehow, her father, the Aro Onile, reasoned that consultation had to be made on who would be her husband. So a message was sent to a diviner in Ijero. The man was said to have told my mother that the one that had no car among the suitors was God’s choice for her. My mother wept bitterly and said that she only included my father’s name, but that she was not interested in him. In our family today, there are no fewer than 27 pastors, including myself, who have built their own churches, but I am the only one of the lot who attends a white-garment church.
So Idunnnu Joshua isn’t your real name?
My name is Prophet Abraham Oyebanji, Shepherd of Celestial Church of Christ (CCC), Idunnu Joshua Parish, Gowon Estate, Ipaja, Lagos. Idunnu Joshua is not my name, but the name of the church where God has put me as a shepherd. Idunnu Joshua was a name God wrote himself in heaven and revealed to me in a vision. That night, I revealed what I saw and caused it to be written down because I am not so educated. The following morning, I looked round, there was no Celestial Church called by that name. What I had always seen in the church circles were people naming parishes after their children or a landmark, or occurrences at the time of establishing such parishes. But God told me that was the name He gave to me. Before that time, God had used me to build a number of churches. One of them, located in Alagbado area, was beautifully built. There were three buildings, including an auditorium and a shepherd lodge. When God asked me what name I wanted to give to the church, I replied that it was Miracle Parish, but he said He won’t answer my prayers there. There was another one located in Cement area. I didn’t even know when it was built, I was only called to head it. The voice that spoke to me before came to me again, asking me what name I wanted to call it. I said I wanted to call it Covenant Parish, the voice said He also won’t answer me there. He later came up with Idunnu Joshua and also showed me the kind of altar He wanted me to build. When I saw it, I said I had not seen the type of the altar before. God told me it was ‘Kaaba’; promising that whatever people requested in their prayers would be granted there the way it happens in Mecca. I then had a house in Egbeda. I decided to deck the building and use the upper floor as church while the ground floor would serve as accommodation for my family. That night, God objected to my plan and told me He won’t allow me to have access to the funds to do my wish there because He was not going to be domiciled in filth. I announced to church members to bring pieces of iron for the construction work. But to my surprise, none of the church members brought any iron as requested by me till today. It was from the place we moved to this present site of the church in Gowon Estate. On getting here, Christians and Muslims waged war against me. But some Muslims that I never knew came to my rescue.
How did you receive Prophet Obadare’s prophesy?
In 1977, we were at a revival at Koseunti (World Soul-winning Evangelical Ministry), led by Prophet Timothy Obadare when he said I should come to the podium. He raised my hand and announced that I didn’t belong to the fold, that he saw me in white robe as we were all singing and clapping. He said I should join the Celestial Church. I hated celestial, so, I wept. Obadare instructed that I should see him later in his office. After the revival, the pastors took me to him. When we got to him, he placed a Bible on his head and swore that what the Lord told him was what he revealed to me. I then asked: “But you have always said Celestial Church was bad.” He then explained that there was no way he could be advertising another denomination when he was leading a fold. He said that God called different servants to different denominations and asked me to go and that God would show himself worthy in my life.
And you just obeyed him?
No. I didn’t follow what he told me because I wasn’t happy, I still continued in CAC. I was one of those that went about town with hand bells to evangelise at that time because I have always loved God and God talks to me. I got to Lagos before I knew that it was not everybody that sees vision. The head of CCC, Onipetesi Parish, Isaac Alabi Tinubu, was the person who made me to know that the gift of vision was not for everybody. While I was in school, I would be asking my friends if they heard or saw what I was hearing or seeing and they would be looking at me in amazement. Since that time, I discovered I had no friend because others saw me as a strange person and kept their distance from me. One day, as I was going around Odojoka in Akure, a man called me and said, “Abraham”. I quickly rushed to him and prostrated and told him he should not be annoyed as I didn’t know him. He said I should leave Akure within the next three days and pick one out of Kaduna, Ibadan and Lagos. He added that there would be crisis in Kaduna, but that if it was my choice, God would help me to calm the storm. I said I didn’t know anybody in any of the three towns. He said that God would guide me. I later decided to come to Lagos. It was in Lagos I joined the Celestial Church.
Aren’t you worried that despite the increasing number of men of God in Africa, the black race is still the way it is?
All our fathers in the Lord called by God did very well, they tried their best, but their followers are unrighteous and untrustworthy. The bulk of the followers are only looking for what they can benefit. Look at some of the churches founded by the departed servants of God, was that how they laid their foundations? My grandmother, Iya Maryanne, was the first person ever to give vision in the CAC at Efon-Alaaye. All those old people stood and walked with God, but today, most servants of God are after money. Whenever God performs his wonders here, I don’t allow any publicity, whether in the electronic or social media. Many of those who call themselves servants of God nowadays hire people to give testimonies. To all those who have the grace, I tell you, God will still revive and renew Nigeria.
We want to hear your romance story?
God told me the person I was going to marry, her name and other characteristics. And after some years, God did as promised. I had met a lady before her who had the attributes that God told me, but the name was different. She eventually misbehaved and I had to send her away. My journey with her almost claimed my life because she was not the chosen one before I finally met the choice of God for me. And since then, God has been faithful. The woman with me now is very obedient. She loves God and prayer. The first one was far away from God and was very fetish. God has been doing His wonders in my family. Today, I have a son who is also a prophet.
How do you spend your leisure time?
What do you call leisure? The one we are doing is also leisure, or what do you call this? I do not go beyond here, the beach or the mountain to pray. I don’t mix with people anyhow because some of them belong to darkness. Jesus didn’t start any society neither did Mohammed or Moses Orimolade or Ayo Babalola. By the way, why do you want to relax? Don’t you have a room in your own house? Jesus has said about them that not all who call Him Lord will enter His kingdom. Anyone who calls himself a servant of God but still has something to swallow, or something he still bows to, or who still says he has a society by the side, does not know what he’s doing.
What is your advice to younger generation of God’s servants?
Many of them do come here and we advise, but they turn round to do otherwise, saying that they can’t follow my advice because they want their churches to grow just because of worldly things. But whoever can exercise patience and wait on the Lord will see the Lord. The day of judgment is coming. Many have had names in this country; they are not dead yet, but their names have gone down. Some have died and their names have died with them. God does not give a task He cannot finish. People should be careful and watch where they put their heads and feet. The young ones, if they can be patient, will experience the goodness of God.v