I joined bad gang, followed masquerades while in school —Primate Ayodele
In this interview, notable cleric and Founder of INRI Evangelical Spiritual Church, Primate Elijah Ayodele, shares the story of his growing up years with SEGUN KASALI.
At age nine you were with your step-mother; didn’t you find it unusual that you were not livimg with your mother?
It was not at all. Yes I did not grow up with my mum from age nine but later spent the greater part of my life with her. At a very youthful age of nine, my step-mum and my dad trained me because my dad relocated from Lagos to the village due to the fact that he wanted to have an establishment there and my mum refused to go with him. Not because of anything but rather it was her choice. Yes, I did not feel the difference between Lagos life and village life because I was young and my experience was limited. So, my step-mum trained me up till age 16, after which my mum took over. Honestly, that training, coupled with the fact that I came from a very tough and hard background made me what I am today. My dad was raw, real and straightforward. He tells you this is how life is and you have to follow it that way.
So, you didn’t miss your mum?
Honestly, there was no difference at all. My step-mum trained me to know that one must be prudent in life so as to live comfortably in difficult times. In fact, she was a policewoman.
As a policewoman was she tough on you?
Not at all. She never for once beat me; rather, she would report me to my dad who would flog me. She treated me well like her own son. My father was very thorough. He used koboko, and electric wire to flog me anytime I misbehaved, especially when I had gone playing football and didn’t wash his clothes on time.
In fact, she taught me how to cook at age nine, especially how to pound yam and make stew. It was a memorable experience with her even though she is late now and will be buried sometimes in April.
What were those qualities you learnt from her, your dad and mum?
My step-mum taught me to be very transparent, accountable and very hardworking. She taught me to have my own mind. You must always have the determination to achieve your goals. As for my dad, he was a giver. He was very hardworking. My dad never got tired of getting results. He was a go-getter, while my mum was a very simple person and that is why I love to be very simple too. So, all these things were what I thought deeply about when I joined a bad gang in secondary school
Really? You joined a bad gang?
Yes. I can never forget this experience at Annunciation Grammar School, Ikere-Ekiti, because I failed and repeated a class. We were not going to class and we did not embark on any reading exercise. Then, when it was closing time (2pm), we would pretend as if we had gone to class. That was youthful exuberance. We would just be in one uncompleted building, talking about mundane things and following masquerades all over outside the school.
We were just fascinated by the masquerades. We would then go to the bush to watch the way they danced and dressed, although nobody ever knew all these at home.
Were you ever caught?
No, it was just when I failed a class and had to be in the same class with my juniors that I called myself to order. I really felt so bad seeing my junior ones in same class with me and especially when the senior ones entered the class and you had to call your former mates ‘senior’ (laughs). So, these were the bad lessonn I learnt from and I just had to tell myself to be very careful. So, I got serious again. That was when I stopped following the bad boys. My parents never knew all these. It was my failure in school that made me disappoint my dad despite his love for me then. He really felt bad.
What was his reaction?
He started reacting in a tough way. Every time, he was always asking ‘have you read your books?’; ‘have you done your homework?’ I had to read for longer hours. And it was very helpful because he did not take it lightly with me. Anytime I went contrary to what he wanted me to do, he would tell me “Olodo, you are repeating a class and you are happy.” So, all these things made me change my ways and I started performing well in classes to the glory of God.
What was your ambition early in life?
Actually, I was looking at two careers – being a lawyer or a military officer. Concerning my interest in the law profession, there was a particular lawyer I really liked in my village then and that propelled me to want to become one. Also, there was one Justice Ogundare who motivated me and that further aroused my interest in the Law profession. I was motivated by the way they argued, the way they dressed and the way they carried themselves while going to court. And for the military, when we see military men in the village then, we would be running helter-skelter (laughs). So, I wanted people to be afraid when they see me (laughs).
But you ended up at the Aviation College…
Yes, I went to Aviation School, Zaria. I just decided to change my mind and do something about aeroplanes and possibly become a pilot.
What gave you that inspiration?
It was because Chief Obafemi Awolowo came to my village with a helicopter in 1980 and that was my first time of seeing one. So, I said to myself that I would like to fly one in the future. But it was in the aviation school that I decided where I want to belong. When I graduated, I was not doing anything. I had never applied for a job in my life. I just got stuck to the calling.
When did you recieve the calling?
It was while I was 17 years old. That was when I started seeing and hearing some funny things. When I said something was going to happen tomorrow, that thing would eventually happen. I could remember I told one lady that her mum would be sick and if she did not take care of her, she would die. So, it happened. Then, the lady started telling people this was what I said. And then, people started taking me seriously.
You didn’t want to heed the call initially despite the testimony?
Yes, I did not want to heed the call, because I was thinking of working and I was on my own. But, when I started seeing a lot of experiences, meaning that if I didn’t yield to God I would be in trouble, that was when I started to show interest and heed the call. And I can tell you that there is no regret considering my earlier ambitions of becoming a lawyer, military man or a pilot.
What is it that many don’t know about Primate Ayodele?
(Laughs). I am a very simple person. Easy-going. I respect everybody. I don’t tell people that I am a General Overseer. I don’t want it at all.
When I see the way people worship pastors, I don’t want anybody to worship me. I want to be humble. I want to respect people. I don’t take nonsense. I don’t like people who are not transparent. I hate liars. I don’t have anything to hide.
How did you meet your wife?
She was introduced to me by my sister. I picked interest in her because she has the qualities of what I wanted in a woman. I don’t like telling anybody about my wife. She is very supportive, fantastic, and she is very hardworking. She gives me courage and has supported me up to where I am today.
Why do people think you are controversial?
I don’t know what is called controversial. It is your own term. I don’t care about what people say about me, but what God says. I don’t read comments because I don’t care about them. My own is: I want my relationship with God to be perfect. Call me any name, I don’t bother about that. I only bother about when God speaks to me. My critics make me to be focused. My critics make me to be sound. They make me to work ahead of time.
You still love pounded yam?
No I don’t eat pounded yam again (laughs). It is all about age.
What are your hobbies?
I love dancing and listening to music. I love gospel music.
Where did you get your dress sense from?
I just love dressing well because my father was a good dresser.
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