SIXTY years ago, two major events happened in Nigeria which were of very important historical significance. In the evening of October 31 that year, the Premier of Western Nigeria, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, commissioned the first television station in Nigeria and indeed the whole of Africa, WNTV-First-in-Africa, in the hall of the Western House of Chiefs at the Secretariat, Agodi, Ibadan. Three months earlier, on July 26 to be precise, the first General Evangelist of the Christ Apostolic Church Worldwide, whose call and spiritual exploits led to the founding of the church, Apostle Joseph Ayo Babalola, passed on at Ede, Osun State, aged 55 years. There is no doubt that Apostle Ayo Babalola was one of the greatest and best known church leaders of our time whose church was divinely inspired and brought about right here in Nigeria and was not imported from outside our shores. Such other prominent churches include the Faith Tabernacle whose founders were Joseph Sadare, David Odubanjo and Isaac Akinyele (later Olubadan of Ibadanland); the Cherubim and Seraphim Church of St. Moses Orimolade Tunolase and Capt. (Dr.) Christianah Abiodun Emmanuel, founded in 1925, the Church of the Lord, Aladura of Primate Ositelu in 1931 and the Celestial Church of Christ of S.J. Bilewu Oschola in 1947.
Babalola was born at Odo-Owa Kwara State on April 25, 1904 to Pa David Rotimi and Mama Martha Talabi. He had his modest primary education in Ebute-Meta, Lagos, and Osogbo and became a steam roller driver in 1927. He was operating between Ilesa and Akure when his roller broke down in October 1928. His divine call took place the following day and two days later on the 11th of October 1928, he answered the call to abandon his job to serve the Lord. That was at Ariran river near Ikeji-Arakeji, the site of the University named after him, Joseph Ayo Babalola University, JABU. Babalola fasted for 40 days between 1928 and 1930 to prepare for the great task ahead. In November 1929, he entered into partnership with another major home-made religious group, the Faith Tabernacle, whose vision and doctrine of divine healing was in tandem with his. The great revival at Oke-Ooye Ilesa in 1930 where a number of miracles were performed launched him into national fame: a dead man was brought back to life, while leprosy, lameness, blindness, deafness and other forms of ailments were healed. He had a similar outing in Ikare, Akoko. Apostle Babalola later moved to Efon Alaaye in the same year for another great revival which led several people to abandon the CMS Church there for the CAC. He was received in Efon by the then Alaaye, Oba Aladejare I, grandfather of the present-day Oba Adesanya Aladejare, Agunsoye II. Babalola established his first mission in Efon Alaaye where he made his base. The church rose rapidly and the apostle moved round a great deal, establishing churches and holding revivals.
Without any signs of illness, Babalola, on July 26, 1959, went into his room for a short rest around 2pm. By 4pm, he shouted, “In the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” and gave up the ghost. As he had earlier directed, his remains were taken to Efon Alaaye where they were committed to mother earth. A mausoleum has since been erected on the site which has become a tourist centre since then. The CAC is a big church today. I greet the present leader, Pastor Akinosun, the General Evangelist Pastor Oladeji and other leaders, including Pastor Oluwamakin, the leader in Efon Alaaye where a one-week celebration has been planned. The CAC is noted for effective prayers, fasting and revivals. My only advice is that the leadership should streamline how Pastors are ordained so that only quality and properly, educated people are made to head the Churches so that due recognition and respects can be accorded the position. Present-
day Church heads, Rev. Ayokunle, Primate Okoh, Cardinal Onayikan Prelate Uche, Prophet Alao, Bishop Oyedepo, Pastor Adeboye, Pastor Kumuyi, Primate Ositelu and Spiritual Head Oshofa should keep the flag flying. They should preach powerfully and truthfully and pray for Nigeria and the political leaders to make the country safer, better and more comfortable for us all.
- Chief Olasope, a veteran broadcaster, lives in Efon Alaaye, Ekiti State.