Loved or hated, Pastor Enoch Adeboye stands head and shoulder above his peers.
By Uche Mbah
With both hands clasped behind his back, a furrow on his forehead, he strolls about in the expansive ante-podium. With a brief stop behind the podium, he glances at the congregation, a mammoth crowd that runs into thousands. “There is a lady here who the lord tells me has been looking for the fruit of the womb for the past fifteen years”, he said in a calm almost guttural voice. “The lord says “I should tell you that the waiting game is over, that he is about to wipe away your tears”. It was followed by a thunderous “Aaa-meeeen” from the congregation. Shaking, a lady in the front row began slowly to rock to and fro, followed by silent weeping; Unperturbed, Adeboye stood in front of the crowd waiting for the noise to die down before continuing. No doubt the congregation is hanging on to his every word, in total awe of a man they have come to know as Daddy G.O.
His name is Enoch Adeboye, and he is the General overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. He stands head and shoulder above his peers among the Me-And-My-Wife churches by the sheer number of people who answer to his beck and call. When it comes to the number of men of timber and caliber who patronize the churches, his church takes the Oscar. Check out the list: Vice president Yemi Osibanjo, who is a pastor of one of the richest parishes under Adeboye at the high brow snake Island; Akinwumi Ambode, Lagos state governor; Gabriel Suswan, Benue state governor; Oluremi Tinubu, Senator and wife of the leader of the ruling party, APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. She is a pastor with Obiageli Ezekwesili, former World Bank Vice President for Africa and champion of Bring Back Our Girls campaign who is a Senior Pastor under Adeboye. Added to the list is Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the current People’s Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate for Edo state. In fact, it was rummoured that “Daddy G.O.” has anointed for the governoship of the state.
The list is as long as a profligate housewife’s shopping list. And it does not include professionals, industrialists, like Erastus Akingbola, former Intercontinental Bank who ran into troubled waters during the Bank consolidation exercise under the tenure of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN governor. Nor does it include the former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, who belongs to the nominal group. Being a former president, he belongs to the category of those that can go to any church for various political reasons. He was the one that introduced former president Goodluck Jonathan to the revered pastor. This magazine learnt that he brought Jonathan to Adeboye because he saw him as a humble and loyal deputy governor who could be Vice president for the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. As the story goes, while praying for him, Adeboye announced that Obasanjo may have brought his successor to him. Jonathan made many controversial trips to the pastor during his tenure, where he did so much public display of his piety. Pictures of the president kneeling down while the pastor laid his hand on the head of the commander in chief of Nigerian Armed forces flooded both the mainstream media and social media. He was later alleged to defer more to the Man at the Synagogue, T.B Joshua, in the later part of his regime.
Adeboye is arguably the richest pastor in the country, even by his own admission. Teaching worshippers in the mission during the church’s 63rd Annual Convention last year, Adeboye said that if Bill Gates, the American IT mogul, employer and one time richest man in the world, needs shoes, he would have to go to the market to buy them, but that if he should announce that he needs shoes at the Redemption Camp, a sprawling acre of evangelical activities where the convention took place, the auditorium might not contain the shoes people would donate to him. “I have houses in at least 188 countries of the world, where we have our churches, so I am richer than Bill Gates. Each time I visit these countries, my children (members of his church) would be struggling and saying ‘daddy, come and stay with me.’ If I announce here that tomorrow morning, I need a car to travel to the new auditorium, how many cars do you think would be made available to me by you my children? Those of you that do not have a car of your own, very soon, God will give you your own cars. So, I am appealing to you to become an incurable soul winner before you leave this convention ground and your cup will overflow,” he said.
This is by no means an exaggeration. He has developed such a cult-like following that many of his followers see him as a paragon of infallibility, as a man who holds the key to the kingdom of God and a man whose word is law. Although he preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is the picture of him and his wife that adorn everywhere. To live up to the bill of being the richest clergy in the country, he is currently building a large auditorium that is expected to contain twelve million people, which translates to sixty percent of the population of Lagos. The three kilometer-by-three kilometer Arena, still under construction, is located on Simawa Road, some distance from the present one and half kilometer by one kilometer arena. The current one hosts most of the church annual conventions, which attracts millions particularly during December when the Holy Ghost conference takes place. During this period, the crowded arena creates bottlenecks that create a traveling nightmare for those traveling for the yuletide since it is situated along Lagos Ibadan Expressway, a major trunk A road. It hosts an estimated seven million people annually during these congresses. But the new place will host plenary sessions for week long program. It is expected to host participants from the 24 regions of the church spread across 188 countries of the world. The fund for the Auditorium will, of course, not be a problem. His members are reputed to have deep pockets, sometimes men who were made to believe that donations to the church are akin to a ticket to salvation-or at least, further financial prosperity. He opens his arms to accept those walking on the broad and easy way. For him, narrow is no longer the way because his kingdom is of this world. His church claims branches in over a hundred countries, including the United States, United Kingdom and other European countries. The church which boasts of 40 small parishes only in the South west now boasts of over 20,000 parishes worldwide and 14,000 branches in Nigeria alone. He has always said that his aim is to put a church within five minutes of every person on surface of the Earth. He is currently the national president of Redeemed Christian Fellowship, RCF (an interdenominational fellowship in all University campuses in Nigeria). This is said to be under the umbrella of Christ the Redeemer’s Ministry (CRM) where he presides over as a founding president. In fact, in 2008, Newsweek magazine named Adeboye one of the fifty most powerful people in the world. Back in Nigeria, he is among those given awards during the 2014 centenary celebrations. Apart from that, he joined the bandwagon of churches that own and run Universities by the ownership of Redemers University. Besides, he recently endowed four Nigerian Universities, namely, Obafemi Awolowo University, University of Lagos, University of Ibadan, University of Nigeria with Professorial chairs in Mathematics to the tune of 50 Million Naira. He undoubtedly sits on a religious empire that threatens to rival the unwieldy bergamot with headquarters at the Vatican City-the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, there have been speculations that when he took over the church thirty five years ago, he turned the fortune of the little known church by studying the Catholic Model. As at then, mention the name Redeem, and people will automatically associate it with the Redeemed Evangelical Mission, founded and headed by Mike Okonkwo, who has since a long time elevated his rank to that of a Bishop. Okonkwo had his mentorship and tutelage earlier than Adeboye.,
The Redeemed Christian church of God was before then run by Josiah Olufemi Akindayomi, and was seen then as a mere tribal church, because the general overseer then had limited western education. Adeboye, a member of the church and a Mathematics graduate from the University of Nigeria Nsukka, (he later did his Doctorate in Applied Mathematics at the Univesity of Lagos, where he lectured, though later he went to lecture at the University of Ilorin) began to work as a translator of sermons by the pastor from Yoruba to English Language. Akindayomi had died in 1978, and named him his successor, which was a strategic move based on his level of education. It took him time to finally disengage from the University of Ilorin and become a full time pastor. Then he picked up the principle of decentralization, establishing parishes and making them autonomous while at the same time demanding for a ten percent tithe from the branches. But he made sure the pastors stay at each branch is tenured to prevent sit tight tendencies. He transfers pastors who have spent over two years in a parish. That way they cannot build an empire.
Quite unlike other Christian leaders, he retained the title of Pastor, though he differentiates himself from others by the title General Overseer, a title that metamorphosed into Daddy G.O. It gives him an air of humility, which some interpret as part of his success principles. Once during an event at Aso Rock during the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan, he was chosen to say the opening prayer, in a gathering that boasts of Catholic Archbishops and Pentecostal bishops. He glibly remarks that it was an honor for the lowest of them all, an ordinary pastor, to be selected to pray in the presence of Bishops and Archbishops. While some see the comment as an example in humility, others see it as a subtle jab on the ego of other capped reverends. And he has no official or ceremonial vestment
Adeboye was in the news when he turned 74. Felicitations were flooding in from all over the world. This coincides with the thirty years anniversary of Redeem Camp. Part of the celebration involved a visit to Aso Rock. President Buhari sent congratulatory messages to the Pastor whose 74th birthday anniversary fell on March 2, 2016.
According to Special Adviser to the President, Mr. Femi Adesina, the President believes that Adeboye, who visited him at the Presidential Villa on February 16, 2016, epitomizes the virtues of honesty, peace, patience, contentment, humility and diligence, which are the trademarks of a good believer. President Buhari, probably for the first time in his life, had to worship at Adeboye’s church during the last periods of the 2015 presidential election. Since then he has never stepped into any curch after his election.
Adesina said the President commends the relentless efforts, sacrifices and the grace of God upon the life of the Pastor who has, over the years propagated the gospel around the world, organized large gatherings of Christian worshippers and “consistently counseled leaders and their citizens on living right before God.”
President Buhari also saluted the social and humanitarian interventions of the G.O in providing health and educational services to complement the efforts of governments and prayed that the Almighty God will grant Pastor Adeboye long life and more strength to carry on the good work. Born on 2 March, 1942 in the village of Ifewara, Osun State, Nigeria to very poor parents, Adeboye was one out of four children. He went to the only missionary school in their village as a late statrter. He graduated from the University in 1969 at the peak of the Biafran civil war. It is not clear when he developed mild powers of magnetic healing, which was one of the major attractions of his ministry, but, unlike others, he never particularly flounted it.