Late Primate Emmanuel Owoade Adeleke Adejobi, of the Church of The Lord (Aladura), left a thriving church 30 years ago. After he passed to glory, his wife, 94-year-old Reverend Mother Olive Sulola Adejobi, has been overseeing the affairs of the church as well as taking care of the children. In this interview with ROLAND OGBONNAYA, she reminisces on her journey through life, how she met her late husband and raised the children amongst others.
You are almost a century old, Mama. Tell us a bit about yourself?
I am Reverend Mother Olive Sulola Adejobi. I was born in Abeokuta, Iporo-Ake on September 26, 1927 to Pa Reuben and Mama Kehinde John. My father was a businessman, trading in cocoa and palm kernel and my mother was a full-time housewife but was also engaged in the tie and dye business. Her customers knew her as Mama Alaaro. Both parents were committed Christians and staunch Anglicans. My mother had three girls and a boy. Now, I only have two siblings, because we lost our oldest sister some years ago, at age 86. I started primary school at Iporo-Ake Anglican Church School, then Ake Primary School, where Pa Soyinka (Prof. Wole Soyinka’s father) was the headmaster.
What were your fond memories while growing up, and how did you meet your late husband, Primate Emmanuel Owoade Adeleke Adejobi?
I came to Lagos to stay with my late brother, Mr. Ibikunle John who lived in Oko-Awo. I attended the prestigious Queens College, in Yaba, Lagos. Although we are Anglicans, I joined my late elder brother in attending The Church of the Lord (Aladura) from 1946 whilst I stayed with his family.
Over time, my brother introduced me to my late husband. Then, when your family sees anyone they’d like you to marry, they just introduce you to them and that’s it. So, that was what happened in my case as well.
Then, I was working at the General Post Office Savings Bank in Igbosere, Lagos. One of my elder sisters was also a member of the Church of the Lord (Aladura) Yaba. It was during my visit with my brother to the Church at No 3 Adams Street, Lagos, that I was introduced to this young, fine, and handsome man. To God be the glory, on April 29, 1948, we got married at Ogere, with Baba Ositelu officiating and we started the journey of life together.
With your husband traveling the world to plant churches, how did cope with raising the children?
By God’s grace, I have raised many children—biological and non-biological, and I also have many grand and great-grandchildren. We had our first five children in Sierra Leone. After we got married, we travelled together to Freetown on the ship MV Oriel. In fact, from 1948 to about 1960, we lived in Sierra Leone, mainly at 37 Williams Street, Freetown, but travelled to other parts of the world. Our children lived with us and attended school in Freetown until we left for Britain. It was after leaving Britain that we returned to Nigeria and settled in Lagos.
Are some of the churches your husband and you pioneered are they still in existence?
Yes, they are. He was a prophet of God from 1940 till his death in 1991, more than 50 years, and the Primate of the Church of the Lord (Aladura) for 24 years. In 1935, 1939, and 1940, there had been apostolic missions of the church to Lagos, but there was no church established until 1943 when Primate Olunowo Ositelu sent Adejobi to Lagos. In June, that same year, Adejobi opened the first branch of the Church of the Lord in Pa Ogun’s house at 49, Lagos Street, Ebute Meta.
After that, the Carter church. The church at Offin Road (Elegbata) and Agege followed in 1944, Yaba in 1945, and then Mushin and Sogunle. There was Ikeja in 1967.
What was the reception of Aladura Church in the UK?
You know we had pioneered churches in Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Nigeria, and so some of those members had travelled to the United Kingdom and other parts of the world. As soon they heard we were in London, the beginning of the Church of the Lord Aladura in the United Kingdom.
After his BTI training in 1963, he held a crusade in London and many souls were won for Christ and that developed into prayer meetings, singing practice and Bible fellowships. The Church of the Lord (Aladura) the United Kingdom started from the home of one of our converts, a Ghanaian called, Mr. Odonko who lived with his wife and children at 8 Schipka Road, Balham in Southwest London. When members increased and his house couldn’t contain the crowd, we started renting premises, spaces of other orthodox churches all over the southwest, southeast and North London.
Did you have White members?
Not at the beginning, subsequently, we had some who came and became our members. In fact, some of them even married our members.
About 30 years on and counting, how have you weathered the storm without your husband?
It has been very tough and lonely because I was left alone to care for our children and look after the church members’ well-being. It has not been easy at all, but through it all, the grace of God and His help have been sufficient. People need to know that it was possible with God’s help. My children were well cared for and the church continues to march on. Even after Papa’s death, I managed to pioneer a branch of the Church of the Lord Aladura in Ikeja.
That was how much God has been with me. I was also made the Lord Rector of the Adejobi Memorial Theological Institute (AMTS). The Church of the Lord (Aladura) Anthony Village was pioneered by Primate Adejobi in 1970 and he personally christened it “The Church of Antioch”. Reverend Emmanuel Oyedele Ashamu donated the land for the church at Anthony and God’s promise to build his church continues to be true for us. I have been in charge as Reverend Mother and General Overseer since he was called to rest in 1991.
What’s the particular thing you remember about him?
When he was alive, we always had our doors open and our house was always full because he loved people and loved having them around him, especially at meal times. He never enjoyed eating alone, so I was always in the kitchen cooking and entertaining, in addition to my missionary duties. Together we trained and counselled our children to be God-fearing and to be the best at what they do.
What plans do you have in place to celebrate your husband’s 30th anniversary?
He was called to rest on the 17th May 1991, thirty years ago. This year, there would be a befitting thanksgiving service to be held in his honour at our family church in Anthony Village, Lagos. Because of the pandemic, physical attendance would be restricted but with the help of technology, people can attend online, especially on Zoom. The details will be made available.
How’s the Church soldering on without Baba?
When he was alive, we established two theological seminaries in Anthony Village, Lagos for the ministers of God and they have stood the test of time, even though the seminaries have now been relocated to Ogere. The church is moving on because it was founded on Christ the solid rock. As you know, I am retired now and most of my time is spent at the Anthony Village branch that Primate Adejobi left in my care, attending to members who need prayers, advice and counselling.
When I am able, I attend services and I still preach. When I do not go, the members come home to see me.
In 1984, your husband predicted that Nigeria’s leadership crisis would exist until a woman becomes President. To date, no woman has come to power. Do you ever see Nigeria being ruled by a woman in the next 10-20 years?
Papa was a man truly called and used by God. Yes, he gave that prophecy and I believe the word of God always comes to pass. We may not know when this prophecy will come to pass, but the word of God does not return to Him void.
What do you think can be done to solve the problem of insecurity, large-scale corruption?
I am not a politician. However, I am a mother and I have grand and great-grandchildren. I am a Nigerian. It matters to me what happens here in Nigeria, so I always pray for our leaders and those who make decisions to be guided so that God’s will and no one else’s will be done in this our beloved Nigeria.
What is your advice to the government about the sorry state of the nation?
You noticed I stressed the word prayer because I know what we have passed through when my husband was alive. There is nothing difficult for God and when we pray, wonders will happen in this country. That is my faith and that is my prayer every day because I’m still here, my children are here, and we are all here. We are not happy about all the kidnapping, killings, and abductions going on now and seem to be the order of the day in Nigeria. But I still feel that there is nothing that God is not capable of doing, God can make changes if we continue to turn to Him and do what is right as a people.
Mama, prominent Nigerians have expressed their views and opinions on the need for secession. Some are saying we should all go our separate ways. What do you say?
The same thing I said earlier. Let us pray for Nigeria and those in authority. When we pray there will be unity, love and harmony. We will also be our brothers’ keeper.
At 94, your beauty is still pristine and you are standing erect, seeing clearly. What’s your secret? What kind of food do you eat, how do you start your day?
There is no secret whatsoever. At times we go without food while preaching, fasting, and doing church work. We sometimes forget to eat because we get so busy. I used to fast, although I hardly fast now, I don’t eat much, either. I also sleep well, eat well and enjoy the company of my children, my family and church members. They make me feel happy and well. For my age, I think I have enjoyed good health.
What, if anything, would you have done differently in your life? Is there any action or decision like that?
Yes. I would have loved to be a nurse. I like the profession a lot especially working with children. I would have loved to work at the Mercy Children Hospital. I remember, one of my children had an accident and we were admitted there. I had to stay there though it wasn’t allowed; I found it difficult to leave my child alone in the hospital. So, whenever the doctors were around, I would leave. But the nurses allowed me because I used to help them do most of their work before they come, and they liked me for that.
What do you want to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered for bringing my children to know the Lord and for those who came to the church, we pointed to the way of salvation. Through me, some of my own family actually became members of the Church of the Lord (Aladura). And through them, others joined the church. I want to be remembered for leading those that God had put within my reach to Christ.