A Supernatural Interception! Isabella Recalls The Divine Moment That Birthed “Hallel” 

It is no doubt that Isabella is one of the finest female Gospel artistes of Nigerian descent. An ever sprouting vessel of worship, so much that she was labelled the ‘Lady of Songs’ and ‘Isabella Melodie’ – all tags pointing to the ceaseless fountain of in-depth adulation from which she draws her inspiration.

The quintessence of Gospel music diva, Isabella is a shining example who balances the spiritual essence of the music ministry with aesthetics and professionalism flawlessly. Her many awards, books and other milestone achievements are testimonials of the premise.

Isabella, released the critically acclaimed single ‘Hallel’ few days ago and the impact has beckoned on her to tell the inspiring tale of the beautiful – yet divine – moment when the song was conceived.  She sits with Alex Amos for a brief chat and if a picture can tell a thousand words, then the words captured in a moment can reveal a thousand things!

Aside the Hallel-story, Isabella reveals plans for 2 new albums, with production credits to Wilson Joel & Niyi P respectively, a new video directed by Uvi Orogun is also on the way. Moreover, she speaks on her stance on mentorship, family and lots more in this interesting chat.

She did not mince words when she describe the reception of “Hallel” as ‘incredible’ while speaking on the inspiration behind the single.

’Hallel’ was released on Monday 24 April and the response has been beyond incredible.” Isabella said. “Hallel” was received during a studio session when we were actually working on a different song. This happened whilst I was visiting in Abuja, November last year. One of my daughters (in ministry), Gracia and her husband, Michael, who is a gifted songwriter, came to visit me. During that visit, he told me he had written a song for me as a gift and that he would like me to record the song in the studio. They arranged with a Producer, Niyi P, for us all to come to the studio to record the song. Due to the fact that my time in Nigeria was so short, it was far from convenient for me. Moreover the Lord has given me hundreds of songs that are yet to be produced so my natural response would have been to cancel the appointment.

Anyway, we ended up at the studio that night. It was during the arranging and recording of that song that I suddenly began to sense and hear another sound. Almost immediately I knew without doubt that this was a divine moment. I was literally jolted up from where I was sitting and I began to pace around, breaking out in tongues. I could see and hear the sound clearly. The sound and words (Hallel in groups of four) looked like clusters floating in the heavenlies, almost like they were waiting for someone to grab them! I stopped the other song and asked the producer to keep playing as I was hearing a sound. As I started releasing the sound I was hearing, the anointing fell right there in the studio. That’s how “Hallel” was received. Unplanned and unexpected. And I haven’t stopped singing it ever since.

Although I live in the UK and could have produced the song in more sophisticated studios, I was led to work with the same producer in whose studio the song was received.”

Reacting to the feedback, Abuja based producer Niyi-P, affirms the experience saying:

“My experience working with mama was awesome, till now I am still feeling the aroma of the grace of God in her life”.

Another Gospel artiste Gracia who was in the studio during the recording, confirms Niyi P’s assessment.

“The power and tangible presence of God was visible in the  studio that day. Still revelling in that one experience. Now I understand the term ‘anointed minstrel’ better.

As an offshoot from the release of ‘Hallel”, Isabella has got a lot in the pipe for the year 2017, which includes 2 new albums and a video.

“I recently finished working on my 7th and 8th album.” She explained, “The 7th album titled “Indescribable (The Complete Album)” has a total of thirteen songs, all produced by Wilson Joel (Music Magnate of Doxology Studios).  I recently shot the official video and directed by Uvi Orogun to the first single titled “Omnipotent God” from that album. I will be releasing release the single in July.

“The 8th album titled “A New Beginning” has a total of ten songs, all produced by an Abuja based producer named Niyi P.  “Hallel” is the first single to be released off that project.

“Both projects are now complete and I am excitedly looking forward to sharing the songs with the world. I do love both albums but they are very different sound-wise. “Indescribable” is more contemporary, edgy and universally appealing. On the other hand, “A New Beginning” is more spiritually stirring and more intimate. Having recorded seven albums before it, I can honestly say that I had my most memorable intimate worship moments in the studio whilst recording “A New Beginning”.”

…and just when we thought we’ve gotten Isabella to give us a tell-all chat, she kept a few tricks up her sleeve.

“Both albums have a surprising twist with the last few songs in the albums. I had a bit of an adventure recording those songs but I guess you’d have to wait to find out what the twists are!” Talk about building an intense anticipation!

Isabella was not as acquiescent as one would have presumed a multi-award winning Gospel singer, songwriter and author would have been to give her perception where her brand is concerned. She is of the opinion that “our perception of ourselves can sometimes be very far removed from the reality of how we are perceived externally.”

Nevertheless, as a mentor, Isabella sees herself as reasonably accessible, amiable and relatable person. According to her, “everyone is valuable to God. No one is indispensable and the most important thing one will be remembered by at the end of the day is how they impacted lives (positively or negatively). Those who leave lasting legacies are the ones who genuinely prioritize and invest in people.”

“I do mentor a number of Gospel artists and I do also have a mentor.” She continued. “I take that responsibility very seriously as these people are very important to God’s heart. I consciously and deliberately create time for my mentees. I commit to not just counselling them but praying for them and with them individually as much as possible. I prioritise relationships.”

Isabella’s who did not grow up as a church girl said her liberal years while growing up makes her more sympathetic and a better counsellor as far as ministry goes.

“Due to the fact that I didn’t grow up as a church girl, I had the opportunity to experience life differently from some others who had always been in church.  I think my exposure (to worldly ways and lifestyle) and liberal orientation helped shape me to be less judgmental, more sympathetic of human weakness and more compassionate towards those who have personal or private struggles. I am open minded and able to offer practical counsel without over-spiritualizing everything.”

Isabella is also notable for her sense of fashion.

“I’ve always loved fashion. Not outrageous fashion but I do take pride in my femininity and love to look graceful & elegant. I am blessed that I have my sister as my stylist and fashion designer so I get a lot of stuff for free! (laughs). I think God has blessed African women with a certain body shape, which ironically, our cultural mindset tends to openly condemn but secretly admire! I am bringing this up because the issue of ‘modesty’ in dressing has always been a sticking point for Christian women, especially in Africa.  But that’s a topic for another day. Let’s just say I am not averse to people being trendy.  As long as there are no private body parts on public display, I’m all for it!”

Isabella currently has six albums out with two more to be released shortly. Her first album was released in 2009 and the sixth one in 2015.

“The Lord granted me divine acceleration in ministry, for His glory. Along the way, I have been honoured by many awards which I don’t find necessary to list here. It has been a journey of growth to the glory of God. In addition to the albums, I have authored a book tiled “The Worshipper After The Father’s Heart”, foreworded by the American worship leader, Terry MacAlmon. I have also travelled extensively across the world for ministry, as God has opened doors in Africa, Europe and America. I am enjoying my adventure with the Lord. My relationship with Him is growing deeper and my love for Him is waxing stronger as I navigate my way through life with the help of the Holy Spirit.”

She believes more established Gospel acts who will genuinely commit their time, energy and resources for posterity sake and not as a publicity stunt or for selfish means, needs to take on the role of mentors for the upcoming ones in the ever expanding Gospel music ‘industry’. 

While she works on her new materials for the year, her itinerary keeps getting new entries as she has been billed to minister in England, Scotland, Italy, Holland, Texas and Maryland. She is also looking forward to be in Nigeria towards the end of the year.

We expect the unveiling of the album cover arts soon as work progresses on the graphics.

“The albums cover artworks are currently being designed and I am hoping to release the 7th album by November and the 8th one shortly afterwords. I’m also working on my next book titled “The Ministry of Wifehood.

Isabella and her husband Pastor Ogo celebrated their 22nd marriage anniversary in January of 2017 and with the wisdom gathered through experience, they have without a doubt earned the feathers of counsellors

“Myself and my husband have been married for 22 years. We have four children (young adults): two girls and two boys. Our first daughter who will turn 22 years this year graduated from university last year (2016) and our last son is 14 years old.

“My husband, Pastor Ogo, has indeed been the backbone of my ministry in the sense that God has used and is still using him tremendously to support and sustain the ministry financially and spiritually. I wouldn’t be where I am today without his unflinching support and I bless God for his life.”

Watch Lyrics Video:

Twitter: @isabellamelodie
Instagram: @isabellamelodies
Facebook: Isabella Ogo-Uzodike


[INTERVIEW] Why I begged Apostle Suleman – Stephanie Otobo’s mother

PREMIUM TIMES’ Festus Owete and Idris Ibrahim travelled to Sapele, Delta State, to speak with the mother of Canadian-based Nigerian woman, Stephanie Otobo, who accused the pastor of the Omega Fire Ministry, Auchi, Johnson Suleman, popularly called Apostle Suleman, of having amorous relationship with her.

For two days, attempts by our reporters to trace the mother, Bukky, to her home were unsuccessful. When finally located, it would take hours to convince her to speak with this newspaper.

Bukky explained why she apologised to Mr. Suleman, the formative years of her daughter, the allegation her daughter had marital introduction with Mr. Suleman, and other issues.


PT: You travelled to Auchi to attend a church service where you also apologised to Apostle Johnson Suleman. What prompted you to do that?

Bukky: I did that because of my daughter, (and) because I am a mother. The way I am seeing her is not the way I brought her up. And all those her character is not giving me happiness which I want to put an end to. That is why I went to Auchi.

PT: Did anybody threaten to arrest or kill you before you went there?

Bukky: No, nobody threatened me. It is because I am a mother. When I saw what was going on, the day you people came to the market I said I wanted to go and meet the man of God to apologise so that we can put an end to the matter. Because I know my daughter. I did not bring her up this way and the way she is behaving is not normal. So, I said I want to go and beg the man of God to forgive her so that this matter can die off. Because I cannot continue with this (and) the way I am seeing it, I don’t want anything of such to happen again. Nobody threatened to kill me or prompted me to do so. I went there on my own to apologise to man of God.

PT: I am asking because shortly after that church service, your daughter said on Instagram that you were threatened to go to Auchi.

Bukky: No, I was not threatened. I am a mother. I cannot continue to see her in that manner. She has been saying all sort of things. We are not happy and that is why I went to apologise. I went there alone; nobody threatened me.

PT: That implies that your daughter lied?

Bukky: Yes, because what she is saying is not true.

PT: How old is your daughter?

Bukky: I don’t want to answer that. 

PT: Don’t you think your daughter is old enough to take responsibility for her actions?

Bukky: What I am still saying is that they should pardon her and the matter should just go down like that. They should forgive this matter because they’ve been manipulating her because this is not her real self. She was not behaving like this before. It seems all those lawyers are manipulating her, using her to say all this rubbish and bringing all this things out. So I begged that this matter should die down now because this is not my real daughter. I believe somebody must have been manipulating her. All those lawyers (and) all those her friends are using her. This is not the way I brought her up because I brought many children up. They are not behaving like this. Somebody is brainwashing her, polluting her mind and that is what is making her to do all this things that she is doing now.

PT: You are accusing a lawyer for doing that?

Bukky: Yes, all those lawyers are using her to get their own names. They should leave my daughter alone. They should leave my daughter out of this matter. I am still talking about all those lawyers, they should leave my daughter alone.

PT: Can you mention names?

Bukky: I don’t know them but I believe that all those lawyers supporting her are using her. I am begging the government that they should leave my daughter alone. They should release my daughter from what they are doing to her.

PT: Do you know the lawyer they call Festus Keyamo or any lawyer from his chamber?

Bukky: I don’t know him and any lawyer from his chamber though they call me but I don’t know them.

PT: When the lawyers called you, what were they telling you?

Bukky: They asked me whether they came to arrest me or they forced me to say all those things when they came to my market. They also asked whether I was tortured. They came and said they want to ask me about my daughter, (but) I told them that I want to go and beg the man of God myself to die down the matter. That is what every mother will do. I don’t want to see my daughter destroyed. That is why I am saying that all those lawyers should leave my daughter and bring her out of this matter.

PT: You said you were going to beg the man of God, what were you afraid of?

Bukky: Well, we begged the man of God that he should forgive my daughter. You know when you call somebody a man of God, he can go to any length. So I don’t want the man of God to go to any length, to do any evil prayer because when we heard of it that time, this pastors’ association (South-South chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria) praying all their sorts of things. I cannot sit down here watching my daughter like that. That is why I said I want to go to the source to beg that man. Nobody tortured me. I went alone. I entered vehicle from Sapele to Auchi.

PT: So, was it the first time you went to Auchi?

Bukky: No, I have been to Auchi before.

PT: She (Stephanie) said Apostle Suleman held marriage discussions in the pastor’s office. Is it true?

Bukky: No, it is not true, nothing like marriage, I did not go there for marriage. No woman goes to collect dowry. That one na abomination.

PT: Did she ever tell you that she was pregnant?

Bukky: No, she never told me.

PT: Did she ever tell you that she was stooling blood for a year?

Bukky: No.

PT: So, when you heard about all these things, what was your first reaction as a mother?

Bukky: I really want to see that they bring my daughter back to me. I wanted her to come back to me that moment. I did not see her and that was why I said I was looking forward to seeing the man of God so that I can beg the man of God to forgive her (and) to cancel all this matter.

PT: Have you made any attempt to reach her so that you discuss with her?

Bukky: No.

PT: When she was growing up, what kind of child was she?

Bukky: She is not wayward, that is why what is happening is surprising me. Somebody is behind this matter because she was not like that before. She is a good child. She loved me and I love her. So, along the way, I don’t know what happened; that is why I said they are manipulating her, using something against her and I want every Nigerian to help me to pray, pray for her that God should deliver her.

PT: Do you know what she does in Canada where she lives?

Bukky: She was going to school before (and) she is a musician.

PT: Does she send you money?

Bukky: Before she dey send me money sometimes.

PT: What do you do for a living?

Bukky: I am a business woman.

PT: How many children do you have?

Bukky: Dem plenty, even the one I born, the one I no born, through herself I brought many of her friends up.

PT: Now if this matter goes to court, are you ready to go to court to testify?

Bukky: I don’t want to go to court, that is why I said they should cancel the matter.

PT: Do you have any advice for mothers?

Bukky: Well they should bring up their child in the way of God.

PT: Do you know anybody who is against your child and who is polluting her against the man of God?

Bukky: I don’t know anybody. Na the lawyer wey make her dey talk all this bad word. The lawyer should leave my daughter alone.

Source: Premium Times

How God blocked me from going into politics – Methodist Church Bishop

Right Reverend Dr David Ademola Moronfoluwa Moradeyo, in this interview by YEMISI AOFOLAJU, says his election as a bishop by the Conference of Bishops of Methodist Church Nigeria was as a result of his obedience to God’s call to service. He also spoke on why Nigeria needs God-fearing leaders, among other issues.

Can you describe your upbringing?

I appreciate God, who is the maker of heaven and earth, and my creator. I would say that my upbringing was rough because I will liken where I was born to a manger. I lost my beautiful mother when I was in the primary school, with nothing to live on. I was going from one house to another to take breakfast, not knowing where my lunch and dinner would come from. I had no one to take care of me. It was very hard for me to pass through secondary school education, because my father could not pay my school fees. I am a miracle; my achievements in life have been miracle.

How were you able to surmount the challenges as an orphan?

After the demise of my mother, she left seven of us and six of my brothers were taken to our mother’s relatives, leaving me in our grandfather’s house in Elekuro. In fact, for more than 15 years, we could not come together as a family; so I remained a real poor boy.

After my secondary school education, my father’s friend, who was a member of the Ibadan Progressive Union was a Principal Chief Executive Officer at the Ministry of Establishment and Training, he assisted me in getting employed as a clerical officer at the ministry. I did not touch my salary for two years. I got admitted to a university in India. I lived in India on friends and connections. It was one of my Indian friends, called Michael, who took me to his house as I was accepted by his parents and they were responsible for my feeding till I graduated, except my school fees.

Nigerian students bailed me out as they taxed themselves to settle all my outstanding bills. After graduating, I was in India for another three months in the hostel alone, waiting for a return ticket. It was a bad experience then anyway. With the help of some of my brothers, I was able to return to Nigeria. In India then, I went to two schools; between 8.00 a.m  and 1.00 p.m was for my Engineering pursuit and from 3.00 p.m to 9.00 p.m at the seminary. I came back, with two degrees in Theology and Engineering.

Were you called or you went to seminary because you wanted to make maximum use of your time in India?

My name says it all. I’m David Ademola Moronfoluwa Moradeyo, a child dedicated to serve God. I thought it was a normal thing, but I later realised that my decisions were driven by the Holy Spirit from childhood. I didn’t know how I found myself in the seminary in India. I found myself having passion for mission work; I enjoyed India because they called me ‘David of Africa’.

Even as a teacher back home, I pastored a church. Though I was asked to regularise my pastoral training through a year adaptation with Methodism, but I refused and resorted to marking time. I pastored a church for 10 years without salary. Later,  I joined politics after I had made serious money. I went to my constituency, Egbeda in Ona-Ara Local Government Area of Oyo State, but this dream never got fulfilled, as God blocked my entering into politics. Though I won the party’s primaries for the House of Representatives, but after my wife and I prayed about this, God spoke expressly, ‘I want you to go and serve me in the Church’ and He added: ‘You are not only going to serve me in the Church.

Any meeting point between being an engineer, politician and clergy man?

Yes, there is a meeting point and it is by the grace of God, and one thing that is important is that we are created in the image of God and when you are a true image of His, you can serve in all shades. I don’t believe that good Christians should not be involved in politics.

Now that you have been made a Bishop of Methodist Church Nigeria, Ogbomoso Diocese, what are your plans for the diocese?

I thank God for His translation and sending me to the diocese known for evangelism. You can’t be a bishop of Ogbomoso Diocese without being a true and real evangelist. I have passion for evangelism. My translation to Ogbomoso is welcome back home because Methodism in Ogbomoso is real John Wesley. The diocese has moved from where I met it since my translation in October 2016. In this space of time, so many developmental projects are ready for inauguration tomorrow.

Christianity today appears to be under siege with ministers of the word being involved in different scandals. What is your take on this?

It is written in the Bible that many people call God with their lips, but their hearts are very far from Him. We have so many pastors with majority not having the fear of God, but the problem we are having is that there is no love;  if there is love, there will be no room for corruption. We have so many things in Nigeria to enjoy.

How do you see the Oyo State government under Governor Abiola Ajimobi, and if given the opportunity to advise him, what will you tell him?

Well, I will be fair to Ajimobi. In doing this, I will compare him with all past administrators. He may have his own weaknesses as human being because its only God that is perfect. Ajimobi is a quality man- a man who loves quality things. Being an international man, he has passion to transform this state, which is a very difficult task. I am sure he does not like what Beere is, being well travelled. How many of us have that passion he has for the betterment of the state without being distracted? He wants a neat environment as well as develop the state to what he sees in other cities of the world. In doing such things, the masses have to pattern their lifestyle after him.

Are you fulfilled?

I thank God that on the wee hours of October 11, 2016 , I heard of my election as a Bishop. I felt fulfilled because it was God that has appointed me to serve Him. God called me from being an engineer, teacher and politician. I feel greatly fulfilled.

Source: Tribuneonlineng

Bishops are lonely, it’s better to be a priest – Olubayo Sowale

Bishop of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Ilesa Diocese, Osun State, Right Reverend (Dr) Olubayo Sowale, in this interview with OLAIDE SOKOYA, speaks on his journey into God’s vineyard, how Nigeria can move beyond the present economic challenges and what the future holds for his diocese. Excerpts:

Looking at your background, how did you find yourself in the ministry?

I was born on 27th December, 1951, at Isara Remo, Ogun State, to the family of Pa Lamidi Sowale and Madam Abigail Sowale. I grew up in the village with my parents who were Muslims. My father was a farmer while my mother was a petty trader. I had the opportunity to be educated under the Chief Obafemi Awolowo free education programme. After school, I worked with two companies, I started as a clerk at an insurance company and became branch manager. In the process, late Reverend Canon Emmanuel Adesanya Olubogun, who was my church district chairman, saw me in the choir and as a result of that, he wanted me to live with him and promised to get me a teaching job. Without seeking my opinion, he forced me to take the catechist course in Akure, Ondo State, but I was still working with the insurance company then. I was saving my salary with Reverend Olubogun; my income then was six shillings and four pence. He wound give me only two shillings and keep the rest for me.

One day, he just called me and said I would be going to Lagos for an examination. I asked him which examination, and he said when I got to Lagos, I would know. After two weeks, I got a letter to go to Akure for an interview. I really didn’t want to become a cleric, so I kept searching for ways to disqualify myself.

When I got to Akure for the interview, we were asked to carry blocks and I blatantly refused. I returned home thinking I wouldn’t be admitted due to my disobedience. However, after a month, a letter came that I had been admitted and I was asked to pay a deposit of  50 pounds within two weeks. I kept the letter away from Reverend Olubogun because I didn’t want to go for the catechist course. After two weeks, I showed the letter to him. He took the letter without asking any question because he knew the letter had got to me earlier. He later went to St. Peter’s Church, Isara to inform them of my admission and they took the matter up and offered to pay the deposit. Later, Mr S.A. Soyinka, father of Professor Wole Soyinka, who was a relative, told my father to pay back the money so that the church would not claim they sent me to school in the future.

So, they returned the 50 pounds to the church but the church insisted on supporting me for the course and went ahead to send another 30 pounds to Akure. As a result, instead of a 50-pound deposit, I had 80 pounds as deposit for the course. When I was informed of the commitment made to the course, I was left with no choice. I spent three years in Akure, and I was later sent to Ikere Ekiti, Ondo State (now in Ekiti State) under the then Bishop of Ekiti, Right Reverend Joseph Adetiloye, who later became primate.

When he saw me, he didn’t allow me to stay because he felt I was too young. After a year, Adetiloye made sure I was admitted to Immanuel College, Ibadan, Oyo State, where I spent three years: 1974 to 1977.  I went to University of Ibadan for a Bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies between 1978 and 1981. After that, I did my Masters and started my Ph.D.

By that time, I had four jobs; I was a lecturer at Immanuel College; I was also the principal of the Lay School of Evangelists at St. James Cathedral, Oke-Bola, Ibadan. I completed my PhD in 1991 and there at Immanuel College, I got married. I was appointed provost of the Cathedral Church of St Paul, Sagamu, Ogun State, where I spent seven years and I was elected as the Bishop of Ilesa in 2000.

If you were not a cleric, what would you have become?

During my secondary school days, I was a very good mathematician. Perhaps if my parents were educated, I would have been a professor. I didn’t get less than 100 per cent in mathematics. As small as I was then, my mates and seniors would come to me to solve their assignments. In fact, I want to have a foundation for indigent students who are also good in mathematics.

With your 16 years experience, what would you say are the challenges you faced?

Firstly, I would say being a bishop is different from being a priest. As a parish priest, you would enjoy the fellowship of the people. But when you become a bishop, you become lonely. People don’t want to come close to bishops; in fact, some bishops make it difficult by saying before anyone can see them, they must go through the archdeacons and this is a system I find foreign.

For this, among other reasons, I think I would still have preferred being a priest to a bishop. A bishop faces many challenges. People will misunderstand you, and some will even say you are too powerful. For instance, issues of transfer, discipline or even promotion of priests may not sit well with some people. There are so many challenges but I thank God for the wisdom given to me.

With the time you have spent here, what would you say the future holds for Ilesa diocese?

I will say the future of Ilesa Anglican Diocese is very bright. With the support of the wonderful members we have, within a short time, we built the Bishop’s Court, administrative block and a conference centre in 2009. In that same year, we created three other dioceses. We have also invested in some businesses. So, I am very hopeful for the future of this diocese.

 What is the process for appointing bishops and archbishops in the Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion?

It is the duty of a bishop to prefer an archdeacon, canon, reverend, deacon or appoint the provost. The position of a bishop is occupied through election. When a bishop retires or dies, depending on which the case may be, and the seat becomes vacant in the diocese, we have what we call Bishop Advisory Committee.

It is the duty of the advisory committee to meet and state the type of person they want. They will communicate their decision to the primate who will send it to all bishops, and a nomination process takes place. Our nomination will be guided by the recommendation of the advisory committee.

An archbishop is elected from the bishops in that province. We have about 14 provinces in Nigeria.

The present administration is focused in eradicating corruption. How would you assess their performance so far?

Eradicating corruption has something in common with the church; the church preaches righteousness and justice. Where there is corruption, there will be no righteousness and justice. I once said that every human being is corrupt to a certain extent. When you deviate from doing good, you are corrupt; it may be morally, financially or socially.

So, the focus should be on all persons. There was a report recently that the president wants to re-introduce the War Against Indiscipline (WAI). Well it is part of it. The only type of corruption we deal with in Nigeria is focused on money, which is wrong. In fact, before anybody can be corrupt, he  or she must have been corrupt morally. So, I support the war against corruption but it must be in all ramifications and not only with regard to stolen funds.

On a global scale, Nigeria could be said to have, arguably, the highest number of churches, yet is burdened by falling moral standards. What would you say we are not doing right?

It is really worrying. The problem is that people are deviating from the way it was in the beginning. During the advent of Christianity in 1840, when Henry Townsend and others came to Nigeria, they established churches like Anglican, Methodist and Catholic which called people to holiness and righteousness, and those values exist till today.

However, when other churches sprang up, many of them preach prosperity, without recourse to stressing that making money must be by legal means. Sin itself is rational and whoever wants to tackle sin must also be a rational being. We now have so many churches established for selfish interests. That is the reason we have high crime rate.

We also have so many Christians calling themselves born-again, yet their character is questionable. Calling yourself born-again does not eliminate wickedness. It is so unfortunate that there is no way of restricting the establishment of churches in Nigeria. So, anybody can just rise up and pronounce himself a pastor.

With the state of the nation’s economy, what would be your advice for Christians in addressing the situation?

Let all Nigerians go back to the drawing board. Unfortunately for us, we have left what we should have done and focused on oil; now the oil is failing us. Nigerians should go back to farming and apart from that, let us pray unto God.

Let us pray against all the terrorists rising against Nigeria. Finally, let us keep watch. What I have discovered is that Nigerians are very lazy; people don’t want to work. More people should embrace entrepreneurship and shift focus from monthly salary. The Lord has given us the land to till; let us make use of the land.

What would you recommend to government as solution to the current economic hardship?

The government held what was referred to as an economic summit some time ago. I will suggest that such summit should take place at the local government level.

Our government needs to go to the grassroots to educate people on how to do things; we have been treating so many things on the surface which is not right. Government should make mechanised tools available for farmers at the local level, and then you will see the difference.

They should take the opinions of the locals on how to develop the economy. Our answer is in our people and not dictating from the state houses.

INTERVIEW:: Prison Evangelism, Vital To National Reformation – Bishop Williams

Bishop Kayode Williams, who was imprisoned for 10 years, is the Director-General, Prison Rehabilitation Mission International (PREMI), a prison reformation initiative and Bishop of Christ Vessel of Grace Church. He shares with GBEMI SOLAJA his thoughts on the peculiarities of the Nigerian prison system, how his time in jail improved his ministry, his efforts in prison evangelism, among other issues. Excerpts:

What is your assessment of the Nigerian prison system?

It is a bit difficult to really give a pass mark to the Nigerian Prisons Service for now because there are a lot of issues in the criminal justice system and on rehabilitation, reformation, re- integration, and settlements of ex-convicts, we have a lot of areas to look into.

The assessment for now is that there are serious problems in terms of accommodation, inmates awaiting trials, congestion, among others.

For instance, as of today, over 50,000 inmates are locked up and 80 per cent of these are awaiting trials. With this, it has become difficult to administer the prison properly because the awaiting trials are not to be rehabilitated or reformed. These are people awaiting trials.

The convicted ones are limited in number and the prison authorities do not know how to handle them because of the state of the facilities for training.

What can be done to make things better?

Nigerian prison officers are not on the same level with their counterparts in security, which is an abuse and an embarrassment; they see themselves as inferior. They can deliver, but the system has relegated them.

For instance, I have asked some state governors why prison officers cannot be in the security committee of the state. Prison officers handle criminals without guns yet their importance in the society is not recognised.

Our prisons must be reformed. The purpose for sending an inmate to the prison is for reformation, and this is misplaced.

A prison is not a punitive centre; it is a reformative centre. The larger percentage of inmates are those awaiting trials. They have not been convicted so the system does not know what to do with them. For those who have been convicted and should undergo training, there are no facilities.

For instance, for those condemned to death, many states don’t want to sign death and execution warrants. That’s commendable because in some civilised countries, executions have become a thing of the past.

People should be given another chance at life because two wrongs cannot make a right. I think the governors are trying to look for a way out. However, many of these people have overstayed because there have been no execution for years; some prisoners have stayed for over 25 years.

The question then is ‘what is the essence of the punishment when it has overstayed its usefulness?’ It is important to know that the essence of the prison is for convict to come back to the society a better and reformed person.

It is happening to me today. If I did not pass through the prisons, if I had been executed, what God is using me for today would not have been possible. They had closed a door, but God opened the window so that He can showcase His almightiness in reforming, rebuilding, and remolding a person who had been written off.

I want to use this opportunity to ask the federal and state governments to release majority of those who have stayed for over 15 years so that they can be given another chance at life.

Regarding the convicts, when a man has spent years in the prison, who is going to welcome him home. The society is hostile to the inmates. In civilised countries, reformed prisoners who want to re-enter society are usually compensated.

In Nigeria, the story is largely different. That’s where the prison ministry I direct comes in.  We act like a bridge between the prison and the society. When I came back from prison, nobody welcomed me. However, I thank God, who in His infinite mercies remolded and reconstructed my life.

Delay in investigation of criminal cases, denial and delay in justice and unnecessary overstay in prisons are three key areas that must be addressed.

Also, rehabilitation centres should be handled by the states these prisoners come from because they need to be somewhere when they return from prison. Prison officers need to be given some incentive and inmates should be compensated by the state. The office of social welfare should be in charge of this. The Federal Ministry of Social Welfare and the state ministries of social welfare only function as if they are doing some people favours by distributing gifts during Christmas and Sallah celebrations. That is only a small aspect. Victims of crimes must also be identified and given reasonable compensation relating to what they suffered when the crime was committed. Psychologists should also play a role in reforming criminals.

How active are you in prison evangelism?

With PREMI, we have Oba Adedapo Tejuosho as the chairman of the governing council; Chief Afe Babalola as the chairman, board of trustees; Justice Seun Sogbola as the secretary general; Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as a life grand patron, among others. PREMI is not only in Nigeria; we are in England and Wales. We have established relationship with international organisations and we are moving forward. As for Nigeria, what we are trying to do now is to build a rehabilitation and drug centre, the first of its kind in Africa. We want to be the bridge between the prison and the society so that we can bring all the ideas to play in such an organisation. We will be in partnership with the Nigerian Prisons Service, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, and other organisations of like mind so that we can use that place to redefine the prison system and ensure that inmates contribute positively to society.

In the light of current economic challenges, how can the prisons contribute positively?

There are a lot of things that Nigerian Prisons can chip in to improve our economy. In Scandinavian countries, they use the prisons to produce all the boots that officers use as a way of making them productive. In China, it’s the same thing. In China, people go to jail for 180 years so they allow them to work and get paid. If a prisoner is serving a 10-year sentence, nothing stops him from working and engaging in what we call earning scheme, that is, a method of paying him so that by the time he comes out , he will be a better person based on the skills and knowledge he has acquired while working in prison.

You said earlier that the constitution has been a plague and a burden on the sustainability of the prison system. Could you shed more light on this?

The state must be partner with the Federal Government on issue of prisons. Officers must have capacity building and training and be exposed to foreign systems of reforming inmates. The National Assembly should deliberate on what the Nigerian prison is for, especially with regard to our constitution. This should include the duties of the comptroller-general, the deputy, how to handle inmates, among other concerns.

Why I am called ‘coconut pastor’ – Prophet Abiara

The General Evangelist of the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC), Prophet Samuel Kayode Abiara, in this exclusive interview with SEYI SOKOYA, bares his mind on national issues, current state of CAC, among other issues. Excerpts:  

Your name was mentioned among the  men of God who are diabolical  powers according to a man who released a video CD recently. How did you feel about this and what steps have you taken?

We thank God for His mercies. The scriptures established that there will be a terrible time where we will face slanders and various forms of condemnation. Indeed, these are signs of the end time.

We heard it and the security agencies had arrested those involved, especially the person behind it, who claimed he was looking for money. I think the public is aware about the matter and the case has been taken to the court. Though, he has begged for forgiveness, I think all ministers of God he lied against should forgive him. Personally, I feel he decided to select the names that are marketable to make money. I was not moved about the video CD, because Jesus was also called many names. This development has no meaning to me; this is my 53rd year in the ministry and we thank God that there had not been anything of such. I thank God for my life and the grace He bestowed upon me since He called me into the vineyard. I have forgiven him.
Is the church doing anything to protect its pastors from this kind of embarrassment?
The church has reacted and will always take necessary steps when such matter arises. We reported the case to the Commissioner of Police when we heard about it and that was why everyone involved in the matter was apprehended.
Mixed reactions have trailed President Buhari’s claim that he will no longer pay N5,000 to unemployed youths, instead he will use the money for infrastructural development. What is your take on this?

I think the president was misquoted. Don’t forget that I am not partisan or a card carrying member of any political party. He insisted that he wanted to help the masses. He is a man of integrity and can never deny it. I guess he was misunderstood. Even if he said that, he can still review it or initiate other things that can be of benefit to the masses. As far as I am concerned, N5, 000 cannot solve the problems of the unemployed.
What is your assessment of the President Buhari-led government so far?
I want everyone to have a clear understanding that leaders are not angels or magicians. I think they are really trying, especially in the area of security. They promised to save lives and property as well as put an end to terrorism in the country. I am impressed that they have really achieved this. The country is now peaceful than what it used to be. We must commend our security agencies and thank God for strengthen them to restore peace and stability in the country. I also want to urge the Federal Government to compensate them accordingly. The government is also trying its best in the area of corruption, especially in its effort to recover stolen money. They have done very well, but I want to advise them to use the money recovered to empower the youth. More so, I urge them not to punish whoever they recover stolen money from.
As one of the leaders of the Christ Apostolic Church, what is your take on the leadership tussle and how have you been able to solve the crisis?
You will agree with me that there is no one living without challenges. No man, marriage, church and government can stand without one challenge or the other. God has finally taken control of the church and its leadership. The Peace Move Committee recently formed has commenced work and very soon, the whole world will know that all is settled, because God has already won the battle and all the challenges of the church will be a thing of the past.
How will you react to the insinuation that the church is lagging behind compared to other churches we have around?
That is not true; Christ Apostolic Church is a powerful church and the mother of all pentecostal churches. We thank God for the grace and how far He has brought us despite challenges. No church is free from challenges, but they have a way of solving it. We are not behind; we have upgraded our standard because it is not a mushroom church. CAC has grown in leaps and bounds and its branches all over the world are doing great. We have quality leaders who are well informed, intelligent and educated. Our pastors at different branches are also fantastic.
You have been in the ministry for many years. What has been the secret?
This is my 53rd year in the ministry and I thank God for the grace, mercy and the gift of life. Many people said maybe it was because I spent many years on the mountain. I was also nicknamed Woli Alagbon because of the fact that I always take coconut whenever I wanted to break my fast. But I feel it is the grace God upon my life. I am not getting tired because God and the Holy Spirit are not tired of me. I derive joy in praying and reading the Bible always. If you remain in God and do His will you will, continue to shine. This is the secret behind my vibrancy in God’s vineyard.
How did you receive the calling?
I was a clerk around 1963 under the one Baba Agoro. I had an encounter with God the moment I made up my mind to register my company in order to become an independent trader. On that fateful day, I heard a voice, “I am the Alfa and Omega, Kayode Abiara I will make you somebody if you follow me”. I was confused, but to cut the story short, I eventually obeyed the call and God has made the journey fruitful and wonderful since then. I thank God for everything about my life; He transformed my life and used me to perform His wonders and miracles. The number of years I have spent in the ministry doesn’t matter to me, but the lives and souls He has lifted through me gladdens my heart. I am not afraid to retire; the retirement age in CAC worldwide is 75. So, it is not the time for me to retire because I am still young. The world will know the appropriate time for me to retire.
Is any of your children following your path?
God gave me three set of twins and they are all ministers of God. My first son, who is a pastor, was here recently to preach at a programme in the church. I have another son, Israel Abiara, he is a pastor and a musician based in Lagos. Taiwo Abiara is also a pastor. I am happy that I was able to lead them in the way of God and the fact they chose to follow my path. I am also delighted that I am blessed with a good wife, who I describe as my mother. Our marriage will clock 50 this year and she has really been supportive in the home and the ministry.
What advice do you have for pastors generally, especially those under the umbrella of CAC?
I want to urge all clerics to continue to do the will of God and make the act of winning souls for Christ their priority. On the part of pastors in CAC, I want to advise them to always obey the authorities of the church. The Bible also spoke on the importance of obeying the rules and regulations of the authorities. For instance, in my early days in the ministry, despite the fact that God has been manifesting Himself through signs and wonders, the authorities asked me to go to the seminary, but people around me frowned upon it. Personally, I felt it was right for me to go to the seminary and I went for the two-year course where I gained a lot of things. If truly they are called by God, they must obey the authorities of the church to pass through the seminary where they will gather more knowledge about the word of God, because vision and prophesies are not enough for people to stand. Aside this, I also want to commend our pastors because they are very dynamic, obedient, civilised and educated unlike before. The church has really moved forward. CAC pastors are no longer dunces. We now have fantastic pastors and you will never find any pastor and prophet prophesying dooms. We have taught ourselves not to embarrass the nation, people and the church at large. This is one of the things that make us unique among others.
What is your advice for Christians and people generally?
If you take a look at the news we hear or read around the world, both local and international every day you will discover that we are always fed with bad news and this really baffles me. I want to urge everyone to repent from their sins and make a U-turn. We are in a worse era than that of Sodom and Gomorrah. Crime and ungodly acts are now on the increase. We now witness a lot of abominations among human beings. Kidnapping, rape, robbery, homosexuality, lesbianism, bestiality, money rituals among other obscenities are now rampant; nobody is safe. We need to collectively seek the face of God. Nigeria is really sick; we need to pray for the revival of our economy. I also want to ask the wealthy to have a sense of belonging and help people around them. Whether we like it or not, we will die someday. So, it is important that we affect lives positively while alive.