Reverend Mother Olive Adejobi, wife of the late Primate Emmanuel Adejobi of the Church of the Lord, Aladura, recently clocked 94. She speaks about her growing up, ministerial journey and life in old age, in this interview culled from www.punchng.com
You recently celebrated your birthday, how does it feel being 94?
The celebration was fine and I was happy to see everyone around me – (church) members, ministers, little children, among others. The church was full on that day. I am so happy. It reminds me of those days when I was energetic. I am no longer as energetic as I used to be.
What particular event in your childhood remains unforgettable to you?
That would be my days in primary school. I attended Ake Abeokuta Primary School. I remember very well that my headmaster was the father of Prof Wole Soyinka. I attended that school until I left Abeokuta for Lagos.
My father was the late Pa John and my mother, Mama Kehinde John. She was a twin but the Taiwo (twin sister) had died long before I was born. I had a nice time growing up. The law, for us then, was you dared not miss going to church. Every Sunday morning, we attended Sunday School and services in the afternoon and evening. We were trained that way and we got used to it. My mum used to make adire (batik) and she was called Mama Alaaro. I used to follow her to the market to sell adire whenever the market day fell on a Saturday. Also, sometimes if I wasn’t in school, I helped her to make adire patterns. Nobody took over the adire business from my mother because we had to go to school.
In the olden days, sending girls to school was not that popular. Did your parents have to be convinced to enrol you?
All my siblings, both male and female, went to school. I don’t know of any female that was not allowed to go to school during my time. We all went to school.
Was your date of birth recorded?
My father was well-read so I was able to know my date of birth.
Was it true that you once worked with the Nigerian Postal Office Savings Bank at Igbosere, Lagos? What was the experience like for you?
After I left Queens College in the 1940s, I worked at the Nigerian Post Office Bank.
How did you meet your husband?
That was when I came to Lagos. I was staying with one of my brothers and he (my husband) was a member of the church. That was where the whole thing started.
How was life and marriage when your husband was alive?
It was a pleasant time because we were able to carry the responsibility of both the church and the children well. All but one of our children were born in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The last child was born in the United Kingdom.
Your husband went to be with the Lord 30 years ago. How was the experience like for you carrying on with the ministry without him?
It wasn’t too good but I thank God for accepting me. The early days were not too good because I always remembered him and I would be saying, “If my husband were to be alive, we would do this and that together.” But after some time, I had to carry on with the help of God. The church had become my family at the time. Before my husband’s demise, we established a seminary, bringing in boys and girls to be trained for the work of God. We sometimes had the older men and women join as well. They were of good use to the establishment of the Church of the Lord, Aladura, Lagos and other parts of Nigeria. We thank God that many of the church branches still exist now.
I was one of the teachers and was also in charge of Diocese C and I had about 11 churches under me. I would visit one or two of the churches almost every Sunday to worship with them, to know what was going on and see to the development of the churches. Most times, I spent my time during the week on some of the challenges and projects for the churches. I hardly had time for myself because I was busy with services, visitation of members who had been absent for some time and counselling of both the young and the elderly. With the help of God, I was able to cope.
All these things I had started while my husband was still alive and I continued after his death. It became a bit easy for me when my children got married and had their own homes but then I still had to call and check on them and their families, both those who are in Nigeria and abroad. I am happy and proud of that.
In some churches women are not allowed to officiate. Was there any challenge getting the church to accept your leadership?
In the Church of the Lord Aladura, we have a school where we train our male and female ministers. Being a woman did not disqualify me from being one of the leading female ministers in the church, even among my peers in other churches. I have joy in doing that. The church is not opposed to women but encourage women to be active in the service of God. We have them in grades as well.
What would you say to women who have a ministerial calling but are facing opposition from their church or husbands?
Well, it depends on the church. If the church allows women to be teachers or ministers in their church, you cannot rule it out and as long as they have gone for the training. It also depends on the agreement between the wife and husband. If the husband does not allow it, it may cause some misunderstanding if a woman wants to be a minister of God and she is already trained for it, without the agreement between her and the husband; it might be difficult. For us, as long as you have the training and the agreement is between you and your husband, then the way is open for you to become a minister in the church from the very lowest grade to as far as you can go in the ministry.
What are the things the church, in general, is doing wrongly?
Well, the church, not every member anyway, has become hypocritical in the way of service. In those days, we were taught by our parents and the schools we attended to go to church with our Bibles. Then, you were not to go late to church but it is quite different now. The youths these days do not carry their Bibles; instead they carry their smartphones and from there read the Bible, it is wrong and they go to the church late as well. So, you are to carry your Bibles and read from the word of God.
Most churches talk about prosperity but prosperity is different from salvation. We go to church so we may be saved. If you do not go to your workplace or you go late, you will be sacked but people don’t see anything wrong in coming late to church. People don’t try to compare the two. It is a must for you to go to church on Sunday to serve God. And when you go only that one day, you carry your phone and you go late as well. They know the priest cannot sack them but there is someone who is above the priest and that is our heavenly Father who calls us to come before Him so we may receive blessings, not only for our entire life but to show us the way to go to conquer the evils of the day. Many parents do not teach their children these things anymore. Those I trained or taught still go to church with their phones as they find it too heavy to carry their bibles. But thanks be to God that those who will hear will hear and we should also pray that our youths these days will adhere to the knowledge and listen to the voice of God for their entire lives.
What makes you happy?
Age does not allow me to do much now; I sleep, have my morning prayers and listen to the news. My favourite presenter is Joyce, I love to hear her and Sandra too. I listen to my radio every day, in the evenings. I love to listen to Ronke Ajayi. I don’t joke with my radio at all. When the news is not good, I am on my knees or my bed, praying, asking God to look down on us in mercy and compassion. Now, Nigerian news does not make you happy, we are not in politics but prayers and supplications before our heavenly father to make things better for us and our children.
I also love to be on the phone with all of my children, they are all around the world now. Thanks to the Europeans who have made the world so close that I can pick up the phone to reach them. I love my grandchildren so much that every Sunday, I can call them one after the other, I miss them so much.
The youths of the church also come around to visit me. When they come, they sing, and I ask that they be served soft drinks and we enjoy ourselves and pray together. Sometimes they bring their grievances or request for counselling. I have joy in doing it because it gives me time to be closer to them and they to me. By the grace of God, I can lead them, pray with them and make them happy.
Do you tell them a bit of history, what happened during your time as a youth?
Yes, they get the benefit of experience. I have lots of pictures of when I was young and they see those fashion styles that were trending then coming back.
You were 33 years old when Nigeria gained its Independence; how did you feel on that day?
I wasn’t in Nigeria at that time. I had left Nigeria since 1948 to Freetown in Sierra Leone, then to Ghana, then United Kingdom before I finally came back to Nigeria. I was happy but then it would have been better for us to have been on our own without the British rule but now that I have been back home for a long time, I am not too happy, seeing what is going on in the country but I always pray for our nation, from the person at the very top to the least. Being a woman of prayer, that is all I can do, go on my knees to pray so that Nigeria can be a better place not only now but forever. And I know whenever we pray, God listens. He can do all that pleases Him and He will have mercy on those that call on Him.
Did you experience racism while you were in the UK?
No, I did not. Some British-born blacks attended our churches. We also have some white persons who attended our church and even got married to some blacks. We thank God because He is the God of all.
Do you still have any unfulfilled dreams?
I do not feel unfulfilled, not at all. About this time of my life, I just have to continue to serve Him till the day comes and that is the end of time. I am fulfilled, yes. I worship my father in heaven right from when I wake up in the morning. I pray all the time because there is no work for me to do now, so I use most of my time to worship God.
What is your best food?
I have no best food, but early in the morning, the best thing I love to have is a cup of tea, fruits and vegetables. I also prefer chicken, although it might be just a little.
What would you want to be remembered for?
I will like the children, both mine and from the church, to remember that the best thing to do is to worship and serve the living God through my teachings in leading them to the way of God. That is the only way that leads them to eternal life, peace, knowledge of God and opens the opportunity for all they need in life.
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