BY BOLUWAJI OBAHOPO, LOKOJA
The Bishop of Ijumu Diocese of Anglican Church, the Rt. Reverend Ezekiel Folorunsho Ikupolati, served in the military before God called him to His vineyard. He recounts, in this interview, how God saved him severally.
What was your aspiration while you were young?
I wanted to be a banker or a lawyer and that is the reason I obtained a diploma in law at Kogi State Polytechnic but I did not go further to pursue law. On banking career, I also obtained a diploma in accounting but I didn’t go further than that.
How did you become a soldier and what was your experience while in the military?
I had three friends while I worked at the textile factory in Kaduna. One of them was a soldier. I was fascinated by his uniform and loved the way he comported himself, so I asked him how I could join the army. He assisted me and I was recruited into the army. It was while I was in the army which I enjoyed so well that I heard the call and gave my life to Jesus Christ. I have no regret being in the army or even after I left because my military background has been helping me in my episcopal ministration.
How did you hear the call?
My call really started while I was young. I remember that I used to follow my father’s younger brother to church and each time after we returned home, I would set up a scene where I led my peers in church programmes. I realized that I had the ability to lead others spiritually. Later, while in the Nigerian Army, one of my friends who is of Methodist denomination, Reverend Lukoju, invited me to a revival in 1975. I attended the program and there, being led by the spirit, I sang a song about a stranger at the door who needed to come in. As I sang the song, I gave room for Jesus to come into my life. I became a born-again Christian. I told my wife about it and we started a family altar. We left Kaduna for Lagos and then the urge to become a cleric became persistent. I was still in the army. So I told my Administrative Officer, an Ogbomosho man, that I would like to be trained as a minister of God. He permitted me.
Could you expatiate on the urge that you had?
I started preaching and winning souls for Christ wherever I found myself. I got the conviction that I could no longer stay in the army. I had the urge to go for full-time pastoral work. Then I fell into a trance during. In the trance, I stood at the altar and saw a serpent coiled with its head up and ready to attack. It was later interpreted to me that I would be opposed and attacked in the course of my ministration. Truly, I have experienced opposition and attacks from superior officers and my colleagues but God has always been with me. At the time I fell into the trance, a friend, now in Akure Diocese, Venerable Themothew Kujero, had determination to go and reform the Anglican Church in the middle of 1984 at a time it was believed to be dead.
A lot of things I would have pursued to logical conclusion were left unachieved. Like I said earlier, I wanted to be a lawyer or a banker which made me to have diploma in accounting and diploma in law but I did not pursue higher certificates in both. While in Lagos, I ought to have gone to the University of Lagos but I kept procrastinating until it was late to go. I see this as a challenge which stopped my early ambitions.
I have been disappointed with the encounters I had with some people in the course of my serving in God’s vineyard where one should least expect wickedness. For example, in 1994, when Lokoja Diocese was carved out of Kwara Diocese, Bishop George Bako (retd) met me as the Registrar of the seminary in Okene and had trust in me.
However, a fellow cleric, now deceased, thought I was more popular and had better prospects than him and thus blackmailed me before Bishop Bako who no longer had trust in me. Also, some of my colleagues went to the same Bishop to paint me in bad light before him simply because I was bold and outspoken.
They dressed me in the clothes that were not mine. Again, when I was appointed the Registrar, another cleric felt he should have been appointed instead of me. In short, I serially suffered character assassination. I know those who launched the character assassination but I won’t mention names now. My story is like that of Joseph and his brothers. Also, after I was elected Bishop on April 28, 2008, I received a threat letter. I was threatened that should I fail to leave the seminary as Registrar, I would be killed. The letter was written by a group in Okene. However, I left the seminary through divine help.
They are numerous but let me tell you one or two of them. One of them was the day I heard that I had been made a Bishop which I did not expect. Another was the day I became a born-again Christian. It was in August 1975 after I started praying in Okun dialect. Before then, I had been going to church but suddenly stopped. I became wild. Nobody preached to me or prayed for me. It was that song at the revival, as I said, that opened my heart for Jesus. What would have become of me? What would have happened to me if Jesus did not find me in view of my becoming wild then? It is against this background that I see my being born again as one of my greatest achievements and the day it happened as one of my happiest days.
One of my hobbies is singing. When I was young, I used to compose songs and attach tunes to them. I love dancing and running. Why dancing, you may ask? When I was the Registrar and was travelling to Okene, I was involved in a terrible auto-crash. It was concluded that one of my legs had to be amputated but God used a nurse to intervene and the leg was treated. After I was discharged, I promised God that I would always praise him by dancing with my legs.
Plan after retirement
The mandatory age for Anglican Bishops to retire is 70 but one may retire voluntarily at 65. After retirement, I will be independent but I cannot take up government job or chieftaincy title. I will still be addressed as Bishop.