By Sam Eyoboka & Kolade Larewaju
ABEOKUTA—FORMER President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, recounted his experiences in prison when he declared that he knew from the onset that he was going to come out of incarceration alive, but was not sure when and how.
He told a mammoth crowd of worshippers at the Chapel of Christ the Glorious King besides the Obasanjo Presidential Library in Abeokuta, that he was also certain that the person who imprisoned him would not be the one to release him from the dungeon.
Addressing the congregation, in his vote of thanks after the official dedication of the chapel, Chief Obasanjo, dressed in all white agbada brocade, said that his decision to build the chapel was part of his promise to God during his incarceration by the late Sani Abacha regime.
Narrating his experience, the erstwhile president said: “When I was in prison in Yola, something happened in Kirikiri. Some white garment preachers went to the prison for evangelism and gave out some white garments and during the process, some prisoners escaped. The prison authorities then stopped allowing people to come and preach in prison.
“I then became an unordained pastor and was leading the fellowship and I met this chap who was the leader of armed robbers in the North, Baba Ali, and I promised him that if we come out prison alive, I would send him to a Bible school. As faith would have it I came out before him and by the time he came out I was already at the Aso Rock Villa. When he came out of prison, he came to me and today he is an ordained pastor in Kaduna.
“We were holding fellowship under a tree and I said if they would allow me I will build a place of worship in the Yola prison. I knew I will get out of prison alive, but I did not know when. I knew the man who put me there would not be the one to release me; but I did not know who will release me. I said I will divide my time into four and I will buy a Land Rover and a trailer for evangelism.
“But when I came out, pressure started to mount on me to contest. As time went on, I left it in the hands of God and He had His way. When I got to the Villa and I was going out to worship every Sunday. The security people were not comfortable because any time I went out to worship they have to cordon of the church.
“I saw the inconvenience and we started worshipping in the squash court at the Aso Rock as there was no chapel in the Villa. There were four mosques and no church in the villa. Eventually I had to build one.”
Obasanjo said when he left the Presidency; he reminded himself about his pledge while he was in prison, adding that he knew that if he decided to buy the land rover as planned “the security boys would be disturbing me, so we decided to build a church.
“This chapel is not Obasanjo Chapel. Obasanjo is not a pastor, not a general overseer, nor a priest, he is not even a reverend gentle man, he is not a bishop. This chapel does not belong to Obasanjo,” he explained.
Earlier in his sermon, president of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor had said that which ever way you feel about former president, he was able to achieve two things that “stands him out during his tenure as president.”
According to Oritsejafor, Obasanjo was responsible for the revolution in the telecommunication industry, saying “whether you like it or not, God used this man to make communication easy for Nigerians” adding that he would also be remembered for raising the money to build the National Christian Centre in Abuja.
The CAN president, however, lamented that one of the tragedies of Christianity today was that people do not know God, adding that a leader who knows God, would not carry money and keep abroad while fellow human beings suffer bad roads and inadequate hospitals.
He said “when you look at the way the average Nigerian worships money, you will tremble. Money is wonderful, it can buy you the best car, but it cannot guarantee you safe journey. Money can give you a house but cannot give you a home. There is so much money can do, but there is so much more, what money cannot do.”
Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Chapel, Deacon Victor Durodola said “the chapel was designed to be an ecumenical, trans-denominational and international centre for followers of Christ. It has no restrictions, and is open to all Christians irrespective of their religious affiliation and often hosts World Leaders, Senators, Governors, VIPs and other eminent personalities who are guests of the Chief Promoter.
“Its vision and mission is to save humanity by promoting the kingdom of God on earth through the belief in, and acceptance of Jesus Christ, the Glorious King, as the Savior and redeemer of mankind”
Prominent persons who graced the occasion included three former presidents of CAN, His Eminence Sunday Mbang, Most Rev. Peter Jasper Akinola, and the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Most Rev. John Onaiyekan and the Secretary of Baptist Church, Rev. Ademola Ishola.
Others included former Minister of Transport, Chief Ojo Madueke, former Governor of Ondo State; Dr. Olusegun Agagu, former Military Governor of Oyo State; Gen. Tunji Olurin (rtd), Senator Yinka Omilani, Senator Felix Kola Bajomo, Chief Christopher Kolade and the Olowu of Owu; Oba Adegboyega Dosumu among others.