By Jemi Ekunkunbor
Although he is a Provincial Pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God, and the MD/CEO of Brunnel Nigeria Limited, if a man’s beginning determined his ending, he would have amounted to nothing. According to his personal testimony, the penury to which his widowed mother was thrown after the demise of his Area customary court judge father, left his future hanging in the balance.
But the grace of God was very near and with the help of a hard working mother and a supportive elder brother, his educational career began at the Catholic school three in Warri where he grew up. On completion of his secondary education at the popular, Urhobo College also in Warri, he proceeded to England where he completed his A-Levels and also bagged a degree in Economics from the Greenwich University. He capped his education with an MBA from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Before leaving for the UK, Pastor Brown Oyitso had developed a liking for the good life. He was the quintessential man about town. Until salvation came his way in the late 80s, he was a rallying point for friends who also like the good things of life-booze, night clubs and other trappings of the proverbial biblical prodigal son gone into a ‘far country’. Again he testifies that the grace of God was always near.
This lifestyle continued until a dotting wife showed him the way to salvation.
The man of God who turned 60 years recently, took time out to share with the Allure team, his life’s story that can only be described as the ‘amazing grace that saved a wretch like him’
What was life like in Warri where you grew up?
Life in Warri was fun. I started work at the Nigeria Port Authority (NPA) in Warri. I got into heavy music. In my time, people used to have radiogram but God blessed me with a stereo set because as a staff of NPA, we had
access to foreign things. So my friends from rich homes, who had radiogram, found out that listening to music in my one room apartment was different. So my one room became a hot spot. I had all the records, funk, jazz funk, disco and soul music. I went into night clubbing, drinking of alcohol, smoking and of course, the corollary; all the things that young men do.
I lived that kind of life until I came to Lagos. It was a really rough life but the grace of God was there. Many of the young boys that I lived this kind of life with either dropped by the way side or died or never amounted to anything. But while this music and night clubbing was going on, my mind was still on going back to school. That was how I left for the UK.
I got to the UK and the lifestyle continued. In fact I became a DJ. I was the publicity secretary for the Afro Caribbean society in my university. I was into music and fashion. This was 1975-1981. I came back to Nigeria to do my NYSC, the lifestyle continued. This time, I was hot and fresh from the UK with my afro hair all. I came back with a lot of records. When I got to Port Harcourt I found out that Port Harcourt was called port highlife. So the high life continued. In fact, my home was the unofficial night club. Then again the grace of God was still there. It was as if God just determined that he was going to use me at some point.
When I came back to Lagos, under the most divine circumstances, within two months, I met my wife.
Where and how did you meet her?
She was a friend of my friend’s wife. I met her at this friends place they were to attend a party but my friend Brown Oyitso – Amazing Work Of Grace was too tired to take them. So, as soon as I came, he asked me to take them. Then my friend’s wife also said she was very tired please take her. And they left me alone with her. She got into my car, it was a sports car then, I wanted to impress her. But when she got in, she said, why did you buy this kind of bachelor car? Don’t
you want to get married? She said you should be thinking of getting married. So I said what kind of car do married men drive? She said 505! So that was how I took her to the party. But what struck me about her was that she asked very responsible questions. I expected her to tell me we would meet later at one night club or the other.
I realised that she was a different kind of person. I treated her differently, with a lot more respect and with a view to having a long term relationship. But a voice spoke to me and said, ‘this is your wife’. That was how a wife/husband relationship started.
For people like you who have had the good life, your wives most times turn out to be the girl next door. Does it always have to be this way?
Yes and no because one theory does not fit them all. God speaks to us in different ways. He used my circumstance to speak to me. The quiet girl next door may be an old time rocker who has done all kinds of things. Even if you are attracted to her, you still have to test it from the word of God. When you meet somebody who is of God, you’d have peace about it.
Was she born again then?
She was born Catholic. I was also born Catholic. But I think while she was at the University in Ibadan, she must have had some relationship with the Scripture Union people because, we got married in the Catholic Church to please our parents who were Catholics but two months after we got married, she invited me to a Four Square Church. That was how I got born again.
How did it happen?
Well, after I got married, I was still into one or two things. So it was like, ‘how do I calm this man down? So she took me to a Four Square Church and I sat in this small church and the pastor began to preach. It was my life this pastor preached and as he did, he kept staring at me. In fact, I thought she had gone to narrate my story to the Pastor and it almost caused a quarrel. At the end of the day, I gave my life to Christ.
But here was a man who had done 100 metres and all of a sudden I have to stop. The church was too slow for me. So we moved to a church in Surulere. I got there, it was a funky church where the pastor will turn around and say give the person by your side a holy kiss’. And my wife will get angry. She didn’t want the church and I realised it was not making me better. The pastor was preaching well but there were too many distractions. So we moved to another church.
Was that how you came to RCCG?
We moved to another church where I grew and was made like an assistant pastor. But then you know how it is with these one-man churches; trouble brewed and somebody now told me about a humble man in Ebute Metta preaches were lives change. It was this quest to go and know this humble man that took us to RCCG in Ebute Metta in 1989. Pastor Adeboye came out and preached a 20 -minute message titled, ‘gold or brass?’
All these churches we’ve been going to, the pastors preach for one and a half hour, razzmatazz, psychedelic, showmanship. But here was this man, he just came out, ordinary looking, humble, spoke slowly and preached on this message gold or brass. That message made an impact on me and that was how my Pentecostal walk started.
But you didn’t stay in Ebute Metta did you?
No, I didn’t stay long. The church was quite small in those days. This explosion had not started and the environment wasn’t very nice. So somebody told us that there is a branch in Ikeja. This church had a problem. The first pastor moved away with members and they were starting again. That day during the worship, I head an audible voice that said to me, ‘if Jesus comes in your life time, this is the church he is going to meet you in’.
Old members always talk about the Ebuta Metta experience which is something quite removed from the modern churches today. What was that experience like?
I must thank God that I started from Ebute Metta. Ebute Metta humbled me because I came with a certain mindset. Before now, I attended a psychedelic Pentecostal church where the pastor will look at a cook or gardener and say, ‘you will dedicate one million next month’ and we would all say amen. But God who knew what he wanted to do with me in the long run, took me to Ebute Metta. It humbled me.
I saw the General Overseer, I saw the people around me. They were simple people. Sometimes, I felt over dressed, the next Sunday, I would tone down. The same thing was happening with my wife. I used to wear two rings. When going to the church, I would remove my rings and neck chain then when I get back, I’d wear them again.
When I moved to Ikeja parish, that same humble experience made me decide to join the least department at that time which was the follow up department. The people there were young boys and girls. So from Ladipo, I would carry people in my car, drop them at various points to go follow up people in Ikoyi, Surulere, Ojota, Agege, Victoria Island. Then the churches were not many. That also humbled me.
Then one day, Pastor Adeboye gathered the workers and told us to scatter. That was excruciating. I was already an altar minister then. He told us to go use night clubs, hotels to set up churches. That was the advent of churches in hotels, in night clubs and in cinemas in RCCG. The first pastor to be sent out was Pastor Ayo Adeloye. He was posted to Nightshift night club in Opebi. The second was posted to National Theatre. I was the third person. I was posted to Pen Cinema in Agege! It was the dirtiest place I have ever been. The first time we had a service there, they broke into my car.
My wife who was a CEO of an insurance company then would get there and start sweeping cigarette stubs. I would go and rent instrument from fuji musicians but that humbling experience from Ebuta Metta kept me going.
What are the challenges that you face as a pastor?
The challenges are multiferous. Pastoral work is hard work. Preparing a message that will impact lives sometimes, takes two weeks. I hate seeing people suffer. As a pastor, you see people go through emotions. These are the days you see people without jobs, these are the days you see young ladies fit for marriage, educated, with good jobs, no husband. These are days you see people get married no children. And because they see you as the intermediary between them and God, they come to you and say, ‘pastor solve these problems’.
Challenge also come in the way the world is affecting the church and you wonder if the world is winning this battle. There is so much going on in the world in terms of fashion, arts, politics and the media. Look at the puritan schools, most Christian schools have dropped their values. You sit down there as a pastor and you ask, is the kingdom of darkness winning this battle? I also have a problem with the type of gospel that is being preached today. When I got born again, we were into holiness, righteousness, sanctification, justification, restitution. All these are no more preached.
We are preaching prosperity, arts, modernity, management and leadership. Pastors are afraid of losing members. So they would not preach holiness. The crowd out there have itching ears. Pastors preach what the people want to hear not what God wants. Butin RCCG, we are balanced. We preach prosperity, we preach holiness. We preach about heaven and we preach about hell. This gives me a lot of comfort.
The rate of divorce is on the rise and the church including pastors have not been spared. What is going on in the church of Jesus Christ? Well it depends on the denomination. In RCCG we have a different opinion. The bible is clear on divorce but I think people just read and interpret things to suit themselves. The bible says in the last days, men shall be truce breakers. So when they break truce, they break covenants.
There are all kinds of interferences in marriage today. I hear how some married men bring home pornographic materials and want to practice on their partners. You hear of fathers raping daughters. You read about homosexuality and lesbianism. These are the signs of the end time so when people break the truce, divorce is inevitable. But we preach and believe what the bible says about divorce and that every challenge can be resolved based on the word of God.
What has helped me in my own marriage is to always say, what did the word of God say about this particular problem or challenge.
How is life at 60?
I approach 60 with a lot of gratitude to God. I thank God for the RCCG where the full gospel is preached. I also thank God for my wife and the children God blessed me with. I thank God for his grace and mercy. I am what I am, I have what I have, and I am going to where I am going by the grace of God irrespective of my shaky beginning. I thank God for the practice of Christianity that has stabilized my life, my home and my children. So
I approach 60 with expectation and joy.
What has life taught you?
Life has taught me to be empathetic and to be welfare oriented and that is why we have the Maranata Foundation in the church. Life has also taught me not to write people off. If you had seen me at about age 9-11, you would have written me off as one who will not amount to anything because when my father died, my mother was thrown into penury. But here I am today.
That experience has also made me sympathetic towards widows.
When it comes to fashion, what is your style as a pastor?
By the grace of God, I try to dress well because you preach with everything that you have. You cannot present God as a God of prosperity when you are shabby. So I defend the gospel with my externals. I believe pastors should be well dressed in a manner that will earn them respect.
What fashion have you really embraced?
I’m comfortable with what is good but I don’t walk into a shop asking for brand names. I wear what is presentable, what is not outrageous or compromising something that will make me comfortable in the presence of God.
Where is your favourite travel destination?
I like the USA especially Atlanta and Dallas but somehow, I feel more at home in London. For me London is very therapeutic and healing. I like the atmosphere there.
On hindsight, if you could do things differently, what would it be?
The rough life I lived is helping my Christianity today. I lived on the other side and lived it to the fullest. Now that I am a pastor, I have seen the danger and sadness inherent in that sort of life. So, I would love to be saved earlier than I did.
What do you look forward to now?
I look forward to living a righteous and peaceful life. I firmly believe that Jesus is coming back soon. I look forward to the second coming of Jesus Christ. I want to live my life in such a way that on the day of rapture, I will not be found wanting. I also look forward to a better Nigeria.