By Zik Zulu Okafor
Date was Sunday, February 14, 2016. It was a day the world was celebrating love. They call it Valentine’s Day.
But City of David, (COD) a parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) on this same day, was doing something different. In the heart of the vast but bare Eko Atlantic, Lagos, inside a tent, business magnates, political icons, technocrats, Pastors and all, were gathered by COD. The purpose they said was for all to join hands in giving a new meaning to ‘help’.
Led by Idowu Iluyomade, a lawyer and Pastor in charge of COD, a man with an unbridled passion to extend the frontiers of hope, the object of the high profile gathering was to raise fund. “Hmm, these churches have come again. What are they raising fund for” you quipped “What are they doing with all the offerings and tithes they collect? Don’t they get tired of collecting money?” Dozens of questions cascaded in your befuddled mind as you watched the unfolding drama.
Then, a voice squeaked. They want to raise about N14 billion for a project. You almost passed out. Your ears tingled, mouth agape as you gazed, confounded by the staggering revelation.
COD, you are then told, is about to build a three-wing, 15 floor corporate edifice, called The Trinity Towers. Next question. Why would a church want to build such a monument? What for? What point are they trying to make?”, you fired, almost obstinately.
But it took only fleeting minutes before COD literally opened the windows to its soul. In a 17 minute racy documentary, this model parish took the audience on an odyssey of compassion and commitment to reconstructing the world into that place where even the poorest and the most needy could see glimpses of hope and heartily give praises to their creator.
Having spent three days visiting some of the places you saw in the documentary, you could tell the pictures are real and that COD’s unbridled appetite for corporate social responsibility (CSR) is simply confounding.
Operating under the canopy of its Excel Foundation, COD’s CSR and good works cut across health care, education, food and feeding, media and entertainment, prison affairs, culture, business, government and politics, all converging in a model the church refers to as the eight spheres of spiritual governance.
Your first port of call was the hospital, Healing Stripes – Dialysis and Diagnostic Centre. This ultra modern two-wing hospital houses 10 dialysis machines for kidney patients, plus dental and optical clinics. What however stands this hospital out is the fact that it offers 30 dialysis sessions to kidney patients, free of charge, every month. And it has carried out 2,900 dialysis sessions at subsidized rates since officially opened in 2013. Indeed, Healing Stripes in collaboration with hospitals in US and India has also seen to the successful kidney transplant of nine patients in these countries.
Despite a whopping sum of about N500 million invested in this hospital, COD has continued its humane services, irrespective of tribe or religion of beneficiaries, ensuring that this hospital is not clinically detached from the plight of its patients.
Beyond the confines of the hospital in highbrow Victoria Island, COD also takes its medicare to the down trodden in the back streets and the slums. Arise Women, inspired and founded by Pastor Siju Iluyomade, is COD’s flagship on free healthcare in the soul streets of the poor.
Since its maiden conference in 2009, Arise Women, have not only impacted and inspired over 5000 women to drive the needed change in their families through training, it has organized free medical screening in the areas of HIV tests, Eye tests, Cervical Cancer, Sugar Level and Blood Pressure tests for thousands of people on the lower rung of the ladder.
With three mobile clinics valued at N75 million, Arise Women sets up quarterly Care Clinics in remote places like Makoko, Oshodi, Ilaje, and Ajah among others, giving hope to the poor and through the scriptures, assuring them of the greater promises of tomorrow.
One beautiful day every week
This Redeemed Parish also takes a walk into the streets to create one beautiful day every week for those that life has not given a fair shake of the dice. Every Sunday, COD members and volunteers, cook and feed about 60,000 people that inhabit the sidewalk of our streets. This staggering humane venture called A Can Can Make a Difference has delivered over 400 million packs of food in the last 10 years. With about N682 million expended on this project every year, especially in the last five years, COD has thus far, spent over N2.5 billion just so that those that the tragedies of life have left destitute may enjoy one decent meal in a week. A journalist at the Trinity Towers fund raiser described this feeding venture as a dizzying sacrifice that God cannot possibly ignore. “He will certainly reward those COD guys”, he said with an iron cast conviction.
Education also has a primal place in COD’s CSR agenda. River Bank a highbrow Nursery and Primary School is COD’s signature tune in the education arena. With a British curriculum and an adaptation of the Montessori principles, laced with Christian principles, River Bank stands out with its top class facilities that include ICT room equipped with 100 desktop computers, a science laboratory and a music room, plus an astro-turf football pitch and a swimming pool.
But COD, also extends its good works in education to the down-trodden. And so, far away in Makoko, in the slums of Lagos, it set up a school, cloths and feeds the children while in school.
To ensure that this dream opportunity of education for the poor is not fractured, COD founded the Touching Tomorrow Fund. This is an endowment to provide orphaned, disadvantaged children and families with low income, access to decent education from primary, secondary to tertiary institutions, an initiative that has extracted about N83 million from the vault of the parish.
Still in a collaborative venture that enthralled Nigerian higher schools, City of David led its Apapa family group of parishes to endow professorial chairs worth N250 million in four Nigerian universities for the RCCG General Overseer, Pastor Enoch Adeboye.
This same rendezvous of Apapa Family inspired by City of David has embarked on a mission to equip 500 primary school libraries in Lagos state and has already completed 125.
For many an observer, City of David is sending an inspirational message to those lonely ones in life’s wilderness; men, women, children, shut out from the promises of Nigeria. COD is simply telling them that they can still fulfil their destiny. And it is with this hope illuminating posture that COD went to the prisons, like Kirikiri Maximum and Medium prisons among other prisons and juvenile homes, setting up a computer centre, paying for GCE exams for inmates and school fees for those taking courses at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN).
Extraordinary talent hunt
In media and entertainment, COD has expended over N682 million in the last 11 years on production and airtime for its award winning soaps, Heavensgate and Oasis and about N155 million in producing the sensational and extraordinary talent hunt programme, GCGT- God’s Children Great Talent. COD is using these glowing symbols of art and culture to bring out the values of creativity, fellowship, fun, Godliness and integrity.
Now, you take a peep into sports and you will be told that the current holders of the nation’s women’s FA Cup is the Amazons Football Club. It belongs to City of David. But there is also the COD United, a professional football club currently playing at the Nigerian National League. In this sports venture, COD has committed about N400 million and still counting.
City of David also installed 40 solar powered street lights in Kirikiri, Navy Town Road and another set of street lights in Mushin, plus traffic lights on COD Road, Oniru, Victoria Island.
Perhaps, the real significant thing to note at this point, is that all the funds expended in all the projects enunciated in this article, and much more not captured here; funds well over N10 billion spent in the last 10 years, are generated internally through donations, and offerings by members of the COD parish. This then explains the reason for the Trinity Towers.
The man with the vision, the grit and granite will to actualize this vision, Pastor ID, spoke on both the reasons and their motivation.
Hear him, “The most important thing that drives us is the mandate of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, in Mathew 25. He was talking about the final judgement. And these are the indices and things he used to judge people ……, did you feed people who are hungry, did you give water to people who are thirsty? Did you meet the needs of the indigent and those who didn’t have anything?………. So we see all the good works that we do as not only partnering with Christ but as investment in the kingdom of God”.
Pastor ID adds that COD believes in line with the dictates of the bible that “if you invest in good works, you will not only have present blessings but eternal blessings”.
Yet this eloquent and charismatic Pastor is not unmindful of what he called ‘donor fatigue’ that may crop up from returning to the same congregation repeatedly for donation towards good works. This then underscores the vision of the Trinity Towers monument. It is a quest to construct a timeless corporate edifice, that will yield revenues to sustain good works. Those who therefore invest in this divinely inspired enterprise, the Pastor says, will be honouring God. And as the bible puts it unequivocally in 1 Samuel 2:30, those who honour God, God will surely honour. Did you hear somebody say something?
*Okafor is Nigeria Media Merit Award winning journalist.