By Josephine Agbonkhese
January 5th, 2019, will forever remain indelible in the hearts of about 8,000 widows from Modakeke and over 4,000 from Ode Omu and its environs, who took part in a widows outreach programme convened by Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo, Senior Pastor, Kingsway International Christian Centre, KICC, and his wife, Yemisi, in Ode Omu, Osun State last weekend.
From the sea of heads at the entrance of the Kings University, venue of the event, one would have thought the women were laying siege on some powerful politicians in anticipation of alms in hard currency. But that was not the case on this fateful day; they were only waiting for their community to be called into the premises so they could each receive a piece of Ankara fabric, N1,000 mint note, and a pack of food with drinks as they danced to a live performance by notable Yoruba gospel act, Dunni Olarewaju a.k.a Opelope Anointing.
As the widows, totaling 12,000, took turns to receive their packages, each one beamed with happiness and danced like the Biblical David, almost leaving guests in tears; as they wondered how much impact such gesture could make in the lives of the vastly aged widows.
Speaking on the rationale behind the annual event which was in its 13th year, Ashimolowo said: “It is such a great honour to serve these women. Some of them have been coming these past 13 years. In fact, one woman said to me ‘…now I have almost 13 clothes anytime I want to go out. You have given me something to look forward to.’
“We give them money, food and clothes and it is our desire to do much more than that.
“Last year, we catered to 18,000 widows. This year, we deliberately reduced it to 12,000 by asking some towns not to come. Not because there is not the desire to bless them but because it is quite a challenge managing 18,000 women. We don’t want to cause a stampede.
“I have a bigger vision; this thing is going to metamorphose into something called Christ Compassion to the Rurals, under which we will go to rural areas with food, clothing and medicines for 50,000 people. We actually thought last year was our last widows’ event. We wanted to start that this year because it is all-embracing. But I’m one who likes to do things with excellence and order. So, hopefully, that should begin next year.”
He commended friends who have been partners to the project which originally began with him and his wife, including clerics and an Alhaji who single-handedly provided a thousand of the 12,000 clothes distributed at the event.
On why he would welcome support from a non-Christian, Ashimolowo said: “55 per cent of the women we cater to here are Muslims even though this is a Christian event. We don’t see religion or divinity. Instead, we see humanity.”
While speaking at the event, Bishop Taiwo Adelakun, Chairman, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, Oyo State, eulogized Ashimolowo and described the gesture as scriptural, saying: “The Bible enjoins us to remember widows. It says that if we remember widows in their affliction, God will make sure that we do not lack mercy. So, what Ashimolowo is doing, is scriptural.”
Debunking popular opinion that monies given to aged people living in villages could be used against one (the giver) spiritually, Adelakun said: “That won’t stop one from doing what God wants one to do; He wants us to reach out to as many people as possible.”
Further speaking at the event witnessed by traditional leaders and clerics from within and outside Osun State, Ashimolowo, who supposed that many would wonder why there existed such copious number of widows in Modakeke, said: “You need to understand that about three things happened in Modakeke; the Ife-Modakeke War which recorded a large number of casualties and resulted in a lot of widows.
Secondly, a lot of the young people there are into Okada business. So, imagine a young Okada rider who is married to three wives. And you know the way those men ride; one may ride against traffic, hit his head and leave behind three women. So, we have a large widowhood problem in that town.”