As over 21,000 widows receive wrappers, N23m, food items
By Josephine Agbonkhese
On the first Saturday of the New Year, Osun State-based Kings University, venue of the annual Widows’ Celebration of a renowned clergyman, Rev Matthew Abiodun Ashimolowo and his wife, Pastor Yemisi, was filled to capacity.
That day, women gathered from various communities in the state to receive a 6-yard piece of African wax prints; N1,000 mint; and a pack of food and drinks, each.
Dancing heartily to the sonorous voice of notable gospel act, Opelope Anointing, who performed live with her band throughout the event, the women, numbering over 21,000, thronged the venue, community after community.
The event which was in its 14th year was a personal give-back initiative of the Ashimolowos. This year’s edition, which witnessed the distribution of 23,000,000 naira cash, was also aimed at celebrating Yemisi who recently clocked 60. This is one of our giveback ways to make it a celebration for both my wife and the widows.
Recalling how the initiative began 14 years ago, Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo said: “We started with 308 women in the first year. It grew to 1,008 to 5,000. But this year, we deliberately planned to host 21,000 women and we have exceeded that now first because we wanted to celebrate Pastor Yemisi Ashimolowo, my wife who was 60 in September.”
“Recently, I clocked 46 years in ministry. So, I’ve seen it all. I went to Bible School January 2, 1974. With what I have seen around the nation, I can see that we just cannot afford to just preach. We need to touch people in physical ways. But at the same time, we need to teach people principles of catching fish instead of giving them just the fish. The church is not just where we preach about heaven; we should also teach people how to be relevant in Nigeria; how to break through and make a difference in their communities. This is one way to make a difference.
“In fact, we only sent out tickets to seven towns in Osun but to my surprise, today, I was hearing towns that I’ve only read of on the papers. The tickets went far beyond our imagination. As I speak to you, although we gave out 21,000 tickets, there are still close to 4,000 women outside without tickets and we have to host them as well,” he said.
The Governor of Osun State, Gboyega Oyetola, commended the Ashimolowos for helping to provide for widows and the less privileged in the state.
“We want our people to emulate what he is doing by being our brother’s keeper. By so doing, the number of less-privileged people in the community will reduce drastically. It’s our prayer that God will continue to energise him and renew his spirit in giving to the less-privileged.
On what the state government is currently doing to alleviate poverty in the state, Oyetola, who was represented by his Deputy, Benedict Alabi, said the present administration is women and children-focused.
“Recently, the state government empowered over 1, 700 less privileged individuals by giving them funds for their businesses. To those identified as being in dire need, the government is giving N15, 000 quarterly so that their lives can be sustained. We will continue to do this. We believe this gesture will continue to make our community peaceful,” Oyetola said.
On his part, the Senior Pastor, Christ Living Spring Apostolic Ministry, CLAM, Pastor Wole Oladiyun, described the programme as unique because it was organised for widows and the needy in the society. “Pastor Ashimolowo epitomises Christ by giving back to his community which he has been doing for 14 years consistently. We need to know that he is a good ambassador of Christ here on earth,” he said.
Oladiyun called on sons and daughters of Ode-Omu to come home and emulate the laudable gesture of the Ashimolowos.
Ashimolowo further disclosed plans to expand the scope of the give-back initiative.
He told Woman’s Own: “I’m feeling we should begin to wind-down our widows programme and bring it down to just Ode-Omu Town because we want to hold crusades which will include distribution of clothes, food, relief materials, praying for the sick, provision of medicines and other poverty alleviating materials—and we’ll do this four times every year instead of a yearly widows celebration in my home town. It will be a Christian Evangelistic crusade that just doesn’t say “repent or perish”.
“We’ve started this already last October in Zimbabwe where we gave out 8,000 bags of the food a family can eat in one week. We carried a 40-foot container of clothing which took four days to distribute. We also took medicines worth 25million naira. We hired 30 Zimbabwean doctors and about 100 Zimbabwean nurses and 15 pharmacies because the medical association of any nation will not let you use the doctors you brought from another nation; they, therefore, gave the doctors we brought from London a lot of trouble—but we still served.
In short, within three hours, six and half thousand bags of food were gone and we had to shut down to continue with one and half thousand bags of food which we still had left by the next day. But three thousand people showed up. We gave over a thousand medicines because there was no time. There was a woman who said her hospital prescribed drugs for hypertension but who couldn’t afford them because they were too costly. She got those drugs free-of-charge from us. We gave out the 40-foot container of clothing which we brought. That’s the thing I want to do around the nation three or four times a year.
“And then, during the day time, we teach empowerment because it’s no use giving people money and cloth every now and then; you should teach them principles that can help them prosper. That was why we set-up Kings University in Osun State in the first place.”
The ceremony had in attendance famous, anointed men of God, as well as delegates from the Osun State government and high-profile traditional rulers both from Osun and surrounding states.