By Tonnie Iredia
Early last week, emerging railway stations in Nigeria were reportedly named after some citizens. Apart from one or two names, most of those so honoured belonged to the political class.
This showed again that in our clime, each time we have cause to honour people our first official thoughts focus on politicians as if to hold a political office automatically conjures good conduct and excellent performance; yet we all know that the same political class has always been behind the nation’s woes.
Indeed, it is now officially accepted that any person who is declared winner of an election to our federal legislature immediately becomes an illustrious and eminent personality with the appellation ‘distinguished’ or ‘honorable’ immediately affixed to his or her name as senator or member of the House of Representatives respectively. Interestingly, many citizens including even those so honoured hardly believe they deserve such favour.
When some two days after the railway story, I ran into a report in an obscure corner of a local newspaper, which stated that Dr (Mrs.) Margaret Idahosa had clocked 77 years, it occurred to me that something was not right about our perception of values.
If those who honour many of our fake politicians had taken a little time to look out for citizens who had made substantial contributions to our nation’s growth and development, they would probably have come across Idahosa, Matriarch of Pentecostalism in Nigeria and a leading religious teacher and moral reformer.
But that is hardly done, instead, many of those that are always lucky to be picked are simply noise makers and election riggers with no second address or persuasive antecedents. It is time to depart from such irritating comedy and search for citizens with enviable track records. One such Nigerian, is Dr (Mrs.) Margaret Idahosa, widow of Benson Idahosa widely-acclaimed Father of Nigeria’s Pentecostalism.
The life and times of Margaret Idahosa testify to the fact that certain women behind successful men can hold the fortress on their own, when their men are no more.
That has been the fate of Mrs. Idahosa who in the last two decades and more, has excellently managed the Church of God Mission International (CGMi) founded by her husband, the legendary Archbishop Benson Idahosa who passed on in 1998.
Those who had feared that the man’s magnificent legacy may dwindle have since found that his widow is a talented, committed builder, leader and coordinator of repute.
Rather than a decline, the church attained astronomical progress two years ago, during its golden jubilee under Margaret, the new leader with sterling qualities. This probably influenced the statement credited to Edo Governor Godwin Obaseki at the golden jubilee of CGMi that “we thought the passing of the founder would lead to the collapse of the Church but we are here celebrating the vibrancy of the Church in the past 50 years.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo corroborated this observation by describing the lady as “a woman of history, destiny and the future, who has been able to crack the glass ceiling in the gospel world that is dominated by male preachers and whose messages have changed the destinies of many.”
Today, CGMi has presence in well over 4000 branches across Nigeria, as well as Africa, Europe, North America and Asia.
One of the greatest factors behind the success story of the Idahosas is fervent continuation of the belief of their patriarch in the vision of Nelson Mandela that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
This is because like religion, education plays a major role in the socialization process of society. This obviously explains the existence today of the Benson Idahosa University (BIU) in Benin City which started in 1993 as the Christian Faith University-Institute of Continuous Learning in affiliation with the University of Benin, and the then Edo State University, now Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma.
In February 2002, BIU, which received the required license to operate as a private university in Nigeria from the National Universities Commission, is now a world-renowned university with five Faculties which in addition to the existing campus are now located at the permanent site known as the legacy campus.
Among other accolades, BIU is one of the first institutions to participate in the training of delegates under the Presidential Amnesty Programme which attests to its relevance to the entire Nigerian society.
Benson Idahosa University is daily making huge gains from the goodwill of its founder. In 2017, it was a thankful Chancellor of the University, Archbishop Margaret Idahosa, that commissioned a one-Kilometer dual carriage road donated by the Managing Director of Ray Royal Construction Company, Rev. (Dr.) Matthew Okpebholo, at the legacy campus.
Only in March, the University commissioned a N1 billion faculty of engineering building donated by the founder and President of Christ Embassy Church, Rev. Chris Oyakhilome – one the outstanding religious leaders inspired by the late Archbishop Benson Idahosa.
Although the University is the most popularly known among its educational institutions there are several others at lower levels initiated by CGMi. Being a trained educationist herself, Margaret Idahosa takes pride in her establishment of the Word of Faith Schools which currently has more than 100 schools at Kindergarten, Primary and Secondary levels all over Nigeria.
CGMi is also dedicated to the extension of health delivery service to mankind hence it established in 1989, the Faith Mediplex group of hospitals in Benin. The initiative clearly depicts the CGMi leadership as lucid, unlike some other church leaders who naively counsel their followers to shun health delivery service on the basis of religion.
The excellent service being rendered in the hospital tallies with the founding mission of Archbishop Benson Idahosa to “merging the hand of prayer with the hand of medicine to heal the whole person – spirit, mind and body.”
Like all the legacies of Papa Idahosa, the hospital complex has since grown by leaps and bounds into a multi-speciality teaching hospital complex with multiple training programmes and extension hospitals in Abuja, FCT and Uyo, in Akwa Ibom State.
Only recently, an Annex of the hospital known as the Big Ben Children’s Hospital (BBCH) came on board to specifically provide state of the art, labour and delivery facilities, obstetrical theatre, neonatal ICU, and birthing centre suites.
Archbishop Margaret Idahosa is apolitical but exercises no hesitation in supporting the government of the day to develop the state. As a courageous leader, she did not hesitate to deprecate politicians whose love for materialism often hinders development.
Hence amidst political tension in Edo state, she admonished Governor Godwin Obaseki “not to be distracted by the things you hear or see. There are some who would not appreciate a performing Governor like Your Excellency but thank God you have people like me and my prayer group lifting you to God, and no weapon, no incantation, no fiery darts of the enemy will touch you.”
Margaret Idahosa has always been a lucky woman; though her husband is no more, she is blessed with an amazing son, Bishop Feb Idahosa, who serves as Vice President and modern engine of the world of CGMi. To Mama Margaret, many happy returns of July 29.