By Sam Eyoboka with Agency reports
Apostle Alexander Bamgbola was one-time Chairman of the Lagos Chapter of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) and then Chairman of the Lagos Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria until 2020.
He has been playing active roles in the church since the 90s. He was next in line to Pastor Gabriel Oduyemi, founder of Bethel Ministries known as Wonder City.
He moved on later to start a fresh work, Zion the City of the Lord Ministries, from where he was appointed the Chairman of Lagos PFN. Beyond the church, Bamgbola was one of the leading bankers in Nigeria in the early 80s. He came back to Nigeria from the United States in 1979 and was Managing Director of then-Nigeria-America Merchant Bank. Now 75, Bamgbola, shares his story. Excerpts:
To attain 75 is not a joke in Nigeria. Did you ever envisage getting to this age?
I will not say never because of the circumstances surrounding my birth. My mother had three children before me while in Lagos in the late 30s to early 40s and each one of them died. When she was pregnant again, my grandfather, who was a monarch and also the chief priest of Ifa oracle for the whole of Yorubaland then, would not take chances. He saw through the oracle that if she put to bed in Lagos again, the child would die.
My grandfather then asked my mother to come and stay with him under his power before having me. That was how I was born. At the age of nine months, I was taken to an unknown place as revealed by Ifa just like Jesus was taken to Egypt to escape from those who wanted to kill him.
So how does that make you think you would live to this age?
I was sure because my late parents had been told by people who used to see into the future that I would live long. My parents used to tell me that. So, it registered in my psyche that I would live long. But I think the grace of God has just been there for me.
You talked about being taken to an unknown place?
I was taken to an unknown place called Iroko, close to Ibadan. My father was doing cocoa business and was prospering in Lagos. But because of me, he had to leave his business and joined my mother to take me to an unknown place. They didn’t know where the place was. They were coming from Ilorin in a truck, which was used for transportation then. When they got to this place called Iroko near Ibadan which was a thriving town then, the vehicle developed a fault.
They were trying to repair the vehicle. They could not finish repairing the vehicle and it was getting late. My father then walked into town and asked if they would allow him and his wife with the baby to stay. The people welcomed us. My father stayed there and ended up spending 65 years of his life there. He had a lot of business acumen. He went into the farming and thrived so much. He prospered to the glory of God. He was able to send us to school from there. He built a house there. I spent a lot of my early life in Lagos too. We were only two from my mother for him until he married another wife later in life and had other children.
What were your early recollections of the Christian faith then?
My grandfather had to become a Muslim because he was to get the stool of the Oba in one of the towns in Ilorin then. That was the condition given by the Emir of Ilorin. That was how our generation became Muslims. But then I had fallen in love with the Christian faith from primary school. I attended a Baptist secondary school. That was where I first surrendered my life to Christ secretly. But I derailed later. That was before I traveled to the US.
What was your experience in the US?
I was no longer a Christian when I was going to the US. I had gotten involved in some fetish practices. My luggage was three-quarters full of juju (charms) when I was traveling. I thought juju would work in the US, but I found out that it won’t within two months. While in the US I did not go to church either. I remember only going to church to marry. It was when I came back to Nigeria that my elder cousin did everything to minister Christ to me. He persuaded me to go to church. I used to go to a Baptist Church then. I did that for a while but then I soon went into deep occult until I later gave my life to Christ in October 1989.
You said juju did not work in the US?
Yes, it didn’t. Somebody sent the video clip of an American preacher who said in his message that if they really wanted to deal with demons, they should bring in an African pastor. He said the demons in the US were chicken demons. He was saying that to underscore the point that African pastors deal with greater demons than those in the US. That is by the way. But from the experience I had in the US, the juju I took there did not work.
Is it that juju does not have a universal application?
I think so. There are many don’ts for those who use occult paraphernalia. You’re forbidden from certain practices. For instance, I was told that I should not put it on my body when having sex or when my wife was having her menstrual cycle. And one of the conditions was that when I fly over the ocean, it would not work. I remember when I was in Chicago in the US. I was staying with two of my friends. I had gotten a menial job. Barely two months after I got there, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, FBI, was looking for one of the two friends I was staying with. We were living on the 11th floor. My friends had left for work. The FBI officers came up and sought to enter the house.
They knocked on the door and I saw them through the hole of the door. I saw them and became afraid wondering what they were looking for. I went to my juju box and went to take the one that was really powerful. They kept knocking and I kept making incantations thinking the incantation would drive them away. They kept trying to enter. When it became difficult, they invited people in the maintenance department of the building to bring a drill so they could drill through the door.
They were drilling the door and I recalled that I had a powerful charm called kibaati (irrepressible). I went for that and I was making incantations. But they kept making progress to gain access into the room. I was adamant. The devil told me that ‘you are speaking Yoruba, that your juju can’t hear Yoruba’; that I should speak English to the juju. So, I started speaking English to the juju. By the time I was through, they had broken into the door and they saw me helpless inside the room. They were wondering why I did not open the door because I had my passport and my visa since I was not the one they were looking for. That was when I knew the juju would not work. I later became a freethinker.
Did you now join another cult?
Yes. I did. That was when I came back to Nigeria in 1979. My mother was around to help us take care of our children. My late mother would call me and tell me the need to see some witchdoctors to get protection because Nigeria was dangerous. I didn’t listen to her initially because I was an expatriate and I knew I would always be the boss in the places I work and no Nigerian would be my boss. I thought there was no need to be afraid of anything.
One day my friend who was a top manager in one of the confectioneries had an accident and died. That scared me. That was how my mother reminded me that she had been telling me that I needed protection. So that got me. My mother then took me to one baba (old man) in Ibadan, Oyo State and the man told me I would have died if I had not come. He was an old ragged man. That was the genesis of my juju explorations. The man said I would need a black cow for the charm he would prepare for me and it would cost me N15k. I paid part of the money there and sent the remaining to him later. That was a lot of money back then. I began to build my occult involvement from there. I was involved in the occult from 1980 until God himself visited me in 1989.
My juju led me to even trying to kill my wife then. But the juju did not work on her. She was deep in the Lord. She was attending Deeper Life Church and she used to speak in tongues. I hated that and was going to get rid of her. We went to the headquarters of the occult in the southwest where prominent Nigerians including leading traditional rulers used to consult. That was where people were sentenced to death if they had offended any one of us. I never heard of a case where people came back and said the people did not die.
But in the case of my wife, no charm worked on her. I did all the juju things, buried a hen as if a human being was being buried as I was instructed. I was told if the hen didn’t die, I would become so powerful that no human being could kill me. But that I could kill my wife. By the time we opened the grave after seven days, the hen jumped almost half a mile into the sky. I got into so many other things that I can’t possibly be talking about because of time.
One of my cousins was ministering Christ to me. I cut him off. But when the Lord touched me, it took a whole pick-up load of juju and my official car then to throw all the juju I had acquired into the lagoon. The testimony of my conversion was all over the place because I was active in the Full Gospel Business Men Fellowship and the Lord brought many people out of the occult through the testimony. Many women come to me today to say God used the testimony to save their marriage.