By Kenneth Ehijiator
BISHOP Margaret Benson-Idahosa is the wife of the late Archbishop Benson Idahosa, founder of Church of God Mission Int’l. Inc, CGMI. She serves currently as the Presiding Bishop of the ministry, with several branches and hundreds of thousands of members worldwide.
She also pastors the 5,000 capacity Faith Miracle Centre Church, where multiple services are held weekly. Born July 29, 1943, into the royal lineage of Benin Kingdom, Margaret was ordained into the ministry on May 24, 1983, and consecrated Bishop on April 5, 1998. This position makes her the first female Pentecostal Bishop of a ministry in Africa.
Bishop Margaret has preached the message of Jesus Christ in more than 140 nations, covering the entire continents of the world. Her vision and mission are to “reach the unreached” irrespective of their location. Although the church was involved in humanitarian service before the demise of her husband in 1998, she has taken humanitarianism to another level since then, providing for the poor and indigent persons in society.
She has successfully steered the affairs of the church with over 4,000 branches across the country as well as Africa, Europe, North America and Asia.
Those who had feared that the husband’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.
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.”
Today, Church of God Mission International, CGMi, has a 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 a 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 socialisation 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 licence 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-kilometre 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 of 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.
In these institutions, she provides scholarships for brilliant but indigent students. She also, through her foundation, provides grants for widows to set up small businesses to maintain their families in the absence of their husbands.
Her humanitarian gesture is not limited to Edo State but all other states and countries where the church has branches. 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 “merge the hand of prayer with the hand of medicine to heal the whole person – spirit, mind and body.” Like all the legacies of Archbishop 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 and Uyo, in Akwa Ibom State.
The hospitals provide medicare for both church and non-church members with little or no charges at all, especially for the indigent.
Only recently, an annexe 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.