About 60 km to Ilorin the capital of Kwara State and the then Ilorin Province lies a small farming Ekiti settlement in the present Ekiti Local Government of Kwara State. The name of this town is called Odo- Owa and almost adjoining it is another town called Iloffa both of which share the same cultural and linguistic affinities. Most people in these villages were into agriculture from the earliest times. Around the turn of the 19th century and the beginning of the early 20th century when the story in this narrative occurred, most of these people- more than 80 percent at least- were farmers.
Among these farming folks of the town a couple stood out from the rest. Among the common run of the men of this small town was an elderly man from Ikotun Quarters, whose integrity, honesty and humility were beyond denials and whose religiosity and God-fearing characteristics placed him in a class by himself. He was the patron of the only church in the town, the St. Peter’s Anglican Church at Ilofa and he would be the instrument of the establishment of the church in Odo- Owa his hometown and 16 other villages and towns. The name of this Godly man is Pa David Lawani Rotimi and the name of his wife is Madam Martha Talabi Rotimi. Both of them were wedded in the Christian way in the Anglican Church. These were the parents of Apostle Ayo Babalola.
Mysterious Birth and Childhood
According to parental testimony the birth of Babalola was preceded by unusual and unexplainable incidents the same trail that would heavily characterize his entire life. Few months to his birth Madam Martha Rotimi contracted a small pox epidemic ravaging the countryside then. She was then relocated to the farm for treatment. The name of this forest is Igbo Niyun (Pleasant Forest) while in this farm one day something happened which would have been difficult to believe but for the fact that it was given by the woman herself. It was in the dry season and someone set fire on the bush leading to a big conflagration which began to consume the bush surrounding the hut where the woman was staying. Luckily her husband David Rotimi was also present when this was happening. There was no way of escape and the end seemed imminent. This made the husband to lament: We are in trouble. We did not die of small pox epidemic in the town but we will now perish through this strange fire. Meanwhile animals of different shape and kind began moving towards them ostensibly to escape the fire but they stopped just before reaching them.
While they waited for the end something dramatic happened. Without any external effort or push the fire started going down and ultimately quenched. It then made a rainbow-like patch round about them. As soon as the fire totally quenched the beasts began to go one after the other without harming any of them.
Three months later on 25th April 1904 she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. His birth was, according to the mother, accompanied by a portentous elemental vibrations, as they heard the sound of mighty thunder from above which reverberated from the East to the West and shaking of the firmament. Seven days later he was named Joseph Ayo Babalola, a name that would go with him and distinguish him from every member of the family as the only child who would not bear the Rotimi family name. At the naming ceremony which followed there was, it is said, an abundant provision of bush meat to hunters who marvelled at the way it was easy to catch the games.
The signs of God’s call were already on him from childhood and the parents observed these. He was unusual.
When little Ayo was 3years something strange again happened which the father spoke about. He was found one day looking intently at the sky with concentration and loving admiration. Concerned and surprised the mother asked him what he was looking at so intently.
‘’Can’t you see what I’m seeing?’’ ‘’I can’t see anything.’’
‘’I’m looking at the King of Glory.’’
Also at the age of 7 years he was offered a piece of meat that had been sacrificed to idol by the grandmother, an item which she had brought from an idolatrous ceremony. But Babalola rejected it with a resounding rebuke to the old woman: ‘’Mama ye jebo yeye’’ ( Grandma, stop eating sacrifices) that resulted in the old woman becoming a Christian before her death. All these were the first evidences of an apostle in the making, a carrier of God’s supernatural power.
The Encounter and the Call
In September 1928 He was on the road construction proceeding from Owena, Igbara-Oke moving towards Arakeji. Around this time he received an order from his supervisor to be prepared to proceed to Ilesha for the repairs of township roads. But as he was about to move a heavy rain began forcing him to suspend the journey that day. On his way just around Arakeji the roller he was working with stopped suddenly and refused to function. He examined the roller but found no fault whatsoever with it.
‘’This roller was examined by both the blacks and whites who knew about the operation and repairs of the roller and no one could find any fault or problem with the roller. And truly there was nothing wrong with the roller but it refused to work and neither would it move.’’
Before this time something had been happening in his personal life which was rather unusual. Two weeks before the incident recounted above he had been experiencing a state of rapture, ecstasy and even animation. For about two weeks he could not sleep except to read the Bible especially the Psalms. This was not all. He also became unusually joyous and in rapture for no visible reason. In view of the deep mystical significance of this incident to the events that would soon follow and even the events preceding it I will present it in his own words.
‘’ On the 25 of September (1928) it so happened that I could not sleep for a whole week both night and day. My spirit was rejoicing and joyous and I read from night till morning. The book I was reading was the Bible and the portion that engaged my attention was the Psalms (Chapters 1- 150) which I read every night. I did not feel sleepy neither did I feel sick.’’
This was the priming of the pump. It was the very reason why his roller refused to work without any mechanical fault. He was being disconnected from the earthly realm to another realm. Like the Moses’ Burning Bush which was burning but not consumed to arrest the attention of a wandering shepherd, Babalola’s focus and attention were being shifted to another realm.
Two weeks later, specifically on the 9th of October of that same year history changed. As he was about to retire that very day around 12noon just about 50metres to where we now gather, the Heavens opened and a voice spoke like it did to Moses at the Burning Bush and Saul on the way to Damascus. In view of the considerable historical significance of this event to Nigeria’s Pentecostal/evangelical historiography I will also allow him to tell this aspect of the story in his own words:
‘’On the 9th October I was still at the site of the roller that had refused to work. At about 12 noon I heard a voice, a mighty voice whose sound was like that of 10, 000 thunders and calling my name saying, ‘Joseph! Joseph!! Joseph!!!leave this work you are doing, if you don’t leave this work this year, this year, I mean this very year you shall be cut off from the land of the living.’ This happened three times consecutively but I did not bother I was only concerned with getting the roller to function.’’
Not recognizing what was happening he went on as before. But things would never again be the same. Two days later on the 11th October 1928 the same event repeated itself. The voice added this time that if he did not leave the work, the roller would never move again forever. Surprised and concerned with that statement he shouted back,‘’Who are you calling me and which work do you have for me to do.’’
Strange as it may seem there were many people there that day but they didn’t hear the voice that Babalola claimed to have heard. He had about 50 people, workers under him and they all denied knowledge of hearing the voice when he confronted them. In fact they asked him who he was speaking with. Finally he left the job and went home to Ipetu- Ijesha where he was putting up.
As soon as he entered the house the voice asked him whether he was willing to know who was speaking with him at the site. He was told to proceed on a 4-day fast without food. On the fourth day the voice directed him to add another 3-day to the fast before eating and he did so. Then the secret was made plain to him and he knew that it was the Lord that was speaking to him.
He was given some signs. Thereafter the other being gave him half a tuber of yam to eat which he ate without delay. The angel told him that with that ration he fed the world in a given year. This was probably the key to his super human energy, capacity and resilience that made him to go on 40-day fast without food, work for days at a stretch without any sign of fatigue or stress, pray continuously for days without ceasing and without strain.
The Apostolic Commission
This is the rock Apostle Ayo Babalola used as his first altar in Odo -Owa Kwara state.
After he was shown some secrets and many other things which he has also recounted in his autobiography the stage was set for the real thing- the apostolic commission. The Lord gave him a sign of a lamp with three wicks. Thereafter he was given three symbolic gifts: a handbell, an iron staff and a bottle of water. This again reminds us of Moses OrimoladeTunolase who was also, at his call, given three symbolic gifts namely- the crown, the tatsel and the staff.
The three gifts were explained to Babalola. The bell is to call people to prayer, to bring the angels of God down to his meetings and to drive evil forces away.
The iron staff represents the apostolic authority to subdue evil forces- the malevolent powers that were holding the people in bondage, the very people he was being sent for their liberation based on Psalm 2. This staff would come into display two years later when at the Great Revival at Oke- Ooye, Ilesha Babalola took on the powers and principalities, the heathen gods that had received years of unchallenged superstitious veneration, obeisance and worship of the people; for divine judgement. (By the way, where is the staff of Babalola, the one he used at Oke-Ooye which eyewitnesses and even journalists spoke and wrote about? The C& S still keeps custody of Orimolade’s staff; can CAC please tell us where Babalola’s staff is?) The third gift was the most symbolic. A bottle of water was given him by the Lord for the healing of all sicknesses and all diseases.
The Lord made it clear to him that He does not want His people to use medicine both good and bad be it orthodox or unorthodox but to rely and trust His atonement on the Cross. This was the root of Divine healing in Apostolic Churches. The Lord also reminded the young apostle to warn the people not to be like Saul who obeyed the Lord deceitfully concerning Amalek by destroying the vile and the refuse and sparing the good and the precious for himself. Believers were to renounce all medicines be it good or bad, whether orthodox or unorthodox, foreign or local. This commission to heal is the origin of the Doctrine of Divine healing in Babalola’s ministry and the resulting Christ Apostolic Church. This is why Babalola has been called the apostle of divine healing and why this doctrine has been so crucial and decisive in the religious and salvation history of the Apostolic Communion in general and, until lately, CAC in particular.
The Patron’s Son Has Gone Mad
The first of Babalola’s early ministry was to his hometown in Iloffa and Odo- Owa where he was directed to warn the people from idolatry and fetish. The Lord also warned that if they didn’t repent He would have to send evil beasts into their midst to devour them within 45 days of his proclamation. He was also to go to the town under special direction. He was to go naked covering only his private parts, rub ashes on his face and body and covered with palm fronds. He was to go with a handbell which he would ring the moment he entered the town.
By a string of coincidence Babalola entered the town on the market day when the whole town was full of people. The moment he entered he began ringing the bell and proclaiming the judgement that would come within 45days if they didn’t repent. The moment they set eyes on him they fled everywhere.
The entire town was moved and there was great stir and consternation as people fled when they saw me. The moment they set eyes on me they fled. The Voice told me to ring the bell in my hand round the town and I obeyed…
As the people fled some of the natives who knew him shouted, ‘’Ha! Omo Baba Egbe tiya were’’( I,e the Patron’s son has run mad, since his father was the patron of CMS church in the town)
But the people rebelled against the message of the young prophet. Rather than to repent they mounted persecution against the messenger and his immediate family resident in the town. They armed themselves with their bow, arrows and firearms awaiting the evil beasts that were coming to their town. For this reason Babalola told them that beasts would no longer come to them again but a plague which would render their arms irrelevant and this plague would begin within few days from then. Truly at the expiration of the 45 days a small pox epidemic broke out in the town and within three weeks about three hundred people had died. An eyewitness of these events who was residing in the town at this time said :
‘’The effect was disastrous in the town. Some people lost three children. Many people died due to the plague because they refused to repent and turn away from fetish. The heir to the throne also died that year due to the plague. So disastrous was the effect of the plague.’’
In the meantime a company of people began to come to him for prayers. Others who were afflicted by the plague also came to ask for prayers for healing. Babalola began to sanctify water for them for their healing with tremendous result. His ministry began to take shape as a group began to crystallize around him as they worshipped together in the Anglican Church. Soon a revival began in the Anglican Church and Babalola began to go out for early morning preaching and open-air crusade in the centre of the town although a wave of persecution also began against the revivalist and the supporters of the new movement. Soon they were forced out of the Anglican Church and they had to move to the house of a member. It is here, it is said, that the people first began to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit on a large scale with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues.
At this time he began to go to places and other towns to preach deliverance to the captives and to heal the sick. The voice would tell him which town to go and what to do there. And the voice would tell him to heal all the sick in the town and to warn the people to desist from all fetish and works of darkness.
The Great Revival
The high water mark of Aladura Apostolic Christianity in the early days was the great revival of 1930, the definitive beginning of modern apostolic Pentecostalism in Nigeria. The crown of Babalola’s lifework and career was the revival at Oke-Ooye in July 1930. The real trigger which sparked the revival of 1930 however was the resuscitation of a 10-year old boy named John Obi Ogundipe who had died a day before his corpse was brought to Oke-Ooye to Babalola who had began to gain reputation as a healing prophet residing at Oke- Ooye. Seven herbalists had been called when he died to try to resuscitate him to no avail. Babalola prayed on this corpse and poured water from his handbell on the boy and called his name. Obi then came to life, a thing that shocked many eyewitnesses who saw it. People erupted into spontaneous singing:
Omi lofi se’ wosan (2x Oku ale anad’alaye Omi lofi se wosan
He uses water to heal (2x
The corpse of yesternight he’s made alive He uses water to heal
Seventy years later in 2000A.D Obi Ogundipe would recount the account of his resuscitation from death in a Church service at his 80th birthday anniversary. This man would later die in 2002 at the age of 82.
This news travelled far and wide and before the week was over crowds began to troop to Ilesha to meet the prophet. This was the beginning of what has been called the Great Oke- Ooye Revival- the origin of both the Christ Apostolic Church and The Apostolic Church in Nigeria. This was also the beginning and origin of modern Pentecostalism in Nigeria as many people received the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the usual evidence of speaking in tongues for the very first time. Some received the gift of prophecy and a call to ministry.
Marriage and Family Life
His Two surviving daughters
In 1935 Babalola took the major step towards holy matrimony. He was only 31. The lucky lady was no other person than Dorcas Adetoun, a native of Ilesha the town where Babalola first made his nationwide fame and renown. The wedding was solemnized at Efon- Alaaye by the European missionary of the Apostolic Church, Pastor George Perfect, according to S.A.Sadela who witnessed it. He was assisted by Pastors Odubanjo, Odusona and Medaiyese.
This marriage was blessed with four children namely Abiye, Wura, Tunji, Apeke. However the male child did not survive as he died in his infancy. Only three children outlived Babalola from this marriage: Abiye (Mrs.Babalola) Wura (Mrs.Oginni) and Apeke (Mrs Adeniyi).
This marriage was stormy, based on the accounts of several witnesses who knew and /or lived with the couple and who were interviewed, including Babalola’s younger sister Mrs. Olanrewaju. This was however due to the enormous pressure brought on the home as a result of the challenge of the work on Babalola’s time which forced him to be away from home most of the time and not due to the character of the woman as been falsely chronicled through side talks, tales and comment over the years. Obviously, even the best and the most saintly of women would not endure certain things. He himself admitted in a written document that he had a good wife.
His extended family however presents a very interesting study. Babalola was the only son of his mother but he had five younger sisters who all married ministers of God except one. Mrs Ajibola was married to Pastor Ajibola, Mrs. Orogun was married to Pastor Orogun who became CAC fourth president. Mrs.Adedipe was the wife of Pastor Adedipe once the principal of CAC Seminary. The remaining two sisters were twins- Mrs.Taiwo Olowolagba, was the wife of Pastor Olujobi-Olowolagba of Efon- Alaaye and Mrs.Kehinde Olanrewaju was the wife of Elder Olanrewaju of Gospel Apostolic Church, the only one who did not marry a pastor and whose husband was not from CAC.
Pa. David Rotimi himself lived to old age. He lived with his wife Mama Rotimi at Erio-Ekiti very near to the son who was based at Efon. This great man, a pioneer of faith died with a solid Christian testimony in 1939 on a glorious note. On the day of his death a crowd of ministers had gathered around him including his son Joseph Babalola and his son-in-law Orogun. Orogun had asked him whether he had accepted Jesus as his Lord and Saviour and he responded that he had been with him that day and they’d conversed together. That Jesus told him He was going to the East and he (Rotimi) should get ready because on his return journey he would be coming by 12 noon that day to take him to his eternal rest. At 11.55 he signalled to the crowd around his bed that he could see Jesus coming and everyone began to pray to make request from Him. At exactly 12noon this noble man, this patriarch of faith slept quietly in a glorious way. He was buried at Efon-Alaaye owing to some scheming. Twenty years later in 1959, Babalola too would ascend in pursuit of the same Jesus that took his father away. Indeed, as Solomon noted more than three thousand years ago,’’ the righteous is an everlasting foundation.’’
Going to Call Jesus
His resting place
Early in the morning of Sunday 26th July the apostle got up as early as 5a.m and requested for hot water. A coffee was prepared for him but he insisted it must not have sugar or milk. That was how he drank it raw, the last thing he ever took before leaving the earth. It was a life of self-denial from beginning to end.
After preparing for the service he called for his deputy, the Assistant General Evangelist, Prophet David Babajide and his host, Prophet S.O Akande. He asked two of them to kneel and began to talk to them rehearsing his experiences in ministry from the beginning when he received the call to the present day and all the hassles he’d met in ministry. He reminded the duo that within the limit of human possibility he had done his best. He now asked each of them to pray for him that if there had been any sin he Babalola had committed in the course of his ministry from the beginning to that day that God should forgive him. Thereafter he himself prayed the last prayer and made the benediction. He told the duo, ‘’Now I thank God the way is clear.’’ But they didn’t understand. He encouraged them to be faithful and thereafter he dismissed them.
They went for the morning service and he made the opening prayer. J.A. Medaiyese the Superintendent gave the sermon at the service. Throughout the service Babalola never stood up for once not even when the congregation rose to sing hymns. He remained on his seat, until at the end when he gave the benediction. After the service the congregation moved straight to the dedication of the Faith Home but Babalola went straight to his chambers to rest. After the dedication delegates began to depart to their various destinations. Some of these also came to Babalola to bade him goodbye and to ask for his blessings and prayers and he willingly obliged them. One of these was Pastor Odusona, the General Superintendent of the Church. As he was going Babalola called him back and reminded him of the young man he had met at Ibadan few days before who he promised to help with his wedding. This man had reached the age of marriage but had no father or any helper to see him through. Babalola then took it upon himself to give him the support he needed and reminded the General Superintendent of the church to expedite action on the matter. This was his last act of mercy before he left for eternity.
He was left to rest. At 3p.m his associates came for prayers with him. Medaiyese was the first to pray followed by Odutola. Then just before Babajide could pick up the prayer, Babalola himself took it and began to pray the very last prayer he made on the earth. And what was he praying about? According to Babajide he was praying for all people of the earth that their salvation may be sure and not once did he make mention of his immediate family. He was allowed to rest while Medaiyese went for the evening service. One Michael Isajimi, one of the assistants with Babalola stood at the entrance of his door.
Around 4p.m the walls of the room where Babalola was began to shake as if experiencing a tremor or vibrations. But the cause of the movement could not be located. At 4.30p.m on the dot Babalola breathed heavily three times: Hi, Hi, Hi-as if to say God the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit- and like lightning the man was no more. It was exactly forty days to the time he told his mother he would be going to call Jesus. The entire room shook and yet the window panes did not brake. Michael cried with a loud voice to summon the elderly men to come. As they opened Babalola’s room a wave of power hit them and they all fell to the ground. By the time they rose up and moved near they found he was lifeless.
They began to pray while Babajide sent for Medaiyese who was preaching at the evening service to stop his sermon and close the service immediately and come. They all surrounded Babalola each one holding a part of his body and they began to pray from 5p.m till 7p.m. Medaiyese began to plead in prayer, ‘’Lord what is our sin? What have we done wrong? Where have we missed it? ’’ It was then a vision was shown to someone where he saw Babalola before the mighty gates of heaven and entering through the gate he laid his sword at the feet of the Lord Jesus. The Lord then revealed to this servant that Babalola could not return to them again as they desired because the heavens have already received him. At 7p.m Medaiyese declared plaintively,’’ The Great Apostle is Gone.’’ He was 55, still fit and agile and without a single grey hair on his head.
Thus marks the end of an era in Nigeria’s religious and evangelical history. Arrangements were made and the body was taken to Efon that night. Even in death his eyes were not closed and there was a smile on his face. Eight days later he was committed to mother earth amidst a flood of tears, wailings and lamentations. All the schools in Ijesha and Ekiti were shut for the week as a mark of respect to the great apostle. Thus marks the end of an era.
What's your view about this great man of God?
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