On Friday, February 14, 2014, founder and spiritual head, INRI Evangelical Spiritual Church, Oke Afa, Isolo, Lagos, Primate Elijah Babatunde Ayodele added another year. This, he celebrated in grand style, tagging it My Moments of Gratitude 2014. The event paraded dignitaries from all walks of life including Ambassador Mufutau Olaleye, representing the President of Benin Republic. Ekiti Deputy Governor, Prof. Modupe Adelabu who was also ably represented by Mr. Babatunde Alokan, council of chiefs and traditional rulers from Ife, Osun State and some men of God were also in attendance.
The highlights of the occasion were the distribution of cash and gift items to the needy, donation of a commercial bus to a church member, Mr. Adeyemo Kusemu, bursary allowance to indigent students, eye glasses to the visually impaired and more.
ENCOMIUM Weekly interviewed the respected clergy on the event and much more.
Today is your birthday, how would you describe your joy…
(Cuts in) I don’t celebrate birthdays, it’s my mother that does that. And this is because God used my mother to bring me to life and she looked after me. That day, she had two options, either for me to be alive or dead. But for that love she had shown, she took care of me so that I could be alive.
I appreciate that so much and I cherish my mother so much as well. So, my mother is the birthday gal. What I am doing is only thanking God for giving me the grace to work in His vineyard. It’s a moment of sober reflection. Where I am coming from, what I have done so far and what I will do in the nearest future. So, I am only thanking God for calling me to serve Him. I thank Him for that singular privilege.
Okay sir, how does it feel adding another year?
I have always said it, every day is my day. You people are the ones doing the mathematics of adding another year. I celebrate everyday to thank God that I am alive. I believe it’s always a great opportunity for one to see another day. That’s why I am always grateful to God.
You’re known for putting smiles on the faces of the needy but what we witnessed here today was more elaborate than ever before. How long did you plan this?
The fact is that taking care of the needy could be said to be capital intensive because a lot of money is involved. You just have to ensure that you live and make others happy. I have sold my cars and landed property to make people happy. It’s not a new thing to me. As you could see, a lot of eminent people came here today to identify with me.
We have respected men of God, a president represented, the deputy governor of Ekiti State was also represented at today’s event. I have traditional rulers here present. If the Ooni of Ife could send his subjects, what else do you expect? People all the way from Benin Republic and other places also came.
It’s my pleasure and I give thanks and glory to God. I believe I have not done as I would have loved to. I still pray to do better. I have a project at hand now. I want to build a house for the less privileged in my church. A room, and a parlour, self contain that will go for N1,000 and a flat will just cost them N2,000 per month. They will pay just three months rent as initial payment, no agreement, no commission.
What’s the actual essence of giving to the less privileged?
The essence is God Himself because the moment you remember the poor, you have remembered God. He loves the poor and He’s always happy when they are blessed. Then, the moment you also say ‘Let me bless the poor’ God will bless you in return. But to be sincere, doing this is by the grace of God. It’s not by anybody’s power to assist the less privileged.
What are the sources of your income for you to give out a bus, sewing machine, generator, eye glasses to about 200 people, scholarship to the less privileged children, sponsored pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem and more?
The joy of the Lord is my strength. He is my only source of income. I always plan ahead and I give God all the glory for that. Nobody has said I have defrauded him nor that I have been reported to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
I thank God for that. What I do is that whatever God gives me, I always make sure it’s used judiciously to the benefit of the people around me. That’s why I told you it’s a big project that requires huge capital because every day you see more people to help. But I couldn’t have been able to achieve anything without the support of God.
We learnt you spent about N20 million on this year’s event, how true is it?
Whatever people say, I don’t know and I don’t want to. It’s my private life.
Haven’t you been attacked or criticized by fellow pastors or prophets for including Muslims in your programmes all the time?
Let anybody criticize me, I will then ask the person if there is any paradise for the Christians different from that of the Muslims? Let them tell me if there is any difference in the God we serve. To me, I believe we worship the same God but in different ways.
What’s the development concerning the proposed church’s health centre?
Yes, we’re doing it in the mega church we unveiled its prototype today. We are going to work towards achieving that soon. We’re working on it and I believe God will help us.
That means it’s going to be located in Ile-Ife, Osun State where the planned mega church will sit?
Yes, of course.
Is that what you’re using to strengthen the relationship between you and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade?
No, our relationship is bound. It is from God. So, whether or not I establish it in Ife it has nothing to do with our relationship at all. It hasn’t and wouldn’t change anything. It’s very clear I can be based in Ile-Ife. And in addition, Oodua Republic will come up. It’s a message from God, and I believe strongly that it must come to pass. So, I would like to be at the capital of Oodua Republic.
How many branches does INRI have now?
I can’t really count the number of branches we have. We’re in so many places including United States of America. What we’re working on at the moment is to see that things go on steadily and smoothly in all our branches.
One thing we have always noticed is that you don’t parade your wife unlike other pastors, why?
I appreciate the pastors parading their wives or family before the altar of God, I don’t go against that. But I cherish my privacy.
Is that the reason you always keep her off public eye?
No, she is not kept off public eye. She is a prophetess and pastor, and she is very pretty. I have no reason to keep her from the public but like I said, I cherish my privacy a lot. My wife is my mother, my heart and everything.
That means you enjoy her support?
Yes, she gives me total support and I thank God for that.
What’s your comment on pastors or so called men of God raping minors or sleeping with church members’ wives?
If any pastor is truly indulging in that and using the teenagers for rituals, God will judge. I can’t judge anybody. What I think is responsible for that is that some pastors were not called as they claim. In that case, they can easily be lured into such devilish act.
Some just want to be the best, forgetting that the devil is always at work. Women are very dangerous. One has to be very careful when it comes to women issues, even at places of work. You mustn’t allow such evil to enter your life. One must hold on to God very strongly all the time.