The Patron of Celestial Church of Christ, Oko-Oba Parish III, Venerable Most Senior Evangelist Gabriel Ojediran (JP) in this interview with Samson Oti, talked about his involvement as one of the foremost masquerade entertainers in Lagos, the general misconception that polygamy is common place among Celestial Church elders
As one of the Celestial Church’s parish front runners, tell us about life before you had an encounter with Christ.
I was born in Fiditi, Afijio Local Government, in Oyo State. I came from the family of Alagba, the family house of Akunuodun, the masquerade worshipers. I grew up worshiping Masquerade. I attended Methodist Modern School before I was enrolled into Construction work as a bricklayer, where I spent 7-years across the nation. I couldn’t further my education longer owing to family problems. My dad had many wives but unfortunately I was the only child of my own mother, so it was a tough journey, but I thank God for bringing me this far.
Throughout my stay in Fiditi, I used to lift the masquerade because that was what I knew to worship, and it was always like fun being under the Masquerade custom. I left Fiditi to Ibadan for an apprenticeship; I joined the Masquerade group in Alawo and Oke Sapati, and because of my surname, it’s very easy to know where I came from. I started the journey from Ibadan also by entertaining people, and on any Masquerade festive day, I must be in my costume. While still learning my construction work, I used to sneak out to lift Masquerade; I see it as fun. I don’t mind missing crucial assignments; as long as Masquerade is concerned I have to be there.
Something happened between Pencinema Agege and Dopemu area, which changed everything for me. There was a great slaughter in which soldiers killed thousands of people and demolished properties. According to what I heard, some masqueraders had approached a woman in her shop for money, and she probably refused. These masqueraders beat her up. Unfortunately, she was wife of a soldier. She immediately called her husband who happened to be on duty in Army Entombment. That was how soldiers came in battalion and started killing people. They leveled the ground from Pencinema to Dopemu, until government intervened.
Was that how you stopped worshiping the Masquerade?
On that fateful day, I ran for my life immediately I noticed the situation was getting messier. I took cover at a popular school, Saka Tinubu in Orile Agege. At that time, the school was uncompleted, so I hid in a classroom, yet I wasn’t relaxed. I was looking for an escape route to the shrine where I could change my costume. My next move from the school was to jump a particular fence to link the main road but where I jumped into was Celestial Church of Christ, Orile Agege parish. I was still in my Masquerade costume, and people from the church quickly gathered to see me where I was sitting in the mercy land. They went to call their shepherd and some prophets and prophetesses gathered to quiz my intention for jumping into the church.
As God would have it, I was given a listening ear to explain my situation and what led me into the church premises. They removed my masquerade custom and gave me the church’s white garment to wear. I was also told that God had destined me to become a member of the Celestial Church of Christ. At first, I refused but for God to prove Himself to me, the prophetess started exposing everything I had done in secret and I was told to go and destroy everything. That was how I met Christ and became a Celestial member from Orile Agege.
Did you start your own church after you became born again?
Celestial churches were not many in those days, so I worshiped at Orile Agege for many years. That was where I got my first anointment as ‘Elder Brother. I got proper orientation about Celestial from Orile and I had encounters with the founder Rev SBJ Oshoffa. While in Orile Parish, I led a group to meet Baba Oshoffa and I was able to ask him why he chose not to be wearing shoes. After I left Orile Agege Parish, I joined another popular church in Iju-Ishaga, Station Parish.
Tell us about planting of the Oko-Oba III parish being the patron of the church?
After I made a covenant with God that I would never go back to worshiping Masquerade, there was a revelation for me that God wanted to use me not only for one church, but that I must be ready to carry the cross till the end. Oko-Oba Parish III happened miraculously, it was never an initiative of any being. It happened like a mystery. It all started in my wife’s shop on a Sunday afternoon. And everything about the church was said that very day. By and large, it is a community church today that recently clocked 40-years. I didn’t grow up as a Christian, and I never went to seminary school at any point in order for me to think that I have a call to become the shepherd of the church. I am only being honoured as the church patron. Everything about the invention of Oko-Oba III happened the following Sunday of Juvenile Harvest while I was still worshiping at Station Parish. As at today, over 15 Shepherd from Ketu have served in the church. And for record purposes, we have a good relationship with the headquarters and that is why we are able to invite our spiritual leader Rev Mobiyina Oshoffa to our church for blessing.
As God used you to plant Oko-Oba III, does it mean it is your property?
No, it is not my property; it’s the property of Celestial Church of Christ, Worldwide under the leadership of Reverend Mobiyina Oshoffa. During his lifetime Papa Oshoffa (the founder), he used to visit Orile Agege parish often, we heard so many things from him and he didn’t teach us that way. Even if you are a billionaire, and you have money to build a church with a Celestial logo, it does not mean it is your own. You can only build the church and take the documents to the headquarters. The name of the documents must be Celestial Church not individual names. And that has been the way we have been operating. We have not derailed from the tenets and doctrines of the church, led by the founder and that is why it will be difficult for anybody to mislead us.
In Celestial Church, most front-runners usually become the shepherd of the church. Why is your own different?
It’s because truthfulness does not exist again.
There are many factions in the Celestial Church of Christ today; does it mean the church cannot speak in unison since the founder passed?
It is because people are not being sincere. Our Hymn book says a lot about the doctrine of the church, and don’t forget that it is a spiritual church. That is the way Papa left the church, but unfortunately people are derailing. And that is why we are where we are today. The truth of the matter is that Imeko is Celestial headquarters and we have to respect that order as laid by the founder. But today, Celestial headquarters is everywhere and that is why many unfaithful things happen within the Celestial churches.
There is a popular belief that Celestial Church leaders are polygamous. Is this part of the church doctrine?
We are mixing spirituality with personality; and they must be treated differently. I know where you are going. Being polygamous does not have anything to do with the church. It is a personal affair; subject to debate. When Papa was alive, I heard it from his mouth when issues like this came up, he said it openly that apart from Mama Yamah that he married on his own; other women came directly from their parents. Papa never engaged in any form of fornication or adultery. Let me put it straight, being polygamous does not have anything to do with Celestial Church, it’s a personal thing and who are we to judge others? Celestials need peace and prosperity; we should stop any form of backwardness habit.
You said truthfulness does not exist in the church again, how?
See; let me tell you one fact about being faithful, most of us in the Celestial fold do not understand the grace God has given to us. God loves pureness, but most of us are not 100% committed to this, and that is why Celestial is suffering from power play and politics.
While worshiping Masquerade, have you ever had an encounter with religious people before?
Haaaa! This is an interesting question. I used to beat white garment church members whenever I wore my masquerade costume. I see them as evil spirits because they always see us the same way. I cannot count the number of white garment church members I gave serious beating, especially when they mistakenly came close to my father’s house drumming and praying. All I did was get my father’s permission to wear my costume and my cane to beat these people away in front of our house.
Now that you are in Christ, do you regret doing that?
No, I don’t, because that was my understanding then, and that is what I grew up to know. But today I have been able to understand that Christ supersedes all other gods.
Source: The Nation