Pastor Samuel Oluyemi Ojo’s story is like a fairy tale. The octogenarian and his wife, Esther Olabisi Ojo, share their life’s story with SAMUEL ABULUDE 43 years after.
Where and when were you born?
Husband: I was born in Ilare-Ilashe, Obokun local government of Osun State on June 26, 1936. I was born into a royal family.
Wife: I was born in August 12, 1948 at my village, Ifote, in Obafemi Owode local government in the present day Ogun State.
How did you know that was when you were born?
That was what I was told. The story of my birth is quite interesting. My mother had four children before me, they had decided that they would not have any other children after the four (three boys and one girl). It happened that my father went with a friend to see a herbalist and on getting there, the herbalist pointed at him (my father) that his destiny allowed for more than the children he had, He was forced to marry the babalawo’s daughter. On getting home, the new wife said she was going to perform miracles. And within two and half years, three out of the four died. After the death of the three children my mother who had decided not to have any children decided to have more children. She conceived me as the fifth child. When I was about six months plus, the fourth child died. According to what I heard, my mother had me when I was 11 months and five days in her womb. I would not have been delivered if God had not directed the CAC President and founder, Apostle Ayo BABALOLA to conduct a two week revival crusade at Oke-Oye, Ilesha. And my mum that had carried me in her womb beyond the nine months – eleven months and five days gave birth to me during Apostle Ayo Babalola’s crusade. By the special grace of God, I was born on Thursday of the first week of the revival programme by 7.30am.
They named me on the eighth day as John Olushola Ojo. That night the prophet, Ayo Babalola, pointing to my parents said, ‘Do not take that child back to his father’s house.’ So I was taken to my mother’s family. I never slept in my father’s house for one day since I was born and I am 83 years old.
My mother’s brother, Chief George Olufayo, Igbaketa Oba, of Ilare Ilesha, the Aro of Ilare, raised me. But he died years after and I didn’t have anyone to take care of me.
How was growing up like?
Husband: Growing was more of a bitter experience than a sweet one. I struggled to go to school since Chief George had died before I started schooling. And my mother who was pregnant with her sixth pregnancy, mine being the fifth, died while during labour. She was in labour for 22 days. She was being conveyed to Wesley Guild Hospital in Ilesha when she died on the way between Ilo and Ilesha. According to the account I heard, she summoned strength and voiced out what she had not said before. She said, ‘Take me down, I can’t continue. Take me down. All those people that contributed to my death, the Lord will judge them.’ She made that last statement and gave up the ghost. Thus, I never really had the care of a mother and the father I never had. They didn’t know me at my father’s house.
Wife: It was smooth. My dad had a kolanut and cocoa plantation and people used to sell to many. In 1958, I left my parents to stay with my brother in Lagos.
When did you start schooling?
Husband: I was 13 years old before I started schooling. This was because I never got any help from anybody to pay my way through school. It was sad seeing my mates go to school and me I couldn’t go because there was no money and no parent to sponsor or guide my educational pursuit. So all I ever did in my life was my sheer determination to become somebody and God’s help as well.
Something happened before I started schooling. I used to go to the farm and I was cutting the trees not knowing that the one I wanted to cut was a dead wood and the sharp cutlass bounced and landed on my leg. I was writhing in pains then. I shouted and there was only one person around at that time. I almost died there that day as I lost blood and almost passed out. I mustered strength to treat it getting this particular leaf called ‘Ewe Kotomu’ used it as herbs to stop the bleeding and rubbed it to put on the wound (he showed the photojournalist the scar ). So I managed to crawl back home to the village. There was no one to welcome me or sympathize with me. I entered my room and slept and didn’t come out of the house until 1pm the following day yet no one asked after me or asked what I had been through.
Wife: I had a brother who was well educated and worked at the Railway Corporation. He was the second while I am the sixth of our parents’ seven children. I started schooling when I came to Lagos to help take care of the children of my brother, Israel Babalola Sobola. His wife gave put to bed. We lived at Clifford Street at Yaba. I was 10 years old then .
Which institutions/schools did you attend and dates?
I went to Methodist Church Primary School at Ilare in 1949. As I told you it wasn’t until I was 13 years old when I enrolled into primary school we call Standard. I had to sponsor myself through school. I used to pass by a pathway through school and I noticed that anytime I passed I saw money (six pence) at the bush. If I did not go to school for two days and I decided to go passing the bush path, I would see the six pence which is more than one thousand naira now.
It happened everyday or every now and then I passed by that route and funny enough other students or persons that passed by that route never saw the money. It was as if my dead mother was not sleeping in heavy in heaven. (Iya mi kosun l’orun).
So I did all I could do to send myself through school. Another incident that I can never forget was how I was denied seeing the Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II who cane to Ibadan, the then capital of the Western Region. I was selected among the students that would have the rare opportunity to meet the Queen. I had gotten the stockings and clothing that I would wear and anticipated the day. A bus would come to our villages to pick all the selected students. Therefore, I looked forward to it but something happened. Someone took all my clothes, belt and socks and hid them from me. I searched everywhere but couldn’t find it. When the van that would convey me came to my village and in front of my compound, I had to hide from the shame that I was not ready for the trip to see Queen Elizabeth at Ibadan which I had been dreaming for two weeks. But I was surprised since people had been planning that they won’t allow me to see the Queen. Remember that I was in primary school.
Now I go to London and overseas like I am going to cut my hair. White men now come here to CAC Odi-Ajaiye on visit. That is the power of grace. It was in the night around 8pm that I saw the cloth, socks and other things I was supposed to wear inside a pot used to make charcoal. I later learned that the persons that hid them felt I would not come back and that the Queen would not allow me to come back to the village.
I must say that no help came for me and nobody financed my education. I spent only one year out of the three years one was supposed to spend. I finished Standard 6 in 1954 getting double promotions because I was brilliant.
My secondary school was at Otan-Ile Methodist Secondary Modern School (the name has changed now) in 1959. I was about going to Imesi-Ile to further my education but could not afford it.
I used to play football and my nickname was Agbako. I had a strong right foot. I was also a good athlete and a high jumper. My education didn’t go past the Modern School because there was no money.
Wife: I attended Colony Private School at Ebute Metta in 1959. From there I went to Queen Elizabeth Fowler School. That was in 1967. I got admission into a Grade II Teachers Training School which was at African Church Teachers’ College, Ifako. This was between 1976 and 1981.
When did you start work?
Husband: Talking about when I started work, I had started feeding myself from my primary school days having lost my mum as a youth and his brother, Chief George Olufayo, even before I attended my first school. I did all kind of jobs to send myself through school.
I am also a professional photographer. I did so many other jobs. I learnt how to make baskets, cage for birds. I went to Ile-Oluji to do photography after enrolling at Kabba Trade Centre, Kogi State.
I had no father, it was Chief Aro that raised me. How I am living now is still surprising me. That is why I do not call ‘A’ B or call ‘Black’, White. I lose many friends because they say I am too frank.
Where did you work?
I didn’t work anywhere. I only traded with what gifts I got. It was easy for me to learn and grasp things. I told you all the things I could do and learnt. I was a keyboard player at the Methodist Church and also doing church work under Reverend Ido. I did things for members of the church who needed them.
Later I went to Atunda-Olu Apostolic Church and was also living in the compound. I was doing all this to survive and feed myself.
Wife: I am a trained as a teacher. I worked at different schools. Among the schools I taught was Anwarudeen Primary School at Agege opposite NEPA office. That was in 1982 And after years of teaching, I was not able to teach again after establishing our church. I stopped and later got ordained as an evangelist.
Why did you choose to be a teacher?
Wife: As the opportunity came, I grabbed it and learnt to become a teacher because I loved teaching and I had children too who needed to be trained.
Was it deliberate or accidental?
Wife: I attended a Teacher Training College and so naturally I qualified to be a teacher.
When did you get married?
Husband: My marriage is another story on its own. Having met my wife at the compound of the Methodist Church where she schooled. We did the church wedding 46 years before the traditional marriage just last month where I insisted I must pay the bride price and fulfil all righteousness. Her elder brother who raised her preferred his friend to me but we both fought for love.
Wife: We got married at CAC Ebute Elefun which was the church he attended and we did our church wedding there. However, we had not gotten approval from my family but we had prayed and hoped to get it and it took a long long time – in fact decades.
What endeared you to him?
When we met, he told me his story and I had sympathy for him and felt that if I married him, he would make it in life.
How did you meet your spouse?
Husband: We met for the first time at the Methodist Compound where her school, Queen Elizabeth Fowler at Yaba was. I was living in a church compound where the school was also domiciled. We became friends and began to like each other. But her brother, Isaiah Sobola, never wanted us to marry. He wanted his sister to marry his friend. In order to cause disaffection between us, he took her to Kafanchan in Kaduna so she could forget about me.
More than four years later we met again. We were looking for eachother. When we met again, her brother again opposed the idea of us marrying by not giving us the chance to get married. As the one who was like a father to her, we needed his blessings and approval. Since we didn’t get it, we went ahead to solemnize our union at CAC Ebute Elefun in Lagos Island.
We finally did the traditional marriage last month in October 2018 which is 46 years after we got married. It wasn’t as if we didn’t have money to do the traditional rites but her brother frustrated it. Those that wanted to force her to marry another person are all dead now.
Wife: Yes, we met in my school Queen Elizabeth Fowler school. We became friends first for a long time before the love came and he wanted to marry me but my elder brother opposed it.
Why did you take her as wife despite the objection by her parents and family?
True love lasts. It was because of the love we shared. During the time her brother took her to Kanfanchan, she wrote a letter that she would still gain her freedom and that I should wait for her. And that if I get married to another person, even if they were 20, she would join them and make the number becoming the 21st wife. (General laughter). She is a wonderful woman and a truthful and obedient wife. God gave her to me because I had not fed myself yet not to think of marrying someone else and feeding another. That is grace.
Why did you run to your heartthrob from Kafanchan?
I ran from Kafachan because I loved him and had dreamt of building a home with him. I wrote him a letter that even if he had married 20 wives, I would become the 21st wife and still marry him.
How many children do you have?
Husband: God gave us four children: three female and one male child. The male child is in the United States, the state of California. He is the pastor of the English section of our church CAC Odi-Ajaiye. His name is David Olufemi Ojo. He was my second born and only son.
How did you become a pastor?
The pastoral calling was of God because right from the onset, God had delivered me and made me know that He was my pillar. I need not put my absolute trust in man but other than God.
God helped me to where I am now. Nobody took care of me or bought things for me. That is why I decided to serve God. I became a pastor at Atunda-Olorun Apostolic Church. I had my Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) CAC ordination in 1988 as a Reverend.
I retired from my church CAC Odi-Ajaiye four years ago.
How would you compare life during your time with what obtains now?
Life is totally incomparable. When I was still living in the village, everything was great and trust was a currency that everyone had. You could put 40 bunches of bananas on the table and go into the farm. They would put the money on the table and purchase the amount they wanted and no one would steal it. It is not so anymore.
Where were you during the country’s independence in 1960?
Husband: I was at Ile-Oluji learning the art of photography.
Wife: I was still in school then at Elizabeth Fowler Primary school.
Have your hopes at independence been met?
Husband: What we expected is quite different from now. Like the trading I told you, it would have been so better if we did not get independence. Those that led us have folded their hands and watch things decay and go bad.
What is your favourite food now and then?
Husband: I don’t have any because usually I didn’t know what to eat the next day. It is a bitter experience. We love pounded yam in my place but there was no money to buy it. I like Adalu- beans with corn. We call it ‘Muke’.
Wife: I don’t have a favourite food. I left my home and parent when I was 10 years old. I am from Ogun State and lafu was our delicacy but that didn’t make it my favourite.
How did you unwind during your younger days?
I sleep less than one hour or two these days. In my Church here, CAC Odi-Ajaiye, we cater for the mentally deranged people and between one month and five months they get here and within five months they get healed. The Police know about CAC Odi-Ajaiye. They call me Baba Odi-Ajaiye. We don’t collect money from the sick or his family but ensure somebody close to him or her or a caregiver stays around with him. We usually have like 15 people at a time.
Did you listen to music, go to parties or dance?
I was the choir master for four years and played the keyboard for years.
What were your hobbies and what are your hobbies now?
I love football and was a sprinter. So I was very active in sports in my hey days.
I can’t say I have any regret. There is nothing God has not done for me. What God gave me the opportunity to do that time, he still allows me. I don’t fall ill easily. It is God’s gift as I am 83 years old now.
What would you have done differently?
What I would have done differently? Nothing! I learnt so many things by myself. I was a PZ mechanic for one year and five months. I learnt mechanical engineering and could repair motor cycles.
Advice to the younger generation.
Husband: If the youth could learn from the elders and superiors what is decent, what is earnest and what is godly, they will be better off. The younger generation needs mentorship seriously as it is obvious there is a dearth of home training, wisdom and patience among the yours of nowadays. Young people should move with experienced people. I learnt and got a lot of wisdom from Babajide who is regarded as a co-founder of the Christ Apostolic Church. Babalola died in 1956 and Babjide died a few years ago or thereabout. He visited me anytime he came to Lagos. He was seen as my father. I visited the sage often and we ate together from the same bowl.
My golden advice to the young folks is that they should learn and associate with people who have greater experience and knowledge more than them so that they can grow peacefully. If you are a Christian, make the Bible your friend and if you are a Muslim, make the Quran your best book and friend.
What do you think is responsible for failed marriages?
Wife: It is in hands of parents. Parents should train their children well and allow our culture to be imbibed by their children. Western influence has eroded our morals. Bad habits and perception about life and relationships are picked up while in the home. Ladies who are supposed to be custodian of the marriage learn a lot of garbage from home, friends and television and internet. If I have N500 today, I can still make something for my family and we can eat but nowadays women have a high taste. Parents should take up the responsibility of training the children properly.