By Rowland Olonishuwa
It was the great playwright, Williams Shakespeare, speaking through Jaques, a melancholy follower of the Duke Senior in Act II, Scene VII of the book ‘As You Like It’ who asserted that, “Life is a play, and the world is a stage.”
According to him, our very existence could be likened to the art of acting and the whole world a stage where we ‘act out’ our roles as assigned in the great script.
However, the missing link in this assertion is the fact that, if we agree that life is truly a play and the world a stage, then there must be a Playwright; someone who writes the scenes, dictates our dialogue and ultimately determines our exit when we have finished playing our part.
But the biography of Pastor John Dada Obafemi, ‘My Life in Christ,’ not only identifies God as the Playwright of our lives but unapologetically points its reader towards him and the veracity of his existence through testimonies of his wondrous acts.
The author who could rightly be described as one of the founding fathers of Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) explicitly states this in his acknowledgement that, “My prayer for every child of God who reads this book is that you will all be firmly rooted in Christ Jesus. When our time on earth is ended, I pray we shall all reign with him in heaven.”
The book itself is a testimony of how God had, through different means, perfected his plans for the protagonist and led him through difficult situations to not only fulfill destiny but to also rise to the pinnacle of his calling by being the 5th president of Christ Apostolic Church, worldwide.
A centenarian, Pastor Obafemi belongs to the first generation of Christ Apostolic Church and in the words of Pastor Michael Adeoye who penned the foreword, “Baba is a blessing to Christ Apostolic Church and indeed to the Christian Church (sic) in Nigeria and the world at large.”
Divided into ten chapters, My Life in Christ, is a 136 paged narrative that chronicles Pastor Obafemi’s sojourn right from childhood till date.
In Chapter One, My Account, the author not only gives an in-depth narrative of his childhood but also throws in some historic information into the narrative as authentication. He gives an insight into what life was before the much-touted civilization. Though there was no elaborate explanation, he disclosed that he was next in line to the Iya Osun and was an Osun devotee from the very beginning.
In Chapter Two, Our Farm, Pastor Obafemi takes a holistic look at agriculture and food consumption. He stated that, “Farm life was quite interesting in those days. We worked hard but we also ate to our satisfaction. A lot of fresh vegetables and fruits were readily available. While working on the farm, we ate different varieties of food at mealtime and we never worked on an empty stomach.
“Yams, cassava flour, bean pudding (moin-moin or ekuru) etc., were the food we used to eat on the farm back then. People were physically stronger in those days compared to now because of the rich variety of fresh food and fruits they consumed. Back then, there were no canned foods as we find today so people ate fresh organic foods and this explains why people of old tend to live much long and are healthier.”
He concluded this chapter by appealing to government to truly fund the agriculture sector, pointing out that it is one of the most reliable ways of building the economy.
Chapter Three is the photo gallery while chapter Four focusses on Guiding Laws of our Society. In this chapter, Baba demolishes the hypocrisy that tends to portray Africans as barbarians, he affirms that before the adoption of English laws and even before the advent of Christianity, “traditional laws governed everyday life in our society.”
He noted that vices like stealing, adultery, fornication were greatly frowned at and anyone caught usually pays a high price for the transgression. One could deduce from this chapter that while civilization brought some comfort to us it also eroded most of our cherished values leaving us panting for what was once ours.
In chapter Five, Baba recounts the events that led to his going to school in the year 1931 at the age of 16 years. He detailed how his elder brother who had been chosen to go for the interview had developed a severe stomach ache a night before the interview and he had to go in his stead.
According to Pastor Obafemi, it was when he became a Christian that he understood that God wanted him to have a formal education so that he could be adequately prepared for the divine purpose of working in the Vineyard.
He narrated, vividly, his sojourn in the school churning out names, facts and figures as if they were yesterday events. He recalled how he was treated by his teachers and the positions of leadership he occupied but, most importantly, he mentioned a family squabble that made his father to attempt to withdraw him from school midway but God showed up and the plan died a natural death.
My encounter with Christianity is the focus of chapter Six. According to Pastor Obafemi, when he got to school, he lost interest in idol worshiping and so voluntarily became a Christian. His exemplary Christian life helped him to land a teaching job after his Standard six certificate but being ambitious he wanted to attain the H E (Higher Elementary) Certificate.
It was in the process of pursuing this ambition that the opportunity to enlist came up and he enlisted in the Army.
Chapter Seven details Pastor Obafemi’s experience in the Army. Here, he gives detailed facts on his service to his fatherland during the Second World War dubbed ‘Hitler war’. Like Joseph in Potiphar’s House and like the Hebrew children in Babylon, Baba narrates how he was able to practice his belief and also keep himself and not be defiled by the indulgences expected of military men.
After the war and on his return back, Baba talked about his second encounter with Apostle Ayo Babalola of blessed memory, He had earlier met with him for prayers in 1943 before going to the war. He again got the call to the vineyard but blinded by the desire to make money he went in search of work.
My coming into the church is the focus of Chapter Eight. Here, Baba narrates how he resigned as the Sales Manager for J Allen & Co in Jos after repeated messages to enter into the service of the Lord. He said he went back to Apostle Babalola and on 25 January 1949 he began his training as a Catechist.
Still in Chapter eight, Pastor Obafemi disclosed how he met his better half, to whom the book is co-dedicated to, Mrs. Mabel Emilola Obafemi (nee Ogunleye) to whom he got married on 26th October 1950 at CAC Igboroko Nla, Owo, Ondo State.
This is one of the longest chapters in the book as Baba gave detailed information on the events that led to building his home and relevant lessons for singles in setting up a Christian home, He also gave some wrote about some of the fruits of his stewardship in CAC.
But more importantly he dedicated about 10pages in this chapter to write about the person of Apostle Babalola, lessons learnt from him and his last encounter with the great man of God.
The crisis that rocked the CAC with the formation of the World Soul Winning Evangelical Ministry (WOSEM) in 1978 was the preoccupation of chapter Nine. Apart from a summary of what led to the crisis, Baba also discloses some of the steps he took to ensure that the Church of Christ become ‘One Fold One Shepherd’ in reality.
Chapter Ten is a compilation of responses from Baba’s children, both biological and spiritual, on his person, ministry and social interaction. In total nine children of Baba (four biological and five spiritual) gave their views on him.
According to Evangelist F.M. Ogunsanwo, Baba is a man of strict discipline who hates backbiting and loves to make peace among people. On his part, Pastor Moses Obafemi described his father as a man of prayer who brought up his children to pray about everything. Pastor Samuel Obafemi described his father as a no-nonsense man, strict but generous. Evangelist Daramola Esther says her father taught her to always give generously but never beg but rather take her requests to God in prayers.
Also, Pastor Olarubofin says Baba is a powerful and dogged prayer warrior. Elder J. Adeleke affirms that ‘Baba is truly a man of God.’ Aderemi Ojo says of him, ‘Baba is a complete shepherd who cares for his flocks.’ Bro Lawrence Adebayo disclosed that Baba taught him to serve God with all his heart while Pastor D.O. Olagunju described him as a missionary leader, a humble servant and a man who will never compromise with ungodly things.
All said and done, like every human creation the book, My Life in Christ, gives the impression that it lacks effective editing and proofreading. For example,in paragraph three on page xi under the Forward, the year Baba became born again was left blank.
Also, in the first paragraph last sentence of page xii, “where he is still serving at this very at this very old age” lost its meaning due to proper editing. There is also a spelling error on paragraph two, line three, of the same page where dogged is spelt dodged.
In signing the Forward on page xiii, the spelling error of ‘Terbernacle’ instead of Tabernacle could have been avoided if properly proofread. These and many more avoidable mistakes in the book slightly affected the quality of the book and its message.
No doubt, My Life in Christ is a narrative that will encourage some, indict others and still illuminate some. This would account for why Pastor Michael Adeoye wrote in the Forward that, “Baba’s biography, apart from an addition to the library of Church History in Nigeria, will definitely be a blessing to Christians who are seekers of the truth and to those who want to live out the doctrines of the Bible which his life exemplifies.”