Adeboye: Living the dream

This piece was first published in The Nation, Lagos on Wednesday, March 5, 2008

He started dreaming as a child. He has pursued his dreams with total commitment and with the aid of some hardly revealed leadership tools. What is not in doubt is that at 66, the General Overseer of the RCCG has come a long waypastor-adeboye.jpg

Hidden secrets of Pastor Adeboye’s success

 As he marks his 66th birthday with the three-day Special Holy Ghost Service, some of Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye’s not well celebrated secrets of success are revealed by Group Arts and Culture Editor SOLOMON TAI ADETOYE Humble beginning

Now coated in cement plaster and paint, the three-bedroom apartment building seems to greatly aspire to escape its past. The discerning could easily visualise what it must have looked like 66 years ago when the son was born to the Adeboye household of Ifewara in Osun State – cracked mud walls graced by thatched roof the outdoor kitchen out of which oozed waves of smoke from firewood at evening cooking time.

Travel down to metropolitan Ilesa a few kilometres away and you’d encounter one of the citadels of western education in colonial Nigeria. Although the building no longer serve the purpose, the corner where Enoch Adejare Adeboye’s bed stood in his days at Ilesa Grammar School as a boarding student in the 1950s was pointed out by a classmate with nostalgia. “This was our hostel. That was the location of his bed space.”

“He used to keep to himself a lot,” Dr. M. M. Omole, an Ilesa-based agriculturist who was in the same class with the General Overseer of The Redeemed Christian Church of Christ, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye continued. “I am sure it had a lot to do with his poor financial state when we were in school here. He spent more time studying that he spent relating with other students.”

His mother had “retired” from bearing children. With daughters and a son, the junior wife of the senior Adeboye felt she had had enough. Then tragedy struck. Her only son died. Relatives and neighbours – especially siblings of the dead son –appealed to the Ilesa-born petty trader to try and have one more issue. Who knows, it might be a replacement for the son that is gone. Their prediction proved true and on March 2, 1942, the earth welcomed a son who was destined to be a world changer of no mean stature, Enoch Adejare Adeboye.

Growing up a peasant farmer’s son in the village was one thing. Attending what was then an elitist post-primary education facility was quite another kettle of fish. By the time Enoch Adeboye entered Ilesa Grammar School in 1956, the sharp difference between his socio-economic status and that of his mates was glaring.

“I did not were trousers or a pair of shoes until I was 17 years old,” Adeboye has said more than once.

“When we were here,” Dr. Omole recollected, “there was a day we students decided to boycott the dining hall to protest against the pap and akara we were being served. The only student who went quietly to the dining hall to take his meal was Pastor Adeboye. I am sure it was not because he was so desperately hungry. Yes, he would have had difficulty purchasing what to eat. But at the same time, I think it had more to do with his loyalty to the principal, Rev. Canon Akinyemi who was his benefactor.”

Disadvantaged background and strict upbringing bring out different qualities in different children. No doubt, the combination of the two had done well for the man his followers love to call Daddy GO. Raised by a disciplinarian father and a hard working poor mother, Adeboye picked up the qualities that would make him what he is today quite early in life. His relationship with late Rev. Canon Akinyemi, father of Professor Boloji Akinyemi is a pointer to his later development.

 Great dreamer

“When I was young,” Pastor Adeboye told the crowd that had gathered to spend “a day with the GO” at the MUSON Centre at Onikan, Lagos in 1998, “a bishop visited our village. Schools were closed. Hunters lined the road firing dane guns into the air. Cocks and eggs were gathered as presents for him. I took a look at the pomp and pageantry and said to myself, ‘One day I will be a bishop.’”

If anyone takes his PhD in mathematics as an indicator of the fact that Pastor E. A. Adeboye is a clinical practical man who does not allow dreams into his realm of operation, such a person cannot be far from the truth.

Abacha for life campaign was on. A million-man march was organised for Abuja. Half way across the globe, Pastor Adeboye was travelling in the company of two of his faithful followers in Miami, USA. There they saw a large number  of people gathered at the beach for a musical festival.

“Why can’t we have a two-million-man gathering for Jesus?” That was the dream Adeboye’s mind produced out of the two events. The result? Lekki ’98 the first Holy Ghost Festival that up to that time was arguably the largest religious gathering in Nigeria if not Africa as a whole.

The gathering now holds annually at the Redemption City and its tag has become Holy Ghost Congress. The most astounding aspect is its purpose. Adeboye believes that through the means of his annual congress, Nigeria will become the greatest nation in the world. Tall dream wouldn’t you say?

From his childhood dreams to catching visions for growth for the mega church he leads, one of the secrets of Pastor Adeboye’s success is his ability to dream of great things. Commitment

Of what use is being able to dream if one is not committed to pursuing it to logical conclusion? Late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once spoke of an outstanding quality of the bulldog. When the bulldog grabs an object, one of its unique virtues is its ability to keep on breathing without letting go.

“In the early days of our marriage,” Pastor (Mrs.) Folu Adeboye, the GO’s wife once told a writer, “we used to quarrel. He would return from class at the school where he was a teacher, take his meal and immediately proceed to attack mathematical problems. Whenever I tried to take the books away from him he would pretend to need to ease himself only to go and lock himself in the toilet to attend to his mathematics.”

From his travails as the favourite of the late founder of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Rev. Josiah Olufemi Akindayomi, to the present day, to say uneasy lies the head that wears the crown in describing Pastor Adeboye is an understatement.

Once he sets his hearth to do carry out an assignment, Adeboye simply pulls all the plugs.

He wanted the International Office at the Redemption City ready under a month, he simply moved floodlights to the site and personally supervised construction workers round the clock.

Some years ago, while worshippers gathered at the auditorium awaiting the arrival of the GO at a particular Special Holy Ghost Service, the unthinkable nearly happened. As Pastor Adeboye stepped out of his office to enter the four-wheel drive that would take him to the auditorium, the gangly man of over six feet in height staggered and nearly fell.

“When I am fasting I am fasting and when I am feeding I am feasting,” those are the words of a man who would fast up to the point that one would wonder if he was on hunger strike for one fanatical cause or the other. To him, realising his dreams is so vital that no price is too high. Having embarked on stretch fast – fasting without breaking at the end of the day – for several days would rise every night to conduct prayer walk around the Redemption City every night. When the event he has been preparing for comes, there he is standing at the pulpit to minister as if nothing had happened. Where he gets the energy to conduct those services is definitely beyond mere human explanation.

One thing Pastor Adeboye understands is that there is nothing like a free lunch. There is always a price tag. So, whatever he desires – miracles for his congregation, financial breakthrough for projects or whatever, he is committed enough to pay the necessary price to make it happen.

 The warrior

One aspect of Pastor Adeboye that is not easy to perceive is that he is primarily a man who operates with the instinct of a military man. His humble mien notwithstanding, he is one general one would not want to face with regular weapons. In the spiritual real especially and in church growth drive that reaches up the level of what business analysts would describe as mergers and acquisition, Pastor Adeboye is a dogged warrior.

“When you are fighting a wise man and he surrenders,” he once told his ministers, “know that you are finished.”

Strategies for conquering new territories and retaining those already in his possession are what Pastor Adeboye executes without even the closest people to him realising it. He is not a fire-fighter tactician. Whatever brought the RCCG to where it is today did not begin today. From the formation of his ministry, Christ the Redeemer’s Ministries, while Rev. Akindayomi was alive to the establishment of Christ the Redeemer’s Friends Universal set up to reach out to the upper echelon of the society and other such tactical moves, Adeboye works within the framework of his vision making moves according to his long-time strategic moves.

“The Lord is a Man of war” is a favourite quote of his. And no doubt he does not perceive himself as a bastard. Like Father, like son, he is just as well a warrior as his heavenly Father.

 Empire builder

When his friend, fellow Ijesa man co-lecturer at the same department and Christian brother W. F. Kumuyi needed a location for his midweek Bible study and miracle service events, Adeboye did not hesitate to seek the help of his spiritual mentor, Rev. Akindayomi. When Kumuyi moved his mostly youthful crowd-pulling programmes away to go and establish the Deeper Life Bible Church contrary to his early expressed vision of only running a teaching ministry, Adeboye saw it not as a setback but as a stepping stone. Through his own ministry, he began his midweek services.

One of the qualities of empire builders is that they convert disadvantages to stepping stones.

Pastor Tunde Bakare started the first “model parish” for the RCCG. When he moved on with the entire congregation of over a thousand worshippers but for twelve to start Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Adeboye simply picked up the pieces to build the success story the model church has become today.

His vision of a parish of the church within every five minutes walking distance within Lagos has been surpassed. He is reaching out for greater heights.

 Authority

Pastor Adeboye grew up under a father who was an authority figure in the true sense of it. He too does not care about hiding the fact that he believes in absolute loyalty to authority.

As a student, the school principal Rev. Canon Akinyemi who happened to have been from his Ifewara hometown helped him by allowing him to stay on in school even when his school fees were not paid. No doubt, the Anglican reverend gentleman must have played a role in securing a loan for Adeboye from the local Anglican church. As a result, he would not join students to protest an act of the principal no matter how justified his colleagues were or what repercussion he might face later.

Up till this day, Adeboye expects total loyalty. If anybody has any illusion of sharing of power in the RCCG hierarchy, the person should just seek out the mission’s organogram. Pastor Adeboye, the mathematician that he is, has fashioned out an ever-changing system that ensures nobody is in the position to challenge his authority. When Pastor Tony Rapu, one of the most outstanding “captains” in “General” Adeboye’s army was growing too big, he ended up out in the cold – literally. His Freedom Hall parish was quartered and shared among four assistants while he was “exiled” to Europe. He ended up leaving the mission to start This Present House.

The last Deputy General Overseer retired in 1998 and has not been replaced. No Assistant General Overseer (AGO) knows what to expect from the GO who would move a retired secondary school principal from the position AGO Training to AGO Family Matter, whatever that means, and replace him with a retired carpenter! What used to be the highly exalted position of State Pastor is now Provincial Pastor with as much clout as the then Area Pastor.

No matter what anybody says, such firm grip has helped Adeboye forge ahead with his plans for the ministry. Even the seeming anointed successors in the waiting of a few years ago had been sent to Siberias of missionary fields in past years.

 A different person

Attempt to blend in makes a man nothing different from other people. Pastor Adeboye is a man who does not fear being different. While his contemporaries pursued glamour, he took the Gospel message to the world with humility and gentle mien. Here is a man whose pen – one of the things he treasures in life – would pay for the glamorous fellow’s entire attire, yet he would carry it in a way that displays no outward self aggrandisement.

Sometimes ago, Pastor Adeboye had just three cars. One was a Lexus jeep, another a Lincoln Navigator and the third a Lincoln Town Car, a sedan that requires servicing once in four years. Yet nobody would perceive him as being ostentatious.

A sharp wit who cracks wonderful jokes, Adeboye does not really talk. He would rather communicate with even his immediate staff through notes – notes that are full of abbreviation that a new staffer has to learn his code! This sets him free to spend time in prayer and meditation, two things he does literally “without ceasing.”

Over the years, Pastor Adeboye has brought a lot of changes to the church he inherited in 1981. At the same time he has devised several ways and means for reaching the perishing world with the Gospel which is what he sees as his primary assignment. In all such pursuits, he does not shy away from being different. A state chief executive who is a Moslem invited him over to minister annually. He was always there to use the platform.

However, some had had cause to criticise him for carrying along wrong fellows in the name of church growth. Some glaring unchristian behaviours by some leaders had been overlooked while others paid highly for less sins – that is if there is anything like less sin. There was a year when the second wife of a prominent monarch and the second wife of a state chief executive were ordained in a church that is avowedly opposed to polygamy.

However one looks at it, Pastor Adeboye takes it all in the stride and heads in the direction he feels God is leading him. Like all heroes of all times, he is not perfect. But in him is a mix of qualities that has helped him build what is probably the largest Pentecostal church in Africa. He yet dreams of making it the biggest in the world!

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