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Ill-fated baptism which claimed the life of a ‘worker’ has thrown the Pastor Samson Ayorinde led church into grief.
* Ill-fated baptism which claimed the life of a ‘worker’ has thrown the Pastor Samson Ayorinde led church into grief.
FOR the pastorate and members of World Evangelical Bible Church (WOBIC) along Ogudu Road, Ojota, Lagos State, last weekend was indeed a tragic one.
The church was suddenly thrown into mourning after one of its members, youthful Emmanuel Olayiwola, drowned in a river, at Ogudu, Ori-Oke area of the state while a baptism exercise was about to be administered on a new convert, Miss Anita Osakwe, by a pastor in the church, one Abraham Sani. The deceased, a 28 year-old 200 level sociology student of University of Lagos, worked in the technical department of the church before he died in the process of the ill-fated baptism exercise.
Speaking with Sunday Vanguard on the incident, Pastor George Alao, who is the personal assistant to the general overseer of the church, Prophet (Dr.) Samson Ayorinde, said the deceased was not a pastor contrary to earlier media reports. Police sources at Area ‘H’ Police Station, Ogudu, where two of the church members were being detained over the incident, corroborated the position of the church that he was a worker there. Alao spoke on behalf of the church pastorate in the company of three other senior pastors.
According to him, the baptism exercise which claimed the life of the church worker, a Unilag student, was not approved by the church management. “The scenario came about this way: the pastor (Abraham Sani) who took the young man to the waterside for baptism is a member of four or five pastors, as occasion demands, who would normally go with batches of new converts for baptism.
They are done periodically and quarterly in batches of fifties, hundreds or as many as we can gather on a particular occasion." He said the new convert, Osakwe, was undergoing a marriage counselling in another church with her fiancé and because, that, the church’s marriage committee demanded for a testimonial from her present church to prove that she is a kind of lady they can vouch for.
As a result, she began to put pressure on Sani who was her counselor on her first visit to the church to carry out the baptism to enable her meet the marriage requirements of her fiancé’s church.
“The pastor involved (Sani), a young pastor, was on hand when this new covert (Anita) came in on first occasion and he happened to be her counselor, to supervise her spiritual life, monitor it and give her proper spiritual guidance.
At a point in time in the process, the new convert intimated our pastor (Sani) that she wanted to undergo a marriage in another church and that that church wanted a certificate, may be a testimonial, a recommendation from her present church; that she is the one they can vouch for in character, and upbringing in christiandom,” Alao told Sunday Vanguard.
He explained that Sani undertook to arrange the process of Anita’s baptism and therefore sought the permission of the church management, knowing that before the church could give a baptism certificate to any new covert, the person has to normally undergo “series of baptismal classes. And when it is established that the new convert is at least properly grounded in the teachings of Christ, he will go and consumate it with water baptism. “On this occasion, when the new convert intimated her mission, he (Sani) sought the permission of the resident pastor (spiritual), who bears absolute responsibility for the programme (water baptism). When the counsellor pastor (Sani) asked for permission to conduct it, the resident pastor (spiritual) said specifically, “you don’t do it. It is improper to go on that mission on the occasion.” He added: “I have it on record that as a matter of fact, the resident pastor, on three separate occasions, refused to give him approval to go on that assignment.”
He further explained that on Friday preceeding that fateful Saturday, the resident pastor (spiritual) travelled for a church assignment, just as most other top management of the church were away on various church assignment outside Lagos State, Sani sought the permission of the resident pastor (administration and technical) to carry out the baptism exercise because of the pressure from the new convert on him. The new convert had told the young pastor that a date had been fixed for the marriage. Being that the denial of the baptismal certificate would scuttle the marital status the new convert wanted to assume, according to Alao, Sani “had to seek the permission of another pastor in charge of administration and technical. This senior pastor was not aware of what had transpired between the pastor responsible (who had traveled) and the young pastor (Sani) who came for approval.”
He explained that the resident pastor administration and technical, being the only senior pastor on hand, felt duty bound to assume that the process of church administration should proceed. Knowing that Sani and his team were the ones normally responsible for such exercise, he told him to go ahead with the baptism and bring his report to enable the church issue a certificate of baptism to the new convert. “So, when he (Pastor Sani) was going, being alone with this new convert, a lady for that matter, he found this young man, Emmanuel Olayiwola,” Alao added.
The church management stated that when they got to the river, the pastor conducting the baptism and Emmanuel decided to enter the river to feel its depth while the lady who was to undergo the baptism remained ashore and was only to be invited into the water when they were sure of her safety. “As they got into the water, our own pastor (Sani) noticed, according to him, that the sand underground was giving way and he had to scramble out to safety. As he (Pastor Sani) was in front, turning back as soon as he got to the dry land, he looked and found that the young man was not following him. And if anything at all, he (Emmanuel) was actually sinking the other way,” Alao narrated. At that point, Sani raised alarm and ran to a pitch where some boys were playing football and asked for their assistance. “When all efforts failed as the young man had gone under water, he (Pastor Sani) ran to the community and some fishermen offered to help. They came, tried, nothing happened,” the pastor said. At this point, it o
ccurred to them that their mission had turned sour and they had to inform the church management so. But why Sani did not contact other pastors that constitute the church’s baptism team on the mission was yet to be known.
However, the church management, which said that they had been conducting such exercise in the last ten years at the same waterside at Sandfield, Ori-Oke area of Ogudu, said: “By the time he came, the resident pastor administration and technical who gave him the approval had to call elders of the church. I was one of those contacted and I rushed to the church at about 2:30 p.m. I met them and we agreed that the first thing to do was to alert the police of the missing worker of the church on an assignment.”
After visiting the scene of the incident with three investigative police officers, the police had to report their finding and because none of them could swin, rescue, according to the church management, looked a very difficult assignment. At that point , Prophet Ayorinde was contacted on telephone. “We got him on phone and he exclaimed, ‘my son under water?”, Alao quoted him as saying. It was learnt that through the prophet’s contact, the police hierarchy sent divers to the scene of the incident and fished out the remains of the young man who was on the church’s scholarship. “The marine police were contacted and they brought in their divers. Meanwhile, night fall has come upon us and we had to go there with generator sets and halogen lamps. It was an unfortunate situation because the boy was a very amiable young man, ,like a son to everybody here. We used to call him by his first name and most of our children were his colleagues. We are have been in the mood of mourning since the incident,” the P.A. sa
The church management said that they had had extensive discussions with the family of the deceased who were also informed during the process of the search and rescue. The church, however, said that the exercise was totally contrary to the church’s guidelines for water baptism and distanced the leadership of the church from it. Alao said: “But we are not defending, we are not doing anything, we want to get over the mourning period by which time our own internal investigation would have been totally concluded and then we forward our findings and perhaps recommendations to the general overseer who was totally caught unawares by this development.”
He said it was not proper for one pastor to take a convert, unsupervised and unaided, to such exercise, saying that the young man could not be said to be an aide as he had never gone on such assignment as he was not even a pastor. He added that direct instructions were flouted on the exigency of satisfying a new convert in terms of marriage and that very strict adherence to guidelines will now be put in place by the church leadership to avert future occurrence.
Mr. Shola Atto, a lawyer and member of the family of the deceased, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard on telephone, weekend, said the late Olayiwola was his nephew and confirmed that the deceased was not a pastor but a dedicated worker in the church. He added that he lived with his parents and not on campus. “Considering the assistance which the church gave him in the course of seeking admission, he normally came every weekend to assist the church in setting up their electrical system and other things,” the family’s spokesman said.
The family said that on that fateful Saturday, he came as usual and went to the church where he met Sani who asked for his assistance in the conduct of the baptism. On what the family will do, he said that the family had taken the incident as the fate of their son, saying: “No amount of money or compensation can bring back our son. He is gone and he is gone.”
The family therefore appealed to the police authorities to release the remains of the deceased for burial. “We want a situation where the grief will not continue to linger on, particularly as the parents are so diverstated about the incident. The mother had to be on medication for sometime before she could regain consciousness. “The paramount thing to the family is to get the corpse so that we can bury him”. At press time, weekend, Sani and Osakwe were still in police custody. Police sources informed Sunday Vanguard that the suspects would be transferred to Criminal Investigation Department, Panti, Yaba for further investigation.
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