Posted by JOHN NWOKOCHA on
YOU may never fully understand Papa Ayo Oritsejafor by watching him on television during his ministration programme alone, for he may represent the classic paradigm of the more you look the less you see. But get close to this super preacher, and you will observe humility in its pure sense.
YOU may never fully understand Papa Ayo Oritsejafor by watching him on television during his ministration programme alone, for he may represent the classic paradigm of the more you look the less you see. But get close to this super preacher, and you will observe humility in its pure sense. Not only this, you will also see suave, simplicity, eloquence in spiritual realm and confidence of a noble. These attributes combined, do make Pastor Oritsejafor to be outstanding among men of God, as they love to be addressed. What you will not fail to notice when meeting this athletic trimmed figure of a preacher is his youthful face. But for the grey patches in his hair, youíll almost come to a conclusion that heís in his 30s. You are damn wrong. He says: ĎI am in my mid 50sí.
The issue of age popped up in the course of our chat when the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) president responded to a question on how he feels being addressed as Papa by his followers whoíre far older than him. It is not as if itís the key issue of our encounter. As a matter of fact, the controversy surrounding the Benny Hinnís crusade in Nigeria had occupied the front burner for a while, with many unanswered questions. And having met him only a day before the committee set up to investigate the allegations over the crusade, makes public its report, no other issue can be more pertinent. In addition to being PFNís president, Oritsejafor had some explanations to offer about the role he played in the crusade. He had maintained a dignified silence while the allegations burn in the furnace of public cross-fires. Will he break the golden silence now? Hear him:
"The truth is, I would love to say a lot of things. Iíve known Benny Hinn for long. We had agreed that nobody should get to the press until after the leadership of PFN has received the committeeís report. Thatís the National Advisory Council and National Executive Council will make decisions known, hopefully based on whatever reports they receive.
So, hopefully at the end of the meeting either I or somebody else authorised by the council will speak to the press." For the clergy who holds strictly to his principles he buttresses his silence on the allegations, "it will be wrong because Iím the leader. So if youíre part of an organisation and youíre the leader, it is wrong to break the laws that you have put in place. Benny Hinn and I have personal relationships." Putting the Benny Hinn question aside, we moved on to other issues like one concerning the conduct of some clergymen that have drawn public condemnation. Among this is the growing trend of material lust while turning the affairs of evangelism into money spinning business. He says: "I am very much aware of this.
Well first of all, let me say again, Iím very uncomfortable with the word business or describing the ministry work as business. But in essence, if you read the gospel, thereís a scripture where Jesus said I must be after My Fatherís business. So in that wide scope, if you look at it from this perspective then, the description fits in. But if you narrow it down to where you are coming from, that is where I have a problem. But like I said, itís our own fault. Some of us have not done right to the gospel. Some of us have not behaved the way we should. If I sit here as the leader of PFN and pretend that all is well as an organisation, if I tell you that everybody is behaving well then, Iím deceiving myself.
"My predecessors tried their best to correct some fo these things. But Iíll promise you that by the grace of God, we will do our best.
We will pray to God to help us correct these things. As far as we are concerned we should be able to say this is what we stand for. And if you are going to identify with what we identify with, then you must do it this way, you canít do it your own way. Iím sure you know that you can exercise authority over a man that submits to your authority.
But Iíll tell you that this is not new. Because even in the scriptures, youíll see it again and again. It happened from time to time.
There will always be those whoíll miss the track. Thatís why we are human beings. And when we missed the marks we must correct ourselves, make adjustments and come back to the right ways. But I can tell you that there are many men of God who are doing the right things. Of course, you know the case with one bad apple soils the whole basket. I think there is a fine line and God has to help us to identify the fine line."
Now, on the question of being addressed papa while his wife is called mama. This is his reaction: "First of all, Iím very much over 50. You probably donít know that. I donít talk about my age. But it has nothing to do with age actually, because the call of God has nothing to do with age. If you study the Bible, youíll find out that there is a family of three - Mariam, Aaron and Moses. Moses was the youngest, yet God chose him to lead. In fact, Mariam got so angry at a point and rebelled. She reasoned carnally. But Aaron referred to Moses as my lord.
"From the human standpoint, this would be stupid. But from the spiritual stand point it makes a lot of sense. Having said that, let me also clarify to you that at no time did I tell anybody to call me papa. I always address myself as Pastor Ayo. In fact, on my television programme, I just address myself as Ayo Oritsejafor. One of the problems we have in Africa and is a major problem is the craze for titles. Weíve gone crazy. And itís not just in the church, it is in the world. But itís worse in the church, because weíre supposed to show good example.
"Our people are so obsessed with what you will call them. Iím not interested in titles. If you look at some of the great men around the world they donít go by special titles. One of the greatest preachers in our time that lived is Billy Graham. They call him Brother Graham. But I donít know of any preacher that has done one quarter of what he had done. As a pastor youíre a shepherd, you feed the flock. As an elder you guide and guard the flock. Itís the same person."
What challenges does he face as president of PFN? Hear him: "Iím sure you know that human beings are not easy to lead. For me challenges are not new. I started preaching since 33 years ago. So, I think Iíve a lot of experience. And I see a PFN that will take a rightful place in this nation, I believe that PFN is getting ready to move to another level. I also believe that as PFN moves to the next level, PFN will participate very strongly in moving Nigeria to the next level."
Asked the inspirational preacher if the PFN will boycott the
fast approaching national census over the contentions issue of exclusion of religion? "Definitely. If they donít include religion especially, Christian religion... There is religion in this country that claims everywhere that itís made of 70 per cent of the countryís population. The census will help us know whoís who. Any census in this country without religion lacks credibility."
In case you do not know, for Oritsejafor, those who have great influence on him include: late Archbishop Benson Idahosa, Dr. Morris Cerrulo, T.L. Osborn and R.W. Shamback, as he recalls with nostalgia their various influences in shaping his understanding of how to serve God, devoid of profiteering.
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