CW: Thank you for honouring our request for an interview sir. When we talk about one of the brilliant minds of the UK diocese, you are counted as one of the pillars for progress and a great advocate for change and administrative reformation. So, it was of utmost importance for us to reach out to you. Thank you for agreeing to speak to us, and ultimately our readers.
BO: I thank Celestial Weekly for granting me the golden opportunity to express my views about certain issues of concern to our Diocese. And please accept my admiration for the innovative and excellent work which you journal is doing in its rather unique way.
CW: Our research tells us you are the Shepherd of CCC Greater London Parish, the author of three books about CCC – two of which are available on Celestial Weekly’s online book store – and you also served as the secretary to the Board of Trustees in the UK/NI for 10 years. Then, you also have your many achievements outside of the church in terms of your profession, which you are now retired from.
Usually, when somebody retires from their profession it is with the intention of going on to take a well-deserved rest from all their labour. However, after retirement, you have committed yourself fully to a work that is perhaps more taxing spiritually, mentally and financially to say the least.
What has compelled you to become heavily invested in the affairs the church?
BO: Your first question has taken me back memory lane, to 2010 precisely when I retired from paid employment. My first area of concern, naturally, was how I would survive without a job in a situation where I had limited private pension. But a strong surge of faith in me led me to trust in the Lord who is faithful and able to deliver those who trust in him. So I told God that I was going to depend on him; that I would expect him to bless me in such a way that I would continue to afford payment of tithes no less than I was paying when I was a Manager in a Housing Association.
A prophet came to me and said the Lord sent her a message that he had provided what I would eat to the end of my life. And the Lord is faithful. In fact I have been paying tithes at a much higher rate and unfailingly ever since. I would even add that to God be the glory I am rather more comfortable than I was working. I must add that it helped that my wife and I are frugal in our circumstances.
I am presently writing the history of my parish and you will read how the church account was frozen and the church was taken to court for the better part of two years prior to my retirement. This showed me that there was more than enough work to do in the vineyard. It was appropriate that I committed all to him prayerfully. To his glory he gave us decisive victory and he has not suffered me to regret or look back on the decision I took in faith.
CW: You seem to be a writer at heart. With at least three well-written books in your name, we would consider you to be one of CCC’s accomplished authors. However, some have suggested that Celestial members are not used to reading books. And as result, Celestial authors don’t receive much support or recognition.
Do you agree with this? If so, how do we change this?
BO: My opinion is that we Celestians (Nigerians) would rather talk than read or write. Someone made a joke that if he wanted to pass a secret to a Nigerian which he would not want that person to divulge, he would write it on a paper, fold it and give it to him or her, the suggestion being that chances are the Nigerian would not open up the paper. In Celestial Church of Christ the Prophet Pastor Founder wrote a lot and would not be faulted on that score; Pastor Bada as well; Pa Oshin; Professor Odeyemi, Baba Oyo and a few others would be recognised. Otherwise for our population very little has been forthcoming.
Part of the problem is ignorance. Imagine someone saying ‘Papa had already written the history of the church, what other history are you writing’? Or our oft quoted saying, ‘no point writing, the spirit will direct.’ But God knew and both lauded and promoted the importance of writing and keeping records. In Ex.31:18, the Bible spoke of God in Sinai giving Moses ‘two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God’. Ex.32:16 carried the story further and thus, ‘And the tables were the works of God, and the writing of God, graven upon tables’. And where would we or even the world be without the five books of Moses; or the prophets; or the synoptic gospels; or the epistles of Paul, to mention a few examples?
I wish I knew the answer to our inhibitions in the area of committing pen to paper. It is not to do with ability. Certainly not. I believe that if we spot people with potential and we encourage them, it would help in its own little way.
CW: We recently published your outgoing address at the Annual General Meeting held at CCC Harton Street Parish (London) on Saturday 5th January 2019 (Click here for Post). Your address was largely progressive and overall a positive message, but you also had your ‘Areas of concern’.
In this section of your address, you expressed your concern over the fact that harvest takes up half of the year, and the exponential costs of these annual celebrations. There is also mention of the property owned by the UK diocese, and a review of the constitution; just to name a few.
How was your address and the suggestions you made received by the Board of Trustees? Are there any plans to act upon your recommendations?
BO: I am afraid to say that I have not got a feedback. Perhaps it is too soon. More appropriately you may usefully direct the question to the Board of Trustees for an answer. I would rather prioritise for your inquiry the suggestion that the Provinces each be assigned a subject area such as health and safety; Safeguarding; Youth matters to work on. In this way policies and procedures would be articulated, approved and cascaded down. The much needed synergy which had been lacking would be promoted.
CW: In your tenure as the secretary to the Board of Trustees, what would you say are the top three accomplishments of the UK/NI diocese? Are there any particular events or actions you can refer to?
BO: At first, some ten years or so ago, we were in tumult as to whether we wanted to remain one Diocese or split to two. This involved the Pastor coming over and delegates going to Lagos and Imeko. Eventually we were split into two, called Regions A and B. Eventually we were merged back as one in 2017; which now offers immense possibilities as a mega church in its own right. Another achievement would be the way we saved Billington House from repossession by the mortgager. The property is worth going £700,000 and the mortgage on it has been paid off. A third achievement would be seen in the way the Board of Trustees ably defended the Diocese against allegations by persons within the church of impropriety. To God be the glory who gave us the victory.
CW: Are there any elders in particular that you are pleased to have worked with over the last 10 years? Feel free to name them sir. And what are the qualities in them that you feel the UK/NI diocese needs to power through the next 10 years?
BO: The work of the Secretary to the Board of Trustees involved working cooperatively for the successful discharge of its functions. This involves attendance at meetings, diligence, and no less important, dealing with matters arising from the Minutes. Over time I had lots of respect for many of my colleagues who all made such contributions. To mention a few may I start with Superior Evangelist Atere who I must note , was always brave enough to speak his mind. I would mention with respect our fathers as well; for their resilience and ability to accommodate us. MC Ojuriand MC Awosikatoo who never failed to make contributions come rain or shine.
CW: As we mentioned earlier, you are one of the accomplished authors of CCC. You documented the UK diocese’s establishment and growth from April 1968 onwards in quite a lot of detail. You also published an overview of CCC’s first 70 years, and you contributed towards the debate on pastoral succession in another book you wrote.
One thing we noticed in all of these books is that you presented some very bold solutions to the challenges facing the church. They include voluntary retirement of all pastors, all court cases to be withdrawn, redrafting the constitution, and much more.
Our research shows you conducted interviews with several key stakeholders in the church while writing these books; the likes of Pa Owodunni, Pa Oshodi, Reverend Adeogun, Reverend Shonekan, Woleader Johnson Shodipe to mention just a few.
Have any of these individuals have thrown their support behind you? And following your publications, has there been any progress or any criticisms you have had to endure?
BO: have not to date got a formal feedback. To be honest I have not followed up with any of the eminent fathers to whom you referred and this would in part explain the lack of feedback in part. At any rate the good news is I have not been sued. I have not been excited about meeting with them face to face given I had no positive outcome from my enquiries for anybody. Remember my conclusion in this respect that the Church has not had a Pastor properly appointed since the translation to glory of the Prophet Pastor Founder.
CW: You seem to be an elder concerned with CCC’s administrative standard.
In the 1980’s, Papa Oshoffa has set up task forces in Nigeria to close down parishes which did not meet the approved criteria. We learnt you were actually part of a four-man task force in Lagos around this period.
How effective were these task forces back then, and do you think it is a model which can be successfully implemented in the church today in order to reform the administration of the church?
BO: I am concerned that the church of today, certainly in the United Kingdom, should be run more like a modern organisation rather than as an organism, which was the mode when the Church was first descended. Now we handle so much cash, which must be properly accounted for; we relate to government which has its requirements of us such as in the areas of Safeguarding; and health and safety.
Yes, Papa was ahead of his time in trying to move management to the next level. He did not want indiscriminate setting up of parishes which did not follow basic guidelines, including approval of their plan from local government. It appeared to be going well but problems set in. There were issues of law and in the Badagry Road Zone where I was one of a four member Committee we got to a parish to be told that the shepherd had gone to Ketu to physically attack the Pastor.
In the United Kingdom our Diocese had obtained intellectual Property rights but our circumstances and cost matters are limitations to our use of it.
CW: In closing sir, you resigned as the secretary to the Board of Trustees last month. In your last address to the board, you suggested that your reason for doing so was due to the length of time you had already served. You noted that it was beyond the stipulated time allowed by the constitution. You also suggested that it was because of your age. So, you felt it was appropriate to give the new administration an opportunity to fill the role with a new person.
It is rare to see individuals step aside from a position or rank to enable others to come on board and continue the work. What advice do you have for the youth that are eager to make changes in CCC, but are yet to be extended the relevant opportunities?
BO: My view is that if Celestial Church of Christ will cleanse the world, and to that extent reach out to those outside of the West African diaspora, then we must look no further than our youths. I discussed this subject in my unpublished book titled – ‘Our Youths, Our Hope, Our Future’. Our youths themselves must recognise the responsibility this imposes on them. Unfortunately many of them are only excited about speaking engagements; or becoming shepherds, and with that the title of Superior Evangelist. On my own part I will continue to emphasise the need for those of us who are senior citizens to encourage the younger elements to accept responsibility. Are they willing? I hear them say yes.
CW: Thank you so much for your time sir. May God bless you abundantly, and keep you for His glory.