Venerable Folarin Oyebola Sobo is the Vicar of Our Saviours Church, Surulere. His church is under the Lagos Mainland diocese of the Anglican Church. He was ordained a priest in July 2002. He is one of the “sons” of the late Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Abiodun Adetiloye. Sobo who is ever boisterous shares with Church Times the uniqueness of the late primate of the Church of Nigeria, Abiodun Adetiloye, Below are excerpts
How I became a priest
My being a priest today is to the glory of God and the effort of late Joseph Adetiloye. He actually made effort to drag me to priesthood but I was not really prepared then because I felt I had a different interest in life. I was into politics and was a friend of his biological son, Adeola.
I was an activist at the Lagos State University where I studied English and was fully committed to the political ambition of Alex Ekwueme who was contesting for the presidency of the country at that time. All along baba was just watching and he believed one day he would get my attention. And he did. That day as I walked to the bishop’s court in Marina, Lagos he caught my attention and raised the issue with me. By then I could not resist. I started giving it a thought
Before that meeting he had encouraged us and invited me and his son to launch where the Lord used him to speak to my heart. All along I knew I had no fellowship with God. Before then I was smoking like a chimney. Once I light my cigarette in the morning I change from one stick to the other till the evening. We used to have an instruction on the door then saying, I would give it up tomorrow.
But after that meeting, I had a strange encounter which made me begin to have a thirst for God. My going to the seminary shortly after my experience helped to cement my relationship with God. What I am today is to the glory of God and the encouragement and prayers of Joseph Adetiloye.
My relationship with the Adetiloyes
I had known the family very much earlier than when I became a priest because of my friendship with Deola, baba’s son. What I can remember is that the primate was not always available. Baba was one person I knew that drove the length and breath of Nigeria. I don’t know any other person that could match him in that. To his credit, Adetiloye hardly traveled by air within Nigeria. He traveled by road from Sokoto to Maiduguri back again to Calabar and then to Lagos. And before you say jack, baba is back again on the road always going from one parish of the Anglican Church to the other.
He was father to all
I remember we had a programme at the cathedral after his retirement. After the programme there was a reception at his Faith House in Lekki. The programme was titled, Adetiloye, this is your life. In the course of the programme people from different walks of life came to talk about him. And when they called his son, he said, “I hope now that I can finally have my father back because for 30 years I never had my father.
He really did not have his father to himself because he was all over the place playing the role of a father to many. And that started right from his days in Ekiti as a bishop. Deola did not enjoy the bond between a father and a son. Adetiloye was married to the church and died for the church. I can say that conveniently and convincingly.
A young girl was sent to assassinate him
There are so many things about Adetiloye. But one of the striking things I can recall is that he had deep spiritual insight and he is gifted with the gift of word of knowledge. He knew things and he could see afar. I remember in 1998 during Abacha era, a young girl was sent to assassinate him in the Archbishop palace. But the girl could not identify him. She came and sat at the reception and Adetiloye was coming down from the bishop’s residence.
When he came and saw the lady, God ministered to him that the lady had been sent to assassinate him. It was at the peak of Abacha era. He called the security and asked them to arrest the lady. They searched her handbag and they found a pistol with a silencer fixed to its nuzzle. How did he know the lady was sent to assassinate him? Because he was always in tune with God who ministered to him through the Holy Spirit.
The spirit that dwelt in Adetiloye is rare. That kind of faith I’m afraid is fast disappearing. His common phrase is: Kale yin olorun. Meaning that we may praise God Or he would say, Agba so ro da. Becoming an elder is not easy.
He was a prophet to the nation
I can conveniently say he was an outstanding prophet who spoke the mind of God. Today I’m afraid we don’t hear thus says the Lord because many church leaders in Nigeria have compromised their faith. People are speaking what they think the Lord is saying. And not what God is saying. He was the voice of Nigeria and Nigerians. He was quite humble. Anytime he is traveling out of the country, he carried his bag by himself. He would tell you when he gets to London nobody would carry it for him..
The day Abacha died and how Adetiloye recovered from sickness
On the 8th of June 1998 baba Adetiloye was very sick. That was the day Abacha died. Myself, Dr. Sebanjo and Dr and Mrs. Ajomo were with him and praying and trusting God that he would come out of the sickness. Baba was lying down on the couch and Dr. Sebanjo was attending to him. He was ill and we kept reminding him that his mother was still alive the he could not afford to die then. As we were attending to him we just saw a news flash on television: Nigeria’s president feared dead. I called his attention to it, I said, baba oda bi pe Abacha tiku. meaning it seems Abacha had died. We switched to CNN and we confirmed the news.
Adetiloye, who was very sick and almost dying, rose up immediately and said: let us pray. And I could remember vividly the words of the prayer, he said, “Father today you have proved yourself to be almighty. You have delivered your nation Nigeria from the bondage of darkness. May your name be glorified. We all said Amen
That was the end of his illness. And we started chatting as if he was never sick. Adetiloye is not a man you can contain in any book. I say this with every sense of responsibility and I’m available to be controverted.
His signature in a sermon book in a remote church
During his time he was going from parish to parish to do confirmation. He did not lump churches together. I remember I was posted to a village in Badagry. It’s a remote village close to the lagoon. You can only get transportation on market days that is once in five days to that village. Looking through their sermon book I saw Adetiloye’s signature. That was in 1998 the signature appeared twice. That means at that age close to retirement he still went to such remote church to preach.
How he influenced my marriage
To say Adetiloye was my father is just the truth. I owe my destiny to God and to him. The woman I married, Anuoluwapo Ifebowale happens to be Adetiloye’s “daughter” My wife was a synod delegate representing Somolu Archdeaconry from Christ Church Badagry. At the Synod, my wife sat at the back and Papa Adetiloye left his seat and walked to the back and picked this young girl where she was sitting and sought for his opinion on the youth of the church and one of her suggestions informed the decisions of the church in youth involvement in the day to day running of the church,
When I made advances to my wife, she made me “fast and pray” for 72 days. So the day I was going to get the result of the fasting and praying, I was in the Archbishop palace and baba was in his office. When she had said yet to me I told her we should go and tell baba about our relationship. Before that time I never discussed my relationship with baba for one day but I was shocked how he got to know we were getting along. As I knocked his office he asked me to come in and I allowed my wife, then my wife to be to go in before me. The first statement baba made was “Se lo to ni” meaning, is it true? I was wondering what he meant by that statement. I immediately got the message and he smiled.
After he had confirmed that we had a relationship, he took us to his private prayer room. The only thing you see in that room is a cross. There is no chair in the room and no table. He prostrated and rolled to the right and left and thanked God for what he had seen. I could not understand why he had to go that length. I was really humbled by that act. I guess he was thankful to God that I had found the right woman for my life. While we were waiting for the fruit of the womb because we waited for six years before we had our daughter he would pray and fast along with us. I’m glad he lived to bless my daughter.
The spirit in him is rare
The spirit that dwelt with him is rare. Anybody can fight me over that statement and I will prove it. There is so much deceit in the church today. I’m talking about the Body of Christ generally that there are only a few servants of God that you can vouch for. The spirit of money, covetousness and jealousy has permeated the Church of God today. It was God who motivated him. He simply took to me and believed in me. Some of the priests that served him created a bad image for him.
He was politically conscious
I remember again the June 12 1993 election. Then those of us living in 29 Marina were made to register by Adetiloye. On the voting day he came out in his Cassock and went round the apartments of those in the cathedral and ensured that we all went to vote. He was not just showing the way he was living the way.
His greatest legacy
The greatest legacy Adetiloye left for the Church are: Keep the faith. Believe in the tradition of the church and eradicate cultism. He initiated the idea of priests swearing to a oath that they were not members of secret cults.
Girls who wanted to seduce him
He had a lot of opposition when he came to Lagos. They wanted an Omo Eko that is somebody from Lagos to be the bishop and they now brought an Ekiti man and that really sparked some controversy. He handled the opposition by making friends with them and praying for them. There were lots of attempt to derail his ministry. I was in a residence of one Ven Aishida in Ajao Estate and some ladies that sat on our table did not know who we were. The ladies were conversing and did not know we had relationship with Adetiloye. They were saying, “We don’t even know what is wrong with this Adetiloye person. They said they had made several advances at him but the man never saw them. They said they were actually trying to seduce him but he did not give in to the temptation. They were confessing that the man did not take note of them. So when the Venerable who was hosting us came around and introduced Adetiloye’s son to them they almost prayed that the earth would swallow them.
He was an enigma of all time
When Bola Tinubu hosted the late primate to a send off after his retirement he said baba was an enigma and was somebody that you cannot but admire that he gave the church the best at his disposal. Tinubu donated a brand new 504 with a special plate number to him as a mark of appreciation. But the truth is that baba was not materialistic. What ever he got he gave back to the church. The church he built in Odo Owa was built from the money people gave him. The man Adetiloye was an enigma and a colossus that lived in this part of the world. He took the Anglican church from what I will call the dungeon of hatred to the height of envy. He redesigned and positioned the church to an enviable status. He laid the foundation for modern Anglican. We are testifying to it because we are living witnesses of the selfless service he rendered in the body of Christ