Bishop Akinola: How teenage girl tried to seduce me for sex
The Rt. Rev James Akinola is a retired Bishop of the Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion. He is not a frivolous person. He is straightforward, down to earth. He is one of the men in the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion who can hold their head high in appreciation to God for keeping the faith as it was once delivered to the saints. But the devil tried to distract him from his call in ministry.
Akinola who served as Bishop of Igbomina Diocese shares his experience as a priest in the Anglican Church and how God helped him to withstand temptations that came his way: Below are excerpts:
Listening to you tells us that you are quite evangelical. But you said while preaching that you had some background in the occult in your younger days. How then did you come about the Anglican Church in the first place?
My parents were in Ghana. I was born in Ghana. But in 1952 I was sent back to Nigeria because my parents felt we should get used to our Nigerian background. So I came back to Nigeria to stay with my grandfather who was an Ifa worshipper. He was a herbalist to the core. Gradually I became conversant with Ifa worship under his tutelage. I did so many things quite strange; and I was growing up to be stubborn. I was proud and arrogant because I was exposed to evil forces. My father, Joseph Akinola had been baptized though he was also a herbalist before he got converted. But my grandfather did not compromise his inclination to the occult. In my secondary and modern school days I was very terrible. Despite being terrible I still loved God. When they asked people to pray in school I could pray for 30 minutes. That was what qualified me to be sent to an SU camp when my school needed to send delegates to the camp. When I got to the camp and I heard the gospel being preached that was on April 19 1967 by Mike Oye I was touched and I surrendered to the Lord Jesus.
Are demonic powers real going by your experience in the occult?
They are very real. When you talk of Esu we made sculpture of him with laterite and fossil. There are certain leaves we collect about seven of such leaves and we squeeze them and pour them on the laterite and fossil and make some incantations; the devil is invoked into it. We place such at the path where three footpath meet. When you pass by such offering you will hear several voices. It’s so real. The powers are real and were used to cause havoc. But that for me is history. I don’t want us to dwell on that sorry pass.
So when you became born again what happened?
I became born again when I was 21 by that time I was in form 3. I started secondary school at age 18. When I gave my life to Christ the zeal I had when I was in the cultic world was transferred to the Lord. What helped me was that I did not go too far in the cultic world. My father did not want me to go far. He wanted me to go to school. He insisted I should not be initiated. But despite that I was quite involved to the extent of being able to use some of the occult powers.
Because I was very brilliant I was brought into the herbal business. I did all the writing for them and I could recite incantations. I memorised many occult lines. But when Jesus came, I became zealous for the Lord. I was preaching here and there and I demonstrated so much zeal for the Lord. So the principal of my school felt I should go to the seminary. But I was denied the opportunity when I made the initial move.
I had no sponsor. But later in life I opted for secular education. I studied Geology at the University of Ibadan. But by the time I finished my degree programme and I applied to the seminary I was turned down again. I was told there was no place for me being a Geology graduate.
I took to secular job and worked with Rocks and Stone Nigeria Ltd. I later went for my master’s programme and then took up a teaching appointment. It was while I was lecturer at the College of Education that I became one of the writers of the Scripture Union Daily devotional. I was invited by Bishop Awosoga to minister in his church. That was where the late Bishop Falope listened to my message and recommended me to Bishop Olajide who made me attend the seminary for the Tent Making course and also recommended a programme on evangelism for me in Singapore. He was the one who ordained me.
How was it in the beginning being a priest in the Anglican Church?
I had bitter experiences. It was not easy. I never taught I would enjoy any preferment. I was just focused doing my own thing. I was persecuted greatly. I was asked to serve under a senior priest. He antagonized me so much that I nearly gave up. He would not give me any job. The only job he gave me was to read the Psalms. Anytime I was not given Psalm I would do nothing that day. I was just marching into the church and marching out. When Bishop Olajide got to know, he transferred me to another church that was pastored by Bishop Ajetumobi who is now the Bishop of Ibadan. Then he was going to UK for chaplaincy. So I found expression there. I worked there for two years two months and seven days
“My driver had to go because I could not keep him waiting. My secretary too had to go home. I was alone in the office. Lo and behold I heard a knock on the door and the girl appeared. Incidentally she is a child of a pastor”
How was the experience there?
Many of my youths then are now pastors. The impact was great. There are many senior pastors in other ministries now who came to know the Lord through me. Many of them are still keeping in touch with me today. I was transferred from that church to another church because of persecution and made the curate in the church. The youths followed me to the church. I turned them back but many of them refused and joined other ministries instead of going back.
You are an Iconoclast. How did you cope with the leadership of the church?
It’s by the grace of God. I was just resolute not to compromise. Some of the leaders were not comfortable. But I was not deterred.
Maybe your preferment would have come earlier if you had compromised?
You are right. But the other way to look at it is that perhaps it would not have come. So the way God works is different from our ways. There were times the authorities were not happy with me. For instance I approached the vicar of one of the churches where I was posted to as a curate that we should start a Bible study session, he said there was no time for such because of several other programmes. I kept pressing him. After about three years of pleading with him, he said okay. We started. And the impact was great. We were to start by 6pm but by 5.30pm people would have stormed the place. He was wondering what I was teaching the people. It got to a point he said I would not teach again that he wanted to be teaching. So he took over. I would prepare the outline and he would handle the message. But anytime people saw him in front, they would just be going out. That continued for some time. After that I was transferred to another church, this time as a vicar. When I went there a lot of youths followed me. That was also in Ilesha St. Andrews. That was where the first preferment came as a canon. Six of us were preferred. I was surprised when they called me.
Everybody was rushing forward to greet the Bishop and thank him. I did not. People were wondering how come I was not excited. I said for what? I only wanted to preach the gospel. I was not interested in the title. Moreso I did not see Canon in the Bible. So I was not carried away. Later some other colleagues were preferred Archdeacons but I was not. But one of the senior Archdeacons who knew me because I was the youth chaplain and who knew what God was doing through me now requested I should come and work with him at Igbomina Diocese. He was elected as the Bishop of the diocese. He literarily dragged me to work with him.
He was the one who made me an Archdeacon. That Church where I served as Archdeacon was in terrible crisis. The day I resumed they fought in the PCC and they were almost slapping one another. I was not accepted by the priests and the people. Many of their members were resident in Lagos. But whenever they are in town they would come to church. They were not just ready to accept me. The former vicar was their mentor and they did not want another person. For five good months I could not get my stipend because I could not pay my assessment. The situation was that bad. I continued with them like that. But the Lord did it because I was just crying to the Lord and praying. I would pray and weep at the chancel and I asked the Lord to intervene. And God intervened in the way I did not expect.
How did it happen?
Somebody died and we had to bury the person. I discovered that we were always burying people. For this particular burial I said there was no collection of offering because where I came from we were not used to collecting offering at burial services. I insisted no offering would be collected. And I told them that the service would be turned to a prayer meeting. I told them an end must stop to burial service because where I came from it was birthday and weddings we were used to. I asked they joined me in prayers that we plead with God to put an end to untimely deaths. The person that died was less than 50.
We began to pray and we prayed. We prayed for 30 minutes. At the end of the prayers we were sweating. We said there was no offering but if people insisted they want to give they could drop in the box in the church. But there was no formal collection. That was how they changed their mind and saw that I was not interested in their money. They were so excited and happy that despite the fact that I had not collected my stipend that I did not place money above their salvation. That was what broke the jinx. Words went round and they rallied round me. I was there for 10 years before I later became Bishop by then I was already 64.
So you spent just six years as Bishop. What is the testimony of your diocese?
God helped us greatly. I administered the diocese by simple principle. I told all my priests that I would not persecute any of them and was not going to treat them the way I was treated by my seniors. I said we would operate an open system and I told them we were going to enjoy the same salary scale in the Church of Nigeria. When it was difficult to get funds we turned to God in prayers and asked for provision. We did not lack all through. We were able to embark on a lot of projects that we finished in record time.
Bishop Akinola: A young girl tried to seduce me
When you were preaching at the Synod of Awori Diocese of the Church of Nigeria, you talked about a young girl that tried to seduce you. How did it happen?
The devil is a bad devil. He knows the fire of God in you and he is out to quench that fire. We have a secondary school mainly female. My church is the proprietor and we had to supervise the school. The girl came to the church one day and was weeping. She said she was being humiliated in the hostel and that the humiliation was too much. She was weeping. And I promised her that I would speak to her principal and that the humiliation would stop. She would come and make request thereafter. She would ask me to buy provisions for her. She would ask for pocket money. I was relating with her innocently. I did not know she had an agenda. It got to a point that she would come and tell me some of her dreams that she saw me in the dream and all kinds of things. I became curious. I knew there was something beyond the normal. So I would pray with her dismiss her. All these were just preambles to her real intention. So this particular day I was in the office. I worked so late.
My driver had to go because I could not keep him waiting. My secretary too had to go home. I was alone in the office. Lo and behold I heard a knock on the door and the girl appeared. Incidentally she is a child of a pastor. She sat down and before I could know what was happening she came to my side and moved so close. I was wondering what she was up to. Before I knew what was happening she moved closer to me. I pushed her away and wondered what was going on. I shouted on her and said, “don’t you know I am a Bishop”. She said and so what? Many Bishops do it now. I said “if all Bishops do it, I am different”. I said “my last daughter is older than you”. She said that is story. Interestingly I was not moved. That was shocking to me. I stood up from the seat and wanted to move out of the office. She ran to the door and locked the door. I was confused. I could not shout I could not call for help. The danger was that she could turn the heat on me. I began to pray and asked for wisdom. I came down to her level and said I understood what she wanted that I was ready to give in but that we should look for another place to “do it”.
I said it will not be possible we meet in the office. She said no way that she wanted us to have sex right in the office. I said what if people knock the door? She said no way. I pleaded. Finally she agreed and we moved out. Immediately I drove her to the school. She did not want to come out of the vehicle. I shouted at her and said I would call the attention of her principal. She then moved out. All the while I was sharing the story with my wife. We did not know what to do and how to handle her because she could say all kinds of things to save her face if we decide to take it hard on her. But my wife was following the development. After that strange encounter she would find a way of calling me on the phone. At a point I handed her over to my wife. She then finally came to me one day and was asking for the source of my power. She said the ring I was wearing was the source that I should remove the ring. I said which ring? She then said she had led many to their death through sex. She said she lured the junior pastor of her dad to have sex. She said the man was coming to their house one day and immediately she went to put on towel. As soon as the man entered she loosened the towel. The man was enticed had sex with her. The following day the man was traveling he had accident and died. The sex was like the opening door for attack. When she told me that, I was literally shivering. Whenever she called I would be afraid to pick her call. My wife was in the know and she was the one who took over.
One day I retired to my private house in Ilesha I prostrated before God and prayed for about seven hours. Days later I asked of her and was told she had left the school without being prodded.
What advice would you give to pastors judging from your experience?
We can’t afford to yield to sin and be careless. We need to be empowered any day so that anytime the devil comes he will meet us on guard. Pastors should not keep their wives away. Spiritual battles should not be fought physically. They can’t afford to go physical. Every week we pray for at least three hours with fasting in my house. No matter what you are as a priest you must have a mentor. Somebody that can correct you is important in your life. I have friends whom I ask to call my attention to my weakness and tell me when I am going wrong not somebody that will be praising me every day. Be guided by godly principles. Don’t touch anything unclean thing. Your utterance must be holy. Know the type of company you keep. Be yourself. When I was in service nobody could claim to be close to me as such. People knew me when I was given the opportunity to preach at the Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria. It was a 17 minutes message and the cassettes sold so well at the meeting.
Are you missing retirement?
Holiness is in the truth. If I told people I was just 65 nobody would know. One day the primate was wondering if I was older than some other bishops. The truth is that if I had been in the ministry so many things I could have done. But I can’t think of what I could have done that I did not do. The office is just for a while. I don’t go about with the bishop attire. Sometimes I wear mufti to preach the gospel. I am a member of the scripture union. I go out on evangelism.
How did you cope with the doctrines of the Anglican Church that has no basis in the Bible like infant baptism?
There are some doctrines we could not quarrel with because we had sworn to an oath. If I conduct infant baptism for instance the godfather would be afraid because I would make him realize the implication of being a godfather. As a Bishop I allow Baptism by immersion. On confirmation, if I started with 50 candidates I would probably end with 13 people. At confirmation I made sure I tell them the implication of the act. I was never in a hurry to lay hands on people. I would preach so well that at the end of the day you may have to confirm your stand. For me confirmation is like a service for those who were born again.