By Gbenga Osinaike
You can’t miss your way to Ori Oke Baba Abiye; a foremost prayer mountain, located in Ede, Osun State. It is off the road leading to Iwo town from Oshogbo. From the junction called Iyana Ori Oke, you will probably have to drive another three kilometers before getting to the mountain arena.
As one approaches the place one is confronted with an iron barricade with a police post to your right, a number of stalls, a church auditorium, a duplex and a rocky part leading to the mountain. To your left is a building named seat of knowledge, which is the faculty building for the Bible School on the mountain and then to your right is another building named seat of wisdom. Three flags are before the mountain and two imposing bill boards with sundry instructions on the dos and don’ts on the mountain.
For instance, seekers are not allowed to burn candles or incense on the mountain and people are warned to be wary of fake prophets. But before you step through to the mountain you are advised to pull off your shoes, perhaps to ensure that the mountain top remains clean. The other interpretation could well be that the mountain is a holy ground and nothing filthy is allowed to creep in there.
On a normal day, scores of people are seen scattered all over the mountain praying and seeking the face of God. It is also normal to see kegs of water placed at a particular place by seekers. The atmosphere is both serene and characterized by intermittent groans and cries reminiscent of women undergoing birth pangs.
On this particular day when Church Times visited, the church had just concluded a marathon programme that ran for days. Both workers and worshippers had to hibernate at strategic places to catch some rest. The presiding pastor of the Ori Oke, Funso Akande though obviously tired still squeezed out time to chat with Church Times. He informed that the place was established in 1944 in response to God’s instruction by his father, Prophet S.O.Akande.
“My father locked himself up for 16 months praying and fasting. It was during that time that God spoke to him about the prayer mountain and that He would use him to meet the needs of the people. After God had spoken to him he went to meet with the late Timi of Ede who was his friend. It was the Timi who brought him here. This place was a thick forest. In fact it was still like a forest when the Lord brought me to oversee the work”
The founder who died in 1992 was a one time Islamic scholar who experienced God’s manifold grace. He was struck with blindness just about 15 days to his marriage while trying to extract nuts from a palm tree. It was the blindness that brought him to Christ in a rare encounter with Prophet Ayo Babalola who had founded Ori Oke Ikoyi as at that time.
He had looked for healing in several other places to no avail until Christ came to his rescue. But then he had to also contend with the problem of having still births. He was in fact name baba abiku (meaning father of still born child) because his children were dying at birth. But God also turned that around. The year he gave birth to a surviving child, his name changed. People started calling him baba Abiye. That was how he came about the name baba Abiye.
The prayer mountain thus came to be known as Ori Oke Baba Abiye. For years it has become a meeting place for those who are seeking God for a touch in their lives. Though the vestiges of a forest still hung around the mountain arena, the place is gradually wearing the garb of a city.
Several buildings are being erected around the mountain top. A massive construction work for a world class hotel where people can lodge when they come to pray was going on as at the time Church Times visited. Already, there are several chalets around the prayer villa and also a sprawling estate known as Funso Akande Estate which is about 500 metres away from the Ori Oke.
You can be sure of a full life at the vicinity of the mount. The one time thick forest is gradually giving way to civilization without losing its essence. Pastor Akande recalled that in the early days of the ministry, major programmes used to hold during Easter period.
“My father used to hold the 40 days Lenten programmes here and people came from all over Nigeria and even beyond to pray. For us in those days the place was a rallying point. Kings, obas, even governors used to come here to pray and they used to come once in a year especially during Easter period. Oke-Ikoyi was established in 1936 while this established in 1944. We did not know of any other prayer mountain.”
Akande who is the second to the last child of the late founder said he became the presiding pastor of the prayer mountain by God’s special design. “I never wanted to come here. I was busy enjoying myself in the secular world. It took a lot of work on me to even come to terms with God. I graduated from the University of Ibadan, studied Communications and Language Arts and moved on to work with Agip Oil which is now Oando. I was just doing my own thing and living my own life.”
But God wanted something else for him. He was called twice by God to surrender his will but he would not have anything to do with God. “In those days I was just doing my own thing. At a point I stopped coming to church because I thought in my heart that if I stopped coming to church, God will stop talking to me. But that did not stop God. When I was adamant, God told me that I would not have a child until I surrender to him.”
So it was not a shock to him that his first child came after 22 and half years of marriage ‘It was in 1993 December God told me I would not have children unless I yield to his call. That was how I surrendered to Him. I went to Faith Theological Seminary in Sango, OgunState under late Dr. Olumide Ige after my encounter with God. That was between 1994 and 1995. God spoke to me later that I should go and see Pastor Enoch Adeboye. He gave me three reasons why I should see him. One was for his total submission to the work, for his holiness and for his humility. I then enrolled at the RCCG BibleCollege at ACME parish in Lagos”
He had thought he would work in RCCG until God directed him back to the church his father founded on the mountain. “Then my elder brother who was already in the ministry passed on and I came in but then I did not come to take over. I had to stay under the tutelage of one of the disciples of my father in the church. I was observing him and serving him. He would send me on errands and give me assignment as God directed him.
His coming to the prayer mountain was also informed by a vision he saw in 1996.“I saw in a vision, a giant bill board with the word Ori Oke boldly written and I saw the place surrounded by bulb points with only a few with bulbs and God spoke to me that He would remove the power in the Ori Oke and take it somewhere else because of the disuse of the place.”
Coming to the place was however not a tea party for the ex-Agip Oil staff. “There was no stable means of income for me. I was a pupil under my father’s disciple. Though he was not an educated person God used him to disciple me. I did that from 1996 to year 2000. It was after I had been properly tutored by this disciple of my father that I started having programmes and ministers conferences. The traffic flow was low at beginning. When we got here we could just be about 100 but now we record about 50,000 attendees in our programmes.
Talking about miracles, Akande says, “We have recorded incredible miracles. We used to write and print the miracles but we had to stop because we lost count of what God was doing and still doing.”
On whether he operates a prophetic ministry he says, “Many of the things I say while ministering are said under the unction of the Holy Spirit.” He however regretted that “many people have been duped, cheated and messed up in many prayer mountains. One of the problems with Prayer Mountains is that there are some charlatans who take advantage of the problem of people to dupe them. They minister to people and collect money from them. There are a lot of people who have problem and they are gullible. You will discover that a professor will fall prey to an illiterate prophet because of his problem. That is why we warn people to be wary of fake prophets on Prayer Mountains”