By Gbenga Osinaike
For Rev Sam Ogedengbe, one time Senior Special Assistant to former governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola on Christian Religion, life is one big twist of faith. He spoke with Church Times Gbenga Osinaike on his travails in life and how God brought him out.
His travail started from the womb and saw him through the first 45 years of his life. “My mother carried my pregnancy for 16 months. It was alleged that some wicked forces tied her womb and would not allow her to give birth. But God intervened in a miraculous way after the prayers of a prophet from Cherubim and Seraphim Church.
“There was instruction that my hair should not be cut, though I was not born with dreadlocks. By the time I was born, I had grown teeth and I had to carry the hair I was born with for the first eight years of my life. It took some special prayers and deliverance before the hair was cut.”
I saw poverty “My life was synonymous with poverty. I did not wear shoes during my primary school days and I had to do all manner of things to eke out a living at Okitipupa, Ondo State where I was born. I worked as a burden bearer, a hawker and did all manner of things to survive. It was really tough.” Ogedemgbe said.
Years after going through this seeming hellish experience, an offer came for him to come to Lagos. “In those days when we hear somebody is going to Lagos it’s like the person is going to the UK. Lagos was seen as the land of all possibilities. In those days when you take off around 5.30am from my village you will get to Lagos around 10.30 pm. The roads were bad and tortuous. But Lagos was a beautiful place to behold. So when I was to come to Lagos I was excited and I thought within myself that an end had come to my suffering.”
My Lagos experience
But that was not to be. Lagos turned out to be a nightmare for him. His elder sister who was already in Lagos was to be his host. “I was living with my elder sister and her husband. They were comfortable and were given to partying. We cooked virtually every day. Incidentally there were some musicians like Ayinla Omo Wura and a host of others who lived around our area. They used to come to do rehearsals in our house before they go to perform. My sister’s husband was wealthy. But he was very stingy with spending.”
Rather than enjoy the wealth in his new abode, he literally became a slave in the house. “I worked all day” he said. He was never allowed to go to school in his first two years in the house. But the most despicable of his daily chores was that he had to carry the excreta of his sister’s husband.
Why? Ogedengbe explains, “the man enjoys defecating inside a plastic container in his room. And I would be asked to carry the container and empty the waste in the toilet. It got to a time that I didn’t have to be told to empty the container. If I ever erred, I was served several strokes and I dared not sleep until the work in the house was done.
My sister was also tough. She had over 200 housemaids within the space of one year. Many of the housemaids she employed could not cope with the mass of work in the house. But I had nowhere to go I had to stay ” I thought suffering was part of life
The irony of it all was that young Sam saw the experience as a necessary part of life. “I believed suffering was a necessary requirement to succeed in life. I saw what I was going through as normal even though my elder brother kicked against it.”
Ogedengbe eventually had the opportunity to do some evening schooling and later wrote GCE and PITMAN RSA which fetched him a job with the Lagos Civil Service as a copy typist.
But securing a job did not secure his freedom. He was still tied to his sister and her husband. “Whenever I collected my salary in those days I could not spend a kobo from it. I had to submit the money to my sister’s husband. The man would in turn ask what I needed money for. I remember I once told him I needed to buy singlet. Rather than give me money he brought out one of his singlets and gave me.”
The rustic background of Fashola’s SSA affected his orientation. He once dressed in a very awkward way during one of the Christmas celebrations. “I put on shirt and a pair of native trousers. I thought I was well dressed and I went around town with some confidence until one of my first cousins saw me and ridiculed me. He wondered if it was compulsory for me to live in Lagos.”
By the time he came back to Lagos after that Christmas holiday, he summoned courage and determined to take his destiny in his hands. He stopped submitting his pay packet to his sister’s husband.
“I refused to give him my salary. I was able to save money and rented a one-room apartment unknown to my sister and her husband. My brothers also came from the village to live in that room. I used to go and relax in the room after work before coming to my sister’s house.”
But as time went on he stopped living with his sister and moved to the room along with three others.
He attended a computer school thereafter, left the Lagos Civil Service and secured work at the Flour Mills as a computer programmer. “In those days computer is not like what we have now. There was a card you had to feed that is sent to a processor that would later bring out the invoice and other documents that we so desired.” He explained.
Years later, he went into business and started traveling out of the country.
“I was into business selling children wares and was making money. I got a warehouse in Oshodi where I stored these items and was doing pretty well until it dawned on me that something was missing in my life. My life was empty.” He recalled his early years, “When I was young I knew I had God’s call in my life. I had the gift of vision and dreams. My dreams were always accurate. But by the time I became exposed to Lagos life, everything about church did not appeal to me. I did not for once think of becoming a pastor because I saw them as wretched and unserious people. I thought to myself that I would do business and support God’s work”
But as God would have it, his businesses started crumbling. “There was a particular consignment that sank in the high sea. In the course of this, he had a debilitating sickness that led to his death.
He recalls, “I actually died. I was sick for a long time and in the process I was kept in a room and just hoping that I would come out of the sickness. In the process, I saw a woman I know very well in real life who appeared to me and said to me that was the last time I would live. Immediately she uttered those words, I saw myself coming out of my body. I saw my lifeless body and saw that I was moving along a narrow path. I met my late mother in that lonely path and she was saying to me it was not time for me to come that I should go back. I pleaded with her to please allow me to stay that I was not willing to go back to the world. She tried to stop me but she could not. I took a step further and was confronted by a huge being. I could only see half of the body of this being. He told me to go back, I tried to resist him. I told him if my mother could not stop me who are you? Then I heard a voice say to me, “I am Jesus. Go back and tell them Jesus is my power.” “Immediately I came back to life. All the while when this was happening nobody knew because I was the only person in the room. But the shocking thing is that I became well instantly.” That experience did not linger long. Initially he wrote on his vehicle the inscription, Jesus is my power. But soon forgot about the encounter.
THE WITCH DOCTOR AND FETISH PRACTICES
At a point he brought a witch doctor to his house who did some fetish things to fortify him with power. “The man was a reputable witch doctor in Ekiti. He came to live with me in Lagos and was giving me concoctions and all kinds of things. I remember eating raw snail with some fetish things. He also gave me a live tortoise which I kept under the bed and was feeding. He warned me that the tortoise must not die”
That went on for a while. Ogedemgbe who is now pastor of Overcomers Pentecostal Church then saw a vision where he heard a voice say to him that no other power could save him other than the power of Jesus. He woke up from the vision and called the witch doctor to pack his things and leave that he was not ready to continue with the fetish practices. The man was shocked. He threatened Ogedengbe and vowed that he was going to die within seven days for being that audacious. But as God would have it, it was the witch doctor that died on the fifth day of the pronouncement. That marked the end of Ogedemgbe’s romance with charms and fetish obsessions. “I threw out the tortoise and all the charms that the man gave me and turned to God.”
LIFE IN GOD’S VINEYARD
Life with God marked the genesis of another round of experience for Ogedemgbe. He attended Faith Bible School in Ota, Ogun state and earned degrees up to doctoral level before joining Prophet Samuel Abiara of the CAC Agbala Itura who had just come to Lagos to start a branch of his ministry.
“We were in that church until there was a breakaway led by one of the pastors and I remember going with the breakaway faction. That almost cost me my life. “We used to hold vigil at a particular place in Ajegunle before Sango until one night we saw a notice on that place saying anybody who comes to hold vigil here again should consider himself dead. We were all scared and went our different ways.” He got himself together and went for a personal retreat on a prayer mountain where he had different encounters with God.
By the time he came back he reconciled with Prophet Abiara and had to set out with his own ministry. The warehouse he used for his business was converted to a worship place. Attempts by landlords to stop him did not yield fruit. The miraculous was happening in the place. “There was a time when we were in service, the Holy Ghost lifted somebody off his feet and took him through the door and hit him on a vehicle outside the church. There were several cases of people being delivered from demonic and satanic strongholds. We experienced the power of God raw but we were not mature to handle what was going on.”
One of his team members according to him, was being used by the devil. That led to an unprecedented disaster. “We were in vigil one night when the Lord spoke to me to round off the vigil at 2am instead of 4am. We did, but some of us were still hanging around and chatting. Suddenly we heard a crack and the entire building collapsed. Seven people died. The Lord saved the children and many of us. It was a big report in the papers. The then governor of Lagos state, Olagunsoye Oyinlola came to the scene and confiscated the property.
Ogedemgbe reasoned that the disaster was satanically orchestrated through a member of the church. “The person according to him had connived with some wicked forces to cause the collapse spiritually before it manifested physically because I could not understand how the building, which had been there for years, which was well fortified with iron rod could collapse.”
He was detained after the collapse incidence and later left off the hook. ‘I was in detention for two weeks. But God used me to win souls in the police station. The irony of the whole thing is that family members of the victims of the collapse came to apologise to me. That to me was a shock because I thought they would sue me and make trouble.”
Ogedemgbe who is passionate about Christians taking their place in the leadership of Lagos State says his foray into politics came as a result of a non-governmental organization he initiated to make case for Christians in politics. That NGO brought him close to the former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and eventually brought him into a relationship with the incumbent governor of Lagos State, Mr. Raji Fashola. (now ex governor)
While noting that he is the first person that would occupy the position of SSA on Christian religion he said, “The experience in the last couple of years has been awesome. God has helped me to bring various denominations together. I believe the process of the unity of the Body of Christ is possible if we keep praying for the church and we keep taking steps that will enhance our unity.”