Adeyinka Odumosu is one of the children of the late Olufunmilayo Odumosu, popularly known as Jesu Oyingbo. She talks about her father with OLUSOLA RICKETTS
Tell us more about yourself.
We are from Ijebu Ode, Ogun State. My mother was born in Lagos to the family of Adesanya, a royal family in Ijebu Ode, while my father is from the Odumosu Odubela’s family. I am the ninth child. I have three elder sisters but since I am the one on the ground and trying to bring everyone together, people think I am the first daughter. Some of my elder siblings have died.
How was growing up with your father?
It was fun. I went to a primary school in Ebute Metta, Lagos, but during the war, my father moved us to a school in Maryland, Lagos, opposite the Lagos Country Club. I attended secondary school in my father’s compound in Maryland. He owned a school known as Mary the Blessed. After my father’s death, we lost many things. My late elder brother had issues with members of the congregation and they were in court for nine years. Though the court ruled that the children should be left alone with their father’s property, things were already in a bad shape. My father’s businesses such as bakery, hospital, school and many more suffered greatly. My brother asked everyone to quit the estate in 1997.
How would you describe your father?
My father was a disciplinarian. He was a teacher and a spiritualist. While we were growing up, he made sure we read and understood the Bible. He didn’t care if we didn’t perform well in school in other subjects so far we did well in Christian Religion Knowledge. It took him a long time to accept that we could not attain 100 per cent excellence in the knowledge of the Bible. I started reading the Bible at age seven. I started with the Yoruba version.
How did your father earn the appellation, Jesus Oyingbo?
When he started healing people, the news spread and people started saying another Jesus had come to Oyingbo, Lagos. He once owned a furniture company in Oyingbo.
Did he encourage his children to be clerics?
He always told us that the reason we were in the world was to serve God. He said our duty was to introduce Jesus Christ to other people as we didn’t come to the world to enjoy like others but to serve God.
Did his children continue his ministry?
Most of my siblings are clerics but in a different capacity. My father didn’t like white garment churches, but that is what my siblings embraced. It will not be out of place to say he started what is known as the Pentecostal movement in Nigeria. He started the movement, You Must be Born Again – Universal College of Regeneration.
Why didn’t you follow in your father’s footsteps?
My father’s religion was not what is obtainable today. Though he introduced us to the Bible and Jesus Christ, he gave us the freedom to decide what we wanted to do with our lives. If I must be a pastor, I feel I should be called by God. I cannot wake up one day and become a cleric. If I am not called by God, I am only deceiving myself. That was my father’s belief and mine too. It makes no sense to dabble in something I am not called to do.
What do you do now?
When I left my father’s house, it became a struggle to understand who I was. Though I learnt sewing, the life I lived while my father was alive was different from what I saw in the outside world. I have five children but I lost two. When my youngest child was four, I wasn’t doing anything. Also, I had issues my late brother because I granted an interview and he didn’t like what I said. I said I would not allow him to take over my father’s estate in Maryland unless I was dead.
While I was trying to discover who I was, I was offered an opportunity to open a restaurant at a police station in the Iju area of Lagos. Whenever I met people, I was always quick to tell them my problem. I also engaged in food business for 10 years at the Lagos Country Club. I sell fabrics now and make designs for necklaces and clothes.
How many children did your father have?
We are 153 children and he had 46 women. While he was alive, he believed in the doctrine of brothers and sisters. He didn’t call women wives in his kingdom. He believed that the sisters were to serve God by bearing children. I asked him many questions before he died. He trained us on how to serve God and told us that we must not tell lies regardless of the situation we found ourselves.
Did he legally marry all the women?
Church marriage was not a big ceremony then. Once you decided to marry a man, it meant you believed in his God and you had decided to follow his God by marrying him.
How old were you when your father died?
I was born on April 13, 1959, and my father died on January 17, 1988. I felt bad when he died. I even told God to take my life, instead of him as I felt he had a lot to offer society.
Where were you when he died?
We witnessed the whole thing when it started. We lived in the same building. He died after a brief illness. It took me a long time before I accepted that he was dead. But in May 1987, when Chief Obafemi Awolowo died, he told us that something would happen in January of the next year. He told us that we would reap whatever we sow and asked us to do things rightly.
Was it true that he said he would never die?
He had a revelation ahead of his time. When you go to Pentecostal churches, they will tell you that man cannot die. The man here is the spiritual being, not the physical. He was making a reference to this, but people could not understand him.
Did he actually compare himself to Jesus?
He called Jesus his husband and he said he could not do without Him. When he was about to die, he told us that we should raise Jesus higher than him. If he believed that Jesus was greater than him, why should he compare himself to Him?
What is responsible for the conflict in the family after his death?
Before my father died, he told us these things would happen. A year before death, he told us to record everything he was teaching or saying. He told us that when they renovated the estate, some of the children, who did not follow Jesus’ doctrine, would say “this is my father’s house and they would be challenged by the residents.” The estate was big then and in good condition, but he was talking about renovation. He also said when they renovated the place; people from outside would get what they wanted while the original inhabitants would go out to search for impossible things. Most of the tapes had spoilt; I would have loved to play them for you. He told us that the empire he built would be destroyed.
When people are unhappy and hungry, it brings out the worst in them. Since my father died, all the children have not benefitted and they are not used to suffering. Twelve years ago, I told my elder brother that we should bring everyone together, know their problems and give them their shares. I told him that whenever the children messed up, it would affect our father’s name. But he refused.
Was your father fetish as some people claimed?
In Nigeria, when people don’t know or understand things, they don’t ask questions. He used to tell us that even Jesus was ridiculed in the Bible. He said it was normal for people not to appreciate what they had until they lost it.
How did he make his wealth?
When you serve God and help people, He will bless you. He had 29 chains of business and he didn’t enrich himself by collecting money from the congregation. He would rather give out. Unlike today’s churches, my father didn’t believe in collecting tithes and offerings. He gave his members free accommodation and their children quality education at little or no cost.
He was one of the first businessmen in Nigeria. From being a carpenter, he started a bakery even though he didn’t know about it. People had the belief that once they ate his bread, all their worries or pains would be over and it worked in a way because everyone wanted the bread. They gave the bread different names such as good luck bread and bread of life.
He also opened a company that cleared bushes; he had many caterpillars and trucks. For instance, Opebi in Lagos was a thick bush then. The government gave him contract to clear bushes and he was paid well. As a furniture maker too, he was doing jobs for Leventis and he was loved by the white men administering the place at the time. Whenever they needed workers, they came to him as they were confident they would get the best from him. Every end of the year, as a sign of gratitude, he would go there with pieces of meat.
Don’t you think your father was too flamboyant?
My father loved dressing well and I don’t think there is a problem if one dresses well. Before God called him, he was a socialite and loved going to nightclubs. He smoked, drank and did everything they do in a nightclub. When God called him, he dropped many things but couldn’t drop his personality. Regardless of what I could be facing at any time, I like dressing well too and the same thing applies to my siblings. We learnt that from him.
How true was the claim that his daughters had children for him?
I am one of his daughters; I have five children but two died. Though he is late, I will show you their father and my two sons look exactly like him. Like I said earlier, my father practised the doctrine of brothers and sisters and it got people confused. My father called me princess, not a daughter.
Whenever I hear this, I laugh. I even tell people to bring the constitution that says it is wrong to impregnate one’s daughter. Even if it was true, I don’t owe anyone an explanation. If you are different, people will always have negative things to say about you. The way I was raised, I cannot be easily distracted.
There was a day a man insulted my daughter that it was her mother’s father who impregnated her to give birth to her. I arrested the man and people started pleading on his behalf. I wanted to know what he would do if my father truly impregnated me. He said he would not do anything and I laughed at him. It is only God who knows the truth and can judge human beings. I am not answerable to humans but God.
How did he discipline his children whenever they did wrong?
For the kids, he used the cane on us or gave us punishment. One’s punishment could be reading the Bible all through the day.
Can you recall what you did that made him punish you?
I lied! He had a visitor who worked in his restaurant in Somolu, Lagos. He took him to another apartment and I went there to meet the man. When some elderly women saw me there, they asked if my father knew I was there and I told them he knew. Though I later went to tell them I lied, they still told my father. Thirty minutes later, he sent someone to call me in my mother’s place. I didn’t know I was in trouble; so, I followed the person. He didn’t understand why I lied. I told him I later confessed but it didn’t stop him from caning me. My father hated lies and stubbornness.
How does his name open doors for you?
My father didn’t work in the government; so, there is nothing to benefit as such. But people are always excited to meet Jesu Oyingbo’s daughter. Once I tell people who I am, they give me attention. But it doesn’t necessarily translate to money or jobs.
Were there things you didn’t like about your father?
I love everything about him. Let’s assume he didn’t marry all women, who would have married them? At least, the women led a better life than prostitutes.
What would you want him to be remembered for?
That is what I am trying to do now. The estate ought to be generating money for the family and adding values to society. If we put the place in order, it will also be like a tourism centre. For the past 30 years, that has not been the case. It was hijacked by hoodlums who were committing all sorts of atrocities there.
Why was the Maryland estate demolished completely?
We didn’t intend to demolish the place. We asked the occupants to vacate it since 2014 as the place was not well maintained. It was meant to be a residential area, but commercial activities took over. Apart from the fact that they were not paying their rents, they owed electricity bills, waste bills and other things.
In the estate, there was a particular day I was beaten because I said I didn’t want cultism or things that would tarnish my father’s name to thrive there. In Lagos, the estate was known for notorious activities as police and other government agencies always visited regularly. If a tenant managed to pay a year’s rent, he or she would not pay any longer.
Does it make sense for a church to buy an eight-bedroom flat for N7m in Maryland from a son when there are 153 children? I call that greediness because they knew it was a family property. The church didn’t want to be evicted claiming they bought the property, but we forced them out. We had over 2,000 tenants in the estate before it was demolished.
How does his family remember him?
When we are not in order, how do we celebrate him? Securing the Maryland estate is our first achievement as a family since our father died many years ago. Once the place is developed, we can start thinking about how to celebrate him. The man cannot sleep well when there is a crisis.
Does being a daughter to Jesu Oyingbo put any burden on you?
I don’t feel any pressure. I do what I believe is right and I don’t care what people say. I don’t know if my father is appreciated enough after death, but the people who knew my father while he was alive have been helpful in securing the estate. People always tell me that my father was a good man.
How did he relax?
He loved watching movies with everyone. We had a projector for films every evening, from 6pm to 10pm. We were always updated with latest movies, Nigerian, Indian and American films. He loved reading the Bible and related literatures.
What was his favourite food?
He loved garri as an Ijebu. He always took it with fish or meat. All his children love garri too. He was a great man and I learnt a lot from him.