Dr. Felix Ilaweagbon Omobude is the National President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) as well as general superintendent of Gospel Light International Ministries (New Covenant Gospel Church) which he founded in 1988 in Benin, Edo State. Born on March 14, 1946 to Mr. Omobude Omokha and Deaconess Akpitanyi Omobude (nee Irabor) from Evbuobanosa, Orhionmwon Local Government Area of Edo State and the third in a family of 14 children, he grew up in very humble circumstances. A feisty preacher and pulpit activist, the story of Omobude’s foray into the ministry which began in 1971 is akin to that of Paul. Paul, as Saul, was on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians when he was “arrested” by God. Similarly, Omobude had gone to a crusade to mock the late Archbishop Benson Idahosa when he was touched by the word. Immediately, he answered the call to the consternation of his two friends. Since then, he has never looked back. As he clocks 70 next week, he speaks on his humble beginning, his parents, and other sundry issues.
By Moshood Adebayo
How I became a Christian
This is very interesting because I’m not even sure I have revealed the details about my conversion experience. I was a student at the Electro Technical College, Asaba (now Federal Technical College) before the civil war. I was the first in my father’s house to attend what then was secondary school. My mother was engaged in all kinds of menial jobs to sustain me in school, because all my father could do for me was send me to train as a bicycle repairer. But because my mother saw traits in me which tended more towards learning in the educational line and with the help of my uncle, Chief Idehen, I gained admission into the school.
The civil war broke out and I could not go back to school in Asaba. First, we had to relocate to the Government Trade Centre, Sapele, where I spent a few months but had to be moved with some others due to the overcrowded class to Modern Technical College, Warri (MTC).
In the course of my schooling, I had some health challenges. It was so bad and the only way or the best we knew then was to consult traditional doctors or soothsayers who gave interpretation to the illness the way they understood it, claiming that they (enemies) want to kill me because I was too bright.
However, I wrote my City and Guilds exams six months before the actual time of my graduation and passed with credits. So, it was like I caught the enemy unawares. But at the period I was supposed to sit for my final exams, I was totally broken down with illness that some thought I wouldn’t survive it. I remember my mother and one of my aunts took me to a village called Iyekoriomwon (now Orhiowmwon Local Government Area) trying to find some cure to the nagging headache I suffered at that time. In fact, everyone around me panicked whenever I was in that condition because of the severity. On one of such occasions, they took me into the bush for some treatment where they wanted to wash my head. I have never really liked fetish things; so when I saw the place, my spirit gave up on it. So, I told my mother that we should go back home. It was while they were trying to carry out the treatment inside the bush that I ran away. I escaped and came down to Benin and resolved that whatever was the case, I wasn’t going back even if it meant death.
There were those big lorries used for traveling in those days. So, it was with such means that I came to Benin. I was in need of a church where they could pray fervently with results. I found myself in an Aladura church (white garment church) by Lagos Street. They prayed and somehow, I felt the power and it helped me a bit but it wasn’t exactly what I needed. About that same period, the late Archbishop Benson Idahosa had a crusade at the Ogbe Stadium where I gave my heart to Christ and that was around 1971. So, that marked the beginning.
How I became born again
I can never forget that I made that great decision at the crusade ground at Ogbe Stadium, Benin City. I was on that ground as a cynic with two other close friends. We looked at the preacher, he was sharp but we were trying to correct his grammar.
The voice of the preacher (Benson Idahosa) was insistent and powerful as he said “come unto me all those who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” I can never forget my situation when this invitation was extended to me some years ago. I had some education and exposure and I headed a group called the Nigerian Education Soviet Friendship Association. We operated with the Soviet mentality, challenging proponents laying claims to the existence of God.
We were so tutored and we read books on ‘Learning Sin’. I would stand to address students against what those from the western world and missionaries who came during the colonial era with a little book called the Bible into Africa and Nigeria had taught them. By this book, I thought they deceived us, took away our resources, oil, rubber, cocoa, and so on. I did this at the time because I thought I was right but deep down within, I was miserable until I heard: ‘Come unto me…” I could hear the voice asking me to come because He knew my situation and all about my life. “You think you are living but you are not. Come because you are tired of carrying a load heavier than you, I want to give you rest.”
From the corner we were standing, suddenly I stepped out to answer the call but my two friends wondered and said to me, “Felix, where are you going? Come back. You’re too intelligent for this. Come back.” In retrospect, I am glad I heeded the call. My other two friends; one died a few years later and went to grave Christless. The other is now a retired civil servant and still criticising the Christian faith with wrinkles all over his face because you really cannot be an effective critic while wearing a smile.
Life as a young Christian
You can only imagine it. I was ill, a young person who just left school, no job and in the city without any support. I lived then with my senior brother (Elder Ehigie) who also had no job. So, church activities meant so much to me. It was church in the morning and church in the evening. There was a strong urge in me to consume my bible. And the way God did it was marvelous because at that time, you left school and have City and Guilds certificate and I did the intermediate before I left school. I read at home for the final exams which I passed very well. At that time, you had to have this and that qualification before you could get a job. There was the then Bendel Pharmaceutical Company or Midwest Pharmaceuticals established by the state government in collaboration with a British company. The equipment arrived and there was this British General Manager; people were invited for interview and he interviewed me and got interested in me. I was employed.
All the equipment they brought, I unpacked and installed them. We test-ran them and I worked with the company for about two years before I moved into the main line civil service. My salary then was better, compared to what many university graduates were earning at the time. Some of the Nigerians in the company became envious, thinking there was much more to the relationship other than the employer-employee status, because he was favorably disposed to me and I enjoyed my work relationship with him also. He trusted me and we had great time.
Relationship with Idahosa
When I joined the Church of God Mission, there were other leaders with the founder, Archbishop B. A. Idahosa. The late Bishop Coker was there with one Rev. Ikubor and Akinjobi. There were several others before me. But as soon as I gave my heart to Christ in that crusade, I started walking with him. I went with the Archbishop to all his crusades. I started a local bible school at Iyaro branch of the church called, “Covenant Bible College” which is now the All Nations for Christ I played my best part. I led the soldiers of Christ almost round all nooks and crannies of this nation. We went for crusades but at the time, the Iyaro church was too small. We went and built a very big one at Airport Road. It was the big thing then and everybody wanted to move and we were all moving to Miracle Centre, our new headquarters. The late Archbishop asked me to stay behind at Iyaro with Rev. Phil Williamson, a British minister to work with me and raise up the Iyaro church again. I rose through the ladder and became a member of the central executive council. I think that was the highest position as at that time. I will ever be grateful to God for the opportunity to have served in Church of God Mission. I would forever be grateful to God to have been pastored by Benson Idahosa. Ever since, I have not known any other pastor. As a man, he may have had his weaknesses but I think he stood for what was right. I’m thankful that I learnt so much from him.
I have never known any other pastor in my life other than Archbishop Benson Idahosa. We were in the middle of a service and the man of God said “empty everything that you have.” It was like a joke; some grumbled and left but we did. We trekked home from Miracle Centre at Airport Road, GRA, Benin. I believed my pastor. I was going to school in America and I went to him. Of course it was through his help that I schooled abroad. Then, he said, ‘kneel down’ and I did. He said, “Omobude, your gift will make room for you.”
He put his hand on me and prayed for me then he put his hand in his pocket and gave me a $100 bill and a copy of a New Testament Bible. I got up and I was staring at him, I knew he had lots of friends, I thought he would ask me to take a card and meet someone but he said “You go! Your gift will open doors for you.” I never took his words lightly. A copy of that New Testament Bible that he signed is still with me today.
Great faith moments
In 1998, I graduated from Christ For The Nations in the United States of America and I considered myself lucky to be appointed as the resident pastor of a Pentecostal church in Dallas, Texas. Good salary, good accommodation, good prospects and in the United States! That evening, I was beside myself with joy from a sense of accomplishment and of a new beginning in my life. I called my wife on the landline in Nigeria and told her honey, we have made it!I told her of the prospect of the appointment and how we will live and pastor in America.
My wife was too excited. But that same night, the Lord woke me up from sleep and spoke to me. He called me by my name, “Felix Omobude, what are you doing in America? Do you not see the condition of your people?” I replied, Yes Lord, I see their plight, they are poor but I will work here in America and send money to support my family and help others in need. I will not forget them. He called me again, “Felix Omobude, is this what I sent you to do in America?” Then I was shaken. “Is this what I sent you? Get ready, go home, return to Benin City. I have lit a light and put it in your hands to light others. Do not quench it, nurture it.” It was hard but I obeyed and here I am. The rest is history.
Rush by young pastors to set up their own ministries
That is not a good trend. Carpenters train. Lawyers train. Same goes with medical doctors. Just imagine someone who enrolls in the school of medicine and out of six, seven years, he/she decides after three years that he/she has got enough knowledge to jump out to begin to practice. Would you like such an amateur to use knife to experiment on you? Nobody wants that. So, I think that we should wait for our time patiently. The most troubling thing is that many do not even believe in training. A university degree as good as it were, is not all there is to handle a ministry. They need to be mentored.