…Where members live in commune
Worship founder, with alleged 100 wives
By ’TUNDE THOMAS and HENRY OKONKWO
Vulcaniser bus-stop is very popular on Akowonjo-Egbeda road in Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos State. Not far from this bus-stop, on both sides of the road, are some church buildings. Boldly written on the sprawling signboards at the entrance of the two front church buildings are “Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.”
Members are decked in all white attires, giving a first time visitor the impression of a white garment church in the mold of Cherubim and Seraphim, and Celestial Church of Christ – but that’s where the similarity ends as this church differs greatly with these two in terms of doctrine and beliefs.
The SATURDAY SUN team had set out initially that evening for an interview with the founder of the church, a man highly revered and almost worshipped as a deity by members. Popularly called King Olutanmole of the Universe, the man said to be in his 60s is always regal in appearance.
Investigations by SATURDAY SUN revealed that King Olutanmole’s original name is Christopher Yomi Jacobs and he hails from Ijebu-Ode in Ogun State.
He started his ministry at Ilupeju area of Lagos in 1972 from a modest bungalow. Few years later when his ministry started growing, he moved to Akowonjo his present site where he was reported to have acquired large expanse of land through a female member of the church who was related to landowners in Akowonjo.
The old woman now deceased was elevated to the position of Mother-In-Israel as a result of her activities in the ministry. Her house is not far from the church.
Although several attempts made to book an appointment for interview with King Olutanmole were futile, Saturday Sun’s team observations while on visits to the place to book appointment with Olutanmole was revealing.
Although it was learnt that members of the church have been barred from speaking to the media about anything concerning the church, some observations that were made during the visits were confirmed by some members who pleaded anonymity.
While on one of the trips, it was noticed that members live together like in a commune. If you were outside or inside the church you may not know this, but a close observation one evening revealed that after their service, members rather than trooping outside to take commercial buses home or drive outside the premises were seen moving towards the back of the church.
But here it is a no-go area for non-members. It is here you have apartments where members live. Even on a particular day after a group of children had just finished playing football and other games on an open field located very close to the church, about 100 of them were moving into the commune. Boldly inscribed at the back of their Tee-shirts is ‘Olutanmole kids.’
Around 7 pm, some members of the church working in other parts of Lagos were also observed coming in through the main gate as they headed for the narrow path that led to the commune.
Curious about this, our team sought to find out where those trooping towards the back of the church were going. “They are going home – they are going to their residences. Their homes are inside the church but at the back. Although a visitor or non-member will just think that it is the only church we have here,” a member who pleaded not to be named declared.
Continuing he said: “We have rules for them. You have several families living here. Many even want to leave their house and join others that are living here because those that are living here enjoy Olutanmole’s special grace and favour.”
At another section of the church you have what looks like a mini supermarket but what is mostly on sale here are spiritual items like holy water, oil, rosary, books, all bearing the photos and the inscription, ‘King Olutanmole of the Universe.’
The holy water is put in kegs of various sizes, and with price range with the lowest being N250. Speaking on the holy water, another member who also spoke on condition of anonymity said there is no ailment that the water can’t cure. Thinking we are visitors that had come for spiritual counseling, he implored us to buy any of the items, insisting that buying them and using is like having personal encounter with Olutanmole himself.
“It is not easy to see Baba Olutanmole. Some people have been on the waiting list for more than six months. Some even for one year, they have not been able to see Baba. Buy those spiritual items, they will work wonders for you, they will solve all your problems at least until you are able to see Baba Olutanmole,” he pleaded.
On another Sunday when the SATURDAY SUN team was asked to try and see whether Olutanmole would be able to see them, it was another shocker. Inside the sprawling well-decorated church that looks like a cathedral, you see this giant seat facing you. The seat has all the marks of royalty. You will think that it is a specially designed seat for a royal father. That is where King Olutanmole sits and conducts service whenever he is around.
In a section, you see testaments written inside a glass enclosure and they are referred to as their seven commandments. This provoked another curiosity, and further investigations revealed that members of the church had long time ago jettisoned the 10 biblical commandments generally believed by many churches.
Confirming the development, another member speaking on anonymity said:
“We no longer have anything to do with the 10 commandments again. We no longer believe in the Laws of Moses. Some years ago, around 1989 God revealed certain things to Baba while he was on the prayer mountain. When he came back, he told us that God told him to jettison the old 10 commandments and in its place have our new set of laws which are seven. If you even wake a five year old member of our ministry, he will recite the seven commandments without stress.”
And these are the seven commandments in Olutanmole’s church namely: Be Obedient, Worship God at all Times, Be Faithful in your Deeds, Be Obedient to God the Father, Be Obedient to God the Son, Be Obedient to the Holy Spirit, and Be Obedient to Olutanmole.
One interesting aspect of the Sunday Service at Olutanmole’s church is that there is no limit to the number of hours members can stay.
On this, another source in the church explains, “We complete or round off service as Olutanmole wishes. If Baba wishes that it should be two hours, so be it or if he says it is 24 hours, so also be it.”
While not describing Olutanmole as God, members fervently believe that he is Jesus Christ personified on earth. In fact, their major belief which they also professed during the Sunday worship was that they pity other Christians that still believe in the second coming of Jesus Christ. To them, Jesus Christ is not coming back again.
“Baba, King Olutanmole is Jesus Christ and he is the one that will take us to heaven to meet God and Jesus Christ his beloved son. This is why this ministry is called Kingdom of Heaven on Earth”.
Taken up on this, he fired back: “Have you not read anything about Baba? Although Baba hardly talks to the media, he rarely does, on such occasions, which are few he had declared that he is the one that is being expected, that he is the messiah who will take us to heaven. Forget about Jesus coming back again.”
It was also gathered that members that work in the church’s schools (Kindergarten, Primary and Secondary School), hospital, and bookshop earn salaries but the take home is not what can be considered as living wages.
A non-member of the church who works in the hospital but who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “We are working like slaves. It is nothing to write home about. Our own condition is even a bit better compared to what members experience. We have a situation whereby father, mother and the children either work in the hospital, bookshop, bakery or in one of the schools but their collective take home pay is not up to N20,000. What do you call that? Although, they dare not raise their voice or complain because they revere or do I say fear Olutanmole.”
Another issue that is shrouded in mystery is the number of wives and children Olutanmole has. A source told Saturday Sun that King Olutanmole is married to almost 100 women, and has numerous children, but another source countered that he has only one wife who has seven children for him.
It was gathered that Olutanmole also made it a rule that anybody getting married to any of his daughters must quit secular work and join his ministry. Not only that he must leave his house and move to the commune inside the church.
It was further learnt that one of the two men married to one of his daughters had to resign from his lucrative job as a banker to take up residence in the commune.
Always a beehive of activities, the church’s headquarters at Akowonjo is always besieged by visitors from different parts of the country and even from outside.
One of the strict rules in the church is the one that forbids members from eating anything containing palm oil every Friday.
Members are also required to pay obeisance to King Olutanmole like other earthly royals. While greeting him, you must not stand but prostrate or roll on the ground before him, while he also reportedly have the right to change name of members to whatever pleases or suits him.
Members are also required to pay spiritual visits to the ministry’s prayer mountain located at a spot between Ogun and Ondo States at least twice in a year.
“You can’t claim to be our member without going to Baba’s prayer mountain at least twice in a year. And you don’t go there to eat, but to meditate and fast in order to enjoy numerous spiritual benefits,” another member declared.
To his neighbours at Akowonjo, King Olutanmole of the Universe remains an enigma but to numerous followers, he remains a hero, a savior and the long-awaited messiah.
Some of them that also spoke with Saturday Sun expressed fear about being seen or quoted on Olutanmole.
“We see a lot of people going inside that place including big men who drive in big cars, but honestly what goes on in there, I don’t know. There is something mysterious about the man called Olutanmole. His members hardly venture outside the commune inside the church, and not only that they hardly interact with neighbours”, one of the neighbours stated.
Continuing the man said: “Although, neither Baba Olutanmole nor his followers have been violent since the church started several years ago at Akowonjo, but when you mention that place, some people are uncomfortable. I don’t know why.”