In Lagos, a city infested with merciless, Shylock landlords straight out of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Pastor Banjo Toluwalawi, who clocked 80 on November 14, is one landlord whose story must be told today—World Cup or no World Cup!
At the Evangel Pentecostal Church headquarters in Okota, Lagos where the latest octogenarian was being honoured as an exceptional man of God with outstanding virtues of humility, holiness, kindness, passion for the things of God and love for one’s neighbour, Mr. Tunde Olorunfemi, a tenant came forward and begged for an opportunity to pay his homage.
The birthday programme was winding up, so Olorunfemi was given just one minute to say what he had to say. And within that one minute, he saved his best for the last with the most powerful tribute to a man he calls “my landlord and my daddy.”
“I am one of daddy’s tenants,” he started. “I am pleased to be here this afternoon to celebrate daddy. He is not just a landlord but a daddy to me. I want you to fathom this: if you are out of job for three and a half years and not paying your rents, and your landlord kept on calling you when it is just a few days to the renewal of your rent and tells you: ‘Tunde, I am not asking you to run after the rent. I know you will pay this rent, because I know what God has told me about the rent. You will pay it at a time that you will have enough.’
“And that was exactly what it was. For three and a half years, how many of you here that are landlords, can do that in Lagos? This is a lesson for many of us. Mummy, my landlady also is here. I am celebrating them in their own lifetime now. For those three and a half years and up till now that I have even gotten a job, when they go to the market—they used to go to Mile 12 every two-two months—they will still come and give us out of what they bought: tubers of yam, pepper, onions, all in big baskets.
“Daddy, I really want to thank you, and I want to bless God for your life. You are not a landlord to me but a daddy. And I will continue to call you Daddy. Praise the Lord!!!”
An ex-tenant of Pastor Toluwalawi also came forward to give her testimony. Mrs. Fajoyomi, married to Professor Fajoyomi said: “My husband and I were also daddy’s tenants. We moved to daddy’s house after we were chased out by armed robbers at Mofoluku where we used to live. I remember moving into Baba’s house and things started changing very well for us. Under two years, we moved into our own house in Magodo GRA. We left Baba’s place almost 32 years now and we are still in touch. Only few people could actually do that.”
Earlier, the Lead Pastor of Evangel Pentecostal Church, Pastor Iheanyi Ejiogu, in his sermonette, quoted Pastor Toluwalawi’s famous saying: “Whatever you are doing and you don’t see the Hand of God in it, leave it.”
“Pastor Toluwalawi would not be part of any ungodly enterprise,” Pastor Ejiogu said, adding: “He would come to my office and say ‘well done, you are doing well.’ He would always counsel me to do what God wants me to do. Such comments have given me the effrontery to continue to stay the narrow path. It is not foolishness to do the right thing. He meditates on the law of the Lord, day and night. He is very organised and institutionalizing. He is very high on setting up structures and making sure that they are entrenched.
“I stand here today because daddy and the founding fathers of this church did not say no to the call of God. Regardless of their schedules, they must come to the house of God.”
Senior Pastor Paul Toun and former General Overseer of the church said: “Pastor Toluwalawi is an achiever, an engineer of repute, one of the best cooling engineers in the world. He left Mandilas to come and serve the Lord. If he had wanted, he could have maintained that structure along with his ministerial calling but he offered to go full time without being on salary. Even when he handed over to us the leadership of the church, he was always willing to assist, saying ‘I am available.’ Here is somebody who founded and managed this church for 20 years, still stayed back and was always coming to serve. He is a true servant of the Most High God. I am proud to have associated with him.”
Bishop Abraham Olaleye, General Overseer of The Pentecostal Congregation said to Pastor Toluwalawi: “You happily handed over to another generation and that generation to another generation. It’s not many people who can do what you did. Many would have fallen into depression because they are used to being in high position. And the moment they leave that position, they fall into depression. But you have shown yourself to be a servant leader.”
Pastor Ortrofanowei Elaye said: “He is a bridge between generations. As a father, he is generous to a fault. He supports everything.”
Speaking on behalf of the children, Kemi Towolawi said of her father: “My father believes in saving. He says: ‘If you cannot save when earning 5,000 naira, you cannot save when you earn 500,000.’ To him, saving is a culture which he taught us. He has so many sayings. One of his sayings is: ‘The Lord did not create the world just because of you. You have to put into consideration other people. When you are blessed, you have to bless others too.’ And he used to say: ‘There is one fear that you must have. And that is the fear of Jehovah God. When you do that, every other naked fear that harasses human beings, Jehovah will take care of it for you.’
“I learnt from my parents the appreciation of diversity. Two different people coming together in marriage. Mummy and Daddy, thank you. You wedding and marriage of 50 years has been a refuge for a lot of people, including myself, many times over. God bless you for all the love you have given people, for all the things you have taught us. To God be the glory.”