I ATTENDED CRUSADE TO GET A FRIEND, BUT GOD ARRESTED ME INSTEAD
It is always difficult to get priests to talk about their love lives. But Bishop Isaac Olawuyi, bishop of Lagos West, Methodist Church of Nigeria, do not shy away from telling his love story.
In this interview with Saturday Sun , the priest revealed how he met his wife and how he eventually married her. He also talked about his childhood, ordination as priest and other things.
He revealed that when his father suggested that he became a priest, he did not like the idea.
What kind of childhood did you have?
My childhood was not spectacular. I grew up like most children. I was the last child in a family of five, consisting of three sisters and two brothers.
Tell us about your call by God?
In 1980, I went to a crusade in Ilorin, the capital of Kwara State. I did not go there with the intention of listening to the sermon but to secure a friend for myself. But as the sermon was being delivered, it seemed as if it was directed at me. At the end of the sermon, I started proclaiming Jesus Christ in a way that is beyond wildest imaginations.
After your encounter with God at the crusade, what happened next?
Between 1981 and 1982, I worked as a church agent/catechist under the Methodist Church Nigeria, Elasade, having been engaged by the Methodist Church, Ogbomoso in Oyo State. I was in-charge of the Methodist Church Nigeria, Elasade and three other stations.
After serving as a church agent, what next?
I proceeded to the Methodist Theological Institute, Sagamu, Ogun State, where I trained as a sub-pastor beginning from 1982 to 1984. From the Methodist Theological Institute, Sagamu, I left for the Emmanuel College of Theology, Ibadan, Oyo State. It is an institution jointly owned and run by the Anglican Communion and Methodist Church for the training of clergymen of these two religious denominations. I underwent training in this institution for three years, between 1984 and 1987. After my studies, I served a three-year probationary period at Ilara Remo Methodist Church, Ilara, Remo, Ogun State, which ended in 1990. The probation ended on a glorious note, with my ordination as a priest of the Methodist Church by the then Prelate of Methodist Church Nigeria, Dr. Sunday Mbang on November 17, 1990 at Agbeni Methodist Cathedral, Ibadan, Oyo State.
What was your experience after the ordination?
Shortly after my ordination, I left for Idode Methodist Church, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State, which I presided over for seven years. From there, I proceeded to the Methodist Theological Institute, Sagamu, also in Ogun State. I was there as a lecturer from October, 1997 to October, 1998. Between 1998 and 2004, I was the Presbyter of Ereko Methodist Church, Idumota, Lagos and occupied the same position at Hoare's Memorial Methodist Church, Yaba, Lagos from 2004 to 2006. I was still at Hoare's Memorial Methodist Church when the Electoral College of the Methodist Church Nigeria meeting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State named me the Pioneer Bishop of the Diocese of Lagos West on August 10, 2006. I was eventually consecrated Bishop of the then newly-created Diocese of Lagos West on November 10, the same year, by His Eminence, Dr. Sunday Mbang, who was retiring that year as the Prelate of Methodist Nigeria.
Let's go back to your childhood. As a child, did you have some nuances?
My parents were farmers. And I was brought up in a farming environment. I enjoyed fishing as a child. I could fish from morning till night. I still recall that one of my uncles nick-named me fisher, due to my diligence in fishing. I played football and participated in athletics. Indeed, I played a great deal during primary and secondary school days.
At what point did you begin to warm up for the priesthood?
I must confess to you that I never wanted to be a clergyman at all. I had my mind on other careers, excluding priesthood. It was my father who called me one day and advised me to opt for priesthood. The suggestion that I should go for priesthood instantly made me sad and I replied my father that the poverty associated with priesthood did not make it attractive to me. But years after my father's advice, I attended a crusade in 1980. And it was there, that God's call to me became manifest. And I realised that my father was right in advising me to go for the priesthood.
How did you meet your wife?
I met my wife, Mrs. Abigail Olufunmilayo Olawuyi (nee Makinde) at the graduation ceremony of Methodist Theological Seminary, Sagamu, Ogun State. I was the best graduating student and was therefore, the toast of everybody, including a young lady, Miss Abigail Makinde, who had come in company of her brother and my classmate, Very Reverend Taiwo Makinde. (Laughter). Normally, everybody would want to be identified with success. After a while, I visited my classmate and friend, Very Reverend Taiwo Makinde and I also saw her sister, former Miss Makinde. I proposed to her in 1984 and prayed to God for guidance. For one and half years, we suspended our courtship. But in 1988, we resumed our courtship. In April, 1989, we were wedded by His Eminence Dr. Sunday Mbang at Elekuro Methodist Church, Ibadan, Oyo State.
Was there any opposition to the marriage?
Yes. Some members of my wife's family would have been happier having no-clergyman as a son-in-law. Already, two of my wife's brothers were clergymen. So, the family was looking forward to having an in-law outside the clergy. But contrary to the family's expectation, another clergyman proposed to one of its daughters. And everyone screamed.
Would you discourage any of your children from becoming a clergyman?
No. any of children who opts for the clergy, will definitely get my instant blessings and support.
Do you for-see any child of yours going the path of the clergy?
Everything depends on God. But from human point of view, one of my children is already manifesting leadership qualities. I will not be surprised if he ends up in priesthood.
Would you say that you recreated yourself in this particular child of yours?
To a large extent, yes. He, indeed, reminds me of myself. I exhibited a lot of kids among my fellow kids when I was growing up. I was exceedingly adventurous. I did what my fellow kids could not. I engaged in hunting a great deal and caught rabbits often.
What is your frank evaluation of politics in Nigeria?
It is unfortunate that some of the political actors have made politics to be a do-or-die affair simply because of the transient gains they derive from such situation. But this is a misconception of politics. For the avoidance of doubt, politics or leadership is a call to render service. If you are elected in a free and fair manner, bear in mind that you are duty-bound to give quality service, provide solutions to problems and not to give excuses or worsen the situation. Politicians should leave rhetoric, for Nigerians are no longer interested in such. Everybody is clamouring for regular power supply, for it will help stimulate the economy. Why can't we have uninterrupted electricity despite our inestimable material, financial and human resources? It is unexplainable. It is therefore, wrong for those who are not elected to manipulate the electoral process in order to be in power illegally at the detriment of the socio-economic advancement of the populace.
What do you consider to be your goal as the Methodist Bishop of Lagos West?
I am committed to ensuring that my congregation are spiritually and economically empowered. Once, people are spiritually and economically developed, they will be useful to themselves, their families as well as the society. Such accomplishment will also help check vices across the nation. I also look forward to the continuous expansion of the Methodist Diocese of Lagos West.
What are your regrets?
I don't have regrets. But frankly speaking, leading a congregation poses great challenges. That is why I and even other clergymen need God's guidance. Without really sounding immodest, through God's guidance, I have made a success of my call to priesthood. My gratitude goes to God and all my congregation - now and in the past - that He has used to support me as a clergyman.