The news has been in the air in the past few weeks that the Kingmakers of the ancient town of Ogbomoso have chosen a pastor of the Redeemed Church as their new King.
The choice of Pastor Ghandi Olaoye, fondly called ‘Pastor G’ by his adoring flock, has been approved by the authority of the governor of Oyo State, Governor Makinde.
The choice has also been validated by the Ifa Oracle. Yes.
The authority underpinning the selection of Ghandi Olaoye does not end there. His ascendancy to the throne of his fathers, according to his own account, became a going proposition only when his initial reluctance was overcome by a direct encounter with the God that he has served faithfully, and with great distinction, for the past thirty years of his life.
‘God spoke with me in a revelation’ he said to his congregation, ‘You were born for this; this is the reason for your birth.’
His earthly father in the pastoral Ministry, and the head of 15,000 Redeemed Church parishes worldwide, the man simply known as Pastor Adeboye, reinforced the message.
Ghandi is a quaint name for a Yoruba man. There is probably a story behind it. Was it something to do with a parent’s admiration for Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of non-violent struggle and commitment to the service of the downtrodden? But this Ghandi is spelt different from that other Gandhi, so where is it from? Whatever may be the etymology, it is the name by which the new traditional ruler of Ogbomoso has always been known to the world.
Ghandi was born in Nigeria. He obtained a BA Honours in English and Literary Studies at the University of Ife, and a Master’s degree in Industrial and Labour Relations from University of Ibadan in 1987. He went into private business.
In 1992, he became a pastor in the Redeemed Church. Over time, he pastored a few Churches in Nigeria, before moving to Bonn. From Germany, he moved to Washington DC USA to pastor and grow the RCCG Jesus House, in Maryland. His Church became one of the biggest Redeemed Churches in America.
Pastor Ghandi acquired a reputation as an accomplished businessman with wide-flung interests, and he has been the recipient of many awards.
He was given responsibility as Coordinator of Convention and Special Projects of the Redeemed Church in North America.
There is a circulating photo of him standing outside his Church, flanked by Church members as he said farewell and embarked on his new life.
Among many ‘Pentecostal’ Christians, the initial reaction to the announcement of his decision was shock, bewilderment, and in some cases, consternation.
The attitude that is often taken towards traditional spiritualism and religious practice, by people who consider themselves ‘religious’ – either in the Christian or Muslim faith, is disdain, and even abhorrence. The justification provided for this attitude is that they are ‘fetish’, engaged in idol worship and dark rituals which are not compatible with Christianity or Islam.
However, historically, in Yoruba culture, there has always been an easy symbiosis of different religions. It is not unusual to find among members of the same family Christians, Muslims, and traditional worshippers, living together, eating together, even celebrating festivals together.
A deep psychological look into the core of traditional religion reveals that it is not just made up of rituals, but that part of its language and logic reveals the essence of a people’s world view, which connects them with their origins. Disconnecting people totally from all things ‘traditional’, as colonialists and present-day ‘warriors’ for the two major Abrahamic religions have sought to do in Africa, also disconnects them from their antecedents and leaves them rootless, floating about in a confusing world. A need to escape this rootlessness is why many African Americans are frantically seeking their ‘tribes’ in Africa. Paradoxically, many Africans who have ancient tribes and belief-systems are rushing to divest themselves of them.
The people who were shocked when Pastor Ghandi, a superstar of Nigerian Pentecostal Christianity, announced he was becoming the Soun of Ogbomoso feared they were ‘losing’ him.
The reality, as shown by the attitude of the new Soun himself, is that Ogbomosho, its present, and its future, are being enriched and invigorated by the infusion of one of its best elements into its development mix.
Pastor Ghandi says he will hold on to his Christian faith, but he will foster the three Faiths – Christianity, Islam, and the Traditional, in Ogbomosho, as his fathers have done before him
A society without a sense of harmony with its past is one consigned to a troubled future. The Arabs cling proudly to their Arab history and culture, and fuse them with Islamic practice. The Jews are unabashedly Jewish, in their culture, as in their religion. It is only in Africa that people are made to believe that they have to divest themselves of the baggage of who they are in order to embrace the promise of being ‘Born Again’. Historically, the most galling of the rationalisations for colonialism was that there was ‘nothing’ in Africa, before the arrival of the white man.
Pastor Ghandi says he will hold on to his Christian faith, but he will foster the three Faiths – Christianity, Islam, and the Traditional, in Ogbomosho, as his fathers have done before him.
History beckons. If Ghandi by his knowledge, wealth and influence, brings Primary Health care and improved nutrition and childcare, including care for Sicklers, to the most deprived areas of Ogbomosho, so that children are no longer dying early, he may go down in mythology as having eliminated ‘abiku’ from the land. He may bring enlightenment without patronising or condemning his people. He may discover that they love change, the change that lifts them up without renouncing their ontology. This is the value that relative youth, good education, and a cosmopolitan enlightenment can bring to the traditional institution in Yorubaland, and in Nigeria.
To His Imperial Majesty Oba Ghandi Afolabi Olaoye Arumogege III, Soun of Ogbomoso, this column says, in the age-long salutation to Yoruba monarchs – Kabiyesi Ọba. K’ade pé lórí, ki bata pe lẹsẹ.