Last month, when the leaders of the Fountain of Life Church in Lagos announced Jimmy Odukoya, the son of the deceased founders of the ministry, Taiwo and Bimbo Odukoya, as the new Senior Pastor of the ministry, there were many Nigerians who questioned the decision considering his professional background as a Nollywood actor and generally lifestyle.
Pastor Odukoya died on August 7 in the United States and was buried on September 9 in Lagos, Nigeria.
Jimmy is also a musician, got his education at Oral Roberts University in the United States and started his acting career in 2016 after featuring in ‘Baby Shower’.
The late Odukoya was said to have confided in the Board of Trustees members about the succession plan before his demise.
When the news was made public, many Nigerians questioned Jimmy’s religious faith and suitability for such a pastoral role.
However, the event brought to the fore the long debates and controversy which have trailed the culture of Nigerian church ‘founders’ handing over the church to their spouses or children at retirement or in the event of death.
Although, there are those who support such practice, saying that it was important to keep what rightly belongs to the family within, however, observers say it has no biblical basis and emits a business culture of a man handing over a business enterprise to family members.
Some people are of the opinion that for a pastor at the point of death to focus his transition plans to only family members is replete with nepotism and beclouds the true essence of the Church of God.
Also Jimmy’s appearance, his tattoos, braided hair and earrings have also been called to question, with some in the Christian community seeing it as offensive and questioning if it is suitable for such a pastoral role.
But amidst the criticism, Jimmy said he had spiritual backing to his mode of dressing. He insisted that he was called by God, adding that it was quite a big responsibility for him.
The senior pastor gave several examples to back his modes of dressing, particularly citing the story of Samson in the Holy Bible when God told him not to cut his hair, as a reason for him wearing dreads.
He said, “God has called me into this new season of my life. This new position is a big responsibility. All of my focus is here (on the church). As for my dreads, most people don’t know I can back up everything I do with scripture.
“If you say I’m wrong to keep my hair as a pastor, I can tell you that God told Samson not to cut his hair in the Bible. That means long hair is not a bad thing. Also, if you say the pastor is keeping a beard, I can tell you that the Bible says that when Jesus was tortured, they pulled hair from his face.
“If you say this pastor is putting on earrings, I can tell you that in the book of Exodus, when the children of Israel got out of Egypt and wanted to make a golden calf, they collected jewelry, rings, and earrings from their sons and daughters.
“Anybody can do what they want. A personal opinion is different from saying something is sinful. You should not use your own personal opinion to judge me.”
In recent days, Jimmy’s defense of his mode of dressing has attracted more backlashes, especially among young Nigerians on social media who had initially restrained themselves from the issue.
In January 2021, in an interview with actress Iretiola Doyle, he said that being a pastor does not in any way affect his acting career.
He said: “How does being a pastor affect my acting career? I don’t believe it, some people have different opinions, and one is if I am an actor, I should be a Christian actor and I say there is no such thing”.
Another uncommon event was the installation of Afolabi Ghandi Laoye as the Soun of Ogbomoso land some weeks ago.
Laoye was a senior pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) and had headed the church branches in some countries.
The appointment generated diverse reactions among Nigerians, especially on social media.
The Kingmakers of the ancient town selected him ahead of other candidates.
When the news broke, there was shock, bewilderment, and in some cases, consternation within the Christian community and among people of other religions.
Perhaps, the shock arising from Ghandi’s appointment stemmed from disdain and rejection shown in this part of the word toward traditional practice by many people in the larger society, especially among Christians.
They are often portrayed as fetish and engaging in idol worshiping which is seen as alien to the two main religious faiths in the country.
Overtime in Nigeria, there has been an easy fusion of worshippers of these religions, it is common to see members of the same family as Christians, Muslims and traditional worshippers living together, relating together.