PROPHET JOSEPH AYODELE BABALOLA (1904-1959).
The man Joseph Ayodele Babalola was a revivalist that God used to trigger a kind of spiritual awakening which ushered in the era of signs, wonders and great manifestations in Nigeria. Before the emergence of Evangelist Ayodele Babalola, there were churches already in existence all over the country. Most of these church denominations had a general belief that signs and wonders were possible but only in the past and not now. Therefore, for the churches to make heir presence felt in the communities they were encumbered with social services such as building of schools and hospitals. Ayodele Babalola, by every definition, had the all encompassing ministry of an apostle. He was a man born in due time with unnatural passion for prayer. As he passed through the corridor of time, he left an immortal record which space may not contain here, but it is quite evident that he was the divine instrument that God used to usher in a new era not Christianity in Nigeria and West African sub region.Ever since the Lord raised him up, the history of Nigeria in particular has never remained the same. According to a comment by Rev H. Dallimore, a white missionary who was as archdeacon of the Anglican Church, Ekiti diocese, at the meeting of some of the Christian leaders in Ekiti in 1938, he said, “From all the prophets in the Bible, most of them are not comparable to Prophet Babalola because what he did in one day, many prophets could not do it in three years.” This assertion was substantiated by another CMS white missionary who wrote his family in Britain: “Babalola’s two weeks ministerial work at Ikare was more effective than all the works done by all the missionaries for more that 70years”.
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Ever since the Lord raised him up, the history of Nigeria in particular has never remained the same he was one of a kind in our generation whom the Lord used to demonstrate unusual charismatic gifts with strange miracles and healings. Through his charismatic endowments, he entered forbidden forests, dislodged territorial demons and subdued satanic agents to a point of relinquishing their evil powers. Joseph Ayo Babalola was born on 25th April, 1904 in Odo-Owa, near Ilofa, a town under Ilorin province in Kwara State. His father’s name was Pa David Rotimi who was then the patron of CMS Church (otherwise known as the Anglican Church in Odo-Owa), while his mother was Martha Talabi Rotimi. Ayo Babalola was the eldest and the only male child of the mother’s six children.
It was said that on the day of his birth, a vibration like an echo of many drums radiated across the firmament and shock the earth, although this incident was never considered anything special. When he was only seven years of age, his grandmother gave him a chicken meat offered to an idol. Though he loved eating meat so much but he then chided the grandmother for eating meat dedicated to an idol. His warning really touched the old woman and she stopped eating meat sacrificed unto idols from henceforth. Furthermore, she converted to Christianity and received her confirmation in CMS Church (Anglican).
Education and CareerOn 18ht January, 1918, Babalola was brought to Ifo in the present Ogun State by his uncle, Moses Rotimi. At the age of fifteen in 1919, he secured admission into an elementary school in Oto-Awori near Ijanikin along Lagos Badagry expressway. By then his elderly brother was a Catechist under CMS Church. In 1921, hi s catechist uncle was transferred to Ebute Meta where he started three at Methodist school, Ijaiye and again, the uncle was transferred to Ibese town in Egbado and this made Ayo to withdraw from school in standard here in 1922. After a year of being absent in school, he was relocated to Oshogbo in Osun State to live with his uncle’s friend, J.F. Adebayo, a CMS catechist in 1924 and he resumed his schooling from standard three where he finally stopped in standard four at All Saints Anglican School, Oshogbo. Later, he enrolled for a para-medical training at African hospital, Oshogbo, where he trained as a drug dispenser. After the completion of his training he took his leave for work. It was during h this period of absence that he became an apprentice as a blacksmith and mechanic. After three years apprenticeship, he was able to manufacture cages, traps and as well do body work on vehicles. Later, he was sent to resume duty as a dispenser at African hospital in Oshogbo but he declined the offer and opted for blacksmithing and mechanic work. Being unable to purchase the necessary tools for his occupation, he decides to seek for employment with the Public Works Department (PWD) where he trained to be a road roller driver and operator. After his training, he was posted to Igbara Oke in Ekiti State as a roller driver for nine months. He was assigned a roller machine on 1st April, 1928 to do construction work on Oshogbo-Ilesha Road, with a salary of E4.00 (about N8.00) per month and a week force of eighty-six persons under his supervision.
The Memorable EncounterOn 14th June, 1928, he was reassigned to Ilesha Akure Road to mend the road to the town. As he commenced his journey to Ilesha with the roller machine, there was a heavy down pour which made the untarred road to be too wet for the roller to move on, therefore he had to park it near the Owena river which was thirty-three miles to Ilesha. After three days, he proceeded on his trip to Ilesha and bid those with him farewell. After journeying for about 5miles, the roller machine stopped and refused to move. It was grounded in the middle of the road. As an experienced mechanic on heavy equipment, he examined ever likely cause of the problem but he discovered that the roller was I a perfect condition. In order to avoid constituting a roadblock to other road users, he had the urge to push this heavy roller off the road! Normally, it would have required about one hundred men to join force to push it but in a miraculous way, he single handedly pushed if off the road! In furtherance of his efforts to put the roller back on the road, he cut three palm fronds which he intended using to provide shade for the roller against scorching sun. This continued for several days as he tried to use his technical expertise to put the roller back on the road but without success. Precisely, on 11th October, 1928, he stopped working on the grounded machine at about 12:30pm. As he walked near a river known as Ariran which was a few kilometers to Ikeji, (the present site of Joseph Ayo Babalola University) he heard a loud voice from the sky echoing: “Joseph! Joseph!! Joseph!!! This year, this year, this year, you shall be cut off from the earth.” He looked around to see the one speaking to him but he saw nobody. This baffled him and he ran away in fear from that vicinity and came back to sit down where the roller was parked. As he sat down there in a state of confusion, he continued to look for solution concerning the roller machine, suddenly; the same voice reverberated from heaven and said, “Joseph! Joseph!! Joseph!!! I want to send you an errand to the world an if you agree to do the work I am abut to give you, I will make you great but if you refuse, I will cut you off from the earth.” The voice then referred his attention to the three palm fronds which he had cut from a palm tree since several days ago to provide shade for the roller. As he looked at the palm fronds, one of the three was still as fresh as when it was on the palm tree while the second was partially withered and the third was literally dry. The voice explained the spiritual implications of the palm frond episode to him. The following day, he tendered his resignation letter to his immediate boss, Mr. Fergusson, a Briton. This man was very much surprised with his resignation and then pleaded with him to stay but Ayo insisted and explained to his boss that unless he quit the job the roller would not function. True to his word, as soon as he left the place of work the machine started functioning again. As at the time of his resignation, Bro Ayo ha a total amount of E100.00 (One hundred pounds) in his savings and the voice instructed him to take the money and give it to the church. He then acted promptly by taking the money to a local CMS Church (Anglican). He surrendered the money and went his own way.
Ayo Sought For CounselThere was a prophet of God in Ipetu-Ijesha, a town in Osun State by name Joseph Fapohunda. He was a man of God with high repute and people used to patronize him for spiritual counseling and prayer from far and near. It was this same man who had earlier predicted that God would raise up a messenger for himself among the black race that would serve as an arrowhead for the soon-coming revival in the land. Babalola was directed to retreat to his home at Ipetu-Ijesha where he contacted Prophet Fapohunda for prayer and counseling concerning the strange experiences. It was Prophet Fapohunda who confided in him, that the voice he heard was that of God. With the confirmation from an elderly and more experienced man of God, Babalola remained under the spiritual tutelage of prophet Fapohunda at Ipetu-Ijesha for six months. He was taken to a particular hill top in the town where he often resorted to for fasting and prayer daily. At times he would undergo marathon fasting and prayer up to seven days. It was in this program that he had a long drawn encounter with God which transformed and prepared him for his ministry. At Ipetu Ijesha, Babalola engaged himself in evangelism by preaching and praying for people from place to place.
Mission to ‘Jerusalem’As soon as he came out of his prayer retreat, the Holy Spirit directed him to his home town, Odo Owa, Ilofa, to go and deliver a message of repentance to his people. In this regard, the Lord gave him three instructions: one, he should cover his waist with palm fronds and rub powdered charcoal on his face to command people’s attention; two, he should hold one piece of pal frond in his hand; and three, he should buy a hand bell which he should start ringing as he walked through the town declaring the message. After Evangelist Babalola came into his town preaching repentance and ringing the bell, there was commotion in the town. Coincidentally, the day was a market day. Those who saw and heard him preaching mistook him for a mad man. He gave a prophecy that a wild beast would come into the town and devour people except they repent and turned to God. His town people were angered by this statement. While he was still at the centre of his town, about 200 demons were invoked to harm him and were screaming after him and as he rang the bell, they dispersed and disappeared. The people of his town sought to destroy him through various means without success. They made preparations to forestall any attack by a wild beast by getting their guns, cutlasses and charms ready. Vigilante groups were detailed to man all the entrances in to the town but on the last day of the forty-five days’ grace which was in May, 1929, contrary to their expectation, small pox, an epidemic disease broke out! Not being satisfied with his ministrations, the people of his town went to Ilorin where they lodged a complaint against him before the Muslim ruler, the Emir of Ilorin and also before the white District Officer that he was causing fear and unrest in the community. He was immediately arrested and detained for two weeks before the hearing of his case in court. At the end, he was discharged and acquitted.
Evangelist Babalola In LagosPrior to his coming to Lagos, Babalola had a divine leading that there was a church in Lagos that he should affiliate with. He was invited to Ibadan in Oyo State by one Daniel Ajibola, a member of Faith Terbanacle and from there he was introduced to D.O. Odubanjo who in turn invited him to Lagos. He visited the brethren in November, 1929. When he got to Lagos, he resided with one of his town mates. Through enquiry, he was able to locate Pastor Odubanjo at Origidi Street, Isale Eko, Lagos. On his first meeting with Odubajo and some prominent members of Faith Terbanacle Congregation, the brethren were very enthusiastic to receive him, having heard of God’s hands upon his life. They then demanded for full details of how he received his call. As he narrated his spiritual encounter to them, he spoke for good six hours and the people were held spell bound by his testimony. They all gave thanks to God for answering their prayers. He then was asked if he had been baptized I water by immersion and when his answer proved otherwise, it was the arranged that Evangelist Babalola should be baptized in water and this was undertaken by Pastor Joseph Esinsinade in Lagos in November, 1929. After this event, he returned to his base at Odo-Owa Ilofa to continue his ministry. While at Ilofa, Pastor Odubanjo paid him a visit to encourage him and to also assess the progress of the work of God over there.
When Heavens OpenedAs a new person in the Faith Terbanacle Congregation, Evangelist Babalola was faced with the necessity of receiving the needed orientation as to the doctrine and practice of the new church. The fellowship he was leading in his hometown would need to be conformed to the standard of the Faith Terbanacle teaching and practice which he had jut affiliated with in Lagos. There were some questions from members of his fellowship at home that he could not readily supply the needed answers to them. These prompted Evangelist Babalola to write a letter to Pastor D.O. Odubanjo of his intention to come to Lagos and understudy the doctrine and the mode of operation in the church. Incidentally, a meeting was scheduled to hold at Ilesha where all the prominent leaders of Faith Terbanacle were to discuss on the life and doctrine of the church between 9th and 10th July. As Babalola’s letter got to the leaders in Lagos and Ijebu Ode, it was decided that he should first of all visit Ijebu Ode church for orientation being the headquarters then, before coming to Lagos. On receiving information that Babalola had already reached Ibadan before his letter got to Lagos, bearing in mind that all the leaders were going to Ilesha, it was necessary for him to come again, so he was asked to wait for them at Ibadan with Pastor Akinyele with the aim of taking him along to Ilesha. Due to the fact that Joseph Akinyele who hosted Babalola at Ibadan could not make it to Ilesha on 9th July, the latter waited for him at Ibadan and both of them came to join the leaders in the meeting at Ike-oye on 10th July, 1930. At Ilesha, a message was sent to Babalola from Oshogbo to come and pray for one Mr. Williams who seriously sick. He obliged and went to pray for the man and then returned to Ilesha on the 11th July. As this historic meeting commenced at Oke-Oye, Ilesha on 9th July, 1930, involving the top ranking elders of the church, twenty fours issues were listed for discussion. The second issue was raised concerning divine healing when Evangelist Babalola who was lodged in a separate apartment got attracted to the cry f the mourners conveying a corpse, and a man in the front was peeling and spreading the feathers of a hen on the road for funeral rites. As the Holy Spirit moved Evangelist Babalola, he ordered the corpse to be brought down. He prayed and touched the corpse with the rod in his hand, within some few minutes the dead man came back to life! The meeting of the elders was interrupted immediately as people spread the news and multitude began to flock the venue. This incident became a means of publicity for others and pe with diverse diseases and problems came to the place for deliverance. The patients in the hospital were abandoning their sick beds to secure deliverance through prayers. This became a source of concern to the resident doctor to such an extent that he went to report to the Owa of Ijesha that the medical personnel’s were out of job. This was also reported to the District Officer for his intervention. Babalola was accused of disrupting hospital services. The testimonies of those who received healings and miracles went far and near thereby causing people from other places and outside Nigeria to visit the venue. Witches and wizards made confessions while people gave up their charms and magical books. Idols were freely surrendered for destruction and sinners confessed and renounced their sins, while people testified of the joy of salvation. The number of idols that were destroyed was estimated to 4, 000. During this period, there were instances when the roads leading to Ilesha were blocked with traffic. This was the beginning of the prophetic revival and divine manifestation that enhanced the spread of the gospel in Nigeria and beyond. This resulted in a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Revival Fire SpreadsIt is quite interesting that Babalola had to remain at this spot for sixty days, holding revival services with unusual manifestations. From there, he embarked on gospel outreach to other cities and towns in Nigeria. As he went to different places, he confronted powers and principalities operating in the lands and communities. Thus, cities an towns were liberated one after the other including Usi Ekiti, Ofa, Efaon-Alaye, Ijebu-Ode, Ikare Akoko, Kaba, Aramoko, Ekiti, Ibadan, Oshogbo, Ede, to mention just a few. At Efon Alaye he was challenged by the king of the town to enter the forbidden forest and liberate it. This he undertook without much ado. He possessed the land for Christ.
A Prisoner for ChristIt is needles to say that every genuine revival will not do without opposition. Therefore, Babalola had his own share of harassment, intimidation, blackmailing, character assassination, deprivation and even imprisonment. In 1932, while he went for a prayer retreat during the Lenten period in his town, a warrant of arrest was issued on his behalf. He was arrested and taken to Ilorin under the accusation that two women who were accused of being witches during one of his revival died in the town of Otuo in Auchi area of the present Edo State. From thee he was transferred to Benin City for prosecution, and in the month of March, 1932, he was sentenced to six months imprisonment. Right there in the prison, he continued his ministry. Many of his fellow prisoners who were sick got healed after he prayed for them. It was in this same prison that he came in contact with Cyprain E.O. Ufon, a man from Calabar who was also a prisoner. This man was healed from his terminal disease and gave his life to Christ. It was through this man that Evangelist Babalola took the gospel to Calabar after serving his prison term. Likewise, while in jail, he ministered and prayed for the wife of the person’s chief warder who had been barren for many years. It was this same month that the woman got pregnant. This gave the man of God favour in the sight of the prison authority just like the biblical Joseph; therefore, he was being given special treatment throughout hid prison term. His evangelistic efforts were not confined to the southern part of Nigeria. He reached out to the northern Nigeria, especially, to some unreachable tribes including the naked Bokkos and Bachamas. He preached the word of God to them with remarkable signs and also clothed them.
Conversion of Traditional RulersThe ministry of Evangelist Ayo Babalola did not only attract the lowly but also kings, chiefs and paramount rulers such as Oba Solomon Aladejare Agunsoye the Alaye of Efon Alaye, Oba Hezekiah Adeoye of Aramoko-Ekti, Oba John Adetoye Laoye, the Timi of Ede and others. Both the low and high were beneficiaries of God’s visitation upon the land. Some paramount rulers were so much enthusiastic of what God was doing through Evangelist Babalola in other places to such an extent that they were to mount pressure on him to come and hold revival services in their domains. This, he obliged or declined in line with the direction of the Holy Spirit. Many shrines and strongholds or notable demonic powers that demanded worship for ages were destroyed and confiscated for Christ.
Babalola, a Prayer MachineRight from the time of his call, Evangelist Babalola had never taken the issue of prayer a secondary one. The first instruction he received from the Lord after he had surrendered himself to answer the call of God upon his life was that he should engaged in prayer and fasting for seven days. It was in this prayer retreat that the Lord revealed to him categorically that he would be confronted with formidable obstacles and challenges. Therefore, being aware of the task ahead of him, he never made a pretense of the role of prayer in his life and ministry. His breakthrough in prayer through the enablement of the Holy Spirit made his ministry unique and outstanding. Through unrelenting prayers, holy living and constant obedience to God’s leading, he was bestowed with kingly anointing. For instance, while he was in a prayer retreat at Ido-Ajinare in Ekiti State, after hours of prayer, he heard a sound of a moving object in which the Lord instructed him not to open his eyes. As he continued in prayer, large python crawled over him. Later God instructed him to open his eyes and he readily obeyed. Just a little distance from where he was lying down, the Lord pointed to the python who had been roasted as if an electric current had shocked it. With this evidence, God told him that he had turned him to coal of fire and that he had now become untouchable for evil powers. His dedicated prayer life and the manifestation of signs and wonders through charismatic gifts exposed the weakness and emptiness of most of the existing churches at the same time. His prayer life has become a challenge to the past, present and future generations of Christians. Evangelist Babalola was known to fast often for many days. At times, he would engage in marathon fasting and prayers for up to forty days. During this period, he would retreat to a secluded place or mountain tops to wait upon the Lord. There were many locations which he had taken as his prayer resort. Some of the most prominent ones were hill tops at Ido Ajinare, Ikoyi, Efon Alaye and Erio. Without doubt, his exemplary prayer life did not only influence his immediate followers, but it has made his ministry, Christ Apostolic Church, a ministry renowned for prayer and charismatic manifestations. For almost eight decades now, the prayer life of his church remains steadfast. Today, in the Christian world, Nigeria is noted for aggressive and dynamic prayer. This is one of the major factors that make up for the level of progress and tranquility in Nigeria. Prayer is one of the outstanding legacies which were bequeathed on the Church in Nigeria through his ministry.
His Marital LifeOn 25th April, 1935 at the age of thirty one years, Babalola called it quit with bachelorhood and married a young lady, Miss Dorcas Adetoun Fowowe at Efon Alaye. The couple was blessed with four female children, namely, Funmilayo, Victoria, Wura and Apeke. Although his marriage with this beautiful lady was not against the scripture, this did not rule out discontentment on the side of his wife as a result of Babalola’s repeated absence from home for several days at a stretch. Though he was said top be a good family man who held his wife in high esteem, while his wife was also acknowledged as a good and responsible house wife given to hospitality. The fact remains that a minister’s family is his first constituency and any lapses here may cause friction and negative development in the family regardless of one’s level of spirituality. Due to the nature of Babalola’s commitment to mission work on the field and the lack of privacy that pervaded the whole environment he was at home as a result of large number of people who were always mounting a siege in his house both day and night with the mind of consulting him for one problem or theother, the situation was becoming unbearable for his wife who had always been receiving end. This situation caused her a lot of stress which at times had led to ill-feeling. And even with all these, the family still remained together till his call to glorious rest in 1959.
The Glorious Exit
As the Supreme Executive Council meeting held at CAC Olugbode headquarters, Ibadan came ot a close on Friday, 24th July, 1959, early in the morning of the following day which was Saturday, Evangelist Babalola took time to pray for the entire household of faith at Olugbode during early morning prayer meeting. In the afternoon of the same day, he now proceeded to Ede in Osun State in respect of the induction of ministers at the CAC Maternity Centre, Ede before commencement of the training of midwives. During his departure from Ibadan, his junior sister who was the wife to Pastor J.B Orogun enquired from Evangelist Babalola when he would come back to Ibadan for another meeting. But as if he was joking, he said he would no more attend any other meeting at Ibadan. On hearing this, Pastor Medaiyese jokingly told him that if he refused to turn up for a meeting at Ibadan he would be penalized and the evangelist affirmed that whether they would penalize him or not, he would not come (unknown to them that he was indirectly referring to his departure to the great beyond). When Evangelist Babalola got to Ede, he was lodged in Prophet Samson Akande’s guest room. Early on Sunday morning, he prepared and went to attend the induction service in the church. At the service, he was the person who led the opening prayer while Pastor Medaiyese preached the word. After the service, all the delegates went back to their stations while Evangelist Babablola was bidding them farewell without anyone suspecting hat anything unexpected would happen. And in the afternoon of the same day, he prayed with some of his lieutenants in his room. Lastly, he called Evangelist D.O Babajide and his host, Prophet Samson Akande and began to relate his life and ministry with them and the need of every one of them to remain faithful to the end. The two ministers then left him to observe his siesta. At around 4:00pm of the same day, Sunday, 26th July 1959, he gave up the ghost calling the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit which shook the building as he held his last breath and took his final exit from this terrestrial world to rest until the day of his reward. He was buried on 27th July, 1959 beside his father’s grave at St. Stephen’s School, Efon Alaye in Ekiti State, amidst a large crowd of people from different places who came to give him their last respect.