FEB, the son of the late Archbishop Benson Idahosa, in this new interview with Punch, talks about his father’s life and ministry.
Please tell us a bit about yourself
I am FEB Idahosa, the son of (the late) Archbishop Benson Idahosa and Archbishop Margaret Idahosa. Currently, I am the President of Benson Idahosa University and also a minister in Church of God Mission International, Nigeria. Alongside the administrative duties of the church, I also oversee the different organisations my father started.
How much influence did your dad have on the career choices of his children, and you becoming a minister of the gospel?
My father’s influence pushed us to excellence. He wanted us to become doctors or lawyers. However, dad believed we should pursue both our professional careers and the gospel, and with both, one becomes a formidable force to reckon with. My sister is a lawyer, my elder sister is an administrator and one of my sisters is an interior designer. But the calling of God (upon us) is still very strong, as it comes through the pedigree, so to speak. Each one of us is a minister of the gospel in different ways and in different parts of the world.
What are some of the values your father inculcated into you?
Dad taught us, and the church, a lot. He taught us to be confident in our own skin, and to use our skills effectively. He taught us about life; that one should not blame one’s circumstances for the things around one; but that you should know God has put inside of you everything you need to succeed, and you can succeed anywhere. There were so many things he taught us. We have published several books on his teachings, values and the principles he shared with us.
How does it feel to be the son of such a famous preacher? What kind of father was he?
It is a privilege which I do not take lightly. Growing up was normal. It was not like dad would come home in the evening and start speaking in tongues all the way through, from dinner time to breakfast. He was a normal father, who played with us and talked with us. When we acted wrongly, he spanked us. When we were home at weekends, he would cook breakfast for us. We were a regular family. His status as a revered Archbishop did not make him any less of a human and a father to us. I enjoyed growing up with him. I am very privileged and blessed to be part of the legacy that brought the charismatic growth of the gospel to Nigeria.
Did you travel with your father for his preaching engagements in Nigeria and around the world?
I was blessed by God that before my father passed away, I got the chance to spend nine months with him in Nigeria and, in those months, we travelled around the country and around parts of West and East Africa. In those months, he shared his vision and thoughts about what God told him. Looking back now, those were treasured moments for me because I got to hear directly from him and see faith in action; seeing miracles and God work through him in different places. I am blessed to be part of that legacy.
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Not only did I see faith in action, I also got to understand the ministry and how it works. Those nine months gave me a priceless foundation.
How has your father’s legacies opened doors for you?
One cannot deny the fact that having influential parents helps in one’s life pursuit. But at the same time, you must also work hard and forge on in your own path. You must have the personality, knowledge and work ethic to take you through the open doors. The influence helps to open the door. But you must also do your part to take you to the next level. That is where the grace of God comes in. It is always a privilege to be introduced as Bishop FEB Idahosa, the son of Archbishop B. Idahosa, and that almost always opened doors for me. But I think where I am most blessed is with his friends and ‘sons’ of my father, whom I have been privileged to work with. My father was a blessing to so many people and their ministries in different ways. And many of them come back to show they have not forgotten that he was a blessing to them; they also want to make sure they are a blessing to me. I have told myself that when I am older and their children come up, I must continue the same thing, by being a blessing to them too.
Beyond being known as a famous preacher and Archbishop, what kind of man was he?
He was a man that was called from, and by God; one who showed what faith in God can do. We had said that if a man that was thrown into a trash bin as a baby could grow up and be used by God to speak to presidents and nations, and was able to travel to over 40 countries in his lifetime, then you can imagine what God can do through all of us who are a generation ahead of him. God used dad tremendously in this nation and as an example to us. A friend of mine described him as the ‘tsunami’ that changed the face of the gospel in Africa. In the 1970s, again, he began televangelism by starting a programme entitled ‘Redemption Hour.’ Then it was very rare to see people preach on TV; it was unheard of in Nigeria. But now, it is so common. This was the kind of influence he had and today we can thank God for a man who started things we are following today.
Did your dad have a nickname?
Yes, people said he had ‘fire in his bones.’ He believed in raising people and influencing them to do just as great as the work he did in his days. Now, other people have established bigger churches and universities; these are the kinds of things he would have been happy to see because they show he pioneered something good and people followed in his footsteps and they are doing even more.
What are some things Nigerians don’t know about your father?
He was committed to his family and to the gospel. There were times when he would forgo luxuries to ensure the gospel was preached. Whenever he travelled, he came back with gifts and donations from other people, and he would put them into the university. He wouldn’t buy the fanciest cars; instead he would put the finances we had into the gospel, to build a university, to build a church and so on. God rewarded him for these by having people give him things. He gave tithe, not 10 per cent, but 90 per cent of his income. Despite that, he was still able to leave a comfortable life and take care of his family. He sent all of us to schools abroad. His commitment was to the gospel first, to ensure God’s word was preached around the world.
How would you describe your dad’s social life?
Dad read a lot. I have many of his books with his handwriting in the margins; he was an avid reader. People thought that he, perhaps, prayed all the time, but he was a human being. He loved watching boxing. I remember Mohammed Ali was one of his favourite boxers.
How would you describe your father’s influence and impact on some of Nigeria’s famous and most influential preachers today, such as Bishop David Oyedepo and others?
Dad’s work was to nurture another generation. He would go to where they were and he would speak to them, pray for them, and bless them. He was not selfish with what God had given him. Today, God is using them to do even more than he did. That is something he would be happy about because it shows that what God did through him is continuing and growing.
Who were some of his closest friends?
Dad had many close friends and they had good relationships. Our table was always full for lunch because he always brought people home and he brought them close. Many of his spiritual sons say that he used to take them to his room, sit them down and begin to share things with them. He never believed in hoarding God’s gift to himself; he believed in sharing as much as he could. He spent time with people and spoke into their lives. That is why, today, we see them doing so many good things because his life was one of influence.
How did he handle criticisms?
Dad said people who backbite do so because they are behind you. He looked at criticisms as things which showed you were doing something because people are talking about you. It showed God was using you to do good things. He never kept them to heart. He believed that when people criticize you, they are really admiring you but they just cannot say it, and they say it in a negative and awkward way.
How did he start the Church of God Mission?
You may need to read, ‘Fire in His Bones.’ In the book he talked about it; how he saw a vision of a dead tree, and from a distance, he saw an old woman carrying a heavy load on her head. He ran to help her carry it and she said, ‘Thank you, my son. I have been walking on this road for a long time. Many people have passed me by but none of them have helped me with my load.’ Then, he took her to where the tree was, she sat down and rested. And he looked up and saw a leaf had appeared on the tree. Again, he saw another person with a heavy load and he ran to help that person, who came back and sat under the tree. When he did that, another leaf appeared on the tree and it went on like that for a while. As he was getting tired, God told him to ask those who had rested under the tree to help him, so he could help other people too. They went out together and more people kept coming with their burdens. And as he did that, the tree came back fully to life; it was full of leaves and was strong again. That was how God told him that he would help take the burden off people, and as he was doing that, it would help bring back life to all the things they were doing.
Was your dad vocal about the country’s leadership and national issues in his time?
A man of God told me that during my father’s time, there were only two voices that spoke against the injustices in government— Idahosa and Fela (Kuti). And I laughed because it was an interesting juxtaposition of two different personalities.
But it was true. Dad was not afraid to speak out against injustice and the government listened to him. There is a video of his on Facebook and on our website, where he spoke on Armed Forces Day about Nigeria and how we must stop speaking negatively and start speaking good things about Nigeria. That video was recorded in the 80s but one would think he was speaking in 2015, because everything he said is still valid today. Dad was a man years ahead of his time and he spoke into the future.
What would be his views about the prosperity gospel being preached today?
Dad was a man who believed very much that God’s blessing was for us as a people. Whenever he was blessed with anything, he would take the finances from that and put them into the university, into the church and different things. Whenever God blessed him, he used that increase to do good things. I think what he would say is, Look at the work I am doing and at what God is doing to bless people, through what I am doing. And if what I am doing is blessing people and raising people, then that is the prosperity that God talks about.’ In the last days of his life, in February, 1998, he told my mother that his was not a life of prosperity, but a life for posterity. Look at the things he started, 17 years after (his death); each one is still growing strong. That was a man who lived for posterity. He was given a private jet and he used the money from that private jet to do some work for the gospel. But that does not mean he did not have a nice car or a nice house. He had a nice house he lived in, which my mother still lives in. It is still a lovely house. Preaching prosperity is not bad but what I believe he would say is, while God is blessing you, make sure that the blessing is used for posterity; it should outlive you and bless generations unborn.
How did your father create time for his family?
In the last few years of his life, we were in school in the United States and the United Kingdom and whenever we came home, we would spend time with him. I still have a picture of my sister on the last visit, which I think was taken about three or four weeks before he died. I took that picture where he was holding her. He was a preacher, and he was always travelling. But he spent time with us, as a family. I still remember he made eggs and vegetables for us for breakfast and how it tastes till this day.
What were his likes and dislikes?
Dad disliked things or people who tried to show there was no power in the gospel, or that God could not do certain things. He liked to prove that the God he served could do anything.
What was your dad’s favourite drink?
He liked non-alcoholic wines. He used to serve us non-alcoholic wines at lunch and dinner. He would always get up, open the bottle and go around the table to serve each person.
How was his relationship with your mum?
They had a great relationship. I remember seeing them kiss as normal couples do. Watching how my father lovingly treated my mother influenced the way I treat my wife today. I learnt a lot from him; I learnt about things I should do and should not do.
Aside from his archbishop robe and cap, how did he like to dress?
He used to wear polo shirts and trousers to relax. On official days, he loved to wear these long flowing Agbadas and that is what many remember him for. They say he was flamboyant because he was always dressed impeccably. If you watch his tapes, you would see the Agbadas and you will see him in lovely suits, always well fitted, always handsome looking. My mum used to call him her, ‘Boy o boy’ whenever she watched him on TV at times.
How did he discipline his children when they erred?
He had a belt and cane that, when we were out of line, he would discipline us with. The Bible talks about how a father disciplines a child that he loves. We were disciplined and we turned out very well.
How did he react whenever he was angry?
Once in a while, he would raise his voice. But more than that, he would show you a better way. If you did something wrong, he would rebuke and then correct you.
What was his daily routine like?
He would wake up as earlier as 4am or 5am to pray. By 6am, he would be in church for the Morning Prayer service. From there, he would go to visit the different project sites he was working on, like the university and the hospital. From there, at about 7am to 9am, he would go to the office. He goes for lunch at about 2pm every day. He would go back to the office and come back home later in the evening or he would be in church for evening service.
What kinds of books did he read?
He read books of other ministers he considered pioneers in the faith. He also read inspirational books and biographies.
What was his favourite meal?
Rice and chicken. He loved what he called ‘old layers.’
What would be his views about the Church in Nigeria today?
He is not the kind of person that would sit down and complain. Instead, he would speak out and correct many things. The church in Nigeria is doing a good job, but there are some excesses he would have spoken against and ensured they were corrected for people to keep in line with the pure gospel of Jesus Christ.
What do you think is your dad’s legacy?
He left a legacy of faith. We always call him a man of faith. For instance, Faith Arena, where we worship today, was a project he started when he had less than a couple of thousands of naira in his account; yet the project cost several millions at the time it was finished in the 80s. He had faith that if God spoke something to him, it will be done. He built a university, a bible school and a hospital.
He and my mother established the Word of Faith Schools and many things we look back at today and ask how this one person could achieve so much.
The GOD OF ARCHBISHOP BENSON IDAHOSA OF BLESSED MEMORY is still doing wonders today for anyone that yields unto him by pledging his allegiance totally to the will of God.
We look forward to greater exploits and dimension of faith like never before in the days to come, by the virtue of the pedestral that fathers like idahosa as created, as the scriptures says we should follow them who through faith and patient obtain the prize.
God bless you all in Jesus mighty name!!!