Olu Obanure: Tribute to a significant man

Olu Obanure

There are indeed so many topical issues to write about at the moment: contextual reporting of the legal status of the EFCC acting chairman, Ibrahim Magu is hot on the plate.The controversial private opinion of the acting president and the attorney general’s arrogant clarification on the legal status of the indispensable Magu would have been worth discussing too. When the presidency discovered the supremacy of the constitution over the EFCC’s enabling law (2002) made after the 1999 constitution is a topical issue that one would have liked to contextualise too. So, it would have been worth asking why the presidency, the Federal Ministry of Justice and their numerous external legal consultants did not discover the supremacy of the constitution over the EFCC Act before sending Magu’s name to the Senate twice.

Besides, it would have been quite relevant to ask legal experts whether the Nigeria’s Senate will continue to confirm nominees to executive bodies including the executive council of the federation that we call the cabinet, in this regard. One would have even loved to ask questions about when the president will return from medical checkup more than 62 days into the second journey. But sadly, not this week, because this column would want to switch paradigm to other more significant issues in nation building. There is time for everything. We need a mental switch from our old ways of writing too. We need a paradigm switch, lest we will be the last. We have been asking questions since the Class of 1966 seized power and stopped nation building and there have been no answers to why we have been having a great deal of degeneration since then when they the ‘militicians’ in the (1966) class murdered democracy and federalism. The same federalism we are begging a member of the class now in power to restore.

It is time to stop reading, reporting and analysing the voluminous Book of Lamentations that the Class of ‘66 wrote and gave to us. The-Class of ‘66 members and their offspring have been very prominent. That is why they fill the front pages and prime time, all the time. It is time to avoid them like lepers as we have discerned that they are not and cannot be significant to rebuilding Nigeria’s broken walls anymore. That is why this week; I would like to step aside to pay tribute to a significant man of God I know, who may not be prominent, after all. It is high time we began to shift focus from the prominent architects of our misfortunes in this country. Yes, they are prominent but not significant. I have been quoting a significant author and cleric, Rick Warren, who introduced me to the danger of mixing the prominent with the significant in any settings. The author of one of the most significant books so far in the 21st century, The Purpose-Driven Life,(which sold more than 30 million copies worldwide) notes in the classic that there are some people who are prominent but not significant.

And in the same vein, there are some significant people who are not prominent. He argues that even God the almighty, often seeks and depends on the significant and not prominent people for His kingdom and indeed nation building. In explaining this context, years after the book launch, Rick Warren, noted, “Never confuse prominence and significance. Something can be prominent but not significant. My nose is prominent. It just sticks out there. But it’s not significant. I could lose my nose and keep on living the rest of my life happily ever after. It’s prominent, but it’s not significant. But there’s more stuff inside of me, like a liver, a heart, and lungs. They’re not prominent, but if I lost them, I’d die.You may not feel prominent in the Body of Christ, but you are significant….”

Therefore, permit me today to pay a tribute to a very significant figure I know in the course of this my journey through life. You may not have heard about this name, Oluwole David Obanure, 63, a Pastor and Assistant General Overseer (AGO) of the Redeemed Christian of God, who died on 2nd May, 2017 at the Redemption Camp and was buried on Friday 30th June in Lagos. This transition note is not because he was a mega pastor in a mega church, RCCG. Not at all: Olu Obanure I know, just like Barnabas in the scripture, was indeed a good man. We are told that we are now more than 180 million and the most populous black nation on earth. But in the course of my journey though journalism life, I have a diary of experiences that daily shows to me clearly that there are not many good men and women here. Yes, there are even many men of God most of whom do not believe in the God of men anymore. There are many Christians and Christian leaders, politicians and managers who do not believe in the character of Christ they claim to be following. Indeed, there are too many pastors in the land today who are not worth following anymore.

But Pastor Obanure I know was a pastor indeed and a man of God who served the God of man and humanity up to his last beat: the West Coast of Africa from his base in Ghana. He touched most lives he encountered everywhere he went. He did this and finished strong in this country through the power of his character. Pastor Paul Idoko Enenche, the founder of Dunamis International Gospel Centre who encountered Obanure, a universal Christian, captured this character trait well in his tribute at the RCCG Region 10 Headquarters Abuja’s Service of Songs for the good man on Monday 26, June, 2017. According to Enenche, a trained medical doctor (his wife too is a physician): “Obanure is indeed a Christian in whom there is no deceit….”He remembered the Ijumuland, Kogi-born graduate of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and the University of Ibadan as a true Christian whose good character was infectious. He added, “Obanure’s smile could be trusted as a Christian in this country now where most pastors’ smiles could mean something else as they are no longer Christians…” Enenche who was never a member of RCCG likened him to Nathaniel who Jesus himself (in John 1:47) described, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whomthere is no guile”. So it was with Obanure, in him there was no deceit. He wasn’t a denominational Christian.

As pastor in charge of the RCCG Central Parish in Wuse 11, Abuja, he often invited good and classical men of God that he knew, to preach the engrafted word and organize training seminars for parishioners. Pastors Enenche, Ibrahim Tukurah, Gbile Akanni, Moses Aransiola, Bishop Francis Wale Oke, Rev. G.F Oyor, etc most of them outside Abuja and the RCCG, were always on hand to preach at the Central Parish he built from scratch. It is today the Region 10 Headquarters. Again just like the biblical Barnabas, “For he was a good man, full of Holy Spirit and faith and a great number of people were brought to the Lord”. And so it was in Abuja where many people crossed over to the Lord because of the power of the character of David Olu Obanure in Abuja. Always smiling, an orator and good worshipper who never tolerated mediocrity even in dress sense and style, he also had a virtuous woman as a wife, Oluyemi, who was always in the background, modest, despite her aristocratic background and sound education.

Never once did any one see Pastor (Mrs.) Yemi Obanure with any pastoral pomposity as regional or state mummy, one of the little foxes that are beginning to spoil the vines everywhere in the household of God in Nigeria. Behind Pastor Obanure’s success was a strong woman who has been remarkably humble and full of faith and respect for parishioners. This reinforces a point that most of our leaders have been destroyed by the evil influence of their wicked, arrogant and intrusive spouses. As a team leader from Apapa to Abuja, through Abeokuta to Lagos even as a pastor in charge of the RCCG national headquarters in Ebute Metta, where a grand farewell ceremony (funeral) was held for him on Friday 30, June, the significant man would not be forgotten for always remembering every parishioner’s name and even their spouses.’ Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo was in attendance at the funeral.

Pastor Olu, was a great General in RCCG. This is part of the tributes of the General Overseer of the Church, Pastor E. A Adeboye wrote on Obanure: “…His sudden departure is painful and traumatic…We will miss Olu; tall, dark, handsome, soft spoken and humorous. He was the delight of any congregation and full of the Word, a great teacher and preacher… His departure was fast, sudden and peaceful. If only the Lord had granted us a couple of decades more…The Lord knows best and will uphold our daughter Yemi and all the children and the other members of the immediate and extended family…RCCG has lost one of its great Generals…”

And members of the Governing Council of the RCCG attested to the character of the good man when they wrote:” …You also lived a life of love for mankind and at each of the places God directed your steps to, you affected lives of men and women. As you return to your Maker, these ones are praising God for making you a blessing to them…” There are authentic testimonies about the life and times of Pastor Olu.

All told the significance of this tribute to a significant but not so prominent Pastor Olu is for us to begin to focus on the future of leadership in our country that is fast failing as a nation. We can see from this narrative that there is a strong nexus between character in leadership and development of organizations and nations. As Myles Munroe a significant writer on leadership once noted, this is a familiar but significant truth, which applies to our present leadership crisis. The author from the Bahamas who also transited in November 2014once noted, “You can lead people as far as you have gone yourself. And many of our leaders have not stepped up to the starting line of character development, let alone crossed over it….”

And so, I too believe that we must begin to find a new type of ethical leader, such as Pastor Obanure – from our governing institutions, our communities, our businesses, our families and ourselves, if we want real change. This is just to say farewell to a significant man, my Pastor Obanure.And to challenge our angry people to begin to reflect on the value of seeking only significant men and women as leaders since the prominent but empty ones have failed us and eaten our tomorrow because of their today.

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