Ellis Oscar Ossai is presiding Bishop of CITY OF RFEUGE Ministries International a full gospel independent Pentecostal church. He was a one time resident pastor for Christian Action Faith Ministry under the leadership of Arch Bishop Nick –Duncan Williams. In this interview with Church Times, Ossai gives insight into nation building, how Christians can be involved in politics and his relationship with Pastor Tunde Bakare.
My born again experience
I was 14 years old when I met the Lord. I was sick and my sister came from a crusade to tell me that sick people were being healed. I went to the crusade later and I was healed and experienced salvation first hand. I was a foundation member of the Student Christian Movement at the University of Nigeria Nsukka where I studied Business Administration. I remember in those days, Chris Okotie was the one who ever dared to drink a bottle of beer in my room. By then he had not given his life to Christ. But later he surrendered to Jesus.
In Scripture Union we were trained to deny self. Many Scripture Union products did not have the courage to just start a church. If the total of pastors in Nigeria is 100 I doubt if you will find ten that have churches. We were trained to serve. In my case I did not set out to start a church. Leadership was trusted on me by Duncan Williams when he was leaving Nigeria .
In those days S.U people were inconsequential people. They were the laughing stock of the society. I was about the first person to get born again in my village and my uncle who was the first graduate in the community would come and make jest of me. They used to call me fearless when I was young but when I became born again I became a laughing stock. My parents were catholics and the entire community is catholic. We lived in embarrassment and people felt we were fools and morons. Some didn’t go to the university because of the kind of message we heard in those days. Then you could identify an S.U from afar. But it is better to start so deep before you get to the shallow end you would have died and gone to heaven.
For instance I don’t understand why a man would commit fornication and adultery. To sin is not easy for a child of God. When I see people who claim to be saved doing terrible things it amazes me. I’m not saying one may not fall but it is not easy to go on enjoying sin. My classmate who is a deputy governor of CBN was telling me one day that about 75 percent of the frauds committed in banks were carried out by pastors. In those days it was difficult to sin because there was a consciousness that we carry God in our lives. What we are experiencing is a spirit of the age. There is a message of grace that is false. We teach that grace covers multitude of sin but the same Bible says the grace of God has appeared to all men teaching us to deny all ungodliness. Grace is a teacher. It is an enabler to stay away from sin.
I used to be a business man. Unknown to many I was the one who supplied all the telecoms cables which they used to do the south west expansion of NITEL. That was in the 80s. God has used me to handle money and I did not mess up myself. I stopped doing business because I was delayed one day at the Whalf by customs people while trying to rush to come and do Bible Study and in the process of the being delayed, I heard a voice spoke to me that you cannot serve God and mammon. I heard God say you can’t serve God and mammon. That was how I stopped doing business to face ministry full time.
We had 14 plots of land which was demolished by the Lagos State Government. We are still in court and there has been no compensation. I suffered a lot of loss. Many left our church and many felt God did not call me into ministry because of the crisis. When it was demolished I was numb. We used to be in Alapere before we were sacked by government. The land was allocated to us properly and I don’t see why we had to suffer loss. It was so bad that my wife was so scared and I thought I would one day die in my sleep. But God helped me throughout that trial.
I was a founding member of PDP. I have not heard God tell me go into politics but my understanding is that my life should be able to change my circumstances. I went into politics as a pastor and I believe that God’s people are the people who should win elections. I was one of the delegates when Obasanjo was elected as the PDP man. Many of us don’t have understanding of what we are doing. Our messages lack substance because they are not based on experience. I remember when I went to politics, Tunde Bakare told my friend Taiwo Dina that I had backslidden. I’m waiting to see Bakare and ask if it was backsliding that pushed him into politics because I sincerely believe that if you are genuine in Nigeria you cannot but be involved in politics. In my thinking my conclusion is that we must get involved.
Historically there has never been a turning point in nations that are developed that was not introduced by the church. Democracy started in the church. Isaiah 33v22, God is our king, our judge and our law giver. That was the foundation that Calvin stood on to develop democracy. The three tiers of government was founded on this principle.
America was founded by pastors and preachers. The Quakers left Britain and went to Switzerland in Calvin Institute and when they came back they were looking for where they could serve God without being intimidated. They left United Kingdom with a ship called Mayflower and they landed in Virginia . Their first convert was a Red Indian, Hunters. Quakers were their own form of SU. The foundational document of the US constitution is called the Mayflower compact which is the agreement the pastors made on the ship. The first amendment of the US constitution was that government has no right to legislate on how we can worship.
Choice of worship is a fundamental human right. But unfortunately the western nations are getting it wrong. That is why we have to go back to the basis. I believe it is only within the platform of the church that people cannot be corrupt. It is only in the fear of God that we can have a corrupt free society.
God’s church still exists in the midst of the confusion.
We have learnt to depend on God. Before if I do not have money I would be afraid but God has taught me to depend on Him. I learnt that experientially. It has not been easy but God is helping us. My view is that we have to gather church people together and build a strong position on the economy of Nigeria . I don’t see why we should continue to run with the world bank pattern which is faulty. We don’t even have a private sector. Government should take over business and create jobs. 46 percent of the population does not have job. We need a massive approach. A people action is necessary in Nigeria . We will start with seminar. There is no nation that has developed today that accepted the World Bank proposal. Government should look for men who have passion.