I was once a bricklayer- Rev Wale Opeagbe reflecting on life @ 60

Reverend Wale Opeagbe is the Vicar of St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Old Obadore Road, Akesan, Lagos State. He is also an Assistant Synod Secretary, Diocese of Lagos West, Anglican Communion. He is a graduate of Bendel State University, Ekpoma (now Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma) and Lagos State University where he obtained his first and second Degrees respectively. He holds a postgraduate diploma in Journalism and also a Diploma in Theology as a result of his call to the ministry.
Born about six decades ago, Opeagbe had worked with Guardian Newspaper and a number of other news media. He co-authored the book, “Oba Oyebade Lipede, The Great Egba Monarch” published in 1997. He also co-authored, “A Living Testimony”, a biography of retired High Court Judge of Ogun State, Hon. Justice Babasola Opeoluwa Ogunade published in 2015 before he single-handedly wrote “The Good News of Christ” to be launched on October 11, 2018 his 60th birthday.
In this interview with Wilson Adekumola, he bares his mind on life at 60. Excerpts;
How was life with you in the beginning?
In the beginning things were not rosy. After my primary school education my parents could not raise money for me to further my education. I had to learn bricklaying to raise money. I was among the workers (Beccarreli Company Limited), a German Company that built The Punch Newspaper office at 1, Olu Aboderin Street, Onipetesi, Ikeja, Lagos. A brother-in-law of mine was a foreman there so I was learning the job under him. I learned the job for a period of time. I was about thirteen years old when Punch building was under construction then. Although I was very small I remember vividly that when they brought the machine, I asked what it was meant for and I was told it was meant for printing papers. It was later I discovered that the place was named the Punch Newspaper. I eventually took a strong decision to go to school because I saw the future. I started my secondary school evening lesson in Odu-Abore, Mushin-Lagos. After a year there I went to Premier Grammar School in Yaba, I also spent a year. I also attended Pobuna Grammar School, Poka, Epe. The school was founded by an orthodox church in Oyingbo, Lagos.
How were you able to combine bricklaying with schooling in spite of the tedious nature of the job?
Actually, it was not an easy task. But if you have strong determination there is nothing you cannot achieve. There was no commercial bike then. I had to trek from Olateju where we were living to Mushin and it was a far distance. It was when I closed from work by 5pm that I would join them at the lesson. My brother-in-law I worked with would carry me with his bike to and from work place. I was living with my sister then. Because of my quest for education, they put me in Premier Grammar School now Jibowu High School. At a point, they stopped me from going there. I spent one year there. I remember the first school fees I paid was N77, the school uniform and textbooks, inclusive. I was made a prefect throughout my days in the school. I knew that there was something peculiar about me that the school authority noticed. It could be my age or experience. I actually wanted to be a medical doctor. I went to Teachers’ Training College, Ota, Ogun State where I came out with flying colours in nine months instead of the normal three years. It was during Olabisi Onabanjo regime. Those who had attended secondary school with good grades were employed to teach in secondary schools. In fact we were the first set that taught in secondary school.
Where and how was your first experience as a teacher?
My first experience was at Egua Grammar School in Ogun State in 1980. By 1981, I gained admission to Ogun State College of Education, Ijebu Ode. When I graduated in 1984. I came out with credit grade. I later went for my Youth Service in Maman Vatsa Village in Niger State. We were the last batch of NCE Teachers that went for NYSC from College of Education. After my NYSC, Ogun State government employed me and I was posted to Coker Comprehensive High School, Ifo. After about a year, I was redeployed to Anglican Grammar School, Oke Nla. I was there till 1986 before I proceeded to the University. After that, I came to Lagos in 1990 to work with the Guardian Newspaper in Editorial Supplement Desk. That was when the new department was created at that time.
Sir, can we talk about your salvation?
Yes of course. I was born and raised in a real Christian family. I am a kind of person that loves going to church. At a particular time, I began to think of my salvation. That was when I was still in university, so I could possibly go to any place they discussed God. I went to retreats, crusades, and all that. I actually wanted to know more about the word of God. As matter of fact, I got born again during my university days.
After I had been married, while I was worshipping in my church, one day, there was a particular program called Equipping The Saints (ETS) that was announced. After the announcement, I was anxious to enroll. I went to the anchor man and I was enlisted. The man that started the program, David Dawson is in Canada. He came on our graduation day that was held in National Stadium, Lagos for all the students who undertook the course throughout the federation. At the ceremony, I was chosen to give a speech: Graduands’ Speech. I saw this as a privilege and an opportunity. It is a discipleship program. It was meant to train trainers.
Where did you serve in the church before you became a reverend?
Thank you very much. Before I became a reverend, I was a strong member of Anglican Youth Fellowship (AYF) in my church. I even rose to the post of Vice President. At the Diocese, I was the PRO. Along the line, I received the call to be God’s Minister but I was thinking of how I could cope with vigorous activities involved because I have young children. That is, moving my family from one place to another if I was posted. But God told me specifically that I should go, He would back me up and God has been faithful. In our Archdeaconry, I became the religious secretary of AYF. I was saddled with the responsibility of preaching wherever I went. Some members in my church advised me to go to seminary but I had no interest in the seminary. I had always dreamt and seen myself holding microphone in a crowd preaching to people. I have also experienced many things that ascertained my calling. I have been an Agent in the church (In Anglican Terms) before I went to seminary.
Has there been any temptation big enough that you could not stand?
I can’t say there is none since temptation is part of life. But God has been there each time the devil raised his ugly head. In as much as you are in the world, temptation will always be there no matter what. When you know the God you serve, you will always run from temptation. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:12 that “Be careful for those who think they stand, lest they fall. Why is He saying that? No matter your position, if you are not careful, you’ll discover you are in the mud before you know it. But if you hold on to the tenets and commandments of God you will always overcome.
At 60, what has been your high point that you would say God, “I thank you?”
There are still many of them. There was a time I fell sick but God healed me. During my service year in 1984, when we were travelling from Lagos to Niger State, we ran into herdsmen with their cattle from the bush and our car was almost a write off. It was a serious one but nobody died in the vehicle because of God’s miraculous intervention. That was just one of the scenarios I cannot forget in a jiffy. There are lots of them. Even when you sleep and wake up, it is a miracle. Somebody sent one message to me that when you set alarm and it woke you up, it is not the alarm that woke you. Take the same alarm to a mortuary and see how wonderful God is. God is a merciful God and He has been showing us His mercy. I can look back now and say “God I thank you for the journey so far”.
Sir, at this stage in your life what will you consider as your greatest achievement?
God has been our help since ages past. There are quite a number of things, God has done through me that I cannot remember now. I took over from a retired Priest, Venerable Olugboji, few years ago. I started construction work in the two-storey structure at St. Peter’s Anglican Church premises when I got here. My Lord Bishop, Rt. Revd. Dr. James Olusola Odedeji laid the foundation. The church was about 90 years when I got here. When we were in need of a big generator, we raised fund to get it. The Rt. Rev. Dr. and Mrs. Olusola Odedeji have been very supportive. Rain used to disturb the children when they were worshipping at the Old Sunday School building. I told the Bishop how we could raise fund when the church turned 90 to put a structure that would replace the open place at the back of the church used as Sunday School Centre. I told the members to let us build a new building and it worked. In November 2014 we laid the foundation and it is still under construction. The fact that members cooperate has really helped us to achieve a lot. Where there is unity and peace, progress is guaranteed. We intend to use the ground floor for children and it could also be used for events that will generate money for the church. The first floor would be for the Youths and the last floor as the Vicarage. The Vicarage we occupy is an old building and it is in a deplorable condition. The members and diocese have been exceedingly supportive. My wife and I and some members of the church also go out to source for fund. Now, I thought of celebrating my 60th birthday with a lot of people because I have only marked past birthdays with five friends or so when I clocked 30. But now I think it’s important we do something formal to give glory to God going by the struggles I have gone through. I think the birthday can be used to raise fund to complete this new auditorium. The spirit of God just ministered to me to go and check a particular place in the Bible, which is Matthew 6:19; “Do not lay up for yourself treasure on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal but lay up for yourself treasure in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal”. So this celebration is to the glory of God. While planning the day the Holy Spirit ministered to me to write a book titled, “The Good News Of Christ” to be launched on my 60thbirthday. The idea behind this is to raise money to complete the structure. By the grace of God our Lord Bishop and other dignitaries are expected there.
You said you wanted to become a medical doctor, did you regret not becoming one?
Not at all. When you talk about medical doctors, they cure the physical body but today I do not only cure physical body but also the souls of men and women through God that makes me a vessel. I see myself as a scriptural doctor. I just like to proffer solution to people’s problem. Of course when you cure souls you also cure the body directly or indirectly.
What is your priced possession?
I have a lot of them. First I want to thank God who saved me and redeemed me. I also want to thank God for my education. Nobody believed I would even complete secondary school education. My father died in 1978 when I was still in secondary school. That was about forty years ago when I was in class five. So it was my mother who carried the burden. I thank God for sparing my life as I still have a long way to go and a lot of things to achieve for God. I am fulfilled in marriag. My children are doing well in all their pursuits. So I thank God who helped me to achieve all these. I would not have achieved them alone.

Is your wife part of the ministry and how has she been supporting?
My wife is part and parcel of this ministry. She has been tremendously supportive. She is a Vice-Principal in one of the government secondary schools in Lagos here but she commits her time to the service of the Lord. She is a source of encouragement. She follows me to wherever they transfer me to. She has contributed immensely to my spiritual growth.
What is peculiar about Anglican Church?
Anglican Church is an end time church. I can say that anywhere because when you talk about Anglican we have the sound doctrine of the word. In Anglican, we don’t worship a particular person but we rather worship God. I am not trying to condemn any denomination but when you look at the setting of Anglican, you discover that if you leave this place for another place, you will still find the same structure there. In my Diocese, Lagos West, we have about three hundred or more churches under our Lord Bishop, Rt. Rev Dr, Olusola Odedeji and all of them are doing extremely well. Now you can find Anglican priests well-educated and knowledgeable who dish out the word of God to people accurately. Actually, there is no name like Anglican in the Bible. It is just “Christians”. And what God said is that we should bring people to Christ.
Some people have the notion that Anglicans are not real Christians, how will you react to this?
It is misjudment for anybody to think like that. Where they got it wrong is the issue of speaking in tongue. People now go to rehearse speaking in tongue. See what the Bible says about speaking in tongue in 1 Corinthians 13. What is the essence of speaking in tongue if you don’t love your neighbor? You don’t need to go for any training before you can speak in tongue. But today many people speak in tongues in Anglican. Speaking in tongues must be genuine, not the one you conjure together so that people can say you are a Christian. The issue of Christianity is beyond appearing in the church on Sundays, thinking we are believers when we cannot be the Bible people read. How did we come about Christianity? It is being Christ-like.
What is your message to Christendom?
First and foremost, there must be unity of purpose. We must unite. The issue of some people saying we are better than others must be discarded. It must fizzle out completely. We should look for a better way to correct ourselves when we are going astray. It should not be done in public. I have always told my people that if they see me doing what is not right, they can correct me in a positive way and I can do the same to them but not in the glare of the public. On the other hand, they must know us by our word and our words must be in compliance with the scripture. What we preach must reflect in our lives without hiding the truth.

About Gbenga Osinaike

Gbenga Osinaike is a 1992 graduate of Dramatic Arts from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. He specialised in Play-writing. He also holds a Master of Arts Degree from the University of Lagos. He was Assistant Editor in Punch Newspapers from where he resigned having worked for 13 years to start Church Times Nigeria in March 2007. He is currently the Nigeria representative of US based Institute of Global Church Studies and also the Publicity Secretary of the Lagos, Nigeria Chapter of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria. He is married and blessed with two children.

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