The bell finally tolled for Rev. Moses Iloh on Sunday September 16. 2018. He was 88. His lone voice will no longer be heard. But his cry against injustice and the perversion of the church by charlatans will continue to echo in the minds of many.
Iloh, who until his death was the General Overseer of Soul Winning Chapel, Ebute Meta, Lagos was a man with incredible ability. He did not succumb to the downside of old age. Until his death he still engaged in sociopolitical discourse and had expressed deep concern for the country and the church at every given opportunity.
His natural strength did not abate. He was relevant in politics, in sports, in labour union activities and a host of other areas of human interest. He was ex-chairman International Cycling Federation and Founder of Eccletic Network, a socio-political pressure group that has over the years distinguished itself in Nigeria’s political space.
He was a reporter’s delight. Dadddy Iloh as some chose to call him had nothing to hide. He was always willing to answer the reporter’s question and would give deep and incisive perspective to issues. Apart from speaking to authority, Iloh spoke more to the church. His desire was to enthrone righteousness in the country. He was deeply appalled by the lack of cohesion in the church and the deep rooted division among church leaders.
His upbringing played a great role in shaping his personality and his passion for the poor. His own father whom he described as highly sophisticated in an interview with a news medium had implanted in him the love for the poor. He said of his father in the interview that “every Saturday, he would find time to go to the market in Jos where we grew up. You know northerners didn’t wear shoes at that time, so, they were always prone to Jiga; an infection that eats up their toes. So, my father would come to the market every Saturday, with a pair of forceps, carbolic and cotton wool, and will bring out their Jiga and clean it, and sterilise their toes. And as for my mother, a midwife nurse; for all the hundreds of children she delivered, she rarely charged a dime. Our parents taught us to be mindful of the poor and take good care of them.”
It was that orientation that characterized his life for the eight decades and eight years that he lived. His church was open to all and you could be sure that no matter who you were Pa Iloh would spare time to listen to you. His love for the poor was infectious. His wife, Edith cooperated so much with him in this regard. In the environment where their church is situated, they rallied indigent folks, widows and those who have challenges attending to their needs. His love for the poor perhaps was what informed his participation in politics. He was active member of the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU), led by Mallam Aminu Kano; and later the National council of Nigerian Citizens, NCNC, led by the Great Zik. He was also a member of the Zikist Movement which included patriotic young radicals like Mokwugo Okoye, Chike Ekuyasi, Osita Agwuna, Tunji Otegbeye, Adewale Fashanu among others. He was a member of the British Red Cross. When it was time for the British to hand over, following independence he had the singular privilege to lower the British Red Cross flag and hoisted for the Nigerian Red Cross flag the first time, at a parade at the famous Tafawa Balewa Square.
For Rev Iloh that privilege was a historic moment. “It was Divine I never expected it.” He told a news magazine in an interview.
It seems his father had so much influence on him. His voyage into sports was also influenced by his father who was also a sportsman. His father had a private football team known as Royals. He played in that club. The company where he worked, Amalgamated Tin Mining Company had a football club known as Amaltinco Football Club. It was a very good team. It was the team that formed the nucleus of Plateau XI which were the first soccer players in Nigeria, to play in football boots.
He recalled in an interview he granted The News Magazine that his team tried to win the Challenge Cup but it could not. He said, “Several times we would get to the final, only to lose. At a stage, we had to reach out to Thunder Balogun. We played together for Plateau XI; unfortunately, he could not replicate his goal scoring streak to earn us victory; throughout his stay in the Plateau XI. We would get to the final, only to lose. Our battle ground at that time was the King George V Stadium, later Onikan Stadium, now named after Thunder Balogun. It was a great privilege to play on that field in those days.”
Indeed, talking with Rev Iloh would give you an insight into the history of Nigeria’s politics, sports and religion. The indices were on his fingertips.
The Eclectic Network, a socio-political pressure group he founded alongside Chief Bola Ige who is also late played great role in the politics of the country. The group was meant to inject sanity and righteousness into politics and nation building. Eclectic Network has made considerable impact on the society. It created awareness among a host of people especially youths into the arena of socio-political activism. It had trained a lot of youths, who today are playing positive roles in the affairs of the nation; and are models for others to emulate. A lot of them are independent today, with their own NGOs and socio-political pressure groups.
He was the longest serving Chairman of International Cycling Federation. He took the body from the scratch to world class level. One of his regrets however was that government did not appreciate his efforts. He lamented in the interview with The News Magazine “I had thought, which is only human; that the Nigerian government would appreciate my efforts, instead, they accused me of speaking to the press. When the International Olympic Committee, through the Nigerian Olympic Committee, showed appreciation for my contribution, at the ceremony, where I received the award, I said I was disappointed and humiliated, because I had felt that my country would be the first to honour me with an award. But on a second thought, one soon realised that you have to steal here in Nigeria in order to be honoured; so I don’t really need the award in the ultimate analysis.”
Papa Iloh was indeed a family man. When his marriage clocked 50 he reignited the union by going to the altar with his wife again. His wife an ex-beauty queen was a big treasure for Rev Iloh. He had described her in superlative terms as a physical manifestation of Bible’s position that he who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favour from the Lord.
He decried the role of church leaders in politics. He said, “The role of the clergy in Nigerian politics is very disappointing. The Nigerian clergy, due to impulsiveness, greed and lack of proper grasp of the intricacies of Nigerian politics, seemed to have plunged headlong into politics ignorantly. No wonder that they go from one error to the other.”
Indeed, this Jesus’ soldier would be greatly missed both in the church and the country as a whole.