On Saturday the 10th of December 2005, I was laying on my bed in my room when I heard the news that there had been yet another plane crash in Nigeria (the second in less than 7 weeks). I sat bolt upright wondering what the cause of the crash might be and concluding (maybe unreasonably or otherwise) that in all probability it was likely the result of the incompetence and negligence that generally pervades most things to do with Nigeria. At that moment, my thoughts went out to the families of the victims and I hoped that the victims did not suffer in the crash before they died. I did not feel that I knew anyone on the ill-fated flight.
The next day (which was Sunday the 11th of December 2005), I went to work for some overtime and when I got in, two of my work mates who are Nigerian walked up to my work-station and they started to talk about the crash. It was at this time that one of them told me that Pastor Bimbo Odukoya had been on the plane that had crashed. Upon hearing my shocked exclamation, she was quick to reassure me that she had been “reliably” informed that Pastor Bimbo was one of the seven people who had survived the crash. I asked her time and again about Pastor Bimbo’s safety and she reiterated that all was well with Pastor Bimbo. I made a mental note to give Pastor Bimbo a call the next day (thinking that she’d probably be bombarded with calls from well-wishers that Sunday) at the same time thanking God that she was alright and for giving me the opportunity to re-establish contact with her (in the past I had put off calling her)
At almost 3.00pm, my workmate came back to me looking quite flustered and said she was leaving for home. However, before she left, she dropped what happened to be a bombshell to me. She told me that Pastor Bimbo had actually lost her life in the crash. Time stood still. I gawped at her and did not particularly realise when she left. Somewhere in the distance, I could hear another of my workmates calling my name softly it seemed, then with some urgency (he realised that I must have gotten some shattering news). However, my mind was not there. Sitting at my work-station, I had begun a mental journey that spanned over 5years. I sat there thinking of the first time I had the privilege to meet Bimbo Odukoya (Associate Pastor of The Fountain of Life Church):
Dateline: May 2000 (and thereafter)
Venue: The Nigerian Law School, Bwari, Abuja. Nigeria
Sequence of Events:
I was a student at the Nigerian Law School in Abuja studying to become a solicitor and advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, and the Christian
Lawyers Fellowship of Nigeria (CLASFON) had organised a two-day programme with Pastor Bimbo Odukoya ministering. In the past, I had seen snippets of her programme ‘Single and Married’ on TV. However, it wasn’t my cup of tea as I had been of the opinion that people who attended the fellowship were either people who had relationship problems or those who were looking for husbands/wives.
I was persuaded by some of my old school mates to attend the event and I attended the first day of the ministering with a couple of my close mates. I was practically blown away by Pastor Bimbo. Contrary to what I had thought, the preaching was not dominated by what I had feared would be the “get yourself a good partner” message, but dealt with a wide gamut of issues ranging from the mundane to the sublime. Her message struck a chord in me. To say that I was impressed won’t even begin to cut the mark. Wild horses were not going to keep me away from the second day’s ministering which was to take place in the evening.
In the afternoon of the following day, Pastor Bimbo was doing a one-on-one counselling session alongside some people who came down with her (prior to her evening ministering). One of the organisers (Opeyemi) asked if I’d like to see her and since I had enjoyed the previous day’s programme, I was up for it.
[At this point, I must say that prior to my encounter with Pastor Bimbo, I had been one of those Christians who are content to sit on the fence. I was not a practising Christian. I seldom went to church as I did not want to be affiliated to any church. In fact I guarded my ‘spiritual independence’ very jealously. I was basically one of those Christians who was a Christian simply because I was born one and for no other significant reason. I held some extremely cynical views regarding Christian life in Nigeria, especially the direction churches in Nigeria were being run and I was quite vocal about my cynicism].
I was led into the room where the one-on-one sessions were being held and Opeyemi introduced me to Pastor Bimbo and told her that I held some radical views on Christianity. From the onset, Pastor Bimbo was very friendly and down-to-earth. She asked to hear about the views I held and wanted to know the rationale for those views. I walked her through my arguments and she was equally free with her opinions. She did not try to force her religious views on me. On the surface, her approach seemed laid back, but she was passionate and was extremely persuasive in her arguments too. She was enthusiastic about working for the Lord and I was quite intrigued. We talked for ages like old friends and the time just whizzed past (what should have been a 10 – 15 minute session ended up lasting well over an hour. We had to round up the session because she needed to get back into town to freshen up and prepare for the evening’s ministering). Whilst we chatted, there was a paradigm shift on some of the views I had hitherto held. At the end of the session, she gave me her card and invited me to attend her church in Lagos (Fountain of Life) to see if I liked it and said that if I did, I was welcome to become a member of the Fountain family. Just before I left, she asked by which name she should call me. I said she could call me ‘Ayo Morocco’ or simply ‘Morocco’ like my friends did. She preferred to call me Morocco and that was that.
t evening, I went for the programme and after the Praise and Worship session, we prayed and then Pastor Bimbo took over. She thanked us for having her and went on to say that she had made some new friends. I was taken aback when she asked “Is Morocco here tonight?” and my friends whooped. I stood up and raised my hand at the same time and she said to everyone “I had a very interesting time talking to Morocco this afternoon and I believe that we would remain friends.” She went on to minister for the rest of the evening and again I was impressed by the way she preached, particularly about her interest in the issues which were important to the younger generation, spinsters, bachelors (and even those already married). We closed the programme with a prayer and Pastor Bimbo left with her entourage.
After that programme, I became a member of CLASFON and in the subsequent months, completed my studies at the Law School.
I returned to Lagos in the middle of July 2000. On my first Sunday back, I decided to try out The Fountain of Life Church. I arrived there a little late for the second service and had to sit in the ‘overflow’ section. I enjoyed the service and made a mental note to come earlier next time so that I could see the Pastor on the pulpit (not just hear him) as well as the choir when they were singing.
After the service, I made some enquiries as to where I could see Pastor Bimbo and was directed to her office, which was located upstairs at the back of the church. Upon reaching the top landing, there were lots of people waiting to see both Pastors Bimbo and Taiwo. There were also some ushers trying to manage the throng of people as well as create a path for the Pastors to come through. I was standing in a corner somewhere towards the back half of the crowd when Pastor Bimbo came upstairs. She stopped to exchange pleasantries with people along the way her face scanning the crowd as she moved along. Her gaze fell on me for a split second and moved on. Then she did a double-take and literarily let out a cry saying “Morocco, you came”, and then turning to the people who had come upstairs with her, she went on, “You people should come and meet my friend Morocco.” I was delighted that she remembered me and gobsmacked at her reaction. She told them to let me through to her office.
Thus began my relationship with Pastor Bimbo in which she was my Pastor and Mentor. Despite her heavy schedule, she made herself easily accessible giving me her different phone numbers. Anytime I needed help and guidance, she was there providing me with words of wisdom, tapes, books and other materials for my spiritual edification and growth. She also introduced me to Mrs. Lara Akomolafe and said if I had any problems and she was not available, Mrs. Akomolafe would help me. Despite this, she still provided me with a listening ear and gave me invaluable advice on various issues I sought her opinion on.
A couple of years passed in this way and in 2002, while helping her to do some editing work, I told her that I intended to go to the UK for my Masters studies but couldn’t do so without getting a scholarship. She prayed with me and for me regarding the scholarship and told me to rest easy as she knew I’d get one. I was awarded not one but two scholarships and left the country in the autumn to undertake my Masters education. Initially, I kept in touch with Pastor Bimbo by calling her. But after a while, I let things slide. Then a friend of mine and someone else from the church got in touch with me and told me that she was trying to get in touch with me. I resumed contact, but once again, I lost touch. I subsequently tried to call her, but when I could not get through, I resolved to e-mail Lara Akomolafe to get her new number. I never got around to doing this as I kept putting it off till the next day (“I’ll do it tomorrow”, I said to myself day after day).