Nigeria is one of the most religious nations on earth and as expected, the history of the country is full of many remarkable leaders of religion. One of these was the late Prophet Samuel Bilewu Joseph Oschoffa, the pastor and founder of the Celestial Church of Christ (Nigeria Diocese). He remains one of the most influential religious leaders in the history of Nigeria so when he died; it sent massive shock waves across the country. But how did he die? This is the gripping story of how Pa Oschoffa passed on. It all started on the 1st of October, 1985 and Abiyamo presents it to you.
On that fateful day, Oschoffa and two assistant evangelists who worked closely with him, Thomas Chukwuemeka Benissan and Godwin Oritse Clement Macmetsantrun, embarked on a pastoral journey. They were travelling from the Ketu International Headquarters of the Celestial Church of Christ (CCC) to the Mokola branch of the church in Ibadan, Oyo State. Their goal was to attend a harvest thanksgiving service but unfortunately for the trio, they would never reach their destination or set their eyes on the church in Mokola.
They were travelling on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway in a Mercedes-Benz when all of a sudden there was an explosive sound. One of the tyres had burst and the car went into a series of frightening somersaults. It was a very bloody affair. By the time the car reached a spot, both Benissan, 37, and Macmetsantrum, 52, died on the spot. They were some of his closest aides but he did not know that they had died. Interestingly, Oschoffa himself escaped without a scratch, without any visible injuries. He was rushed to a hospital to get medical evaluation and attention.
At first, he was rushed to a hospital based on Ring Road in Ibadan. Later, Oschoffa demanded that he be taken to Labi Hospital at Ilupeju in Lagos. But three days after the devastating accident, Oschoffa asked again that he be taken to another hospital. He was transferred to the First Shadrach Hospital and there, he chose to be accommodated in the penthouse of the hospital.
Throughout this ordeal brought to you by Abiyamo, Oschoffa was very worried about his aides and he kept asking of them but he was told they were receiving treatment at a hospital in Ibadan. They were too scared to tell him of the tragic demise of his assistant evangelists. Oschoffa said he wanted them to be around him so he could help them. Unknown to the CCC church leader, the cases of his aides were already beyond any mortal intervention. He was so worried that he told well-wishers in his room:
‘If anything should happen to them the consequence would be disastrous. They are too young to die. I should die instead.’
While he was staying at Shadrach Hospital, Oschoffa displayed a constant change in his personality and mood. At some moments, he was reported to have talked ‘like an extraordinary being’ and at such times, he would speak like any other human being and he said during such moments:
‘I cannot die in an accident…I cannot sleep in my home…there are too many enemies.’
Those who were with him said he appeared not afraid to die but he was very subtle, mild and gentle in his preference to stay alive for more years. He said:
‘Here (Shadrach Hospital) is peaceful. I wish I could live here forever.’
It was never revealed what got Oschoffa so scared that he did not stay in his home in his last days but whatever the case, the hope he had soon succumbed to despair. The signs of death were too palpable for him to ignore. He decided to express him and told some of his church elders:
‘When the time of God comes, man will just sleep and pass away.’
The last three days of Oschoffa on earth have been described as being similar to the Last Supper of Jesus Christ and the vigil in the Garden of Gethsemane. This is a recap of the last 72 hours of Oschoffa’s life:
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 1985: Oschoffa conducted a brief service of thanksgiving with members of the Board of Trustees of his church and a few elders in the penthouse of the hospital.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 1985: He held what would later become the last meeting with the top church hierarchy from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. During this meeting, he warned his lieutenants of the leadership tussle and crisis that was going to engulf the church and he outlined how to solve it. It was in a post-service chat that the death of his aides was cluelessly leaked to him. It was as if a thunderbolt had hit him, Oschoffa felt terribly bad about the news. Some of those who were present felt the bombshell should not have been dropped on him. By the next day, Oschoffa was dead but even his final moments were quite interesting indeed.
On his final day on earth, 10th of September, 1985, Oschoffa prayed early in the morning with some of the nurses on duty. After the prayers, he sank into his chair with his massive six-foot frame and as he leaned on the back rest, he clasped his hands in prayer mood. It was in that position that he died, some even thought he was meditating but Oschoffa was already gone.
At his last moments on earth, it was clear that he was expecting the end and he prepared himself for it. He told sympathizers and relatives at his bedside:
‘Jesus Christ died. He was only 33. Why shouldn’t I die? I’m 76. The hour has come for me to be sacrificed. The time is here for me to leave this life. I have done my best in this race. ’
And he did. He was 76. But what followed next would be more dramatic. Stay tuned to this page for the next chapter of the saga.
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THANKS FOR YOUR TIME.
- Dele Omotunde, Wale Oladepo, Soji Omotunde, R. Omonubi and Akin B., The Passage of Oschoffa, Newswatch, November 4, 1985, pages 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17.
- Celestial Church of Christ, Palace of Liberty