In a couple of weeks, the Apapa Family of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, will be celebrating its annual event tagged ‘Excel’, a corporate social responsibility initiative of the church. Mary Ekah writes that this year’s edition coincides with the silver jubilee celebration of the Apapa Family, which will feature activities that will re-enact everything the family stands for
Every year, the Apapa Family of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), holds its annual Excel event, a corporate social responsibility (CSR) scheme, with various activities lined up to excite, inspire, impact and edify its members and particularly, the society at large. However, this year’s Excel, which marks the 25th year of existence of the Apapa Family comes with considerable excitements. The reason being that it will be celebrating its silver jubilee at this year’s event which, has the theme, “Sustaining Change”.
Holding between Saturday, June 4 and Sunday 5 at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos, this year’s edition will be focusing on harnessing the thrust of change championed by the Apapa Family since its inception 25 years ago. The event which will feature amongst other things, provincial football tournament, musical concert, completion of the book library project, the grand celebration of 2016 Excel and 25th anniversary Thanksgiving service to be presided over by the General Overseer of the RCCG, Pastor E.A Adeboye, which will kick start with gospel musical concert.
Speaking to journalists recently on the 25 years existence of the Apapa Family, the Excel 2016 and the initiatives it has so far embarked on to affect the society and the nation at large, the Pastor-in-charge of Region 20 and Head of the Apapa Family, Pastor Idowu Iluyomade, restated that this year’s Excel celebration is significant in the sense that God has kept the Family, sustained its work and its vision for 25 years.
“This year’s Excel celebration is more special because Apapa, is clocking 25 this year and this year’s celebration of Excel is a lot more bigger and better because it is celebration of God’s instrument for 25 good years”, Iluyomade noted.
On this year’s theme ‘Sustaining Change’, Iluyomade said, “We are celebrating the 25 years of the existence of the Apapa Family with the theme ‘Sustaining Change’ because we believe that one of the things that can best describe Apapa Family is change. We have been talking about change for so long even as we are transforming lives; transforming the society at large and doing things that endure. We are so excited that God has kept us together as a body and that 25 years on, we are still relevant in the scheme of things.”
On the highlights of this year’s event, the cleric said the 25th anniversary celebrations would kick off on Saturday, June 4 at 6pm with a three-hour non-stop musical concert featuring Nathaniel Bassey, Chioma Jesus, Wale Adenuga and Cobhams Asuquo amongst other leading gospel artistes. While on Sunday, June 5, at 7.00am comes the main Excel celebration service, which will be presided over by the General Overseer of RCCG, Pastor E.A Adeboye at TBS, Lagos. Expected at the silver jubilee celebration is the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who is a member of the Apapa Family and Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode amongst other dignitaries coming from all over the globe.
As in past Excel celebrations, Iluyomade hinted that there will be free feeding and medical checkup for all at the service. “During the grand finale celebration of the silver jubille and Excel 2016 celebration, there is going to be free feeding for every one that come as well as free medical care. There is going to be free transportation all over Lagos as well”, he further said.
The celebration will also extend to ensuring that its corporate social responsibility activities for this year are adequately put in place. “We are going to continue our signature project because for each year, we have signature projects, which is our corporate social responsibility (CSR). We are so strong on CSR because we believe that churches should be given back to the society and we have institutionalised some of the things that we are doing”, the Head of Apapa Family noted.
The Apapa Family, he explained, is a group of people that gives bountifully to the society, adding, “We are operating under what we call the eight spheres of spiritual governance and so we have impacts in the social, healthcare, education, media, business and economy; art, culture and entertainment; government and politics and sports.
Elaborating on the various projects that the Apapa Family has embarked on so far, he said, “We feed 60,000 people every week in Lagos and we have done that in the past three years and that has cost us well over N3 billion. And that is just an aspect of what we are doing and we have soup kitchen all over Lagos and we just want to ramp up that with a food bank. We also have rehabilitation centres and over the years we have been doing all kinds of things, we have a Prison Ministry.
“It has equally intervened in the area of entertainment; media and music by producing TV soaps like Heavens Gate, Oasis and at the moment is planning to shot a movie. For the past 12 years we have had Heavens Gate, an evangelical soap, and the latest one we have is Oasis and right now is number one viewers’ choice and the plan now is to shot a movie so that we can have a greater reach. We are working on some movies right and would be unveiled very soon.
“We are changing the culture in record label/artiste relationship. In the past we have situation where the record label makes all the money while the artiste goes home with more or less stipend but with our record label, we want to change that culture though our record label so that all gospel artists that are signed on our label get a better deal than they have ever done”, the cleric noted.
Iluyomade said the Apapa Family believes the gospel music space needs to be changed so that the kind of lyrics and songs that are out there are those that edify, inspire and encourage.
“We have our own record label, which is called Excel Record Label and it is an offshoot of the talent hunt I mentioned earlier. And right now we are in the sixth edition. Every year we encourage these children from all over globe to come together and express themselves. As part of the celebration, on May 30th we would be having the grand finale of this talent hunt which, like I said, is called “God’s Children Got Talents” where the first winner will win a prize cash of N5m, he/she will be encouraged and mentored with the musical piece that he does to wax a record carrying the Excel Record label.”
On aspect of educational empowerment, which the church has heavily embarked on, Iluyomade said, “We have various projects like the Leadership Training School, Bible Collage and then we have various programmes that teach people about skills acquisition, right now, we are partnering with Microsoft to give free training to those who are interested in up scaling their skills in IT sector. We are strong on teaching because we believe that through teaching you can transform lives and build leaders for the nation. Virtually all the Apapa churches have skills acquisition improvement schemes under their wings.”
As part of these programmes, he said the church also trains teachers in the public schools so that they can acquire skills, noting, “The way many of us were taught while in school has changed and you need to change with the tide. The attention span of children is shorter now and that is why they use a lot of graphics and music; the teaching skills have changed and these are some of the things we want to deploy to our schools and other schools we are partnering with by providing adequate teaching aids and also exposing students to the latest technology so that teaching and learning will be fun.”
Speaking further, he said, “In the sphere of education, our project is to equip 500 public schools libraries this year. We started last year and we believe God that we are going to complete the plan to equip 500 public schools’ libraries in Lagos State. So far we have done 300 and we believe God that before the celebration, we would have completed the 500.”
Also in the area of enhancing education, the Apapa Family had endowed a chair in the name of its General Overseer, E. A. Adeboye for Mathematics in five Nigerian universities at sum of N50m every year and has done that for five years.
Revealing further the impact of the Apapa Family on the society, Iluyomade said, “It is instructive that we have a professional football club and our women are in the premier league and are playing. We are not only about playing but we are transforming that space.”
The Apapa Family has also impacted tremendously in the health sector as it has saved lives of so many Nigerians. “We realised that about 30 million Nigerians were in need of dialysis intervention and the nation needed about 12,00 dialysis machines but in the country we have less than 200 dialysis machines that are operational and so we established a hospital that has 10 dialysis machines to contribute to our own quota to the improvement of healthcare delivery system in the country and every month, we offer 30 free dialysis sections and we have partnered with some hospitals and we have done about six kidney transplants in collaboration with our foreign partners. At our hospital we treat people at subsidised rates. We also have a cancer-screening centre in Surulere also to screen people but for those that cannot visit our hospital, we have mobile clinics and s we go to the hinterlands to give the medical attention.”
He said that Apapa Family has in the last 25 years done quite a lot globally but that this year the main focus is finishing the project that it embarked on last year, which is quipping the libraries of 500 public schools in partnership with Lagos State.
He was quick to add that every thing done by the church is for all and sundry without discrimination on religion or tribe while the church financesevery project carried out by the church with supports from various corporate organisations.
“I think the culture is changing in the sense that when the corporate organisations who initially discriminate or do not want to partner with religious organisations like ours, when they saw the transparency in our corporate governance and the impact we have made, were easily convinced to partner with us and this automaticallyincreases the number of people’s lives we can touch. For example, after we have bought our first mobile clinic, we got some organisations that put down their money together to get us another mobile clinic which cost about N28 million”, he added.
Iluyomade also revealed that apart from the education and health sector, the church has also impacted lives in the area of electricity.
“We also provide electricity by providing streets lights powered by solar energy in the areas like Mushin and Kirikiri which has in turn reduced crimes in those areas and then increased and improved night trading thereby enhancing commerce”, he said.
On what the future holds for Apapa Family, the Head of the family said, “We believe that God has helped us a lot and when you say Apapa, some call it an idea, some call it a family, some call a church, some call it a movement while some can not even place, so they call it a spirit while some cannot even explain it but can see. But for us Apapa Family is an ideology; a collection of doctrines and beliefs shared by members of the group. It can be described as a set of conscious and unconscious ideas, which make up one set of belief, motivation and expectation. Now this is something that cannot die but endures. So it’s an idea and I believe that things can only be better for us in our nation because of the input of the family and we see the Apapa Family and what it stands for as a catalyst of change.
We see people studying the family and what we have done in the past 25 years and how we have done it and using them as templates to excel in life. So, I believe that apart from the fact that there is going to be tremendous growth, this is a journey of exceedingly greatness that has no end and that will shine brighter and brighter as we go along and at the end we would see that our lives and that of the entire nation will be transformed. And for this current government that has a member of the Apapa Family, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, you can see that its mantra, what they have been talking about is change, as that story of change is heralded and talked about, there would be a transformation, not only for the churches of the people but for our nation and we can only trace all these to the spirit of the Apapa Family, which started 25 years ago”, he claimed.