Zik Zulu Okafor
It was not a conference of prophets. It was never heralded as one. But it turned out prophetic. The prophecy? Change! And the fore-runner of this change to come is the Excel Conference.
This is the inspirational story of the Apapa family of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, under their leader, Pastor Idowu Iluyomade.
In 2007, the head of Apapa family, Pastor Asuquo Ernest Mfon, best known as Pastor Eskor, took a triumphant bow from mother earth. He was succeeded by a youthful, innovative and intellective lawyer, and pastor of the Kingâ€™s Court Parish of RCCG, Idowu Iluyomade, fondly called Pastor ID.
For a family that today comprises over 1500 parishes spread across Africa, USA, Europe, Asia and Oceania, Pastor ID, through a spiritual odyssey, cut a vision to create a rendezvous for a yearly convergence of these parishes spread across the globe. Welcome to the Excel Conference. But beyond being a confluence of spiritual erudition and musical ministration, Excel turned out a divine revolutionary platform that triggered unprecedented Christian social responsibility, CSR and curiously raised a voice for Change. And for five years this family dwelt on the Change factor which many an observer would later dub a prophecy for what happened in the political scene in 2015.
The object of this piece however is not to interrogate the veracity of this political hypothesis. The focus rather is a post mortem as Excel turns the next page at ten.
And come Sunday, June 4, 2017, at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos, beginning 7.00am, Excel will once again be re-enacted, as the General Overseer, Pastor Adeboye mounts the pulpit. But this will only be a climax to a decade of astounding unique spiritual experience capped annually with staggering charity projects.
Now, letâ€™s rewind. At the inaugural conference in 2008 with the theme Regrouping to Relaunch, the Apapa Family rebranded its social reformatory vehicles to become more relevant to society. Ten water bore-holes drilled for Nigeria Police Barracks at Alausa, MOPOL 22, Ikeja and MOPOL 20, Area F, all in Lagos, beamed a flood light into the beneficent heart of the Apapa Family. From this moment, this band of change agents would collaborate with Lagos state government and other public sector institutions in establishing projects in areas of healthcare, education, infrastructure, citizen welfare and capacity building.
This Family extended the boundaries of hope and altruistic love in 2009. Spurred by that yearâ€™s Excel theme of Impacting Your World, these gallant soldiers for God worked alongside the quietly celebrated operators of the Mercy Ship, a 67-bed hospital in a ship which that year, berthed at the Port of Cotonou in Benin Republic. In a soul-lifting undiscriminatory gesture, the Apapa Family sent members of the public, irrespective of their faith or tribe for specialized surgeries on facial tumors, cleft lips, cleft palates and cataracts.
In the same year, Apapa Family endowed N50 million Professorial Chair in Mathematics at the University of Lagos, in honour of their General Overseer, Pastor Adeboye, who indeed holds a doctorate degree in Applied Mathematics. The endowment was first of its kind by any individual or faith-based organization in Nigeria. This family, in the next five years would endow professorial chair in Mathematics in honour of the G.O to the tune of about N250 million in leading Nigerian universities including University of Ibadan, Obafemi Awolowo University, and University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
With political leaders and umpires calling the wrong shots, with public institutions, ministries, parastals and agencies showing palpable decay as corruption stank, and governance withered, Excel of 2010 revved a sound that is still today at issue. Leading Change was the theme. For the Apapa Family, it was clear that the social, economic and political prognoses of the time challenged both their faith and grace in the race to save a withering nation.
For this reason, at the Leadership Dinner that hallmarked the yearâ€™s Excel, Apapa Family invited the young inspiring political figures of the time that included Raji Fashola, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and Olusegun Mimiko, all state governors at the time, plus the world renowned Bahamian evangelist, speaker, author and Leadership Consultant, Myles Monroe (now late), who served as the Guest Speaker. Together, they set an agenda for change through raising a new people to reconstruct their nation and sustain a march towards their envisioned Nigeria.
In 2011, the Apapa Family established the Cancer Screening and Diagnostic Centre in Suru-Lere, Lagos with the Excel theme of Impact Through Change, which indeed has screened over 100,000 people at subsidized rates.
With Change Catalyst in 2012, the Apapa Family raised the profile of their poverty alleviation programme, feeding about 60,000 people every Sunday in Lagos. This humane venture called A Can can Make a Difference which mainly touches people on the lower wrung of the ladder delivered over 400 million packs of food in the last 10 years. With about N682 million spent on this programme every year especially in the last six years, Apapa Family, has expended about N2.5 billion just so that those weak and vulnerable people that the vicissitudes of life have rendered destitute, may have a decent meal, at least, once a week.
This great family in a quiet revolution of hope, broke new grounds and raised the bar in Christian Social Responsibility, CSR, as they installed solar-powered lights in five streets at Akala in Mushin, a suburb of Lagos. Then came 2013, Excel called on Nigerians to Be the Change as they set up Healing Stripes- Dialysis and Diagnostic Centre, which to date, has attended to over 13,000 patients at subsidized costs, irrespective of religion or tribe. Still it gives 30 free dialysis sessions every month and has carried out over 3,500 free dialysis since officially opened in 2013.
This massive medical initiative is complimented by Arise Women, an initiative of Pastor Siju Iluyomade, wife of the head of Apapa Family. Since its maiden conference in 2009, over 5000 women have been impacted and inspired to drive the needed change in their families while several thousands have benefitted from the Arise Womenâ€™s free medical screening in the areas of HIV tests, Eye tests, cervical Cancer, Blood Pressure and Sugar Level tests among others.
Today, the Apapa Family is reconstructing and equipping an Intensive Care Unit, ICU, at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, to be named after the RCCGâ€™s General Overseer and his wife, Pastors Enoch and Folu Adeboye.
The year 2015 ushered in the theme of Riding on the Wings of Change. This was the year that a Presidential candidate, using the Change mantra defeated an incumbent president for the first time in Nigeria. Questions were then raised on whether the Apapa Family was being prophetic, whether they saw tomorrow and whether they inspired the political party.
With Sustaining Change in 2016 leading to equipping of 350 primary schoolsâ€™ libraries in Lagos with a promise to make it 500, the Apapa Family sits back after a decade of Excel to look at The Pains and Gains of Change.
But for pastor ID, it is all gain, for in his words, â€œit gives us infinite pleasure to contribute to Godâ€™s work, assured as in First Samuel, Chapter 2, that â€œthose who honour God, God will honourâ€.
Long Live Apapa Family! Long Live Redeemed Christian Church of God!
—Zik Zulu Okafor, Nigeria Media Merit Award winner, wrote from Lagos.