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-Archbishop Benson Idahosa

*How Idahosa’s Faith withstood opposition by military dictatorship.

From Church Gist Archives

On 21 March 1971, while in a worship service at Iyaro in Benin City, Papa Sydney Granville Elton and Gordon Lindsay ordained Pastor Benson Idahosa into ministry before about 250 people believing he was going to be a key instrument in the work of God in Nigeria.

The unfinished 500 capacity Iyaro Church, Idahosa’s first church project which had been under construction for over a year was also declared open.

By the end of 1973, after his first crusade held at the stadium in Benin City, a total of 4 branches of Church of God Missions (CGMI) existed in Benin while the number of branches around Nigeria had grown to 100. Attendance at the Iyaro Church had also grown to about 2000 soon after completing the project. In keeping with his belief of a ministry building that keeps up with the times, and to accommodate the influx of converts, Idahosa laid the foundation of another church to be called (Faith) Miracle Centre, on airport road, Benin City on Saturday 1st December, 1973.

The new 4,000 capacity (CG estimate) church building was dedicated on Sunday 9th November, 1975 by Mrs. Freda Lindsay.

At that time, Nigeria’s new Military Government led by General Mohammed was carrying out various reforms affecting all parts of the Nigerian Federation.
In a short time, General Murtala Muhammed’s policies won him broad popular support and his decisiveness elevated him to the status of a folk hero.

Going back to Idahosa. By December 1975, over 100 more churches had been opened and with a total of about 300 churches under his administration, Benson Idahosa had become the pastor of one of the largest Pentecostal churches in Nigeria and perhaps Africa.

The CGMI Church complex which became the World Headquarters of CGMII also included a staff quarters, international offices and several institutions within the mission including the Bible School.

It was with shock however that the young and budding ministry received news on 6th January 1976, that the Federal Military Government of Nigeria had decreed that the Miracle Centre and other structures were to be demolished because of their proximity to the airport.

“Miracle Centre to go down!’’ was the sensational news headline on several daily newspapers of the day. Two of these newspapers, Daily Times and New Nigerian were federally controlled. The news was clearly authentic and not a rumour.

Later when the television carried it as part of the late evening news, it sounded great to both the ungodly and critics alike. Like it usually happens up till today, many were glad.

Miracle Centre, the new celebrated structure, a symbol of the growth of Pentecostalism and Infact Christianity…to go down?

Saints and sinners were shocked. But while the saints were moved to holy indignation by the shock, sinners celebrated, clapped, sang and danced for joy.

Idahosa called his church leaders together and discussed the matter considering possible reasons for the plan to pull down the newly built and dedicated church.

It was true that the Church was close to the Benin Airport, but did it really constitute a nuisance to airport operations?

A popular complaint against Pentecostal churches then and now in this part of the world was that they were noisy and people usually blame the loud chorus singing, the trumpet blasts and the clashing cymbals as evidence .
However, the airport authority could not lay such a complaint because no so-called noise from the church could be in any way comparable to the noise of aircraft landing or taking off at the airport. Also, if the reason for the proposed demolition of the church building was the intention to expand the airport runway, there was a Nigerian Air Force barracks which was separated from the church premises by a street of some 5 metres wide. Reverend Idahosa reasoned that If the expansion of the airport could be maneuvered away from the barracks, the same could also be done for the Miracle Centre.

Again, a possible reason for the proposed demolition could have been the height of the Miracle Centre Church building which could interfere with the landing and taking-off operations of aircraft.

Yet again, it was reasoned that such could not be a tenable reason because the height of the Air Force telecommunication mast which was located at the neighbouring barracks was much higher.

The reason Idahosa and his other leaders arrived at was that the enemies of the Gospel did not want the banner of Christ in form of a church building to confront visitors and users of the airport. “They possibly did not want anything Christian close to the airport” Idahosa thought.

Accordingly, the Church council decided that the Miracle Centre should not be pulled down, even though a Federal military government had so decreed.ChurchGist.

The Sunday following the order of the Federal Government’s Supreme Military Council (SMC), worshippers came to the Miracle Centre with heavy hearts and apprehension. Many even wondered why a young Christian Mission was facing so much opposition while many older missions in the city had little or no trouble.

However, according to Idahosa, they were to understand that “only the living can have problems and oppositions.”

On the Sunday following the government’s announcement. Pastor Idahosa climbed unto the pulpit and from that precarious position; he announced that the Miracle Centre would NOT GO DOWN!

This was daring. It was not a democracy where he could easily go to court to get an injunction that would be backed by law. It was a decree by a dictatorship.

Instead ‘decreed Idahosa’, those who desire its fall will go down.

He made the same announcements on radio and television during the usual Christian air-time programmes.

On hearing all these, the then Head of State, Brigadier (later General) Murtala Mohammed according to Press reports asked,” how would Idahosa do it?”

“I pray to God” responded Idahosa.

During this trying period, Idahosa undeterred continued ministering with revelation and power at the Miracle Centre.ChurchGist.

Less than 5 weeks after Idahosa’s announcement, Lt Col Bukar Sukar Dimka and other coupists struck and the Head of State was removed in a bloody coup d’état on 13 February 1976. The coup failed eventually but Murtala lost his life around Ikoyi while on his way to work early in the morning.

Idahosa later said, “I was not part of the coup, but I have God that still answers His prophets by fire from Heaven. The Lord God of Elijah is alive and well. If I be a man of God, let fire come down and consume the enemies of righteousness!”

General Olusegun Obasanjo replaced Murtala Mohammed soon after and nothing was ever heard of the demolition again.

The Faith Miracle Centre now pastored by Bishop Wale Ajayi is not just standing but still a much celebrated centre of worship today.

Not only that, the Nigerian Air Force has also built a Military church adjacent to the Faith Miracle Centre with both of them opposite and within a distance less than about 150 metres from the Benin Airport.

Matthew 16:18-19

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Courtesy: “From Heaven to his Generation: The Life and Times of Archbishop Benson Idahosa”.

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