Prophet Gabriel Evans is the founder of Celestial Church of Christ (CCC), City of David parish, Onireke, Ibadan. In this interview with OYEDAPO OYEWOLE and NEWTON ANTHONY, he sheds light on the age-long leadership tussle that has engulfed the Celestial Church of Christ (CCC) worldwide, his views on the sudden death of Pastor T.B. Joshua, and President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. Excerpts:
For persons who may not have been opportune to meet you, can we know you?
Generally, people call me Prophet Evans. My name is Prophet Gabriel Evans, I am the Senior Shepherd of Celestial Church of Christ (CCC), City of David Parish, Onireke, Ibadan. I am the head of Arch Diocese ‘C’ under Nigeria diocese which covers 23 to 30 churches. I am a member of the Pastors-in-Council of Nigeria Diocese and our Pastor is Reverend Pastor P.I. Togbe, who is the Pastor and Supreme Head, CCC Worldwide. Basically, the Celestial Church of Christ is divided into two because of the crisis within. We have the Trustees and the Diocese. We are the Diocese who believes in the liberation of shepherds. We believe clergies should be able to appoint who leads them. We are laities and we believe laity should be able to appoint a spiritual leader for themselves. We don’t believe that members of the Board of Trustees should appoint a leader for a spiritual organisation.
We believe that in the Catholic Church, which is the first church, whether we like it or not when the Pope dies, the Knight of the Catholic Church cannot appoint a Pope for the Catholic Church. The Cardinals meet to appoint a Pope. The Cardinals are senior members of the church which is the highest rank in the Catholic Church. The Cardinals are the highest ruling body within the Catholic Church. So when a Pope dies, the Knights of the Catholic Church have no right to appoint a Pope, it is the Cardinals that will go onto Conclave in Rome, and in the Conclave, they may spend three days, they may spend seven days or even nine days, depending on what they want. And at the end of the day, smoke will come out and a new Pope is appointed. So that is what we believe as Diocese.
So basically, that’s the way it is. I have been a Shepherd for 29 years and I’ve been a prophet for 39 years. Evangelism has taken me everywhere, and basically, I do a lot of evangelism and taken crusades to virtually everywhere in the world. I have partnered with so many wonderful people for evangelism within and outside the shores of Nigeria. I am married and blessed with children. That’s me in brief.
You’ve been a Shepherd for 29 years, as you said. How has the journey been so far?
I believe in the process. I believe in the process because I started with rafters here and I have seen people who saw me with rafters and said this man must be a mad man. ‘How do you put rafters and bamboos in a GRA and say you are doing a church’. I have witnessed situations where rain will fall and the rafters and the bamboos will fall off, the walls of the church will come down. I have seen so many things. I have seen challenges, but, like I said, I believe in the process. From the rafters, we were able to raise like three coaches of blocks with sticks on them. We still had to put up some rafters because we don’t have money to buy iron sheets. But because I believe I have a calling, you know, the problem in the Ministry today is that people want to wake up one day and become superstars the same day, and this has been impacting negatively on the Ministry and is impacting negatively on society too. Let’s be sincere here, society is a product of the church. The home will come to the church now and listen to their pastors. A pastor that preaches prosperity all the time without salvation will make his sheep want to get money by all means. So the church is a reflection of society, whether the church likes it or not, that’s the truth. But naturally, I believe so much in the process. If I don’t believe in the process I won’t just be building a cathedral after 29 years. This doesn’t mean I don’t know people, I know a lot of people in the course of my Ministry, I have been able to come in contact with the high and the mighty, the lowest and the downtrodden but I believe in the process.
You said CCC is divided into two, Trustees and Diocese, which suggests lack of harmony within the fold. What do you think is responsible for this and what steps are you taking to foster unity among yourselves as a leader in the church?
Like when we say what we call “Gloria” (glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), as it has been in the beginning so it is now, ever shall it be, world without end! The Catholic was the first, there was breakaway, and then the Anglican came, the Baptist came, the Methodist came, Protestant and all that (came). Today there is a crisis within the CAC (Christ Apostolic Church). Baba Moses Orimolade came, today you have Ayo Ni; you have Zion; you have Agbotijesu; you have Eternal Sacred Order, all under Moses Orimolade of the C & S. Celestine came and Celestial was doing fine and when certain individuals who are members of the Board of Trustees, who were not Laities, they are not clergies, decided to hijack the leadership of the Church, Baba Oshoffa said spiritualism will take precedent, that is what Baba Oshoffa, who I was fortunate to meet, see and know, said. A lot of shepherds outside today don’t even know who Baba Oshoffa was. And when he died, subjected to the will of the Almighty, we did not wait for the Holy Spirit as the founder said we should wait and pray, they took seniority into consideration. Baba Bada who was the senior person came. I disagreed but that was what they wanted.
After Baba Bada, the most senior person was Baba Ajose and he came in, though he did not stay long. He spent just three months. After Baba Ajose, the most senior person was Baba Jesse, and the Trustees said ‘no’, that Jesse was too independent-minded and they would not be able to control him. And they said they will not accept Jesse and we said ‘no’, you cannot dictate to us as we have agreed on seniority, so let’s stick to seniority. Jesse is the most senior person today, so if Ajose goes, Jesse should be the next to step in. That was the beginning of the crisis and the Board of Trustees members, Banjo and others said ‘no’. Even on that Baba Bada issue, there was a member of the Board of Trustees, Baba Owodunni who said Baba Oshoffa did not say “hierarchy”, Oshoffa said “Holy Spirit”. He indeed warned that if the church did not stick with the “Holy Spirit” to appoint a successor he would go to court. Baba Owodunni eventually took Baba Bada and the Church to court, and in the year 2000, he won at the Supreme Court as the Court nullified the appointment of Baba Bada. Baba Bada went to England, and three months after the judgment, he died.
So we still came back to seniority. We took Baba Ajose. After Baba Ajose, we were supposed to take Baba Jesse, but they said ‘no’, and we said okay fine, we insisted on Baba Ajose because we are Laities, we are Levites who know what we want. And the Board of Trustees, who are just rich men within the Church, said ‘no’, and they felt they could pick Mobiyina, who was the son of Baba Oshoffa. They believe that if they fly the name, the name will be acceptable to members. And they flew the name and took him before the leadership of the Church, but we asked them questions such as was he a Laity before he was picked? Did he have a call? Jesus died and had siblings, but they picked Peter. Moses died, he had siblings, but they picked Joshua. Elijah died, he had siblings, but they picked Elisha. The church is not a business place like the Pentecostal people make it a business. You see this one having his son as Deputy GO (General Overseer), another one having his wife as Deputy GO. I don’t understand what the Ministry has turned into, but that is what we believe in anyway. So we said if that is the case, okay. We believe Jesse is the most senior person, and would on our part stick with him as the most senior officer. That was the beginning of the division with the Trustees and Diocese came into being. Mobinna was the head of the Trustees and Baba Jesse was the head of the Diocese.
(Cut in). From what you are saying, are you suggesting that you don’t see the possibility of reconciliation, a rapprochement in the foreseeable future?
They are trying to bring in reconciliation because there are so many grey areas. Trustees have their grey areas, we have our grey areas. Reconciliation is going on but we are praying that the cabals behind the scene will allow the reconciliation to work.
Who are the cabals behind the scene?
The Trustees who are members of the Pastors-in-Council, who are the power brokers and moneybags. They want to keep on calling the shots but we, Shepherds, are saying ‘no’, we are the clergies, we are the ones that were called. Jesus said I have appointed you, you did not appoint me. If we clergies appointed the Board of Trustees, we didn’t appoint them to lord it over us, but to support the Ministry. In the Acts of Apostle Chapter 5, when there was murmuring among the members and they started to fight, Peter, the Apostle, said appoint men amongst you who will see to the overrunning day-to-day activities of the church while we concentrate on the spiritual aspect of the church. And they appointed deacons and deaconesses, etc, to support the Ministry. That was what Baba Oshoffa did by appointing the Board of Trustees to support the Ministry. But following the death of the founder, they hijacked the Ministry. So, basically, I think that is where the problem is. We pray that God will intervene.
You have a programme you tagged, CANTATA in your Ministry. What is it all about?
Yes, we have three annual events. The CANTATA is a service of songs where we offer hymns, praises, and songs to God in worship. We have Juvenile Harvest where we celebrate the children. That day is dedicated to children all over the world to celebrate Jesus Christ and we have one single date, every first Sunday in June all over the world, Celestians all over the world will celebrate Juvenile Harvest. That is the second celebration we have. The third celebration is the Adult Harvest Thanksgiving. People have their dates, but constitutionally, we begin to celebrate Adult Harvest immediately after the Juvenile Harvest.
Juvenile harvest signifies the beginning of Adult Harvest. So every Church begins to prepare their own date at their convenience. In our Ministry, we normally celebrate our harvest first Sunday in the month of December; some will have theirs in July, some will have theirs next Sunday. So that’s how the feast is spread all over the world. Those are the feasts we celebrate in the Celestial Church of Christ.
Aside from all these programmes you have mentioned, in what way has your Ministry impacted society?
Let me put it this way; I don’t want to get misinterpreted here. I don’t believe in people impacting society and showing it on the screen, I don’t believe in it at all. The Holy Bible is clear on that, ‘whatever your right hand is doing, don’t allow your left hand to know”. I believe strongly in that. I have sponsored so many people to a school who, to the glory of God, are graduates today. So many have started business today, one way or the other, to the glory of God. The less privileged have been able to benefit as well, to the glory of God. We have this annual ministry where we do our evangelism which is the Majesty City Crusade that we do every third Friday in September, basically to win souls. Impacting society, I think we have done so much to the best of our ability. But, like I said, I don’t believe in coming to the screen and saying we did X, we did Y and we did Z so that people can applaud us.
What is your take on the death of Prophet TB Joshua and subsequent reactions from the body of Christ and individuals?
Yes, I released a video of about five minutes on this. As of this morning, I have 8,200 views on the video. I made my position very clear on the issue. Femi Fani Kayode picked that video and posted it on his Instagram and said this clergyman has said it all about TB Joshua and what did I say? I said I don’t know what CAN stands for; I don’t know what PFN stands for. We have five blocks under CAN including PFN, OAIC, Catholic, and so on. I belong to OAIC (Organization of African Institute of Churches) and I’m fine with it, that’s my block. But TB Joshua was a Minister of God, nobody has the right to judge him. The book of Roman is clear about that. Looking at TB Joshua physically, he has done so much and that’s my own perception and opinion. I don’t have any allegiance to him, I don’t have any loyalty to him, I’ve never met him and we don’t have anything in common. But I am saying this the way it is because I feel this man has done so much for the people, for the body of Christ. He was the biggest spiritual tourism centre in Africa and to me as a person, for that alone, I think they should give him some respect. I think they should honour him; they should leave judgment to God. Nobody has a right to judge anybody. Baba Adeboye said something two days ago and I was disappointed in my spirit. Why would you say they should not buy key holders – I think I still support not buying key holders – that have his photograph and that of his wife. He now went ahead by saying that a keyholder a woman gave to her child, the child was playing with it and his photograph on the key holder peeled off and under his photograph was the photograph of TB Joshua, that that was dangerous, that do they know what that means, on a live programme. He went ahead and said please don’t put my photograph on a photo of somebody who wanted to kill me. Why would he say that? When his own son died, people sympathised with him, people paid condolence visits, the whole world was mourning and it got to a stage and I asked myself is his son the first pastor to die? Why is the same not done to all pastors that died? To me that is hypocrisy and I’m not part of it. And that is why my views are always different within CAN, OAIC, and other groups. They know me that my views are always different because I will say it the way it is. To me as a person, TB Joshua had done fantastically well, for the body of Christ, he had impacted the lives of millions of people. In his village, go and look at what he was doing there before he died; construction of a university and headquarters of his church buildings in progress.
For Baba Akindayomi, what legacy have they given him within the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG)? The Redeemer’s University, they didn’t name after him. They didn’t even take it to his town, they took it to Baba Adeboye’s town in Ede. Who does that? Who gives him the platform with which he is operating today? If there’s no platform would he be able to excel? Even though I disagree with some issues within the Celestial Church but it has given me the platform with which I am operating today. Whoever is the head of the CCC, it is the Church that gave the person the platform. So if somebody has given you a platform, I think you should appreciate that person.
If you can’t appreciate that person openly, you could do certain things. I think that monuments such as the university should not be named Redeemer’s University but Akindayomi University. Moses Orimolade University is being built now. So, I don’t understand Africans and their mentality. But to me, TB Joshua, I give it to him irrespective of what people are saying, nobody will die and people will not have something to say. But basically, to me as a person, I give it to TB Joshua. He has done well.
Let’s look at issues of kidnapping, banditry, and other forms of malfeasance that have become the order of the day in the country. What do you think is the solution to all these?
In 2015, I told them not to vote for Buhari. Everybody was saying Sai Baba! Sai Baba! In my church, my prophecies are there in the public domain. I release prophesy every year. It is there for the people to dig and find out where I warned people not to vote for this man, Buhari. He has three issues; he is a religious bigot, he has a Northern agenda and he doesn’t believe in the South (South-South, South-East, and South-West). Tinubu, who thought he had a game plan – you don’t have any game plan with a Hausa man because he will be smarter than you – they have left him in limbo. Everything he’s dreaming about is a mirage because he will never get there. When Buhari came and they said if you vote for him, a dollar will be equal to ten naira; petrol will be N22; security will be taken care of and so on. I said don’t vote for him. My members who voted for him are suffering today and I told them they will not get out of that suffering until 2023, and those who listened to me are enjoying in the same church.
How so is that? Don’t they go to the same market, get paid same way?
This is because those who listened to me are being blessed supernaturally, and those who did not are facing the consequences. Remember the children of Israel in the land of Goshen (Ex. 9:26), the Egyptians in their own land, and God was blessing Goshians in Egypt and the Egyptians were having problems in their own land. Basically, it is normal but when I told them they thought it was a joke but honestly it wasn’t a joke because I was serious about it. Everything this man is doing today I have told them. I told them he will be sick twice. The second one he would almost die but if he doesn’t die during the second illness, there is nothing Nigerians will do, he will complete his term.
(Cut in)… But some men of God have come out to predict that he will not complete his tenure?
Unless there is a coup! Like last two weeks, I told my members that if this man survives this year 2021 and nothing happens, then he will survive the remaining part of his tenure. I don’t see how we will go forward here, they are only bidding time. Fuel will go to N340. 00, we’ve heard it, we know it is coming. Jonathan wanted to put it at N145. 00, everybody swooped on him. Where are we today? N162. 00! It is N502:00 to a dollar today, over N720 to a Pound.
So what do you think is the way forward?
Prayer, and maybe a coup! They could arrest me for treason, but honestly, that’s the truth. If it was the same military that he was in 1983, that took over from (Shehu) Shagari, it was not as bad as what we have today. The same military that felt bringing champagne from France to come and do party in Nigeria was way off the mark; NPN was doing unthinkable and unimaginable things in Nigeria and the same military came in and took over power from them. He led the coup. The question to ask now is he should compare what the politicians did in 1983 when he took over to what he’s doing today. Should the military take over or not?
Some sections of the country are clamouring for secession from the federal republic. How will you react both as a Nigerian and as a Minister of God?
As a Nigerian, no President will allow under his watch for Nigeria to break up. If a Yoruba man becomes President tomorrow, he won’t allow this (succession) to happen. It’s an unwritten rule, but it is there.
Number two, as a Minister of God, I don’t see it happening now, but maybe in the next 15 to 20 years but it cannot happen now. The foreign powers are not interested in the break-up of Nigeria. When they were interested in Yugoslavia to break up, Yugoslavia broke into seven countries. So they are not interested in this country breaking up and they fear if Nigeria collapses today, West Africa is doomed. If there should be war in Nigeria today, the economy of the West Africa region is gone 100 per cent. In every four blacks, three are Nigerians. The population alone is a factor for the United Nations and foreign powers not to support the breakup of Nigeria.
But there was war in the country in the late ’60s, but the country remained intact thereafter.
Then it was only in the South-East; the population was not as crazy as we have it now. In every four blacks, there is a Nigerian. It’s crazy! The population alone is a factor for the United Nations. What is the population of the Gambia, Niger, and the Benin Republic put together? Or that of Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire, the two biggest countries in West Africa apart from Nigeria. Let ten million Nigerians move to countries in West Africa, West Africa is gone. Don’t let me say 50 million, just 10 million, there will be trouble. So, foreign powers are not interested in Nigeria breaking up, they would have allowed it but they too see the danger in it.
I remember this rich man who lives in Bourdilion, Ikoyi in Lagos. While celebrating his birthday recently, he said some Nigerians want the break-up of the country. But he asked the South-West region what it has. According to him, the region has only two things; touts and fake pastors. He warned that it is important to think about it properly because should Nigeria break up, touts will rule us and the fake pastors will have a field day.
So sincerely right now, as a spiritual person and a prophet of God, I don’t see the break-up of Nigeria. And all those men of God who are saying this – I am not talking about political men of God, you know there are lots of political men of God out there right now, and there are men of God who are out there just because of what they want to eat – I don’t belong to this category. I say things the way they are.