The Pastor-in-charge of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) Niger Province 2, Suleja, Pastor Sam Ola Babalola, recently marked his 60th birthday and 35 years marriage anniversary. In this no-holds barred interview with some journalists, he tells of his humble background and how God delivered him from smoking and drinking as a youth. He also bares his mind on the issue of godfathers in ministry and how to handle those who may oppose your vision as a pastor on transfer to a new parish. Excerpts
Daddy can we meet you sir?
My name is Pastor Sam Olatoye Babalola from Okitipapo in the Akoko North East Local Government Area of Ondo State. I am from a very humble family because my father was a lay reader for several years and my mother used to be a petty trader. Interestingly I happen to be the last child in a family of four boys and one girl.
Daddy congrats on your 60th birthday (on Friday 23rd July). Sir how do you feel attaining the age of 60?
Oh its quite amazing and it gladdens my heart especially when I look back at the journey so far, all the challenges that I have passed through in life, and the fact that some of my age mates we started together back then in my village are no more; I really have to thank God for His mercy over my life. I return all the glory to God.
Sir when and how did you meet Jesus, also when did you join RCCG?
That’s a wonderful question, but I won’t tell you direct because you need to know a little bit of my background to be able to know where I am coming from and appreciate God for where I am today. My parents were actually good Christians and just like I said earlier, my father being a lay reader in the Anglican church, was very committed and passionate about the work of God. On the contrary, I was not a child of God because I lived a rough life including drinking and smoking, and all the likes. The only vice I was afraid of indulging in was having girlfriends, and that was because my father warned me that the day I get involved and pregnant a lady, that will mark the end of my education. So one day while I was coming back from my usual joint to “enjoy” myself, because I thought I was enjoying myself then, I saw a place (then in Mushin where I lived) where people gathered and they were watching Jesus film and I joined them. So midway into the film an alter call was made and interestingly, I was the only one that came out to give my life to Christ during that programme. I later got to know that the programme was a crusade organized by the Redeemed Christian Church of God to plant a parish. The following day (Sunday morning) I attended the new parish and during the service, the pastor then (Pastor Clement Olaade), after preaching a powerful message on the “way of salvation”, made an alter call and I came out again to surrender my life to Jesus. That was sometime in December 1980.
You worked with one of the biggest multi-national companies in Nigeria before answering the call for a full time ministry, please sir can you briefly tell us what motivated that decision to quit the job and move into full time ministry? How did mummy (your wife) handle it?
Yes I worked with the Nigerian Bottling Company (Coca Cola) where I started as a messenger and by the grace of God and stint of hard work rose to a senior sales officer. Well I started as a messenger because when I finished secondary school and got admission to the Kwara State College of Technology (Kwaratech), my father said there was no money since my elder ones were still in school. So the job afforded me the opportunity of acquiring higher educational and professional certifications through correspondence at the Chartered Institute of Marketing, London. But as a child of God and worker in RCCG, I discovered this great passion for the work of God as I made sure I attended all programmes no matter the distance from where I resided. So one day in February 1997 while driving to work, the Lord spoke to me and said the time to quit the job had come and go into full time ministry. I told my wife who agreed and joined me in prayers, after which I resigned. I resumed as a full time minister in RCCG in July 1997 but it was not really easy for us in the first six months. In fact, one day, my wife called me and asked if I was sure I really heard from God before deciding to quit my well paid job. This was because things became difficult for us as a family. We couldn’t afford some of the basic needs of life as okra became our meat. But all that is history now because God saw us through and here we are today.
Sir let’s get a bit closer to the work of the ministry, what would you say is/was the most difficult assignment you were given and how did you handle it?
I was the resident pastor of a mega parish then at Ipaja in Lagos and we were about to plant five new parishes including one at a location in Akute in Ogun state. So I was the one that compiled the list of those to be transferred and of course my name was not originally there. But to my surprise when my senior pastor then was reading out the names of those to be transferred, he called my name and I was sent to go an start the new parish in Akute, Ogun state. It was difficult for me because of the distance and my children then were still small. I however obeyed and resumed there without knowing that God was actually waiting for me there. In fact, one of my major breakthroughs in ministry started there. I also remember when I was transferred to a parish in Kano and on getting there I discovered there was no place of worship. The parish had a land but no structure on it so they were using a church owned by another denomination for service on a special arrangement. I was not comfortable with that arrangement and by faith we moved to the land, erected a temporary structure and to the glory of God the church is standing today. One thing I learnt from those experiences is that you don’t say ‘no’ to your leader if you really want to excel in this work.
Sir as a leader who is passionate about the progress of the work of the Kingdom, how have you been able to handle people especially those who may not agree with your vision or style of leadership?
As a leader when you get to a place, the first thing you need to do after you must have prayed is to take time to study the people you are to work with. You will discover those who will support your vision (80%), those who will not support you (10%), and those who are neutral (10%), that is those who will just be watching you. So what I do is to focus on that 80% that will support my vision. With time, the rest of them will join you as long as you have the mind of carrying them along. I don’t hate or fight you because you didn’t support my vision because I know it’s normal everybody will not follow you.
Sir do you believe in mentors in ministry, do you have any? Also do you believe in god-fathers in ministry?
Yes I believe in mentors and mentoring in ministry. Some of my mentors include Pastors Emmanuel Ibitayo, Remi Akintude, and Ayo Adeloye. I however I don’t believe in godfathers in ministry.
Sir how did you meet mummy and knew she was your wife?
I met her in the first parish where I got saved and grew as a worker. She was the only female worker amongst us then. So one day after Sunday service, I walked up to her and told her “I love you and want to marry you”. She was surprised because that was not how to approach the issue of marriage in RCCG. She asked me to go and see the pastor and I went to see him. The pastor asked me to go and pray and not to go back to her again. But I got to know later from my wife that she had actually been praying and fasting for a life partner so my coming was like an answered prayer. We eventually got married in 1986 and today God has blessed us with glorious children and grandchildren.
Where do you see RCCG Niger Province 2 in few years’ time.
I see Niger Province 2 becoming a regional headquarters because more provinces will be created from Niger 2 and the proposed Niger 4. But this will require hard work and dedication from the brethren.
A lot of people including pastors have called for restructuring of Nigeria while a few bluntly asked that Nigeria be broken up into regions, sir where do you stand on this?
I don’t believe Nigeria should break up because I am a strong advocate of one Nigeria. However, I agree with those who are calling for restructuring such that power can be given to the regions to develop on their own just like we had in the days of the regional governments. The system we have now is not working out.
Sir what is your advice to all members of RCCG Niger Province 2, ministers and workers, and the body of Christ in general, and what would you like to be remembered for after leaving RCCG Niger Province 2?
I advise all to be focused, look up to Jesus as the author and finisher of their faith, and serve God in truth and in spirit. When I leave Niger province 2 as the provincial pastor, I want to be remembered as one who built the body of Christ in terms of training and also built infrastructure. I don’t want to leave a place the same way I met it.
On a final note sir, where do you draw your strength from?
I take time to rest, pray and study the word of God. And I learnt that from our father in the Lord, daddy G.O.