Nigeria is the home of several notable men of God, but I do believe that none has made such an international impact as the late Benson Andrew Idahosa affectionately called PAPA or BA by his followers. Idahosa was a Charismatic Pentecostal preacher, and founder of the Church of God Mission International with headquarters in Benin City, Nigeria. He was the first Pentecostal Archbishop in Nigeria, and is often referred to as the father of Pentecostalism and televangelism in Nigeria.
Benson Andrew Idahosa was born in Edo State on September 11, 1938 of poor non-Christian parents in a predominantly non-Christian community. He was rejected by his father for being frail and sickly and constantly had fainting spells as a child. His mother abandoned him at a rubbish heap presuming him dead during one of his spells. Hours later, he came to, and began wailing and was rescued by his mother against his father’s wishes. Penury denied him access to education until he was fourteen years old; he attended the Salvation Army and graduated in 1952, then went to Owo Methodist School in Ondo State where he lived with a relative. He was employed as a sales boy with the Bata Shoe Company and with his meagre salary, was able to obtain a Diploma in Business Administration and later a Higher Diploma in Office Management.
Idahosa was converted by a Pastor Okpo on a football field one Sunday afternoon while playing soccer with his teammates. He then became the first Bini member of Pastor Okpo’s small congregation. He was very active in proselytising and converting many to Christianity. After experiencing what he believed to be a revelation from God calling him to Ministry, he began to conduct outreaches from village to village, before establishing his church in a store in Benin City at the age of 24. By 1971, he had established over 6,000 churches all over Nigeria and Ghana. Known for his boldness, power and prosperity-based preaching, as well as an enormous faith in the supernatural, he was instrumental to the strong wave of revival in Christianity in Nigeria.
In addition to filling the position of Archbishop of the Church of God Mission, he was also the President of the All Nations for Christ Bible Institute, President of the Idahosa World Outreach and President of Faith Medical Centre. He held positions in numerous organisations including the College of Bishops of the International Communion of Christian Churches and the Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma. Idahosa earned a diploma in divinity from Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas, which he attended in 1971, a Doctorate of Divinity in 1981 from the Word of Faith College, New Orleans and a Doctor of Laws degree from Oral Roberts University in March 1984. He also received other degrees from the International University in Brussels, Belgium.
Soul winning was Idahosa’s primary concern. With a motto “Evangelism our Supreme Task,” he worked towards this goal of reaching the unreached in Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the world with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. He ministered in over 143 countries all over the world. Idahosa is reported to have performed so many miracles, including healing the blind, and raising up to twenty-eight people from the dead at different times in his ministry. At the time of his death in 1998, he was reputed as having preached to more whites than any black man and to more blacks than any white man. He had strong links with international gospel ministers like Billy Graham, T.L. Osborn, Kenneth Hagin, Benny Hinn, Reinhard Bonnke, Morris Cerullo, Oral Roberts, amongst others. . Many notable pastors in Nigeria like Ayo Oritsejafor, Bishop David Oyedepo, Pastor Felix Omobude, Fred Addo and Chris Oyakhilome are his protégés. Many of his messages on faith, miracles and prosperity remain a classic among Pentecostals.
His desire to meet the needs of the total man led him to establish several other arms of the Ministry apart from the church. They include the Faith Mediplex, All Nations for Christ Bible Institute, Word of Faith Group of Schools and Benson Idahosa University which is currently under the leadership of his son, Rev. F.E.B. Idahosa. His wife, Margaret Idahosa is the current presiding bishop of the Church.
The Church of God Mission now has branches the world over, from the United Kingdom to South Africa to Japan to America. It keeps growing despite the demise of its founder over a decade ago.
Some of Idahosa’s quotable quotes:
“My God is not a poor God”, “Your attitude determines your altitude”, “It is more risky, not to take a risk”, “I am a possibilitarian”, “If your faith says yes, God cannot say no”, “Living a daily life of absolute faith in God is the only secret to great success”, “If someone spends time studying the Bible and acting on it, people will come looking for that person for life solutions”, amongst others.
Evangelist T. L. Osborn, from Tulsa, Oklahoma remarked concerning Archbishop Idahosa:
Many who follow Idahosa’s teaching have been saved from poverty and have learned to plant out of their desperate need and to look to God as their divine source thereby becoming prosperous Christians in their own land. Idahosa rose from the rank of an ordinary man to world leadership as a pastor, builder, counsellor, prophet, teacher, apostle, evangelist,–a man of godly wisdom and of Christ-like compassion, whose ministry has blessed millions the world over. Idahosa was the greatest African ambassador of the apostolic Christian faith to the world.
People talk about leaving their footprints in the sands of time; I think sand will be washed away by floods. Idahosa has left an enduring legacy in the hearts of men; in the Christian landscape of Nigeria and beyond, and ultimately in heaven. Where are you leaving your prints?