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. Benson 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.
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.
How He Started
He began his ministry at age 24, having given his life to Christ as a football playing prankster in Benin City, in Edo State, south-western Nigeria. He had gone to play football at a pitch near a Salvation Army church on a Sunday afternoon when he succumbed to the temptation to aim his shot at the head of the pastor through one of the open windows. Five attempts to hit his target had failed, then he made what proved to be his sixth and last effort. It wasn’t clear what the ball hit, but it came ricocheting back to hit him on the chest and knock him flat on his back. He was in such pain that a crowd soon gathered round him. This drew the pastor’s attention; he came out, prayed for him and his chest that was rapidly swelling returned to normal. It was the hand of God and young Benson realised it. He followed Pastor Okpo back to church and later answered the altar call. He thus became the very first Bini, as Benin sons and daughters are called, to join that largely Igbo congregation.
Idahosa hit the ground running, as it were. Listen to him as he testified to one of his earliest exploits for God as recorded by a chronicler, Elijah Akinwunmi:
“As a young Christian, I once heard my pastor say during a morning service that Christians could raise the dead in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I believed it with all my heart. And flying around on my bicycle in those days, I went through the city of Benin in search of a dead person to raise to life. After about five hours of hard searching I found a compound where a little girl had died a few hours before. The corpse had been cleaned and prepared for burial. I walked boldly up to the father of the dead child. “The God whom I serve can bring your baby back to life,” I told him. “Will you permit me to pray for the child and bring her back to life?” The man was startled, but he agreed. With great enthusiasm, I walked into the room and up to the bed. The child was cold and dead. With strong faith in the Lord, I called on the Lord to restore the child back to life. I turned to the corpse and called it by name, “Arise in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Oh Glory to God! The corpse sneezed, heavily, alas. The child had come back to life!”
It was also recorded that it was a similar death and life issue that won the heart of the young lady who was to become his wife, become his partner and take over the running of Church of God Mission after his departure. One report stated it like this:
“…Margaret was the daughter of a princess of juju, steeped in witchcraft and black magic. At first the relationship was purely platonic but things changed one remarkable day. A young cousin of Margaret’s had fallen sick and died despite the family sacrifices at their juju shrine. Benson arrived in the grieving household, “Will you permit me to pray for her?” he asked, “The God I serve can bring your baby back to life.” Emptying the room of all but his Christian companion, Benson prayed for the baby and suddenly, the relatives heard the little girl sneeze.”
Raising the dead was to become one of the hallmarks of his ministry. In all, it was recorded that he raised 28 persons from the dead at different locations including his meetings and crusades.
How Idahosa Turned Down the Gift of A Jet
One of Archbishop Benson Idahosa’s lieutenants, Bishop Ojo said, “His teaching was quite different from what was in vogue then. He began the television ministry in Nigeria. We used to go to the television station to preach live on the set. Then people criticized him for using the television. Some began to call the television devil’s box. Idahosa brought drum set and guitars and they called us disco church. There is no minister in Nigeria to compare to him when he was alive. Idahosa was a bulldozer. He was a pioneer. He cleared the way. All of those who condemned him and criticized him have now eaten their words.
His passion was soul winning.
Why Idahosa was better than many of our modern day prosperity preachers is that he knew where to balance things. For instance somebody gave him a jet But he turned it down. He told the person that his people would not understand. But today, pastors are buying it. It’s on record that he was given a private jet and he declined it. The people that condemned him then were doing that out of envy and jealousy. Two groups of people condemned Idahosa: The church and the press. The press did not understand. They were comparing him with others. People complained that he was being flamboyant and what was he wearing, Agbada.He did not have jeep then because jeep was not in vogue. He was riding a mercedez benz and he would always say, My God is not a poor God and people wondered what he was talking about.
How He Became Archbishop
I was the next to him in the ministry. I saw the court cases against him and had all the experiences. The only person that was consecrated Archbishop was Benson Idahosa. And that happened because of court injunction that he should not be consecrated a bishop. He was given an interlocutory injunction. When he was to be made a bishop some members of the church rose up against him and went to the court. They brought an injunction that he should not be made bishop. But the announcement on radio and television continued.
So on the day of the event, the people who were to consecrate him bishop consecrated him Archbishop and the news went round that Benson Idahosa would spend his yuletide in jail for contempt of court. And he was charged to court and the judge said to him that he had run foul of the court order but he pleaded not guilty and explained that he was not consecrated Bishop but an Archbishop. That was how he became archbishop. He told the court, “You say I should not be made bishop, I was not made a bishop but an Archbishop” the judge said, case dismissed. That was the wisdom he employed. And that was why he was made an archbishop straight.”
His relationship with government
He related with government of the day the way the prophet of old would do. He was always on a corrective mission to government officials and heads of state. When Abacha took over he took me and some other bishops to see him at Aso Rock ( showed pictures taken with Abacha and the bishops). We got to the state house and we sat down and he said, “Abacha I did not come to pay homage, I have come to advise you. You cannot stay here without my prayer.”
His role with the government was essentially to tell them what to do and what they have not done right. Abacha allowed him to pray for him. Bishop Ilemobo was with him that day too. Idahosa related with government on advisory capacity and he was not bought over. He told him he should not treat Nigerians with impunity. He warned him not to toy with Nigerians. That was what he went there to do. But a lot of people thought he was there to pay homage and support for Abacha.
He did not tell Abacha to leave the place for Abiola because he didn’t want to be involved in the politics. He told Abacha to realize that people were suffering and that he should think of the welfare of the masses. Nigeria is more than personal ambition. Making a case for Abiola would have been political and he did not want to be involved in the power game politics. Idahosa was Abiola’s very good friend and my friend too. He visited me when I was a pastor in Benin. When I came to Lagos I used to go to Abiola’s house because of Idahosa. When his Concord Press did a report that was not complimentary on Idahosa, myself and Idahosa stormed the press and went to say, Concord you are dead, I close you down you wont function again for this wrong reporting. After that Abiola started looking for Benson Idahosa. Whenever he came here to Benin, I was the one who received him. There was a day he came to my house around 12 midnight with his entourage.
His down moments
I cannot describe Idahosa outside his church life. There are things in the church that Benson Idahosa was not happy about. He was not happy if a pastor of a church was not doing well. If he gets to a place and sees that the church is not decent, he would be upset. He wanted to see people that were live what they preached. I remember in 1974 he traveled and we attended a camp at a school in Benin. It was organised by adherents of Franklin Hall Ministries and it was called in the those days Open Eye Ministry.
There was a belief that Christians don’t die and that you did not need to close your eyes while praying. So we imbibed those doctrines. When Benson Idahosa came back from his trip and he came to church to preach, he said, Let us pray and we all did not close our eyes. Everybody opened there eyes and he asked me what was going on I told him Open Eye Ministry sir. He said I should make sure all eyes were closed. I had to start going round and urging people to close their eyes. He was so sad that we were easily carried away. He could get broken down if he saw people deviating. He had a clear cut understanding of where he was going and what he was doing.
What I learnt from him
I picked vibrancy, courage and boldness. Where the University is in Benin and where his house is, I experienced two incidents. Where the house of the president is was the shrine of the Benin Dynasty resided. Three of us went there to destroy the shrine. You need to be bold to step on the shrine of the BeninKingdom. He would hit it and I would also hit it. I was just following his instruction. The next day we came we see bees, reptiles and all kinds of . There was no reaction from the Benin Kingdom because they respected him but they couldn’t have because he had bought the land.
The original name of the university was Christian Faith University. One chief claimed that the land belonged to him after it had been bought and the man brought bulldozer and was destroying the structure. He came to the place and warned him. The man did not listen he still brought bulldozer and the next thing Benson Idahosa confronted him and warned him vehemently to stay away. Few weeks later the man passed on. You need to be bold to confront a Benin Chief. Where the Hospital his, the owner was a lawyer. Papa called him and said please I want you to sell this land for me before you die so that you can eat out of the money. The man said, over my dead body. And papa said, Okay you have said it. The man died two weeks and the children of the man sold the land.
When Muritala Mohammed promogated a decree to bring Miracle Centre down in 1976 he told me he should not dare it. Muritala had said the place was too close to the airport and was too tall and Benson Idahosa said the rubber trees were taller than the roof of the church. When he would not listen died that same year through the assasins bullet before every carrying out his threat. If was after he died that we knew he was young..
I think the greatest miracles that God used him for was the transformation of lives. I saw a lot of miracles in his crusades, the dead, blind and lame getting healing. The greatest miracle was the transformed lives. And more especially was my own salvation through him. In Benin before my conversion if I say stop there you don’t stop there are people who will be ready to beat you up.
What Arch Bishop Benson Idahosa Said Before He Died According To His Wife
I don’t think there was anything he wanted to do that he didn’t do. He died in March. In February he called me and said, ‘Margaret, I think I have done everything God had asked me to do’.
And I said it is because we were still in February and that because he had not traveled. I said he needed to travel and if he did that he would come back with a fresh idea. And he said he would travel in March and that he would be by himself and will not interact with anybody. I was abroad when he died.
I was planning to travel that night to Nigeria when the report came that he had gone home. That, to me was a great shock. Before Benson Idahosa died, he had preached a message titled The benefit of death and he preached so hard and made death so useless. He made it clear to us that he had finished the work God gave him in that message.
How Benson Idahosa Died- Archbishop Margaret Idahosa
He cleared the land for all of us. Many years ago it was a taboo for women to hold the microphone not to talk of preaching in the church but he encouraged us to move in the spirit of God. He encouraged us to preach and do the work.
That was the last message he preached to the women. He preached also at the Bible School before he went to lunch with a team from Oral Roberts University.
He gave instruction to all the members of the team and they were all glued to him! After a while a gentle breeze was blowing and everybody set their gaze on him.
He was saying thank you Jesus and those on the table thought he was praying and they all closed their eyes and started saying thank you Jesus along with him but suddenly they did not hear anything again and one of the team members opened his eyes and found out that archbishop was gone.
They tried all they could to revive him but he was gone. He was not sick. He never had high blood pressure. He was never down. Each time we came back from foreign trips doctors were always there to take our blood pressure. I was the one that was the sick one. Even the doctors were surprised that he died because he was not sick at all.
Other Exploits After His Death
According to a piece on the website of the USA branch of his church, he pioneered the establishment of over 5,000 churches in Nigeria and parts of Africa; took the gospel to 143 nations; pastored the fifth largest church in the world in his time; hosted his daily and weekly “Idahosa and You” television and radio programmes for 20 years; through the programmes he reached millions of people in Africa and impacted lives in the Muslim territories, garnered four degrees, including two doctorates from four different institutions; authored many books and produced thousands of audio tapes and videos of his messages.
If you are wondering what has become of the church he left behind, the answer, in the words of a 2006 report by Bishop Harry Westcott, an Australian pastor and associate of the late Idahosa is this: “the work, witness and outreach of CGM (Church Of God Mission Int’l) are in great shape and obviously growing at a consistent rate. When Archbishop Benson died in March 1998 CGM had one hospital, it now has four! It had one bible school, it now has six! It had 98 primary and secondary schools, it now has 104…” Rest in peace, Nigeria’s own God’s General.
What People Said About Him
Chancellor Oral Robert: “I never met a man who so completely saw himself as God did: a man. It says in the book of Genesis, ‘And God made him man.’ Not something else, not a Jew, not a gentile, not white, not black, not this or that–but man. I am honored to have personally known and closely worked with a man who stood so high with God and mankind in life, and who doubtless will stand higher after his death.”
International Evangelist T.L.Osborn: “Many who follow Benson Idahosa 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. Benson Idahosa was the greatest African ambassador of the apostolic Christian faith to the world.”
Dr.Freda Gordon Lindsay: “I know of no young black in all of Africa who is reaching millions as Benson Idahosa is,–in crusades with hundreds of thousands in attendance, in his weekly nationwide telecast, in his Bible School, training eager students from several nations. He also conducts campaigns in Sweden, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, Australia and the United States, where he often appeared on national religious telecasts. His burden for souls, his ministry of healing and miracles, even to the raising of several dead, demonstrates he is especially called of the Lord in these end times.”
Dr.John Bienose(Dir.Of Admin Church of God Mission): “Idahosa is a living legend, an amiable visionary leader, a trailblazer and an institution of legacy.”
His Quotable Quotes
Life is full of choice but faith in God will affect them all.
If you turn to Jesus as your last resort, He will become your result
If you know where you are going, you will not be afraid of where you are now.
When you give the devil attention, it will give you direction
“My God is not a poor God”,
“Your attitude determines your altitude”,
“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”,
No matter the obstacle God will take us to the pinnacle.
You are born in the interior (your locality) by the inferior (your parents) and called by the superior (God)
Cleverness takes you up but it is integrity that keeps you there.
Battles does not destroy a Christian but rather, it strengthens him.
A big head without a big brain is a big load to the neck
If your faith says yes, God cannot say no.
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