Orimolade Tunolase, Moses (A)
"Saint" Moses Orimolade Tunolase, known in his boyhood days as Orimolade Okejebu, was born into the royal family of Omo’ba Ode Sodi  of Okorun Quarters, Ikare, Western Nigeria. The year of his birth has traditionally been given as 1879. At the time of his birth, there was no birth registry in Ikare. The art of writing and therefore the keeping of records, had not yet become popular in that locality. We therefore have no authentic record of his birth date.
His life began with a strange experience his mother had. Madam Odijoroto,–also of the same royal house ,–was in the bush where she had gone to cut firewood while she was heavy with child. She fetched more firewood than she could lift by herself. She realized she would have to reduce the bundle in order to be able to carry it. Just then she heard a voice telling her the easiest way to lift the bundle even if she did not make it smaller. She looked around in great astonishment, but saw no one. The voice spoke again: “Do not be frightened. I am the child in your womb. Follow my advice and be on your way” . She was directed to raise the bundle up at one end and, with the help of her hands, knee and head, kick up the other end. The advice was simple and very obvious and Odijoroto blamed herself for not having thought of the idea initially.
Mysterious Birth and Childhood
Back at home, she quite naturally related her incredible experience to Tunolase, her husband, who arranged that the Ifa oracle be consulted at once. The couple was surprised when the oracle predicted that the child of the conception would be an important saint. It also said the child was being sent by the Almighty God to preach the gospel of his Son, Jesus Christ. This was beyond the comprehension of both Tunolase and his wife, especially as the Christian gospel had not yet been preached in that locality. However, the prescribed rites were performed and offerings were made to ensure a safe delivery for the mother. Tunolase, himself an Ifa priest, consulted the oracle privately for more enlightenment about the expected child, and it was further revealed that it would be a male child pre-ordained of God as his special apostle to the pagans of Yorubaland. He was therefore to be treated as a Nazarite.
The ultimate arrival of the new child brought to its parents mixed feelings. They were happy that a new member had been added to the family but were filled with embarrassment and apprehension in view of the circumstances surrounding his birth and the incidents which occurred on the day he was born. It is said that the new child “stood up in its birth blood” desiring “to walk out three times.” However, the midwife who helped during the mother’s labour “pressed down the baby with force.” Summoned to the scene, the embarrassed father began to recite incantations which eventually calmed the excited child. He then went out to report to certain elderly people what had happened in his house .
This story probably is the way the United Church of Cherubim and Seraphim (C & S) accounts for Moses Orimolade’s prolonged paralysis. It is generally believed that, as a direct consequence of this incident, the boy Orimolade could neither stand nor walk until he was well over five years of age. The incantations pronounced by his father had the horrible effect of a curse which might have incapacitated him permanently. Tunolase was so frightened by this strange incident that he decided to avoid any further embarrassment by killing himself. At a family meeting, which he convened, he disclosed his intentions to do so but was condemned for his apparent cowardice. Egunjobi, one of his own children, thought it would be reasonable for him to live in order to see what the child would become. While Tunolase expressed satisfaction with the entreaties of his family, his visible state of melancholy left no doubt that he had little time to live.
The final blow came with the message Tunolase received from the infant boy, a few days after he had dismissed Orimolade and his mother from his sight for good: that he should go to the top of a nearby hill (now known by C & S in Ikare as Calvary) and there in penitence confess his sins to God. This message threw Tunolase into a state of utter despair and he was taken ill. He requested that his wife, Orimolade’s mother, be summoned to his bedside. As the sobbing woman knelt beside him, he blessed her in the manner of an elderly Yoruba man about to die. He died a few days after this event and was buried honourably.
Orimolade Okejebu spent his youth in Ikare. Hardly had the excitement aroused by the incidents experienced at his birth subsided than he became the centre of attention again. This time the scene was in the only church in the town, St. Stephen’s Anglican Church, which belonged to the C.M.S. Mission. On this particular night, the minister was drawn to the church by a strange light and the sound of singing. It was puzzling to him how anybody could be using the building at that time of night without his knowledge so he decided to investigate. He knocked at the main entrance and the door opened by itself. To his great amazement, the whole building was empty except for a small child of about five sitting on the floor in a kind of bright phosphorescent illumination. It occurred to the shocked minister  that the child staring calmly at him, unruffled by his intrusion, was Orimolade the strange boy who had become the talk of the town, that he was doubtless the one who had been singing as though he were a whole choir.
As a result of this encounter, the minister persuaded his congregation to employ Orimolade to teach them some of his spiritual songs. The boy obliged and taught them a few religious songs, but soon gave up owing to their poor response.
This midnight episode is probably an illustration of Orimolade’s early association with the church. According to Peel, Christianity was introduced into Akoko in the late 1890s . And if Orimolade was an early convert, then he must have become a Christian when he was still a boy. The Rev. J. K. Ajayi-Ajagbe, whom J. 0. Coker has identified with the midnight incident, though a Methodist minister, once preached publicly in the name of the C & S . Coker might be right in his assumption that the minister had known Orimolade in his Ikare home before he began his missionary journey.
Orimolade became disillusioned by the uncooperative attitude of the Christians in Ikare, especially because they ridiculed him on account of his disability. He felt depressed and apprehensive about the success of his mission since it appeared likely that he would forever be physically handicapped. Overwhelmed by these thoughts, he prayed passionately one night, asking for a manifestation of God’s power. In answer to his prayer, an angel appeared to him in a dream and gave him three objects: a rod, a royal insignia and a crown. The rod signified a “rod of victory,” the insignia was “the power of prayer and power of speaking.” The crown stood for “all honour and multi-respect of every individual to bow before him, to receive blessing” .
When he woke up from his sleep, he knew that his prayer had been heard. He realized that his call to preach the gospel of Christ was irrevocable. “He ordered his mother to wash him (…) and from then on the gospel of Jesus Christ started without interruption. (…) He was given power over everything devilish” .
From this point, the activities of Orimolade were directed toward his missionary campaigns. This dream formally marked his commission to go out and preach.
The gifts which corresponded, if only remotely, to the wise men’s gifts to Jesus, became for Orimolade, symbols of authority. His campaigns began when he successfully petitioned police authorities for the release of some Christians who were involved in a clash with devotees of the traditional religion in the town. According to C & S tradition, Orimolade travelled to Kabba town where the arrested persons had been detained, and secured their release.
It then occurred to his opponents in Ikare that it would enhance their prestige if they could win him over so they decided to impress him by bestowing on him one of the priestly titles of their traditional institutions. He took advantage of this opportunity not only to reject the offer, but also to proclaim to them the Christian message. He preached with such vehemence that:
The earth opened its mouth (…) and they were all afraid and many of them ran away, but his brother Egunjobi did many rituals according to ancient customs to put the earth back to its former closure. (…) There were proclamations about the earthquake so that people from abroad came to witness the incident and his (Orimolade’s) name was as fearful as that of an invisible spirit .
This marked virtually the end of hostility towards him from Christians in Ikare town. The C & S insist that Christianity began to grow by leaps and bounds after that incident. Orimolade went from street to street preaching the gospel. About 1916, he made a visit to Owo where he impressed the C.M.S. Church members with his Scripture quoting ability.
It is also held that Orimolade once tried to go into the trade, by buying and selling palm oil and kola nuts as trade was flourishing between the Ikare people and Hausa traders from northern Nigeria. He was said to have travelled to a northern village called Oshokoshoko. On his way he encountered an angel who reminded him of his mission as a prophet of God, and that he should not jettison preaching for trading. He was taken ill and his companion took his report back to his people. Egunjobi, his brother, was dispatched immediately to bring him back home. But before Egunjobi reached Oshokoshoko, Orimolade had arrived back in Ikare by a means none could explain.
Another tradition states that Orimolade confined himself to a room for ten years during which he did not allow anybody to prepare his meals. Even though he ate throughout this time nobody could discern the source of his food .
He was also said to be in constant communion with invisible celestial figures since he was frequently heard conversing while alone when apparently nobody had entered his room. Occasionally, he would emerge resplendent, in regalia traditionally designed for kings, to announce that he had been crowned the king of the world and would soon begin his reign .
During this period he was said to ubiquitous. Two instances were cited. The first was his encounter with a woman against whom he had nursed a grievance since the day of his birth. This was the same woman who had acted as the traditional midwife on the day of his birth and who pushed him back three times as he attempted to walk a few minutes after he was delivered. He met her one afternoon as she was returning from Arigidi, a nearby village, and ordered her to carry him on her back three times to atone for the sin of that fateful day. “And now that the woman had no sin against God again, he (Orimolade) asked the woman to go safely” .
The curious thing about the incident was that Orimolade never left his room throughout the day in question. The woman understandably related her experience to her people, and in a matter of days the whole town was talking about it.
The second instance was the strange visit he paid to his most loyal friend, Garuba, who lived in Okela quarters in Ikare. At the very time Garuba claimed Orimolade was with him in his Okela residence, the “lame prophet” was believed to be locked up in his room.
At the end of his ten year confinement, Orimolade was said to have given a large party for all his neighbours and visitors from nearby villages. This also had its miraculous element because, apart from asking his mother to make clean all available pots in their home, he made no serious preparations for the feast. His mother obeyed his command without protest and to everyone’s amazement, the guests all brought dishes of food as gifts, which filled all the pots, and they ate to their satisfaction.
The ten years he spent in confinement have been described by many as the period he spent in illness. According to Abiodun, Orimolade was confined for seven years. This was disclosed to her by Orimolade himself: “He stated that he saw continuous visions for seven years during which he could not get up from one spot as a result of which he was lame” . This is corroborated by the United Church of Cherubim and Seraphim which wrote the following concerning Moses Orimolade:
At a certain time of his early age, he took ill and for seven complete years he suffered from this malady. At the end of his illness, he became a lame man, but God made him to walk miraculously. During the period of his illness, he was taught by the Holy Spirit how to read the Bible and memorize whatever he read .
Confined by Illness
A more independent account was given by the Rev. E. S. Sodeinde of the African Church in a speech he read at the funeral of Orimolade on October 19, 1933. According to Sodeinde, Orimolade was stricken by an undisclosed disease shortly after his conversion to Christianity and was in bed for seven years. The illness became so serious that his people abandoned him, expecting him to die. But in a dream he was assured that he would recover if he would take water drawn from a nearby stream. This done, he began to gradually recover until he could walk again  but he remained a lame man for the rest of his life and, according to Phillips, he used an umbrella stick for support. From all these accounts, we can safely conclude that Orimolade actually suffered from an illness which paralyzed him and rendered him immobile for seven years. The popular view is that he refused the advice of his friends to seek medical aid during his illness. We can also assume that it was during this period, when meditation was possible, that he made far-reaching decisions about his evangelistic life.
The period spent in confinement therefore represented Orimolade’s training and preparation for his missionary work. At the end of it he was fully equipped to begin in earnest the task for which he had been ordained. For the next five years Orimolade travelled from place to place, like St. Paul in the Bible, preaching with great zeal the gospel of Christ. Many miracles of healing were credited to him during this period. He finally arrived and settled in Lagos where the C & S was later founded.
His first campaign was carried out in Irun, a village a few miles from Ikare . Irun is said to be noted even today for its witchcraft practices. It was thus appropriate that the one who was to found a religious society averse to witchcraft should begin his campaign in this village. Thus “he opened the seal of witchcraft and acrobatic evil performances. (…) He also pulled down the image of Osijora (one of the divinities worshipped in the village) and fought with the evil spirits operating in the area” .
From Irun he was transported in a hammock-chair,–because of his paralysis,–to the neighbouring villages of Akungba and Oka, where he also preached. From Oka he moved to Akoko-Edo, visiting Ikiran and Ibillo towns. At Benin, he condemned the practice of human sacrifice. In a sermon to a large crowd, he said “God created man in his own image. It is quite unjustifiable to carry out human sacrifice and furthermore it is sacrilegious” . Moved by his sermon, many traditional worshippers willingly gave up their emblems, images and charms for burning.
After visiting several other places in the Midwest, especially in the Niger Delta, he turned northward. He preached at Idah, Lokoja and at Okene, the main town of the Igbira tribe. In the last mentioned place he made many converts and helped them to establish a local C.M.S. Church. He then moved on to Ogori, another Igbora town, where he helped to start another C.M.S. Church for his converts. Thus, Orimolade pursued his evangelistic campaigns with the vigour of the apostle Paul and the enthusiasm of contemporary prophet William Wade Harris. In each of the places he visited, he directed his converts to the existing churches irrespective of denomination, and where there was no Christian church, he helped to establish one. He did not commit himself to any denomination, realizing that such a commitment would seriously limit his sphere of operation.
Several miracles were credited to Orimolade. In Kaba town he was attacked by a strange lion which he killed. In Ogidi village he purified a pool which the natives have worshipped from time immemorial to ensure that they remained in a harmonious relationship with the evil power it was supposed to possess.
He is credited with founding C.M.S. Churches in Abuja, Egbe, Igan and Ikasa (all in Yagba division). He then proceeded on to the far north, visiting Zaria, Bauchi and Adamawa provinces. It is also believed that he visited Sokoto, Kano and Bomu . In the North he did not win many converts because of the prevalence of the Muslim religion there. He is, however, credited with building a prayer house in Nguru.
On his return journey to the South he stopped at Ilorin and spent some time there. He seems to have been widely known in the town as Alhaji-n-Yisa and he built a prayer house there . He has also been credited with healing a lame young man and raising a young lady from the dead in this Muslim city .
When he left Ilorin, he visited Ikirun where he healed a number of sick people through prayer. He also preached in the neighbouring towns of Osogbo, Ede and Ogbomoso. In Ogbomoso he was said to have been openly condemned as a charlatan by a young woman. This woman’s uncomplimentary remark, according to the report, was reprehensible to Orimolade and he quickly left the town. But before leaving he cursed the city: “Rain shall not fall in this town again, pregnant women shall not give birth to any new baby again and the lady (that is the offender) will surely lose her life” .
On leaving Ogbomoso, Orimolade went to the big city of Ibadan, where he stayed with the pastor of the African Church and astonished the people with “his powerful prayers in his Akoko dialect” . From Ibadan he went to Abeokuta, according to C & S tradition, on the invitation of the Alake, the paramount ruler, imploring him to pray for an end to the Adubi War .
Having fulfilled the king’s wish, Orimolade went to Ifako in Agege district and lived with Chief Jacob Kehinde Coker, the leader of the African Church.
A delegation from Ogbomoso met him here and pleaded with him to return with them to remove the spell his curse brought upon the town because it had thrown the population into a state of pandemonium and insecurity. Orimolade obliged when he learned that the young woman whose impertinent behaviour had caused the trouble had died. Back in Ogbomoso, he passionately prayed that the wrath of God manifested on it be averted. The prayer was answered and things immediately returned to normal: “Rain started to fall heavily, pregnant women gave birth to new babies. (…) Ogbomoso came to realize that Moses was sent by God and not by his own whims” .
Adventure in Lagos
According to the records of the Eternal Sacred Order of C & S Mount Zion, Ebute-Metta, Orimolade arrived in Lagos on July 12, 1924 and lodged with the sexton of Holy Trinity (Anglican) Church, Ebute-Ero, Emmanuel Olumodeji, believed to be from Orimolade’s home town or district. The Advisory Board of the C & S (with its headquarters at 94, Railway Line, Odi-Olowo, Mushin) holds that the Rev. D. J. Oguntolu of the African Church, Ojokoro in Ijaye area was the person who directed Orimolade to the Ebute-Ero Church. Senior Apostle J. 0. Coker, then a member of Holy Trinity Church, but later one of the founding members of C & S, recollected that Olumodeji and Orimolade lived together in a small building, close to the archway in the Ebute-Ero Church .
With the church as his base, Moses Orimolade, as he became popularly known, began his evangelistic campaign in Lagos. One incident mentioned by Coker concerned the rumour that Lagos was going to be submerged in a tidal wave. Orimolade helped to avert this with his prayers at the United Native African Church Cathedral . His connections with the African Church began back home in 1919 when the Rev. E. D. Sodeinde wanted him to become a full-time evangelist . It might be true then, as Peel has suggested, that Oke’s prophecy first prompted Orimolade to settle in Lagos, especially if we know that until he arrived in Lagos he was an itinerant preacher. Now in Lagos, he felt very much at home with African Church leaders, one of whom, identified as Chief J. K. Coker, always took him in his car, to preach in African Churches in the district.
He lived in Ebute-Ero for only two months, leaving the parsonage on September 11, 1924. His close association with the African Church might have displeased leaders of the Holy Trinity Church. The minister of the church, Ven. Archdeacon. T. A. J. Ogunbiyi, later criticized the C & S on the basis of Orimolade’s earlier campaigns. It has been alleged by the C & S that the minister personally hated Orimolade and all that he stood for.
According to one tradition, Moses went straight to Ebute-Ero where Rev. Ogunbiyi lived. When he saw Moses he invited him to preach the sermon on an appointed Sunday. Moses preached to the gathering. He was reported to have read from Genesis to Exodus without opening the Bible and interpreted it verse by verse to the congregation. Everybody in the church was transfixed. When Ogunbiyi saw that Orimolade’s sermon was moving and spiritually uplifting he told the congregation that Moses was a liar . Ogunbiyi challenged Orimolade to tell them the school from which he had learned all the theories and translations of the Bible.
This tradition further claims that Archdeacon Ogunbiyi tried to harm Moses with charms but that, as a vindication of Orimolade’s inviolability, it was the warden of the Church who became the victim. He collapsed but Orimolade’s prayers resuscitated him. As a consequence of this incident, Moses Orimolade was nicknamed Baba Aladura (The Praying Father) in Lagos.
J. 0. Coker reportedly said that Orimolade left Holy Trinity parsonage because of his refusal to sell the water he always gave out for healing. The archdeacon, the apostle maintained, felt that Orimolade’s blessed healing water should be a source of money for the church. He also felt uneasy about the overwhelming popularity the lame prophet was acquiring through his efficacious prayer, thrilling sermons and sound Bible knowledge, his lack of formal education notwithstanding . The Advisory Board asserts that Moses was dragged out of the church and sent out of the parsonage. This humiliation of a harmless and physically disabled preacher aroused the sympathy of some church members, including J. 0. Coker and Gabriel Ogunyadi who were among the earliest members of the C&S Society .
Orimolade went back to the Ifako farm of Chief J. K. Coker and lived there for some time before returning to Lagos Island on December 20 of the same year to live in Chief Balogun Street residence . He continued his open air preaching in Lagos, stressing the need for absolute faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit, the efficacy of prayers for healing purposes and the use of Psalms. His outstanding ability was reflected in his proficiency in quoting passages from the Bible.
After five months in Balogun Street, Orimolade moved to the house of a Muslim leader, Momo Giwa. J. 0. Coker is of the opinion that Orimolade and Momo Giwa had met in Lokoja during the early days of Orimolade’s evangelistic campaigns. When Giwa met him in Lagos years later, he easily recognized him and invited him to live with him in his house in Kester Lane, otherwise known as Ago Isofin. He moved into the house on May 7, 1925 and continued to make his presence in Lagos known through his regular open air sermons, his public disputation with Muslim teachers, his moving prayers and through his peculiar songs: Lori Oke Jordani l’anpe mi (On far away Jordan hill am I being invited) and E jek’afiinu didun… (Let us with a gladsome mind…).
Miraculous feats were credited to him during this period. A masquerader who tried to harm him with juju collapsed and died just as he (Orimolade) was reciting Psalm 91 in front of him and a baby boy who had swallowed a needle vomited it after he had prayed for him. He also began to have a definite group of admirers. They were always present at his campaign meetings and called on him from time to time for prayers and spiritual guidance. Notable among these “disciples” were Sarah Phillips,–the mother of H. A. Phillips,–Sabinah Roberts (now mother cherub of E.S.O. C & S and Mt. Zion) the late Isaac Adebulewo and H. A. Phillips, who said that he knew Moses Orimolade personally as he called regularly to invite his mother to his open air meetings. Such was his fame in Lagos before the June 1925 incident culminated in the founding of the C & S Movement.
Founding of the C & S Movement
We have seen Moses Orimolade as the man of faith, the charismatic leader, the spiritual man, the mysterious, the genius. But Orimolade also had all the attributes that makes one truly human. He was a very humble man who hardly ever used the word “I” to describe himself. He maintained that God is the great and the only “I AM.” He therefore preferred the nominative plural “we” implying the whole group,–male, female, old and young .
He was an ascetic man and lived in celibacy all his life, although he sometimes kept female attendants . Orimolade was not only frugal, he was actually poor. It is true that early dissident members of the C & S charged that he was imposing fees for healing, yet members of the Advisory Board have strongly refuted this accusation, adding that the spiritual father refused even to accept free gifts for any kind of healing. H. A. Phillips cited several instances when Moses rejected gifts offered by those he healed. His poverty never tempted him to take advantage of his spiritual position to improve his lot economically. If he needed money he would without hesitation, ask for modest donations from his affluent followers. He never received money with his own hand. His “safe” was a space under his sleeping mat and his benefactors knew that was where to deposit money meant for him. If a member required financial assistance. Moses would happily direct such a member to the same place for whatever amount he needed.
All his life Orimolade slept on the floor on ordinary mats. At home, he was always clad in a white, handwoven loincloth and had an ordinary cane basket to store his few pieces of clothing. He wore his hair long and never had it shaved. When it became untidy his lieutenants advised him to cover it up with a cap, especially in public places and whenever there were visitors. This was to avoid embarrassment both to the public and to members of the society. Through William Onanuga (Orimolade’s immediate successor), who specialized in making embroidery on caps, a few caps were provided for Moses. This had been cited as the origin of the practice of wearing caps, now one of the distinguishing marks of the C & S. It was also probably in imitation of him that the practice of wearing long hair began among C & S prophets.
Moses Orimolade addressed most of his followers as sons. He would say to every newcomer: “My son, what do you desire we do for you?”  He was impartial, always more interested in pacifying than in judging. He would call an offender and make peace at once between him and his accuser. Orimolade loved peace and feared contravening orders of the government and the norms of society .
He invited the police to maintain the peace when he was apprehensive of public reaction on the return to Lagos of Abiodun and others from a very successful evangelistic tour in 1927. He also, in the crucial letter he wrote to Abiodun in 1928, at the outbreak of the quarrel which produced the first major split within the C & S, noted:
… in order to prevent a breach of peace, which you are daily contributing to create, I can no longer allow that we continue together as before. (…) I am therefore asking you through this letter to form your own society taking with you all the members as are willing to follow and cooperate with you. (…) I have reported the matter to the Commissioner of Police as I have come to Lagos not to (cause) or create trouble nor do I wish to be drawn into conflict with the government, for a breach of peace .
In this connection we can recall his visit to the administrator of Lagos Colony on May 17, 1929. Pleading his cause before this high government official, Orimolade explained that “in consequence of his good work, damaging articles in relation to himself appeared in certain Lagos papers. The Hon. Administrator, he advised, should take no notice of such articles without hearing his own side” .
Orimolade rarely prayed audibly except during general intercessions. He was given to meditation, such as is peculiar to yoga mystics. At the end of each of his usually long periods of meditation, the only visible evidence of which was an apparent look of absent-mindedness, he would heave a very deep sigh and to this all present would respond together: Iye (LIFE) . He was called Baba Aladura, not as a title originally, but as a nickname before the C & S was organized. The Advisory Board therefore takes a very serious objection to anybody parading as Baba Aladura .
With the founding of the C & S in June 1925, Orimolade seemed to have realized the consummation of his evangelistic aspirations. From then on till his death on October 19, 1933 at only fifty-four, he remained in the background, allowing his youthful and socially more presentable followers to popularize the society. He stayed at home to attend to visitors who called for prayers and healing. He continued, however to appear in public on anniversaries and during processions, when he rode in a wheelchair behind the procession.
The years 1925 to 1927 were for Moses Orimolade years of glory. They were years of expansion for the C & S, a new radically and spiritually dynamic movement. During this time evangelists of the movement visited almost all parts of Yorubaland to preach and to establish branches. The north was also widely evangelized and effective inroads were made by his preachers.
With the internal dissensions which culminated in the separation of Christianah Abiodun Akinsowon and her supporters in 1929 and of the Praying Band of the Society under Ezekiel A. Davies in 1930, Orimolade began to experience trying times. The first secession robbed him of Abiodun, a charming and motivating leader of the society, and the second of the enlightened and affluent members of the young organization. During this period he changed his residence four times, living in Mr. Holloway’s Martin Street house, W. A. Daodu’s Egerton Street residence, Ezekiel Akindele Davies’ Balogun Street house and finally in Ofin Canal from April to September 1929 when the trouble with the Praying Band was developing. From there he moved into 42, Daddy Alaja Street, where he lived as if in retirement. He spent the last four years of his life in that building leaving once, just a month before he died.
On September 14, 1933 he was taken to Osolake Street, Ebute-Metta from where he asked to be taken to Rev. D. J. Oguntolu’s farm in Ojokoro. On October 19, 1933, exactly two weeks after his arrival there, Moses Tunolase died. Since his death, Ojokoro has become a sacred place to the C & S–as Mecca and Medina are to every true Moslem–a Holy Land, where one of the greatest prophets of the twentieth century was buried. He was not killed, he was not stoned, he was not sick. It was God’s call in due season. .
A week before he died, Orimolade had blessed Abraham William Onanuga, an elderly but late convert, put one of his own garments on him and had presented him as his successor. Before he breathed his last, he was quoted as giving the following instructions:
Onanuga, take care of the flock. You will be the leader of my people. (…) Peter Omojola (his elder brother) it is time you go home. You elders (particularly pointing at J. 0. Coker, then leader, but now Senior Apostle General) teach Onanuga the constitution and working of the Holy Order because he does not know them sufficiently yet .
Three hours after he died, a visionary, Jeol Ifemade (now Jacob Ifemade and leader of the C & S on Hotonu Street), revealed at a prayer meeting at Ebute-Metta that he saw in a vision that the Baba Aladura had passed away, This was confirmed later that day when the news of his death was brought from Ojokoro to the society’s headquarters. He was buried on October 20 and it was said that flocks of white birds hovered continuously over the grave until the burial ceremony was completed .
A memorial stone was erected on the site of his tomb, and memorial services have been held there annually since 1934 by both the 10, Hotonu Street section and Mt. Zion, Ebute-Metta section of the C & S. On October 18 of every year a vigil is observed, and on the following day a memorial service is held.
In his last days, Orimolade, in spite of the rebellion of his close followers, remained a cool-headed father of the society. He made an effort to re-unite the dissident groups into one strong, dynamic society, but his unwilling associates thwarted all his moves for peace.
All sections of the C & S made him a saint and prayers are said to the “God of Moses Orimolade” in the same manner as the Hebrews pray to the “God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob.” The Advisory Board has justified this canonization in these words:
He was the first person to introduce faith-healing into Christianity in this land. He also introduced other spiritual phenomena: clairvoyance, clairaudience , etc. Since his death, people go to worship at his graveyard. Even Muslims call there to offer prayers and suppliants go there to make their petitions. He placed the society in the hands of God pledging that if it was man-made, it would fail but if it was established by God Himself it would grow from strength to strength. The society had received visitors from everywhere, even from European countries, demonstrating the universal nature of the society. Orimolade had been found to be preaching in foreign countries .
Orimolade has been acclaimed as the sole and indisputable founder of the C & S. Stories and myths woven round his person are accepted by all members as literally true. To them these things are visible proofs of his divine authority.
Joseph Akinyele Omoyajowo
Sodi was the legendary primogenitor of Ikare.
An example here of endogamous marriage, which according to Senior Apostle D. A. Tunolase, was common practice among members of the family in those days. Peter Omojola, Orimolade’s senior brother, married Rebecca Oniku and John Atansuyi Ayibiowu married Maria Ibilola Tunolase, all of the same family.
Interview with Elder A. A. Adekunwa, head of the Ikare C & S section, and members of his committee, Ikare, March 2, 1968.
The Biography of Moses Orimolade Tunolase, published by a special committee of C & S (Ikare, n.d.): p. 1O.
The minister has been identified by Senior Apostle J. 0. Coker, a C & S leader in Lagos and a founding member of the organization, as the Rev. J. K. Ajayi-Ajagbe whom J. D. Y. Peel (Aladura: A Religious Movement among the Yoruba, O.U.P., 1968. p. 60) described as the superintendent of Abeokuta Methodist Circuit. According to Captain Abiodun, Ajayi-Ajagbe was the minister by whom Orimolade said he was baptized.
Peel, op. cit., p. 59.
Ibid., p. 73.
The Biography of Moses Orimolade, op. cit., p. 15.
Peel, op. cit., p. 59.
Cf. John 4:32: “I have meat to eat which ye know not of.” It is not uncommon in Yorubaland for priests of traditional religions to be allegedly fed at certain periods from sources which the common man cannot discern.
The Biography of Moses Orimolade, op. cit. p. 21.
Ibid., p. 22.
C. A. Emmanuel, Celestial Vision, 4th ed. (Lagos, 1962), p. 24.
The Constitution, U. C. C. & S. (Lagos, 1954) p. l.
J. A. Omojuwa, Iwe Itan Igbesi aiye Moses Orimolade Tunolase, n.d., pp. 16- 17.
This was probably in the year 1919, a year after the World War had ended, when the influenza epidemic was raging.
The Biography of Moses Orimolade, op. cit., p. 25.
Ibid., p. 28.
Baba Aladura H. A. Phillips, leader of the Praying Band section of the C & S in Lagos, supported this claim with the evidence that evangelists from his section who visited the north in the 1930s came back with the information that Orimolade was well known in Minna, and some other northern towns years before the society was founded. Captain Abiodun has also testified that she learned from Orimolade himself that he had visited Kaba, Ilorin, Kaduna and Kano before coming to Lagos in 1924. In the Year Book of Nigerian Churches, 1st edition 1969/70, Ibadan, Orimolade is said to have lived in the north–Jos, Zaria, Kano–from 1915 to 1920 and at Ilorin 1920-1924.
Peel, op. cit., p. 60.
Omojuwa, op. cit., pp. 8-9.
The Biography of Moses Orimolade, op. cit., p. 37. We are reminded here of the experience of St. Pau1 in Paphos of Cyprus where he was constrained to curse the false prophet Elymas who was trying to discredit him before the Proconsul Sergius Paulus.
Peel, op. cit., p. 60.
The Adubi War otherwise known as “The Egba uprising” did take place in Abeokuta in 1918, a few years before Orimolade arrived there. The Adubi War has been described as a minor revolt in which one European and one chief were deliberately killed in protest against the termination of Egba independence in 1914 and administrative innovations including the imposition of direct taxation in 1918. See James S. Coleman, Nigeria: Background to Nationalism (Berkley, 1958), p. 173.
The Biography of Moses Orimolade, op. cit., p. 39.
Interview with J. 0. Coker, Lagos, June 10, 1968.
Peel, op. cit., p. 61.
Ibid., p. 60.
The Biography of Moses Orimolade, op. cit. pp. 40-41.
Interview with J. 0. Coker, Lagos, June 10, 1968.
Interview with Advisory Board, April 15-20, 1988.
Apostle J. O. Coker has rejected this view, insisting that Moses lived not in J. K. Coker’s house, but in the house of J. Ayo Coker, popularly known as Were-Were Coker (Smart Coker), who later became one of the first leaders of the C & S and one of Orimolade’s close advisers.
Interview with members of the Advisory Board, Lagos, June 8, 1968.
Hence Elizabeth Olayinda Ijesa.
Interview with Advisory Board, Lagos, June 8, 1968.
See Article 27 of Memorandum of Association, 1930.
N.A.I. Comcol. File 785, “Orimolade to Abiodum,” March 8, 1929.
Interview between Orimolade and the administrator of Lagos Colony on May 17, 1929; reported by J. O. Tubi on May 22, 1929. N.A.I. Comcol. File 785.
C. O. Blaize and H. A. Phillips and the Advisory Board at various interviews in Lagos, 1967-68 confirmed this.
The Memorandum of Association registered by Orimolade and his board interview with the Advisory Board, 1930, however regarded Baba Aladura as the official title of the head of the society, who shall assume all powers of control after his induction.
The History of Moses Orimolade at Ojokoro, a release by the Advisory Board E.S.O. C&S, Mt. Zion, Ebute-Metta, n.d., p. 2.
Ibid., p. 2.
Of course, we must not lose sight of Daddy Alli and Sophia Odunlami’s “Precious Stone” of Ijebu origin in the years of influenza and what followed: the Faith Tabernacle.
The statement was by Apostle J. O. Fafowora, secretary, Advisory Board, on behalf of the board, Lagos, April 16, 1968.
This article was researched and written by the Rt. Rev. (Prof.) Joseph Akinyele Omoyajowo, editor of the book Makers of the Church in Nigeria, edited by J. A. Omoyajowo (Lagos, Nigeria: CSS Bookshops Ltd., 1995) in which it appeared, pages 117-135.
Encyclopaedia Britannica (complete article): Aladura