Orimolade Tunolase, Moses (C)

1879 to 1933
Cherubim and Seraphim Society (Aladura)
Nigeria

Multiple versions are available: (A)(B)

“Baba Aladura” Orimolade is the acclaimed father of African Indigenous Churches in Nigeria for good reason. He was the one of the first Aladura prophets to introduce faith healing into Christianity in Nigeria. He is a primus inter pares in the list of the earliest itinerant prophets to institute the Aladura spiritual phenomena of clairvoyance and clairaudience. [1] His attributes as a man of faith, a charismatic leader, the genius, “the mysterious and a truly humble man of God” are glowingly highlighted by Omoyajowo. [2] He is affectionately called Saint Orimolade by the members of the Cherubim and Society Movement.

The Mystery Surrounding His Birth

Orimolade came from the royal lineage of Omo’ba Ode Sodi of Okorun Quarters, Ikare, in southwestern Nigeria. The year of his birth is traditionally given as 1879. [3] Many mysterious occurrences were said to have characterized his birth and life. He was reported to have spoken to his mother while he was in the womb. Orimolade was also reported to have attempted to walk on the day he was born but his father prevented this using the powers of incantation. The result was that Orimolade became crippled and was not able to walk when it was time for him to do so. [4] These well-publicized mysteries definitely marked him out as an unusual personality, which he eventually grew up to be. In due time, Orimolade became a minister of the Gospel.

His call

Before the start of his ministry, Orimolade was said to have received what could be termed divine visitations through a vision and a dream. In the vision, he was directed to take some water from a flowing stream and to use it to wash his legs. He complied and partially regained the use of his legs, though he still limped for the rest of his life.[5] In the dream, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and gave him three objects: a rod, a royal insignia, and a crown. The rod signified his victory. The insignia implied “the unction to make divine utterances, while the crown indicated that he has been endowed with honor and multi-respect which would make people bow before him to receive blessing.” [6] Soon after these revelations, Orimolade became an itinerant evangelist, preaching the gospel across major cities in Nigeria.

His Evangelistic Journeys as a Freelance Prophet

Orimolade was originally an itinerant prophet. Like William Harris and Garrick Braide he never had the intention of establishing a church, so he continued in his itinerant ministry. Between 1916 and 1924 he toured many parts of Yorubaland, the Niger Delta, and the northern area. Wherever he went, there was usually a manifestation of signs and wonders. In Ilorin, a Moslem dominated town, he was said to have had a very successful ministry and performed many miracles. At Kabba, he reportedly killed a lion, brought a dead young woman back to life at Alhjiru-Yisa, a Moslem dominated village, and won many converts at Ikirun where he was instrumental in the healing of a number of sick people through his powerful prayer. [7] Next, he visited Ibadan, where his fame increased as he held “revival” prayer meetings in churches wherever he could be accommodated. Finally, he came to Lagos and was for a period the host of Rev. T. A. J. Ogunbiyi of the Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Ebute-Ero, Lagos. Here his fame increased because his ministration was also accompanied by signs and wonders as in other places.

Though unlearned, the proficiency with which he recited the Bible was astounding. In spite of this and the miracles, Orimolade’s modus operandi in performing miracles was challenged as incompatible with that of the Anglican Church and so he was compelled to move out from there. [9]

The Founding of the Cherubim and Seraphim Movement

An incident brought Orimolade in contact with a young lady, Christianah Abiodun Akinsowon, and the two became the principal actors in the establishment and shaping of the destiny of the movement later known as the Cherubim and Seraphim (C&S) Church. [10] There are various versions of how Orimolade came into contact with Abiodun. The most prominent however is that she had a strange visionary experience after attending a Roman Catholic festival, which landed her in a trance for many days. Many people, including the vicar of her church, were invited to restore her to normalcy, but she was only able to recover when Orimolade was called in to pray for her.

Many viewed her experience and recovery as supernatural events and this resulted in many people converging on the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Hunny Moiett, of whom Abiodun was a ward, in order to have get close to the miraculous act. The Moietts who were discomfited by the sight of the huge crowd that had besieged their apartment since the incident began, pleaded with Orimolade to take the young lady away to his place. Orimolade consented, and consequently, inquisitive visitors started converging on Orimolade’s residence to listen to Abiodun’s story. A prayer fellowship was formed, which eventually blossomed into the C&S Society in 1925.

Unity in Diversity in the C&S Movements

The C&S grew quickly in its formative years. However, it has suffered so many schisms that today the Church has hundreds of splinter groups within the movement. The schism started between the two co-founders, Orimolade and Christianah Abiodun, who parted ways in 1929. It is evident that Orimolade made concerted efforts to re-unite the dissenting groups but all his moves for peace were frustrated. In spite of this division, it is claimed that since his death on October 19, 1933, members from various sects as well as people from all walks of life, from different religions and continents, are known to go on pilgrimage to Orimolade’s burial site to venerate and offer prayers. Thus, in a way, the pilgrims demonstrate the universal nature of the society.

Michael Ogunewu and Deji Ayegboyin


Notes:

  1. Akin Omoyajowo, “Moses Orimolade Tunolase” in J. A. Omoyajowo (ed.), Makers of the Church in Nigeria 1842-1947 (Lagos: CSS Bookshops Ltd (Publishing Units) 1995).
  2. Akin Omoyajowo, “Moses Orimolade Tunolase.”
  3. Akin Omoyajowo, “Moses Orimolade Tunolase,” 118.
  4. Michael A. Ogunewu, Travails and Triumphs of Aladura Christianity in Nigeria (Ikeja: The Amen Mission Inc., 2015), 27.
  5. Ibid, 27.
  6. G. A. Oshitelu, History of the Aladura (Independent) Churches 1918-1940 (Ibadan: Hope Publication Ltd, 2007), 48.
  7. Ibid, 50.
  8. J. A. Omoyajowo, Cherubim and Seraphim: The History of an African Independent Church (New York: NOK Publishers, 1982), 39.
  9. E. A. Ayandele, The Missionary Impact on Modern Nigeria (London, Longmans, 1966), 276.
  10. Deji Ayegboyin and S. Ademola Ishola, African Indigenous Churches (Lagos: Greater Heights Publications, 1997), 82.

This article, received in 2017, was written by Dr. Michael Ogunewu, DACB Liaison Coordinator at Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary in Ogbomoso and Dr. Deji Ayegboyin at the University of Ibadan, DACB Advisor and JACB Contributing Editor.