Otubu, Godfrey Itse Mene
There are five orders within the Cherubim and Seraphim movement. One of these is the Eternal Sacred Order of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church (ESOCS), with which Godfrey Itse Mene Otubu was associated. Otubu became a member of the movement in Benin City in 1943, eighteen years after it was founded by Moses Orimolade, and rose through the ranks to become the prelate (Baba Aladura) of the church on September 12 1986, a position which he held until his death in 2004.
Birth and Family Background
Godfrey Otubu was born on Sunday, February 24, 1924 into the Otubu royal family of the Ohenhen Kingdom in Oghara, Ethiope Local Government Area of Delta State. He was born under rather unusual circumstances. Even though his parents were not Christians, he converted them while still in the womb. Unlike a normal pregnancy, his mother carried him for over two years. This worried the family until they encountered a Baptist pastor who prayed and revealed that the unborn baby would be a prophet of God. When he was eventually born, he was named Oritshegbeyiwa, meaning “prayer of God brought this.”
Education and Secular Employment
Gabriel Otubu studied accountancy by correspondence and earned a higher diploma from the London School of Accountancy in 1949. He became a Fellow of the Association of Accountants and Auditors, Monroe, England, in 1950. He was admitted as a Fellow of the Institute of Company Secretaries and Managers of Nigeria in 1987 and as a member of the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria in 1995. His secular working career spanned the public and private sectors, where he functioned at high levels. He was the accountant in the Loans Board of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Enugu in 1954; credit manager, Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation from 1955-1959; controller, Federal Savings Bank in 1969; chief accountant (Treasury) from 1973-1975; and controller of finance and accounts in the Federal Ministry of Defense, Nigeria, from 1976-79. He retired from the Ministry of Defense in 1979. He was also a one-time chairman of Zenith International Bank and of Bitumen Marketing Company of Nigeria. After his retirement, he established a flourishing consultancy and finance management firm, the Senforce Group of companies.
Gabriel Otubu became a member of the Eternal Sacred Order of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church in 1943 and worked tirelessly for the growth and development of the church and for Christianity within and without Nigeria. In 1954, when he took up a civil service appointment in Enugu, he started worshiping at the Eternal Sacred Order of Cherubim and Seraphim at Chief Agbor Street, Asata, Enugu. In the eastern part of Nigeria, he worked tirelessly with others to propagate the gospel of Jesus Christ and was instrumental to the spread of the doctrine of the church. He built many churches across the land and his evangelistic effort led to the conversion of many into the Order. At a time when the Cherubim and Seraphim movement was considered in some quarters as anathema, he was not ashamed to identify with its cause, to which he was committed until death.
Gabriel Otubu climbed the spiritual ladder of the church to attain the headship position, going from being a prophet in 1947 to 1951 to apostle in 1959, secretary of the Order in 1961, counselor to the Baba Aladura in 1966 and senior apostle general in 1973, a post he held until 1985, when he was appointed Baba Aladura (prelate) by the advisory board. His induction ceremony as Baba Aladura was held on September 12, 1986, at the Mount Zion National Headquarters, Surulere, Lagos. As a result of his hard work and loyalty to the church and the Baba Aladura at the time, he had been ordained chancellor to the Baba Aladura, a post that has not been held by any other member of the Holy Order until recently.
He was a man with a sense of vision and mission who initiated a series of reforms during his leadership of the church. Gabriel Otubu introduced the posts of special senior apostle, apostle general, and supervising apostle general, as well as senior mother in Israel. He also established the King David Association, the Eternal Torch Bearers Association and the Eternal Sisters Association. He created the central management committees (CMC) as well as a finance committee to ensure probity, accountability, and good governance in all the provinces of the Holy Order. He often warned his flock against intra-church struggle and secession, and criticized the church in Nigeria for intra and inter-denominational squabbles that were fuelled, not always by genuine doctrinal differences, but by ego, greed, and plain chicanery. He did a lot to enhance the image of the Holy Order both at home and abroad and that of Nigerian Christianity in general.
At one time, he noticed a striking lack of uniformity in the way ministers of the Order were conducting church services. Within the same order, ministers officiated differently and often contradicted one another in the order of worship of the church. He then wrote and caused to be published a booklet entitled “Explanatory Notes” which standardized the order of worship and this is still in use till today. He also published a guide entitled “Duties of Workers” for all officers of the Holy Order on matters of conduct in and out of office and of questions of propriety and decorum in their behavior. He also took it upon himself to translate and modernize the church’s hymns from their traditional Yoruba into the English language, and the companion of such hymns (together with other popular church hymns) into a single convenient volume.
As a man of action, he was patriotic but not an activist. He believed in a separation of calling and duty and insisted that men of God had no business assuming political roles. Nevertheless, he spoke up against injustice and government weaknesses. He was a philanthropist who gave generously to those in material need just as he nourished the spiritually starved. During his lifetime, the church had a system known as the “Golden Fund” through which scholarship was provided for deserving children of the church.
He made an immense contribution to the acquisition of land for the relocation of the new national headquarters to Surulere in Lagos, and almost single-handedly built the new cathedral at Tejuosho, Surulere. Godfrey Otubu was also instrumental in the establishment of the Holy Order in London, England, and in New York, United States of America, and to the spread of the Holy Order throughout the world.
He was a man of integrity, and in testimony to his personal qualities and to his spirit of commitment in both the secular and spiritual arenas, he received awards from home and abroad. He was honored with a Doctor of Divinity degree from an American University, and he received national honors from Italy and Nigeria. It is also to his credit that during his period of leadership, the Cherubim and Seraphim movement, which has witnessed a series of fragmentations, maintained its doctrinal and structural unity.
Otubu held many ecumenical positions. He was the first patron of the National Association of Religious Tolerance; a member of the Advisory Council for Religious Affairs; and the national president and international chairman of the Kenya-based Organization of African Instituted Churches for the Nigerian Region (OAIC). He was also on the national executive committee of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN); the standing committee of the Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN) and the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), which was set up under the regime of President Obasanjo.
In a tribute to him, James Ibori, the governor of his home Delta State of Nigeria at the time, described him as a great patriot, and as a selfless and devout Christian leader. He testified that from the time of his induction as Baba Aladura in September 1986, it was clear that he was working under divine inspiration and that this was why he was able to sustain the tempo and relevance of the church over the years. The governor noted with delight that throughout the time of Otubu’s sojourn, his life was devoted to the service of God and humanity. He observed that despite the deteriorating standard of morality in our society, the Baba Aladura left the stage with his integrity intact, while the ovation was still loudest.
Godfrey Otubu died on November 17, 2004, at the ripe age of eighty, after leading the Eternal Sacred Order of the Cherubim and Seraphim for close to two decades.
Michael Adeleke Ogunewu
David Erimosele, “Baba Aladura, Otubu Joins the Saints at 80” National Interest, December 5, 2004, p.44.
Godfrey Otubu, (1924 – 2004) Editorial/Opinion, Biafra Nigeria World News, December 4, 2004, http://news.biafranigeriaworld.com/archive/2004/dec/04/061.html.
This story, received in 2012, was written and researched by Dr. Michael Adeleke Ogunewu, Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, Nigeria. Dr. Deji Ayegboyin is the DACB liaison coordinator.