The controversy surrounding the purported death of the General Overseer of the Christ Revival Victory Chapel International, Prophet Ireti Ajanaku, has taken a dramatic twist as his members are insisting that their spiritual leader is alive.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that this is also the family’s position, even though his family and some of his pastors had earlier reportedly announced his death to the landlords’ association around his residence at 15, Folarin Williams Close, Ikola-Odunsi in Agbado/Oke-Odo Local Council Development Authority, Lagos. An evangelist, who had spoken as an authority in the church, but declined to give his name, told Saturday PUNCH on Wednesday that Ajanaku was alive.
He said, “There is still life in him and we are praying for his recovery. That’s all I can say. People are peddling rumours and saying so many bad things about the church, but those things are wrong.”
Ajanaku reportedly died on Saturday in his hometown, Gbongan, Osun State, after returning from a trip to South Africa. But the family is yet to make any public announcement on his death.
Residents of the area said they already suspect that he was never dead, but information on the true state of his condition is what they seem to be divided on. Some of the residents were of the opinion that Ajanaku was in a coma, while others said he must have been in a trance.
Although, Ajanaku’s wife, Joy, had not been seen in public since last weekend, it was learnt that she and some old members of the church had been holding vigils at the family’s residence since news of her husband’s death broke.
But a landlord on the street, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said Ajanaku might have been ‘back’ from the supposed coma or trance.
Speaking on Thursday morning, he said, “At the vigil they held from last night till this morning, we heard what sounded very much like Ajanaku’s voice leading the worship for the first time since the news that he was dead got to us. We were discussing it this morning and some of us believe that it must have been him.
“Although some of his family members and pastors came to tell us that he was dead on Sunday, we were not allowed into his compound and none of us has seen his body. It’s just what we were told and there is no proof so far that he’s dead.
“We heard that the family has again claimed that he’s not dead. So what we heard may be proof that he was sick or in a coma or in a trance. But one thing we’re sure of is that his body (Ajanaku) is still in the house.”
Also, some residents said there was drama on Ajanaku’s street on Monday night while a vigil was ongoing in his house. Eye witnesses said that some men in white attire and holding bells, who were suspected to be cultists, stormed Ajanaku’s residence singing and chanting.
A resident, who did not want to be named, said the suspected cultists, who were about 20 in number, arrived the street at 10pm on Monday and left around 2am, the next morning.
The source said, “The alawo (cultists) were not allowed inside Ajanaku’s compound. So they moved up and down the street, singing and chanting. They were all dressed in white and came with all the kits cultists normally wear and even had small bells in their hands which they rang as they sang. The cultists really disturbed our sleep that night as everybody was glued to the walls. We, residents, suspect that the pastor must have belonged to a cult group, otherwise those people would not have come as they did.”
Saturday PUNCH also observed a general disappointment among the residents, following Monday’s experience.
Another resident, who also did not want to be named, said, “Most of us are still disappointed that a pastor would be involved with cultists. We believe that they came to perform a rite for one of their own.”
A church member, who also confirmed the incident, said he shunned Tuesday’s vigil at Ajanaku’s residence because of fear that the suspected cultists might be back to force their way into the house.
“I don’t want to be caught in the middle if the cultists decide to come back,” he said.
In the last few months, Ajanaku and his church had been mired in controversies which included a feud with his spiritual daughter and gospel singer, Tope Alabi; trouble with security operatives; a persistent skin problem and reports of highhandedness and misdeeds in church. His recent trip to South Africa was said to have been connected to either his trouble with the law or getting treatment for a kind of disease that causes skin pigmentation.
However, the evangelist who spoke to Saturday PUNCH, declined to comment on any of the issues, including the kind of illness Ajanaku had which required the members’ prayers.
He said, as he saw our correspondent off to the exit gate of the church, “That’s all I can tell you. You journalists have been writing all manner of lies about us. We are truly sorry but now, your presence will no longer be tolerated here.”
Investigation shows that Ajanaku, who was always referred to as ‘daddy’ by members of his congregation, commanded deep loyalty from them. Saturday PUNCH also learnt that the 40-year-old preacher largely enjoyed a mixed feeling of love and fear from members of his church.
A member of the church, who belonged to the Camera Team, Mr. Olabode Oderinde, confirmed that Joy told some key members of the church that Ajanaku was alive. Oderinde, who admitted that he had not seen Ajanaku since his return from abroad, warned of grave repercussions on people who peddle rumours or say negative things about his ‘daddy.’
He said, “Someone married to a great prophet is also a prophet. The wife (Joy) has told us that there is nothing wrong with ‘daddy’ and I believe her. It’s just that people don’t know my ‘daddy’; my ‘daddy’ can sleep for three days and not wake up. We have never seen him where he’s eating. So how can a great man like him just die like that?
“Daddy has warned us not to be carnally-minded or say anything negative about him. People saying all sorts of things about him don’t know what will befall them. One of my neighbours who said wrong things about him lost her child- the baby died instantly.
“Also, a church member who did the same, his child froze and it was ‘daddy’ who revived him. The boy became okay but for eight months, the man has not returned to the church.”
Ajanaku’s fair skin has also drawn criticisms from some members of the public, who claim that the church leader is applying bleaching creams to his skin.
Asked if there was any truth in the allegations or if Ajanaku’s recent trip to South Africa was indeed, connected to the treatment of a skin disease, Oderinde debunked both claims.
He said, “He didn’t bleach, don’t say such things about him. That’s how he is to his toe nails and nails are not bleached. His wife and children are also like that- they are all very fair in complexion.
“He doesn’t bleach and he can’t have a skin problem. How can a powerful man like that have a skin problem?”
When our correspondent visited Ajanakus’ residence on Wednesday, he was harassed for writing down some information on a sticker pasted outside the gate.
A suspected church member, who did not mention his name, threatened to get violent with our correspondent if he did not release the paper he had written the information on.
Arguments that the sticker was pasted outside the gate and meant for the public neither interested nor calmed the man.
The man later snatched the paper, while another lady who claimed to be Ajanaku’s daughter, tore off the part containing the information on the sticker.
She said, “There’s nothing wrong with my ‘daddy’. He is alive and well. So we don’t know where the rumour that he died came from. I’m his daughter; however, my name is not important.”
Saturday PUNCH later learnt that Ajanaku has two children of ages between five and seven with Joy, and another older girl in a previous union.
“All the church members call him ‘daddy’ and call each other, ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’. The one who spoke to you couldn’t have been his daughter. She’s older than his daughters,” a resident said.
In spite of claims by the church members that Ajanaku was hail and hearty, the ambience at his residence suggested otherwise. Investigation reveals that members of the church, including pastors throng the residence each day, milling about in and outside the compound.
Some landlords on the street said they had already begun move to reduce the number of people visiting the street daily by instructing the security guards to refuse entry to outsiders without genuine missions.
In addition to the vigils held at Ajanaku’s residence each night, prayer sessions have also been held at 5pm on specified days since the last weekend.
Residents of Koya Street, Off Oluwaga Road, Ipaja, where Ajanaku’s church is located, described Monday’s prayer session as ‘much.’
One of the residents, who identified himself as John, said he heard the congregation shouting ‘Do your miracle’ repeatedly.
Also, while Saturday PUNCH was on the church premises on Wednesday evening, while a prayer session was ongoing, prayer points circled around calling on God to “perform His wonders and do what He has promised to do.”
Interestingly, Oderinde said Ajanaku once told them during the church’s last anniversary programme that the press would soon look for him, for no fault of his.
He said, “My ‘daddy’ said that they would be ‘finding’ him all over the place and that he won’t have to pay for the publicity.”
However, there have been no public comments yet from the famous gospel singer, Tope Alabi, who was a member of Ajanaku’s church before the two fell out.
She was said to be on a musical tour of Canada with her husband as at the time of writing this report. Our correspondent’s Facebook message to Alabi for her reaction to Ajanaku’s purported death went unanswered. PUNCH