Who is Jesu Oyingbo?
The 1950s in Lagos, Nigeria witnessed the shocking declaration of a middle aged Ijebu man named Olufunmilayo Immanuel Odumosu aka Jesu Oyingbo as the long awaited Jesus Christ. Many people laughed, shook their heads in utter disbelief while those who believed him thanked their stars for witnessing the second coming of Jesus Christ. The latter set of people packed their belongings and deserted their homes and families for the communal enclave of Jesu Oyingbo.
It all began in June 1959 when Odumosu declared himself as Jesus Christ who had come to lead the people form darkness to light. He said, “I am He. I am Jesus Christ, the very one whose second coming was foretold in the New Testament. I have come, and those who believe in me will have an everlasting life and joy. I am the missing of the trinity. I have come to prepare the faithful for the judgment day.”
One may wonder what triggered Odumosu’s mouth-gaping declaration and more importantly, what made some people believed him. Could it had been his apprenticeship with his carpenter uncle, Pa Odubela, which is like that of Jesus Christ and his foster father, Joseph, in the Bible? Or maybe it was the wonders he performed endlessly. Whatever it could have been, one thing is certain, Nigerians frantically stormed Jesu Oyingbo’s church seeking for instant miracle.
Jesu Oyingbo’s church, named Universal College of Regeneration, was at first in the Oyingbo suburb of Lagos and this earned him the ‘Oyingbo’ in his alias. He later moved the church to Awoyokun Street, Ikorodu Road, Palmgrove and later to Immanuel Street, Maryland, Ikeja, Lagos. OldNaija gathered that Jesu Oyingbo’s mode of worship was in no way related to that of the biblical Jesus Christ and his disciples. In fact, he concocted Christianity, Islam and paganism to form his own mode of worship. Anyway, he cared less about people’s thoughts and he maintained his ground firmly as the beloved Jesus Christ. Jesu Oyingbo’s communal enclave where his over 700 followers lived was made up of a bakery, a barbershop, a printing press, construction company and so on. It was indeed another world on its own. Some of the structures in the communal enclave and other buildings owned by Jesu Oyingbo had weird sculptures which made people believed the more that he was operating a cult. Some of the buildings he owned on Immanuel Street, Maryland had inscriptions such as The Lion of Judah, Immanuel the Christ, Prince of Peace, Merciful Father etc. and also had statues of Jesus Christ, lions and mermaids around them.
As if all these were not enough to wreck his proclamation as a resurrected Jesus Christ, Jesu Oyingbo baptized his new members not with water or anything normal one can think of, well, it was cane, 9 strokes of cane! After the baptism, the new converts were free to live in his estate. Also, it was alleged that there were constant sexual activities and abuse in Jesu Oyingbo’s church. It is worthy of note that being a member of the UCR, one’s properties and partner could be taken at will by the almighty Jesus of Oyingbo. On one account had he married a member’s wife off to another member. On another account, he married the wife of a member to punish the man for maltreating his wife. Incest was also said to have been a major activity in the enclave.
Jesu Oyingbo’s wives were reported to be over 30 with the an estimated number of 80 children and this was due to the unquestionable authority he had over his members’ wives. However, not all his children believed in him or his religion. One of his daughters, Bukola Immanuel, said, ‘‘I don’t accept him as my savior. He’s my biological father. I have only Jesus Christ as my savior.”
Nevertheless, Olufunmilayo Immanuel Odumosu, the Jesus of Oyingbo, was described by his children and neighbors as a kind and funny man. They claimed that he smiled always and even cracked jokes when walking in the neighborhood. These claims are evident in the film show session he organized every evening in the enclave and neighborhood. Children and movie lovers would always gather in the evening to watch movies with a project provided by Jesu Oyingbo. It was always festive like.
Jesu Oyingbo’s story has it that he acquired massive wealth in the course of operating his ministry. He however denied the accusation that his wealth was ill-gotten, mostly by extorting his followers. He said that he’s a saviour and a businessman as well who rely on his business enterprises to manage his ministry and polygamous family. Jesu Oyingbo really shook the crust of Lagos and other cities in southwestern Nigeria between the early 1970s and late 80s. He gained wide popularity even that his name still remain in a Yoruba gospel song which goes thus: Emi o mo Jesu Oyingbo, emi o mo Jesu Agege, emi o mo Guru Maharaji, Jesu ti mo mo l’apata ayeraye (I don’t know Jesus of Oyingbo, I don’t know Jesus of Agege, I don’t know Guru Maharaji, the Jesus that I know is the rock of ages).
In 1988, the self-acclaimed Jesus of Oyingbo died at the age of 73, just like every other man, in a hospital. The whole of his church was thrown into confusion. How could Jesus Christ die on his second coming? They wondered. Maybe he would resurrect on the third day. They hoped. Alas, Jesu Oyingbo didn’t resurrect till this moment. Jesu Oyingbo’s death cracked his ministry for the center could no longer hold. His elder children tried to fix the cracks, instead, they widened. Jesu Oyingbo died without a will and this brewed serious war among his children, wives and followers. His eldest son, Olukayode Immanuel Odumosu, took the matter to the court and this was where the atrocities perpetrated in the communal enclave were unraveled. However, in 1997, the court ruled in favour of the children who then evicted their father’s followers living in the enclave.
What is left of the enclave now are dilapidated and abandoned buildings which are frequented by thugs, weed smokers and criminals. What do you think of this man and his kinds?
Ojo, Matthews. “Religion and Sexuality: Individuality, Choice and Sexual Rights in Nigerian Christianity” – AFRICA REGIONAL SEXUALITY RESOURCE CENTRE
Chambers, Michael (April 9, 1964). “Jesus of Oyingbo,”. New Society. 3 (80): 13–14.
Author:Teslim Opemipo Omipidan