Adebamiji Omotayo Ashifat was determined to see the end of her problem. For four years, she had suffered excruciating pains as a result of an intestinal problem that started in 1994. Having been diagnosed of blocked intestines, whatever she ate did not digest. The lady from Modakeke, Osun State had consulted doctors at Mount Olivet and Shadrach Hospitals in Abeokuta for treatment. Unfortunately, she could not receive solutions to her health challenge.
Heeding the advice of a neighbour, Ashifat travelled to Lagos to participate in Lekki ‘98, the spiritual gathering with the theme: Divine Visitation. During the service, as the General Overseer of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, instructed “that we should praise God and sing” in her words, she felt a “loosening” initially but before the end of the sermon, the blocked intestines had been completely loosed from the grip of the devil. Her story of misery changed that moment.
For Oluwole Chris Ogunlani, her story of 10 years of blindness changed when the service started. According to the excited middle aged man, “I’ve lost my sight over 10 years ago and I’ve gone for series of medical attention yet I cannot see well. Today when we started this service I received my sight!” Everyone who attended the programme felt that something different had either happened to them or Christianity in Nigeria. A gentle man who was jumping everywhere instantly reported that, “I was brought here on a motorcycle in the morning. I could not walk because I’ve been suffering from kidney problem for one year. During the course of prayers, our father in the Lord said God was changing spare parts in the body and I’ve been believing God that if I get to Lekki today He’s going to change my kidney. And it happened. I even ran from my seat! I ran up and down! I felt different!”
There were several reasons for people to feel different. Many lives were changed and many sordid tales were changed during Lekki ‘98. The over two thousand joyous people who eagerly gathered around the altar area to share their testimonies were the witnesses of the transformation that happened in the body of Christ that night around the Atlantic Ocean.
Lekki ‘98 was the event that signposted the new move of God in Africa. The theme of the unprecedented all night prayer meeting was “Divine Visitation.” Lekki ‘98 started with a simple vision. Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, while doing a Bible Study one evening outside Nigeria, imagined preaching on the sea side like Jesus did when he used the boat of Peter in the fifth chapter of the gospel of Luke. From that moment, the seed of the greatest revival in the world, after Azuza Street Revival which took place in Los Angeles, California, USA on, April 9, 1906, was sown. Africa, through Nigeria was set to become the pedestal for the revival of the Church.
It was difficult to imagine the magnitude of what God was going to do through Lekki ‘98 when Pastor Adeboye mooted the idea of an all night prayer by the ocean to some Senior Pastors in The Redeemed Christian Church of God. The initial reaction was an admixture of curiosity and doubt akin to the question of Nathaniel in John 1:46 when he quipped “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.” Responding to all naysayers and doubters alike, Pastor Adeboye, in his gentle manner, like Philip, simply retorted, “Come and see.” And the world saw wonders during Lekki ‘98.
The length and breadth of Lagos metropolis saw a horde of vehicles that it had never seen before scurrying towards Lekki via Victoria Island from the dawn of Friday December 18, 1998. Those who were not prepared to attend the event scheduled for the evening of that modern Day of Pentecost in Nigeria thought the traffic jam on the Third Mainland Bridge and Eko Bridge respectively was the usual Friday morning drive jam. The traffic and Police authorities in Lagos, although mobilized, could not in any way have been adequately prepared for that upsurge of human and vehicular traffic trooping from all the nooks and crannies of Lagos to Lekki. Apart from those who were resident in Lagos, everybody who needed a divine visitation found his or her way to Lekki from outside the State. All the gateways to Lagos State primarily; Ikorodu, Badagry, Ikeja, Lagos Island and Epe became entry points literally leading multitudes towards Lekki peninsula, the venue of Lekki ‘98.
If the world had believed the promise of Pastor Adeboye, the soft spoken General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, the shock that the crowd that thronged Lekki elicited would have been minimal. It was interesting that even media projections that over four million people were expected to participate in Lekki ‘98 were not well comprehended. In its December 16, 1998 edition, Tempo Magazine reporter, Bamidele Johnson reported that 4 million people were set to march for God at Lekki before the event.
Pastor Charles Kpandei, who was then a Pastor in Port Harcourt, is never tired of sharing the experiences he and other members of the Church had when they drove into Lagos through Epe. It was the nostalgia of Lekki ‘98 that made Pastor Kpandei, now a Pastor in Charge of Region Eleven in The Redeemed Christian Church of God, with Headquarters in Lekki, to host a mega Crusade tagged “Enlarge 2018” last March in the New Lagos of Lekki Peninsula. Pastor Adeboye equally felt nostalgic when he preached during the crusade. However, unlike Lekki ‘98 that was held twenty years earlier as an all night event, the programme, with the theme, “Help From Above” was held on a Sunday morning.
Lekki ‘98 not only changed lives. It changed the way Pentecostal churches in Nigeria related with one another. During the programme all the major Pentecostal churches excitedly collaborated with the Redeemed Christian Church of God. It was seen and embraced as the programme designed by God for the revival of the end time church in Nigeria.
An indication that the revival was for all Nigerians was evident in the diverse nature of those who attended the programme. People of different faiths attended the Lekki ‘98 revival service. In its January 1999 edition, Redemption light Magazine reported that two women dressed in Islamic hijab were seen, hand in hand, walking away from the venue of the event at about 6:00am. A group of people who walked barefooted in white garments, (obviously members of a white garment church in Nigeria), were overheard thanking God for the life of the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God.
Before Lekki ’98, the global media had never been known to report any good news about Nigeria. However, Lekki ‘98 changed all that. Just as the dawn broke over Africa on the morning of Saturday December 19, 1998, CNN and BBC both broke the first good news from Nigeria to the world. Breaking News: There was an unprecedented gathering of over 7,000,000 Christians who prayed all night in Lagos, Nigeria. And there was no stampede during and after the event!
CNN was absolutely right. The clinical efficiency of the organising team that coordinated Lekki ‘98 was astounding. There was no theft. Every missing item was recovered by the owners after the programme through the Redeemed Information Bureau. Security operations were at their best. Pastors in the mission coordinated the joint activities of officers and men of Nigeria Police, Nigeria Army and the Civil Defence Corps respectively.
Sanitation was given a priority consideration as hundreds of mobile toilets were positioned in designated areas at the venue. Those who could have lost their excitment due to hunger were put into consideration by the organizers as corporate and individual food vendors were not in short supply.
For the first time, corporate Nigeria was conspicuously involved in a church programme through Lekki ‘98. The multinational giant, Nigeria Breweries branded the venue of the programme as its popular brand of soft drinks, Crush and malt drink, Maltina were made available to those who needed to quench their thirst.
Lekki ‘98 also changed the face of commerce in Lekki peninsula. Real estate business began to experience a boom immediately after the programme. The value and prices of lands and landed properties appreciated in Lekki axis. It experienced rapid development as many Lagosians began to relocate to Lekki peninsula. The other side of the coin has also been brought to bear on the people who lived in Lekki prior to Lekki ‘98. The increase in building construction necessitated the influx of more people to Lekki axis. The concomitant of the growth in real estate is increase in traffic jam.
Before December 18, 1998, it took less than thirty minutes to drive from Lagos Island to Badore around Ajah in Lekki. From that day, traffic jam could ensure that a motorist does not cover the same distance in less than three hours.
Every Pastor and minister of God who participated in Lekki ‘98 recorded significant changes in their respective ministries. The image of Pastor Adeboye, the change agent who God used, also changed forever. Just as an African-American preacher named William J. Seymour was used by God to ignite the fire of Christian revival in the 20th century, the almighty God chose Enoch Adejare Adeboye an African from Nigeria as the synergist for the Revival that was to usher in the 21st century Church.
From that moment, the man of God who adorns the yoga of anonymity could no longer pass through anywhere unannounced. As the convener of Lekki ‘98, he was launched into international prominence for facilitating ‘’the largest mobilization of people in one spot on the surface of the earth, a feat never before recorded.” The shy revered man of God tried to fight popularity by giving an order to all Pastors under his leadership in 1999 to desist forthwith from using his photograph on any publicity items. However, over the years, the golden fish that God used to change the story of the Church in Nigeria has grown to become a platinum fish which anyone will ignore at his or her own risk. Pastor Adeboye has since attained global acclamation as the “one and only Daddy G.O.” in the world.
Unarguably, the Redeemed Christian Church of God rapidly grew in number and impact all over the world as a result of the impressive testimonies of souls that were saved and lives that were transformed during Lekki ‘98. Twenty years after its global acclaim, Lekki ‘98 continues to be a reference point. Bisi Daniels, a creative Nigeria writer and columnist, wrote in the June 11, 2017 edition of The Cable, an online newspaper in Nigeria, “Lagos businessman Kehinde David is not a member of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) but among the treasures in his purse is a sheet of paper on which he has listed the themes of all the Holy Ghost (Congress) services of the church since 1998, when the programme which held in Lekki choked up traffic so heavily he had to walk all the way from the venue to his home in Surulere, Lagos.”
It is true that Lekki ‘98 was first of its kind in the world. Through it, Lekki Beach that was “Long regarded as a haven for Lagos fun-seekers” was described by a Nigerian reporter as dumping “its hedonistic tag for a spiritual one as it hosts four million God-seeking people.” Yet, Lekki ‘98 was not the first time Pastor Adeboye was leading people to participate in Holy Ghost Congress. Historically, the first Congress was held in 1977 when Pastor Adeboye organized a Congress as a protest to Festac ‘77. In essence, Lekki ‘98 was first of a kind of Holy Ghost Congress. So this December, as the world celebrates twenty years of the miracles of God during Lekki ‘98 everyone hopes to see and touch the glory ahead.
By Wale Adeduro