Joseph Ayodele Babalola was born on April 25, 1904 to David Rotimi and Madam Marta Talabi who were members of the Anglican Church. The family lived at Odo-Owa in Ilofa, a small town about ninety kilometres from Ilorin in Kwara State, Nigeria. His father was the Baba Ijo (literally meaning, father of the church) of the C.M.S. Church at Odo-Owa. According to Pastor Medayese in his book, “Itan Igbe dide Woli Ayo Babalola”, mysterious circumstances surrounded the birth of Apostle Babalola. On that day, it was believed that a strange and mighty object exploded and shook the clouds.
On January 18, 1914, Apostle Babalola was taken by his brother M.O. Rotimi, a Sunday school teacher in the C.M.S. Church at Ilofa, to Osogbo. Babalola started school at Ilofa and got as far as standard five at All Saints’ School, Osogbo. However, he quit school when he decided to learn a trade and became a motor mechanic apprentice. He did not continue long in this vocation before joining the Public Works Department (PWD) and he was among the road workers who constructed the road from Igbara-Oke to Ilesa, working as a steam roller driver.
Apostle Babalola’s Call to the Prophetic Ministry
Apostle Babalola was called by God into the prophetic office to stand before men. His strange experience started on the night of September 25th, 1928 when he suddenly became restless and could not sleep. This went on for a week and did not know the cause of such experience. One day when he was working on the Ilesa-Igbara-Oke road, the steam roller’s engine suddenly stopped to his utter amazement.
There was no visible mechanical problem, and he became shocked. He was in this state of confusion when a great voice “like the sound of many waters” called him three times. The voice was loud and clear, telling him that he would die if he refused to heed the divine call to go into the world and preach. Babalola did not want to listen to this voice and he responded like many of the Biblical prophets, who, when they were called by God, did not normally yield to the first call. Apostle Babalola gave in only after he had received the assurance of divine guidance.
To go on the mission, he had to resign his appointment with the Public Works Department. Mr. Fergusson, the head of his unit, tried to dissuade him from resigning but Apostle Babalola was bent on going on the Lord’s mission.
The same voice came to Apostle Babalola again, asking him to fast for seven days. He obeyed and at the end of the period he saw a great figure of a man who, according to Pastor Alokan, resembled Jesus. The man in a dazzling robe spoke at length about the mission he was to embark upon. The man also told him of the persecution he would face and at the same time assured him of God’s protection and victory. A hand prayer bell was given to Apostle Babalola as a symbol.
He was told that the sound of the bell would always drive away evil spirits. He was also given a bottle of “life-giving water” popularly called “Omi-iye” to heal all kinds of sicknesses. Consequently, wherever and whenever he prayed into water, miracles of effective and total healing were recorded for those who drank the water. Thus, Babalola became a prophet and a man with extraordinary powers.
Enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit, he could spend several weeks in prayer. Elder Abraham Owoyemi of Odo-Owa, said that the prophet regularly saw angels who delivered divine messages to him. An angel appeared in one of his prayers and forbade him to wear caps.
During one of his prayer sessions an angel appeared to him and gave him a big yam which he ordered him to eat. The angel told him that the yam was the tuber with which God fed the whole world. He further revealed that God had granted unto him the power to deliver those who were possessed of evil spirits in the world. He was directed to go first to Odo-Owa and start preaching. He was to arrive in the town on a market day, cover his body with palm fronds and disfigure himself with charcoal paints.
In October 1928, he entered the town in the manner described and was taken for a mad man. Babalola immediately started preaching and prophesying. He told the inhabitants of Odo-Owa about an impending danger if they did not repent. He was arrested and taken to the district officer at Ilorin for allegedly disturbing the town’s peace. The district officer later released him when the allegations could not be proven. However, it was said that a few days later, there was an outbreak of smallpox in the town. The man whose prophecies and messages were once rejected was quickly sought for. He went around praying for the victims and they were all healed.
Pa David Rotimi, Babalola’s father, was instrumental in the establishment of a C.M.S. Church in Odo-Owa. Babalola organized regular prayer meetings in this church and many attended because of the miracles God performed through him. Soon, information reached the bishop that almost all members of the C.M.S. Church in Ilofa were seeing visions, speaking in tongues and praying vigorously. Babalola and the visionaries were allegedly ordered by Bishop Smith to leave the church. But Babalola did not leave the town until June 1930.
Not long after, Apostle Babalola was invited to Lagos by Elder Daniel Ajibola, At that time Elder Daniel was working in Ibadan and was a member of the Faith Tabernacle Congregation. He introduced Prophet Babalola to Pastor D. 0. Odubanjo, one of the leaders of the Faith Tabermacle in Lagos. Senior Pastor Esinsinade who was then the president of the Faith Tabernacle was invited to see APostle Babalola and after listening to the details of his call and his ministry, the Faith Tabernacle leaders warmly received him into their midst. Apostle Babalola had not yet been baptized by immersion and Senior Pastor Esinsinade emphasized the need to go through that rite. Pastor Esinsinade then baptized him in the lagoon at the back of the Faith Tabernacle Church building at 51, Moloney Bridge Street, Lagos. Babalola returned to Odo-Owa a few days after that and Elder (later Pastor) J. A. Medayese, paid him a visit.
The news of the conversion of the new prophet reached Pastor K. P. Titus at Araromi in Yagba, Kwara State. Pastor Titus was a teacher and preacher at the Sudan Interior Mission. He invited Prophet Babalola for a revival service. Apostle Babalola while in Yagba, performed mighty works of healing. Muslims, traditionalists and many more were converted to Christ during the revival. Meanwhile, Apostle Babalola did not use the opportunity to establish a separate Christian organization despite his marvelous evangelical success. Instead, he declared to his followers that he was a member of the Faith Tabernacle, the society which had him baptized in Lagos. He thus persuaded them to become members of the Faith Tabernacle. To facilitate this, he went to Lagos to confer with the leaders, especially as he was not yet well acquainted with the doctrines, tenets, and administration of the church.
Oke-Oye Mighty Revival
There was a controversy among the leaders of the Faith Tabernacle in Nigeria over some doctrines. This controversies were particularly as regards the Ilesa and Oyan branches of the ministry. The Oyan branch was under the supervision of Pastor J.A. Babatope, a notable Anglican teacher, before his conversion and later, one of the outstanding leaders of the Faith Tabernacle in Nigeria. Issues like the use of western and traditional drugs versus divine healing, polygamy and whether polygamous husbands should be allowed to partake of the Lord’s Supper, were among those doctrines that needed to be agreed on. These issues caused issues at the IIesa Tabernacle and to avoid a split, a delegation of peacemakers made up of all leading Faith Tabernacle pastors, was sent to Ilesa. It was headed by Pastor J.B. Esinsinade of Ijebu-Ode, president of the General Headquarters of the movement and D.O. Odubanjo of the Lagos Missionary Headquarters. The Ilesa meeting was scheduled for the 9th and l0th of July, 1930.
Before the delegation left Lagos for Ilesa, Apostle Babalola was invited to meet the leaders at Pastor I.B. Akinyele’s residence in Ibadan. From there Pastor I.B. Akinyele and Apostle Babalola joined the delegation to Ilesa. At Ilesa, he was introduced to the whole conference and was lodged in a separate room because of his prophetic mission. The representatives began their meeting and on the agenda were twenty-four items. The first was the validity of baptism administered to a man with many wives.
The second was the issue of divine healing because some of the members believed in the use of drugs like quinine to cure malaria fever. They were only able to discuss the first item when there was a sudden interruption which Pastor Adegboyega described thus: “The concilatory talks at Ilesa were going on, when suddenly a mighty sweeping revival broke out at Faith Tabernacle Congregation Church at Oke-Oye, Ilesa”. The revival began with the raising of a dead child by Apostle Babalola.
The mother of the dead child who was restored to life went about spreading the news around the town of Ilesa proclaiming that a miracle working prophet had come to the town of Oke-Oye. This attracted a large number of people to Oke-Oye to see the prophet. According to Pastor Medayese, many of those afflicted with various diseases who came to Oke-Oye were healed. Many mighty works were performed through the use of the prayer bell and the drinking of consecrated water from a stream called Omi Ayo (“Stream of Joy”).
The result was that thousands of people including traditionalists, Muslims and Christians from other denominations were converted to the Faith Tabernacle. As there was no space in the church hall, revival meetings were shifted to an open field where men and women from all walks of life, from every part of the country and from neighbouring countries assembled daily for healing, deliverance and blessings.
Odubanjo testified that within three weeks Babalola had cured about one hundred lepers, sixty blind people and fifty lame persons.
According to him, both the Anglican and Wesleyan Churches in Ilesa were left desolate because their members transferred their allegiance to Apostle Babalola and that all the patients in Wesley Hospital, Ilesa, abandoned their beds to seek healing.
Also, the assistant district officer in Ilesa in 1930 wrote that he discreetly visited the scene of the revival and saw a crowd of people including a large contingent of the lame and blind. Members of the church reported that hopeless barren women were made fruitful; women who had been carrying their pregnancies for long years were wonderfully delivered.
The dumb spoke and lunatics were cured. In fact, it was another day of Pentecost. Witches confessed and some demon possessed people were exorcized. However, the general superintendent of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society of Nigeria at the time described the reports as “grotesquely inaccurate accounts of the operations of Babalola.” This was a biased view because his church was reported to be the greatest victim of the Ilesa revival.
Not long after, a revelation was given to Apostle Babalola to burn down a big tree in front of the Owa’s Palace. The big tree was traditionally believed to be the home of witches and wizards. The juju tree was greatly feared and sacrifices were often made to the spirits believed to reside in it. There was fear that burning the tree would result in the instant death of Apostle Babalola because the gods would be angered. But to people’s amazement, the prophet did not die but rather continued to wax stronger in the Lord’s work. This made the Owa of Ilesa and important people in the town to fear and respect the prophet.
The wave of Apostle Babalola’s revival spread through Ilesa, Ibadan, Ijebu, Lagos, Efon-Alaaye, Aramoko Ekiti and Abeokuta. Among the men of faith who came as disciples to Babalola were Daniel Orekoya, Peter Olatunji from Okeho, and Omotunde, popularly known as Aladura Omotunde, from Aramoko Ekiti. These men drew great inspiration from Babalola. Orekoya went on to reside in Ibadan where a great revival also broke out at Oke-Bola through him. It was during his Oke-Bola revival that Orekoya reportedly raised a dead pregnant woman.
After the great revival of Oke-Oye, Apostle Babalola was directed by the Holy Spirit to go out on further missionary journeys, but before this, people from other parts of the country had spread the news of Oke-Oye, Ilesa’s great revival. Accompanied by some followers, Apostle Joseph Babalola went to Offa, Kwara State, where people turned out to hear his preaching and see miracles. Muslims in Offa became jealous and began to incite community members against him. To avoid bloodshed he was compelled to leave. He next stopped in Usi in Ekiti where he again performed many works of healing. From Usi, he and his men moved to Efon-Alaaye, also in Ekiti, where they received a warm reception from the Oba Alaaye of Efon. An entire building was provided for their comfort. Babalola requested an open space for prayer from the Oba who willingly and cheerfully gave him the privilege to choose a site.
Apostle Babalola and his men chose a large area at the outskirts of town. Traditionally the place was a forbidden forest because of the evil spirits that were believed to inhabit it. The Oba tried to dissuade Babalola and his men from entering the forbidden forest, but Babalola insisted on establishing his prayer ground there. The missionaries entered the bush, cleared it and consecrated it as a prayer ground. When no harm came upon them, the inhabitants of Efon were inspired to accept the new faith in large numbers.
Apostle Babalola’s evangelistic success in Efon-Alaaye was a remarkable one. Archdeacon H. Dallimore from Ado-Ekiti and some white pastors from Ogbomoso Baptist Seminary came to see for themselves the “wonder-working prophet” at Efon. The success of the revival was accelerated by the conversion of both the Oba of Efon and the Oba of Aramoko.
They were both baptized with the names, Solomon Aladejare Agunsoye and Hezekiah Adeoye respectively. After this, news of the revival at Efon spread to other parts of Ekiti. The missionaries also visited other towns in Ondo State (Owo, Ikare and Oka among others). Babalola took a retreat to his home town in Odo-Owa. While he was at Odo-Owa, a warrant for his arrest was issued from Ilorin.
He was arrested for preaching against witches, a practice which had caused some trouble in Otuo (Bendel State). He was sentenced to jail for six months in Benin City in March 1932. After serving the jail term, he went back to Efon Alaaye.
One Mr. Cyprian E. Ufon came from Creek Town in Calabar to entreat Babalola to “come over to Macedonia and help.” Ufon had heard about Babalola and his works and wanted him to preach in Creek Town. Led by God, Apostle Babalola followed Ufon to Creek Town. His campaign there was very successful. From there, Babalola visited Duke town and a plantation where a national church existed at the time. Certain members of this church received the gift of the Holy Spirit while he preached and they were baptized. When the prophet returned from the Calabar area, he settled down for a while. In 1935, he got married to his wife, Dorcas Babalola.
The following year Babalola, accompanied by Evangelist Timothy Bababusuyi, went to the Gold Coast. On arrival at Accra, he was recognized by some people who had seen him at the Great Revival in Ilesa. After a successful campaign in the Gold Coast he returned to Nigeria.
Apostle Joseph Babalola’s Imprisonment
After the successful missionary tour of Ekiti, Ondo and Edo States, Babalola retreated to his adopted hometown, Ilofa, by the end of 1931, to fortify himself spiritually. He embarked on a 40-day fasting and prayer. He spent the 40 days on top of the Odo-Owa mountain now consecrated as Babalola’s Praying mountain. While on the mountain, the Lord appeared to him in a vision and told him that an instrument of honour was in the furnace and that He would want him(Babalola) to go into the furnace to fetch it. Babalola assured God that he was ready for anything He wanted him to do.
It was on this mountain on February 25, 1932, that Apostle Babalola wngaged in serious warfare prayers for close to four and a half hours where he literally struggled for his life before finally securing victory at the end. Pastors David Adio, J.A Medayese, and Ben Adefabijo accompanied him to the mountain during this particular encounter.
In March 1932, few days after the spiritual fortification, a warrant for the arrest of Babalola was issued from Ilorin in present Kwara State. The charges against Babalola read that :Two women at Otuo accused Babalola of calling them witches thereby forcing them to take a specifically banned poison to exonerate themselves of the accusation. The poison Apostle Babalola allegedly made them to drink was the particular bark of a tree called obo. Every one in the country knew that no one, witch or not, had ever taken this poison without an adverse effect; it was either the person died instantly or vomited strange things; neither of these things happened to the women though.
So, with the cooperation of the colonial government which saw Apostle Babalola as a threat, he was arrested for preaching against witches. He was taken to Ilorin and then transferred to Benin City where he was charged to court based on this accusation. Many devout Christians were outraged and wanted to hire attorneys to defend the case, but Babalola refused to be represented, saying that the Lord had set his path. He was sentenced to jail for six months in Benin City in March, 1932. It was believed by many till today that the sentencing was a result of persecution, an attempt to end the ministry of this resurging prophet who was causing some mission churches and the colonial government a great deal of concern.
Now, there was another prisoner at the Benin prison yard by the name Cyprian Ufon. Mr Ufon who hailed from Creek Town in Calabar area was very sick and depressed. Babalola prayed for him and he was healed and cured of his depression. He quickly became a follower of Babalola. Babalola later understood that he (Ufon) was the instrument of honour God had told him about during his prayer retreat at Ilofa.
Babalola electrified and turned the prison yard to a house of God. Many prisoners and warders were healed and saved.
Notably was the case of a pregnant lady, also from Creek Town who had safe delivery through the ministration of Babalola in the prison. The warders also brought their families and relatives to receive healing through the prayers of Babalola. On June 2, 1932, Pastors Idris Vaughan and George Perfect arrived in Nigeria as the first missionaries of the Apostolic Church based in Britain. They traced Babalola to Prison and paid him a visit. During the visit, the missionaries heard with their own ears what the Lord had done through Babalola in the lives of the warders and prisoners. Apostle Babalola was eventually released from prison in October, 1932 after serving his jail term.
The Birth of the C.A.C. in Nigeria
The spectacular evangelism by Apostle Joseph Ayo Babalola brought a wave of persecution to all who rushed into the new faith. The mission churches allegedly became jealous and hostile especially as their members became main converts of the Faith Tabernacle. Babalola was a spiritually gifted individual who was genuinely dissatisfied with the increasing materialistic and sinful existence into which he believed, the Yoruba in particular and Nigeria in general were being plunged as western civilization influence on society grew. The C.A.C. believes that the spiritual power bestowed on Babalola placed him on an equal level with Biblical apostles like Peter, Paul and others who were sent out with the authority and in the name of Jesus.
Apostle Babalola’s Wife, Marriage and Children
In 1930, his fame began to spread abroad most especially due to his amazing exploits at the Great Revival that happened at Ilesa which changed the spiritual climate of the western region. The impact of the great revival was felt virtually all over the country and Apostle Joseph Ayo Babalola became a force to be reckoned with in the Nigerian church. He became the leader of the pentecostal movement in Nigeria and his name was on every lip both of friends and foes, admirers and critics. Apostle Babalola however remained single and many of his family members, followers and colleagues became curious as to why he was not considering marriage being a church leader.
After persistent pressure from his father, Pa David Rotimi Talabi, Apostle Joseph Ayo Babalola got married to Dorcas on April 25, 1935. About 6000 people attended the wedding and he received a total gift of 3 pounds, 10 shillings and 6 pence. The wedding took place at the first Aladura assembly at Efon Alaaye and was conducted by Pastor David Odubanjo, Pastor J.S.B Odusona and Pastor Medaiyese. Apostle Babalola met his wife a virgin and had to give her 2 pounds and 10 shillings for the virginity, a custom of the Yoruba people at that time.
During their lifetime, Babalola used to call his wife ” Mama Abiye” and Dorcas would also call him “Baba Abiye”. They settled down in Efon Alaaye.
Much has been said about Mama Dorcas Babalola. She was born on March 10, 1912 to the family of Fowowe at Ilesa. Many people regarded Dorcas as being mean and aggressive but we have to look at the circumstances of her frustrations. In the first few years of their marriage, sometimes she had to cook from morning till evening for visitors. Later, some people came to give her a helping hand and some would bring food to their home because the house was always filled with people.
The no-privacy life eventually wore Dorcas out. Dorcas was extremely stressed primarily because of the Apostle’s busy schedule; otherwise she was humorous.
Their sitting room was always besieged and turned to a classroom; there were 47 children the Apostle was either sponsoring or tutoring, and who were always coming in and out of the house.
Apostle Babalola hardly slept on his ‘Vono’ bed. He vacated it to sleep on a camp bed and sometimes on the floor. All these compounded Dorcas’ frustrations.
What also added to her frustration was that many times her husband would go on lengthy mission and would not return home for over a week.
Dorcas was not able to go with him for two main reasons:
- She could not have withstood the harsh condition of missionary work; Babalola did not get a car until 1953. He was either trekking several miles or riding on a Raleigh bicycle or using a public transportation (usually a lorry) that was always overloaded with other missionaries, all men. When Apostle Babalola traveled alone to rejoin other missionaries, he did so, most of the times, after midnight and before dawn.
- People were always in the house even when Babalola was away.
At some Point, she tried to prevent Apostle Babalola from stepping out of the house because she felt he needed some rest. Also, she sometimes took her frustration out on the sponsored children when her husband was away on missions; the children might be subjected to compulsory fasting.
It was extremely difficult for both couple balancing family life with the work of God because of the conditions of missions field then.
Apostle Babalola gave priority to the call of God and building the church without a time for vacation. The church once planned to organize a trip to Israel for him but it never materialized. Fortunately, people are reaping of his labour till today.
In spite of the slight hiccup in their marriage, there was no case of domestic violence between them. They were both responsible in the discharge of their home duties. Babalola always told people he loved his wife; he always respected her and never maligned her.
After Apostle Babalola slept in the Lord in 1959, Dorcas stayed at Efon Alaaye till 1962 when she finally relocated to Ilesa with her daughters. At Ilesa, Dorcas traded in raw food products, especially beans. She remained a member of the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC). She was appointed as the patroness of CAC, Okesa, Ilesa.
Dorcas died at Ilesa on December 28, 1993 and was laid to rest on January 15, 1994 behind CAC, Okesa.
Eminent clergymen graced the burial ceremony; Pastor Olu Alokan led the wake keeping ceremony, Pastor D.O Babajide led the prayers while Pastor E.H.L Olusheye who worked closely with the family preached at the burial service.
Pastor Olusheye praised Dorcas for her motherly care, strength and courage.
Most people out of ignorance or misinformation have labeled this woman a witch and a thorn in Babalola’s flesh; hence the necessity of this research so as for people to be able to understand what she went through as the young wife of a man who was a public property. (Copied)
Many people believed till date that his wife was a witch, one who frustrated his life and never supported his ministry. Some pastors even used the story to admonish men while preaching about marriage. Some said his ministry ended untimely because he made a wrong marital choice.
Today, I watched an interview with one of the Apostle’s daughters, Mama Apeke Adeniyi, who talked extensively about her parents and their marriage. She even mentioned that people said her mother also gave witchcraft to them all because they were all female children.
She said what she could remember that often caused issues between her parents was Baba’s giving habit. He gave so much that sometimes it looked like he had forgotten that he had a family. And Mama would be upset that he had given out every penny on him while they were in need at home. His response would always be ‘God will provide’.
Which woman can have a man who comes home once in two months and guests won’t even let the man have her time and would still act like all is well? Of course she’d be frustrated! How many men can take it? If all your wife does is ministry no time for you…Haba! Let’s be fair for once!
Mama Dorcas Babalola was never a witch, she was only a disciplined and firm Ijesha woman; she was very hardworking and wouldn’t take nonsense from even her kids. She supported her husband in ministry and even after the death of the Apostle, she accommodated many of the church members and gave to them in love. Watching the interview was such an eye opener for me.
I kept wondering, who could have started such rumour ? What could have been the offence of Mama Babalola such that they had to tarnish her image for generations ?
I was made to believe that Baba is from Efon- Alaaye, he is not, he is from Kwara state, Ilofa to be precise, he was only based in Efon. He was born in Odo Owa from what I read but the daughter said her dad’s hometown is Ilofa.
For further reference, read Great Revivals Great Revivalist: Joseph Ayo Babalola by Abi Olowe.
Babalola: The mantle of an Apostle by Moses Oladele Idowu.
After a successful completion of his assignment, Apostle Joseph Ayo Babalola slept in the Lord in 1959.