A notable leader in Nigerian Pentecostalism, Pastor Taiwo Odukoya, who died in the United States of America on August 7, aged 67, was noted for his refreshingly different focus. The publicised vision of the church he co-founded with his wife in 1992, The Fountain of Life Church, Lagos, went beyond the familiar promotion of miracles and prosperity by many Nigerian Pentecostal church leaders.
The founders stated that their church, said to have more than 8,000 members, was established “to teach men and women the art of building successful relationships and the principles of leadership so they can be who they are created to be.”
On his journey to full-time priesthood, he left his job as a petroleum engineer at the then Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in 1994. He was employed by the corporation in 1982 after his one-year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) assignment there.
Sacrificing his position in the corporate world for his priestly calling reflected his spiritual passion. As a pastoral worker, he had stints at the Redeemed Evangelical Mission of Bishop Mike Okonkwo and the Household of God Ministry of Rev Chris Okotie before he started his own church.
Born in Kaduna, now in Kaduna State, he attended Baptist Primary School, Kigo Road, Kaduna and St. Paul’s College (now known as Kufena College, Wusasa) Zaria, before studying at the University of Ibadan, where he got a degree in Petroleum Engineering in 1981.
Under his leadership, The Fountain of Life Church, Ilupeju, Lagos, had a strong youth appeal, and helped to promote virtues among the country’s youth population, which can be viewed as a positive social contribution.
He demonstrated his belief that apart from spiritual development, churches have a responsibility to make life better for people in socio-economic terms. His church has a hospital, an orphanage, a school for destitute children, and a farm. His social initiatives also include a water project to provide boreholes at strategic locations for people who lack access to potable water, and a skill acquisition and entrepreneurial institute for the underprivileged.
His church’s Grace Springs Rehabilitation Home takes young children off the streets and rehabilitates them. It also has an Education Support Project (ESP) that provides infrastructure in public schools in its environs and awards scholarships to outstanding students.
In 1997, Odukoya introduced Discovery for Men and Discovery for Women, non-denominational programmes designed to equip men and women with technical and practical life skills, mainly through quarterly rallies, mentorship courses and a vocational centre. He was busy with both spiritual and secular matters, all aimed at helping people to experience life maximally.
He also promoted his brand of Pentecostalism by writing books and prayer manuals, and was credited with more than 100 titles, including Unleash Your God-given Potential, Created for Blessings, Limitless, Home Affairs, The Proof, Get All You Want, The Portrait of a Champion, 120 Days of Victory, 121 Days of Blessings, 125 Days of Favour.
His death is believed to be somewhat linked with devastating blows of life he suffered from the loss of two wives and his twin sister. His first wife and co-founder of the church, the magnetic Bimbo Odukoya, whom he married in 1984, died in December 2005, a victim of a horrific plane crash at Port Harcourt International Airport, Rivers State.
He remarried five years later. His second wife, a South African, Rosemary Simangele Odukoya, died in 2021 after a two-year battle with cancer. His son observed at the time that the serial tragedies “would break a lesser man.” About seven weeks later, he lost his beloved twin sister.
It is a measure of his faith that he kept going despite paralyzing adversities. In a striking message some months before his exit, he was reported saying to the congregation: “Stay focused. Run the race so that when you leave…Heaven will be glad to receive you. Earth will never forget. So, whether in life or death, you’re preaching, you’re teaching, you’re encouraging, you’re edifying, you’re helping people for the great beyond.”