Jimmy, the son of the late pastor, Bimbo Odukoya, tells ARUKAINO UMUKORO of Punch Newspaper about his mother’s life and impact
PLEASE, tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Jimmy Odukoya, also known as P.J. I’m the second child of Pastor Taiwo Odukoya and the late Pastor Bimbo Odukoya. I studied at Oral Roberts University, USA, where I earned my first degree in Business Administration, with a minor in Public Relations and Advertising, and my MBA in strategic marketing management. I’m a pastor at Fountain of Life Church, and also the head pastor of its youth church, (Church 3:16). I am also a businessman and executive director of First Call Institute for Innovation, Leadership and Management. We do training for corporate organisations and individuals. I am also into music, motivational speaking and I’m a relationship coach.
How was growing up?
Growing up as a child with both of my parents was beautiful and amazing. I’d like to think that I had the perfect life. My parents loved each other, and we grew up in a good and supportive home. Both of my parents had singing backgrounds. Dad was in the Baptist choir. Mum grew up singing too. Music, arts and theatre were part of our growing up. I remember when they both started the Fountain of Life Church in the 1990s, and we were always in church every day. It took me going out with them later in life to realise how famous my parents were.
What are some of the values you learnt from your mum?
Mum always put God first. Everything she did was God-centred. I remember two things she said to me, ‘If I ever had to pick between God and my family, it would be tough, but I’d always pick God; God always comes first.’ She also said to me, ‘If I would ever leave anything for you in this life, I won’t leave you money, fame or riches, because all that can fade away, but one thing I would leave with you is God, because once you have God, you have everything.’ She loved God and she loved people. It’s amazing that even up to this day; everyone has a personal story of how she impacted and influenced their lives personally. She was always selfless and was a big giver—both my parents are. From both my mum and dad, I learnt how to put God first in everything. I learnt humility, selflessness, about valuing relationships and people; my mum always said that relationships are the currencies of life.
Your mum anchored the popular Single and Married television programme. What are some of the important things she told you about relationship and marriage?
We can start a sermon from that. A lot of the things she discussed with Single and Married she probably would have discussed it with us first. Some people say I naturally know about relationships, it was because I grew up hearing about it and seeing it from my parents. When it comes to marriage, it’s important to choose the right person. Some people choose based on emotions, and emotions are fleeting, or on physical characteristics. I remember she used to say, ‘In choosing a life partner, don’t focus on the container, you have to look at the content.’ Also, that, ‘women are incubators, what you give them is what they give back to you.’ She used to say, ‘Love is blind; marriage is the eye opener.’ She said marriage is two forgivers living together; and one must be willing to forgive and put one’s spouse ahead of oneself. Communicating effectively and understanding each other’s love languages are very important too. I could go on and on about what she taught me.
You must wish she had met your wife….
Yes, absolutely. Although, she is in a better place, every major occasion, achievement and milestone is bitter-sweet, because she is not here to enjoy and see it. I have had to deal with that. I definitely do wish she got the chance to meet my wife. But I’m sure that she would have been happy with my choice. I also wished my children got the chance to meet my mum.
What would she have told you about your wife on the first meeting?
It would have been her (my wife’s) love for God, and her big heart for people. I think mum would have been impressed by my wife’s sincerity, how she carries herself, and how she values life and family.
Despite her busy schedules and travel engagements, how did your mum create time for you and your siblings?
No matter how busy she was, she was never too busy for us. She always created time for us. She had a way of making one feel special every day. It did not matter who she was talking to or who she was with, I could walk into her office anytime and interrupt because I wanted to see my mum, or just say, “Hi mum!” There were no restrictions. When I was in school, she would call me up just to say, ‘Hi Jim, what’s going on, what’s the latest? Talk to me.’ She always wanted to be so involved. We travelled for family holidays. She loved shopping and watching movies. It was always fun.
How did she discipline any child whenever they erred?
Growing up, mum was more of the talker; dad was the one that did the spanking. My mum would talk to you, but you know sometimes, the talk was worse than the beatings, because I never wanted to hurt or disappoint my mum.
How has your mum’s name opened doors for you?
It’s interesting that a lot of people did not know she had grown children. Not just my mum, my parents’ name, Odukoya, carries a lot of goodwill. I remember when I returned to Nigeria and I was trying to push my music. I went to Silverbird and the person that had organised the programme was a member of our church, and he gave me a warm reception. I don’t go about introducing myself as Pastors Taiwo and Bimbo Odukoya’s son, except when asked. I don’t use it to get favours. But I cannot deny that her and my father’s name carries a lot of goodwill. It’s humbling.
Did your mum influence your career choice?
My mum was my biggest supporter. She believed in me and always felt I could be the best and I could do anything. If she was here, she would been 110 per cent behind my music and business. Both of my parents have been very supportive of my career. Indirectly, my mum, being my backbone and support, influenced my career.
Are your siblings also involved in the ministry?
I have two sisters, and I also have two baby brothers. My older sister is very much involved in singing; she heads one of the choir groups in church. From time to time, she also speaks during programmes for young women. My younger sister is doing her PhD in psychology, but she has preached like twice before, as well. So, in some way, we are all involved in the ministry.
How was she as a mother and a pastor?
Some people put on a façade or a front for church. But mum was the same person. As much as she was Pastor Bimbo, she was also our mother and my father’s wife. She gave him that honour as the head. She did not want any woman serving my dad; she had to be the one to do it. She was always protective of her kids. She would not tolerate anyone disrespecting her husband or her family. She loved God, she loved her family. There was nothing she would not have done for her family, or for people; if it was in her power to do so, she did it. She really had a heart of gold. She was humble and selfless.
How would you describe her relationship with your dad?
It was amazing. A lot of people don’t know that my father was the one that started Single and Married; he was the one that pushed my mum into it. Dad was the one that insisted she went on television. He had a hand in everything. He was the hand behind the scene that was making things happen, and he was comfortable with letting his wife develop and grow in that position. Because she was the one on television, some people thought she was the pastor of the church. But he was the one behind it. For a man to be so confident in himself and in his calling, and to make sure that his wife fulfills her full potential, it is not only exemplary and honourable, it is also praiseworthy; not too many men would do that. Some men are intimidated by their spouses, and they may try to limit their shine. Everywhere my mum went and whatever platform she graced, she gave praise and glory to God first, and the next person she would mention was her husband. She would say, ‘I want to thank my husband for believing in me.’ They got married in 1984. Mum and dad had such a beautiful relationship because it encapsulated love, faithfulness, confidence and trust. They really were a team. Mum was dad’s support system, he was hers.
After your mum’s death, it took a while before your dad remarried. How did you feel about it at the start?
It would have been totally selfish for me to say my father shouldn’t remarry. We were all growing then. My sister had left the house, I was going to leave too; later we were going to have our own families too. He was still young. I was very supportive of him remarrying, as long as he was happy and had that companionship and support.
What do you think your mum would have done?
My mum would have wanted the best for him too. It’s funny that my parents used to have this argument. My mum would always say that she would go before him, and my dad would say, “What are you saying, what do you mean? I’m the older one; I am supposed to go before you!” Mum always felt like, if my dad ever went before her, she would not have been able to cope. I’m sure that she would have supported it; she would have been fine with him being happy and getting all the support that he needs.
What was her favourite meal and drink?
I don’t know if she had a favourite food. But I know that she loved malt drink and mango juice.
What were her favourite books?
Apart from the Bible, she read everything that had to do with relationships, singles, married and life. She had a library. She read all of my dad’s books too. She was his biggest fan. She was taking notes at every sermon he preached. She had a big appetite for studying and writing.
What are some things Nigerians don’t know about your mum?
Before she became a pastor, mum worked as a curator at a national arts gallery. She was very funny. She loved to wear six-inch heels and she found a way to bounce and run across the stage on those stilettos. She was also fashion-forward. She was stylish and elegant in all her outfits. Hers are big shoes to fill. She was an amazing woman. I remember the time I went with her to the Redeemed Christian Church of God camp; we had to form a 10-man ring around her and to get her out of the auditorium, and we had to push against the crowd because everyone wanted to touch her or talk to her. She stayed back for another two hours to counsel people.
What was her daily routine like?
I wasn’t with her every day, since I had relocated in early 2000. So, I couldn’t tell. But obviously, she woke up and did her devotion. If she had to preach in church or somewhere else, she prepared for it. Later, at home, she would serve my dad, and we would have our family devotion. The last thing she did was to wash her face.
What were your mum’s likes and dislikes?
She loved God, she loved the Bible. She loved preaching. She loved watching good movies that were based on real life stories or taught lessons. She loved to give and help people in need. She disliked people being proud and disrespectful to God and family. She was very passionate about excellence. She was always time-conscious, she didn’t like tardiness. She supported Nigeria’s football team whenever they played a match. She, like my dad, was a very good table tennis player and track and field athlete. She loved singing and fashion.
Did she have any premonition about her death?
I would say she did. Some things happened which made me think so. She was talking to my sister in 2005 on the phone and she said to her, ‘When you’re having your first child and I’m not with you, know that the Holy Spirit is with you.’ My sister said, ‘What do you mean, wherever you are in the world, you would fly to visit me.’ My mum said, no. She then gave my sister a scripture to read, which my sister didn’t read until after my mum had died. When she read it, it was Paul, the apostle, addressing one of the churches; it read, “Dearly beloved, the time has come for me to depart.” That was freaky. I also remember right before they boarded the plane, she was telling her personal assistant about each of us, her children, in details, and her PA was wondering why she was talking that way about her kids. Also, the last birthday she had with my father was his 49th birthday in 2005. She said God had told her to celebrate him big. People usually marked a 50th birthday in a big way. But she organised a big celebration as if it was dad’s 50th birthday; not knowing that it was the last birthday celebration she would have with my dad, that she would not be around for his 50th birthday.
What was her last conversation with you?
She called me on the phone on a Thursday just to check up on me and know how I was faring. Then, she told me that she could not wait for all of us to come home, that it was going to be a good Christmas. Then, she said she was going to be travelling and I asked her why she kept travelling late in the year. Our conversation was on a Thursday. The plane she had boarded crashed on a Saturday in December, 2005.
How did you feel when you heard about the plane crash?
I was asleep in my dorm room when my sister called. She was frantic and crying, and said mum was in a plane crash. It took me a while to digest. I then called my dad to ask. I was told she was initially among the seven survivors and that they would find out where she was taken to. That was on Saturday. For the whole night, we waited and prayed. We didn’t know her condition. It was the longest night of my life. On Sunday morning, when I later called home, my father told me they found her, but that she didn’t make it. I think at that moment, my legs buckled and the room seemed like it was spinning and I couldn’t understand it. Up until that point, I seemed to have a perfect life. I was the only son. I and my mum were really close. It was a tough time; one of those crossroads one comes to in one’s walk with God. It’s easy to trust when one understands and when one feels there is a safety net, but when it doesn’t make sense, and you choose to believe, that is faith. I told God I needed Him to help me through this. On the plane to London, all the air hostesses came to condole with me. On the way home, at the airport, the immigration officials were crying and telling me sorry too. My mum was usually at the back door waiting for us whenever we got home. But when we drove in, she was not there. It was a painful and tough period. She’s irreplaceable.
What about her foundation?
The Pastor Bimbo Odukoya Foundation has released several books after her death. The one she released before she died was How to Choose a Life Partner. The PBO Foundation is still active and they do a lot of work in the community with women and children.
What do you miss most about her?
That’s tough. To a lot of people in the world, she was Pastor Bimbo, but she was my mother. It was a personal relationship. I just miss her. I miss her warmth, her smile, her laughter, her love, her knowledge, her impact, just the person that she was, the name she would call me, the conversations we would have; I definitely miss her. Words can’t describe it.
What do you think is her legacy?
Her legacy is the positive impact she made and influence on the lives that she touched and is still affecting till today. She has over 500,000 people on her Facebook page today. Type her name on Twitter and somebody is saying something about her. It’s almost 10 years to the day she died. She was one of the two people to represent Nigeria to carry the Olympics Torch in 2004. She won numerous awards. She had four or five honourable doctorate degrees bestowed upon her. She was a humanitarian, pastor, preacher, mentor, mother, a wife and a helper.