By Owei Lakemfa
I grew up amongst Methodists and was taught by some of their best like Reverend J Obaba. Methodist Presbyter Samuel Adeoye Osinulu who was Principal of the Methodist Boys High School, MBHS, Lagos from 1955 to 1966, influenced generations of youths. These included the founding Governor of Lagos State, Brigadier General Mobolaji Johnson; his successor, Naval Admiral Adekunle Shamusideen Lawal; former Ogun State Governor, Segun Osoba; ex-Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Nuraini Yusuf; and former National Planning Minister, Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi who actually lived in his house as a boarder.
The MBHS had also produced the founding President of Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and his fellow nationalist, Chief Hezekiah Oladipo Davis.
Indeed, the Methodists in Nigeria are some of the best Christians on earth. However, the main problem is that for decades, a land-grabbing syndicate which prices earthly things far above heavenly gains, has entrenched itself in the Methodist Church Nigeria, MCN.
This cartel, has an incredibly insatiable appetite for church and school property. In Lagos alone, they have swallowed the lands of the Methodist Primary School, Yaba. They fell on the lands of the Methodist Girls High School, Yaba, Lagos. Only the resistance of the Old Girls has saved the school’s sports field. The cabal has also run the Wesley University, Ondo, aground.
After the Tinubu administration in Lagos returned schools to the missions and former private proprietors, the cartel immediately seized the old MBHS school premises on 11, Broad Street, Lagos and swallowed it.
It was while digesting this, the cabal in 2012 first invaded the MBHS school lands at its new site on 11, Sinari Daranijo Street, Victoria Island wanting to build high-rise private luxury flats for sale to the public.
In the last dozen years, this is the Third Missionary Journey of the MBHS Old Boys after receiving SOS calls from the school, to ‘Come over to Macedonia’ and rescue it from the Church cabal. The battles to save the school lands have been waged each time a Prelate of the MCN is leaving or a new one comes into office.
Let me give a background. Methodist missionaries established the MBHS in 1878. I was privileged to be a student and Prefect when the school marked its centenary.
The first battles were in 2012 when Prelate Sunday Ola Makinde was about departing. The church administration, saying it wanted to raise funds, moved into the school premises to build private flats.
However, the Old Boys led by Mr Toyin Amusan, blocked the move. A peace meeting held on July 11, 2012 with a 17-Member MCN delegation led by Prelate Makinde, agreed to leave the school lands which by then, had been reduced by land grabbers from 5.7 to 3.3 hectares.
The second attempt was in 2021 under Prelate Samuel Chukwuemeka Kalu Uche. This attempt was again resisted by the Old Boys. The MCN led by the Prelate and the Old Boys led by Mr Kolapo Sogbetun, held peace meetings on November 2 and 9, 2021 to resolve the stalemate. Prelate Uche ordered the church and its agents never to touch the school lands again. He however, made two requests of the Old Boys. First, that they should refund the N30 million the Church had spent on construction, and secondly, provide an alternative land for the MCN business ventures. Three days later, the Old Boys formally wrote the church, accepting both requests and also offering to contribute in building the new church business premises. However, the MCN in its November 18, 2021 letter signed by its Secretary, Rt Reverend Michael. O. Akinwale said the Prelate made a mistake in requesting for N30 million and that the actual compensation it wants the Old Boys to pay it is N390 million. But the Old Boys stuck to the initial agreement.
The on-going third stage battles began in 2023 after Prelate Oliver Ali Aba took over the MCN mantle. Compared to his predecessors, Reverend Aba has been the most tactical, brazen and audacious. When his agents who invaded the school lands were evicted in August 2023, he made a tactical withdrawal and then on Monday, January 29, 2024, the MCN cabal returned in full force complete with over five dozen armed thugs who physically attacked the unarmed Old Boys led by 81-year-old Chief Tunde Fanimokun and 85-year-old Reverend Peter Omole.
When I watched the videos of the attacks, they reminded me of the heartless attacks by armed bandits of the Idoma villages which produced Prelate Aba.
Some have questioned how we knew that the attackers are thugs and not members of the church. My answer is simple: Methodists are not scruffy, cudgel-welding, stone-throwing, foul-speaking ‘Area Boys’. In any case, some Old Boys at the scene identified and called by name, some of the clearly drugged attackers because they are known street thugs in the vicinity.
I have also read some opinions online arguing that since the MBHS is in Lagos, the focus should be on the Lagos Diocese not the national MCN. This is an uninformed opinion and an attempt by the Church’s National Headquarters to hide behind a finger.
First, the Lagos State Government handed over the school to the national MCN, not the Diocese. Secondly, the body that surreptitiously obtained a second C of O Number 21/21/20112 signed by Governor Raji Fashola on February 6, 2012, was the MCN. This was a vain attempt to override the subsisting C of O in the name of MBHS, signed by Governor Lateef Jakande on October 25, 1983.
Thirdly, it was the Registered Trustees of the MCN which on July 20, 2012 incorporated the J. Wesley Investment Company limited with N10 million shares. The 14 shareholders who are the Trustees themselves, include then Prelate Sunday Makinde with N3.5 million shares, and his predecessor, Dr Sunday Coffie Mbang with N500,000 shares. Then, the same MCN Trustees on November 11, 2016, illegally, sold 8,235.744 square metres of the MBHS school land to their private company for the princely sum of One Naira (N1.)
Fourthly, it is the MCN Trustees and their private J Wesley company that are using the school lands as collateral. Fifthly, it is the twosome that are building commercial flats in violation of the C of O that specifically states that the lands are for educational purposes only.
The truth stands naked; however, the current leaders of the MCN are desperate to robe it in priestly attires. The little veiled aim of the cabal is to relocate the MBHS and take over its entire lands.
Conscientious Nigerians, Methodists worldwide and the Lagos Sate Government need to join the Old Boys in ensuring that not an inch of the MBHS lands is stolen under any guise.
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