Venue was chapel within the Presidential Villa, Asokoro, Abuja. Yes, the same chapel that purveyors of fake news had said President Muhammadu Buhari closed down in 2015. Date was March 8,2020, and the 63rd birthday of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, a Professor of law.
A large number of us Christians serving in government worship at the Aso Villa Chapel, headed by the VP, working with a full time Chaplain. And because he was turning 63, it was a special day, with a significant turnout of people.
Look at the roll call: Former military head of state, Gen Yakubu Gowon. His wife and former First Lady, Victoria. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State. Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State. Deputy Governor Noimot Salako of Ogun State. A representative of Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State. Former Deputy Governor of Imo State, Eze Madumere. Senators, members of the House of Representatives, presidential aides, members of the Osinbajo family, and distinguished ladies and gentlemen from different walks of life.
At 85, Gen Gowon is well kept, his wife, most likely in her 70s, looks more like his girlfriend, rather than a grandma many times over. God has been kind to them.
President Buhari has always used every given opportunity to salute his deputy. He eulogizes his intellect, his boundless energy, faithfulness, and immeasurable contributions to government. This birthday was not different.
‘O God Our Help in Ages Past’ is a timeless celebratory hymn, and we sang it to open the service. The choir, always well turned out, was particularly resplendent this day.
The second Bible reading was taken by Mrs Victoria Gowon. John 19:28-30. Jesus had been hanging on the cross for a while, and he was thirsty. But what did they give him? Vinegar, mixed with hyssop. Wormwood and gall. Typical of evil people.
As that Scripture was read, I remembered that the foulest comment I’ve heard about the VP came from a so-called man of God. Can a clean fountain produce such bitter water, right from Marah? I doubt. Here is a man serving his country to the best of his ability, holding up the banners of his faith, and some of his worst enemies are those of his own faith. Sad. Very sad. Right is the Good Book which says a man’s worst enemies are those of his own household.
A special number was rendered by the choir: Oke, Oke la nlo o. Higher, higher we go. Remember the 2019 electoral campaigns? That was a song the VP used to sing.
At exactly 10.10 a.m, the preacher climbed the pulpit. Who was he? Some call him the Star Boy, and he was the ‘birthday boy’ for the day. The VP.
He started with the popular song: Miracle worker, Miracle worker, you have done a miracle today… Yahweh, your name is Yahweh, Miracle working God, your name is Yahweh…
The VP appreciated the special guests, singling out the woman he called “the better half of Gen Gowon,” noting that her presence was an “icing on the cake.”
He said a unique young girl had also been invited to the celebration, along with her mum. What qualified Damilola (that was her name) for the honour?
According to the VP, during the campaigns last year, he had gone somewhere in Abuja, when a young girl climbed a high wall, and jumped down, right in his front. Diminutive Zaccheaus climbed the sycamore tree to see Jesus in Jericho, Damilola scaled a high wall to see her Vice President in Abuja. She was invited to partake in the birthday celebration , and was part of the photography session after the service.
The topic he chose to speak on is; It Is Finished! And some of the nuggets are that when Jesus hung on the cross, he went through a trial, and paid the price for our sins. All, not some.
Also, He took upon Himself all the shame that should have been our own. All, not some.
The implications are that we become children of God, and His presence abides with us always.
The VP loves to spice his messages with real life experiences. And he recounted one on Sunday, which shows that whoever we are, we are only human, and God is the only omnipotent one.
According to him, there was a night he had knelt down to pray by midnight, after a day of great exertions. The next he knew, it was 4 a.m. He was still on his knees, and had slept for four unbroken hours, without saying a word of prayer.
A loud guffaw coursed through the congregation. But the message was clear. We are all human, no matter who we are. God is the only one who neither sleeps nor slumbers, and He watches over us, despite our frailties. We must learn to rest in His peace.
Gen Gowon gave the closing comments/ prayers. He said Nigerians appreciate Prof Osinbajo, particularly the Christian community.
“We are proud of you as you stand for all Christians. We appreciate you.”
Jocularly, the former head of state said he hoped he would still be around to welcome Osinbajo into the club of octogenarians.
At 63, VP Osinbajo continues to serve his God, and his country. And to think that not too long ago, all that was to have ended in a chopper crash. True, God is the one that cares for us, even if we kneel down to pray, and we sleep off for four hours.
.Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity