Lovehaven Features Archbishop Margaret Benson-Idahosa for our July 2020 digital edition.
She is the widow of late Archbishop Benson Idahosa, founder, Church of God Mission. He died on March 12, 1998. Margaret Idahosa, who clocked 77 years on July 29, 2020, relives his memory
How did you pull through the last 22 years of widowhood?
I have learnt that people are bound to talk about us. My husband let me realise that as long as I am alive, people will talk about me and if I talk back to them, it means I am on the same level with them. God has not put me on the same level with them. Therefore, whenever they talk, I remind God that I did not put myself in this position but He put me there. When my husband died, I had my own agenda. I have four biological children and three that I have adopted into my family. Then, I decided that after the period of mourning, I would go and spend time with my four children abroad and maybe come to Nigeria once a year to see my mother. The ministry was not on my mind. When I was ordained to take over, I told God that I live in a man’s world and I am timid. But God told me that if my faith said yes, He would not say no. He assured me that if He appointed me, He would give me the ability to perform.
Do you feel fulfilled?
I do. I am doing what God asked me to do and I am not copying anybody. My children are all in the ministry. My children did not discover God because of who I am or what their father was while he was on earth, they discovered God by themselves.
Did you see your husband’s death as the will of God?
I did not say it was the will of God.
Did you entertain some suspicions that he must have been poisoned?
We both left this country for a programme in the United States of America and when we finished, he asked me to go and attend to the children’s school fees and welfare. I had already decided that I would not stay behind on the particular trip but he assured me that we would go back to Nigeria together. I could not say no. He eventually left me behind in the United States. Two days after, I was called that he had died. I was shocked. I flew back home. Before this happened, he had told me in January, that he now lived for posterity not for prosperity. I told him that he must have stayed too long in the house, and that he needed to travel out. On February, the month marking his 40th ordination into the ministry, he called me aside and informed me that he may have finished everything God asked him to do. I told him that God’s work is never finished but he insisted that he had finished. He repeated the statement in late February, I told him that he was making me worried with the statement, he was supposed to be celebrating his 60th birthday in September of that year, I told him he could not go at 60 because God gives us old age.
You understood he was talking of death then?
Yes. But I did not want to believe it; I was discarding it from my mind. It was when he died that I understood what he had been saying all along. It is still painful but there is nothing I can do. I miss everything about him.
How did you meet him?
It is a long story, but we got married eight years after we met.
What was the attraction?
I was not attracted to him, I was an only child and I was quite rough. I fought on the streets and he was always there to defend me. He had nothing except for a bicycle and he lived in a rented room so there was nothing attractive. Over the years, I had come to regard him as my brother and I brought women for him to choose one of them as his wife. When he told me he wanted to marry me, I protested because he knew me too much. Also, I remember I became attracted to him because God used him to raise a dead boy. Brother Benson and the child walked out of the room. That was what got me into Christianity. He came out and said give the child food. In the night, I was going to sleep and I was thinking about the miracle because the coffin for the dead child was already bought and the father had gone to get the certificate of death but came back to see a living child. I was asking the Lord how he got that power. I did not hear God respond to me but I had peace in my mind.
“The following day he came and I asked him how he got the power and he began to preach to me about the finished work of Calvary and that I could do it myself. So he started preaching to me and I started going to church with him. And when it was time for me to get married my father said, no, you can’t get married to hallelujah man. My father was a die-hard Anglican. So we started praying. My husband said we should give him time. When I was 26, my father was still adamant. But my mother was behind me. My father did not come to the wedding but his brothers came. We got married. I am glad that before he died we were his darling. We changed his house and furniture and gave him all that he could not get when he was working in PWD.
You never knew you could marry a pastor?
Yes, the pastors I knew then had tattered clothes. Their shoes were eaten up. I wanted a man that we would go to the movie together, come to the restaurant and have fun. But God had a different plan. He (Idahosa) came along the line and everything changed. We used to talk about marriage when he had not proposed to me. I believed he prayed. When he proposed I said no problem.
You mentioned that you didn’t have kids early after the marriage? What happened?
The delay in having children got our family members worried. There was a time they called me and my husband and asked, who is the husband and who is the wife. They called him at another time and said to him that they only wanted to see him that I should not follow him. But he insisted on taking me along. When we got to them, they asked me to stay away. And he told them if they could not tell him what they wanted to tell him in my presence they should forget it. We walked away. That was when they stopped bothering us.
We decided to visit one of the best gynecologists in the country then, one Dr. Ogunro. My husband paid a lot of money for the consultation. The man said to me madam, let me be frank with you, you can never have children because your womb is tilted. I started crying. I cried from Mission Road to New Benin. My husband came and I told him. And he said if I be a man of God, God will give us children. We went into prayers and children did not come that year. The fourth-year after marriage, I still had no child.
But then, the late American preacher, Gordon Lindsay came to visit Nigeria and Pa Sydney Elton (the American missionary that lived in Ilesha, Osun State, who mentored many men of God in Nigeria) brought him to Miracle Centre in Benin and he prophesied that I would have children.
But he said my husband would follow him to America. My husband eventually went to the US and I was left back at home. I did not feel his absence so much because I was also busy in the church. He was supposed to spend two years in the US in the Bible School but came back after a year because he felt souls were perishing in Nigeria. After a year that he back, I took in. I told him I missed my time, my husband said honey, don’t look for it. I had my son. Six months after I was pregnant again. One Uncle knew about the pregnancy and said I would have a baby girl. I was delivered of the baby girl in London. We came home. After a year I was pregnant again.
What do understand as style?
I believe since we carry the God of heaven and earth inside us, everything we put on is to the glory of the father but if we wear something that is not appropriate, the spirit of God in us would alert us. As a woman of God, I should look good and presentable. I should not borrow clothes. But I can’t remember the last time I went out to buy clothes, people bring clothes to me, I wear them and realise that they fit me and I look good in them.
How does it feel to be 77?
I feel the same, there is no difference. I may not be as strong as when I was younger, I can’t jog, I can’t dance, I can’t move as I used to do. God has blessed me so much and I give all the praise and glory to Him. It is not by my power or might but by the spirit of the living God. One thing I know is that I don’t hold grudges against anybody. Forgiveness is not is not a loss of memory, it is just memory without vengeance and that is what I have on the inside of me.
I am preparing myself for heaven. I have passed through too much to go to hell. Many people have offended me; I have forgiven all of them. I am focused on what I am doing. If you hold people in your mind, you are not harming them, you are harming yourself because the moment you see them, your mind becomes disturbed. That is giving the person too much chance to hold you to ransom. Why should I be angry, full of unforgiveness on the inside of me when I would have used that time to do better things? There are widows like me out there who have become shadows of themselves because their husbands are no more.
How have you been reaching out to widows?
There is an organisation called Christian Women Fellowship International. We gather them and create small businesses for them and help them with rents. Imagine a woman who lived in a three-bedroom flat with her husband and children, when he dies, she is thrown into the streets. I remember that I would have been like them but God prevented it.