Alabi, Zacchaeus Abere-Ona
1927 to 2008
The Apostolic Church
Zacchaeus Abere-Ona Alabi was from the Yoruba
tribe of southwestern Nigeria. He was born into a royal family
in the Ayegunle Gbede area of the old Kabba Province in the
present Kogi State of Nigeria. Abere-Ona (his popular naïve
name) was born on April 24, 1927 into the royal family of
Alaherin (the reigning king of Ayegunle Gbede at the time).
His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Alabi, were Muslims, belonging to
a prominent Muslim family in Gbede and its environs. As it
was customary of staunch Muslim parents, Abere-Ona was enrolled
in the Quranic School at a very tender age with the vision
that he might become a leading Muslim scholar in life and
carry on in the faith of his father.
Divine destiny however prevailed over the dream and vision
of his parents as Abere-Ona was converted to Christianity
through his contact with Western Christian education. As his
father wanted the best for him in life, apart from enrolling
him in the Quranic School, he was selected among the other
children in the family to have a taste of Western education;
little did his father know that this step would link his son
with the Christian faith to fulfill his divine mission on
earth. As there was no other public school than the one owned
by a Christian Mission school, his parents were forced to
enroll him at Baptist Day School, in addition to his earlier
enrollment in a Quranic school. By policy, the mission schools
required attendance at church services and other related Christian
programs for all students, irrespective of religious affiliation.
Through these programs, Abere-Ona gradually became acquainted
with Christian teachings, especially the salvific work of
Christ. To the consternation of his family members, Abere-Ona
willingly decided to accept Jesus Christ as his personal Lord
and Savior, and began living a devoted Christian life. At
baptism, he was given the Christian name Zacchaeus.
When Abere-Ona embraced Christianity, this was so strange,
shocking, and demoralizing to his father that, as a punitive
measure, to discourage him from continuing in the Christian
faith, his father decided to stop paying his school fees.
The experience was very frustrating for the young Zacchaeus
in his Christian journey. However, he remained steadfast in
his newfound faith. He eventually came into contact with a
Christian man who decided to adopt him and thereby provided
him with sponsorship to enable him to complete his basic education.
This new link eventually took him from Kabba-land to Abeokuta
(the capital city of the present Ogun State of Nigeria) where
he re-registered and completed his First Leaving Certificate
in 1948. He thereafter attended P&T Training School, Kabba.
After completion, he was given a job as postmaster.
As Zacchaeus Abere-Ona Alabi continued to grow in the faith,
he met a Christian lady by the name of Elizabeth Idowu Olumorin.
After eight years of Christian courtship, they were married
on December 20, 1959 at the Apostolic Church. The marriage
was blessed with godly children and grandchildren.
His Pastoral Calling, Ministerial Training and Labor
At the end of his basic education Alabi joined the Apostolic
Church, the leading Classical Pentecostal denomination in
Nigeria with its general headquarters in the United Kingdom.
He allegedly received a call into the full-time ministry of
the same church in 1950.
Thereupon, he was enrolled for a one-year ministerial training
program at the Apostolic Church Bible Training School, Effo-Amuro,
Kabba Province, under the headship of Pastor K. P. Titus.
When he finished this, he was commissioned as a minister and
immediately began his official ministry. As a lover of education,
in 1952, he went to the major seminary of the church, the
Apostolic Church Bible College, Ilesa (now the Apostolic Church
Theological Seminary, affiliated with the University of Ibadan)
for further study. He returned a year later (1953) to his
duty post at Effo-Amuro. Thereafter he worked in Egbe and
In 1955, he was transferred to Lagos. He was posted to the
Apostolic Church Bible School, Ikeja as an instructor. As
a young and well gifted pastor in the teaching ministry, he
was nicknamed "Young Scoffield" by Pastor S. G. Adegboyega
(the first LAWNA [acronym for "Lagos, Western and Northern
Areas"] territorial chairman of the church).
In 1956, as a need arose, he was sent on transfer to the Muslim
dominated city of Kano (in northern Nigeria) to attend to
the re-planting of the Apostolic Church in that land where
the former assembly pastor had formed a new church from what
was then the existing branch of the church. On arrival, Alabi
had to start a new assembly at a new member's house. Interestingly,
from this assembly he pioneered several assemblies in this
Muslim dominated area of the country. Today, that new assembly
later assumed an area headquarters status (the equivalent
of a diocesan headquarters in the mainline churches) -- The
Apostolic Church, Kano Area, with 10, Emir Road, Kano as its
In 1962, after barely six years of labor in Kano, Alabi, with
the approval of the church authorities in Nigeria, went to
the Apostolic Church Bible College, Swansea, Wales, in the
United Kingdom (the major theological institution of that
denomination, worldwide) for a degree program. There he received
a bachelor of theology (B.Th) degree. On his return to the
country in 1963, as a great asset to the church, he was immediately
posted to the Apostolic Church Bible School, Ikeja, Lagos,
as the school principal.
In August of 1963 (the same year he returned from further
study in the United Kingdom), Alabi was called into the "office
of Apostle" (the highest office in the church's five-fold
ministry (see reference in Ephesians 4:11). This ordination
was performed during the Lagos Area Convention of the church
held at Ebute-Metta (the national headquarters of the denomination
in Nigeria at the time).
In 1964, he played a pioneering role in the establishment
of the church's secondary school, the Apostolic Church Grammar
School, Ketu, Lagos. In 1975, he was seconded to the same
school as the chaplain and Bible knowledge teacher. He was
there until around 1982.
Owing to his distinguished status in theological education,
he was appointed as the first Sunday School superintendent
of the Apostolic Church LAWNA Territory. He contributed a
great deal to the restructuring of the church's Sunday syllabus
and played a leading role in the shifting of the timetable
of the church's Sunday School Program from afternoon to morning.
In addition to his contributions to the educational development
of the church, Alabi was equally a church planter. He was
an active member of the church's Evangelical Party, and was
involved in much church planting, apart from Kano city, mentioned
As a pastor, he contributed a great deal to the consolidation
of the Apostolic Church assemblies in Nigeria and the equipping
of the saints. Other places where he worked as a pastor apart
from Kabba and Kano (mentioned earlier) included Mushin Assembly,
Lagos (1966-1968); Ilaro, in Ogun State (1968-1969); and Ile-Ife,
Osun State (1969-1975). Significantly, these three places
where he labored as pastor are now area headquarters (the
equivalent of a diocese).
He was transferred in 1975 to the church's secondary school
in Lagos (mentioned earlier). This was in response to an urgent
need for a scholar in theology. He remained there until 1982.
In 1982, in recognition of his gifts and services as a great
pastor, teacher, evangelist, church planter, and administrator,
Alabi was appointed by the church authorities as the first
Benin City area superintendent (the equivalent of a bishop
of the church, i.e. the administrative head of all the assemblies
in the former Bendel State of Nigeria). As a direct product
of his evangelical zeal and church planting work, that area
has today produced an additional seven area headquarters,
now bringing the total number of areas in the old Benin City
Area to eight.
When he became superintendent, he automatically became a member
of the church's General Executive Council. Four years later
(1986) he was appointed a member of the Executive Council
(LAWNA Territory) which automatically qualified him to be
a member of the church's National Executive Council. In 1995,
he was appointed the second National Secretary of the Apostolic
Church in Nigeria (after the death of the first, Pastor G.
B. Oladele). He also became a trustee of the Apostolic Church,
LAWNA Territory, and The Apostolic Church, Nigeria, respectively.
These new appointments necessitated his transfer from Benin
City to Lagos as the Olorunda-Ketu superintendent. In 2004,
he was again transferred to Ibadan (about a one hour drive
from Lagos) to be the Ibadan area superintendent.
Alabi also served in other capacities through which he contributed
to the development of the church. He was the pioneering director
of education of the Apostolic Church (LAWNA Territory). He
also served as the chairman of the governing council of the
church's theological seminaries in Ilesa (Osun State) and
Jos (Plateau State) between 1984 and 2005. He equally functioned
as the chairman of the governing board of the Apostolic Church
Grammar School, Ketu (Lagos State).
Alabi was appointed by the federal government of Nigeria as
a member of the "Nigeria Inter-Religious Council" (NIREC)
-- a multi-religious body set up by the federal government
to quell and prevent inter-religious conflicts in Nigeria.
He served in this council up to 2006.
His Last Days
Alabi was a great apostle, evangelist, pastor, and teacher
of the Word, a church planter and administrator par excellence
that can never be relegated to the background in the planting
and consolidation of the Apostolic Church in Nigeria. He was
a great biblical scholar and author. One of his spirit-inspiring
publications is the book entitled: "Sanctification." He loved
young people and promoted education and music in the church.
He was well known by all and sundry for his combined virtues
of honesty, integrity, transparency, and accountability; a
gentle but firm and fair leader who pushed for constant improvement
in ministerial trainings so as to better serve the church.
He retired from active church service (pastoral work) as Ibadan
area superintendent in 2006 at the age of 79, but continued
in the capacity of the National Secretary of the Apostolic
Church, Nigeria, until his call to glory on the glorious Sunday
morning of September 28, 2008 at the age of 81. He was buried
on December 5, 2008.
Samson Adetunji Fatokun
1) Author's personal acquaintance with Pastor
Zacchaeus Abere-Ona Alabi during his life time.
2) Extracts from "Pastor Zacchaeus Abere-Ona Alabi's Funeral
Ceremony Pamphlet," Lagos: The Apostolic Church LAWNA Printing
This story, submitted in 2011, was written by
Rev. Dr. Samson Adetunji Fatokun, who is Senior Lecturer in
Church History and Pentecostal Studies in the department of
Religious Studies at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, where
he also serves as the DACB liaison coordinator.