General Overseer of Vineyard of Deliverance Ministry, Prophet Joseph Apata, speaks to VICTORIA EDEME about how he manages his ministry and his three wives
Can you briefly tell the story of your childhood?
I am Ebira from Kogi State. My mother is from Benin, Edo State. I am the General Overseer of the Vineyard of Deliverance Ministry, aka The Rock Church, in Ibeju Lekki, Lagos State. I am a twin. My father, Alhaji Busari Apata, was a popular car dealer in Ibadan, Oyo State. My father married five wives; my mother was the third. The first and second wives did not give him a son. My mother gave him seven boys; three sets of twins and another boy. They all died, except me and my older brother. I died too, at the age of two. I died with my twin brother, then my mother took our corpses to the mountain. The prophet at the mountain pointed at me, saying that a prophet’s garment should be worn on me. He said I would come back to life on the fifth day. He prophesied that I would hold the microphone for the rest of my life. I woke up after five days as he said. A bad smell was oozing from my nostrils already.
My mother left me on that mountain for many years, and that’s when the grace of the prophet entered me. I started seeing visions at the age of five. My father and mother were Christians but my father became a Muslim after he went to Mecca in 1976. He was so famous in Yorubaland that he thought he needed more power. His name was Michael Apata but he changed to Alhaji Busari Apata after he became a Muslim. He was a very strong man who used me as his seer. The day he disobeyed my prophecy was the day his last wife poisoned him and he died. I had told him not to eat the food made by his fifth wife because it was poisoned. He slapped me when I told him and went ahead to eat the food; he died after that. I’ve always known about my prophetic gift. When I was in school and my teacher was talking to me, I’d hear another spirit talk to me.
Where did you study?
I am not educated. It was God who taught me how to read and write. I left school in JSS 3 when I didn’t understand what the teachers were saying. They were teaching me and I’d be seeing Jesus and hearing the spirit. I failed Junior WAEC two times and I was told that I should go and learn carpentry. That was when I left school.
When did you become born again?
After my father died when I was 14 years old in 1986, a lot of people advised me to join a cult because I became lonely as I was fond of my father. I was ready to join before one of my friends invited me to church in 1988. I was invited to Gateway Baptist Church in Ibadan and after the sermon, the preacher asked for those who wanted to give their lives to Christ and I came out that day. I was weeping like a baby. I officially gave my life to Christ that day in 1988. The person who took me to that church then told me that I needed to develop my Christian life. He then took me to another Bible-teaching church, New Covenant Church in Ibadan. I joined them in 1988. I was baptised there and went through all the classes. I became very popular in the church as I served in various departments.
When did you leave the church to start your own ministry?
In 1995, I left Ibadan for Lagos. When I came to Lagos, God told me that I should join one pastor in Somolu. I operated as a prophet there and when I prayed for people who didn’t have a child, they would become pregnant. At one point, the pastor wanted to turn it into a business, stating that we should collect N1m for males and N500,000 for females. I did not agree with him. He then sent me out of the church and collected all that he gave me. I left the church and I became stranded in Lagos. After that, a friend took me to live with him. That was how I started living in Bariga in 1997. In 1998, I started my ministry under a tree at UNILAG (University of Lagos). At the inception, the church was unstable as sometimes we had to stop worshipping and then resume again. This instability went on until 2009 when I started in Lekki. God told me that I should stop calling myself a pastor because I’m a prophet. God told me that things were not going well because I was running my ministry as a pastor. He told me to fast for one year in January 2010. Till now, in 2024, I’m still fasting. For 14 years, I’ve been fasting every day and I break by 6pm daily.
When did you first get married?
I got married to my first wife, Pastor Margaret Tani Apata, in December 1999 at 27. She was about 22 years old when we wedded. I met her in 1998. She started attending my church when we were still worshipping under the tree. She was an orphan and an undergraduate. God told me to marry her and see her through school. After we married, we struggled a lot and experienced lack and poverty.
When did you marry a second wife?
In 2011, I told God that I needed help. God told me that what a woman destroyed in my hand, it was another woman who would repair it. God instructed me to marry a widow in my church then. I told God that I got married as a virgin and could do no such thing. But on January 17, 2011, my birthday, I called my first wife and told her that I wanted to marry the widow as my second wife. We had five children then; three girls and two boys. My first wife got me arrested and I was taken to the police station. I told the police officers the same thing, that I must obey God. The police told her that I was adamant and she was free to divorce me. As for me, I don’t believe in the court, I pay my wives’ bride prices and bring them to church for blessing. My first wife chose to remain with me.
That was how I took the second wife in 2011 and before we knew it, millions started coming in. We were in a canopy but we bought the property of the church running into millions of naira and I started riding a Prado SUV. About 70 per cent of our members left the church because I took a second wife. But God then added more members. When people saw that I had become a millionaire, they started coming back to the church and I started seeing the crowd again. My second wife’s name is Omowunmi Apata. She is my favourite. If you tell her that you want to kill her for me, she will yield her neck. If I had missed that woman, God would not allow me to enter heaven. My second wife has a son for me and two children from her previous marriage to her late Polish husband.
What led to your marriage with the third wife?
In my first wife’s family, they don’t normally live long. When she got sick and everybody was afraid, I told God that I didn’t want her to die. So, God told me to bring in a third wife and he would make me a billionaire and my first wife would not die.
What was the reaction of your first and second wives when you wanted to take the third wife?
My wives had already known me well that I don’t make decisions without God’s instruction. So, I told them that that was what God wanted me to do. That was in 2020. We went to pay her bride price in Benin in March 2020. She has two children now.
How do you and your three wives stay under one roof?
I built three houses for my three wives and their children. But I stay more with my first wife in our residential building inside the church compound. The other two have their houses outside the church and they have their SUVs.
Do your second and third wives feel cheated that you spend more time with the first?
I told them I was helping them and they should not claim rights. I often visit them. I go to them to rest sometimes during the day but I stay more in the church because of security. We have more security in the church.
Are you into full-time ministry or do you have other businesses?
I’m a full-time prophet.
What is the source of your wealth?
My members are my sources of wealth. My members are very good to me. They take care of my needs and send me millions randomly. One may call me and give me N10m, while another may give me N5m. They are the ones God is using for me. We don’t preach tithes or offerings, but my members are crazy givers.
You’re married with three wives as a prophet. How has that been for you?
God would have slapped me if I hadn’t made that decision of having three wives. God would have not forgiven me. If I come back to this world 10 times, I will do it again. My children are doing very well. My first daughter is a barrister. She just came back from America for Law School and the NYSC scheme. My second born is in Germany. The third and fourth are at Augustine University. The son, whom my second wife had for her previous husband, is now in UNILAG.
Is there a probability that you may marry another wife?
I didn’t promise anybody that but the condition is that if she has access to what I need and she’s stranded as a woman who needs a man over her, why not? Let her come and be a part of the family. I have a large heart.
How does each of your wives contribute individually to your ministry?
My first wife is a Computer Science graduate from UNILAG. She is a teacher in the church. She is currently the Assistant General Overseer of the church. My second wife is the women’s coordinator in the church. She has been handling the women’s wing very well. The third wife is the choir mistress. She has brought transformation to the choir.
How well do your wives relate to each other?
I put the rule down that nobody should trespass on each other. Nobody is a slave or boss to anybody. If they have an issue, they should report to me as their husband. I told them not to confront themselves when they have issues. It has been a wonderful family setting. There are no issues around them
How do you resolve conflicts when issues arise?
I am a ‘jagaban’ of the spiritual; the man that knows the code. One thing that gives me leverage is that my wives love me passionately. They don’t want to see me angry. When I’m angry, you’ll see them crying and they will not sleep or eat. These women are crazy about me. So when I’m angry, you’d see my wives kneeling and begging me. Then I’d be the one doing ‘yanga’. The love that God put in their hearts for me is the controlling factor. That’s the code.
How do you ensure you give wives your time and resources so that they don’t feel cheated?
They are on salaries. They receive salaries every month. My personal assistant stocks their food in their houses and fuels their cars. My children are also on salaries. I pay my children’s salaries and my wives get theirs too. They don’t use the salaries for house upkeep. It’s for personal use. I buy clothes, shoes, and other things they need in the house.
How many children do you have?
God said to me that I should not be counting my biological children alone. There are some church members now bearing my last name too.
Why do some of your members bear your last name?
They are members who have seen me through and know that I’m a true man of God. They came to meet me and told me that they wanted to also bear my name. I also count them as my children.
Do they receive salaries too?
Yes, of course. Why not?
How do you manage three wives and you don’t get overwhelmed and everybody is satisfied?
I’m fasting. If I’m not fasting, they would be the ones running. I can do 20 or 70 rounds in a day. Because I’m fasting, I tell them that I’ll be the one coming to them. When I come to them, they will see ‘star and moon’. That is what they always ask for. They will never forget it till when I come again. That has been a very wonderful technique. My wives take good care of me and don’t joke with me.
What kind of criticisms do you receive for marrying three wives?
When people tell me that a bishop should have just one wife, I tell them I’m neither a bishop nor a pastor, but I’m a prophet. I tell my critics to show me a place in the Bible that says a prophet must be a husband to one wife.
In your viral post on Facebook, you stated that there was nothing sinful about polygamy. Can you expound on that with scriptural backings?
In Matthew 5, Jesus said he had not come to destroy the law or the prophets. The prophetic ministry is dynamic. Marriage is a personal thing and not a collective thing. There’s also a difference between the suggestion of Paul in the Bible and ‘thus says the Lord’. Paul brought monogamy as a suggestion, not God. Apostle Paul was advising bishops, and bishops were just like administrators. It was just a piece of advice from Paul, it’s not a command. No place in the Bible says it’s a sin to marry multiple wives.
How do you relate with pastors from other churches despite the different doctrines?
I relate well with them but in doctrine matters, everyone has their views. Doctrine is not God’s command. Baba Adeboye is one of my mentors who shaped my prophetic ministry.
Do members of your church also practice polygamy?
Not yet but some have come to ask me if I’ll permit them if God asks them to embrace polygamy. If they say it’s God, why not? Some have also come to me and I told them that God said they didn’t have the grace and capacity for it. I’ve told many of them not to compare themselves with me. I am a prophet and I have a large heart. I know how to handle these women.