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Segun Banwo, Pastor in charge of RCCG Life Gate Parish, retires from ExxonMobil at 55 after 25 years of meritorious service, including 10 years on the board of the company and 13th year as its chief financial officer, writes Tokunbo Adedoja, highlighting his fascinating work-ministry balance

Everyone desires to excel in their own space. Few do – and even fewer deserve it. For Pastor Segun Banwo, the Pastor-in-Charge of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Zone 3, Life Gate Parish, excellence has been a boundless desire, and it has also been well deserved. 

Fondly called PSB (acronym for Pastor Segun Banwo), his life story pictures a journey in excellence in both career and ministry. From a successful professional career spanning over 33 years in companies in Nigeria and the United States, to a bumpy but priceless walk with God, PSB is an exemplar of an excellent blend of ministry and career.

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Meeting the demands of ministry as a pastor, and pursuing career are a tricky mix. Many have failed on one end; some have flopped on both. But PSB has achieved success on both callings.  

He started his professional career in October 1991 at Arthur Andersen & Co (now KMPG), for his mandatory one year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).  In 1993, he joined Elf Petroleum (now Total Petroleum) as Cost Controller, and moved to Esso Exploration and Production (an affiliate of ExxonMobil) in July 1997 as Senior Accountant. The company was then a small venture office still in the exploration phase, with no production.

…Graduated with a first class in accounting from Unilag

In December 1998, Banwo left for his MBA programme at the Harvard Business School in Massachusetts, United States. Harvard for him was a wonderful experience in learning and interaction. “There, I had exceptionally bright classmates! The best among the best of talents from across 88 countries. It was a truly humbling experience for me,” he said, recalling his experience.

In US, he worked at the Dallas office of Boston Consulting Group (BCG) as Strategy Consultant from August 2000.  “It afforded me a great experience shuttling across several cities in the US, but with the downside of spending more than half of the time away from family,” he said, while describing his experience at BCG.

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He moved to the Houston office of Landmark (a subsidiary of Halliburton) in February 2002, where he worked briefly as Principal Consultant, Business Development, before relocating back to Nigeria.

At Harvard for his MBA

Back home, Banwo worked at Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited since July 2002, holding several positions, and crowning his time there with the posts of Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer, positions he held for 10 years and 13 years respectively until his retirement recently.

PSB has played at the pinnacle of one of the world’s most rewarding industries – the oil and gas industry. But he finds real fulfilment in working with and for God.

He sees working for God as the most honourable and rewarding of all jobs. This belief, which is at the core of the Christian journey, is born of experience from decades of walking with God – and working for God. 

“But the best job of all, the love of my life, the reason I was born, pastor in the vineyard of the Lord, started in a strange way in August 1997,” he says.

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His “ride with God,” though bumpy, has its origins in a divine encounter. 

“In August 1997, I had a most unusual encounter with God, alone in my prayer closet,” he says.  “A clear voice saying, ‘This is not the way to worship Me.’”

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 “If what I had known from birth – an unusual, secretive, non-Pentecostal church – was not the way, what was?”, he asked himself.  He walked into his living room, and on the TV screen was Pastor Tunde Bakare of the Latter Rain Assembly ministering.

That encounter was followed by a moment of deep contemplation. Banwo was launched into a new realm of spiritual regeneration by that experience, culminating in a decision to “seek God in a new way”.

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The next Sunday, August 10, 1997, he was at the Latter Rain Assembly, Ikeja, where he gave his life to Christ in response to an altar call by Pastor Bakare.  

His move to RCCG was born of necessity, but it blossomed into a priceless walk with God. The change happened in the United States during his MBA programme in Harvard, when there was no branch of Latter Rain Assembly there to join in Boston. He joined  the local RCCG parish, where he did his worker in training and served in various capacities, spanning HOD Welfare, HOD Prayer Team, House Fellowship Leader, and Altar minister.

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Upon his return to Nigeria, PSB joined RCCG Promised Land, Ajah, Lagos. There, he encountered Pastor Femi Otegbade, the pastor in charge, whom he described as “an unusually interesting pastor”. 

“But he turned out to be a major turning point in my life,” he says. “I am eternally grateful for his role in what I am today.”

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Pastor Banwo became the parish pastor of RCCG Promised Land in August 2005. And in April 2007, he was sent to start a new parish, RCCG Light of the World, from scratch.

The parish, which began in his living room, grew to be one of the 10 top parishes in a Province of over 100 parishes within three years. 

He was transferred to RCCG Life Gate in September 2010. Again, the church of less 200 members in October 2010, has grown to more than 3,000 members, and it is currently the biggest parish in Lagos Province 34. It has also given birth to many parishes. 

PSB’s life story provides a dazzling perspective of a walk with God, and a work for God.  Walking with God and working for God are two of the thorniest issues in the life of a Christian. 

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The Bible says Christians are in the world, but they are not of the world. Meaning while a Christian lives in an evil and wicked world, he/she is expected to overcome the world and live as a prospective saint. Blending these two fundamental demands is what many Christians have found quite quixotic.  

Also, the story of his early life is an interesting read. Born June 9, 1969 in Lagos, Banwo attended Lagos Mainland Local Government Primary School, Fadeyi; and was briefly at  Ansarudeen Islamiya Secondary School, Yaba; before moving to Lagos State Government College, Ojo; and University of Lagos, where he earned his first degree.

He grew up a restive, yet, intelligent, academically focussed, and innovative lad – traits that would find expression in his serial accomplishments in education, professional career and ministry.  

From being the bully on the street at their No 3 Igbobi Street, Jibowu, Lagos home, he emerged the best debater in Lagos State in his year three in secondary school, and in his final year, he was President of the Literary and Debating Society. He was also President of the Press Club, President of the Science Club, President of the Guidance and Counselling Club, Best Footballer, and Physics Prefect.  

Upon his graduation from secondary school, he was offered admission to study Medicine and Surgery. Surprisingly, he declined the offer. His reason was that he could not stand the sight of blood and injuries, and believed he would not be a happy medical doctor. He opted to wait at home for the next round of university admission, spending the waiting time in the poultry of in their home as a chicken farmer. He gained admission to the University of Lagos the following year to study Accounting. But the admission came at a time when his father could not afford the financial demands of his university education. Young Olusegun embarked on a search for sponsorship, knocking on doors of offices on Broad Street, and writing appeal letters to wealthy Nigerians in Lagos and Ibadan, without response.

He began his education at University of Lagos in 1987, weathering the financial difficulties by offering coaching classes and feeding mostly on beans and corn, a blend that earned him the sobriquet ‘Baba Alagbado’ by his roommates. 

His leadership skills also came to the fore at the university, where he served as Financial Secretary of Jaja Hall; Vice President, Accounting Students Association; President, Faculty of Business Administration; and University Scholar from year two to four.  Despite is involvement in a plethora of social activities on campus, he graduated in 1991 with a First Class, the only First Class in the entire Faculty of Business Administration, winning seven prizes and getting to deliver the valedictorian speech.

…with wife, Pastor Dolapo

PSB is happily married to Pastor Dolapo, and both are co-laborers in God’s vineyard. Their beautiful 28-year old marriage is blessed with three children – Oreoluwa, Ayanfeoluwa and Oluwasemilore.

…With wife and children

Pastor Segun Banwo represents a fascinating spectacle of work-ministry balance. The mutual reinforcement between his life in secular job and his life in ministry has produced the success and fulfilment he is celebrating today with a retirement thanksgiving service at RCCG Life Gate Parish. 

He captures his sense of success, thus, “If I can keep myself holy, if I can help the people around me, if I can excel at whatever I lay my hands on, if my lifestyle can turn someone to Jesus, then I am successful, regardless of the size of my bank account or the properties I have or lack.”

Ministering…

PSB has been a good teacher and mentor to many, inspiring them to serve God more through his teachings on the pulpit, his exemplary lifestyle and the books he authored. The books include Bread for the Soul; Forever O Lord; Happily Married; Wisdom is Better Than Strength; You Will Fulfill Destiny; Your Joy Shall Be Full; God Will Make A Way; and Take Up Your Cross.

As he gives thanks to God at RCCG Life Gate Parish today, which incidentally is his 55th birthday, I wish PSB a happy birthday, a fulfilling retirement, God’s guidance and blessing in his future endeavors.

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