My salvation came in 1970. Soon after the civil war ended I had an encounter with God here in Yaba, Lagos, where I came on a visit to an in-law. It all happened in the flat we were staying in with one of my relations. One evening, we were discussing with a nephew and a niece who had earlier had an encounter with God. When it was time to go to bed, they retired into one corner of the house and began to pray to God. Left alone, I wondered in my mind why I did not have such a relationship with God. I did not discuss that with any person. I simply went before God, knelt down and said. God, forgive me all my sins; I give my heart to you. I will want to serve you. Just a simple prayer! And something that is beyond human understanding came over me, I knew something had happened to me. The only internal urge I kept getting was, get back to your place. When you get back, get into a church immediately. It was then that I knew that it was God who was nudging me in that direction.
Immediately after that encounter, I went back to Enugu where I was based. I was working with the African Continental Bank. I joined the church called the United Church of Christ. I got involved in all church activities. Somehow, I began to experience more satisfaction in and around the church environment. Every other thing stopped; all the partying, all the jumping around stopped. The only thing that gave me satisfaction then was the church environment.
I would not say the call upon my life was dramatic like some people had. To some, God spoke directly; some received a vision through dreams; to some others, it was an audible voice. I would not say I had any of that, but there was an inner knowing in my heart that the bank work I was doing was not what God wanted me to do. As a matter of fact, when I eventually decided to go full blast for the ministry, I did not even think it was necessary to resign. My parents were against me. Everyone was mad with me. People thought something had gone wrong with me. But I didn’t bother about what they were saying because I knew there was nothing wrong with me. What motivated my eventual decision to resign my appointment was the strength of the advice of some people who said that even if this was the path I wanted to thread I should at least resign honourably.
Before the call
I must say that I was brought up in a Christian home. My parents were Anglican. I was a member of the church of St. Jude’s Church, Ebute- Metta. In our home we were brought up to live a life of honesty and truth. I remember that my father used to work with Posts and Telecommunications (P&T) at Race Course. He retired as an officer of the General Post Office (GPO) in Marina. I remember too that he was in a very influential position. He helped a lot of people. When he did that, people always came back to show appreciation, they would come with giant turkeys, bottles of all sorts of drinks and so on. And we in our little minds would take them, happy that we had got turkey in the house. But my father would come back only to shatter our childish happiness; he would order us to find their houses and return the “gifts”. These things were so built into us that when, after my secondary school, I was employed at the Apapa Quay, I worked there for only two months. I could not stand the level of bribery that was going on. I told my father I would not continue to work there and that was the end of the job.
The next job I got was at the African Continental Bank. One day, as a cashier, some people came to me and sought my cooperation in their nefarious deal. They were going to bring in some counterfeit notes which they wanted me to exchange for genuine one. They proposed that if I cooperated with them, we would share the money. Something inside me vehemently refused the reprehensible proposal, saying ‘your life is not going to go the way of perdition, the way of condemnation.’’ I was so frightened that throughout the day, I kept on looking over my shoulders to be sure the people were not after me. It was then that I really knew it was God at work.
Before the call, I was not really very rough because of my background. Talk about ladies, I was very shy, maybe one or two-month encounters with them. But I enjoyed going to parties at the Ambassador Hotel on Commercial Avenue, Yaba, and other places like Victor Olaiya’s Cool Cat on Apapa Road. I got involved in all of those drinking and smoking. I used to smoke a lot. My mother had a shop where she sold drinks and cigarettes, I would just go and take what I wanted. But when I had the encounter with God, everything topped. People were surprised.
In the throes of war
I remember that when the war first broke out, a lot of men were interested in fighting the war. Volunteers were given cash and that were happy; young people were given cars and houses; they were made captains. A lot of them were happy about it, but when I was asked to go to war, I refused, I said I was not going to go to war. When the war proper started, they decided they were going to conscript people. I was working in the bank, and they were not going to recruit from the bank.
The war went on and one day, they identified me when they now decided to conscript people by going to them, even in the essential services, (Bank service was no more regarded as really essential). They were going to do it by balloting and they did it at our bank. But somehow the bank manager felt that I must go. Because of my stature, I was an easy conscript! He told them to cancel what they had done and invited them to his office, of course, the day they came to pick people in the office I was not there. I went to buy a stick of cigarette. He asked the people to go back, promising he would ensure all of us were in on their return. I did not wait for their return; I went to their office where the capital was with his armed orderlies. About three of us were taken and handed over to the captain at the headquarters. I studied the situation and concluded that this is definitely was a set-up. So I asked that we be allowed to go cash some money, at least for our pockets. They did. My plan had worked. With the speed of a deer, I escaped with others.
I refused to go back to the office. It did not really matter to me anymore. I just sat at home. But later, as the war raged on, I had to go for recruitment as an officer. I went and got recruited along with my younger brother. We underwent the training for three months. On completion, we were asked to go back to our base and we did. That very night they told us to pack our luggage to the headquarters. We did not know why they said that. As soon as we got to the headquarters, they told us to assemble for retraining. While we were on the queue, the women were separated from the men. When I saw what was going on, I called my little brother and asked him to follow me and he did. We had easy passage through the sentries on the excuse that we were going to pick our luggage. As soon as we were out of the grounds, we noticed that we were headed where we did not know, but we kept on going, throughout the night. When in the morning we came out of a place called Owerre Nkwoji in Orlu area, all that we could hear was “One Nigeria.” The war was over! Those who were on that queue were ‘deployed’ to their graves. I saw that as God’s providence on my life otherwise there was no way I would have been able to survive.
Ministry, its challenges
Ministry, to me, is a calling. It is the call of God, the only thing that keeps me going. In other words, whether I like it or not, that is the only thing that I just get involved in. Nothing is as important to me as the ministry.
Ministry has a lot of challenges. I have had a lot of encounters in ministry. In ministry I lost my first daughter; in ministry I lost my younger brother whom I loved very much; in ministry I lost my parents. In the course of this work, I have lost in many other ways. All these challenges come with others: group challenges, financial challenges, and the manpower challenges that you expect to be able to meet in the mission that God has called you into.
Yes, there are challenges but what keeps you going is the fact that you know it is the call of God. And that is what eases all the tension. If it were what one took upon oneself, that is where one would begin to feel the weight. For instance, after I lost my daughter, the next day I was in church. When I lost my brother, the next day I was in church. The truth about it is that you can rationalise it when you know it is the call of God. In the scripture there are prophets of God who lost dear ones: Prophet Ezekiel, for instance, lost his wife and God said he should not cry. When something is a call, it is like a necessity is laid on you. Prophet Jeremiah said, I keep on preaching to these people and they are not listening; I feel like closing my mouth but I cannot. The message is coming on; it is like fire shot in my bones. That is the way it is when the call comes. It is what you dream; it is what you see; in your relevant moment; it is what you think about.
Sustaining the faith
I make sure that my relationship with God is intact. When you understand that God has called you to do His work, you will know it is not your strength. You must therefore ensure that you have a very vital relationship with Him: stay in His presence, in worship, in programme, in involvement and in what He called you to do. With that, you will discover you are energised. More especially, you will also see the impact of your ministry on the life of people. When people hear you talk through the word of God, and the encouragement you give to them, they take up the challenges. Some who feel they are already shattered in life will pick up the broken pieces and keep moving. This gives you joy to keep doing what you are called to do.
Coping with challenges of temptation
I always tell people that a man of God will always be tempted. Temptations! There are three types: money, sex, and tithe. They are temptations that we must encounter. I always tell people: if you cannot pray it out, fast it out. You cannot begin to say to temptation, “don’t come and so it won’t come.’ One thing a man of God should do is what I call the Daniel Principle. There are people who feel that others should watch and guide men of God so that they do not fall into temptation. They make sure that they keep people close to them anywhere they go. This, to me, does not make any sense. If you think by watching over a man of God you can stop him from stealing money or from running after women, you waste your time. The Daniel Principle is that Daniel found himself in a strange land in Babylon. When the people wanted him to eat from the food on the king’s table, the scripture made us to understand in Daniel 1:8 that Daniel replied he would not defile himself with the king’s meat. For every decision you take for yourself, there is an effect on your life. One, there are people who cannot afford to disappoint you. There are destinies of people in your hand that whatever you do, it will affect them. And so you take that decision, an inner decision you take yourself, and say no matter what, I will not do it. Of course, temptation will come. Any man of God who tells you he has not encounter temptation is not telling the truth. Temptations come, but the issue is you deciding that you will not give it a chance.
Gift of ministry
I know that I have the gift of raising young people who probably thought they did not have a call in ministry. We raise them up and bring them back. We also raise those whom the devil has beaten down by temptation. There are times the devil hit some of them and they think they are finished. God asks me to tell them: No, the battle is not over; the fact that you have fallen does not mean you have failed, get up and let’s keep moving. One of my calling is to go around the nations to raise up those who have the call of God in their lives and challenged them: You can do it.
Message to Nigerians
Message number one, the generation coming after us should realise that the future is in their hands. Two, they must not allow the present trend of things to affect their way of thinking. Today, we have a society that is polarised either along ethnic or religious sentiments. People have mischievously used these two sentiments to divide the entire nation. God did not make a mistake by bringing people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds together. Therefore, let’s think Nigeria, not our ethnic or group affiliation. I do not care where you are from. The issue is, do you have something to offer the country? If you do, to the glory of God and for the betterment of the entire people, go ahead, do it.
My normal day
Depending on the time that I go to bed, my normal day starts around 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning when I wake up to pray and meditate in the presence of God till about 6am when I go for family devotion with my family members. Immediately after that, I go back to the room to do some reading before I go to the office, usually on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Tuesday is for my personal interaction with God in the study of His word. In the office, I take either coffee or tea and that sustains me till I close, and go back home to eat. My wife’s involvement in the ministry with me makes it easier. After dinner at home, we interact in the family lounge with the children, and ask questions about how they spent the day at school and related matters. We listen to the news at 9 o’clock and at 10 o’clock we retire for family prayers. The length of time we spend in prayers is determined by the challenge we are facing at the time.
Culled from How I was Called