By Sam Eyoboka
IF you find two of your kids inthe river drowning andÂ youÂ take a plunge to save them only to discover that theirÂ mother, who cannot swim, also jumped into the river behind you, who will you save first? The kids or their mother? That was the choice before world renown Nigerian-born televangelist, Reverend Uma Ukpai, president of Uma Ukpai EvangelisticÂ Ministries.
In a recent interview, he reminisced on that episode, the mysteries surrounding his childhood and the turn of events in Anambra State, saying that there are no politicians in the South East.
Whatâ€™s life generally like?
There were several mysteries surrounding my childhood; someÂ of which I cannot explain till today. I was fasting forÂ seven daysÂ when a man saw me and stopped me and said â€˜youâ€™re going to be a preacher, you are going to haveÂ eight children but two will die in a motor accident, you will go as far as building schools and you will cross allÂ the continents of the world.â€™
In a childâ€™s mind, theÂ world was just where I lived, that is from my village to the neighbouring village. It meant little to me. Itâ€™s onlyÂ now that Iâ€™m preaching all over the world that Iâ€™ve come to place value on that prophecy. Last year, I had 18Â crusades outside Nigeria.
In 1986 I was among the fewÂ persons invited to pray for President Ronald Reagan ofÂ America and it reminded me of the story of Jesus ChristÂ riding an ass and matching through peopleâ€™s clothes. InÂ terms of fulfillment, I fill greatly fulfilled. In terms ofÂ touching lives of others, I feel also fulfilled.
We completed a 100_bed hospital about 10 years ago and weÂ have kicked off the first class in the university I amÂ building in Uyo and the other we are building in Abia State is ongoing. Weâ€™ve been able to give street lights to myÂ village. We have been able to influenceÂ government to tar the road that goes to my village. To me, thereâ€™sÂ nothing better than doing what God has called you to do.
Can you recall any incident that almost wrecked your ministry?
I canâ€™t remember any. Two months before I lost my two children in an accident, God has spoken to me. God had told me on that day, â€˜I wonâ€™t answer your prayers. I want toÂ test you and know how you love Me.â€™ As early as 5.00 a.m.Â that morning, armed robbers came to my office.
I used to have the best office east of the Niger in 1985. I had a printing press and my manager was a white American girl. When all my office equipmentsÂ were removed, God told me to forgive the robbers and on no account should I collect back the stolen items; â€˜Leave those things to them as a gift.â€™ I told my wife the next day. On our way to a crusade in my village, my driver carrying my children and a cousin, droveÂ into a river.
I attempted to bring the children out, notÂ knowing that my wife also jumped into the river behind me and water carried her, threw her up six times. It was at theÂ seventh time that somebody called my attention to her. IÂ used one hand to swim and the other to hold her and brought her to shore. I rescued the children later.
They had died; because a child stays underÂ water only for two minutes. I put them in a car to pray forÂ them, but an oncoming car from the opposite direction drove into the car and smashed it. The bumper flew out, the bonnetÂ flew out. I stopped and I was pacing up and down, notÂ knowing what to do next.
Just then, somebody ran to me, grabbed me and said my 50-sitter bus carrying my band had caught fire. He was not sure how many people died in theÂ accident. I was composed because God had warned me. IÂ didnâ€™t make those children. God gave them to me. All that I had, now have and will ever have is given by God. And HisÂ will is supreme.
When I proceeded to the crusade venue toÂ preach, people were asking me what will you preach? We haveÂ been driving on that same road for years and that driver hadÂ been my driver. If God, over the years, protected us and decided to lower the hedge one day,Â why should I protest? So, I marched on!
But I was shocked in 1982 while preparing for Greater Ibadan for ChristÂ Crusade. God said to me, for handling that case well, youÂ will be seen everywhere. He said; â€˜Iâ€™ll detail 100Â angels to be with you wherever you go in the world.
You canÂ eat three times a day.â€™ I used to fast for one monthÂ and since that day till now, God has been performing miracles in my ministry.
How hurt were you when those series of disasters happened?
I think hurt is as a result of losing somebody you love soÂ much. When somebody dies, only those who love him will cry and the way you cry shows how much you love the person. GodÂ has made it that all you have is not your own. And once youÂ believe that in your heart, you can handle any situation.
Our problem is greed to hold on to those things we have. Even pastors go about talking about their churches; noÂ pastor has a church. They all belong to God. The day you die, they will tell you itâ€™s not your church. They willÂ put you into your grave and find a successor and from yourÂ grave you cannot protest. What people call their own is not their own.
That is the problem we have in Nigeria. WeÂ accumulate and accumulate not knowing that those thingsÂ belong to God. The day we know that those things do notÂ belong to us, things will begin to take shape. To own is toÂ owe. We can cry here but it doesnâ€™t stop God from doingÂ what He would do.
How did you meet your wife?
We are from the same village. The father loved me, the brother was my friend but none of them contributed to ourÂ decision to get married. It never crossed my mind. I was in America preaching in Ohio, when I said to a woman who wasÂ paralysed, to stand up that God has healed her.
The girl whoÂ brought her into that place said I mustÂ marry her or sheÂ would shoot me and herself. I had to go into one month fast. Then God showed me my wife, because we were from the same village. We met and agreed on getting married but I waited for two years for that becauseÂ she wrote a book titled, Mother, I have found a man.
She was 25 years and I didnâ€™tÂ want to marry a baby because 25 is the end of the age of confusion. She said God spoke to her too.
What is the secret of your fulfilled marriage?
Everybody knows his place. She knows I am her husband. She loves me, reverencesÂ me and helps me fulfill my calling. IÂ celebrate her because every pretty girl wants to beÂ celebrated. They donâ€™t take nonsense. You must celebrateÂ her. You lose to win in marriage. Even when your wife has wounded or hurt you, please donâ€™t chastise her. Make sureÂ you put money in her hand, even when she has her own money.Â When she asks for money, give her more than she asked for.
When she dresses up for service, stop and celebrate her. Donâ€™t just look at her as if she is a fool. Say to herÂ â€˜you are precious.â€™ Accept her relations as your own. IfÂ she has siblings, invest in them. Love her children. It isÂ always confusing. Men love women and women celebrate children.
To a woman, it is the beginning ofÂ her unendingÂ laughter. If you want your wife to love you, loveÂ her children, take care of them, send them to good schools. MyÂ wife toldÂ meÂ on the crusade platform, youÂ are a big man of God, but in this house you are not a bigÂ man of God, you are just my husband and a father. Donâ€™tÂ walk here acting as if you are under anointing.
The demons stop at the crusade ground, we are here for celebration. Every time you walk through that door, donâ€™t act as if youÂ are too powerful becauseÂ the crowd has gone. You are now home.
How did she feelÂ when you went ahead to preachÂ after the death of your children?
I donâ€™t think she forgave me immediately and I donâ€™t blame her. If you know how much children mean to women, youÂ will understand her problem. She asked me, â€˜this Bible you carry, when you go to the crusade ground, tell the people Satan is more powerful than God.
Iâ€™m ashamed you carryÂ this Bible with me.â€™ So, I told her, this will beÂ your punishment: everyÂ year, you will have aÂ child. Do you know we had a child the next year. That one came. After that, she attempted doing familyÂ planning but I told her itâ€™s a lie. Three months after, she got pregnant (laughs). When she got pregnant at a timeÂ nobody expected a woman to get pregnant, my relations cameÂ and called me names, saying I was a stupid man.
How can youÂ get a woman pregnant at that age? What if she died? I told my sister, you are talking out of ignorance. God who putÂ that child there didnâ€™t look at me as an idiot. He knew Iâ€™ll be a good father.
That is why He brought one moreÂ child. But she had already agreed, weeping the way she did! So, we flew her out to the US. IÂ called 10 of my friends all of them medical doctors and they came. They were watching a programme in one room when she gave birth in another room.
No nurse, no doctor! I wasÂ holding a crusade in London when the doctors called me that â€˜we have just wasted their time, God did not need us. WeÂ shouldnâ€™t have listened to you.
She has given birth. WeÂ didnâ€™t help in any wayâ€™. So whenever I look back, I always say her reaction during the accident was natural. Remember, God has revealed to me that the day would come and I said to GodÂ if You are going to test my faith, donâ€™t involve my wife.
Take anybody but not her because I have a travel -ministry and when I travel, she is the pillar of the house.Â If she dies, many other things will be taken away. She wasÂ almost at the point of the death when I got to her inside the river. God gave me such aÂ supernatural power to carry a woman ofÂ her size with oneÂ hand and drop her before going for the children.
It was notÂ a natural power. God was at work. You see, romanceÂ is simply giving a woman quality time, making sure she has what she needs, making sure you have an element of surpriseÂ for her. In that regards, Iâ€™m an expert. I call her several times in one day, exchange love letters. I make sure IÂ have an element of surprise. It could be groundnut wrapped in tissue paper.
Something that will surprise her. WomenÂ donâ€™t really want money, they want appreciation, they wantÂ recognition. If a man has no money, he must have a bag ofÂ humour. Every good man must be able to make his wife laugh, at least, five times a day. A woman who laughs five times aÂ day has no pressure; she will look younger and upright.
There are so much crises in the nation and there are manyÂ people who believe that Nigeria…
Crisis is a mark of decay. It is also a mark of growth and good health. Even in marriages, whenÂ there is crisis, it means somebody is asking questions and somebody must provide the answers.
Nigeria is going through the best time of her life. We are asking questions and once we can answer those questions, we shall learn from ourÂ mistakes and move forward. Nigeria is a great nation, theÂ militants are simply passing a vote of no confidence on ourÂ leaders.
The leaders need to reconsider what to do and takeÂ a new bearing to provide answers to the questions being asked. It doesnâ€™t mean we are going to the end of thisÂ country, Nigeria. Itâ€™s a lie. Let me also add, lifeÂ without crisis is what we call failed nation.
Anybody whoÂ has no problem has been rejected by GodÂ because we grow by theÂ problemÂ we solve. A great man solves great problems, a smallÂ man solves small problems. The crisis Nigeria is facingÂ today will lead to a brighter, greater future.
But Iâ€™ve heard you say before that Nigerians are notÂ moving forward?
There is a time to sit, there is a time to move. NigeriaÂ will one day stand up and move forward. Even as a young lover in love with a girl, he dreams beautiful dreams. But after the wedding, you will know that love isÂ blind butÂ marriage is an eye opener.
We are dreaming of great Nigeria,Â but there are things we have to put in place. Anybody whoÂ dreamt of a good marriage and got married and found that the wife will not obey his command and got disappointed, the man is sick. He is an unreformed husband because marriage is a union of two oppositesâ€”a man who says stand up and a woman who says why should we stand up?
Itâ€™s very wrongÂ when people think that their dream will not have any challenge. That person is living in a dream world. Itâ€™sÂ foolhardy to expect a state that will have no problem; whereÂ thieves and assassins will never be part of Nigeria. AmericaÂ was disorganised when they started. Even as Iâ€™m talking, America has more criminals than weÂ have.
Anybody who says there is a nation where there are no criminalsÂ is not a good liar.Â Nobody loves evil, everybody condemns evil.
What led to theseÂ acts of evil?
If our security has not broken down and ourÂ policemen were trained …the way we treat our policemen is not fair. IfÂ the policemen are there to stand in the gap for us, weÂ should take good care of them. We should give them a senseÂ of value. If I were aÂ policeman…if I see trouble coming, Iâ€™ll dodge because if I die, what will be given to myÂ family? N10,000! Thatâ€™s no money. The way we treat ourÂ policemen breaks my heart.
This is the man who will protect you from armed robbers and he has no good weapon. He has noÂ good remuneration.I know governors who say they donâ€™tÂ have enough money to take care of policemen. It is a lieÂ humbly told. We are a gigantic paradox.
We are so hopelessly rich yet we are stupidly poor because of mismanagement. We are the sixth oil producing country in the world. We ought to be among the shakers and the movers of the world but we are not because we have too many people who only think about themselves. This country can give employment to all our graduates.
This country can organise our transportÂ system very well. It can build and maintain our highways.Â Even when we hadnâ€™t the kind of money we have now, ourÂ roads were beautifully maintained; but somebody had stoppedÂ thinking. That is the problem we have.
There are many problems confronting the nation today and aÂ lot of people have said that the Church has failed.
The reason for it is the problem of responsibility. Nigerians are greatest inventors of excuses and yet they have no excuse for being full of excuses and a house ofÂ excuse is aÂ house of failure. We have refused to beÂ responsible to our calling, to what we have been assigned to do.
We are not doing well because our leaders are not doingÂ well. It is the head that waxes the tail. The tail does notÂ wax head. The moment you have organised leadership, selflessÂ leadership, unbiased leadership, creative leadership,Â leaders who can think; the country will move forward.
I was caught up in the Lagos demonic traffic yesterday for goodÂ five hours. That traffic has been there for maybe 40 years.Â ItÂ simply means our leaders do not think.
If our leadersÂ could think, they would have found a way out of this demonicÂ traffic bottleneck in Lagos that affects the economy. YouÂ can no longer boast ofÂ being a man of integrity in terms ofÂ time. A man who is not sure of carrying out his plans, cannot plan and plan well.
We need leaders who can think. When I say Nigerians donâ€™t think, people get angry and mad at me. We only re_arrangeÂ our prejudices .That is why we are not moving forward.
WeÂ need a man who can see the future and prepare us for theÂ future. A man we call a visionary leader, one who sees what others cannot see, a man who looks at what others look at, but would see what they not see. Thatâ€™s what made David a hero. Israel saw Goliath, the king of Israel saw Goliath,Â the army of Israel saw Goliath, but they didnâ€™t see his forehead.
It was seen only by David. And he also saw stones.Â And it was what he saw which others didnâ€™t see thatÂ brought down Goliath. Nigeria has Goliaths, we are looking
for men who can see the unprotected forehead of this Goliath.
Every Goliath has an unprotected forehead. You canÂ pretend to be a leader but only the fruit you bear willÂ show whether you are a leader or not. Like I said, the tail cannot wax the head, only the head can wax the tail.
What is the Goliath you have identified in Nigeria?
They are so many.
The first one is irresponsibility. TheÂ second is this tendency to give excuses. Third is refusal to be accountable. Fourth is having the conscience and the feeling of a leper. I have said it before that most of ourÂ political leaders are just political lepers.
They donâ€™t feel any pain. If you donâ€™t feel any pain, they canâ€™tÂ think of solving that pains. The fifth thing is not having aÂ model we can copyâ€”a mentor who can say do it this way or that way.
The sixth is refusal to be selfless, because aÂ leader is like a candle who burns itself to give light toÂ others. As far as heâ€™s trying to protect himself, heÂ canâ€™t give light. We are looking for men who are selfless. Another thing is failure to have the baptism into theÂ sacredness of human being. Every human being is important.
Your messenger must be honoured and respected because thatÂ messenger has the potential of producing the greatestÂ artiste that Nigeria has ever known. TheÂ moment we begin to respect, appreciate and love each otherÂ and see the good in each other, we are already building aÂ virile nation.
Then there is poverty mentality! Poverty mentality simplyÂ says if only you can give me what I want, I can do anything for you. A man who is not sure of himself has no sense ofÂ value and respect.
A man whoÂ no matter what he has wantsÂ more is not sure of himself. A man who says, I can sell my mother to youÂ if theÂ price is goodÂ is a man with what we call poverty mentality. A poor man is not a man without money, itâ€™s a man who hasÂ no value.
Let me put it in a Christian perspective, a poorÂ man is a man who has no God. We have too many people withÂ poverty mentality trying to rule us. All a man with povertyÂ mentality wants to do is to line his pockets, he doesnâ€™t care about others. He just says if I eat, others can as well go home.
Accountability! You asked me to do this; this isÂ what I have done. If we are accountable, what is happening inÂ our banking industry should not be happening. If
I can expand that, it is ability to give and take excuses. We have a way of blaming everything away, using tribalism as excuse.
In Nigeria, weÂ see everything from tribal point of view. A man kills, we say because he is a Muslim! A man steals; we say because he is a Christian. They want to eliminate us. We are not willing to face facts. Do you know that Nigeria is the onlyÂ country where people have knowledge but they donâ€™t applyÂ it.
They look butÂ they donâ€™t see. When they see, they donâ€™t understandÂ and when they understand, they donâ€™tÂ appreciate .When they appreciate, they donâ€™t celebrateÂ andÂ when they celebrate , they donâ€™t smile.
There is this problem of our constitution?
One of the past presidents, I wonâ€™t tell you who, had aÂ programme for the poor. I was called to pray againstÂ violence in that meeting. The government that God willÂ honour is the government that honours the poor. Can you imagine America going to North Korea because of some two youngÂ powerless journalists who had no money.
The whole nation came to a halt. If that happens here, nobody will hear aboutÂ it. So, I said to the president, Iâ€™ll not pray that kind of prayer. He was good enough to asked me to tell him what I think they should do.
Our problem in Nigeria is not that weÂ donâ€™t tell our leaders what to do, but they have so many sycophants around them who hijack whatever you say and tellÂ them not to worry, they can handle the situation. As long asÂ we have these sycophants who sing the praises of our leaders, not to help the leaders but to enrich theirÂ pockets, we shall continue to haveÂ this same problem.
Everyone of us is only as strong as members of your inner circle. You cannot rise above them. Nothing is wrong with the 1999Â constitution. What is wrong is the operators of theÂ constitution. Some of the operators have not even read theÂ constitution.
So, how do expect to operate it? They donâ€™tÂ know it by heart. We, the followers are a dumb audience. WeÂ only grumble in the toilet. We canâ€™t grumble aloudÂ because no Nigerian wants to die unless assassins forceÂ himÂ to die. In 1978, we were supposed to march against the soldierÂ boys.
One of the bishops asked us, did anybody write his will before coming to this meeting ,because one of theÂ bullets can kill you? Do you know none of us proceededÂ beyond that.
I was in Bangladesh when civilians came to theÂ streets and say to the government to come downÂ and IÂ asked one of them, what if they shoot you? These are soldiers. He said, Uma, Iâ€™m not afraid of death. ButÂ here,Â we are so used to luxurious life that nobody wantsÂ to die. The Bible says unless youâ€™re ready to die, youÂ will not live. That is our problem.
Do you support men of God participating actively inÂ politics?
Donâ€™t go into politics unless God has called you. Donâ€™tÂ just wake up and say , I will be a politician, because itâ€™s a game that some of us donâ€™t know where the goal posts are and they keep shifting the goal post.
There are people who moved into politics without being called. When God calls you, He enables you, He equips you. When you wake up and jump into the football field of politics, you cannot cope.Â Some of them are there because of the glamour and glitz ofÂ politics.
Whatâ€™s your opinion onÂ re_branding Nigeria ?
Nigerians have a great sense of humour. If you want toÂ re_brand Nigeria ,where do you start? We are so neck_deep inÂ doing the wrong thing, in corruption. It is almost difficult being a Nigerian.
At this point where we are, where do weÂ start this re_branding? If we are going to re_brand Nigeria,Â I want to hear of one man who stole government money, returnÂ that money to us! Then Iâ€™ll know we have started.
I wantÂ to hear of somebody who gave false testimony that led somebody to jail, rise up and say I told lies, that person is innocent. To me, that is the beginning of re_branding. IÂ want to hear a woman say my husband is not the father of theÂ child I am carrying. You cannot conquer what you cannotÂ confront. Let the leaders begin and we will follow.
IÂ want to hear of one leader who will say, I gave out part ofÂ my ministryâ€™s money to a bank expecting to be paid, I amÂ sorry. I want to hear the police command say, we mustÂ hold somebody because he is guilty but because he insulted us. That is the beginning of re-branding.
Number one, poverty is at work. There is noÂ powerful force greater than poverty. If a nation wants toÂ keep her people under good control, you must not rob them ofÂ knowledge and rob them of self worth.
In Nigeria one per cent lives well while 99 per cent merely exist. There is a number of churches, we donâ€™t have enough. In the Old Testament, ten people were allowed to have their ownÂ synagogue. We need to have a church in every house. Once aÂ church is in every house and the father of the house is theÂ pastor, that family will change. When a man has nothing toÂ offer his family, he will pick a gun.
The worst thing is toÂ watch your children cry for food. Success is not a questionÂ of how many millions I have but how many millionaires I have
helped. A leader is someone who can give hope to others.
The gubernatorial elections in Anambra State scheduled forÂ next year is around the corner…
(Laugh! Laugh!! Laugh!!!) We donâ€™t have one politicianÂ from the East. What we have are rabble rousers. They donâ€™tÂ know the mechanics and dynamics of politics. Everybody inÂ the East has a crown already on his head but you cannot be aÂ king without a king maker. Who are the king makers in theÂ East?
They donâ€™t exist. Every man to himself. We donâ€™tÂ have politicians there becauseÂ a politician should know there has to be a king maker for him to produce a king. There is no community where you haveÂ no king maker and you have a king.
You canâ€™t find it in anyÂ place in the world. So, if thereâ€™s plan to have another election in Anambra, God help us. Until the averageÂ Easterner respects and honours his elders, there cannot be aÂ king without a king maker. We donâ€™t have leaders in theÂ East. Ibo peopleÂ have no leaders.
That is why Ojukwu is known asÂ Eze Gburugburu. Anybody that can lead the Igbos must haveÂ something which others doÂ not have and must have a measure of nuisance value and must be able to show the rest that heâ€™s higher than theyÂ are.