By BENJAMIN NJOKU
ABOUT twenty years after the infamous Otokoto saga which claimed several lives and property in Owerri, the Imo State capital in 1996, one of the people that would not forget the ugly incident in a hurry is Bishop N.E. Moses, the General Overseer of Overcomers Church World Outreach, Lagos. The Otokoto uprising was triggered off, following the killing of one master Ikechukwu Okonkwo for rituals.
The high-profile evangelist re-echoed the unfortunate incident recently, recalling how it almost ruined his ministry. He spoke about the incident for the first time in 20 years last Sunday, while marking his 30 years on the pulpit.
Going down memory lane, Bishop Moses recalled that while the Otokoto uprising lasted, his Overcomers Church World Outreach, in Aguda, and other parts of the country was worse hit. He recounted how his church was mistaken for the Overcomers Christian Mission, presided over by one Dr. Alexander Ezeugo Ekewuba where they found a human skull allegedly used for ritual. Bishop Moses lamented that following this misconception, he lost some key members of his church who wouldn’t want their names to be dragged in the mud.
Narrating how the incident affected his ministry, Bishop Moses said, “ One devastating moment that affected my ministry was when there was a crisis in Owerri, following the Otokoto saga. It was devastating because there was this boy, Ikechukwu Okonkwo who was beheaded and somebody was arrested and detained by the Police in connection with the crime.
But before the person was killed, he made a confessional statement. The incident triggered a chain of violent protests in Owerri in 1996. Indigenes, particularly the youths, women and children, took to the streets burning and destroying property believed to belong to suspected ritual killers who were referred to as the Otokoto Seven.
That day was on a Friday. In the process, a human skull was found inside the premises of one of the churches in Owerri. That evening, an NTA newscaster named the church where the human skull was found as Overcomers. The NTA newscaster did not give the full name of the church as Overcomers Christian Mission.” “By Sunday of that week, my Church was completely empty. And those who were coming to the service were attacked on the way. I remember vividly on Tuesday, when I was coming to the Church, people were throwing stones at me and shouting ‘Otokoto.’
As a result of the incident, some key members of the church left because they felt that people would associate them with the evil. Those members never returned to the church. Meanwhile, I never knew the General Overseer of the Owerri-based Overcomers Christian Mission. I have never met him before, even though he happens to know me. I didn’t know him. As a rumour, it was devastated in Aguda branch of our Church, but they never had that kind of experience in Owerri where the evil took place. However, after the storm comes calm returned and we are grateful to God for his kindness.”
Recall that Ekewuba was, however, incarcerated following the incident and was later released.
Speaking further, the respected man of God also recounted some of the challenges he has faced in his career as a minister of God. He recalled a situation where his ministry was stagnated for 12 years following the embezzlement of the church funds by its Accountant. “The challenges were not based on my God given capacity to preach, teach and to minister in the area of healing or deliverance. By his grace, these things were common experiences in my ministry and in my life over the years. But it’s just because our journey was based on trust. We trusted the wrong person that embezzled the church funds for over a period of 12 years. But I couldn’t speak out.”
“That in itself stagnated me, and the church. At a point, Bishop Oyedepo called me and was asking what was happening. I told him that I didn’t know. Bishop Mike Okonkwo equally showed concern. As a matter of fact, I withdrew from them. But I was believing God for a turnaround” Bishop Moses also narrated how he was kicked out of a church he laboured to plant, revealing, however, that he was called by God at a very tender age.
On the celebration, he said, “We are actually celebrating God’s mercies and kindness as a ministry and as a church. Looking at where we are today, and where we are coming from, we have every reason to thank Him, “he said.