By OBINNA EZUGWU
Prophet Chukwuemeka Ohanemere, better known as Odumeje, the Lion Himself, is not your ideal man of God. But even Onitsha, a city noted strictly for commercial activity, is hardly an ideal abode for a fire spitting prophet. Ohanemere, however, has special skills; skills that have not only seen him survive but indeed thrive in the Anambra commercial city. He is revered by his followers to whom he can do no wrong, but in the same token, scorned by many who say his ways look too suspicious.
Fair, slim, smallish and often dressed in skinny trousers and shiny shirt, Ohanemere comes around as classy. But as they say in local parlance, he is a small man who does big – you could add strange – things.
His church, the Mountain of Holy Ghost Intervention Deliverance Ministry World Miracle Center, alias Land of Freedom located at number 88B Bida Road Fegge, appears, at first sight, like any other church. But it’s not, it is of a special kind, one that defies all conventions.
It was 8:30am on Sunday December 8, 2019 and a few people had gathered in front of the church, among them the sick and a few young men, who you could imagine, had come, expectant of breakthrough miracles. It is his stock in trade. This reporter had gone to the church that early, expecting that like every other church, service would start in the morning and end towards afternoon or in the afternoon. It was a terrible miscalculation.
One of the few young men outside said service normally starts at 11:am. But that it turned out to be what has become known as African Time, or more appropriately, Nigerian Time. The irony of it all is that, as this writer would learn, the prophet himself has no specific time for coming to church.
Inside, the church is bigger than you could have ever imagined from the outside. An elevated cement designed as a circle in the middle divides it into two unequal halves. Covered in red rug, it serves as the altar. It is surrounded to the right by well-designed sofas and the hard-to-miss “throne” of the prophet. Good enough for the palace of any first class king anywhere in the world, the golden “throne” has two mini lions placed on the either side of the armrest to depict its occupant that is the lion.
To the right is an elevated, and apparently well furnished balcony which serves as his rest place or momentary office. Standing a few meters above the ground, it can only be accessed through a staircase.
Above the altar is a concrete bar stretching the entire width of the church. On the bar are written bold letters: “THERE IS ONLY ONE GOD, ONLY ONE POWER, HIS NAME IS JESUS CHRIST.”
It was at exactly 10:55 am when the generator sounded and the church came alive. But if any new comer expected the prophet’s coming anytime soon, he was in for a long day.
The sound of generator heralded bright lights at nearly every corner of church, and soon, the numerous led televisions hanging at every available space in the church began to display.
At 11, video clips of him performing miracles started showing, titled: “Moments of Intervention.” Thursdays are for ‘Family Deliverance.’
Amid the clips of miracles and of him in all manner of places digging up charms and cutting down ‘evil’ trees, he appears on screen inviting congregants to the Annual Thanksgiving Service that was to hold on December 13, 2019. At intervals, he spoke in tongues, and shouted his trademark slang:
“Anaghi ahu oka na filling station (You don’t roast corn at filling stations). Onye batiri ya foro one bar anaghi agba game (He whose mobile phone battery has only one bar don’t play game). Onye si na ihe anyi na eme enwero isi, ontinye isi, onwee isi (He who says that what we do has no meaning, let him put his head and it will make meaning to him) Onye no na keke anaghi acho seat belt (A person who is in Keke doesn’t look for seatbelt).”
The slang were followed by prophetic declaration, one every in the church must have been eager to hear: ” Umu Odumeje, unu ncha ga enwe aka nchawa. Unu ncha ga abu multi millionaires (Odumeje’s children, all of you will be successful. All of you will be multi millionaires).”
The screen returned to show him exhume charms. “This is how they tied this family,” he says as he digs out a carefully wrapped ‘juju’ with pictures inside.
At about 11:28, one of the pastors, a tall, slightly fair man of about 45 began ministration and gospel songs. He preached for about an hour or so, and the congregants, who at this time, have taken up half of the large church came out to give offering. The church remained half empty, however.
At some point, new set of chairs were lined up in the front row and people carefully chosen to occupy them. Often, those who wanted to seat there would indicate interest. A woman recommended that this writer be moved to one of the seats.
In the church, loud speakers are a real torment. Like everything else, they are in excess and could deafen the ears.
It was 2pm, at which time, a few pastors had preached and left the altar. But there was still no sign of the Prophet. Already agitated, this writer inquired from a man sitting next to him.
“He is not predictable, he behaves like air,” the man explained. “He can breeze in and out at anytime. He doesn’t have fixed time for church service.”
Seconds rolled into minutes and minutes into hours. At exactly 16:09pm, everyone stood and workers upped their activities.
“He has arrived,” the neighbour said. “Finally.”
In the next few seconds, he walked into the church accompanied by more than a few men. At this time, the large church was already filled to the brim. Certainly, the regulars already knew when to expect him.
Once on the altar, he took the microphone and started dancing and everyone else hit the dance floor. When he had danced for few minutes, he began to preach. And the preaching was more of tales of spiritual powers and miraculous accomplishments.
He told again, of a man who had swollen stomach, who he hit in the stomach and he was healed. Another was a young boy whose legs were ruined by mysterious ailment. He bit the leg with his teeth and the boy was healed.
“I’m not your conventional prophet,” he said. “I’m not like the pastors who act as if they are gay. I don’t behave like the mad people. Whatever the spirit ministers to me to do about a sickness, I do it. I don’t blow the wind. I don’t wave handkerchiefs.”
He broke into a dance at intervals, joined by everyone else. His miracles, he said, are “evidence of God’s power. This is what you call power.”
“God resides in me, not in the church. In fact, I’m a God. Didn’t God say he made man in his image? Everyone of us is made in God’s image, we are God. God resides in us.
“Jesus is not in this house, he is in our bodies. It is when I have not come out that witch doctors could be said to be reigning. But now, everyone bows, even the Ogboni.”
He, according to him, is the Elijah of the present generation, whom God has brought to save his people, and before whose God every knee must bow.
“God brought out Elijah,” he said, “When his people were led astray. God said he can save the whole world for the sake of one man, and for the sake of one man he can destroy the world.
“Everybody will sooner or later bow to the God of Odumeje. He who says he cannot bow in health, will bow in sickness.
“I don’t care that you have money, I don’t care that you are a governor, a chairman … run away, I’m not moved by those things.”
Obviously a proud prophet, he talked about sundry accomplishments before ultimately declaring that the Thanksgiving Service was nigh and that it was a moment to appreciate God.
“This moment is the moment of appreciation, to appreciate our God. It’s moment to show love to your prophet, to encourage him. Provoke me with gifts.
He gave instances of how individuals who provoked him were blessed by God. One was a real estate investor who could only build one house at a time. “He was struggling,” he said. “But he now builds estates. When you provoke me, I will shock you.
“I’m a prophet, so this is the time to appreciate your God. Everybody must make this announcement everywhere. Our God is the most powerful God. Even those who were using charm to do business, our song is what they use now. Jesus na enye ego!”
At intervals, young men and women went out to spray money at his feet and generally at him.
“If you do not submit to our God in health,” he restates, “you will submit in sickness, you have no choice.”
He told the story of a man in Asaba who married one of his daughters in the church, and he had to attend the wedding ceremony because of the daughter.
The man, he said, to his amazement, started abusing him, asking his wife why she brought a man like him to their wedding and afterwards, told her to stop coming to the church.
Ultimately the man, like everyone else who had spoken against the church, had to come to bow in sickness according to him. And there was a video evidence of the man pleading in the church to be healed of his ailment.
“It’s a covenant between me and God. He said whoever on earth speaks against this church will never go free. That’s the meaning of the name Holy Ghost Intervention. When God revealed the name to me, I didn’t even know what intervention meant.
“God asked me to use the name Holy Ghost because nobody who speaks ill of the Holy Spirit shall be forgiven.”
For those who follow his rules, however, they will not end in shame.
“If you know me, anything that happens to you is a shame to me,” he declares. “Don’t ever be disturbed. I will do the job for you. I’m here to fulfill your destiny. Is that not why you are here? There are people, when they were at the point of death, I brought them back to life.”
Soon, it was time for general offering. The congregants trooped out in their numbers to give, and afterwards, he began again. And it was time to perform miracles.
He called out a young man and a middle aged woman. The man he told, was battling poverty and lack of progress in business because there were family members working against his progress.
“I see poverty,” he says, “but today, prepare for the burial of your enemy.”
To the woman, he said, “You have been looking for a child. They said it’s an issue with the fibroid. “Stay with your husband, you will have a child. That’s all.”
Then he hit the microphone on her stomach a number of times. The woman fell and was carried away by the workers back to her seat.
Then again, it was time for donations.
“I need just ten people that will give us N10,000 each,” he says, and proceeded to explain the gain in giving. “I know that in some churches in Lagos, some pastors ask people to donate N1billion and people come out to donate. But here, we don’t do like that.”
More than 10 people eventually went to the altar to donate and kneel for prayers. The ushers were there to make sure that everyone there had N10,000. You had to show them before you were allowed. You couldn’t receive N10,000 blessing without having N10,000.
After those of N10,000 had given, it was those with N5,000 and so on.
Then, he calls out another woman who he said was having problems with her house rent and was about to be evicted from her house. He asked the congrats to donate. Some pledged N50,000, some N20,000, some 10,000 and some N5,000.
He then asked that offering be given for her sake. Soon, a heap money lay on her feet.
Afterwards, it was time for holy communion. However, at 6:50pm, it was already late in a city not safe at night.