The current sensation in the Southeast is Prophet Chukwuemeka Ohanemere popularly known as Odumeje. The President and founder of Mountain of Holy Ghost Intervention Ministry Worldwide (a.k.a Land of Freedom), has practically turned religion to a social enterprise with large dose of entertainment.
The controversial Onitsha-based cleric recently set the social media on fire on account of his rather unorthodox and unapologetic approach to his vocation. He has trending video clips of his deliverance sessions, which leave people wondering what manner of pastor he is. He is popular among celebrities, with a high dose of Nollywood stars. He leaves tongues wagging.
Prophet Odumeje means different things to different people: a man of God, an entertainer, an attention seeker or an enigma whose true being is yet to be understood.
Odumeje, fondly called The Lion, sure knows how to hold his audience spell-bound to the fullest. Call him an accidental pastor and one may not be far from the reality. He is a show stopper when he handles the microphone. Singing brightens his face and he complements it with unique dancing styles. He is at home with highlife beats. He relishes and rehashes the cover songs of most renowned highlife greats, which he dishes out inside his church.
His church service looks like a social gathering, spiced with music, drama, jokes and novelty wrestling matches. Whether he acts out an already rehearsed script is a story for another day; but a routine approach is that he does not enter his church until the auditorium is in full capacity.
With a retinue of bodyguards mostly dressed in long black suits, he takes the lead while the guards come behind him. Immediately he enters, the guards take strategic positions while he first of all takes a mental view of the entire congregation. He then staggers out with a swagger, looking straight, but to no one in particular. He would then give a wry smile before ‘flying’ into the pulpit.
Pastor Odumeje would first kick his right leg as if kicking a football. He would then release the left leg, severally kicking in the air. He stretches his hands forth and back like a wrestler in the ring. Then he jumps up nearly two meters high, stops and smiles at his congregation again and they burst into several shouts of “The Lion”, the “Indaboski,” among his other popular numerous clichés.
The thunderous ovation of his church members charges him the more; then he starts his acrobatic show proper, as one in a Kung Fu combat. He beats his chest in self-praise like the legendary boxing king, Mohammed Ali in the ring.
Suddenly, one of his assistants comes out with bundles of money and hands over to him, which he begins to spray on members of his congregation and the entire church goes wild with fun and excitement as others rush to pick the money.
In a dramatic twist, his assistants fetch more bundles of money which they begin to spray on the pastor and both the pastor and his aides go on frenzy in the money spraying spree lasting for an hour or more.
Welcome to Mountain of Holy Ghost Intervention Deliverance Ministry, Onitsha, an unusual church with an unusual pastor in charge.
The man Odumeje
He hails from Orsu Ihite Ukwa in Orsu Local Government Area of Imo State. Born on September 9, about 41 years ago as third in a family of six children of Mr & Mrs Pius Ohanaemere, Emeka Intervention as he was addressed when he started newly, began life as other Fegge/Odoakpu boys who went to early schools from their family houses and also played football and other games on the streets of the neighbourhood. He was said to have attended both primary and secondary schools in Fegge Onitsha before becoming an apprentice trader dealing in leather materials.
As a young man, he was a devout Roman Catholic who worshipped at Sacred Heart Parish, Odoakpu Onitsha. Sunday Sun gathered that at some point, he abandoned Onitsha and lived with the monks at the Awhum Catholic Monastery, near Ninth Mile, Enugu, before quitting and floated his own private ministry in the year 2000.
The ministry started officially on September 10, 2000, in a public yard at Odoakpu before its present location along Creek Road, Fegge by Modebe-Bida junction.
Chukwuemeka realised his gift of singing and music early in the ministry as he released a gospel album a few months after, with the hit track, “Odumeje,” meaning ‘God, the one who leads me.’ The song marketed by Marwooly Entertainment then had another hit track titled “Muo Nso na Eburum Agha Abatago” (The Holy Spirit that fights for me has arrived) but the track “Odumeje” became an anthem that eventually took over his name; Emeka and people started calling him Odumeje.
From gospel music to prophecy and shows
Emeka Intervention was relatively unknown in the early days of his ministry between years 2000 and 2010 when he operated with a Mitsubishi bus crystallite roofed, though some people attended his weekly ministrations then. Moving to its present location, which is a reclaimed swamp, but now housing a big church fitted with air conditioners, his church has become a beehive of activities attended by large crowd from diverse backgrounds, including wealthy businessmen, top politicians and celebrities.
With time, Odumeje has transformed from a reserved pastor to a flamboyant prophet, social media influencer, rave musician, socialite and controversial preacher. He has become something of a social media sensation.
His church parades the best of highlife instrumentalists with hi-tech sound equipment. Severally, he stages music performances with them as the lead vocalist while the audience gyrate to his delivery and appreciate him with various wads of naira notes.
Last year, he released a nine-tracker album titled “Alabasidi,” where he unleashed his highlife ingenuity in the tracks. Though he sang mostly in strange languages, the music gained wide acceptability that many either bought the CD plate or downloaded through the MP3 stuff.
One of the songs in the album titled ‘Iron, Lion, Zion’ was originally done by the legendary Jamaican Rastafarian, Bob Marley, but the bass line from Odumeje’s own remix was a masterpiece. The video of the songs directed by Cyril Dova was recently released into the market and has been making waves too.
It would not be out of place to describe Odumeje’s church as showplace. Several times, the church parades the presence of some movie stars who not only attend their services, but also join him in the pulpit arena singing, dancing and spraying money.
A member of the church, Doris Ada Kamuche explained that the artistes usually storm Onitsha from Asaba, the popular location for movies in search of salvation, favour, protection and career advancement.
Among the stars seen severally in the church included Rita Edochie, Zubby Michael, Jerry Amilo, Harry B and Yul Edochie also spotted once. Odumeje also did a music collabo with another highlife artiste, Onyeoma Tochukwu in an album titled “20 billion; take it”. He was also spotted recently hanging out with Flavour and beat maker, Master Kraft whom pundits said did a collabo with him, already waiting to hit the market.
There is also a trending live performance on YouTube where he reportedly performed alongside the Umuobiligbo Brothers and Phyno. As if to crown it all, he, in June, signed a management deal with a media and communications company; Liquid Metal Management.
According to reports, brand development and management specialists would be working with the cleric on media/communication, talent management, and Public Relations strategies.
He has now become the first pastor in Nigeria to officially sign an endorsement deal.
Unusual methods and tactics
One of the things that have set tongues wagging about Odumeje is his queer and peculiar style of conducting deliverance sessions on the afflicted. While many conventional clerics apply ‘Olive oil’ and invoke the name of Jesus Christ while praying for the afflicted, Odumeje performs wrestling drama to conduct his own type of deliverance. Lifting people and throwing them on a chair like smack down wrestling show, he also does the unthinkable by hitting such people with iron or other hard objects in areas where they have visible injuries.
Aside that, he also performs several stunts of raising the dead back to life after lying straight on top of such presumed dead bodies brought to his church. Such people reportedly wake up and rise to the deafening applause of the congregation.
From Indaboski to Gandu Gandusa
Odumeje in his usual controversial manner has enriched the communication space with several street slangs which not only caught fire among the youths, but also were spread across the Internet by bloggers and social media users. Though some of the words have no known meaning, the slangs caught up with the fancy of the youths that they are being used everywhere.
While on a visit to popular musician, Flavour, Odumeje in an ecstatic mood said that people are wondering how he came about the name Indaboski, but they should rather wait for the main dish coming.
He said: “2020, I told them that I am Indaboski, but before the end of 2020, I am going to bring in another new power calledDabuskabashi. Then, if we are entering the end of December 2020, I will bring Gandu-Gandusa. Nwanne gbalu ogwu gi nwuo, maka na iju na ima gbalu ya nwuo, nga agbanye gi ya. (Brother, take your medicine and drink because if you refuse to take it, I will give it to you by force.)”
Other popular sayings introduced by Odumeje that have become street slangs include: “Nwanne, I’m the strongest” , “I’m more than a dragon” , “I’m the liquid metal” , “Nwanne, iga-anu uda ya”(Brother, you will hear the bang), Ofu onye adighi anu uda egbe” (One person alone cannot hear gunshot), “Ada ahu oka na filling station”, (You don’t roast corn at a petrol filling station”, “Onye battery ya folu one bar adighi agba game” (One whose phone battery is left with only a bar doesn’t play game with it); among others.
Though widely referred to as prophet; not much is known about Odumeje’s prophecies that came to fruition. However, members of his church lay claim that he is actually an authentic prophet.
An ardent worshipper who has attended the church for two years told our reporter that Odumeje had foretold the petrol tanker fire in Ochanja market; prophesied a major accident in the movie industry, and other bloodshed in Anambra State, and they all came to pass.
His co-in-law who also worships in the church, Kenneth Ezeabigba, claimed that Odumeje had prophesied the emergence of the leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, to drive the Biafra actualisation struggle more than two years before Kanu surfaced on the scene.
In addition, he alleged that the prophet had also foretold the emergence of Peter Obi and Rochas Okorocha as two-term governors in Anambra and Imo states, respectively.
Life of controversy
Many believe that Odumeje’s life is synonymous with controversy. One of the major controversies was the allegation that he had boasted that he would walk on the River Niger a claim he later denied. His church members said that he merely said that those who have faith like Jesus Christ could walk on the River Niger.
But what went like wildfire was his recent face-off with the people of Arondizuogu in Imo State, where he was alleged to have derided a renowned traditionalist and musician, the late Chief Pericoma Okoye, in a video. He was accused of having described the people of Arondizuogu as fetish, and allegedly vowed to put a stop to the Ikeji festival of the town.
In a swift reaction, the children of Pericoma had entered the ‘evil forest’, and made some incantations in a video that went viral too, where they swore to rubbish Odumeje. They also challenged him to a spiritual duel to ascertain the potency of their respective powers.
While the dust raised by the Pericoma video had hardly settled, another clip went viral where he allegedly attacked Awka people of Anambra State, describing their popular masquerade festival, ‘Egwu Imo Awka,’ as being fetish and a means of worshiping monkeys, which is the symbol of the god.
In the video, Odumeje was seen boasting that if he came in contact with the monkey totem of Awka people, he would destroy them.
Though the cleric’s home community, Orsu Ihite Ukwa in Imo State had written and apologised to the communities concerned, on behalf of their son, yet, he remained indifferent, maintaining his silence, while more videos of him deriding the communities surfaced.
But recently Odumeje allegedly apologised to the people of Arondizuogu and Awka over the hurtful statements he had made about their traditional beliefs. A statement allegedly released by the popular pastor claimed that he had watched and found his videos on them hurtful and degrading.
It stated: “In the said posts, I was portrayed as declaring war on the people of these communities and their respective traditional festivals and beliefs. It was also alleged that I had vowed to destroy Imo-Awka festival and put a stop to the Ikeji festival of Arondizuogu.
“Consequent upon the above, I wish to acknowledge that the people of Awka and Arondizuogu communities are peace-loving and I have over the years come to share fellowship and service in church with a great number of them. These two communities and their renowned indigenes have been known and recognised as major contributors to the development of their states, Igbo land and the nation at large.
“Awka and Arondizuogu communities have produced great men and women of integrity and pedigree and have always remained at the top of great sons and daughters of Igbo land.
“Against this backdrop and with all humility; as a servant of the living God, I sincerely apologise to the great people of these two communities, to the entire people of Igbo land and to my elders for my utterances. I will not make any attempts to justify my statement as even I can see that it’s hurtful in all its ramifications.
“I also want to specially apologise to the family of Mazi Pericomo of Arondizuogu who I understand until his passing was a diligent servant (Evangelist) of God. I apologise and put it on record that this experience has taught me that words that speak any form of divisive conversation amongst our people must be checked. This is a time for unity, love and unwavering support for each other”.
However, on June 3, news went viral on social media that the prophet had been arrested and detained by the Anambra State Police Command at Awka, but it turned out later that he had merely honoured a police invitation. The prophet was actually invited by the police on Monday, June 1, over alleged petition against him on malicious broadcast, hate speech, incitement and highly offensive and provocative conduct leading to imminent breach of peace.
A member of his church insisted that the prophet did not apologise to any of the groups that felt derided, but confirmed that as a law-abiding citizen, he honoured the invitation where he met with the State Commissioner of Police, John Abang.
“Prophet Odumeje as an exemplary Christian leader and a role model to many, honoured the invitation over the petition made against him by some individuals who felt offended by his religious preaching”, he said.
Our reporter visited Ideato last Tuesday; to find out whether the people of Arondizuogu had pardoned the controversial prophet, but the traditional ruler of Ndiawa community, Eze Ozumba Dike said that the Arondizuogu Nation would not make Odumeje relevant.
The monarch said: ”The issue of Odumeje is not relevant because for anybody to say that the nation of Izuogu has no men shows that person does not know who the people of Izuogu are. We don’t want to give Odumeje prominence, which he does not deserve because he is not a serious character.”
Meanwhile, another controversy that might soon erupt around the pastor is the manner he handles the Naira and other currencies. Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) had earlier this year urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele, to order the arrest of Prophet Odumeje for his serial abuses of the Nigerian naira and other denominations during his public ceremonies in Onitsha.
National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director, Zainab Yusuf, in a statement said it had resolved to write officially to the Minister of Finance, CBN Governor and President Muhammadu Buhari to implore them to defend the naira against global defacing of the notes.
HURIWA said: “We have watched with disappointments as this self-professed prophet, Odumeje, kept abusing and defacing the national currency and both the police and the CBN have failed for many months to stamp their authorities and prosecute these serial abusers of the national currency.
“We ask the CBN to ensure that the legal provisions that should have protected the naira notes from abuse which are today being observed more in the breach than in compliance should be reversed.”
HURIWA recalled that according to Section 21(3) of CBN Act 2007, “spraying of, dancing or marching on the Naira or any note issued by the Bank (CBN) during social occasions or otherwise howsoever shall constitute abuse and defacing of the Naira or such note and shall be punishable under Sub-section 1 of this section”.
Despite the criticisms that trail Odumeje’s pastoral lifestyle, he does not seem to care a hoot. Responding to those who castigate his style, he said he is not only stubborn, but radical even as he warned such people to be wary of what may befall them for talking about what they did not know how it came about.
“I’m a stubborn man, a radical man. I told you don’t correct me. If I knack somebody on my chair, don’t ask me man of God, this is not the way we are doing miracle elsewhere. Who born you and where do you come from? What do you know about spiritual? You talk when a dead man is talking. Who born you, you that comment on my miracles, you no de fear? You will die recklessly. You don’t enter to my miracles to talk rubbish. What do you know about earth and spiritual earth? I’m not ashamed of my habit. This is me. I’m a stubborn man, a fireman, a radical prophet, I’m Indaboski, I’m a dabus; I’m a libaduu, a seplee!”
On the things of the spirit, Odumeje said that those of them operating in high spiritual wave length have the power to alter the message of God because of their prophetic unction. He also referred to himself as another Jesus who died and came back to life.
“We are not after life. I died many years ago just like my father Jesus Christ died over 2000 years ago. My father died and resurrected and that is why He is still alive today. I died too and that is why I’m a dead man. Like father, like son. I speak as authority.”
In a video he posted online early this year, he challenged native doctors to come to the stadium for an open contest for power.
“No mercy for Satan, no mercy for native doctors. Wait for my fight. You have nothing to offer. All native doctors are criminals collecting fowls, goats and cows from people. Wait for my fight this year. There is only one God and there is only one power and that man is Jesus Christ. If you have power, come out in the stadium to compete with me. They give you and I, two dead people, any one that resurrected the dead, have the power”, he said.
The prophet is married with four children. There is, however, a controversy over his wife. Popular Nollywood actress, Rita Edochie had once risen in defence of Odumeje, while revealing that the source of the prophet’s power was from God.
Edochie in a post on her Instagram page, gave details about the prophet’s wife. She posted thus: “Uju Ohanemere-Odumeje’s wife is not related to Eddy Nawgu (the occult practitioner) or Eddy Nawgu’s wife.
“Brief history of Odumeje’s wife; she was born in the family of Rufus M. Ogbatuo in Obinikpa village in Ideato South L.G.A of Imo state.
“Rufu M. Ogbatuo married two wives with 11 children (six boys and five girls). The mother of Odumeje’s wife was the first wife and her name is Rose E. Ogbatuo.
“No member of her family is related to Eddy Nwagu or Eddy Nawgu’s wife in any manner whatsoever. Please, any information to the contrary is deliberately concocted by mischief makers for selfish and mysterious purposes. Any such information should be disregarded.”
Still within the realm of controversy, Nollywood actor, Zubby Michael had recently denied that the controversial prophet was his pastor.
Michael on his Instagram page also blasted Nigerians for claiming that he got spiritual powers for his Nollywood success from Odumeje.
Uncommon flamboyance and philanthropy
From his designer dressing to the exotic cars; the interior of his home and his style; opulence is written everywhere around Odumeje. Sunday Sun was told by one of his church members that he has about 200 various brands of expensive cars parked in his expansive garage.
The prophet is reputed for his philanthropic acts which have earned him accolades. Apart from dashing out cars to some of his church members, he was among the first to visit the victims of Ochanja market fire disaster where he doled cash gift of N4 million shared among the victims. As the COVID-19 pandemic raged, he also distributed several food items and cash amounts both in his church in Onitsha and his hometown in Imo State.
During the distribution of bags of rice and cartons of noodles as well as cash gifts to the people of his town on April 11, he assured them that he would surely raise more great people there because, according to him, “iron sharpneth iron”.
In people’s eyes
An Anambra Chief and politician, Omife I. Omife, berated those who throng the man’s church, saying that they are being misled.
He also said that the government was supposed to have waded in and curtailed the pastor’s excesses by now.
He said: “This must not be allowed to go on, as if we are all hypnotized, including the government and human rights agencies. How long shall we look the other way?
“Pastors perform home deliverance (Olu ezi n’uno); native doctors perform nkpocha na nzacha na ezi n’uno. Pastors claim to see vision; native doctors perform divination and fortune telling. Pastors do deliverance; native doctors perform ‘ichu aju’ (sacrifice).
“Pastors administer olive oil indiscriminately on their members; native doctors administer various spiritual concoctions on their clients. Pastors speak in tongues, native doctors perform incantations. Pastors perform harvest and thanksgiving; native doctors perform ‘inye agwu nni”, and many more. So, there is no difference between these fake pastors and native doctors.
“I have been to hundreds of churches and I discovered that 90 in every 100 pastors in Igboland are fake and only very few are genuine and these genuine ones hardly publicise their miracles. It is believed he employs this gimmick to mesmerize the congregation and as cover-up for his fake miracles,” Omife said.
But a member of the prophet’s church in Onitsha, John Osundu, sees Odumeje as the messiah who has come to deliver his people from bondage, hardship, backwardness.
“The Lion is a practical man of God with pure heart to deliver people from evil spirit, poverty, barrenness, business failure, marriage, upliftment in job and career etc. He gives money to people, he is very charitable. People are against him because Nigerians don’t like good things.
“People always attack him in whatever he does. They don’t like him because he always says the truth and live by it. They accused him of spraying money and preaching against deities in some communities; the same thing that other churches preach and do. In our church, sometimes during all-night programmes, those the prophet had helped in one way or the other will come for thanksgiving. What is wrong in that, sometimes, the prophet will be dancing and they will be spraying him money out of joy and appreciation,” Osundu said.