Within in a country where there is a craze for private jets and materialism, Chris Christian has remained a sacred eunuch with an oath of poverty.
The Shepherd or G.O. of Locust Army International, a church with many branches in Nigeria, Africa and worldwide, has no property to his name due to an oath. He does not have a wife at 56, and has no ambition in the future for any.
The author of over 200 bestsellers spoke to HENRY AKUBUIRO in the church premises, Ajah, Lagos, where he addressed some topical issues facing the Nigerian church even as he gave reasons for his decision never to get married or have sexual relations with other challenges threatening the nation.
The recent death of Prophet T. B. Joshua has continued to draw contrasting reactions from sections of the Nigerian Christian community. Reverend Chris Okotie said T.B Joshua wasn’t a genuine man of God, while Prophet Chukwuemeka Ohanaemere, better known as Odumeje or Indaboski denounced Okotie for his unrelenting stand. So who determines a real man of God?
There are principles to take into consideration. The Bible is a principled book. Because of the way the Pentecostal is, we don’t have many knowledgeable preachers in Nigeria, and there is a lot of liberty. The church is not being censored by anybody on who should become a pastor. Therefore, a lot of people who are not qualified to be pastors are into pastoral work. As a result of that, there are numerous misunderstandings. They don’t even think about the conditions, those principles that should qualify a man of God. The parameters they are using to measure who is a man of God in Nigeria are not actually the parameters.
What are the parameters?
God is His Word and there are other principles that should make a genuine man of God. For instance, God cannot be monopolised. If you say you are a prophet and He is talking to you, He cannot only talk to one individual. So when one person is saying, “God said… “, the person should allow what he said God said to be censored. Apart from being censored, there should be a kindred spirit. When Jesus came to the world, his ministry wasn’t accepted by the Jews. But, at least, he recognised John the Baptist. So the messiahnism of the Sovereign Servant that Jesus accomplished was acceptable to John. So somebody should not say he is one tree in the forest.
So was Chris Okotie right in his criticisms?
I was expecting you to ask me whether TB Joshua was right. I am not a judge, but I am thinking that, if TB Joshua was dead, whether he was right or wrong, he should be left alone.
Don’t you think T. B. Joshua’s death has left a big vacuum in Nigeria?
All of us were surprised he died. Whether you like him or not, he influenced this country. That doesn’t mean I am saying he is from God (laughs). But it’s not possible to deny him that impact.
When you said he influenced Nigeria, what exactly do you mean?
If you look at the tourism red light, many nations identified with the Synagogue. But I think people should be very careful, because Godliness is a mystery. We can’t know everything. That’s why some people should be guided not to say some things straight. There are some things that cannot be said straight. Somebody said when T. B. Joshua was about to be buried, an angel appeared, and some people disagreed. Look at that!
Prophet Odumeje said Chris Okotie had never performed any miracle in his life, but he had chosen to rubbish a prophet like T. B. Joshua who performed multiple miracles all over the world?
A lot of things are spoken out of ignorance. It is not only through miracles that impact is made in the church. There are big ministries that miracle is not part of their calling. There are those who are just teachers. There are announcers. There are prophets who announce God’s projects or programmes; they are not into healing. There are prophets. So people shouldn’t see miracle work as the only arm of success. For instance, when John the Baptist came, he wasn’t into miracle work. But Jesus testified that no one was greater than him. A ministry can be successful without that part. Sometimes you find it difficult to separate that part from witchcraft. Sometimes you are not sure of the source of that power, especially if it is separated from the Word. The Bible tells us there should be learning before power. There should be knowledge. As I often say, power is a projection of wisdom. So when somebody does not have knowledge and he is doing a lot of miracles, you should look at that being magical, because the first thing the word of God does to you is to transform the inner man, the soul of the man, and God doesn’t depend on miracles to do it. So there is a lot of impact we make on people through fellowship.
How then do we distinguish between genuine miracles and fake ones, because most Nigerians are craving miracles now?
There are values associated with a genuine preacher, which should not be trifled with. When a preacher trifles with that, we suspect him. For instance, clarity of vision. Second is genuine attention to the word of God. The third is the character that word of God produces —testimonies. There are things that, if you hear about men of God, you begin to wonder if they are genuine people. What you see is excessive materialism, the way prosperity is being flaunted as though it was the only criteria. The King died on the cross as a total sacrifice. So his name should not be traded with. The final criteria is association —who is your father in the lord? At least, you should have someone to look onto, and then somebody you are encouraging.
So what do you have to say about a prophet like the celebrity prophet, Odumeje Indabosky?
I don’t know who Indabosky is. In the days of Acts of Apostles, there was a Bar Jesus. The Bible says he depended on sorcery to do wonders in the land of Samaria until Peter came. Still in the Acts of the Apostles, the Bible mentions another man who was using divination to get money for his master. There is a lot of magic going on. There are some men of God, if I say they are magical, you will be embarrassed. But, if you give them time —because we are not judges — nature won’t be patient.
You are 56 years now, have you changed your mind on getting married?
The oath of celibacy is for life. As long as I am on earth, it’s just to give it totally to God. He made me that way. Handling temptations from females is not hard to handle if you make up your mind. I have created a structure that doesn’t give room for temptation. My PA is a man. I don’t travel to preach with a woman. A woman has not entered my apartment for about 5 years. I don’t carry a woman in my car.
Why did you take the oath of celibacy?
I didn’t just take the oath. There are three categories of eunuchs: those made eunuchs by God; those who became eunuchs because of their contributions to the kingdom, and those who men made eunuchs to be used. I belong to the first category. I just discovered I was born that way for a purpose; for the work I came for. I am a preacher of a kind. And that particular oath of chastity shares a covenant with poverty. So, as long as I am not married, I won’t have things. Even my Bible, books (both the ones I bought and the ones I wrote) all bear the name of the church, and not my personal name. This church premises is situated on 18 plots of land -—that’s about three hectares, from the gate to the sea. I bought it in the name of the church. It costs millions of naira. It doesn’t bear my name as the owner because of that oath of poverty. So the oath is not just about chastity; it’s also about poverty. So I don’t believe in owning things. You don’t preach prosperity to me. It’s also a mystery. You know, I preach eternal life in the flesh. I don’t fall sick. I don’t go to the hospital. Meanwhile, I am out of sight of many, that is, I don’t go to the supermarket. I don’t visit people’s houses on a regular basis. For instance, I haven’t visited anybody’s house for five years. People don’t visit me at home except those I am living with. That’s a restricted life.
One might say since you lead a life similar to a monk, you ought to be submitting yourself to daily strokes of the cane as monks of the old were used to. Are you not thinking in that direction?
(laughs) Do I need to be flogged? I live a life of purpose, why should I be punished with strokes of the cane? (laughs). I don’t need to be punished. The pain of the consecration is enough for me. The fire that sustains that oath is very hot, so there is no need for further pain.
Were you ever in a relationship, or have you always been celibate? Do you have female friends?
There is an age of awareness. I passed through secondary school and university. And if you can see, people are praying in the hall. In the process, people come around; sometimes women cook food and give it to me, and I do pastoral work. But that relationship has its limits (laughs). As I told you, there are restrictions; no female church member visits me. I spent most of my time alone in my office. I only spend a little of my time at home daily.
Are you a virgin?
When you hear chastity, it’s just that. The word “chastity” is deep. It’s only those who are involved from God that know what’s involved in it. The feelings of a eunuch can’t be regular. If the emotions are regular, then you will have problems. That’s the difference between a God made eunuch and a man made eunuch. If a man is meant to get married and he chose to be a eunuch, he may naturally have challenges in coping with it.
The oath is tied to why I came to this world. If I break it, I don’t exist. The oath involves the altar here —I don’t bury people here. I mean, my church members don’t die untimely deaths, because I have to pay that price to preserve the people and the church. It’s not something I should not be hypocritical about. It’s not whether people are watching me or not. God is watching me. So if I fail in my oath, the things attached to it will go. There are benefits that I enjoy because I live this way. There are certain angelic services I enjoy because of that life. I enjoy angelic massage, feeding and injection. If I need to be injected, when I lay down, they give it to me. If I am exhausted and I need to be ministered to, they will serve me. If I break the covenant, the benefits will fade. So I am better inside than outside. Some people wonder if I do it secretly, but I am not a hypocrite.
How then do you fight and conquer temptations? A handsome and successful man (of God) will have ladies drooling all over him. How do you cope?
You have asked me this before. There is a structure in place to checkmate that. For instance, I have never had a lady secretary or personal assistant. I don’t travel with women. I don’t live with women. Much of the work women would do for me is done by men. So the structure I have reduces the temptation. You know, there is power in contact. Apart from the structure on ground, I already have this nature in me. The eunuch’s life is a spirit in a man; it’s not a decision. That’s why it works in consonance with poverty. I feel like helping pastors sometimes. They talk about prosperity, but they don’t see the ability to see the negative side of accumulating wealth. Some of this wealth is not from genuine sources, but they don’t know. That’s why you see them falling sick. Sometimes when problems start coming to them, they can’t trace the source because of avarice. They want to grab things.
That means you don’t own mansions anywhere?
It’s not possible. The oath is not unto man, so there is no need for hypocrisy. I have a camp that contains over a hundred rooms and halls. During camping, people use it. I am also developing this place in Ajah to house over a hundred rooms for the kingdom. That’s the kind of thing I do. I build houses in a public place where people can use it. I have churches all over Nigeria and outside the country.
Do you believe in other people getting married and do you conduct weddings in your church?
Why not? I have pastors all over the world. They are all married. I support them. There are some of them who wanted to remain single, but when I saw they were having pressures coping with it, I encouraged them to marry, but I haven’t wedded anybody. Weddings take place in the church, however, but my regional coordinators and pastors handle them. If I like, I attend. If I don’t like, I won’t attend.
Many men of God in this part of the world run their ministries with their wives, and some with their children. How do you run yours?
The pattern is there in the Bible. Peter wasn’t Jesus’ wife. Moses handed over to Joshua, and Elijah gave the mantle to Elisha. There is a structure that commands who is who in the ministry, that is, the organogram of this church has not brought any wife into it.
How do you counsel couples since you don’t have a marriage experience?
(laughs) You don’t need to have a marriage experience to counsel. I have been a pastor for 28 years, so pastoring has given me that experience to handle such issues. I do counseling for couples, but that is not my major. You met me writing here.
By taking the oath of celibacy, are you not working against God’s instruction that man should “be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it?”
If you look at what you said, God wants partnership for man; it’s not necessarily wife. I am not here alone. I am working with a team of people. What God wants is dominion. You are talking of a natural family; there is also a spiritual family. The dominion I want is the dominion of God’s kingdom, so I already have a team of people who are helping in the dominion, like church members, leaders —in this place, we have coordinators and different kinds of pastors all over the country and beyond. And then, the fruitfulness is the evangelism, soul winning and church planting, just like Jesus who did have a wife; just like Apostle Paul; just like Elijah accomplished so many things without a natural family.
Recently, Edo State was in the news for trying to impose compulsory vaccination on the people, including churches and mosques, who have to show their vaccination certificates in order to enter the church. Even the state chapter of CAN was reported to have given tacit support before protests erupted against it….
That’s an embarrassment. CAN shouldn’t support that. Except for organisations or a particular church where the head is being led that way. They should not force things that require choice. They should not force somebody to live or die. If somebody thinks vaccination will help him live and another says he doesn’t need it, nobody should be forced. It’s possible for the vaccine to have a negative influence on people who didn’t really accept it, but it’s a matter of choice. Nobody should impose compulsory vaccination on Nigerians. For instance, I won’t vaccinate; I don’t believe in it. I cannot vaccinate at this time in my life. Don’t you know I am not married? It’s not a normal life. I don’t believe in death, for instance. I don’t take drugs. I haven’t taken drugs for ten years, and I won’t anytime. Why should I vaccinate? Have you met me on the road before?
Seven years ago, I was given an award in Ghana as The Best Inspirational Writer, but I didn’t travel to receive it. Another group gave me an award in Cotonou, and I didn’t go. They gave me another one in Togo, I didn’t go. Some journalists asked me, “Shepherd, are you afraid of light?” I asked them how, and they said, “Because they will capture you.” I told them I would go with time” (laughs).
The recent takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban has raised fears there might be a replica in Nigeria if care is not taken. Do Nigerian Christians have to worry?
No, those who are saying that are not right. Afghanistan is a different country from Nigeria from religious setting to geographical differences. Afghanistan is predominantly Islamic, while Nigeria is about 50-50. So how does an Hausa man, for instance, come to Enugu and say everybody should become a Muslim. That means nobody would be alive.
But Benue State governor, Samuel Orton, has continued to talk about a covert plan to islamise Nigeria…
If it is true, it’s not everything anybody attempts that works. I get embarrassed when people say there is an attempt to Islamise a country that is complicated. Do you know that I came from a village in Anambra where nobody knew anything about Islam? Even Anambra as a state doesn’t understand Islam. I grew up not knowing anything about Islam. So how do you Islamise us?
So the fears are unfounded?
Yes. Even in the north itself, like Taraba, Plateau, Borno states, they have a big Christian population.
So what do you have to say about the Plateau killings where several states had to hurriedly evacuate their students, mainly Christians, from Jos? Is there any way out of the recurring killings?
The problem cannot be solved completely because of the mix-up. You just manage it. We need intelligent leaders. I lived in Jos more than 30 years ago as a student at UNIJOS. It has always been like this. Once in a while, things flare up. Jos is predominantly a Christian area. While it happens in Jos is because the Plateau man is also fierce; he is also fierce. His tolerance is low, too. So there are constant confrontations. When the Muslims come up with intimidation, they react, and they (Christians) are more in number.
Why do you think these problems persist?
Nigeria as a nation doesn’t have sacrificial leaders who really love the country. That is why politics has its problems. People care more about what they get, and, when they care more about what they get, they turn their eyes against the evil in the land like the constant banditry and kidnapping. If our politicians are genuine, they will stop these things. We should also be courageous to say that some of these things are encouraged by our politicians. Some people who don’t like Buhari steer up some of these things to make his government ungovernable, even among the governors. Look at what is happening in Zamfara and Katsina. The other day, roads were blocked and motorists were stopped from moving in Katsina. That is Buhari’s home state, it’s embarrassing. The politicians are the ones causing these problems. Sometimes you wonder if these things would end, because, if Buhari, as an ex soldier, can’t handle it, it might be more difficult for somebody who doesn’t come from a military background or an inexperienced person to solve. Buhari is an experienced person.
While Buhari was encouraged to take over from Jonathan, we thought he could solve these problems. You can see that the north was more peaceful during Jonathan’s time than now. The issue of banditry and kidnappings were not there then. It was only Boko Haram. Now, other things have joined. The Fulani herdsmen menace is spreading in the north. It wasn’t like that before. Look at the NDA attack and kidnapping the other day in Kaduna.
What about dividing the country as being canvassed by separatist groups?
Not exactly. Nigeria’s problems are not what one man can solve. What I think we should do is for the godfathers of Nigeria to prayerfully come together and look at what’s possible, because Nigeria is good to be together, not carving out Oduduwa or Biafra republics. That Biafra is not genuine. The ulterior motive is excessive individualism, making gains from people. It’s just like that in Yorubaland. What is necessary is restructuring, with more powers to the regions, so that people can control their areas. If Nigeria must continue to be together, I think it must be done. If Nigeria would be at peace, people should withdraw to themselves and encourage themselves and come with a voice to meet the centre. Buhari may not be able to do it, but the next president, somebody who loves Nigeria, should bring Nigeria to restructure.
In the meantime, Nigerians should have more tolerance for each other. When you ban open grazing, it’s not good to tell our Fulani brothers to leave the states totally if arrangements haven’t been made for them. If a state can provide land, why not? They are our brothers. Saying that Nigerians should not be in the midst of Nigerians is not right. It’s not every Fulani man who is carrying an AK 47. Forty years ago, I grew up seeing Fulani nomads going about peacefully. So they should look at the problems and nip it in the bud. We shouldn’t label every Igbo man an IPOB member. So we shouldn’t look at every Fulani man as a killer. Nigerians should learn to tolerate one another. Nigerians should accept their destiny as Nigerians and find godly ways to solve them.