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Helen Ukpabio in victory song

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There was much joy in the six-day 2017 Annual Retreat of Liberty Gospel Church, which ended in Okoyong Usang Abasi, near Calabar, on December 27. It was an expression of what God did for the people in the camp and for Lady Apostle Helen Ukpabio, president of the church and its members in the past 25 years.

The Silver Jubilee of the church was being marked at the retreat. Dominic Udoh, from Abama village in Obot Akara Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, and a Lagos resident, who lost his sight in January 2016, recovered it at the event. A gardener and father of three, Udoh was financially broke, his wife had left him and one of his daughters died during the short period. But luck smiled on him when his elder sister’s children invited him to the retreat. On his fourth day there, he joined the anniversary march past. As he was marching along, his eyes opened.

Comfort Mba of the headquarters church, Calabar, said on September 20, her daughter mistakenly poured petrol into a stove, boiled water and prepared garri. It was only when she put the pot of soup on the stove that it was discovered that the liquid content in the stove was petrol.

A member from 8 Miles branch, Calabar, said armed robbers attacked the vehicle she was travelling into Benue State. They ordered the passengers to come down. She threw her money inside the vehicle and prayed God to blind their eyes. The robbers did not see the money.

A sick woman went to a branch of Liberty Gospel Church and the pastor said there was someone in church with breast cancer but God had healed her. Just then, the pain on the woman’s cancerous breast stopped. She rushed to the toilet to check and found that her decayed breasts had been replaced and her nipples were new.

A young woman with a terrible heart problem and history of demonic attack arrived church when Ukpabio was teaching. A light shone on her and she fell down unconscious. When she woke up, her sickness was gone. All the people testifying said Helen Ukpabio’s God did it for them.

A young undergraduate of University of Uyo lost his brilliant brains, began failing his examinations and lost all hope in life. He met with Ukpabio and started attending her special teachings in church and his sharp brains returned. He passed his exams again, invented a machine and won international award. Also at the retreat, Mfonido, Ukpabio’s son, who narrowly escaped drowning in a lake in Malaysia, where he was rounding off his undergraduate studies in 2016 and later made a commitment to Christ, told the gathering of his decision to serve God as full time pastor. Ukpabio and other church leaders also narrated how they weathered the storm during the period. Liberty Gospel Church, which began in her living room at No. 46 Murray Street, Calabar, on August 16, 1992, has grown into 250 branches in Nigeria and beyond.

It has a teaching ministry, a school of deliverance, is vibrant on TV evangelism, film, music and books ministries. The church fought battles with Olumba Olumba Obu and his Brotherhood of the Cross and Star in its younger years and won. Ukpabio was a member the sect before her encounter with Christ during a crusade by Rev. Omobajesu in Uyo in 1982. Opposition to her film project was also subdued. Her first film, End of the Wicked, and book, The Kingdom of Satan Exposed, irked Brotherhood of the Cross and Star. Obu’s son, Rowland, now Olumba Olumba Obu, sued Liberty Gospel Church in 1997 and also obstructed its crusades.

National Film and Video Censors Board took her to court (2002 -2007) over her film, Rapture. “In all these, God gave us flawless victory”, Ukpabio said. She recorded notable victories in church planting. She was shot and arrested in Oron and Ikot Ekpene in Akwa Ibom State, Ugep in Cross River State and Aba in Abia States, when she went for crusade. In Eket, Akwa Ibom State, the chief declared that Itauma, the deity of the land, did not want her church there. Some people said that she was still operating under Olumba. Others said she was using diabolical power. Yet many said she should not head a church being a woman.

“We overcame all that” she said. Between 2007 and 2013, humanist movements in Britain, South Africa, United States, parts of Europe, Africa and Australia, joined the UK-based Stepping Stones Nigeria and Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN), in Esit Eket to accuse Ukpabio of branding some children in Akwa Ibom State as witches and beating, maiming and torturing them in the process of deliverance. Akwa Ibom State government set up a commission of inquiry into the matter, which found it to be false.

The NGOs were disbanded while Ukpabio and her church were exonerated. During the retreat, Ukpabio launched three new books – Leadership Mandate – a book on biblical standards for Christians; Christian Foundation and Doctrines and Pre-Marital Precepts for Last Days Believers – a book for single Christians planning for marriage. She also released a new film – Echoes of the Ancestors and a musical album – Saintly Praise 1. Lawrence Ekwok, a lecturer at the University of Calabar reviewed the books while Obong Akpaekong, a former senior associate editor of Newswatch and publisher of Sippar magazine, reviewed the film and musical albums. Ukpabio also used the occasion to pray for and release Tony Ukam, one of his pastors and a lawyer, who is now the visioner of The Advocates Church in Calabar.

The two guest speakers at the event – N.E. Moses, bishop of Overcomes Church World Outreach, Lagos and Sylvanus Tommy, president of Wonderland Ministries, Calabar, were full of praise for Ukpabio, her pastors and members. Moses, who described Ukpabio as song composer, writer, film producer, actress and evangelist, said despite the years she had put in the vineyard of God, she was still looking young, strong and full of inspiration and commended the members for being in the camp despite the fuel scarcity.

Tommy admonished them to continue in holiness and avoid on-going perverted teaching on grace Ukpabio taught the people and ministered deliverance to many. She said: “You have opportunity to petition heaven. Your case must be heard. I see the spirit of the Lord hovering over the camp and a new chapter opening in your life.” Her dance when the choir sang, “God fought the battles, I won”, was infectious. The husband, Elijah, described her as very hard working and thanked God for His grace upon her life.

 

●Akpaekong, a public affairs analyst, writes from PortHarcourt

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Perspectives

Group lauds Army board of inquiry over report

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A pressure group of middle belt extraction, the Middle Belt Conscience Guard (MBCG) has commended the report recently released by the army board of enquiry set up to look into the allegation by Gen. TY Danjuma’s of soldiers collusion with armed militia in Taraba State.

The group said the report of the panel which exonerated the army is in tandem with the widely held position of many other groups who carried out independent assessment of the situation.

Addressing journalists in Abuja, national coordinator of MBCG, Prince Raymond Enero said to this end, Gen. TY Danjuma (rtd) should immediately re-secure his reputation by a remorseful retraction of the statements, with an apology to the Federal Government of Nigeria, the Nigerian Army and the good people of Nigeria over his unjustifiable utterances.

According to him it is clear that the cause of the vilification of the Nigerian Army and the attempt to taint its reputation by some stakeholders in Taraba state stemmed from the refusal of the Commanding Officer 93 Battalion, Lt. Col. Gambari to be dragged into the complex political and ethnic mix in the state by some powerful politicians, in apparent abuse and violation of his professional duties or code of ethical conduct.

He said, “it is our firm conviction that all stakeholders in Taraba State should be cautioned against making inflammatory statements, which have the potency to undermine, jeopardize or scuttle the efforts at peace and security to bring the communal clashes to a halt, with the intervention of the Army.”

Enero said the The Probe Panel was manned by credible serving and retired Army officers; representatives of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and scores of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).

He said further, “the Probe Panel did a wonderful and commendable job, as evidenced by its detailed findings, recommendations and the verdict extricating the Nigerian Army of any complicity, whether in whole or in part on any of the allegations raised by Gen. Danjuma or cohorts.

“The Panel’s report eloquently and articulately opined that there was no collusion with armed bandits by the Nigerian Army or any of its units operating in Taraba state, within the period covered by the allegations, as claimed by Gen. Danjuma (rtd). This is in tandem with the widely held position of many other groups who carried out independent assessment of the situation.”

Recall that the 10-Man Special Military Probe Panel constituted by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai was inaugurated on April 9, 2018, specifically to investigate and establish the veracity or otherwise of the allegations by the elder statesman against the Nigerian Army

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Perspectives

Olori Omobolawa: Remembering a Selfless Icon

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In a time like this, one would appreciate the reality of Bob Marley’s saying that: “Live for yourself and you will live in vain; live for others, and you will live again.” Sometimes last year December (13th Dec.2017) the world lost one of her rare gems in an unfortunate tragedy.

Birds refused to leave their nests, displaying muteness in unison and sorrow. The rivers of Osun charged at onlookers uncommonly and everyone close could see the river beds pouring out sands in grief. It was the day Olori Omobolawa Margaret Akinyemi departed this pain-filled world to the world of bliss.

Olori Omobolawa was a Rotarian, a selfless icon whose adventures in serving humanity were of great impacts on the lives of countless masses – women, children, aged and youths. Her contribution to the success of Osun Ambulance Agency cannot be over emphasis, she was accommodating to strangers and kind to kits and kin; with a generosity that competed with soothing breeze.

Her short sojourn on planet earth was purposeful and fixed on putting smiles on faces of the downtrodden and the depressed. Indeed, she exemplified the maxim that life is all about contribution not acquisition; that life is all about fulfilment not attainment.

In recognition of her noble sacrifices to make lives better for others, Rotary Club of Osogbo GRA which she was the president before her demise has decided to organize its Annual Medical Outreach in honour of the late selfless icon .

The medical outreach took place on Friday 18 May 2018 at the Alayegun Palace Ode-Omu, HRM Oba Lamidi Oke Ladowe 1 Osun State. The sole aim is to promote medical services and increase access to health for people whose happiness and well-being was the cardinal call of the late Olori Omobolawa.

The activities embedded in the medical outreach include checking of BP, eye tests and provision of free eye glasses, mental health counselling, and ear tests among others. Happily, the natives and residents of Ode-Omu have continued to troop out en masse as they know the unique saying that health is wealth. They cannot quantify their elation and appreciation.

As days go by, our memories continue to swing with thoughts about the loss of Olori Omobolawa – a priceless jewel. At times our hearts become filled with sorrow and our eyes, laden with tears. But we find solace in the fact she has indeed left indelible paths in the memories of many and remarkable feats that will continue to shine in the sands of time.

The honour by Rotary Club of Osogbo GRA today – a community she served whole-heartedly is one of the numerous manifestations that she was one of a kind. It clearly depicts that goodness outlives us all and we cannot but agree that: Olori Omobolawa lives on!

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Perspectives

APC: What goes round comes round

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About this same time three years ago, the shoes were on the other feet. The party in power then, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was often on the end of some highly sustained brutal and often acidic attacks from then opposition party – the All Progressives Congress (APC). APC’s attacks, which were often borderline outright propaganda, pointed to the many flaws they saw in the PDP.

It coined some of the insolent phrases of the time when APC dubbed the President Goodluck Jonathan a kindergarten president and his PDP government “clueless”.

In retrospect, let me quickly cite some of the examples of the attacks reeled out by the APC. For instance when the idea of postponing the 2015 general elections was being considered, the then APC’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Lai Mohammed fired: “The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is calling for the postponement of the general elections because it is not prepared for it”.

He went on to add that the government had four years to prepare for the elections and that the date of the election was given about a year earlier. Speaking as a guest on a Lagos-based television station, Mohammed questioned what the Federal Government had done to help in the distribution of the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and ensuring that every registered Nigerian got his PVC to enable him participate in the elections.

Incidentally, although there are yet to be calls for a postponement of the February 2019 polls, the same PVC which the APC saw as a big issue then is still very much an issue now, three years down the line, with millions of Nigerians yet to receive theirs. Now fast forward to the present day and with the shoes on the other feet.

APC is the party in power and subsequently is the one open to the barbs being thrown at them by the party they bad-mouthed in 2015, the PDP And just like the APC did to them back in the day, the PDP is using every opportunity to blast the government in power.

Although, sadly in my view the PDP is not as good at getting their message across like the APC was then, it still appears that they are doing enough to lambast the ruling party with an official of the party urging them to be “constructive in their criticism to remain relevant”.

The National Vice-Chairman (South- South) of the APC, Hilliard Eta, who said this in January, was reacting to the PDP’s criticism of President Muhammadu Buhari’s New Year Day message to Nigerians.

The PDP had in their statement described the President’s speech as “depressing, annoying” and lacking in substance. Etta, however, expressed displeasure that the opposition PDP had so far failed to play the role of a constructive critic of government but had instead reduced itself to an attack dog of every government’s pronouncement.

The verbal jostling between the two is clearly heating up the closer we get to next year’s elections. Only a few weeks ago, the PDP even went as far taking their “fight” to the international stage when they wrote the United Nations to warn of the “threat to democracy” under the present dispensation.

In a petition to the UN against President Muhammadu Buhari, the National Chairman of PDP, Uche Secondus, told the world body that the Nigerian President has a predetermined plan to use federal agencies like the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the army and the Police to ‘truncate’ Nigeria’s democracy.

The PDP, in the letter, dated April 30, 2018, accused Buhari of violating the Nigerian constitution and persecuting members of the opposition, as well as attacking journalists and “well-meaning” Nigerians who hold different opinions from Buhari’s party, the APC. The British, German, French, Chinese, the U.S, and the Russian embassies in Nigeria, as well as the European Union secretariat in Abuja, were copied in the letter.

The PDP also said the Federal Government was behind the spate of violent killings between herdsmen and farmers in different parts of the country. Of course this brought an immediate response from the APC, which through the Presidency, said the letter written by Secondus, accusing Buhari of several allegations, confirmed the opposition party “as a bad loser, desperate for another chance after they were kicked out for failing the nation and its people.”

The statement, which was signed by Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, said in the letter “which is no less preposterous and comical, the opposition accused the Nigerian government of ‘destroying Nigeria’s democracy.’”

Very strong words from both parties as they raise the stakes in their quest to achieve their goals in 2019 – which for APC is to retain the keys to Aso Rock, while for PDP it is for them to reclaim the keys to the same office they lost in 2015.

But like I’ve pointed out in some of my previous write ups, while the two parties are jostling to capture the votes of the electorate next February, the very same electorate they are wooing have not really benefited from either party. For the average man in the country his situation now is even scarier than when PDP was in power.

In the current media war, neither party has come out to say concretely what they will do to improve the lot of the average Nigerian. Gloom that has been the fate of the so-called “common man” over the years – they get fed up of the government in power, it goes and replaced by another one; and yet by the time the new government leaves they are still living in abject poverty.

APC road to power on the back of their “change” mantra but I’m not sure there are many Nigerians who expected the change to be like this. Millions are still unemployed, infrastructure is poor, power supply has only marginally improved, while the citizens are yet to benefit from the economy the government claimed has improved.

The bottom line is that unless a miracle happens, the honest truth is that under the current crop of politicians, be it APC or PDP or whichever other party gets the keys to Aso Rock, nothing much will change for the citizens.

At the end of the day it is ‘they’ first and the rest of us second. If not, why is it that despite the hue and cry over the huge salaries and allowances being earned by the National Assembly members they have not deemed it fit to say they will reduce it in order to free up funds for the citizens?

They won’t do it because they know that at the end of the day we will still troop out in our millions to vote for them next year.

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