Chris Kwakpovwe, a pharmacist-turned-clergy, has gained international fame for his best seller, Our Daily Manna – a faith devotional accessed daily by millions of people across the world. However, he circumvented some of the most precarious dilemma; an avalanche of troubles and tribulations including a suicide attempt, to raise his head in victory. Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Vanessa Obioha were in the congregation when the Bishop celebrated one of his sons, Ufuomatoma, who graduated with a First Class Honours in Management with Computer Studies. The proud father relived moments from his past trials
There is a reason Chris Kwakpovwe celebrates life at every opportunity. For one who almost lost his life, through his own deliberate calculation, you can appreciate why he rejoices every time. If you have been to hell and back, like Kwakpovwe’s near tragic hop from one seeming insurmountable challenge to another, you will make merry for the chance to see each new day in good health and relatively free from the raging storms of life. Not that he should have had any business with the kind of crushing poverty that assailed him. With a degree in Pharmacy from the University of Ife, it was a settled issue that he would walk on easy streets for life. That is if Providence had not moderated his reckoning.
His course in life was altered when he yielded to an apparent and pressing call to work in the Lord’s Vineyard. Try as he did to resist becoming a full-time clergy, the Divine Hand ensured he would look in no other direction. For Kwakpovwe, it was not enough to be a regular Christian. He was being persuaded to move up to a higher responsibility – that is assuming leadership.
As soon as he tucked his licence as a pharmacy into the recesses of his wardrobe and stepped forward to answer the divine call, all hell was let loose. The heavens opened and instead of raining blessings of abundance of wealth on him, as he must have reasonably expected, it was a blinding torrent of anxiety and scarcity, particularly, of money – that means of exchange which the Bible says answers all things. Surely, he was not going to let off and watch his family suffer. Many times he considered going back to renew his licence, but the same voice that called him into the ministry warned that he must never practice as a pharmacist again.
For eight years, he lived a precarious life of humiliating lack. Kwakpovwe struggled with poverty and privation. He was assailed by worries and fears for his destiny. His life was totally upside down. Try as he did to circumvent his precarious dilemma, he only plunged deeper into affliction. Trials surrounded him like the walls of Jericho. Kwakpovwe faced an avalanche of troubles and tribulations.
“I went through a lot of battles. I couldn’t send my children to school or even afford our daily meal. At a stage, we couldn’t buy fish. I will go to the market and tell them to give me bones, the kind that is kept for dogs. My wife will cut the bones into pieces. It will serve as meat. It got to a point where I couldn’t afford the bone. I had to ask my children’s best friend Eric to help us catch a fish in the river. We lived near the river in Akpoyi, Ketu area. I was very popular there. Eric will go across the river, catch the fish in the morning and that will be our meal for the day.
“By this time, we couldn’t afford cooking gas. We had to use firewood. Eric was so helpful this period. His father is an Ijaw man. They lived close to the river near our area. Eric will go to the bush, cut the trees down, it will take four days to dry, we used it as firewood. Eric started schooling and we had to resort to sawdust.”
One day, he resolved to end it all. He made sure everybody had left home, then he went to purchase the rope with which he was going to hang himself. The suicide note simply explained that he had given life his best shot, but could not take it anymore. As he put the loop around his neck, he heard that voice clearly again. This time, he was told that all he went through were instructive to help cope with the task ahead. Many may argue that he did not really mean to kill himself, otherwise he could not have been persuaded to back-off the suicide mission, but even in that moment of despair when his self-esteem had sank into its lowest ebb, he was alert enough to recognise that unmistakable voice that had moderated his life, even if, as far as he could, towards calamity. The voice carried such calmness, authority and assurance. It did not negotiate with him. It simply reminded him of the consequences of his action and the benefits of returning to his drudgery.
He had to choose between life and death. He chose life by obeying the voice and discontinued his suicide mission.
“I was about to hang myself when I heard a voice telling me ‘after all you have been through all these years, it’s not unto death but unto destiny fulfillment of millions.’ I didn’t know what it meant. He said ‘you shall write from passion from a burden for the fame. I have passed you through all these so that you help others who are passing through.’ I didn’t understand. I am a pharmacist, not a pastor, a writer or historian. I don’t write. But the voice insisted: ‘you will write from a burden. I will help you.”
Although he can’t put his finger on how and when the turn-around in his life happened, he situates it around the period of his attempt at suicide. Again, it was that inimitable voice that told him to write. “I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I was not a writer. I had never written before. I was a pharmacist.” He heard the phrase, ‘Daily Manna’. His wife, Ejiro, added the possessive pronoun ‘Our’ and thus was born the first acclaimed Christian Daily Devotional out of Nigeria – born out of the most heart-rending arduousness. Kwakpovwe poured his anguish and the urgency with which he needed divine intervention into the pages, which began as a four-pager. He borrowed the money with which he published the first copy. It was the first and only time he ever borrowed money.
From that humble beginning, millions of copies of Our Daily Manna roll off the press every quarter, to reach millions of families all over the world every day. At the last count, Kwakpovwe is credited with writing 70 books!
‘Our Daily Manna’ was the first widely circulated devotional in the country by a Nigerian. Kwakpovwe started publishing ODM as a pamphlet. A good family friend ‘the Ojos’ gave him the first capital N22,500 to publish it. Till date, the Ojos are boldly written in ODM as a gratitude for their help in those dark moments.
The book is now sold in copious copies across and beyond the continent and published quarterly. It is translated in four languages: English, French, Spanish and Yoruba. Plans are already underway to publish Ibo and Hausa versions.
Today, Chris Kwakpovwe goes by the respected title of Bishop having sailed through the storms of life and emerged an inspiration to many in the Christendom. His gruesome experience is worth retelling any time, any day. Not many would have survived the tumble from grace to grass but his case was peculiar.
He trudged on and with time, his breakthrough came. By this time, he had started his ministry, Chapel of Liberty, at Ojota. It metamorphosed to Liberty Army. To be sure, Kwakpovwe has always been a diligent Christian. Initially raised as a catholic, he however had an unforgettable personal encounter with the Supreme one under the Scripture Union on February 3, 1976. The famous prophet Benson Idahosa mentored him. He also passed through the mentorship of W.F Kumuyi of Deeper Life and Bishop Ayo Oritsejafor. He was a member of Assemblies of God, Christ Chapel, and Chapel of Praise.
As he remained steadfast to the calling of God, his destiny began to unfold. Rapidly his tidings spread. From north, east, west, south and across the pond, many besieged the Man of God for miracles. Through ODM and the second book ‘War against Haman’, testimonies came in torrents from grateful hearts. Those who couldn’t hear, read his book and the penetrating power of God opened their eardrums. The veil of death was torn by just a touch of the imprint of his hand in his book ‘War against Haman’. Wonderfully made babies leapt out from the wombs of barren women. Monies rained on despairing businesses like Manna from heaven.
Explaining the miraculous power of the ODM, he said “People say there is so much power in ODM. Yes, because sometimes, I write in anger and hunger because that’s what you will do if you are lonely.”
The arduous task of writing the publication still rests heavily on his shoulders. For 16 years, he has been writing non-stop. He employed different techniques to write. Sometimes he is on his knees, other times he sits. His decision to take up the writing mantle upon himself is not deliberate. He is yet to find someone who truly understands the vision of the book.
It’s still a season of thanksgiving for the Man of God. Recently, there was a testimony of another breakthrough from his dark era as his second son Ufuomatoma graduated with First Class Honours in Management with Computer Studies. A beaming and proud Kwakpovwe relived moments from his past trials with his congregation. To him, his son’s academic success was more of a divine orchestration than academic prowess.
In bits, he told the enraptured audience how he sent his children to the village to stay with his mother because he couldn’t afford their tuition fees in Lagos. The next time he would see his beloved son he was dressed only in singlet with a bucket of water balanced on his head. “Is this my son?” he told the congregation animatedly.
He would later narrate the whole ordeal to these reporters in the confines of his posh office, under the watchful gaze of his protocol officers and media team.
“I couldn’t cope with Lagos school fees. Though I had small income but it was not enough. I got fed up and decided to send my children to the village to continue their education. I turned down requests from my friends to borrow money. I can never borrow money. Toma was already in Primary Six when they left. They spent seven years in the village. Then he went to University of Port Harcourt to study Pharmacy. It was during his first year that my act of benevolence nearly cost him his life. I had donated some pharmaceutical books to the faculty and the next thing, kidnappers were after him.
“He escaped through the toilet and returned to Lagos the following day by road transport. Due to this challenge, he lost a year before we finally sent him to a school affiliated to Kwame Nkrumah University in Ghana. I didn’t plan to send him out of the country for his first degree, perhaps second degree. I believe if that incident hadn’t happened, he wouldn’t have returned home with such a result,” he said proudly.
One cannot overlook the look of pride in his eyes as they danced to the pulpit for thanksgiving. “My son made me proud. I trained all my children in such a way they cannot envy each other, because they cannot be the same.”
Interestingly, Toma sings with an acapella group ‘Jesus Reigns’ and their performance gained applause from the congregation.
Kwakpovwe was quick to point out that he is still confronted by challenges; from robbery to betrayal by friends. Perhaps, one of the challenges that have kept him in the spotlight for long was that of his marriage. It was speculated that his ex-wife Dolapo accused him of adultery with his present wife. Although, he tried to deflect the question like a skilled pugilist, he nevertheless out of humility, dropped some hints that shed light on what exactly transpired.
“I don’t talk about it but I think it’s a marital misconception. It was a very bitter experience. The summary is that I am above that now. God has taken me through it. I married properly and that is my wife. My joy is that I went through all my battle with my wife.”
He may be a clergyman in the city of Lagos but in his Urhobo homestead in Ughelli, Delta State, he is greatly admired for his contribution. He built a town hall for the community and also provided computers for training the youths.