President and Founder of the Uma Ukpai Evangelical Association, Rev. (Dr.) Uma Ukpai, is one of those raised to stand apart in his own generation. He believes that serving God is to serve humanity and to this end, he has projects in place to impact positively on lives. In this interview with Mary Ekah, Ukpai speaks on the recent honorary degree of Doctor of Science (D.SC.) conferred on him by the Evangel University Akaeze, Ebonyi, what has kept him going over the years among others
Will you consider the conferment of honorary degree of Doctor of Science (D.SC.) conferred on you by the Evangel University Akaeze, Ebonyi State as that of a prophet being honoured in his hometown?
Yes, it is a very pleasant surprise because I was not expecting it and I do not know the criteria for this or what gave birth to it, so it is really a surprise. And this is the first time I am getting a doctorate award from an academic institution. I have been a member of the Assemblies of God Church since 1958, where I met Christ and where I had worked with the founding fathers of the Church. So I consider it as a prophet being honoured in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family and this is usually rare.
How does this affect your person and your ministry?
In a way, it will help me to work harder and be more consistent, more dedicated, more consecrated and also it will help me raise an improvement programme for myself that will make me become a merchant of knowledge. It will further help me to crave and hunger for God the more. It will increase the driving force in my life to be the best a man can possibly be and to be a mentor and model to the younger generation.
How would you describe the Uma Ukpai Evangelical Association?
Uma Ukpai Evangelical Association is not a church. When I first came to Akwa Ibom State and we started a ministry, I was the leader but there was this crisis that brought about the argument that Uma Ukpai is not from here, so why should he be our leader. So I had to resign to avoid more conflicts. I went into prayer on what to do next and then God asked me to be a bridge amongst different denominations. I have given birth to so many revival movements in many churches.
And to show the world that we are not part of the competition of establishing churches, we had to bear the name, Uma Ukpai Evangelical Association – we are there to bring about revival to Christendom and to build bridges amongst different churches and to serve God to a level that can bring revival and prophetic knowledge of the word to the people.
By that name we bear, we are saying, we are not competing with any church but we are there to serve all the churches and that is why we could give birth to Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) – the coming together of different churches. If we were part of the competition, we wouldn’t have been able to do that. So God asked us to do that in order to bring about unity in the body of Christ.
A lot of people have had the misconception that you are from Uyo in Akwa Ibom State. But in reality you are not. So why have you chosen to invest so much in another man’s land?
There is what we call the law of destiny. God asked me to base my ministry in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State in the year 1972. I am of the Cross River-Ibo. I am an Ohafia man, Abia State. From Ohafia to Uyo is about 45 minutes and there is a river that runs from Ohafia to Ifiayong in Akwa Ibom. When you put your boat there, in another hour you are in Ifiayong. So to the Ohafia man, Akwa Ibom is not a foreign land. Secondly, the Ohafia man speaks a mixture of Igbo, Efik and Ibibio languages.
So the whole thing about where people come from before you can invest in a particular place does not make sense to me. Every one of us has a place where God wants us to live, operate and function. Every Akwa Ibom man does not live in Akwa Ibom. There has been so much emphasis on where Uma Ukpai comes from. This is so ridiculous to me. Other Ibo people regard us as part of the Efik/Ibibio but it is amazing that those from Akwa Ibom and even Cross River State have rejected us. It was actually God that told me to go to Uyo in 1972 when Uyo was just a glorified village.
There was nothing there to attract any body but I heard the voice of Lord and I was convinced that one day, Uyo would become what it has turned out to be now. So I’m part of the people that made Uyo what it is today. I was the first man that advertised Uyo in the television. For 30 years, I was on air speaking from Uyo. I started the annual Uyo crusade when people did not even know where Uyo was located. So this argument of where Uma Ukpai comes from is rather becoming demonic.
How do you see the involvement of churches and private individuals in the establishment of private universities and polytechnics?
It is a crying need. Our problem in life is majorly ignorance – ignorance of God’s ability and availability and His limitless and boundless possibilities. An ignorant man is spiritually blind and a blind man does not see the precious things around him. Africans have no business with poverty because we are so blessed that we can almost pick money along the streets. As you travel from Enugu State here, to Akwa Ibom State, along the roads you see palm trees calling for harvest; begging people to come and be enriched by them but because of our spiritual blindness, we are not even able to see this.
The fertility of a land determines the economy of the land. Our lands are amazingly fertile and so we cannot be poor on such land but we are poor because we don’t have what it takes to be rich which is knowledge. There is nothing as powerful as knowledge, the Bible says, wisdom is the principal thing everyone needs and wisdom is the application of knowledge. Wisdom is also the ability to see the unprotected forehead of your Goliath and the stone with which to bring down your Goliath. Wisdom is the master key that opens every door the enemies have shut against you and it is also neither the ladder that brings man out of the pit where there is no water nor ladder.
Whatever is the set back in a man’s life is because what he ought to know in that area, he does not know. Knowledge is power. The difference between the Europeans and us is knowledge. The average European thirsts for knowledge and whenever you see them, see the great effort they make to acquire knowledge, which is why they make a lot of difference in their country. Therefore as many universities that can be built in Nigeria that can brush us up wake us up from our slumber and that can also help us walk into a world of prosperity, promotion and lifting as God had originally designed for African, is encouraged. Where we are in Nigeria now, is not where we are supposed to be, so we need more private universities to bring knowledge to the lowest level and to those who are not even interested in knowledge.
Your ministry has been involved in a number of projects, including establishing a higher institution. What are the statuses of these projects presently?
Presently, we have two collages in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. We have the Uma Ukpai Collage of Theology; we have the Uma Ukpai College of Business, which is also an affiliate of Joseph Business School in Chicago, U.S. Lecturers go from here to the U.S. for re-training and also lecturers come from the U.S. to teach also in our colleges here. We have also started another college called Wealth Creation College. We are teaching people how to write 1000 different business proposals. We were going to build a polytechnic in Uyo.
I had already brought a building contractor from Canada to Uyo to start building the structure for the institution but I had a misunderstanding with the sitting governor of Akwa Ibom State then who revoked the land meant for the structure and that made me relocate the polytechnic to my village where I think nobody will deny me the chance to build a higher institution. As we speak, JAMB has already approved the school. We have already e-library of two million books; we have seven labs for various disciplines. We have a hostel that can take 1000 students and many other things in pace.
We have even tarred the roads and we have mounted streetlights. But the beauty about the school is that I’m building it without asking anybody for help. I am not partnering with any foreign organisation or any local organisation. I want to prove that God can build a school without using any man’s money and want others to know that they do not have to depend on anybody to do financial exploits. Our hospital, which started 18 years ago, has had an addition.
We now have an eye clinic where they operate more than 35 people in a week and they are doing amazingly well. But we are also about to upgrade it by setting up Kidney and Liver units. I think it is not enough to preach the gospel; we need to give social services to people who may not understand what preaching is all about. Jesus gave physical food to those who came to listen to Him.
Do all these things you do have anything to do with your upbringing?
What does that mean? Any man who lives in a society should know the needs of the society. You don’t have to go to school to learn how to care for others. Every one of us has something that only us can do very well. Jesus Christ was a carpenter but there was something He could do more than that rest of the world, which was to preach the gospel and bring reconciliation between His father and the world. Nobody could do it the way He did but that was His calling. So every one of us has something each one can do beautifully well and we are called to serve one another and to serve the people and to serve the people is to serve the poor and to serve the poor is to serve God. So what we are doing is for the poor and serving God’s people and in serving His people, we are also serving God.
The year is coming to an end, so what particular programme do you have in mind to round off the year. And what should Nigerians look forward to?
There is nothing better than our ongoing annual Uyo Miracle Convention. This year’s edition started since on Sunday, December 11 and will run till next Sunday, December 18. It is an event where we bring the best of the best minsters from different parts of the world to bring the anointing that God has bestowed upon them to Nigeria and usually we have like 12 speakers and each speaker will minister according to the anointing and husbandry that God has placed upon his ministry.
Also we have about 12 music teams from different parts of Nigeria to bring down glory and anointing of God, which usually translates into miracles, healings, promotions, prosperity and deliverance. And as we cross over to another year, Nigerians should make efforts to discover God. The greatest in life is to discover God. God is begging us to partner with Him and partnering with God means allowing Him to be part of all your problems and solutions to our problems. If we partner with Him, Nigeria will be Heaven on earth. All that we need to compete with the rest of the world is already in place.