Chancels could as well be ideal for secular dance. Sermons quickly morphed into an avenue for self-veneration. Prophet Odumeje has undoubtedly shown how religion could drift from moral ideologies to a social enterprise with a plenitude of comedy.
The controversial Onitsha-based clergyman, whose real name is Chukwuemeka Ohanaemere, has been the centre of attention on social media in recent times on account of his rather unorthodox and unapologetic approach to his pastoral calling as well as the shared values of the Christian doctrine in their entirety.
For a former leather businessman who reportedly abandoned his venture after receiving “divine call” to become a pastor, Ohanaemere seems to think he’s far beyond his peers, gaining the audience of even celebrities while delivering sermons at his Mountain of Holy Ghost Intervention Deliverance Ministry.
Clips portraying Odumeje in mesmerising acrobatics that hold audiences captive in serial releases of theatrics rarely typical of churches are all over the media. Yet, he is also renowned for a number of other attributes that have left worshipers questioning the motives of other Nigerian clergymen.
‘Indaboski’ and the trend of self-veneration
Unlike what is seen among many other pastors and religious institutions, Odumeje has earned himself names that have often accrued to his sudden self-venerative speeches during both sermons and social settings that had required his presence, to the amusement of many Nigerians.
He has severally been spotted dubbing himself a slew of rather verbose names and titles, the meanings of most of which remain unknown to his audience. These include ‘Indaboski Pahose’, ‘the lion himself’, ‘the fight’, ‘the liquid metal’, ‘Lebadu’, ‘Seplae’, ‘fireman’, and ‘ladical plophet (sic)’.
At a social function, Odumeje was captured throwing wads of cash at attendees while an Igbo man followed behind, hailing the clergyman with expressions that translated, “My father (referring to Odumeje) has it. He brought us money. He’s up to the task. He’s such a handsome man.”
In another clip, he said partly in Igbo: “I’m the one they call the liquid metal, the air that can be seen. Don’t you see it? Didn’t you hear? All the lion family, if it hits you, you give way so others can be hit. Don’t be stubborn when you’re touched. Give way so others can be touched as well.”
Odumeje and secular music during service
Anyone who practices Christianity in Nigeria would readily attest to how unusual it can be to play secular music in church, let alone dance to it near the holy sanctuary during service. But video clips have surfaced on social media where Odumeje can be seen doing the ‘zanku’ dance, a popular Afropop move typical of Zlatan Ibile.
After this had prompted heated criticism from Nigerians, who immediately described Odumeje as being a “money-inclined show maker” rather than a pastor, the clergyman would later take to the podium to declare himself a “coat of many colours” while referring to his critics as noisemakers.
“I am not a man of story. I have evidences. When you say I am a show maker, then you bring to me your evidences that make you to be better than me. You’re just a noisemaker! I play but my joke is too dangelous. I smile but my smiling is too dangerlous. I am coat of many corours. (sic),” he said.
Dramatic deliverance, wrestling out demons
It’s customary to see clergymen lay hands on foreheads and slightly nudge their subjects to fall under the supernatural influence in a bid to put out their afflictions. But some clips have shown Odumeje picking up churchgoers from the audience and dramatically smashing them into plastic chairs.
This had birthed accusations from persons who claimed he stages hoax miracles involving raising the dead after one of such scenarios was captured on camera. He was also spotted in yet another clip controversially strangling a woman in a bid to wrestle out the demon causing her disability.
In one of his deliverance sessions, the cleric appeared to have “cured” a man of erectile dysfunction, throwing up words like manhood, penis, and “sucrutum” in his Igbo-tainted English accent, while ideally making reference to the scrotum. This prompted parodic clips that went viral on social media thereafter.
“With Odumeje, you don’t need hospitals, his miracles see to that. Now, Onitsha may not even need the fire service. Onitsha should brace up for a new trader who speaks the language of the land in slangs and élan that slide the mystics of religion to his side,” a Nigerian journalist wrote.
“He grabbed attention. He is squeezing everything out of it. He won’t stop after a self-promoting himself to an Onitsha essential balm. Imagine his claim that if he hadn’t traveled the petrol tanker fire that ravaged Ochanja, Onitsha’s second-largest market, would have been averted?”
The controversial cleric is happily married and has four children with his wife — two boys and two girls.