CHRIS KWAKPOVWE HIS JOUR­NEY AS A CHRIS­TIAN PUB­LISHER

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 av

THISDAY - - COVER -

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

Cont’d on pg. 57

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

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 self­es­teem 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 turn­around 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

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

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.

PHOTOS: Ak­in­wunmi Ibrahim

Dr. Chris

Chris Kwakpovwe and wife, Ejiro

Kwakpovwe... with family

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