• Fri. Jun 14th, 2024


Mar 2, 2024


By Patrick Gbuchanye

Our personality of the week is Rev. Alphonsus Onyeuka Isima, the Resident Pastor of Living Saint Faith Assembly (Victory Centre) Boji-Boji, Owa, Ika North East Local Government Area. In this exclusive interview, he granted Ika Weekly at his residence in Boji-Boji, Owa, he spoke about his background, growing up and how he has been blessed marrying his beloved wife, Pastor Mrs. Juliana Isima.

Can you introduce yourself, sir?

My parent gave me the name Onyeuka Isima but by baptism in 1965, I was christened Alphonsus. In totality, my name is Alphonsus Onyeuka Isima. I was born on the 23rd of January, 1954, into the family of late Mr. and late Mrs. Johnny Isima of Ekwueze quarters in Abavo, Ika South Local Government Area. As the eldest child of our parents, I had younger siblings from both my mother and stepmother. We were twelve in number out of which six of us are still alive.

Tell us about your parentage?

My father, Johnny Isima was a well-known hunter and a great farmer in his time. He was a very strong man and he was like a giant and when you see him, you will know he’s a giant indeed. No doubt, he was a fearless hunter and the aura around him tells you that apart from being a farmer, he has some extra strength in him. In fact, none of my father’s children has his resemblance. We are all just like diminutive when we stand beside him. My father was a very tall and huge man. In all, my father was very strong and daring.

I have severally followed my father for hunting. The first day I fired my first gun shot my father wasn’t there. He left his gun and went to a farm very close to our compound. So, there used to be a tree behind our house and I saw birds, very many of them, picking their foods from the tree so I went to my father’s room, picked his gun and fired. That was the first time I fired a shot. Not knowing how to handle the gun very well, I just raised it up and fired the shot. Unfortunately, the bolt returned and hit me on my chest and I had a little peel on my chest. My father who knew that it was the sound of his gun ran from the farm to meet me with it and he was sad and spoke angrily. The truth is, when you hear my father’s voice, you will be troubled if you have never met him.

As for my mother, late Mrs. Comfort Isima, nee Iguma from Ewueze quarters of Abavo, she was a very calm woman who couldn’t hurt a fly. My mother’s peaceful disposition attracted her to the hearts of many who loved her dearly. She was also a farmer.

Could you tell us your early days and education?

It was full of struggles which also prepared me for a better tomorrow. When I recount my early days, I have every course to give thanks to God for the beautiful adventurous life has offered me.

I had my elementary education in St. Patrick Catholic School, Azuowa-Abavo from 1962-1968, where I obtained my First School Leaving Certificate. My early childhood was challenging as I could not go further in my Secondary education because my parent could not afford to pay for my Common Entrance Examination which cost five pounds less than ten naira (N10).

One of my primary school teachers by name Mr. Festus Ekpenisi who observed that I did not further my education took me to Agbor to become his sales boy and it was the period of the Nigeria Civil War and I stayed with him from 1968-1970 before I return to Abavo. This is because I was always not happy being a sales boy with no hope of going back to school.

when you returned from the town people looked at me as if was special and wiser having traveled to the town. Another teacher by name Mr. Kiri Joseph grabbed the opportunity of employing me to sell in his shop and it was a job I did for a short time before opening my provisions shop with the money, I saved in 1971.

During this period, I had a strong desire in my heart to serve God. I was a committed member of the Roman Catholic Church Choir and was the choir master. I was also a lay reader. It was on one of the Sundays in 1972, that God’s favour found me after I took the scripture reading and the Rev. Fr. in charge, Mac-Donald of blessed memory called me behind the pulpit to express his satisfaction over my excellent reading and asked me the class I was in the secondary school but I told him that I stopped after my primary education because of finance. He passionately sought for sponsorship for me before the congregation and by the evening of that same day, Mr. Joseph Adudu Onyeibe of blessed memory sent for me to assure me that he was ready to sponsor my education and will provide me with all that I needed.

I started secondary school (St. Charles’ College, Abavo) at the age of 18, the very year those I finished primary school with were graduating. In all, I was not deterred but very committed to my studies and coupled with the mindset not to disappoint my sponsor. Academically I came out top in all my classes and an academic barge of honour was awarded me which made my sponsor very happy with me.

While in the secondary school, I had the rare privilege to be among students chosen for exchange for inter states educational programme and the students from our Midwestern State were exchanged with North Eastern State. This offered me the opportunity to attend Government Secondary School, Maiduguri. I also visited place like Yankiri Games Reserve, the tomb of the late Nigerian Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa in Bauchi, Boukuala in Cameroun and other places.

On my return from the North Eastern State, I completed my secondary education at St. Charles’ College, Abavo and I had my West African School Certificate in 1977.

In January 1978, I was employed as a teacher and posted to Nkwor Primary School, Udomi-Abavo. Quest for further knowledge and to improve myself, I applied for study leave and proceeded to then College of Education, Agbor in 1983 and upon graduation, I was posted to Sokoto for my compulsory National Youths Service Corps. My Primary Place of Assignment (PPA) was Government Teachers College, Birini Yauri now in Kebbi State.

On my return from my NYSC I was moved to teach in the secondary school such as St. Charles’ College, Abavo for Teaching practice from 1981-1982, Gbenoba Grammar School, Agbor from 1984-1986, Erumu Secondary School, Ute-Erumu from 1986-1989, Owa-Alero Secondary Commercial School, Owa-Alero from 1989-1998, Owa-Oyibu Secondary School, Owa-Oyibu from 1998-2004, Ika Grammar School, Boji-Boji Owa from 2004-2011 and Ute-Okpu Grammar School, Ute-Okpu, where I took a bow out of service in December 31, 2012 as Principal Emeritus.

To mention, between 1988 to1991, I bagged my first degree from the Bendel State University, Ekpoma. Currently, we have our campus at the Delta State University, Abraka. To add to my educational qualifications, between 2000 to 2002, I obtained my Master degree in Public Administration from the Delta State University.

As a renowned educationist, what can you say is responsible for the fallen standard of education when compared to your time?

First is laziness towards academic work among children of nowadays because of their desire to get rich quick. In our time, academic seriousness was top priority. This propelled me to buy a radio that kept me abreast of happenings and to educate me. In our days we wanted to be noticed academically to make our parents or sponsor to be proud of us. I read twenty (27) novels in my secondary school class one because I made reading a part of me even while waiting to get into the secondary school. We were interested in how much we had upstairs (brain) to do well academically. We had the desire to go to school and study. In our time, you forced yourself to go to school because it was a privilege.

The desire to get quick rich was never seen in us. It will interest you to know that in our time our parents query us when they see suspicious wealth. They will even go to the extent of calling family meeting for you to further question you the more, especially in a situation when one comes home with any item that makes a parent to wonder how you got money to purchase such an item.

But unfortunately, the reverse is the case today where parents now celebrate their children for suspicious wealth without asking question, especially those who claim to be into Yahoo online fraud.

What is your advice to the government towards reviving the fallen standard of education?

The present-day government is not left out as part of the cause to the fallen standard of education. First is by employing unqualified persons to teach because the employment is done in a wrong way. We have some teachers who cannot write a good lesson note and intellectually they are zero. Seeing this regrettable observation, you will agree with me that one does not give what he or she does not have. It will interest you to know that in Nigeria Educational system, we have teachers who cannot read or write simple tenses.

Also, examination malpractice is another cankerworm that has eaten deep into the fabric of the educational system. This also has contributed to lack of seriousness of students to academic work. Exam invigilators collect bribe to give the students free hand to cheat, instead of the teachers preparing the students through effective teaching and learning, they encourage them to meet the invigilators to help them write while parents also given their consent by paying the required money to engage in examination malpractice. Some even go as far as enrolling their children in what is called exam miracle centers.

The standard of education can be revived if only the government, the teachers, students and their parents/sponsors do the needful. I am saying this because for good thirty-five years, I was in the educational system and what I saw before retirement is big threat to the educational system.

In many public primary schools, they lack qualified teachers and the government should shun the employment of teacher by who know person rather than give the job to teachers who are intellectually sound to do the job meaningfully.

What surprises me the most is that school children these days are at advantage to do better than us because of the care they receive, and the technology in place.

What do you have to say about the recent celebration of your 70th birthday, 36 years in the ministry and 46 years marriage anniversary?

It has been awesome journey with God on my side. In all, it is God who did it for me to have attained 70 years and not by my power. I celebrated the grace of God upon me which money cannot buy.

Also, to the glory of God, I have the wife of my youth, former Miss Juliana Okonta with whom celebrated our forty-six (46) marriage anniversary. I will say God found favour in me by giving me a virtuous woman as a wife whose thoughts have been a blessing to me. Sincerely, I married my friend, my love and somebody who tolerated me. I want to say I am very lucky to have Juliana as my wife because she pushed many suitors away. In the old days, girls who went to school were hot cake for marriage. But in my case, I married the best woman.

My wife’s commitment to the things of God led me to a Pentecostal church crusade which saw my conversion from the Catholic Church after I listened to the undiluted ministration of Rev. Luke Otunji and I repented by being born again in the Lord. Indeed, it was an unforgettable night to always remember. Thereafter, I joined the Word of Faith Church where I was ordained Deacon and subsequently a clergy following my commitment and dedication which the church leaders saw and decided to hold me back by ordaining me.


How can you describe your conversion into the Pentecostal Church?

Joining the Pentecostal church to become a true born-again child of God, and to know Him the more like is it use to be when I was in the Catholic Church, I want to say I made the right choice and it has been blessings knowing the Lord the more.

In my early days, little did I know that I will become an ordained minister of the gospel? This shows that the ways of the Lord is not man; my calling started far back in 1978 when I prayed for a cousin, Jeremiah of blessed memory with the light of a candle who has been sick and he got his healing and the news went around the community.

My being born again ushered me fully into the ministry work and God has been very faithful to me. God have used me to raise many Pastors, fellowship centers in schools where I worked or pastored. Challenges are everywhere; I can also recall an encounter in the course of ministration at Owa-Oyibu church when one of the church collapses during an all-night prayer at about 1.00am and someone gave up the ghost, a situation that frightened the church members as some took to their heels. But after three hours of intense prayers, the young man came back to life. It was a test of faith for me and a manifestation that God still answers immediate prayers.

Considering the high rate of divorce, what is your advice to young couple?

I want to say that I have been blessed marrying my wife and the mother of my children, Juliana. She has been a wonderful woman since I got married to her and her foresight has brought me to the level I am today.

I can recall that my father pronounced that I will remain a tenant because I led his household into Christianity against his wish. But with my wife’s commitment I succeeded in building my first house. Without mincing words, my wife has been instrumental to everything I own in life. We succeeded in our marriage because she allowed it to be so. Just as I have said earlier, marital challenges will come but the ability to overcome will make you the husband and wife to succeed.

I want to advice young married couples to stop giving the devil a room that you are married to a wrong person which is not true. There is bound to be difference among couples because you both are different persons coming to live together as husband and wife but the ability to tolerate each other while facing marital challenges to build a happy and successful union makes one the husband and the wife.

Love, submission, tolerance and forgiveness are the keys to successful marriage. This attribute has bounded me in my 46th years of marriage without any cause to beat my wife. Hardly would you see me without my wife or my wife without me. We are best of friends. We disappointed many who thought we were going to fail in our marriage because they believed that we were too young to get married.

It is also for your knowledge to know that my wife had severally rejected the offer of car gift from me and pleaded that the money should be put to good use like the completion of our building.

In what ways have you given back to your Abavo Community?

With my ministration, I have saved so many souls for God’s Kingdom. I have also engaged in philanthropy to train gifted children whose parents or guardians cannot finance their education. This is also a way of replicating the unforgettable educational sponsorship offered to me by Mr. Joseph Adudu Onyeibe.


Do you have Worst and Best Moments?

I have passed through a lot as regard worst moments in life starting from the family I was born into. Following the death of my siblings, first was my younger sister called Juliana in 1993 as a of wrong medication. Her death shocked me because she passed on in my hands with mind-blowing songs from her that she got the victory, the Lord has conquered and I am more than a conqueror.

In 1999 within a week, I also lost two of my siblings to the cold hand of death, another devastating moment for my family. But the worst of it all was the death of my first daughter Glory in 2013, the fifth month after my retirement. Even in her death, she is a daughter who has made me proud. She was very energetic, full of strength, intelligent, that she emerged as the best Chemistry student in the whole of the South-South region while at Marymount College. Her death broke our heart that my wife and I are living because of our faith in God and by His mercy. She died during childbirth. The memory of Glory lives on for her good works and aspiration was cut short by death.

Everyday have been the best moment as child of God. Building my first house to cancel the pronouncement of my father that I will die being a tenant because he felt that I destroyed his house by preaching the gospel to my mother and siblings and they became Christians.


What is your best Ika delicacy?

Well prepared Ujuju and banga soup with akpu. Just before I got married Eba (Garri) was what I preferred to akpu, but with the advice of my wife, I had to change to akpu for true Ika man.

How do you relax?

I sing to worship the name of the Lord and I love gospel music and others ones that can inspire me as a person to grow. Another thing I enjoy doing is farming, I love seeing my crops do well.

What are your dislikes and your likes?

I hate lies, I love people who speak the truth. It is integrity I cherish the most, I hate lateness, I love people standing by their words and I hate cheating.

What legacy do you want leave behind?

I want to be remembered for my good deed and how it has affected people positively.

Do you have mentors?

Yes, I look up to people like my spiritual father, late Bishop Godwin Iweriebor who has impacted so much in me. His admonition is topnotch which has continually encouraged me to also have a roof under my head.

What your Philosophy?

Do that which is right before God and mankind.

What is your advice for Ika Youths?

Ika youths should seat up and do something that will promote Ika people’s name. Evil things such as stealing, armed robbery, harlotry was never associated with us, but rather, Ika people are good, friendly, hospitable and accommodating.

Ika youths should strive for the right counsel. Ika people value system include, don’t take what does not belong to you, don’t be in hurry to make wealth a priority, don’t bring home to your parent what does not belong to you or you cannot account for.

In our youthful days whatever is lost and found be it money or valuable item is placed in way that the owner will see it and collect it because it is a taboo to take what does belong to you, because when you are caught the bad name that will be given to you is for your entire family. So, family integrity was a priority that was not to be dragged to the mud. This is where the present-day parents have failed, but rather, they celebrate their children for stealing to make it in life. If the youths return to the ancient acts and the true value system, they will do well. The level of criminality in Ika land is alarming because we have our people who have hands in it.

What will be your message to Nigerians at this stage of hardship that it seems nothing is working well?

Nigeria is a blessed country that is endowed with natural resources that can make it better than any other country at the verge of our breakthrough. Let us keep hope alive that with God on our side all will be well someday. We are only faced with political and tribal disasters. We have continued to suffer because those representing us lack the fear of God to live right. If our politics is played well and peoples wish is respected by putting the right people in positions, Nigeria will be on top. In all, I see a new dawn coming to Nigeria.

Do you have any other thing in mind or questions that you feel have not asked you?

Despite the prevailing challenges, my desire for all Nigerians is to come to the knowledge of God because in Him all our desires will be met. My earnest desire is that as God called me; let me lead people to know God. Also, I want to say that I fill highly honoured to see students who passed through me share in the joy of my 70th birthday and with awesome gifts. I pray God to bless everyone who honoured me on the occasion.

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