Interview

I have a lot to thank God for in my life by Barr Chudi Onuzo as he clocks 67

My story these past 67 years has been that of God’s dealings with an under privileged and a most undeserving person who found grace in His sight and favour with Him. Often people hear me these days constantly use the slogan “o Chukwu” meaning “It is God’s doing”. For me, it is much more than a slogan. It represents the sum total of my perception of the reason for everything good that has happened to me or in my life. In fact, I do often say that I am a classic example of the Grace of God in action as I would have become nothing in this life if not for God who helped me every inch of the way and intervened in dramatic fashions at critical points of my life either to save my life or to move me along on the path of success.

God began to reveal Himself to me exactly fifty years ago, way back in 1962 when I was only seventeen years old. Even though my parents were deeply religious and we were made to attend family prayers twice every day, at 5.30 am and at 7.00pm, I went through many troubled years growing up. I had terrible nightmares and hallucinations and was a very unhappy child. It would appear as though demons were my constant companions and most of the time, I walked around as one dazed and under a spell. But God was merciful and just let in sufficient light into my mind that enabled my brain to function well enough to be able to pass the entrance examination to Government College Umuahia in 1958. For me, it was a miracle of gigantic proportions. Who could have ever imagined that a spiritually traumatized boy from a village primary School, the Zion Primary School, Okpala would place 22nd in an examination in which over eleven thousand pupils from Nigeria and the Cameroons participated. About one hundred and twenty of us were short-listed for the interview held at the College Campus, at Umudike, Umuahia. After another written exam at the College which was followed by an oral interview conducted by a panel of teachers, white and black, led by the Principal, a white man, I emerged as one of the handful of only fifty-eight pupils who distinguished themselves and were eventually offered admission.

At Government College, Umuahia, the Lord endued me with the gift of elocution. It was a most surprising ability to possess having come from a village primary school where we spoke mostly Igbo. Such was the gift that in my 2nd year at the College, I won the Junior reading prize beating my Form Three ‘Seniors’ and those who had come to the college from ‘Santa Maria’ special primary schools. Indeed, such was my renown in the school among my peers for speaking well that they nicknamed me ‘Herman’, which was the name of the author of our text book on pronunciation. I also went on to win several 1st Class certificates in the ‘Drama Recitation’ category at successive Festival of the Arts competitions. How else could a village boy from Zion primary School, Okpala in the present Ngor-Okpala LGA have learnt to speak impeccable English, if it was not by the special miracle of God?

My spiritual problems however persisted during my first three years at Government College Umuahia as I continued to be the subject of demonic manipulations. I walked around, day after day, as one under a spell unable to grasp any complex information especially scientific information. It was as though the grace of God that saw me through the admission process had deserted me. In class, I languished among the eight, year after year. By my 4th year, I had become so spiritually traumatized that I seriously contemplated suicide. It was at this point that the Lord came to me and rescued me after I challenged Him to reveal Himself to me if indeed He existed.

HOW I FOUND THE LORD

Mid way into my 4th year at Government College, I began to hear a Voice speaking to me, a different kind of voice from the voices that traumatized me all the years of my youth. I did not know who it was whose voice persistently spoke into my spirit such words of comfort and encouragement as I had never before heard. The voice kept telling me how much He loved me. He told me He was the one who opened the window into my intellect that enabled me pass the exams that admitted me to Government College, Umuahia; and that He was the One who had kept me alive in spite of the spirited efforts of the devil to destroy me. The next thing was that He moved me to begin to read the Bible which I so resented when my parents compelled us to read it twice a day at morning and evening daily Family prayer meetings. It was in reading the Bible that I discovered that it was the Lord God Almighty, the creator of the universe and the Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ completely who had been speaking with me all those months. Then, one early morning, in my 4th year at College, the Lord Himself appeared to me in a vision of light. It was about 4.00am when a tremendous blast of light burst into the dormitory where I lay and completely filled the room. I, only, saw and experienced the Light as others were still all asleep. It was the Light of the Lord Jesus Christ! At that very moment, unspeakable joy, almost impossible to contain, flooded my being and in that very instant, my life and my destiny were completely changed. I walked out of that dormitory that morning a completely transformed person, with a new personality and a new vision of life. The Lord then began to teach me and to illuminate my spiritual mind. He guided me through doctrinal issues, completely releasing me from all dogmas that hindered a proper understanding of Him and of the Scriptures.

I immediately surrendered myself for service in full time ministry as a priest of the Anglican Church but the Lord told me that that was not my calling. Rather, He was calling me to serve Him as an unencumbered person, free to minister as He would lead me both within and outside the Church. It is that Word from the Lord that has kept me up till this day as an uncompromising advocate of God as was ministered and as is still being ministered to me.

That early morning encounter with Jesus in 1962 also affected my academics. As I walked down from my dormitory to my Classroom one afternoon following that encounter, I experienced a sudden lifting up of something that seemed like a lid from off my head. In an instant, my mind cleared and I began to think clearly and to understand things that I couldn’t comprehend previously including complex and scientific things. From being one of the worst students in Mathematics, in a short period of less than two months, I transformed into the best mathematics student of our class. It was an amazing experience. Some of my classmates scoffed at me when I told I was going to pass my School Certificate in Division One without knowing what God was doing in my life. When the results were published, some of those who scoffed at me passed in Division two while I passed in Division One as I had said I would.

CRICKET COACH

The Hand of God was also with me in my career. After successfully completing and passing my two-year Higher School Certificate programme also at Government College, Umuahia in 1965, I was admitted to do a 3-year degree programme in Law in 1966 by the University of Lagos. Unfortunately, I did not have somebody to pay my fees in spite of all my efforts. I therefore took up appointment as an Assistant Labour Inspector at the Federal Ministry of Labour. In January 1967, I was recruited as the Eastern Regional Hockey & Cricket Coach. My ability to play hockey was again another miracle of God in my life. Before the Lord visited me, I didn’t play competitive sports at all at any level. But one day, after my experience with the Lord, I sat at the edge of the field watching people play hockey. Later that night, I began to practice in my meditations the moves I saw in the pitch earlier in the evening. After a while going through this process, I discovered I could perform the skills I had practised in my night visions on the field of play. So, it was one day that my newly acquired skills were noticed as I played in my activity group and was recruited to make up an incomplete senior team. From then on, I became a regular member of the College hockey 1st eleven and ended up being decorated as a star player at the end of my course. It was also in a similar fashion that I picked up cricketing skills and ended up as a 1st team cricket player for my College. And so, it happened that when an Assistant was needed for the Eastern Regional Coach at Enugu in 1967, enquiries were sent out to locate me. I moved on to broadcasting during the civil war but at the end of the war, I returned to Enugu to take up a new appointment as the East Central State Hockey & Cricket Coach. It was only in 1971/72 at the National Institute for Sports, Patiala, India, that I had my first formal training as a Hockey Coach. Before then, it was the Lord that not only taught me to play but also gave me the ability to coach others.

MY BROADCASTING CAREER

My broadcasting career was another gift from God. As He gave me the gift of elocution, so God also gave me the gift for broadcasting. I stumbled into broadcasting in 1966 when a fellow team mate at the Barclays Bank hockey club who was the hockey correspondent of Radio Nigeria, an Englishman by name Mr. Saunders, introduced me to Mr. Yemi Fadipe, the producer of Sports panorama. It took only thirty seconds for Mr. Fadipe listening to me over the loudspeaker to enlist me as his new hockey correspondent. Back to the East, during the Nigerian civil war, it again took less than thirty seconds behind the microphone for Mr. Kevin Ejiofor to drop one of the contributors of his ‘Early Bird Show’ programme, to enlist me. That launched me into big time broadcasting. From a free lance contributor, I soon became a full staff of Radio Biafra and later of VOICE of Biafra having to voice all the major productions of the Station in 1969. At the end of the war, I continued to freelance with the East Central State Broadcasting Corporation while I worked as the State Hockey and Cricket Coach. In 1974, I attended an in-house training for the pioneer staff of E.C.B.S. television without prior television experience. In fact, prior to that time, I hadn’t even seen the inside of a television station let alone read a word inside it! Again, the Lord blossomed my latent talent for broadcasting to the point that I was appointed the pioneer Film Script Editor ahead of those who not only had University degrees but had been in broadcasting long before that time. I so impressed the Management of the News Division that I was made the Head of Television News six months after I was first employed. From there, I went on to found the television News Divisions of NTA, Aba, Imo Television, Owerri in 1981 and the IBC News & Current Affairs Division (Radio & Television) in 1985. Indeed, the grace and the favour I received from the Lord for broadcasting was so tremendous that I rose from a lowly Film Script Editor on Grade Level 08 in 1974 to Director of News & Current Affairs of Imo Television on level 06 in a mere six years and three months and without a University degree as it was only in 1990 that I was able to actualize my long standing desire to read Law. Such was the gift the Lord had given me for television that at the end of my three month News Writers’ Course at the BBC, London in 1977, our lead trainer took me aside and gave me a book gift in recognition of the quality of my input during the course. He said to me, “Chudi. There’s really nothing we could teach you here. The benefit of your coming here is to interact. As for broadcasting, there is not much we can teach you here”. Who then taught me what so impressed my BBC trainers? The Lord, of course! And so to Him must go all the praise and glory for ever and ever. Amen!

That I am alive today is the miracle of the Lord. Time without number, the Lord had delivered me from near fatal accidents, from armed robbery attacks and from several fire mishaps including one in my room. A candle left on a plastic plate on top of my TV set had burnt through the plate and ignited my TV set. To save me and my house, the Lord magnified the noise from my transistor radio so as to wake me up from a deep slumber. I woke to see flames leaping to the ceiling in my room. To my own amazement later, I  was able to carry the set with my bare hands out of my room with the flames raging from it and so averted a major disaster. Several demonic attacks aimed at me had also been thwarted by the Lord to keep me alive and working for Him according to the revelation He gave me when He first appeared to me in a vision of light and transformed my life exactly fifty years ago and during the years that followed. This work has seen me, over the years, crusading for the Lord as the pioneer Chairman and Imo State co-ordinator of the Children Evangelism Ministry – the work the late Archbishop Benjamin Nwankiti testified was the reason he conferred the Knighthood of St. Christopher on me in 1995. I have also been able to testify for the Lord from several pulpits and podiums of different churches and Fellowships both here in Nigeria and abroad. As a student at the University of Buckingham, where I was elected the President of the Christian Union of the University, the Bishop of the Diocese of Oxford, on the recommendation of the then Bishop of Owerri, Benjamin Nwankiti, also licensed me as Reader of the Diocese of Oxford which gave me opportunity to preach and teach throughout the Deanery of Buckingham as and when invited to do so.

Throughout my many years of struggle having to contend with those who fought relentlessly to bring me down and to halt my speedy advance, the Lord remained with me and when He promoted me to positions of authority, He also gave me wisdom, favour and professional competence to handle the portfolios with much credit. Having now retired from the public service, I remain engaged in service to humanity and to the furtherance of the Gospel of Christ.

MY CHRISTIAN VOICE ASSIGNMENT

I thank God for the opportunity to lead the Christian Voice Newspaper over these past ten years. I have had a wonderful bunch of staff led by the indefatigable Editor of the Newspaper, Sir Martin Ebeh. For the first time in my public service career, my tenure at the Christian Voice Newspaper has been devoid of rancour, back stabbing, gossiping and manipulations by vested interests which I had to deal with and endure or overcome with the help of the Lord during the years I served in Government. I am much indebted to Sir Martin and his Staff and to the Bishop of Owerri who approved my blueprint for the Newspaper and not only appointed me to implement it but also gave my colleagues and me on the Management Committee of the Newspaper, a free hand to do so.

My commitment to build the Christian Voice Newspaper to greater heights is unwavering. We have so far nurtured the Paper from a 12-page Newsprint newspaper to a 16-page bond paper newspaper with the cover pages in full colour and with content that has endeared it to readers throughout Nigeria. Today, the Christian Voice Newspaper can be read on the Internet by persons from across the globe. We have also built a financial base for the Newspaper and have been able to make two bulk sum donations of one million naira and half a million naira respectively to the Diocese of Owerri in addition to paying our annual diocesan assessment levies. We have also begun to save up money for the retirement benefits of our staff so that each retiring staff will collect his or her benefits immediately on retirement.

As I mark my sixty seven years of my sojourn in this world and my fifty years as a son and priest of the most High God, I have nothing but gratitude to the Almighty for how kind, merciful and gracious He has been to me and to my family. To Him and to Him alone be all the Glory, praise, honour and adoration now and for ever more. Amen.

 

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