Magnus Eze, Enugu
The leadership crisis that erupted among a group of pastors in Ebonyi State operating under the aegis of Divine Mandate Pastors’ Forum shortly after the election of Chief David Umahi as governor in 2015 is gradually taking a distasteful dimension.
Although the matter was allegedly laid to rest sometime in 2017 in a controversial way; a development which paved way for the emergence of Pastor Eunice Oyeyemi of Christ Embassy, Abakaliki as the new leader of the group, at the moment, the forum has been polarised again.
The two camps appear to have drawn a battle line with fists tightly clinching on each other’s jugular. And if remedial measures are not taken as quickly as possible, the subtle mudslinging which has recently taken a centre stage might degenerate to a more absurd state.
In fact, apart from an eight-page media material endorsed by the Chairman and Secretary of one of the groups, Rev. Ifeanyi Igwe, and Pastor Ernest Anayo respectively, which gave a sketchy account of the infighting among the clerics since four years ago, tongues have continued to wag among the pastors in ways that are unfriendly.
Sunday Sun gathered that the genesis of the imbroglio is not unconnected to the sharing formula of the monthly allocation of N5 million reportedly released to the pastors’ forum by the state government to assist them in carrying out their activities.
Divine Mandate Pastors’ Forum is a branch of the Divine Mandate Campaign Organization of Governor Umahi; a platform through which he campaigned and won the governorship election of the state in 2015.
The forum, it was gathered, was “saddled with the responsibility of praying, canvassing, and mobilizing men of God and their churches across the state to support Chief Umahi” who was at the time, the deputy governor of Ebonyi State.
Such support, without doubts, was needed by Umahi as he was slugging it out with his principal at the time, Chief Martin Elechi, who did not want Umahi to succeed him.
So, considering the strong force standing against his aspiration, the then deputy governor needed all hands on deck to win the electoral battle. That was how many support groups were raised including the Divine Mandate Pastors’ Forum.
In fact, Umahi’s pastor, Oyeyemi, reportedly floated a campaign group called ‘Light up your world’ for her church member, in the same 2015 but the group reportedly phased out shortly after the election.
As soon as the governorship victory was secured, it did not take too long before crisis erupted among members of the Divine Mandate Pastors’ Forum.
Secretary of one of the factions, Pastor Anayo, told Sunday Sun that crisis erupted when their former leader, a notable evangelist in Abakaliki, returned to take over the leadership of the organization after he saw that the forum which he dumped and pronounced ‘dead and buried’ had been resuscitated by Rev. Ifeanyi Igwe.
According to Anayo, himself and Igwe worked very hard for about one year and six months to resuscitate and reorganize the then comatose Divine Mandate Pastors’ Forum when the former leader abandoned it; and because of that refused to hand over to him when he returned.
The Igwe faction stated that the crisis which erupted afterwards drew the attention of Governor Umahi, who set up a three-man peace committee with Pastor Oyeyemi as a member.
“During the crisis, a three-man peace committee was set up by the governor to look into the matter and produce report and recommendations which Pastor Eunice was a member; Rev. Fr. Dr Abraham Nwali, and the deputy governor.
“But that committee committed suicide and died a natural death consequent upon the interest of Pastor Eunice on Divine Mandate. It was an unfortunate committee because it was frustrated by interest.
“Instead of producing a report as a committee, Pastor Eunice rather declared herself as the leader of the group”, they said.
The aggrieved pastors led by Rev. Igwe, in this latest feud, accused Pastor Oyeyemi of capitalizing on the fact that the governor is a member of her church to hijack the organization since 2017.
They also accused her of leadership imposition, side-lining pastors who are not loyal to her, abusing them, bringing some of her pastors from Christ Embassy and some members of the forum who reportedly supported her to take over the forum’s leadership and thereafter allegedly ordained them as state working committee members and zonal coordinators.
Their statement read: “Our ordeals as Divine Mandate Pastors started in 2017 when Pastor Eunice Oyeyemi came to highjack the group by force.
“After she succeeded to highjack Divine Mandate, she brought her pastors from Christ Embassy and some members of Divine Mandate Pastors who supported her to come in and ordained them as state working committee and zonal coordinators and charged them to defend and to sing her praise and to make sure that nobody talks no matter what happens.”
The aggrieved pastors also alleged that some of the largesse including Christmas gifts usually given to them by the governor only got to the few of the members. They alleged that Pastor Oyeyemi did not curtail the excesses of some of her ‘errand boys’; hence, making them to carry themselves as demigods.
The pastors further alleged that a recent N250 million empowerment package given to the clergy by the state governor, which was supposed to get to all the members numbering about 2,500 did not get to all of them as only few members got “the unfortunate N100,000 empowerment.”
“The truth is that the so-called empowerment is a sham because it was marred with corruption. 2,500 persons are supposed to be beneficiaries of the empowerment but unfortunately those who benefitted are not up to 1,500 persons.
“The empowerment was not exclusively for Divine Mandate Pastors because members of Christ Embassy are majority in the list”, it added.
The aggrieved pastors further alleged that they had been abused and treated very poorly by Pastor Oyeyemi.
“The Divine Mandate Pastors are given N5 million allocation on monthly basis, but it is unfortunate that the money does not come as at when due, even when it is certain that it has been released by the government.
“Sometimes, it takes two to three months before it will come after government has released it. But we are not surprised because the money is the reason Pastor Eunice came to highjack Divine Mandate.
“From the time she came to Divine Mandate, she introduced a policy making it compulsory that members of Divine Mandate Pastors must gather every week to pray in the 64 Development Centres and the 13 local government areas to qualify you to have a share of N2,000 from the monthly allocation.
“Imagine somebody paying transport (fare) not less than N2,000 from places like Ivo, Afikpo South, and Onicha to Abakaliki just to come and collect N2,000 and spend the whole day for that matter.
“That is a slave master because she does not attend any, even the one at Government House except the day she wants to share only N2 million out of N5 million to the pastors. She has so much abused the pastors and turned them to less privileged pastors.”
When contacted, Pastor Oyeyemi told Sunday Sun that she would not comment on the matter because it was already being handled by the Department of State Services (DSS).
Oyeyemi said: “The matter is already on the DSS table. So, if you are publishing anything that you have not done interrogative and investigative journalism, you better get hands off it because everything that guy is doing is illegal and it is against my fundamental human right. So, the DSS is already on the matter.”
Told that the call was part of the investigation into the root of the matter; and ensure that every party involved got fair hearing, Oyeyemi said: “I don’t have anything to say because the DSS has advised me not to say anything.
“Everything that young man is saying is against the law; and the law has a redress for such matters. So, just save your paper from impending litigations”.
However, some members of the State Working Committee of the Divine Mandate Pastors’ Forum, its coordinators in the three senatorial districts and the local government coordinators in the 13 council areas of the state, rose to Pastor Oyeyemi’s defence.
At a press conference held in Abakaliki, the state capital, the pastors absolved her of all the allegations by the other group of pastors in the forum.
A press material signed by two members of the state working committee, Rev. Odu Paul, and Pastor Eluu Ifeanyichukwu; three zonal coordinators, and the 13 local government coordinators of the forum, said that they were shocked to see “a malicious publication by some impostors who termed themselves as Concerned Divine Mandate Pastors.”
“Our leader is well known in this state as a woman of God with integrity, tested and trusted for over two decades by the ministry she represents and the good people of Ebonyi State including Chief David Umahi who happened to be her member and a deacon in her church upon which these fellows were not afraid to malign his pastor to this extent.
“People must be careful not to fight a man that has found favour with God otherwise they will be fighting God. Our esteemed leader, Pastor Eunice is an example of grace following her antecedents in the ministry; and the whole body of Divine Mandate Pastors are happy with her matchless leadership prowess.
“On the other hand, we are aware that these mischief makers (Ifeanyi Igwe and his accomplice, Mr Ernest Anayo) are being sponsored by the enemies of Engr. Dave Umahi and the church in general to misrepresent the Divine Mandate Pastors.
“Being that the spiritual covering around him is high and their darts are not getting at him, they have devised a new plan to uncover him but it will remain a vain voyage”, the statement read.
Continuing, they said the allegations were baseless, saying that Rev. Ifeanyi Igwe was never an ordained minister of the gospel and did not have a church that he could be traced to.
“His accomplice, Mr Ernest was suspended from the Divine Mandate Pastors’ Forum because he was found not to be a pastor in Salvation Ministry as claimed by him; which the evidence of exemption was sent to the body via the state pastor of Salvation Ministry in the state.
“The ministry was shocked to see that Mr Anayo had impersonated them for over three years in the name that he, Mr Anayo, was the person that brought Salvation Ministry to Ebonyi State whereas he is not even a leader in the said church.
“These and others constitute the character of the duo spreading all these lies to tarnish the image of the Divine Mandate Pastors’ Forum and our leader, highly esteemed Pastor Eunice Oyeyemi.
“Divine Mandate Pastors’ Forum is not in crisis and we are more than ever committed to the vision of His Excellency for setting up the forum.
“We address this press conference just for record purposes and to let the public know that the said Ifeanyi Igwe and his accomplice, Mr Ernest Anayo Usulor are inconsequential as far as this movement is concerned and they should, henceforth, stop parading themselves as pastors deceiving the gullible ones”, the statement added.
Regardless, the allegation of not being pastors was dismissed by Pastor Anayo as laughable. He said that he and Rev. Ifeanyi Igwe are pastors.
“I am in Salvation Ministries and I am a pastor. And I have been a pastor. Salvation Ministries Church came into Ebonyi in 2017 which already, I have been a pastor before that time.
“I have been a pastor in some churches. So, when the church came, we were the people that started it here. When two pastors were sent from the headquarters of the church in Port Harcourt to come and start the church here, I joined the church.
“I have not been employed as a pastor in the place because the pastor that is there now whom I work with is a pastor that was sent from the church’s headquarters in Port Harcourt.
“So, I am not employed to work as a pastor there even though I have been asked to take up a branch of the church but I said no because I also have a plan for my own ministry. So, I am not employed there as a pastor in the Salvation Ministries”, he explained.
Meanwhile, in a suspension letter dated February 19, 2018 which was signed by Pastors Odu Paul, Ifeanyi Eluu, the three zonal coordinators, and the coordinators of the 13 local governments of the Divine Mandate Pastors’ Forum, the group gave reasons for suspending Pastor Ifeanyi Igwe whom they described as a member of the state working committee.
“This letter constitutes official notice of your indefinite suspension because of your gross misconduct which is inimical and detrimental to the progress of the Divine Mandate Pastors’ Forum and election bid of Dr Deacon Dave Nweze Umahi.
“You have been passionately warned time without numbers to cease from this misconduct but you insist in publicly insulting our state coordinator without remorse”, the suspension letter partly read.
Rev. Igwe could not be reached to react to the allegations over which he was purportedly suspended. His phone was not reachable even as his colleague, Pastor Anayo, absolved him of all wrong doings.
“That man, the kind of treatment he was getting from there was not palatable because she (Pastor Eunice) was now using others to do exactly what that man was supposed to be doing.
“He was not doing anything. They were side-lining him. So, he was not comfortable with that. They began to see the presence of that man as a threat to them because the man was always speaking for the interest of the people which they were not comfortable with”, he stated.
Pastor Anayo, however, listed conditions for peace in the pastors’ forum to include: “She (Oyeyemi) should account for the N250 million empowerment and the N5 million monthly allocations since 2017.
“Those who used fake names in the empowerment like (names withheld) should be fished out to pay back; the Local Government Coordinators that were removed for not supporting the corruption in the system should be restored.
“Those who were denied the empowerment should be paid because the money is there. Pastor Eunice should honourably handover to the right person. She should go and do her Light up your world campaign organization which is a support group she formed in 2015 for the governor which died after the election. These are the things that will bring peace”.