I want to write about a man I met in 2006. He is a controversial man who is both loved and not loved by different people, often for the same reasons. For those who love him, no reason is required.
For those who do not live him, no reason is also required. It is enough that he is Edward Onoja, and one of the most important figures of the day in the politics of Kogi State.
My followers on social media know that I strive to be politically neutral and rarely, if ever, pick sides. I declare God’s counsel as He bids, and let people marvel at outcomes. God works with men and not political parties. In the task to rescue Nigeria, politics and parties are important, but individuals are more important. God will use an individual if His mandate rests on the person, and irrespective of the political party he belongs to.
It is for this reason, the man of God must look beyond party systems to find men equipped for the hour. Christian clergy must not pitch their tents in partisan politics, but must like the Prophet Samuel, be prepared to be father to the David of the hour in God’s plan.
I met Edward Onoja in 2006 through what is simply a divinely orchestrated encounter. My team and I had set out for Minna, Niger State from Ogugu, his hometown after an explosive Crusade. Our rickety 504 saloon car broke down near Ajaokuta, and it soon became clear that the car could not be fixed immediately. It looked as if were well and truly stranded until one of my team members remembered one Edward Onoja, a customer who patronised her fiancée’s business.
So great was our predicament at the moment that we reached out to this total stranger. He surprised us with how readily he swung into action for our rescue. He sent a mechanic to repair our car, paid the our bills and took us into his home, then at Rock and Garden School opposite Government House, Lokoja.
From these auspicious beginnings, my relationship with Edward Onoja blossomed as he became a committed supporter of our soul-winning efforts. Edward was not a politician at the time. I knew him as a banker who loved the Lord. At some point, he and I and Apostle Akogwu Apata initiated the annual Youth Ablaze Conference. It is hosted every year at God’s Care Mission, Okpo and has become a transformational youth event.
Till this day he has remained steadfast in his support to the work of God, making contributions to all our ministry efforts. I am also aware that he supports many other ministries beside ours. Adversities have not caused his love to wax cold for the things of God. In fact, he once had an accident en route Okpo for one of the meetings, yet he showed up.
Edward never opted for politics until a prophetic page was opened upon him. One night God spoke expressly about everything happening in his life today, and he was not disobedient to the voice of the heavenly vision. Like it or hate it, there is a leadership crown on Edward Onoja. It is from above and he is sent as one of the Igala sons who will both reach the top and last long in the political sphere. He will run the race and run it well. Anyone can take this to the bank.
Edward is a hard worker and a smart one too. Idleness of hands and brain is taboo to him. An idle youth remains one of his greatest put-offs today. It is easier to gain his support if you are engaged in menial but honest labour than to eat the bread of idleness. It is a philosophy he also applies to himself right from his earliest youth.
I am aware that before politics he did whatever his hand could find with all his strength. His list of workplaces and the various times provides an insight into the man’s acumen and restless industry.
~ Before University he taught at Shadel Montessori School in Lagos.
~ For NYSC he served at Total Fina Elf Petroleum.
~ Thereafter he took up appointment with Guaranty Trust Bank Plc.
~ Ever restless to expand his horizon he set up Halley’s Place Barbers Shop, a premier men’s grooming enterprise which has expanded to multiple outlets over the years.
~ Meanwhile he moved over to Access Bank Plc as he continued to grow in the corporate world.
~ He set up On & On Global Resources, a private consultancy firm
~ He joined Taleveras Oil And Gas Exploration And Production Limited.
~ In-between all of this, he also found time to dabble into politics as far back as 2011 when he made a credible bid for a state assembly seat.
God spoke to me clearly on His agenda concerning Edward Onoja with the following words;
“A time will come when your people will rise up against you, not because they hate you but because they feel you are doing the wrong thing…however, if you yield to them or their pressure, you will lose your throne”.
This word came to pass with divine exactitude in 2015 when he stood by his friend an Ebira man, and tried to market him as a possible occupant of Lugard House, the seat of Government in Lokoja. By their numerical superiority in Kogi State, his tribe, the Igala, considered the seat their exclusive right since democracy was a game of numbers. Edwards people truly rose up against him, but having heard from God he stood his ground and did not yield to the pressure. Of course, he would have missed out of God’s divine plan if he did.
By a series of fortuitous events known to all Nigerians, that his friend is now Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State. The truth of the matter is that God has a hand in establishing this very administration. Let us understudy things first, the truth of the matter is that God was directly involved in the orchestration. It came under a strong prophetic cloud and fighting it is a waste of time. If you need further proofs- Just take a look at their Electoral outcomes and unending Political and Administrative battles from the day the signaled their intentions to serve their fatherland.
It is true that Kogi has many problems as a state, unpaid salaries and pensions being the worst. I became so bothered about that challenge one night that I drove to see Edward, and brought Apostle Ele Adejo as a witness. We quizzed him all through the night, in fact, it became a vigil. You could see he was hurting with the pains of the people as he tried to explain what the government was doing as well as the daunting, mainly financial, nature of the challenges before them. There is really no satisfactory explanation to the thing. I do not envy them their position on this one and I cannot let them off the hook. They signed up for government and they must find an answer, simple. I believe my friend Apostle Eleojo will throw more light on this.
Well, many will say what do you know about Kogi and accuse me of bias. It may surprise you to know I am more of a Kogite than many whose sole claim to the state is the circumstances of their birth. I speak as one who has lived in and loved and ministered to the land and her people for many years. I am a witness to previous governments and leadership, especially after the 1999 return to democracy. Nobody can convince me that the current administration in Kogi State is not an improvement on the past in many ways even as it may not have done as well as it should in others. In particular, the Prince Abubakar Audu administration left some records of performance which needs breaking by this youthful administration.
Speaking specifically to the Christian community let me say categorically that Yahaya Bello is not an Islamic bigot and he has no Islamisation Agenda for Kogi State. Take a look at other northern states, and consider the travails of the brethren. Any Governor can manipulate the spread of appointments and allocation of resources, including security-wise, to achieve any clandestine agenda. A cosmopolitan and broad-minded Governor like Yahaya Bello is indeed rare in these times.
In Kogi, we do not have religiously motivated killings. For the first time in her history, a government house chapel is being constructed for the Christian community working or visiting there. For three years now we have held Kogi Arise in Praise under a prophetic initiative which has been fully supported by the Governor. No muslim fanatic or extremist government would do that. I see the balance the duo has brought in terms of harmonizing diversity in both religion and tribe.
Some may deny everything about Edward, but no one who truly knows the man can deny his Iove for his Igala tribe. A visit to Anyigba will reveal this. Like the Walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and burnt in days of Nehemiah the prophet who received a passion to rebuild them, the Igala Unity House has been derelict for years.
Edward Onoja is today the spirit behind the completely redesigned and rebuilt Igala Unity House nearing completion in the town. When it is opened, everything within and without will showcase the best of Igala culture and arts.
Governor Yahaya Bello who is neither tribalistic nor religiously biased picked the perfect complement in Edward Onoja. Edward is himself a product of the unity school system. He attended Federal Government College, Kwali, Abuja where he formed filial bonds with fellow young Nigerians from every state of the Federation. Those bonds were formed from his early to late teens and will last a lifetime. Kogi’s diversity is child’s play for a man who feels at home with people and places anywhere in the country.
In Olamaboro Edward helped the Muslim community to build a mosque even as he helped a Christian denomination complete their long stagnated building project. Many Christians did not see anything good in the mosque project and castigated Edward for it but I believe it is the duty of leaders in a plural society to be welcoming to all sides. Christianity should be practised in practical terms and be in the forefront of promoting peaceful cohabitation with those of other faiths and tongues.
I drove through Okpo to Ogugu the last time I visited Nigeria and discovered the road had been constructed. I ministered in an event where the Governor, through Edward Onoja, presented 9 buses for Evangelism and commenced a pastoral building for UEC, Ogugu Centre. These actions give the lie to the picture of an extremist or a fanatic which many brethren unfairly paint of the Governor. How unfair! To subvert a man in his cause, the Lord does not approve.
There is natural compassion in the man. Last year I personally went round with Edward Onoja as he commissioned borehole in all Ogugu communities which have never had water from inception. He sank them from his own personal resources and what he raised from mobilising his friends to provide water in about 25 communities. Is this the man you want me to avoid?
Edward is a trustworthy person. I do not say this to promote him – I say it because I have known him for 13 years, and he is a man of his word. If he tells you a thing you might as well go to sleep.
There are bad and terrible people in all political parties, yet God will use some vessels from among them to bring about our needed change. If you expect me to abandon one such man, I am sorry, but I will have to disappoint you. I owe him prayer. We all owe him prayer.
Kogi will be great!