Rev. Dr Uma Ukpai is the founder and president of the Uma Ukpai Evangelistic Association (UUEA). He is one of the few preachers who never recoil from speaking truth to power. And this explains why he rarely gets invited to certain political power centres. Passionate about his ministerial work, Ukpai has built a solid reputation through his citywide crusades.
But one thing his wife of over 33 years would never let him forget for one moment is that he is a father and a husband, where his evangelical success must first be felt. So no matter how busy he is, Ukpai takes time to minister to his family. Of the relationship between him and his wife, Ukpai says he is an expert in romance.
In an interview, Rev. Dr. Uma Ukpai said the following about himself.
Can you remember any experience that nearly marred your calling or your ministry?
No, I can’t remember any. Two months before I lost my children in a car accident, God had spoken to me. On that day, God had said to me that he would not answer my prayers. God said, ‘I want to test you and know why you love me.’ At 5 am that morning armed rubbers stormed my office. I used to have the best office East of the Niger in 1985. I had a printing press, and my manager was a white American girl. When all those things where removed, the Lord said to me that I should not take back any of those things from whoever stole them. God said that I should regard them as a gift to the person. I said to my wife, ‘maybe the day God was talking about is this day.’
So when the car ran off the road and fell into the river, I jumped into the river in an attempt to save the children. My wife jumped into the river too and the water carried her and threw her up six times. It was at the 7th time that somebody called my attention to it. I turned and used one hand to swim and carry her with the other hand. I dropped her at the bank and went for the children. They had not died.
I put the children in the car to pray for them but an on-coming vehicle from the opposite direction smashed into the car. The bonnet flew out. I was pacing up and down not knowing what to do next when somebody ran to me and grabbed me and began to cry. He said the 50-seater bus that carried our musicians caught fire; that nobody was sure how many people were alive. I suffered all these in one day. I was consoled in the fact that God had warned me. I didn’t make those children, God gave them to me as a gift. I reminded myself that God gave me all that I had, and have and will have and that His will is supreme. Whatever He wants to do let it be done.
The next morning, I went to preach and people asked, ‘what would you preach? I told them the same old message because that accident couldn’t change anything in my mind. There are many who had no child; I mean, you can’t buy a child from any market, it’s God that gives. We have been travelling on that same road for years; the driver had been my driver all those years. So, if God over these years had protected us and then lowered the hedge, why would I protest? So, I marched on.
When somebody dies only those who love him will cry and the way you cry shows how much you love the person. But God has made it that all you have is not your own, don’t attach yourself to them and once you believe it in your heart you can handle any situation. We can cry, yes, but it should not stop us from loving God and doing the right thing.
How did you meet your wife?
We are from the same village. Her father loved me because at one time I used to be very brave and they liked me for that. Her brother was my friend, but none of them contributed to that decision till now. It never crossed my mind. I was in America preaching in Kenton, Ohio when I said to the woman who was paralysed to stand up and fold her wheel chair.
The girl who brought me to that service said to me no other girl would marry you but me and if you say no I will shoot you and shoot myself. So I was forced to go into one month fast, wanting to escape that trap. God showed me my wife in a revelation. Because we are from the same village I just told God you made a wrong choice; you should have asked me who is a good girl and it is not this girl. I did not want to tell her. In the first place, she was young at 25 years then.
I didn’t want to marry a baby. As far as I know, 25 years is what you call the end of the age of confusion. I waited for two years but I told God I would marry her only on one condition. She had written a book she called, Mother I have found a man. She walked up to me and asked me what I would do if God revealed a girl to me. I told her I will tell the girl to apply and she retorted: ‘Don’t you think you are arrogant?’
I replied, ‘No just say I have self-respect. Being a preacher if I propose to you now you’ll tell the whole world that the man of God is chasing me. Then she said what if I’m the girl? I said to her, then tell me you are the person. She wrote a very beautiful book and was very honest. She said God had revealed to her that I will be her husband. We have been married for 33 years and we have quarrelled only twice. Being a confirmation, an affirmation and attestation that she was the right choice.
Secret of happy marriage
She knows I’m the husband. She respects me, and reverences me and loves me and helps me fulfill my calling. I celebrate her because the most expensive thing in life is to marry a pretty girl that wants to be celebrated; they don’t take nonsense. If you don’t want trouble, please celebrate her.
Secondly, you lose to win in marriage. Even when your wife has wounded or hurt you please don’t emphasise it, de-emphasise it. Make sure you put money into her hand even though she has money and do it weekly. Thirdly, when she asks you for money give her more than she asked for and fourthly, when she dresses up for service, turn, ponder and celebrate her; don’t just look at her as though you are a muumuu. Say to her you are gorgeously dressed; you are mesmerising me greatly.
Fifth, accept her relations and her parents particularly; take care of them as you take care of your own parents. If she has a brother invest in that brother, if she has a sister invest in her sister; they will always speak for you because they have eaten your food. No man eats your food without giving you praise. So make sure you invest in those areas. Sixth, love her children. It’s very confusing that men love women but women celebrate children, they adore children. To a woman it’s a beginning of her unending laughter, so if you want your wife to love you love her children, take care of them. Send them to good schools and celebrate them.
My wife says to me, ‘on the crusade platform you are a big man of God but in this house you are not a big man of God you are just a husband and a father. So don’t walk in here as though you are under anointing. The demons stop in the crusade ground, here we are for celebration. So anytime you walk through the door forget whatever exploits you did at the crusade ground; here you are just an ordinary husband; don’t act as a super preacher because the crowd has gone, only we are left.
How did your wife feel towards you after losing your children and still preached the next day?
She didn’t forgive me immediately. I don’t blame her. If you know what a child means to a woman you’ll understand her troubles. In her moment of grief, she asked me, ‘this bible that you are carrying, when you go to church tell them Satan is more powerful. I’m ashamed you carry this bible.’ I told her for saying this to me your punishment is every year one child. Do you know she began to have a child every year? After she did family planning to stop having children, I said it’s a lie one more time.
When she got pregnant at time it was not expected of a woman to get pregnant. My sister came and called me names. He said I was a stupid man to make a woman pregnant at that age. What if she dies? She said, look I won’t leave you until you fly her to the US. I told my sister that her problem was ignorance. God who put that child there knew what He was doing.
Anyway, we flew her out to the United States. I called 10 of my friends who were medical doctors. They were in another room when she gave birth in another room, no nurse no doctor. They were watching a program in another room and I was doing a crusade in London. Then later they phoned and said, ‘Umah you’ve just wasted our time, God did not need us; we shouldn’t have listened to you. She has given birth, we didn’t help in anyway. Her reaction about the death of the children was natural. I remember, I had an edge over her because God had revealed that to me.
When God gave that revelation to me, it came three times and I said God if you are going to test my faith again, please don’t involve my wife. You can take everybody but not her. Because I have a travelling ministry and she is the pillar of the house; if she dies I will be too shattered to continue preaching. She was almost at the point of death. If you know about drowning, the river throws you up seven times and that will be the end. She had done six and God gave me such supernatural power to carry a woman of her size and swim with one hand, it was not a natural act – drop her and then go for the children. It was not a natural act, God was at work.
You travel a lot, how much time do you have for romance?
What do you call it? Romance is simply giving a woman quality time. It could be five minutes but quality time. Make sure you have what she needs before you meet her. Inject the element of surprise for her, make sure you celebrate her, keep her informed about where you are, that is what every woman needs. In this area I’m an expert. I call her several times in one day and we still exchange love letters.
I make sure I have an element of surprise for her, it could be groundnut wrapped in tissue paper. Something that will surprise her. Women don’t really want money, they want appreciation, they want recognition, they want to be protected. If a man does not have money he must have a bag of humour. A good man must be able to make his wife laugh five times a day. If a woman laughs five times a day, her blood pressure will be low and she will look younger.
When you were younger, is this the Nigeria you wished to see now that you are older?
Even as a young person in love with a girl you dream beautiful dreams but after the wedding you know that love is blind, but marriage is an eye opener. There are things to put into place. Anybody who dreamt of a marriage and got married and found that the wife will not obey his command and got disappointed because she did not obey his command the man is sick.
The man is an unperformed husband because marriage is a union of two opposites. A man that says stand up and a woman that says why must we stand up. A man who likes garri and a woman who likes rice, a man who likes clothe and a woman who has no interest in clothes. It is this mixture of two opposites that will give the marriage life and progress. Our dream was rosy, we were expecting a state where there would be no problem, where thieves will be living in the neighbouring countries not in our country, where assassins will never ever be part of Nigeria but that was a fools dream.
What we are going through is typical of a growing nation. America was not this organised when they started. Even as I’m talking, America has more criminals than we have. A man who read their economy used to lend to the government. He used their pension money for his personal use and bamboozled them. Anybody that says there is a nation where criminals are not part of that nation that person is not a good liar he should go back to school and learn how to tell lies.
Would you describe yourself as a stylish person?
When you say style everyone has style. I don’t think I’m stylish; a stylish man is a man who wants to look in a certain way. People like me, I don’t worry about what I wear. Rather, I worry about what my anointing can produce.
The good thing about my type of ministry is that nobody wants to know how good your dress is. They want to know how anointed you are. When I came back from school in America, my wife said to me, hide those your certificates, nobody wants to know how educated you are. They want to know how many people have been healed and delivered and set free from bondage by the anointing of God deposited in you.
Nobody wants to know how much you know until he knows how much you care. So my interest is not about dressing. One young man came from Lagos and changed my wardrobe. He gave me so many things. I will never complete wearing them in the next five years. About six babanriga, six kaftans, six French suits, six English suits haa; haa; where will I have time to wear all of them? So to be successful is to share people’s burdens and then give them hope and make people become what they want to be.