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– By Pastor Dr Mrs. Victoria Shikaan

A childhood environment of love

I opened my eyes to a world that was full of love, hope and joy as a child. I grew up and felt loved and needed by everyone around me. I ate and drank to my satisfaction but was not spoiled. I was thought to work hard but was not abused or maltreated. I had adult figures who were devoted to God and were pointers to righteousness. I remember the night my mum took us to watch as she was being baptized. I remember at about the age of 5-6 years, I was baptized at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church Kawo in Kaduna State where I singularly chose the name Victoria against my mother’s wish. I remember my mother’s first daughter read the Tiv Bible to my hearing and got me interested in reading same. I remember my grandmother handing me a copy of the Tiv Bible and sitting down to hear me read to her until she memorized the verses she would use for her message at Mzough U Kase Wednesday meeting in her NKST church. I remember the Reverend Sisters particularly, Sister Mary Paul Asoegwu who had a keen interest in my person and gave me every encouragement I needed to excel as a student and a young girl. I remember my sister, Mrs. Veronica Avenya and her brother in-law Bishop Williams Amove Avenya who were pointers to a religious life and success for me.

The other side of life

However, despite all these good examples, influences and support, at about the age of 16 years, precisely, when I was in form four; I began to see the other side of life. It began in January 1994 when my father passed on and my mother who was the bread winner also took ill. I always describe that period as light-off for my family. School fees no longer came and I was never sure when exactly it would be paid. It looked like my sister and I would drop out of school but God did not allow it. We took over mama’s trade while on holiday to support ourselves in school; grand mum of blessed memory supported us as much as she could until we completed secondary school. I had to work for about two years, missing two sessions, before I could complete the outstanding fees and collected my WASC result. As soon as that was done, I picked up application forms into higher education, and was finally admitted into the College of Education, Katsina-Ala. I had faith that sponsorship would come and it did come. My employer, Mr. Timothy T. Aondoa-Akaa that I had served committedly offered to sponsor me. I had written earlier on to relations like Bishop Avenya then in Manchester who agreed to support. However, the closest help I could easily access was my grandmother who always did her best to provide for me. God helped me and I graduated successfully.

Encounter with Jesus

While a student I gave my life to Jesus Christ during one of the special programmes organized by FCS at the Geography lecture room of the college. One thing worthy of thanks to God is that I am not blind. I had an eye problem in my early childhood that took my mother and me to so many hospitals including the National Eye Center, Kaduna. She had to sell some properties to handle my health challenge. My sight stabilized only when I gave my life to Christ and was prayed for some months later by Uncle Gbile Akanni at a crusade organized by the FCS College of Education Katsina-Ala.


During my NCE programme I also got married while a student and as God will have it, my husband was retained in ABU Zaria after service as a graduate assistant. I joined him immediately after my NCE to start a degree programme. During my undergraduate studies I gave birth to two boys within a three-year degree programme but graduated within the stipulated six semesters with a good result- for this I must thank God.

Career path

When I graduated, my desire was to work with the university but God had an entirely different plan. God showed me a primary school to go and serve there, I outrightly rejected that offer and became offended at God and those he was using to encourage that plan. God told me that he would pay my bills, and take care of me. He confirmed it through my prayer partner and friend, Professor Sade Omokore, who repeated the same words “go and do the work, if it is salary, God will take care of you”. I decided to obey and joined in the service of the Children Evangelism Ministry (CEM). Later in my service I was given admission to do a masters degree in curriculum and instruction in 1995 but there was no supervisor for me. Nevertheless, I knew it was God’s delay to mature me for his service. God kept me in the service of CEM for four years as a teacher and later Head teacher of the Total Child Bible School, Samaru, Zaria. During this period, God trained me as a child evangelist, administrator and missionary. I am thankful to God both for the wealth of experience I gained working with CEM and for proving to me that he watches over his anointed.

Healed of Cancer

I was diagnosed a cancer infected patient in 1995 at the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH) but God cancelled that report. My father in the Lord, Bishop David Bakare and JAWOM brethren prayed. I also took a seven-day fast during which the Lord encountered me on the last day. Around 9 am I was caught up in a vision where I saw heaven open and worship I cannot describe with words was going on. An angel descended from heaven, removed the lump in my armpit, showed me, and flew back. I woke up and discovered the place was normal, I returned to the hospital and it was confirmed by the consultant surgeon that I was alright. Bill number one paid for accepting to serve God. Praise the Lord!

Relocation to Makurdi

As God was dealing with me, my husband was having his own experiences and later resigned his appointment as a lecturer with ABU Zaria. He kept sharing revelations until January 1998 when it was clear that God wanted us back to Benue. I was already cooked for ministry and had no fears whatsoever. We boldly moved to Makurdi to begin the work.

Graduate studies

While vigorously pursuing the ministry I had forgotten the idea of furthering my education until 2001 when God spoke to me audibly in a night vision to go pick a form and do a post graduate programme. I went to inquire and discovered that my course of interest was just being introduced at Masters Level in the Faculty of Education at the Benue State University. By 2002 I started a Masters Degree under the Department of Curriculum and Teaching and it was a period of drilling and refining. By the time I was rounding up my husband kept speaking into my ears, round up and do a PhD. Again, I went to the Lord and inquired, should I? After a while I had a vision where I found myself defending a PhD and I gladly enrolled for the PhD. Along the way, it looked like I will not make it, the work load was getting beyond me and the exhaustion was almost unbearable but God heard my plea for help and saw me through.

Overseas training

I desired to take a trip abroad, even before my defense, to get some kind of training on early childhood education. Dramatically, God got me involved with a lady who had information about what I needed. Miraculously, God gave me a multiple entry visa into America and in a couple of months arrangements were completed for the journey. I had very exciting two weeks’ stay and learnt a lot. I am grateful to God who satisfies all our desires.


I will not forget to appreciate Professor Mrs. Elizabeth Gyuse, for her wonderful mentorship, she opened her library for me and I used all that was available and relevant to me. She always encouraged me to work hard. Sometimes she would harass me by sending text messages or visiting my office to say hey! everybody is graduating and leaving you, get up and work. I remain eternally grateful to you, Ma.

My supervisor, Professor C. O. Abah, taught me as an undergraduate student in ABU Zaria, supervised my Masters and Doctorate Degree works. He has become more of a father than lecturer to me. One thing I cherish was that his gentle comment “you have worked hard” Mrs. Shikaan, be bold to defend your work. That is what he would say at the end of my research. God bless you Sir.

My second supervisor, Professor J.O. Eriba, is wonderful, he is always time conscious and encouraged me to work smart and hard, we his students described him as a perfect gentleman. He correctly exemplifies a godly man. Remain blessed Sir.

I cannot say it all, but must not forget my personal brother and friend, Dr. E. E Achor. I knew him only during my PhD programme but he helped in building me as a thorough researcher. God bless him.

My gentle friend and sister, Professor Mrs. Regina Samba, I cherish your constructive criticism and useful contributions with Professor Nicholas Ada and all the lovely and wonderful men and women of the Department of Curriculum and Teaching, BSU. I must say, I found academics quite interesting with you. You will fulfill your careers in Jesus name. I also appreciate all my classmates in PhD Science and Education class 2007 for the unity and team spirit that I enjoyed.

Last but not the least, my amiable husband, who carried on so much without breaking; God has been your strength. You’ve been a father, a husband and mentor, my teacher, pastor and brother. No man can ever equal you in my life. As a young woman you have kept our home, nursed me and the children, paid our fees along with those looking up to you. You are a lovely husband, if marriage will happen in eternity, I will still choose you!

Sundry appreciation

To my children, wards, friends, admirers, the Noble Ladies of Spirit Life Christian Assembly and well-wishers, I appreciate you greatly for your support. Blessing Martins, The Shepherd Heritage Academy then administrative officer, worked hard at typing my writings. She worked long hours and odd times to help me, God bless you and help you at your hour of need. To all my staff, particularly, my head of sections, thank you for co-operating in managing the school. God bless you all.

To everyone that God has used on this journey of success and glory you will never lose your reward. I dare not leave out my siblings for their love and care, Mrs. Mary Aha, Mrs. Veronica M. Avenya, Mrs. Torkwase Aondo who helped me to nurse our first baby, Mrs. Rhoda Member Orban, Mr. Paul Aondona Ayua, Pastor Teryima P. Ayua Esq., Mr. Godwin Terhemba Ayua, our eldest brother and all others, there is a sense of fulfillment and assurance when I remember you are there and you are indeed worthy and lovable brethren, God bless you.

The Lord of Lords and King of Kings

Help me to stand up and hail the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords who knows how to show mercy to those who do not deserve it. Who raised me from the dunghill and set my feet on the rock to stay, praise him who gives thrones to those who are not deserving of such, and honour to those who are not worthy. I submit all my trophies and degrees both the one I now have and would ever have. May his name alone be praised forever.

This is my Thanksgiving to God from a grateful heart.

Culled from programme brochure of thanksgiving service in honour of Pastor Dr. Mrs. Victoria Shikaan, in celebration of her PhD on Saturday, 7th December, 2013, at Spirit Life Christian Assembly.



Pastor Thomas Orsar Shikaan is the Senior Pastor of Spirit Life Christian Assembly who has established several schools and churches in Benue State. He has also served as Chairman, Benue State Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board. In the last seven years he has been involved with the organization of the Conference of Tiv Gospel Ministers, COTCOM. Reverend Shikaan speaks on his call, schools, churches, the Welfare Board as well as COTGOM, in this interview with Tahav Agerzua. The following are excerpts.

Pastor Shikaan, can you give us a summary of who you are?

My name is Pastor Shikaan Thomas Orsar. I was born on 30th January, 1965. My parents are Mr. Shikaan Daka and Mrs. Shimangi Shikaan Daka. I come from Mbayion in Gboko Local Government. I attended St. Mark’s Anglican Primary School, Gboko from 1972 – 1978 and later Government College, Makurdi from 1979 to 1984. Between 1984 and 1985, I attended School of Basic Studies, Zaria and between 1985 and 1988, I studied Zoology in the Department of Biological Sciences at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. In 1992 I obtained a Masters Degree from the same university. I later relocated to Makurdi and established Shepherd Heritage Academy, a nursery and primary school, New Covenant Christian College, Naka as well as other schools and churches. I’m also Senior Pastor of Spirit Life Christian Assembly.

How did you become born again?

It’s a long story which I will cut short. I had given my life series of times to Christ but I couldn’t stand. But in 1988, I decided to rededicate my life to Jesus Christ. To be very precise, I attended a meeting that year, 1988, where Brother Gbile Akanni was preaching and I had a very strong encounter that at the end of that meeting, I discovered that I lost appetite for a lot of things I used to do and I began to see that I had grace to fully follow after God – a desire to follow after God and from 1988 to date, I have been following consistently by the grace of God.

Tell us why you left Zaria for Makurdi.

I remember that as a young person, when I gave my life finally to Christ in 1988, I looked back and I saw how much my life wasted and I began to tell God that when I graduate I want to be involved in teaching in schools, in secondary schools so that I could help young people like me who were wasting away. As I kept praying that prayer, in one of the prayer sessions, God spoke to me. He told me, “Because you want to honour me, I will honour you. When you graduate from this place, I’m going to bring you back as a Graduate Assistant.” Well, it was strange to me but I just stood up and danced and praised God and left. So I went for my youth service and finished and returned to Gboko. On one of those days, I found myself in Gboko garage. Coincidentally, my Head of Department had sent somebody, who did know my address, to look for me in Gboko to inform me that I was appointed a Graduate Assistant. So when the man saw me he was as shocked as I was. The meeting with this messenger was a miracle. The next day, I packed my load and went to Zaria and met with my HOD who was Professor Charles Vajime of blessed memory, and he said I was welcome and that I should begin work. That was how I started working without any form of employment letter and no interview. Maybe because I made a 2-1 but I wasn’t the best of all students in my graduating class. I had a 2-1 so I had that privilege to go back and serve. I remember also that in the course of my going back to Zaria, the Lord spoke to me that He was taking me there but one day He would bring me back. Well, I didn’t take that very seriously. So I was in Zaria and I kept teaching. When I was about to do my sixth year there, God spoke to me again that it was time for me to come back to Makurdi but I loved the job. I wanted to be a lecturer, I wanted to be a professor but I refused to disobey God who gave me the job, I packed my load and I came back to Makurdi.

What happened next?

When I left the job and before coming to Makurdi, I joined my Pastor, my father in the Lord, Bishop David Bakare and I worked with him for two years. But I had a very clear directive to come into Makurdi and to begin a school. I came to begin a school but I didn’t have money. One day, one of my children, Imoter, woke up and said, “Daddy, I saw myself going to school in this house and you were teaching me.” I called my wife and said, “Honey come, hear what my son is saying. He is saying he is going to school in this house and I am teaching him. So let’s start a school in the house. So we started a school in the house and I started teaching my two sons   and some parents heard and enrolled their children. My wife and another teacher were the pioneer teachers of the school. That is how we birthed our first school and subsequently others. However, as we were doing this school, the school couldn’t take care of itself. So I was selling atapiapia. I used to make atapiapia (mosquito repellant) and sell so that I could sustain my family. I didn’t find it very funny begging. So I would make atapiapia and we would sell after school and then in the morning, we would come back to school and the routine continued, for two years until the school was established with the support of my faithful wife.

Where did you start this school?

It was in my house at Igoche Lane. It was a house belonging to Professor Shambe who gave me his house which had five rooms. I used three rooms for school and two rooms for living. How did it all happen? Professor Shambe came to the house one day and I didn’t even have any money to pay rent again. He looked at me and said, “Pastor, I learnt you are a Christian.” I said, “Yes, I am.” He asked, “Do you know I’m a Christian too?” I said, “Sir, I don’t know yet.” He said, “I want to tell you that I am a child of God.” He then told me, “From now on, I have sent them to come and build a fence round this house and from now on, don’t pay rent again.” After one year, we had outgrown that place. How do you manage 50 people in a house? So, we began to look for a structure somewhere else. So, we saw an abandoned structure owned by Barrister Paul Belabo near John Baaki’s house and we went there and I was told that the house belonged to him. So I went to his house and requested permission to use the facility. He asked if I was sure. I responded in the affirmative. He asked what I wanted to do and I explained to him. His wife then asked, “What will he pay?” Then Paul replied, “He will pay nothing. Go and use it free of charge.” At the permanent site if you came here you saw that it looked like a road passed through. I was buying this land from this community and I didn’t know there was any road like that. The community rose up one of the days insisting a road must pass through the school. I went back to God and told Him that I had no slight idea that a road passed here and requested His help in this matter. To cut a long story short, the community organized themselves and went and brought Lands and Survey to come and make a road here through the school. The Ministry of Lands surveyed the place, redesigned the whole community but forgot to make a road and went and made the road through the compound of the secretary of the committee that engaged the Land and Survey to redesign the area. This was another miracle proving that God indeed sent us. So there are so many testimonies and in fact from starting a school out of nothing; no sponsorship; nobody giving you money anywhere to do the things we have done, it’s a miracle itself and it’s not because we know anything but God chose to help us.

Do you remember any person who also supported you initially?

I remember so well. I believed that my friends may help me and so I used to move from friend to friend requesting financial assistance and they would say come tomorrow and this continued. On one of those days, I got tired and I refused that I wasn’t going to come tomorrow again. I decided to stay indoors to pray. As I was praying the whole of that day, Barrister Chile Igbawua walked into my house and said, “I’ve kept N10, 000 for you but I keep forgetting to bring it to you. Today, I just felt a strong urge to bring it to you.” I got the N10, 000 and thanked him so much.  God, this is wonderful, I said within me. This is the N10, 000 I’ve been looking for from my friends and they would not give me, but as we prayed God sent his servant to minister to us. This was how I became assured that God has made provision for everything if only we pray it will be delivered to us. It was with this N10, 000 that I made the first desks for our school.

Can you share with us one or two practical examples of how you survived some challenges?

The first time I began the school, we were just doing school and suddenly the Ministry of Education inspectors came into the place and said we should ring the bell and that they were going to close the school. I went back to God and told him, “God but you said we should start, you didn’t say we should close school.” So we told them, “it’s okay, if you want the school closed, close it.” And so I rang the bell and as the children were gathering, the Area Education Officer looked at my face and I was confused and asked what happened. He just said “let’s go, let’s leave this place.” His team protested but he insisted that they must leave and that’s how they left and asked me to come and see him. When I went to see him he said, “I came to the school but something told me not to close the school. Do you have a permanent site?” I said, “Yes, we have.” He asked me to take him there. So, I took him to our permanent site and he said, “For having this permanent site, we will not close your school. Go and continue.” That’s how he left. That was one of the miracles we encountered. On our first premises we have a nursery and primary school as well as our first church. In Adaka we have a full boarding school and there is also a church there.

How did you start your first church?

We started the school in 1998 and the church sometime around 2003. I started the school before the church. The issue of the church was that as I stayed in the school, I was running a monthly programme called ‘Prevailing Word Gathering’ and people were getting blessed and they wanted me to start a church but I wasn’t willing to do so until two things happened. The first was, I was seated in my place of study in the school in the night and one young man was passing by and he came in and I prayed with him. He had issues and those issues were solved. So he called my name and said, “Pastor, why don’t you start a church for us?” I told him that I wasn’t really interested in church issue and stuff like that now. Then, I had a programme and my father in the Lord came all the way from Zaria. When he came he told me, “Pastor Shikaan, you have to start a church now.” So knowing that God sent me here to begin a school and a church, I quickly buckled up and began a church in 2003. As at today we have 10 schools and 11 churches.

What’s the recipe?

You see, I recruit young people into the school and they work with me for some time. They are trained in the schools and after staying with me for some years, some of them believe in the ministry – in what we are doing. So we say, okay, you have stayed long enough. You go and begin such a school somewhere and so we move such a person from our headquarters and because they have worked with us for a long time, they know our philosophy, they know what we stand for, they know what we teach and they go and replicate school and church in another place.

You commissioned a big facility at Shepherd Heritage Academy in 2021; can you give us an insight into what we can find at the place?

We built a block called Ebenezer Block which houses a conference hall, offices of some of the staff in the school, a computer section, several classrooms, about 17 of them for pupils, reception gallery and some other small conference rooms, as well as a kitchen and 30 toilet facilities. Basically, those are the things you can find there.

How do you get money to execute this kind of school project?

Many people say a lot of things about how I get money. I think I now have the privilege to explain how I get the money. When God told me to begin a school, to come into Makurdi and begin ministry, I was very worried about money and I kept praying about it. One-day God spoke to me, He said great people are those that have nothing, their only possession being God Himself. I decided from that day to possess God, to stop worrying about money. I was determined to have more of God, not more of money. So when I came into Makurdi, I didn’t have money to start a school, that’s why I began school in my house. As the school grew, we kept managing the little we had effectively. Brethren, who heard that we were doing something like this, and we had been a blessing to them, began to send support so that we could execute the project. That helped us to a very large extent. When the school began to grow, the Parent Teachers Association, PTA, saw what we were doing and they were very impressed, they were willing to help. In this school, the PTA has built a complete structure for us without us contributing one kobo. The first upstairs we built, they paid about 30 percent of the cost. The second building which is called Ebenezer Building, the economy had changed so they were not able to contribute much, but I think they contributed about N3 million. The Ebenezer Building costs N200 million plus. The key to it was that we were managing the little we had effectively and God was sending brethren, who would help us with little, little, money which we were not wasting but putting into the building continuously. Our strategy has been that when we started the primary school and it was doing well, we eventually built a secondary school. When we got a little from the primary school and from the secondary school, we now began to use to build the Ebenezer Building. We were getting little funds from our primary school and then from the college, that helped the work to become what it is today. Basically these are the sources of our money. Our church has not put one kobo into it, government did not put one kobo into it but well-meaning brethren and God’s mercy helped us to manage our resources well and we were able to raise that building that is well over N200 million.

Can you also tell us how you built the New Covenant Christian College, Adaka?

We started Shepherd Heritage Academy and when it grew we thought that we were having products and they were going to other schools, so why can’t we begin a secondary school?  So we went and built three blocks. We felt that God wanted us to have a school along Makurdi-Naka road, so we went out in search of the land and God led us to a man called Ukor Igbum who willingly gave us the land at a very cheap rate. Then we bought a plot at about N30, 000 and we began to buy small plots, the plots we bought grew to about 100 plots in one place. It all began very small, one plot for N30, 000 but then N30, 000 should be reasonable money at that time. But that is how we all began and they gave us that land, eventually we have massive land. We began putting little structures there and it has turned out to be what it is today. One of the most beautiful buildings in our school is the hall; that gigantic hall was built by the Parent Teachers Association, the parents of the students built that hall, the parents also dug our first borehole. That’s how we have been able to get to where we are today.

What are your major objectives for establishing schools?

When we began God spoke to us that the schools were one of the major instruments that contributed to Church growth before government’s takeover of missionary schools. He wanted us to establish Pentecostal Christian Schools so that they will be places where people will be academically trained and introduced to Jesus and disciple in the things of God.

Have your realized some of these objectives?

In spiritual terms today so many of our former students are pastors in different churches, some are even pastors with us now, they were part of our schools. Many of them are working in different places, that is in the spiritual aspect of our school. In terms of academics today we have achieved much, a parent ran to me telling us of a particular student called Terna Kajo who made a First Class in Computer Science at Covenant University. When he was graduating people bid for him but he didn’t work long for them, he’s now in the Netherlands. Selumun Usu, a young girl, made a First Class in Microbiology in Joseph Sarwuan Tarka University of Agriculture, Makurdi, and several others like that. Our students have all kinds of scholarships; many of them are in Russia right now. I think in one particular year about four of our students got scholarships to study in Russia and they are there right now. One of them has graduated and is coming back, Dorathy Ogede, she’ll be back soon. Our students are spread almost everywhere in the world today. The joy is that many are taking Christ to the nations. When I was growing up I never saw or met people scoring over 300 in the Joint Admission Matriculation Board, JAMB, examination, in our school students score more than 300. Every year some of them score more than 300, even this year three students scored more than 300. I remember that two or three years ago, Moses Ape made a JAMB score of 350-plus, he was one of the best JAMB scorers in Nigeria that year. This year he won the Academic Leadership Award of all African Universities. That competition is organized by Ooni of Ife and he came topmost. I think that academically we’re doing quite well. These are just a few of them. What really makes me glad is that you come into a community and you see children that could not have afforded a very good education but because a school is within their reach, professionals of all kind are raised. As I walk about today I meet a lot of them who are Barristers, Pharmacists, and so on and I’m quite excited. I’m excited because their fortunes have been turned around just because we brought a small mushroom school that people despised. Yet the school has raised a lot of young people. I’m also very excited when I walk around and I see that these children’s lives have been transformed. They have become leaders in their homes, they are leading their parents to know the Lord Jesus Christ and that gives me a lot of excitement. There was a small young boy who looked very funny, he is called Pius Onah. He graduated from our primary school and was admitted into Mount Saint Gabriel’s Secondary School, and as I’m talking right now he’s travelled all over the world winning competitions in Mathematics. When you hear that you’ve very excited, the parents tell me, Pastor Shikaan, our son is making exploits, the foundation was laid in your school and we feel that you should know. That excites me quite a lot.

What do you do as part of your corporate social responsibility?

We give some scholarships in both our primary and secondary schools. In our secondary schools over the years many students who became part of our schools and lost their parents on the way we literally took over their upkeep, their schooling and also paid their school fees. In the community where we are sited we also give students within that community scholarships. I think because of the way we relate with our communities the schools are endearing to them, they love the schools, they want to protect the school, they speak well of the school, and they’re cooperating with us. Where we are here in Shepherd Heritage Academy we do a lot of community service as well, right now we’ve built three bridges for the community and I think the community is quite excited and appreciative of these efforts.

The name of your church – Spirit Life Christian Assembly, how did it come about?

God was talking to us. There had been a lot of moves in the land – moves of holiness, moves of faith, evangelical faith and what have you. But you see, one move alone does not make the Church of God. Faith alone does not make the Church of God, evangelism alone doesn’t make the Church of God and so God wanted us to begin something that will combine all these moves together, that is, Spirit-life – a life that is led by the Spirit. So God revealed this name to us and we gave our church the name Spirit Life Christian Assembly. Our emphasis has been that the total man should be developed.

What are your fundamental doctrines?

We deal with Biblical doctrines; there is none of our doctrines that is outside of the Bible. We have doctrines like the Godhead, we teach on Redemption, Sanctification, we believe in Eternity with God or with the devil, we believe in Sonship, Tithing and Giving, Eternal Judgment, we teach on the Second Coming of Christ, the Great Tribulation, we believe in Restitution, the Rapture, and several other doctrines as are outlined in the Holy Scriptures.

People who know you also know that you’re very fond of your wife, how did you meet her?

I met my wife when I was still a student. I came on holiday and I saw my wife in my uncle’s place and I liked her, so I started courting her until eventually I got married to her.

How did it work out?

I started courting Victoria MngoholAyua in 1986. I was in part one in the university when I met her. I wasn’t even a serious Christian at the time. So we started going out as friends and eventually got married in December, 1987. As I began to talk to God and pray about marriage, the Lord spoke to me and told me I had met my wife. At this time, she became born again and I was instructed to go and marry her and God has blessed the marriage with four children.

How are you able to cope with family, school and church?

My modus is very simple. I know that I can do very little. I can’t do so much. I am not a very strong person as people think. Our work is much more independent work. For instance, when we start a church, our modus is much like an orthodox modus; we are Pentecostals but our modus is orthodox. I allow the people a free hand to run. We don’t start schools and receive returns from them, we don’t do that. We allow them to use the funds from the schools to run the schools. I only have meetings with them – four meetings in a year. I call them together for special meetings and we talk. We have programmes that they follow and I try to visit each of them once or twice in a year. So I don’t think my work is very difficult.

You’ve been involved with the Conference of Tiv Gospel Ministers. How did this come about and what are the objectives?

There have been so many attempts to bring the Tiv ministers together and above all, there has been a very strong prophetic word about the Tiv people – that the Tiv people are going to usher in a revival in Nigeria and this prophecy was given by Pa Elton, a man who had never visited Tiv land and in fact had never met the Tiv people. Pa Sydney Granville Elton gave the prophecy in Ilesha in the early seventies and there has been a move to see that the Tiv ministers gather. I recognized that there were moves like that before and I went to some of the Christian elders in the Tiv nation. I spoke with elder Tor Uja, who has made several attempts to host these kinds of meetings and he was really doing fine. But because of his appointment, he left and was doing the work in Abuja as the Executive Secretary of the National Christian Pilgrims Commission. We had to talk with him and several other elders like Bishop Nathan Inyom and a host of others. But already there were such things in the minds of people like Bishop Mike Angough, Reverend Joe Dakor, Reverend Emmanuel Iornongo who is in London and when we talked together, we decided that I would host the meeting so that we will have a forum where Tiv ministers can come together and rub minds together, strengthen themselves, pray together, focus and rethink on how we can fulfill this call of God upon our lives so that the revival can spark out from our land and also to think about how our land can be developed. That is why and how the Conference of Tiv Gospel Ministers came to be.

Can you share with us some of your experiences on what the conference has done?

We have hosted about six editions of this programme and we have noticed a continuous increase of the impact in the lives of these people as it is also reflected in their works as we receive reports. It has brought a stronger unity among ourselves because we started meeting together on one platform and it is helping us to know ourselves, think together, help one another and strengthen the work of evangelism in our land. Thus far, you can notice the success of the meeting by its attendance. The attendance of the meeting has kept increasing in these past four editions. I think in the last edition; we were about 900 pastors. In the first one, we were a little above 500 and in the fourth one, we are above 900. I think that shows that there has been some impact that the meeting is making in the lives of the people. The Conference of Tiv Gospel Ministers began in 2016, since then we’ve kept running. It was only in 2020 that we ran the conference at the zonal level in Naka, Adikpo and Ugba. We have run six editions and will be running the seventh edition this year from the 10th to the 13th of August, 2022. We believe that COTGOM has achieved quite a lot because if you look around the terrain of the gospel in Tivland it’s shifting towards the positive. A lot of young people are rising up and they’re doing quite significant works and we believe that giving time this work will blossom, and will spread and break out of this land to other places as well.  We’ve also seen our people come together, people that hitherto were not together, we’re seeing cohesion among ourselves and that is going to help us to work a lot better. We’re also seeing not just cohesion; our relationship with one another has improved. We tend to flow together better than we used to do before and we’ve been having great times of praying together. One of the major objectives of this program is to see that that which God has spoken about our land, the fact that God is going to use us to bring about a global revival, comes to pass. We needed to really come together, pray together and advise ourselves and help one another. Our theme for this year is Flames of Fire. There’s something about fire, you can kindle your fire or you can get fire from another person. In Tiv culture if you don’t have fire you can go to your neighbor and get it. The kind of men and women that we are bringing are those that by the grace of God carry a lot of grace. The ministers who will feature at the conference this year include our fathers, Gbile Akanni, Evangelist Tor Uja, Reverend Samuel Allaha, SinakiIbiem, Reverend Ambe, and a host of other people. These peoples’ lives are contagious; they carry tangible grace such that when you come in contact with them your life will experience some kind of turn around. This is the kind of thing we’re expecting God to do in this year’s COTGOM.

You give books to participants to take home at your conferences, can you explain what you hope to achieve with the books?

I must appreciate the Governor of this State, Governor Samuel Ortom. When he got to know about this programme, he decided that he would support pastors with the books. In the first edition we gave every Pastor that attended, Thompsons Chain Reference Bible. In the other edition, we gave them, God’s Generals. In the other one we gave them The Shepherd’s Staff and in the last one we gave them a study material, Foundations of Faith – it’s a Bible Study material. As I go round, I’m getting testimonies about these materials and they are making a lot of impact. There are a lot of things they didn’t know. The book called The Shepherd’s Staff is a Bible school actually. It’s a Bible school in a book. So when people go through it, they learn a lot courtesy of His Excellency, the Governor of Benue State. Subsequently we also gave out the book What God looks for in a vessel He uses. This year we intend to give Becoming Like Christ. Both books have been written by Brother Gbile Akanni.

How do you get finances and other kind of support for this program?

It’s a faith project so we trust God to bring in finances and God does bring in finances. The bulk of it is gathered among ourselves. The Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, has been gracious. Since we began almost every year he pays for the books and also gives us accommodation for our guest ministers, and a lot more. We’re appealing to people to make donations towards the ministers’ welfare, whatever you can give is welcome.  We’re still looking forward for contributions from the brethren. There’s something very touching about some of these Tiv ministers. Most of them live in the villages, even some of them who live in the semi-urban areas life has not been easy, it’s taking a toll on them but they are not giving up. Even in this town, there are pastors who are not doing well; everything they have goes on ministry. They pay staff, they manage equipment, and they manage many things such that at the end of the day they have nothing, yet they are not giving up, that is a very big sacrifice. I wish that people will appreciate the kind of challenges that pastors go through and will be willing to assist them with personal effects at a time like this.

Why are Tiv ministers not successful materially as their counterparts from other places?

People can only talk about me standing when I am no longer there because for now we just trust that God is helping us and that he will help us to the end.  But people forget and talk about Yorubas, the Ibos and the rest but their history of Christianity is long. They have a longer history than us. When did this Pentecostalism start here? Barely in the 1970s and the people who began this thing knew close to nothing. They knew only Holy Ghost fire evangelism. The Tiv ministers just came from nowhere. They were not well taught, they were not well schooled and when people criticize the Tiv fathers of faith, it’s not correct. I want to believe they tried and God helped them. I think the people that should be held responsible if they fail is our generation. If our generation now fails, they should be held responsible because we don’t have an excuse to fail because what our fathers did not have, we have today. People are teaching us. We have got exposure from different groups and I want to believe that the Tiv minister will do well. Some people believe that Tiv ministers are cursed. We are not cursed. We are blessed and by the grace of God these people they are despising today will move forward.

Do you have a word for the young gospel minister?

One of the things God wants very much from people is devotion. Whatever you are doing, give yourself to it, be consistent. Whatever you put your life in, if God called you, you will grow, whatever. Don’t do ministry with half-heartedness. Put your life into it and wait to see God grow the work because you cannot grow the work by yourself because if you want to grow the work by yourself you will enter into things that you didn’t bargain for. You will start selling salt and all kinds of things to make ends meet. Put yourself into your work and see God grow the work. Secondly, be sure God spoke to you. If God didn’t speak to you please don’t just venture into a thing that God didn’t speak to you about because God will not support what He didn’t say. He can only support what He says. The third thing, be faithful in money. If you get money be faithful. Thinking that doing ministry is to get money and eat, you will soon discover that what you are doing can never grow. For God to commit money into your hands you must be faithful in handling the little money that God gives you. If you are not faithful, you cannot move forward. Lastly, you cannot succeed in ministry in this land if you don’t pray. If you don’t pray, you can’t succeed. If you want to succeed in ministry in this land, you must give yourself tangibly to prayer. I came this far out of nothing, no support at all but because we gave ourselves to praying we have grown.

What do you do at your leisure?

I had a skewed upbringing. The person that raised me up was skewed towards work, not towards leisure. That is my cousin; I call him Daddy, retired Major Ikyenge Icoghol of blessed memory. He was oriented towards work, work and work, so all what I knew in my life was not leisure, just work. So now that I’m becoming old, it’s been very difficult for me to break out of it. As I get older, I’m thinking about how I can do some sports but hitherto I had not been doing any of such.

As Chairman of Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board in Benue State, what do you do?

My duties are very simple. The Pilgrims Board has an Executive Secretary that runs it. My work basically is to chair the board meetings and to ensure that the laws guiding the establishment are implemented and to checkmate if possible what is happening within the board and when it’s time to go to Israel, I lead the delegation. I’m the leader of the delegation of people going on pilgrimage every year to Israel. Basically this is my work.

Can you comment about pilgrimage which some see as a jamboree?

I had not been on pilgrimage until the Governor of this state gave me the privilege to go as the Chairman. I want to let you know that pilgrimage is very spiritual. Just imagine, even Jesus Christ went to places and couldn’t heal people because they didn’t have faith. To those who prepare for this journey of a lifetime, Jerusalem Pilgrimage is a journey every Christian should make. Imagine you have gone on pilgrimage and you are walking where Jesus Christ walked. Imagine you are standing on the mount of transfiguration and you are praying where Jesus prayed and heaven opened. Imagine you walk in the pool of Bethsaida. Just imagine. I want to let you know that there is no man or woman that goes to Israel with our team that doesn’t come back with a testimony. Lives are rededicated; people give their lives to Jesus Christ; people receive miracles; people get blessings; a lot of things happen. In fact, the last time we went, a number of pastors came and said, “Pastor, we want to send all our members to this place whether the government pays or not. Please come and aid us, we want to do that.” This is because of the level of spiritual impact it made. So I think that in our time and I want to give credit to our elder, Evangelist Tor Uja that had re-engineered pilgrimage to Jerusalem nationally. Pilgrimage, if it used to be jamboree, it is no longer a jamboree, not at all. If you get to that land and your behavior is not correct, you will be deported.

Have you had any incidence of deporting anyone from Benue State during your tenure?

Yes, we had an incident of deporting someone in this last pilgrimage because he was trying to escape.