Prophet Chukwuemeka Ohanaemere is testimony that size cannot obstruct one’s determination to excel in a chosen career. The petit fellow, who has seized minds in Onitsha, can easily be lost in a crowd of three. He is that small.
He has put his size to mesmerising acrobatics that hold audiences captive in serial releases of theatrics, some of which you won’t expect in a Christian place of worship. He is him.
He can break into a dance in the middle of his rare conversations about the Almighty: the music could be any trending secular ‘dance all’ number with lyrics that should not be heard in church. He makes his own rules in a business that is doubtlessly lucrative.
Some of his best advertisements are video clips of followers. In testifying to his abilities, they spray him with money, in amounts that confirm he is into serious business, or his visits to businesses, where crowds quickly gather when they hear he is around.
An alliance with Nollywood actors guarantees a sprinkling of popular faces to his church. Whether worshippers go for Nollywood, wrestling, his dance steps or miracles, their expectations are exceeded.
However, he remains his best advertisement with performances that include sporadic leaps into the air as if he intends to fly. The unwritten rule is space, more space, around him for his sprouts of displays.
Odumeje, as he is more popularly known, is never about the expected. He slams the sick on chairs and floors, in manners reminiscent of televised wrestling contests. According to him, broken limbs, have to be pieced to qualify for his healing touch. He challenges the competition to try what he does.
Not so eloquent in English, barely able to sustain conversations in the language, Odumeje relies on frequent resort to babbling, supposedly communing with spirits, to paper over the deficit. He is not in competition with the market.
He knows what the audience wants, and dishes it out in varieties beyond the audience’s imaginations. That’s first class service delivery, not just church service.
Though a shadowy character masking his cant in artistry and acrobatics, some say his traditional ways are adequately accommodated in the mix, and mist. In his fleeting, speedy, choreographed public engagements, there is hardly time to understand his moves as they issue in quick successions.
He craves attention. His expertise in self-promotion soared when he said he would walk on River Niger, the water that defines Onitsha, as much as Onitsha defines it. The city waited with abated breath.
Days to the miracle, Odumeje denied promising to walk on the river. By then, more people were lining up to his servings of entertainment which comes in combos of dance, drama, and diatribe, as his spirit dictates.
I like his dance steps.
I like his patois.
I like his dressing.
He is dandy.
He is natty.
He is trendy.
He is almost classy.
Odumeje is a lesson on how open the religion enterprise is. With a ceaselessly growing market of belief and unbelief, new target audiences are always available. If not, you create them.
Breakdown in services like hospitals, instability in the economy, and a myriad of issues rooted in mystics, draw crowds to Odumeje.
Efforts to de-market him fail for he is the creator of the niche market in which he operates. It is his business. He operates a sphere others consider too provincial, even crude.
Odumeje would likely fall when he fails to invent new skills to keep his game, his muscles flag, or an understudy overtakes him.
His choice of Onitsha will extend the city’s fame for baptising enterprise. Traders need him. He doesn’t need more than a miniscule of the millions of business people who need protection for their millions – he is already made.
Next step in his revolving business would be to create a special class of people who can access him. The services for this class would be the final confirmation of his place in the effervescent history of business trajectories in Onitsha.
He has grabbed attention. He is squeezing everything out of it. He won’t stop after a self-promoting himself to an Onitsha essential balm.
Imagine his claim that if he hadn’t travelled the petrol tanker fire that ravaged Ochanja, Onitsha’s second largest market, would have been averted?
With Odumeje, you don’t need hospitals, his miracles see to that. Now, Onitsha may not even need the Fire Service.
Onitsha should brace up for a new trader who speaks the language of the land in slangs and élan that slide the mystics of religion to his side.
Isiguzo is editor-in-chief Momentum Africa Media.