By Cosmas Omegoh
His name is Pastor Emmanuel Jimmy. There isn’t much about him that commands so much attraction and attention as he neither rides in the latest Sports Utility Vehicle nor lives on up market Banana Island in Lagos.
But Jimmy’s story is one hard to ignore, particularly in demonstrating the place of providence in the affairs of men.
Jimmy, an itinerant preacher, is not your everyday clergyman. However, from time to time he goes on prison evangelisation.
In Lagos, many who ride on the public transport know Jimmy, but not much about his life.
At the moment, Jimmy does not know whether he is Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba. He cannot claim Urohbo or Tiv or Efik or English either.
“All I know is that I’m a Nigerian,” he said, as he resigned to fate.
Jimmy is a man who was told he was picked up as a day-old from the dustbin in Mushin, Lagos.
He knows no one as his father or mother. He was weaned in a motherless babies’ home on till he turned four. Then a family adopted him.
But four years later, he was hauled into the streets to survive all alone, thus rendering his growing up days jagged.
At some point, Jimmy “had no home, no food.”He had nobody to give him neither care nor shelter.
He recalled “at that time, I slept anywhere the night met me – on the tables, in open places, in front of shops, inside Danfo buses and abandoned vehicles.”
Jimmy has no formal education. Yet he now writes and speaks impeccable English, Yoruba, Igbo and Efik languages.
He has also acquired a skill as an industrial plumber eagerly sought after.
He is happily married and has four children – all boys.
But he counts his feats all dung. Now, only God and His works matter to him. To God he commits his everyday life and breath.
In this thrilling and enthralling encounter, Jimmy unburdened himself. Welcome to his world:
“I was told how someone picked me from the dustbin at Mushin, and taken to Little Saints in Pamgroove, Lagos. Then four years later, I was adopted by a couple. The man’s name was Jimmy from Akwa Ibom State, a soldier who lived in Mushin, but later moved over to Ikeja Cantonment. He was married to an Igbo woman called Nkechi.
“The couple had no issue for years. Then about 1978/79, they decided to adopt me and gave me care.
“They gave me an opportunity to live a normal life. But I didn’t know that I was not their biological child.
“As the years passed, the woman conceived and had a baby boy. Two years later, she had another baby, a female.”
Jimmy said his life took another course after the arrival of his foster mother’s second child.
“From that time, the woman started behaving funny. She forced me to be the last to sleep and the first to wake up to do house chores. All day, she sent me hawking, doing stuffs far above my age.
“At some point, I started asking her ‘ah, mummy, why are you burdening me with all these loads even when her kids were also coming up? I was then approaching nine.
“Her husband was a cook in the army. He would go out on assignment and come back in a month’s time.
“One day, she asked me if I didn’t know I was not her biological child. She told me she could not bear having me. That struck me like thunderbolt.
“When her husband returned, I told him about the encounter.
“After listening to me, he engaged his wife, thinking I was out of the house. But I was somewhere listening to their conversation.
“After that, I was no longer happy with myself. So, I called the woman one day and asked her who my mother was.
“At that point, she yelled at me ‘go to hell.’
“When I told her husband about it, he asked me to be calm and not to see things that way, promising to take care of me.
“Progressively, the situation grew worse. There was no hope that I would go to school. She sent me hawking salt all day around Maryland, Mende, Ikeja all the way down to Ojota. Each day I returned, I faced maltreatment, and ridicule. One day, she attempted plucking my eyes. I felt it was too much.”
Jimmy said when things got to a head, he fled, thus marking another turning point in his life.
“Then one day, I went out and never returned.
“That was how I started sleeping anywhere I could, anywhere the night met me – inside commercial and abandoned vehicles – anywhere the night met me. Anywhere I saw a gathering, I also went there. I woke up the next day and continued. I was always on the move, not knowing what the future held for me. Then gradually, the harshness of life started to set in.”
Then one day, Jimmy again experienced yet another turning point. It was one that changed the meaningless life he was leading.
“About 1990, I met an Igbo man – Mr Ohakwe Onovo – at Iyana-Ipaja garage.
“On that occasion, I was eating under a table. Some people had a party; then someone gave me some food to eat.
“Just then, Mr Onovo walked up to me, demanding to know why I was always around, carrying loads for a fee instead of being in school. He demanded to see my parents. But I gave him no answer.
“Angry, the man disappeared. Then he showed up in about 30 minutes with a police man. They demanded to see my parents. It was then that I opened up, and told them all I knew about myself.
“There and then, the police took me. The next day, they took me to the motherless babies’ home in Pamgroove, but there was no record of me.
“Then, the police asked the man what he could do next, and he said he would like to give me care because he felt pity for me.
“Then, the police said that the matter had to be taken to court for proper documentation.
“At the court, Mr Onovo was asked what he intended to do with me, and he said he wanted to teach me his trade – industrial plumbing.
“He was living somewhere in Ikeja GRA. So the court sent someone to his home for investigation. Then every six months the court sent people to know how I was faring. That was in the 1990s.
“The man gave me the best he could give me to live a normal life. He was a contractor. Every morning he took me to his office in Yaba, and for two years, I learned under him.
“One day, Mr Onovo took me to a company in Ojodu Begger. They employed me as an apprentice because I was too young. While there, they taught me more of industrial plumbing and paid me N600 every weekend. They also gave me a place to live.
“In 2004, when I was considered mature, they formally employed me on a salary of N22,000 per month. Then I rented an accommodation in Ogba. Then I got married in 2009 to my wife – an Igbo girl. I was with them for seven years.”
He recalled that while he was working, he always had a pull to go to church. Then he pitched his tent with Christ Mission to the World in Ogba.
“I met the pastor and he became like a father to me.
“He was the one who tasked me to learn to read and write. So, I started buying books and started learning, ‘A for Apple, B for Boy’ and so on.
“It was also in his church that I met my wife.”
Then another change came his way.
He said: “After I gave birth to my first son, I left the company,” and also left his former church.
“Then one day, in a dream, God appeared to me and asked me to minister His word. The call had earlier come in 1994, but I turned it down. It came again in 1996, but I didn’t listen. Then the building I was living in got razed. I went to live in my new church in Omole Estate.
“When the calling came again I said: ‘God, if truly you are calling me, teach me to read.’
“After school hours, I would sneak into Omole Primary School and try copying all the things the teacher wrote on the blackboard; I would return to my pastor and ask him to put me through. Seeing my zeal, he bought me books to read. Then he gave me assignments. He began taking me to seminars, and later, sent me to a Bible school.
“Today, I can read and I can write. I can interpret building plans too because I learnt that during my plumbing training.
“Then in 2010, my pastor called me and said the Lord told him that I should go into the ministry. Then I gave up. Ever since, I have been ministering the word of God in busses and wherever l go.
“Ever since, I yielded to the call of God, I have received much more support than I could not get on my own. It is amazing.”