If there is any Nigerian pastor who has dominated news headlines in 2017, it is Johnson Suleman, founder and general overseer of Omega Fire Ministries Worldwide. Suleman became a topical issue after the video where he revealed that he had ordered his security aides to kill any herdsman found around his church premises, went viral.
The controversial comment attracted criticisms, but he stood his ground, saying he had a right to defend himself. Suleman said he had it on good authority that some people were plotting to assassinate him.
The Department of State Services (DSS) even made an attempt to bundle him out of a hotel where he lodged in during a two-day crusade in Ekiti state, but Ayodele Fayose, governor of the state, came to his rescue.
Subsequently, the agency invited him, and he honoured the invitation, after which he commended the security operatives for their “professionalism”.
BORN INTO A HOME OF PARENTS PRACTISING DIFFERENT RELIGIONS
He was born in Benin, capital of Edo state. The date of birth of the preacher nicknamed: ‘The Oracle’, is unknown. His father was a Muslim, while his mother, a Christian. According to information available on his church’s website, some prophets came from Warri in Delta state to Benin a few days after he was born. They were said to have come with a message from God, and the message was that a prophet who would minister in God’s presence had been born.
His father rejected the message because as a Muslim, he did not see the possibility of his son leaving the fold. His parents disagreed on a number of issues, which eventually led to their separation.
JOINED AN OCCULTIC GROUP
The separation of his parents had a negative effect on him later in life. Suleman said the craze for acceptance made him take to cultism.
“I was a dignified cultist. I am from a home of separated parents. My parents had some issues. Any child from a home like that is bound to fall into the streets,” he said.
“So, I got into school and I wanted acceptance somewhere. Someone told me that there is something called brotherhood and that I would be accepted as a family member and I liked it. I didn’t know there was a beating part and being taken to the bush.
“I didn’t like that. But you have to go into it. What I always avoided then was the assignments. I was just like a floor member. I would go to meetings and when assigned to do something and I couldn’t, I had to look for someone to do it and pay for it. I was not really happy but I was there.”
In an interview with Encomium, Suleman spoke on how his mother, a retired police officer, tried to instill discipline in him and his siblings.
“My mother laid down the rule that you must be home by 6 pm. If you come home at 7pm, she would open the door for you. Then, she was in the police force,” he said.
“She would open the door and spray teargas into the room. That’s where you’d be locked up and you’d be battling till the morning to breathe. She was very tough. You can only think of getting out of the room if you can find your way to the door. It was a horrible experience.
“But now, I am happy that I went through that training. She had instilled discipline in us but then I didn’t like my mother. When I went to my father’s house, we were free to do all sorts of corrupt things. As a young Muslim, I finished my Quran and did my Wolima.”
HE HATED CHRISTIANITY
The influence of his father rubbed off on him, as he hated the religion upon which his fame now lies. Suleman said his youthful experience caused him to dislike Christianity. He thought many Christians were not sincere. Seeing the pastors collect donations from church members without accounting for the expenditure was a turn-off for him. But that was to change in 1989.
“I went to bed in December 24, and I woke up on December 26. I didn’t see Christmas day. I slept all through. In the midst of that, I was seeing hell, heaven and a voice told me that I was going to be a preacher,” he said of that experience.
“I woke up and went to meet a Mallam and he said I should go and do some recitations. But when I went back, I felt beaten.”
Suleman established his church in 2004, with its headquarters in Auchi, Edo state. The church is said to have more than forty branches across the world.
A JOURNALIST AND A WRITER
Information on his educational background is not in the public domain (TheCable contacted his church to provide details of his academic background, but the response is still being awaited). Suleman was said to have been trained as a mass communicator and has a doctor of Philosophy in human resource development. He has over twenty bestselling books to his name.
Suleman worked as an investigative journalist at TELL magazine, and later moved to PM News before joining DBN, a television station, which is no longer in existence.
WARNED JONATHAN AGAINST SEEKING REELECTION
Two years to the 2015 general election, Suleman warned Jonathan against contesting. In fact, he advised the immediate past president to return to his hometown of Otuoke in Bayelsa state. He published this in one of his pamphlets.
The statement hit the raw nerves of the powers that be, and his church suffered a backlash.
“That first of January in 2013, he brought down my church, Omega Fire Ministries. It was reported in the papers that I was a victim of prophecy. I wasn’t threatened, I was actually hit. I stood my ground. You can’t judge prophecies unless you have the spirit of prophecies,” he said.
“When I see journalists criticising prophesies, I laugh. I don’t blame them. Certain prophecies can be reversed through prayers. I have made prophecies about very stubborn leaders and they have contacted me. And we prayed about it.
“I saw the president a month before the elections and I personally told him to concede victory to save head. We have a president who is politically naïve and who didn’t understand the concept of power. The president has a media team who do not understand cease fire. There is a time to stop fighting, to replenish and respect human lives. When people come for their prayers to be reversed, no money is collected. I won’t mention names.”
RETURNED A PRIVATE JET WHICH A BUSINESSMAN GAVE HIM
In an interview with Vanguard last year, Suleman narrated how he turned down the gift of a private jet. “It is no crime for a man of God to have a private jet, if it is meant to reach the world faster in spreading God’s mission,” he said.
“But I don’t have one yet. The truth is that, I was given a private plane as a gift about one month ago. But God told me that the giver was not pure. So I rejected it. You may have seen the pictures of the jet on the internet. In fact, I collected it. But when I prayed over it and found out that the source of the giver’s wealth wasn’t sincere, I politely turned it down.”
HIS GREATEST CHALLENGE IS FLESH
Suleman sees “wickedness in the hearts of men” as a challenge, but flesh and the devil are the greatest challenge.
“Men of God called to proclaim the Gospel of Christ in truth cannot be separated from having challenges in their various assignments as challenges are part of the call. The general challenge in respective of the call is the flesh and the devil. If these two things are removed, there won’t be any challenge. As for the achievements, we have several daily, weekly, monthly, yearly achievements but the greatest of it all is that we have the Most High God with us in all our ways,” he said in an interview.
He is married, and the union is blessed with five children – four girls and a boy.
Photos from Apostle Suleman’s Facebook page.