• Members divided, exchange blows
Every Sunday, two worship services are held at Victory Pentecostal Ministries International Incorporated in Enugu. While one holds in the morning, the other takes place in the afternoon.
The church is divided into two factions. Members who belong to the camp of Pastor Ralph Okebu (47) turn up in the morning while those who hold allegiance to his wife, Prophetess (Mrs) Caroline Okebu (51) attend in the afternoon. Before the worship arrangement was arrived at, congregants on both sides had fought physically over the use of the church auditorium located at Km 1 Enugu – Onitsha Expressway. According to a source, it took the intervention of the police to restore some form of order in the church, adding that policemen were stationed in the premises for two Sundays to avoid bloodshed.
“The leaders of the church and some of the members were regular customers at various police stations in Enugu, as they made allegations and counter allegations against one another. In fact, the pastor and his wife traded punches and ended up at the police station,” the source stressed.
The reporter attended a Friday evening service held in the Church auditorium by the Prophetess Caroline faction on April 11, 2014. The Ralph Okebu faction said to be in the minority kept away although some movements were noticed in and around his office.
But how did the church come to this ugly pass? Inside sources linked the crises rocking the church to allegations of inappropriate relationships, greed, money mongering, deceit and quest to convert church auditorium into a warehouse.
Tracing the genesis of the crises, a member of the Church, Chuks Okonkwo, a lawyer, who described himself as the Church administrator, said: “A problem arose in the Church about last year. There could have been problem brewing but it came to the fore about January 2013 and it followed a prophecy that was released by the prophetess in the ministry, Prophetess Caroline Okebu. Part of these prophecies touched on the general wellbeing of the Church while a part of it touched on certain members of the Church, including the head pastor, Pastor Ralph Okebu. But the personal message that touched on Pastor Ralph Okebu could be seen to be what led to the factionalisation of the Church because in his own thinking, such a message shouldn’t have been revealed on the pulpit and the message had to deal with his amorous relationship with some female members of the church. And it was a warning. Basically, the ministry is a prophetic ministry and when there are prophetic revelations, they are taken very seriously. But where we were concerned was that part of that instruction was that we should, for 21 Sundays, have our services on the Mount of Challenge. Mount of Challenge is a place we normally go to make special prayers. There are usually people who have challenges in business, marriage and whatever. We go to the Mount of Challenge. We call it Mount of Challenge because that is where we challenge our challengers. It is a spiritual praying ground, which has been there as far back as 1979. After that revelation by the prophetess of the ministry, the whole church attended worship service on a Sunday there under the leadership of Pastor Ralph Okebu. But after the first Sunday, he reneged. The rest of us went to church the next Sunday thinking that after the normal Sunday school, we would retire to the mountain to have the service proper but that was not to be. So, we were surprised and his reason was that it was not going to be possible, especially considering that the rains would come, for people to go and worship in the open air or in the bush, according to him. But by the third Sunday, a lot of people had said that the ministry has a foundation and whatever the Lord says is what the people are going to do. So, on the third Sunday about 80 percent of the members relocated to the mountain for Sunday services. I want you to note that every other weekly activity of the church still held in the church and as scheduled. These include the Monday faith Mum from pastor
At 10.46am on April 11, 2014, Sunday Sun called Pastor Okebu on his mobile phone to fix an interview appointment with him, so that he can state his own side of the story. But he said he was in the village because his children were on holiday, promising to call the reporter when he gets back to Enugu the following day.
Having waited for his call till 5.30pm the following day to no avail, the reporter called his number again without response. At 5.32pm, the reporter sent him an SMS but he did not reply. The SMS reads: “Good evening sir. Are you back? I’m still waiting for your call.” He is yet to call.
Battle in the temple of justice
In the suit instituted by the Pastor Okebu (on behalf of the incorporated trustees) against Prophetess Caroline Okebu and Deacon Ani at a Federal High Court in Enugu vide Suit No: FHC/EN/CS/9/2014, he is seeking “an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the defendants/respondents by themselves, principal, agents, servants, privies or any person or persons howsoever called or designated from interfering with, trespassing on or entering into the plaintiff’s church building and premises situate at Km 1, Enugu/Onitsha Expressway, GRA, Enugu pending the hearing of the substantive suit.”
In an affidavit in support of motion on notice dated February 10, 2014, Pastor Okebu said that “prior to my founding of the plaintiff/applicant (Victory Pentecostal International Ministries Int. Inc.), I was a pastor with New Life Winners Church until I got a revelation from God to open up and or establish the plaintiff/applicant for the purpose of winning or converting souls to God.”
He also averred: “That in the course of my pastoral mission at Obeleagu Umunna in Ezeagu Local Government Area, Enugu State under the New Life Winners Church that I met the 1st defendant/respondent who approached me and informed me of a message she claimed to have received from God that I am her husband.
“That as a man of God, I did not doubt the message and I quickly got married to the 1st defendant/respondent whom I then believed was a true servant and/or a minister of God.
“That during the registration of my new found church (the plaintiff/applicant) I included the defendants as members of the Board of Trustees of the Church.
“That I broke up with the 1st defendant/respondent as my wife following my discovery of some concealed facts about the status of the 1st defendant/respondent and her children including the fact that she is still legally married to another man who up and until date is still alive.
“That sequel to my above discovery, I took certain domestic decisions which did not go down well with the 1st defendant/respondent hence her decision to destabilize the plaintiff/applicant.
“That barely two to three months after she took some worshippers to Milken Hill to worship every Sunday, the defendants/respondents and their cohorts came to Km. 1, Enugu/Onitsha Expressway GRA Enugu being the place of worship of the plaintiff/applicant and disrupted severally the Sunday and weekly activities of the members of the Church.
“That the defendants/respondents told members of the plaintiff/applicant in the church that they should disperse, that the plaintiff/applicant is no longer in existence, that they have formed a new Victory Pentecostal Ministries and that they will make sure that the plaintiff/applicant is disbanded.
“I am aware that the defendants/respondents went as far as telling the plaintiff/applicant’s members present in the congregational service that I am a fake pastor, an adulterer, a thief and so many other unprintable words all aimed at destabilizing the applicant/plaintiff.
“That when the defendants/respondents could not succeed in their planned antics, they invaded the church premises on 13th day of May, 2013 at about 10.20pm, attacked me and beat me up saying that I should leave Enugu State and go to my hometown Anambra State. It took the intervention of God Almighty for me to escape from being killed on that date.”
He further claimed that thou