Abuja’s mountain of miracles: Prayer houses partition mountaintop for church business
Miracle seekers flock a rocky mountain in Kubwa, a suburb of Abuja in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), as worship centres spring up by the day.
The Trials of Brother Jero is a light satiric comedy by Wole Soyinka, on religious hypocrisy in the form of a charlatan or fraud named Brother Jero, who preaches to his followers on Bar Beach in Lagos. Jero is a master of manipulation and keeps his followers in submissive position because he understands what they long for– money, social status, and power—and convinces them that they will soon be able to fulfill these materialistic desires.
Unlike Soyinka’s play with setting on Bar Beach, the Abuja ‘miracle’ ground in this instance, is real life story playing out on the sprawling rocky mountain along Arab Road, Kubwa.
The lee side of the mountain from where climbers find their way to the top, is some 1000 meters away from the long bridge over the Abuja-Kaduna rail line on Arab Road.
Mountain of activities
A multiplicity of human activities: religious, social and economic, take place on the mountain. While worshippers do their thing, Gbagyi farmers carry out their vocation in complete indifference and Fulani herdsmen graze their cattle nearby. Maize and millet are two basic crops that do well when cultivated in the area. There are also natives, who set fire on the rock to reduce the strength of granites for ease of crushing. It was also gathered that some private security outfits use the open space for physical training and endurance tests.
Notwithstanding this concourse, the aerial view of Kubwa atop the mountain is delightfully scenic.
Encounter with a prophet
Those who throng the mountain for prayers and ‘deliverance’, especially on Saturdays and Mondays that witness intense activities and human traffic, seem to rely on Obadiah 1:17 which says: “But on Mount Zion, there shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; the house of Jacob shall possess their possession.”
For effect, that biblical text is boldly inscribed on the floor of one of the prayer demarcations on the mountain called, “Mountain of Faith.”
Although it takes about two hours of tedious and tortuous efforts to get to the peak of the mountain, 30 minutes climbing could take a worshipper from the foot of the mountain to a significant point, where spiritual activities begin to take place. It is said that the extent to which a visitor climbs depends on the severity of his mission to the mountain. A female worshipper, Janet (not real name), who claimed to have been to the topmost part of the mountain, told Abuja Metro that, “The nature of your problem determines where you get to.”
The prayer sections or partitions numbering over 20 are scattered at various points on the mountain ranging from levels one to five. Each partition is carved out in white lines and inscriptions to indicate the name of the group that owns it.
With journalistic curiosity, the climb to see what goes on atop of the mountain lasted for about 25 minutes and fatigue set in; yet, it was at level two of the mountain before a young man, who introduced himself as a ‘prophet’ came around. With toothy smile, the young man in his mid-thirties said he believed the reporter was a potential client. Like Brother Jero, ‘Prophet Emmanuel Obiesie’, as he introduced himself, began to act as a tourist guide of sort, displaying his expertise by presenting himself well to visitors and ‘prospective clients’ as he explains and demonstrates how he gets on to live by his calling.
Now, as tour guide, prophet Obiesie led Abuja Metro into ‘the holy of holies’, dropping details of happenings on the mountain. He claimed to have abandoned his cosmetics business in Lagos to answer the ‘calling.’ He added that to equip himself properly, he attended a theological college, which name he did not want to give; before finding his way to Abuja to set up the Covenant Keeping Ministry on the mountain.
Several other graffiti announced other prayer cells and even bible schools; most of them with funny sounding names such as, “Christ Wild Naked Wire.” There were also two prayer centres with makeshift structures, one of which had people chanting Oruko Jesu (In Jesus name), with a bell clanging in commensurate emphasis.
Different thoughts coursed through the reporter’s mind as the climb continued. ‘Why would somebody suffer for more than 30 minutes to climb here to pray’, he thought. And as if he was reading the reporter’s thoughts, the ‘prophet’ retorted: “Oga, hmmm, this world you see is very dangerous. There are evil people everywhere, even some people you see on the road are not human beings; so, you need serious prayers and deliverance to survive these days.”
Pressing his opinion further, he cited the Old Testament prophets, Moses and Elijah, saying that they always went to the mountains and prayed. Even Jesus Christ prayed on the mountain too, he added, pointing out that anybody with serious spiritual problem could get spiritual solution
after praying on the mountain.
The mountain prophet said many of the patrons include people with problems of childlessness, marriage, visa, unemployment, strange illness and spiritual bondage from their hometown, which seem to retard their progress.
On the efficacy of their prayers and deliverance methodologies, the prophet stressed that it works. “Many people are receiving miracles; even yesterday, one woman came to see me from the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) with her four children. She said her husband is abroad and has refused to call them for over five years. So, we prayed together and they are coming again today”, he said.
To add to the curious setting of the prayer mountain, there is a rivulet in the precincts, which worshippers drink from while on the mountain. The prophet explained that they also apply the water to other purposes, including baptism, healing and ablution. “People who have problems take their bathe here to ward off evil; some fetch it and take home. And it’s really working for them,” he assured.
Since the ‘man of God’ said he was expecting his clients, could it be that he charges fees? Obiesie claimed that God directed him from the outset not to charge fees, pointing out that he lives on goodwill offerings from clients who are moved by the nature of the prayers or as an expression of faith to make the prayers work.
At this point, Abuja Metro pleaded with him to accompany it further up the mountain before he could go down to wait for his clients. Proceeding on the uncharted path, the loneliness of the trail added to Abuja Metro’s exhaustion. “Don’t give up”, he charged, adding that we were almost at the next point. With some push, the reporter eventually made it to the third level of the mountain, where the young prophet was to take his leave for the reporter to continue his climb further up the mountain.
However, before we parted, the issue of safety came to mind on whether there had been incidences of snake or scorpion bites or even attacks from dangerous animals. Although Obiesie assured that there had never been any incident, the presence of some dangerous ants on the way up the mountain, put a serious doubt to his claim.
At that point, prophet Obiesie went away to wait for his clients. Unfortunately, after a determined effort that lasted for over 10 minutes, the reporter was practically exhausted and the only option was to leave the mountain. But, climbing down at this point, presented another tough challenge.
Around the foot of the mountain, a lady occupies a spot, where she roasts yam. She revealed further interesting tales about the mountain. Some persons in search of spiritual solutions, she said, sometimes stay two to five days up the mountain for prayers, adding that her business booms on Saturdays, when many worshippers usually come around the mountain.
When Abuja Metro called one of the phone numbers on a poster announcing, “free bible school” on the mountain, a voice from the other end said the programme had ended sometime ago. He explained that the programme organised by Lagos- based Christ Passion Ministry lasted for one year. He, however, disclosed that any interested person could get their manual and receive online theological training for six months.
Most people have different views about the practice of going to the mountain to pray. Reverend Precious Ogo of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, Abuja, said in as much as he believes in miracles, the most fundamental thing in Christianity is faith; believing in Jesus Christ and following His word.
He said those who go to mountain for prayers and deliverance are only following religion, regretting that most churches today, only teach what to believe, without teaching that complementary action was needed to get result.
“They take the scripture and quote it out of context. These people practice what I call non-biblical spirituality.
“Many churches are not helping matters. They are busy pushing people to man-made ideas and man-made solutions. They are busy pushing people away from the word of God. The preachers are not the ones working the miracles. So, if it is God that does it, then they should teach the people the word of God; for miracles are in the word. Whether you want money or pregnancy, it is in the word of God”, he said.
Rev. Ogo advised those that run from one prayer house to another for miracles, to adhere strictly to the teachings of the bible.
His words: “Whether you pray on the mountain, whether you pray in the valley or whether you pray in your house, what is important is, do you have faith? If you like, go and pray on the mountain for 30 days; without the word of God, you’re wasting your time.
“Christianity is all about belief, obedience and action. That is why the Bible says that faith without work is dead”, he stated, stressing that poverty will continue to make people pursue miracles due to ignorance.