Why I demanded return of tithe from my former church – Abuja man

17th March 2024

CHUKWUDIASO ONYEMA

Abuja-based furniture maker, Chukwudiaso Onyema, who went viral after demanding a refund of the tithe paid to a church, speaks to VICTORIA EDEME on his transition from Christianity to traditional religion

What kind of background do you have?

I am Mazi Chukwudiaso Onyema from the Oru East Local Government Area of Imo State. I am based in Abuja. I am a furniture maker, and I am 39 years old. I have five brothers and two sisters. I grew up in Imo State. My uncle took me to Abuja in 2000. I attended Junior Secondary School, Karo, but I later had an issue with my uncle, and I returned to Imo State to complete my secondary school education. I took the Senior School Certificate Examination at Mgbidi Secondary School, Imo State, after which I returned to Abuja to learn furniture making.

Are you married?

I got married in 2019 and I have two kids.

Were you born into a Christian family?

Yes, I was.

What was your experience growing up in a Christian home?

It was okay. I had no problems with my parents. They trained us well. The only issue I have is that there are things that my parents were not telling us. Even when I decided toq pull out from Christianity, some of my elders supported me.

What church were your parents attending?

My parents attended the Catholic Church.

Your video, in which you demanded a refund of your tithe and offerings from Dunamis Church, went viral last year. At what point did you move from the Catholic Church to Dunamis?

I first moved from the Catholic Church to Living Faith Church in 2004. In 2008, I moved to Dunamis Church.

Why did you move from the Catholic Church to the Living Faith Church?

The reason I moved from the Catholic Church to the Living Faith Church was because I frequently saw the miracles being performed in Living Faith. I pulled out of the Catholic Church to go and confirm if those miracles were real.

How did you go about confirming the authenticity of the miracles?

I wanted to be in their midst so that I would be seeing things live and direct, and not on the television. I later found out that they were not real. They were all packaged.

How did you know that the miracles were not real?

I was in Living Faith for about four to five years before leaving for Dunamis. then I moved to Dunamis because I used to see some drastic miracles on Dunamis Television. So I decided to move to Dunamis.

Why were you interested in miracles and not other aspects of Christianity?

I was not so concerned about the miracles. If I were so concerned about the miracle, I wouldn’t go into Bible training to know more about God. I was not moving around because of the miracles per se. I wanted to confirm if there was power in the name of Jesus. That’s what they show on TV; miracles about Jesus, and what Jesus did. So I wanted to know if it was true. That was why I switched churches.

Did you attend any Bible training session at Living Faith?

I didn’t attend any Bible training sessions and I was not a worker. I was just a normal church member.

How was your membership in Dunamis?

At Dunamis, I joined several training sessions and got certificates. I paid my tithes, offerings, vows, and others. What I was concerned about was the tithe because I had evidence. I was not concerned about the vows and offerings.

When did you start paying tithe?

I started paying tithe in 2008 when I joined Dunamis because of what was preached there. You cannot go to Pentecostal church without following their instructions or what the man of God is preaching.

You stated that you were once a preacher. When did you start preaching?

I started preaching when I was at Living Faith. I preached during morning cry and on the streets. I started preaching inside the bus, inside the market, and other places, even inside the church while at Dunamis.

What was the turning point for you that led to your viral video?

It was when I sowed a seed and in the end, I didn’t see the result. They kept on pushing me to continue sowing and I just realised that it was a scam. They preached that when I give to God, he would open the windows of heaven for me. I tried this from 2008 till my eyes opened. I realised that the owner of the whole universe didn’t need anything. He has everything so I don’t know the reason why they are giving to God to succeed and it’s not working. When I realised this, I wasn’t concerned about getting my money back. I wanted to open the eyes of many who still believed that they were giving to God. That was why I made the video.

When did you come to this realisation?

My eyes opened in 2018. I made the video on February 7, 2023.

What did you do after the realisation?

I decided not to follow any religion. I embraced humanity. When religion and spirituality are destroyed, we have humanity. So I embraced humanity to love my neighbour as myself so that the world would be better. For me, I believe in traditional religion because it was practised by my forefathers. Instead of me following foreign religions, I should follow traditional religions. If there is anything that is not good in traditional religion, we make it good rather than follow foreign religions. Foreign religions are not adding anything to Nigeria and that is why I quit. I’m not practicing traditional religion fully but I would rather claim it because it is better.

How do you practice your traditional religion?

It is a way of life for Africans. There is a way we marry and pray to the Almighty. The Almighty we are worshipping does not have any child but the foreign religion said that God has a son who came to wipe away the sins of the world. But today, sin continues. I’m not fully into traditional religion because some things are not right.

How do you pray?

I pray to the Almighty, the Creator. We call him ‘Chukwuokike’. We don’t communicate with our God through anybody. We communicate with Him directly, unlike other religions which say that we have to communicate with God through His son.

Did Dunamis respond to the viral video you made?

The secretary of the church called me from the headquarters. He said I should gather all my evidence because I had my tithe booklet, which they called the kingdom investment booklet. Whenever I paid my tithe, I used to write the amount and date. I told him that I was not coming to honour their invitation. I snapped the tithe booklets and forwarded them to him, with the total amount, which I don’t want to disclose as it’s between me and the church. Till now, he hasn’t responded to it.

How did the video impact you?

What I was fighting for was not money, because I’m blessed today. I have a car, company, house, and everything a man is supposed to have. I only made the video to open the eyes of many who are giving their hard-earned money to their fellow men, thinking that they are giving it to God. When I made the video, many people called me and said they wanted to help me or give me money but I refused.

Did you face any online criticism because of the video?

Yes, I did. When I first made that video, my Facebook followers were dropping me as a friend and speaking against me. But today, 90 per cent of those who spoke against me are now speaking in my favour. That’s why I didn’t retaliate. I just laughed off all the criticism. The video gave me more popularity.

How did your family react to it?

They were not expecting it. My mum called me and started crying. She said I abandoned my creator and was fighting God. I told her the reason for my action. In the end, she understood me; it was the same for my siblings.

What was your wife’s reaction to your realisation?

I came to this realisation even before getting married to her. I told her that I was not going to do any foreign wedding but would only do the traditional marriage. She disagreed because she wanted to wear a white wedding gown like other women. I begged her and talked sense to her and she understood me. When I made the video, she was angry. She called me from school as she was schooling at a university then. In the end, she also realised what I was saying.

Does your wife have a Christian background?

She was born into a Catholic family but we both met in Dunamis. When I left the church, she refused to leave the church but after we got married, she eventually left the church.

When did you become open to traditional religion?

That was in 2018 because I believe that there is nothing like spirituality.

Do you mean that traditional religion is not spiritual?

It is spiritual and that is why I have not embraced it fully. As I am, I don’t understand anything about spirituality and it is not working.

What is holding you back from embracing traditional religion fully?

There are some things they believe in that are not working. For example, people consult traditionalists to find out the culprit when there’s a case of stealing but it doesn’t work. There are instances where such traditionalists lose the items they use. If their divinations were working, they would have also used it to identify who stole their items.

What challenges did you face when you were transiting from Christianity?

It was not easy at all, as there were challenges from friends and family. They tried to change my mission but I held on to my conviction. There are many people with the same conviction as mine but they don’t want to come out now because of their families and friends.

So far, have you seen any specific change in your life?

I have seen so many changes. Now I sleep in peace. I don’t sleep with the mindset that somebody is after me or people want to kill me from the village. I now reason with my senses. The money I’m supposed to give to my fellow man as tithe, I am also investing it and it is yielding income to me. I’m enjoying my wealth here on earth. I’m not waiting for life after death. I’m benefitting a lot from embracing humanity.

How has your new lifestyle influenced your daily life?

In ancient Igboland, we had four market days and there were no resting days. These days were Nkwo, Afor, Eke, and Orie, wherein people were productive, unlike these days where Sunday is for resting, Tuesday for healing and deliverance, Wednesday for Bible study, and Friday for welfare prayers. During those days, one is expected to close the shop and go and pray to God because they believe that He will supply their needs through His riches in glory. So my transition has changed my life in so many ways. On Sundays, if I am lucky, I take my family to Igbo traditional gatherings to learn more about my tradition. As time goes on, we are going to remove some things that are not working well in these traditions. In India and China, they follow their ancestral religions and things are working perfectly for them.

What are things that should be removed from traditional religion to make it right?

In so many villages today, they have polluted the rivers due to their sacrifices to ‘maami water’ and other gods. They leave those sacrifices in the rivers and the items get spoiled and start smelling. All in the name of giving to gods, they are just messing up our environment. These are some of the things to make right. If they want to sacrifice, they can do it at the side of their house and in the evening, gather the items and burn them, instead of polluting the air and the environment. Secondly, there are some marks given to people when they are sick. All of these do not work. Sick people should go to the hospital.

Do you think it is possible to change these beliefs that have shaped the traditions for ages?

It is possible. There is nothing impossible for man to do. If we are determined to change it, we will. The children we are giving birth to today are leaders of tomorrow. The right knowledge should be imparted to them. Let them know the right and the wrong. Don’t bring religion to them. When you have children today, you force religion on them and do not allow them to make their own decisions. Children are being forced into what they don’t understand.

What steps are you taking to ensure the change?

I am trying my best. I have started it in my house, in my workplace, and in my neighbourhood. Anywhere I go, I let them know that man is god and we are gods to our fellow men. The reason why we are still suffering is because we embrace religion and lack humanity. I will not force my belief on people but I will tell them where I stand.

From your experience, are there any similarities between Christianity and humanity?

There are no similarities at all. Humanity is based on reality, but spirituality and Christianity are based on illusions and stories that we are not sure of.

SOURCE:PUNCH

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