HE GREW IN DESTITUTION, DID MENIAL JOBS AND LANDED IN DRUG WHILE IN JAIL IN SPAIN, HE HIT A TURNAROUND
Reverend Efe Savior Awusi is the General Overseer of God's Divine Favor Evangelical Church Okota, Isolo, Lagos State. He is Urhobo.
His story could be likened to that of David, who God loves dearly despite his sin. Though the travails are over three decades old, Awusi narrated his ordeal to Saturday Sun like it happened yesterday.
Every bit of his encounter remains fresh in his memory. Hot tears rolled down his cheeks as he recounted how he abandoned school at a tender age, worked as a service boy in a hotel and served as a petrol station attendant. During this period of his life he lived and survived in a primary school classroom. As a result of the kind of environment he was exposed to, he got involved in gambling (kalu-kalu) before he graduated in crime and became a drug pusher.
He was jailed in Spain for three years. Later, his jail term was increased from three to six years. While in jail, Awusi got the vision that he would be delivered within three years. The hands of God pointed at him as the chosen one. He gladly embraced his calling and paid his dues with abject poverty when he returned to Nigeria. Since his public declaration of Jesus Christ, he has not looked back in preaching the gospel.
Not many people who were arrested with drugs, convicted and jailed in Spain came back to tell their stories. Some would have rotted away in jail or lost their lives. His case is a proof of God's hand at work.
Growing up in a family of six would have been another experience of life but death mysteriously snatched all his five siblings at a tender age and left him to play the child's prank alone. He was seven years old when his father died. It became difficult to continue his education after the breadwinner was gone. His mother's kinsmen offered milk of human kindness and Awusi relocated to Kokori town where he was enrolled in primary school again. Knowing that he had little chances of survival, he took his studies seriously and topped his class. Passing him round his mother's relatives did not assist the young boy. He lost track of events, but for God's intervention, maybe he would not have found his feet again.
In primary 6, a girl in his class named Elizabeth came third, while he came fourth and that did not go down well with him. Awusi refused to go to school again because a girl came third. 'I cannot imagine that a girl's academic performance was better than mine. She used to come behind me'. Without proper guide, he refused to go school and went to live in Warri. What next? Youthful exuberance set in and he found comfort in menial jobs like bricklaying.
One day, he went to the motor garage in the morning and heard people shouting Lagos. He inquired, became interested immediately and was Lagos bound. In December 1972, Awusi arrived Iddo in Lagos with no contact, no address and nobody in mind. He survived the first week living on inquiries. The Observer newspaper he bought advertised a particular Japanese film that was supposed to be aired that same day. He luckily traced Shenla Cinema at Ebutte-Metta, paid and enjoyed his Japanese film that night. As the cinema hall closed at 11pm, going back to Iddo, his experience was that of a 'Johnny Just Come' (JJC). 'As I was walking under the yellow bulb streetlight, the colours of my clothes changed to yellow. I became confused. I started scrapping the trouser, it was still yellow. I walked down, now under the normal light the clothes returned to the real coluor. I was afraid until I got back to Iddo. I bought a tablet of soap to bathe in the morning, the soap did not foam. I did not know I was bathing with salty water. Before I woke up the next day, my bag was gone with the winds and I became totally confused and was wondering what was wrong with the so called Lagos.'
He has cut off from his family and became a Lagos boy. He roamed the streets until he got to Kano Street, Ebute-Metta where God opened doors for him. 'I saw an advertisement that required the services of a service boy in Soho Hotel. I applied in person to Mr. Layemi who was the manager and he employed me immediately.'
He discharged his duties well and won the heart of his master. But then, you cannot isolate the devouring eyes of a mature man from that of a lady. Layemi's teenage daughter, Aina found in Awusi a perfect soul mate. When her parents smelt something fishy, they knew that if care was not taken, the service boy would put their daughter in a family way. One Sunday, Layemi called him and said: 'My friend, I am dismissing you in the presence of God today being Sunday.' He suffered the first casualty and became jobless and homeless.
As he roamed the streets of Lagos, the young man found himself at Shomolu gazing into the future, looking for help from all nooks and crannies. It was not forthcoming. He ended up living in one of the classrooms in a primary school. 'In the midnight, armed robbers would come, flash light on me, I would tell them, I am homeless. They would close my window and go their way'. That primary school became his abode for a month.
He found another job as a petrol attendant at Agip on Herbert Macaulay, Yaba and had a new master. His master had sent him to the market and Awusi saw someone carrying boxing gloves and that inquisitive nature rose immediately. 'I like what you are selling, where can I learn boxing, he asked.' The gloves seller gave him the address at Igbobi. He sought permission from his master and started training as a boxer. As he was returning from boxing practice, he met some Warri boys that were in playing a game commonly known as kalu-kalu. They brainwashed him and convinced him to join in their business. He gladly accepted the offer and confessed that there were a lot of problems with kalu-kalu business even though his monthly salary was given to him in a week by his new employers.
In a short while, Awusi became the master of kalu-kalu. He applied and got the franchise to install the gaming machine. He hijacked a piece of federal government land in 1980 and became a tax collector from cloth dealers. Life became a moving train for him. He was quite comfortable with every aspect of life in full progress.
Riches attract male and female friends especially with Ghanaian ladies who were readily affordable. At this point, young and adventurous Awusi broke down in tears going down memory lane to remember the ugly side of his life. The father of four today became a night crawler who spent lavishly at nightclubs.
In 1986, one of his uncles came from Warri and again introduced him into drug business. Initially he was not interested because kalu-kalu was paying well. People were not really aware of drug business until retired the government read the riot act to offenders. Yet, his uncle persuaded him and he yielded to the smooth brainwash.
'I sent someone for the first trip. But subsequent times, I travelled myself. My uncle and I became close business pals. My first port of call was India but we later discovered that it sells better in Europe. In Spain, 100 grams of heroin was sold for six thousand dollars, while in India it was sold for two thousand dollars. With this discovery, Europe became the right drug market.' When he came back from that trip, life automatically turned around. He came back with a lot of money and clothing to deceive his innocent wife. She only knew her husband travels to Europe to bring in clothes to sell.
According to him, drug awareness was low. You could beat security operatives fast if you know how to pack and hide your drug. 'You could put it in your pocket, shoes, in hand bag or suit hangers, or hide it in tiny quantities and mat them together with hair extension'. As the business was booming, friends advised them to join Celestial Church of Christ for protection.
A prophet warned him in Cele to be careful that danger was looming. He would spend all his money when that danger comes. An adamant Awusi never believed, he headed to Spain the next day to do his normal business. Already his Gambian, Senegalese and Spanish boys were on hand to receive him with the goods for immediate distribution.
While in his hotel room in Las Palmas, a Ghanaian lady came to him and requested for some drugs. He wondered how she got details of his business. The lady told him someone informed her, he then released some to her. Awusi had no inclination that the game was up. He stepped out as usual and met his waterloo. 'I stepped out to move around and saw that same lady again with three white men and the hotel receptionist in a transparent elevator. I never suspected anything until when the elevator stopped and I tried to step out but was held back with force.' He was taken back to his room for thorough search and in the process the remaining quantities of white heroin he hid in his hanger were found. They were happy because they caught a big fish. He was taken to the police station immediately and to court for trial. Before the judge and police, he narrated the whole truth. At the awaiting trial where he was kept, Awusi started impromptu prayers asking God to have mercy on him. That was when the manifestations reared its head. One old man saw him there and carelessly said to him, 'You will be a pastor.' Though it was a good consolation, that was not what he needed then. Freedom was uppermost in his mind.
At this point, the reality of life had dawned on him. The huge man who weighed 125 kilogrammes reduced to 80kg. He remembered his family and how he will miss them forever. He thought of how he would die in a foreign land. But in all these, God had plans for Awusi.
In the cell which is now his new abode, weeping and gnashing of teeth became his food. He transformed into an instant prayer warrior. 'I fasted, cried and prayed to God inside my cell.'
One thing you observe about this man of God is his sincere remorse. Though his travails have seen decades, but the memories are fresh. Tears again rolled down his cheeks and he says he never knew God had plans for him. 'One day, as I was praying, the Holy Spirit came upon me and I fell in a trance. I heard a voice that said to me I will deliver you within three years.'
When he recovered from that trance, he shared his experience with some Nigerian boys who were in cell for the same offence. He remembered one Ugochukwu who said to him 'If you like let Elijah come down, once you are caught in a drug-related business in this country, you must go in for it.'
His trial started and on the second day, he was supposed to come and reaffirm the statement he made earlier by accepting ownership of the drug. He hired four popular Spanish lawyers, yet he was jailed for three years. Later the judges looked at the quantity of drugs found on him and increased the sentence to six years.
The world crumbled on him but he remembered that voice that promised to deliver him. Two days later, his lawyer came with a Gambian and asked him to appeal for his case because you never know what God can do. They appealed to the Supreme Court in Madrid. The appeal took time, but one day, his lawyer called to tell him he has won the case. There was wild jubilation in the prison. Even the prison officials questioned how he beat the Spanish judges. 'This is the hand work of God, we have never seen before', said Awusi.
He became a freeman again and the beautiful moment trailed him. It made front page stories on Spanish newspapers. Most of the captions read 'Black man won drug case at the Supreme Court'
As he was thanking God, some Americans came preaching the gospel. The repentant Awusi told them his story and made public confession of Christ Jesus. The preachers baptized him in Las Palmas before he came back to Nigeria as a born again Christian.
Back home in Nigeria, life was not rosy. To him, life took the other side of that biblical injunction that said, 'What the cankerworm has eaten, when God want to replenish, he will pay in a thousand folds.' As he faced financial challenges, he found it extremely difficult to cope with and was tempted to go back to his lucrative business despite the warning he got in a dream. 'I was in a dream and saw a finger pointed at me saying, do not go back.' Awusi followed his instinct as a man and used an emissary to India. He was caught and of course lost the capital, materials and the supposed profit. He was jailed for 25 years. The man found his way to Bangkok and committed another offence that led to another 15 years. In all 40 year jail term was handed over to him. He was released three years ago.
While sleeping one night, the Lord appeared to Reverend Awusi. 'He appeared to me in white and white. With His feet not touching the ground He called my name and my father's name and said I have chosen you, you will preach the gospel. My names and the message were repeated three times.' Poor Awusi, he fell down in total submission and said 'I will do your will.'
As he accepted, he did not know how to go about it. He had never preached before and was still a member of the Celestial Church of Christ. But then, when he saw a girl preaching in a commercial vehicle, he was challenged and started preaching with the popular John 3:16 (For God so love the world and gave his only begotten son…) God also asked him to quit the Celestial Church which he obeyed.
The man of God began to pay dearly for his extravagant lifestyle in his heydays. The once flamboyant guy now wallows in abject poverty. He relocated from high brow Yaba to an uncompleted building at Ayeni Street in Ikotun, a surburb of Alimosho Local Government Council and saw the darkest part of his life. He swallowed the bitter pill of poverty and his wife could not bear the excruciating hardship. She simply left him to carry his cross alone. There was no money to pay his children's school fees. They stayed at home and the struggle continued. 'When I walked the street, I would be looking down to see if I could pick N5 to buy food. If I eventually see, I would buy mashed beans (ewa-agoyin) add water to increase the quantity.'
Because Awusi knew the God that called him, he was hopeful while suffering and smiling. He would pray and ask for mercies. Dry fasting became a ritual for him. He would fast for 40 days with no water and no food. While going through all these, he would walk to Ikotun, Shomolu, CMS and Ajegunle to preach. He did that for a long time until God asked enrol at him to Bible College to widen his horizon. His church leader, late Reverend Adeyeri sponsored him through the Bible College. He met some of his co-pastors at the College.
Things began to brighten up again. He relocated into a better apartment through someone he prayed for and gave him the signal to start fellowship in the new apartment, which he did. The first warning Awusi got from God as he was being groomed for the pulpit was never to pray for a drug pusher. 'Do not pray for any man who is into drug business because it is blood money.'
As the ministry began to grow from strength to strength, he traced his uncle who introduced him into drug business to preach to him. He was warned not to come to his house again. He has tried to reach many of his drug colleagues to repent and embrace Christ.
With a few members, the Church was formally inaugurated in 2006.