One of the testimonies that I have often told people about in relation to The SCOAN is that of Sani Emmanuel. Those conscious of the budding prospects within Nigerian football will certainly be familiar with his name, but what many don’t know is his story – a modern day ‘rags-to-riches’ tale that is still in the process of being written.
Within football circles, Sani Emmanuel is known as the star of the FIFA U-17 World Cup held in Nigeria late 2009. The winner of the prestigious Golden Ball (MVP) and Silver Shoe (Second highest scorer) at the tournament, Sani joined the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney and Fernando Torres as players whose careers were catapulted into prominence in their tender teenage years. Sani trialled with the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham before being snapped up by Italian giants Lazio, and is now tipped as one of football’s future stars, a prospective saviour for the dwindling fortunes of Nigeria’s national team.
But Sani would not be where he is today without the existence of The SCOAN and the selfless visionary support of T.B. Joshua. His testimony typifies what the work of God is all about – changing lives. Maybe we refer to Sani because he has been catapulted onto the international football scene, but his case mirrors that of literally thousands who God brings through the doors of The SCOAN on a day-to-day basis.
Here is an article written shortly after the U-17 World Cup, explaining Sani’s journey to The SCOAN and subsequent rise to footballing stardom, in the words of his father. Weaved from the tapestry of brokenness comes hope and brilliance – when God is involved and the welfare of our fellow brothers uppermost in the heart.
In the recently concluded FIFA U-17 World Youth Championship dubbed Nigeria 2009, Sani Emmanuel had the world in his soccer boots. He mesmerized opponents at will, and sliced through defences the way a hot knife slices through butter. He dazzled and made nonsense of defenders, scoring textbook goals. In all, he scored five goals in 221 minutes of play and won the FIFA U-17 World Cup Golden Ball as well as the Silver Shoe. Through a dint of hard work and dedication to God, Emmanuel now rides the crest of fame and has become a toast from clubs across Europe.
But that is not the news…
The news is that the boy honed his soccer career at a most unlikely place – the church, specifically the Synagogue Church Of All Nations, where he is top striker with My People FC, a football club owned and funded by the church’s General Overseer, Prophet T.B. Joshua.
Emmanuel has since returned to the Synagogue where he lives. And last Sunday he set thousands of parishioners into rapturous celebration as he stormed the sanctuary for a thanksgiving session. Former Zambian president Frederick Chiluba was among other eminent persons that rejoiced with Emmanuel, who dedicated his awards to Nigeria’s rising army of suffering youth, pledging to start a foundation that would help them become useful and influential members of the society.
Many wept for joy as the golden boy narrated his rag-to-riches story. His father, Sani Unakhasor, from Edo State, was among the weeping crowd, and he too wept like a baby. His tears were both of joy and intense sorrow. Joy for his son’s success and deep sadness over the tragedy that brought him, and later, his son, Sani, to the Synagogue. Though not rich, Unokhasor, a father of nine, and husband of two wives, was enjoying life in his little corner until tragedy struck.
One day, a hot argument burst out between both women, and in a fit of madness, the junior wife, who was then nursing a three-month-old baby, took a bottle, broke it and stabbed her senior colleague in the throat. The senior wife bled to death before she could reach the hospital. With one wife in a hospital morgue and another in detention for murder, Unokhasor’s life took a spin. There was an uncontrollable chaos in his family. Nothing he did ever worked. He could not cater for his children, and two of his daughters got married out of frustration. He wanted to commit suicide. He almost did, until he met Prophet T.B. Joshua.
Well, as they say, the taste of the pudding is in the eating. Below are excerpts from Unokhasor’s heart-rending narration:
“My name is Sani Unokhasor. I’m from Edo State. I’m a widower. I married my first wife with happiness. We had no problem with child bearing when we got married. We had our first issue, a girl. The second one, too, is a baby girl. The third and the fourth are girls. I was confused because I’m the only son of my father. And my father is an old man. Well. I started worrying about not having a male child. That’s what made me to go and marry a second wife. But as God would have it, my first wife took in before the second, and she gave me my first baby boy.
“In all, I have five boys, four girls, making nine. Then, the junior one has three boys, while the senior one has four girls, two boys. And there was trouble in my house every day. I didn’t know what to do. Should I divorce one and retain the other? I couldn’t do it because they both have children for me. Well, I started battling with them. I was at work one day, and the chairman of the residents association called me to say that my wives were fighting. I went out to settle them. When I got there, the junior one took a broken bottle and stabbed the senior one in the throat.”
“I started shouting, calling on people to rescue her. On my way outside to look for taxi, I removed her wrapper to cover the wound because she was bleeding seriously like a pump. Shortly after, she gave up.”
“I was crying. I didn’t know what to do. The children were crying, too. There was confusion everywhere. I decided to kill myself. But I couldn’t do it. So, I ran to the police station and invited the police. The police came and took my junior wife to prison. They took me to the police station, too.”
“Now, my junior wife was nursing a baby, she went to prison with the baby. The baby grew up inside prison. She spent three years there. Then, they asked me to come and take the baby. I took the baby home and began to nurse him. I suffered a lot to see that he survived. The problem was so much I decided to kill myself but I couldn’t do it. I felt that if I did it, who would take care of my children? That’s what made me to be patient. And I started suffering with them. Out of frustration, I gave out two of the girls, who were about 20 years old, in marriage. They married out of frustration and I continued to battle with the rest. Some of them couldn’t go to school again. They dropped out.
“To worsen my problem, my sons began to fight themselves: ‘Your mother killed my mother I will kill you’. It was hell. Then one day, my son (Sani Emmanuel) came home and began tell me about the Synagogue Church. I became convinced and I said, ’Let me go with you’. That’s how I managed to come here. I begged God to help me out of this problem. To eat was a big problem. There was no money to feed. Some of the children have gone to Abuja to work for people because there is no money. I cannot do anything to help them.”
At the height of Unokhasor’s extreme suffering, he found The Synagogue, through his son. Prophet T.B. Joshua restored him with an unspecified amount of money and Sani Emmanuel, whose mum was stabbed to death, had found comfort in the hollows of Joshua’s hands and had become an altar boy, living in the church and, for the first time in a long time, enjoying the world. Later he became a member of Joshua’s football club, My People FC.
Sani Emmanuel’s first invitation to the Golden Eaglets’ camp wasn’t quite successful. He was among others who were sent out of the camp. But while his fellow decampees were sad and forlorn, the striker, who was born on December 23, 1992, moved on as if nothing happened. He even encouraged a teammate, Onazi Ogenyi, and took him to Joshua. Joshua counselled them and restored their hope by sending them to Bodens BK Football Club’s junior team in Sweden. They excelled and eventually earned another invitation to the Eaglets’ camp. They made the team that won Silver in the U-17 championship that ended two weeks ago. Onazi Ogenyi, Sani Emmanuel and Dami Paul, the Eaglets’ goalkeeper, were celebrated at the Synagogue last Sunday.
By Shola OSHUNKEYE
SOURCE: The Spectator – Volume 2, No. 82
As an avid football follower, I can’t wait to see what will happen with the careers of Sani Emmanuel and Ogenyi Onazi! This testimony just shows how essential it is to support each other, especially the less privileged and vulnerable in our midst. If love and compassion had not been shown to Sani and his family, he would likely cut a frustrated figure kicking the ball about on the streets of Lagos. Desperation and disappointment may even have lead him down the road of criminality, as is sadly the case with many young Nigerian youths today.
Once again, please share with us your testimony for the glory of God and point people who have doubts about the power of God to this blog, as a well of faith-building information that will help strengthen their belief!
- Sani Emmanuel on Wikipedia
- Chelsea and Tottenham’s interest in Sani
- Lazio close to signing Sani
- Sani’s plans to help the less-privileged
SANI’S EXPLOITS AT THE FIFA U-17 WORLD CUP 2009: