Thousands of apparently single women fought, shoved and screamed at the gates of the KICC over the weekend as they scrambled for space to hear the “apostle of marriage,” Nigerian Pastor Chris Ojigbani.
As the heavens opened up, the enthusiastic women paid little attention to damage done to their hair and makeup in their attempt to outrun police who were trying to turn away the crowds from the already packed KICC plenary hall.
For several hours, business came to a standstill as police and security guards from the KICC and the Covenant Singles and Married Ministries struggled to keep the thousands of women at bay.
“Sweetheart, the hall is full,” a security man in a black suit speaking in Nigerian pidgin told the crowds of women that kept pushing forward.
The high-flying youthful founder and senior pastor of the five-year-old ministry was in the country for the first time to conduct a seminar on ‘‘how to get married without delay’’.
Although results of the 2009 national census released on Tuesday put the ratio of Kenyan men and women at one to one, at KICC there were 500 women for every man -- and most of them were either members of the security detail, sound engineers, technicians or journalists.
The man of the moment, Pastor Ojigbani, who preached for more than four hours on Friday, told his ecstatic audience: “Good men are not all taken. By the end of today, you will get your suitor … The spirit has told me that one of you by morning will have four suitors … Now, who will you choose?”
Even before the event was over, dozens of women went to the stage to testify that they had already received marriage proposals, most of them via cellphone.
On his knees, Martin Opiyo, a 25-year-old marketing executive with OneStop East Africa, proposed to hotelier Elizabeth Mahanga after he responded to her phone call, went to find her at the KICC, and said he had been “touched” by the preaching.
“Our parents were against our union and they forced us to separate but, through the pastor, we have vowed to get married,” the two told the Sunday Nation.
In the world of those with troubled marriages, the Nigerian’s name has become synonymous with hope. And when he talks or writes about it, he really sounds convincing. “Who do you think God created men for if not for you?” he asked the crowd.
“I have organised events for the last 10 years, but I have never seen one like this,” said a KICC official, who cannot be named as he is not authorised to speak to the press. The KICC plenary hall holds 10,000 standing people.
At the weekend event, there were both seated and standing people in the hall. In addition to connecting lonely hearts, Pastor Chris is also a successful businessman. To some, he is mysterious; to others, just a business-minded charismatic preacher.
His handlers are not easy to get along with. And the preacher doesn’t help matters as he rarely grants interviews. “If you want to speak to him, call later,” his handlers told us. For the past two days, that has been the answer from Gertrude, the woman in charge of his itinerary.