BY JOSEPH OLAOLUWA

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For many weeks, a copy of the biography Love in His Bones, was in my possession gathering dust on my desk filled with overflowing books and materials untouched.  Pius Akhimien, an Associate Professor of English at the Lagos State University had pressed upon me to read the stellar biography of Samuel Azuta Mbata, one of God’s Generals. The defiance in me watered down my desire to read the book and there it laid, ignored on my desk at home.

On the cover is the picture of a smiling aged man and with a title that is subtle, not loud enough, or as loud as the titles that accompany the writings that pervades Nigeria’s literary space. It gets better when you flip the cover to the testimonials and preface. What first strikes you is the testimonial of Arc. Olubunmi Adedeji, the Former National President of the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International – Nigeria, setting the tone for the reader with piqued interest.

While several quotes are scattered in the book, the perfect summary of Mbata’s life is the anecdote to the first chapter: “Surely, my God who created me will never allow any man to destroy my life. In God’s miracle book, he has written all the events of all the seconds, minutes, hours and days of my life, from the beginning to the end.”

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What then is it about this man that makes his life exemplary and worthy of a life well-lived? This goes beyond all the testimonials about him but is revealed page by page, word by word in the over 200 pages that make the book, perfectly crafted by Akhimien. In the words of Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Nigeria’s Vice President “Mbata is an example of selfless giving of ourselves, our talents and our possessions” According to Professor Osinbajo, “He was a generous benefactor to indigent students and poor widows; to the development of community and all who sought his help”.

The story runs in seven sections starting with the very beginning- his background in Eneka, Rivers State; his early life as a student and later a teacher in Port Harcourt.  The moment he got that job as a teacher in Enitona High School was the epiphany that he would be great and indeed popular.

Mbata, as the book describes is a man that coursed through life in its good and bad but chose to remain positive. This positivity, love and genuine kindness are the values the book reflects. From the first chapter to the last including his travails, everything speaks of a well-mannered businessman and leader that loved everyone to a fault.

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He established a business for helping people and giving ever since his life was changed by a tract from a beggar. He gave countless scholarships to indigent students, placed widows on salaries even in retirement, built houses for many brought water, light, the gospel and civilisation to his hometown of Eneka in Port Harcourt.

He was a real soldier of Christ, executing his business and that of God in the Assemblies of God and the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International by expanding its chapters all over the nation. He established an altar in his home and opened his doors to all and sundry. He even opened his doors to mad people and those battling strange ailments and demons so he could pray for them. Only a truly hospitable person could do that. Although he was betrayed several times (as it is with all men) but Mbata never really dwelt on that.

God too, has been immensely good to the man, as he prospered him and answered every time he was called upon. The book goes beyond love to the point his marriage was torn apart after his own wife had wrongfully accused him of infidelity; all these were happening after he had just survived an assassination attempt and a poisoned tea attack. He didn’t press charges on the poisoned tea attempt, other than to dismiss the erring staff.

He had to flee hired killers by jumping down from his veranda on his one-storey building and hiding on a tree for four hours. Even after surviving an accident in a bid to establish the FGBMFI chapters in Nigeria, all he did was subtly warn his driver.

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Of course, there is also some humour in this text. In a nutshell, Love in His Bones is a tale of God’s faithfulness to one man which reverberated to his immediate community, nation, and the world. I have never met this man nor heard of him but the testimonies speak well of him. It is like a reputation that precedes him. Many times the price for greatness is several tests and tribulations. The end product is an inspiring story.

For many, like the cases of the lunatics, some of these events may be dismissed as fictional or nearly impossible but it is important to remember Mbata’s words: “The Lord Jesus has integrity. He has more than enough resources and the willingness to deliver it somehow. This thing that happened is not about Samuel Mbata, It is all about Him. My Lord cannot disgrace His name.”  Mbata, fondly called Papa Uwa emphasizes the importance of checking the emotional pulse of one’s partner, at all times.

This book is a must-read for any individual that desires greatness.

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