Guest Interview: Ife Omai
They say dynamite comes in small packages and that is certainly my perception of Ife. She is petite, but her personality is larger than life. In getting to know her though, her passion for Christ outshines all her other passions and directs them. Her desire to apply God’s wisdom and Biblical truth to her life is contagious.
Please share an overview of your Nigerian childhood.
I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, by my lovely single mother and lived with her and my two elder brothers. We weren’t the wealthiest bunch but we weren’t the poorest either. We had seasons that were dry and hard and some seasons that were good and lucrative.
My mother is a woman of faith, so we relied on things like faith and favour even though I didn’t really know what that really was then.
I went to good schools and went to Church at least once a week on Sundays. I also had a strong external family relationship.
What cultural, religious or traditional experiences stand out for you growing up?
I’m a Yoruba Girl. Anyone who is a Yoruba native in Nigeria is to have ‘ekó’ -which means ‘manners.’ Respect was a big deal for me growing up and still is: I kneel to greet my elders, pass things to them with my right hand and address my elders, (any adult older than me basically), with ‘aunty,’ ‘uncle,’ ‘mummy,’ ‘sir,’ and the likes in front of their names.
That was something stood out for me growing up because it wasn’t an expectation for others.
Nigeria is also a religious nation, so we all worshipped Jesus or Allah. I have never met an atheist or agnostic before who was a born and bred Nigerian.
I also grew up with a sense of community which I haven’t seen anywhere else. In Nigeria we have a Proverb that says: ‘The community raises the child’. This applies to us literally.
Growing up, what format or context of Christianity were you exposed to?
My mother was a ‘full blown’ Christian. It was mandatory that we were too, even if we didn’t ‘feel like it.’ I was born into the Deeper Life Church where women don’t relax their hair, pierce their ears or wear pants etc.
But my mother left that church shortly after to join another that I would say was more Pentecostal in nature. There I was allowed to grow my hair how I wanted and could pierce my ears too (lol).
In Teen Church we were taught about false teachers, holiness, faith and modesty. Faith however was a huge portion of it. We were taught to have a lot of it to get God’s blessings and revelations and hear His voice and all that.
It wasn’t an option for me to go to Church and yet I didn’t go willingly. But I had friends there and I loved to honour my mum, so I went anyways.
Please share your testimony of how God saved you.
Hmmm...where do I even start?
I always thought I was saved. I always went to church. I wept when emotional songs were sung at church and I loved how the Lord provided for and strengthened my mum. I was even once a prayer co-ordinator for my secondary school! (That still shocks me till today).
Then I went to Ghana to study. My mum, whom I did everything single thing with or was under her supervision, was no longer there! I had to decide for myself who and what I wanted to be.
All I know is I didn’t choose God.
Don’t get me wrong - I was never rebellious. I worked hard at school. I didn’t entertain ‘sugar daddies,’ even when I was pressured to, but I no longer went to church. I had a boyfriend and we did immoral things. I went clubbing and didn’t pursue a Christ-like character. It was clear that Jesus was ’some guy’ I would ride for but not the kind I would die for.
After going to further my studies in South Africa, I continued in my sins and yet my void still wasn’t getting filled. I knew the only One who was capable of filling me, so I went to church.
I tried a few Churches here and there, but most had false doctrines or a small view of scripture and sometimes a small view of God. Then a friend of mine, Nelmari, invited me to a Bible study at Monash, (the University I attend).
To cut a long story short, in May 2017, the teacher/pastor was going through the book of 1 John and the Lord, in His mercy, used that opportunity for His words to pierce my heart and convict me of my sins. He transformed my heart, soul and mind and sometimes I can barely recognise myself.
I’m still in the process of relearning about the Lord and becoming more and more sanctified.
To be frank I can’t get enough of the Lord and His wonderful work in my life. I’m a new creation, madly in love with my Creator and Jesus is definitely ‘the guy’ I would die for.
As a female growing up in Nigeria, what injustices did you observe in how women are viewed and treated? What are traditional and cultural expectations of Nigerian women?
There is an unfairness and double standard system that is beneficial to men and detrimental to and discriminatory against women.
Growing up it was very clear that women and men do not have the same privileges, roles or capacities. It was also clear to me that men had more freedom and room to do more things with their lives than women. Women are treated as inferior.
This would likely highlight your feminist instincts. How has the Gospel transformed your thinking on these issues?
Being raised by a ‘super mum’ who fathered and mothered the household in a country that looked down on women, I wanted no part in marriage.
I placed no value on marriage because I placed no value on men.
The impact of abuse from a male or absence of a male figure on a child is devastating. I let the absence and abuse I saw around me consume me with fear and hate.
The Lord rescued me from all that hate. I have peace in His Biblical design of marriage now and I no longer stand for anything that contradicts that design. I’m also no longer an ‘angry black women.’ However, I am not complacent. I cannot afford to be. I voice out my stance for women’s rights in a way that isn’t dishonouring to the Lord.
I will constantly and consistently continue to fight for the cause of women’s liberation against any ungodly, life threatening or cultural oppression of women, but more so for the bigger fight of defending our faith in Christ.
What role do you think Christian women could play, practically, in transforming Nigerian communities and families?
Christian women have the Truth.
We know that honouring God is the most important and that cultural traditions that are evil, life threatening or oppressive in nature, are not Gods design.
We can teach each other that. We can teach and inform our kids about God’s true will and desire for our lives. We can help guide and advise our brothers and fathers and even the more challenging of them all, our husbands too.
We, as Christian women, have a vital role to play in our communities. We already do that in our capacity as women; we raise our kids and shape our homes. A godly woman would be able to teach her household under the umbrella of Christ, our Creator, who knows best!
What message would you want Christian men to embrace, especially in the Nigerian church context?
I would love to see Christian men defend and protect their sisters in Christ when asked to do horrible things in the name of culture. To preach against and reprimand (if necessary) their fellow men in acts of oppression against women.
I would also like to see Christian men take a stand in how they themselves treat women; for them speak out when they see awful acts against anyone, but more so women, as silence gives power to the oppressors.
How can we, in the church, show more sensitivity in discipling new Christians from different countries, cultures or ethnic backgrounds and be more encouraging?
The beauty about it all is that God is completely bigger than culture or ethnic differences. His principles taught in Church from the Bible can be applied sufficiently to a Nigerian like myself living in South Africa attending an Americanised church.
The issue for me arises when preachers and the congregation start to create or expect an image or strict pattern of behaviour from people (and foreigners) that isn’t necessarily inclusive of my cultural background and identity. We have to be sensitive to the fact that the body of Christ is diverse. There are grey areas which not are not sinful but different to what we know or even agree with. I can only pray for grace to firstly even be aware of this and secondly to be more sensitive to how we deal with each other.
You can watch the live interview by clicking below:
Ife is a Nigerian, currently living in South Africa. She is studying Journalism and Media Communications and has just discovered new love for Christ.
She is a young entrepreneur in the hair and fashion industry for women and is also a part time YouTuber.
She loves socializing, singing and reading.
You can follow Ife on her youtube channel: