The Jerry Eze phenomenon: How the Nigerian preacher became an internet star

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Eze touts miracle healings with the tagline, “What God can’t do, doesn’t exist,” and cuts midway through the live broadcast to pre-recorded videos of his followers sharing testimonies they believe are the results of his prayers.

They range from cures for terminal illnesses to conception after years of infertility.

“It goes way beyond science and technology,” he says.

CNN has not independently verified the content of the videos.

Most viewed on YouTube

The broadcasts on the New Season Prophetic Prayers and Declarations channel (NSPPD) have made Eze one of the most watched preachers on YouTube.

With more than 90,000 peak concurrent viewers, Eze’s daily broadcasts are among the most streamed globally on YouTube, according to analytics website Playboard, which collects data for YouTube channels.
His YouTube platform also ranks second among the gospel channels with the most live viewers worldwide — behind Brazilian preacher Bruno Leonardo, Playboard’s data shows.

Eze also brings in large amounts of donations through his broadcasts. He is one of YouTube’s highest earning preachers taking advantage of the platform’s Super Chat donations that allow creators to monetize.

YouTube’s Super Chat feature allows viewers to pin their comments to live streams for a fee ranging from $1 to $500.
Eze’s YouTube channel receives one of the highest Super Chat donations in the world, according to Playboard.
Among his ardent fans is the award-winning Nigerian singer D’banj who tells CNN that participating in Eze’s morning prayers has become a routine.

“Waking up every day with NSPPD… has become part of my daily routine. I hardly miss it. It’s part of my family’s morning devotion,” adds D’banj, whose real name is Oladapo Daniel Oyebanjo.

The singer says he has had his own share of miracles from prayers on stage.

“I remember last year Pastor Jerry told us to write seven things we wanted to see happen, and we prayed and I believed. I recently checked the list and… all seven have been answered.”

Nollywood actress Tonto Dikeh says she also had contact with Eze’s ministry at the beginning of last year. She is now “addicted,” she told CNN.

A penniless background

Eze, who turns 40 Monday, has come a long way since the days when he and his single mother struggled to find food.

“I come from a family where poor people would describe my family as poor,” he says. “There were days when my mother and I had no food, and my mother held my hand and prayed and thanked God. My mother was a single parent and a small trader who sold groundnuts in the market … There were days when she came home crying because she hadn’t sold anything so wasn’t able to buy us what to eat.”

Born on August 22, 1982 in Bende Local Government Area in Abia State, Eze tells CNN that his education was funded by a benevolent couple who had noted his active involvement in a church in his early years.

“I just did things in church, like sweeping, singing, and reading the Bible — doing what most of my friends wouldn’t do. I just finished high school before they hired me,” he says. of the couple.

Eze excelled in his studies and earned a degree in history and international relations from Abia State University. He also completed a master’s degree in human resource management.

Before venturing into the ministry, Eze previously worked at a local TV station before joining the World Bank’s HIV/AIDS Project and later worked as a communications specialist at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

“I was really excited about the job (at the UNFPA), but my mom wasn’t. She said it wasn’t what God told her. According to her, God told her I was going to be a pastor,” says Eze.

Jerry Eze

“I never shared those aspirations (to become a preacher). I didn’t even listen to her. She and I lived in poverty, so I always asked why God didn’t lift us out of poverty first before asking me to stop job that gave us money to become preachers. The money I gave her came from the job (at the UN), so it didn’t make sense.”

He eventually quit his job and went into the ministry full-time, but unfortunately his mother died of heart failure before fulfilling her ambition for him, he says.

“When she died, the reality of my assignment began to sink in,” he adds.

Entering into a full-time ministry involved huge sacrifices, and Eze says he spends many hours praying late into the night to prepare.

“I don’t have friends, I don’t hang out, I don’t have any free time. I don’t know what my hobbies are anymore because there is no room for hobbies,” he says.

Eze has two children with his wife Eno, who is also a pastor. He said his marriage was not perfect because of the demands of the ministry.

“It hasn’t been 100 percent, but because my wife and I do the same thing (ministry), we have the same bond. The things that are important to other people don’t matter in our family. Our conversations are about ministry and how we then fulfill God’s will for our lives. If I married the wrong woman, I’d be bored with that person.”

An accidental celebrity

Eze may have become an internet phenomenon, but insists his fame is coincidental.

He had started live streaming in hopes of inspiring his congregation when the pandemic halted all church services and reduced attendance at his fledgling ministry, Streams of Joy International.

“It wasn’t a goal to reach the world,” says Eze. “During the (peak of) Covid there was a palpable fear all over and I noticed that a lot of my church people were very scared to come around church. So every morning my wife and I will come online and spread encouragement to people,” says him to CNN.

“I just wanted to express hope,” he adds.

Eze’s daily encouraging messages later turned every weekday into a daily online prayer network on YouTube and other video sharing services.

The live streams proved a hit and now, in its third year, Eze’s YouTube channel has 880,000 subscribers as of this publication, and his broadcasts have amassed more than 122 million views over a three-year period, according to figures from his channel.
Jerry Eze pictured with wife Eno.

Viewers from the UK and US together make up 25% of his live streams on YouTube, with over a million views from the UK and over 700,000 views from the US between July 20 and August 16, 2022, according to figures from the platform.

Nigeria has the highest with over two million viewers. His broadcasts are also watched in other African countries and countries such as Italy, Germany, Canada, France, Spain, Ireland and the Netherlands, the chart shows.

Digital analyst Edward Israel-Ayide says CNN Eze’s success can be linked to the “recent boom in digital churches and online religious movements.”

Israel-Ayide says this is due to the effects of Covid-19.

“With the lockdown restrictions in place, the need for community and a sense of belonging drove Nigerians at home and abroad to seek digital platforms that could offer them direction and hope,” he says. “Post-Covid many people are still looking for purpose and direction due to the socio-economic challenges caused by Covid-19 and the ongoing global economic crisis. This is one of the main reasons why religious movements like Pastor Jerry’s NSPPD Eze thrive.”

While many people now know him for his online platform, “that’s not where it started,” says Eze. “There was a physical church before the online.”

Eze founded the Streams of Joy International church in the suburbs of Nigeria’s eastern city of Umuahia many years before he became famous.

Eze is now based in the Nigerian capital of Abuja and his church has expanded outside of Nigeria with branches in the UK, US and Canada.

Attendance at his church in Abuja has also risen. But it is with the online community that it has gained the most traction, and it is here to stay.

“People all over the world are used to waking up and finding Pastor Jerry online,” says Eze. “It’s like a virus that has come to stay.”


The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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