by Akan Ido
Pastor Chris Okotie, the Senior Pastor of the Household of God, is always on the pages on newspapers and soft-sell magazines over one issue or the other.
Recently the searchlight has been beamed with even higher intensity on his marital status, his relationships, and the de-listing of his political party, Fresh Democratic Party, by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from the list of viable political parties.
Please read excerpts of this interview with Daily Independent on issues bothering on private jets, politics and the ministry.
When did you get the call to become a pastor?
Jesus appeared to me when I was three years old. My father then was a teacher in Uyo. I was a little boy then and really did not understand what it meant but I would tell everyone that I was a child of God. I had to accept Jesus completely when I was at the age of accountability. I did that when I was on campus in 1983. Then I did not know that I was going to be a minister. It was when I was in law school one morning when God spoke to me about going abroad. That was when I went to Oklahoma to study pastoring.
If provided, would you own a private jet?
If it is necessary, why would I not? Right now, I do not need a private jet. I do not do the kind of job that requires a private jet. I do not have branches all around the country where I have to fly back and forth. I do not need it. It is not just about having a private jet; it is also very difficult to maintain. So, if a minister has the resources to do it, that is between him and God who provided it for him. It is really not my business. The most important thing is are you feeding the flock? Are you there as a pastor to teach? Does the spirit of God trust you to take care of the flock? These are the questions I ask myself even before I buy a car. Something must be clearly understood; prosperity is of God. It is not God’s desire that we are poor. Jesus became poor so that we can be rich.
Churches are becoming big businesses today and many pastors are living large while their followers are languishing in poverty. Some even fly private jets
Let me put it this way, every minister of God is entitled to what God provides. It is not the congregation that provides; it is God. God can use the congregation or whoever. So, if the Lord makes provisions for that (private jet) then such a person has no reason to decline. I do not know what is going on in any ministry, but I will say that anything that we own must be scripturally based. Prosperity is a part of the gospel and not the entire gospel. It is a means to an end and not an end by itself. Your congregation is your first priority. When you walk into our auditorium, you will see that I care about my congregation. The facilities we have there you will not find anywhere else. Go to our children’s church or our nursery, you will see the facilities there are first-class. You would think the children there are those of multi-millionaires. You have to take care of the congregation first and foremost before anything else. When we first began, I did not have what I have today. Before I became prosperous, God had to test me to see if I will take care of my congregation. That is why you will see that we had air conditioning in the children’s department even when we just began. We also made sure that the church had property. We have landed properties and things like that. We believe in ‘seek ye first the kingdom of God and every other thing will be added unto you’. That is what I can say about my own ministry. We also cater for the poor.
Large churches tend to own schools and universities; are we to see Household of God University soon?
It is possible. It depends on how the spirit directs. The church is the work of God; it is the vineyard of the almighty God. He determines what to do. Should Churches own universities? I say yes of course. It is part of the teachings. We must prepare this generation spirit, soul and body. If you remember in the past, churches owned schools. It is a step in the right direction. The moral rearmament of those times was stronger than what it is today. I will encourage churches to start schools and universities.
Are we to witness your third marriage?
I do not want to talk about that at this time. Spiritual matters cannot be understood by carnal minds. There are mysteries involved in the workings of a spiritual person. It is hard to be understood by minds that have not been elevated to such lofty heights. When we get to that bridge we will cross it.
Will it not be difficult for married couples in your church to approach you for counselling on marriage issues?
No. Those who spoke more about marriage issues in the Bible were not married. The revelation concerning marriage was given to us by Saint Paul who was a single man. Even Jesus spoke about marriage and he was not married. It is not the experience that teaches you what marriage is; it is the word of God. As long as you present the revelation of the word to your congregation and they apply it, then they will succeed. With the covenant that God has with man, God is stable; it is man who is not. If you notice, God brought Adam and Eve together in the Garden of Eden; they failed God, and God did not fail them. So, when people come together, they fail each other. If they do not subscribe to the word of God that marriage will not succeed. So, if there is an adherence to the word of God, the marriage will succeed. When you see that a marriage does not succeed, you should know that there must be a departure from the word of God.
You are a man of style; your hair and your suits always stand out.
Being a recording artiste sharpened my taste. I am more fashion conscious. I do not want to call myself a fashionista because that may sound cliché. I have good taste. The suit I wore recently on Sunday came off the runway from Dolce and Gabana’s new collection. When you look at the Bible, God was very particular about the apparel of the priesthood. I like good clothes and maybe it has to do with my orientation. Fashion has a way of giving you confidence.
It is said that when going to Household of God Church, you go with your Bible and your dictionary. You surely have a passion for fancy words.
It is called grandiloquence. Some people have said that I have elevated diction. Truly, I use that just to get attention. Coming from my background some people thought that I did not have the intellectual capacity to do the job of a minister where you convey deep spiritual truth to people. When I was in school, I just love that elevated diction. It became a part of my communication. I read a joke recently about Patrick Obahiagbon and I trading words. It was all made up, but was very funny. Each man has his own style. Communication is very personal and you choose how you want to communicate. When I am speaking with ‘the press I speak with the same level of grandiloquence. I am from Delta. Pidgin English is our lingua franca. When I am at home I speak our language.
Before last year’s elections you asked Nigerians to vote President Goodluck Jonathan out of power, do you have a different view of him now?
With all due respect, I speak within the context of conventional propriety. He, as a Nigerian, has been given a great opportunity even though many of us say it is a great mistake and I still believe that. Look at the country; we are neither here nor there. It is the same story of corruption and stagnation. I still believe that Jonathan is a great mistake. I know that the elections were tampered with. He is the President today and I know that history will judge him based on what he does and what he does not do. I believe that, so far, he has done nothing beyond our expectations.
How would you react to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s recent deregistration your party, FRESH?
First, we believe that this is a conspiracy between the ruling party and the INEC. It is unconstitutional and repugnant to the spirit of the constitution and it is an attempt by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to erase the voice of the opposition. It is also a ploy for the ruling party to perpetuate itself in power for as long as it can. We believe that the right thing to do is to go to court and expect the judiciary as the last bastion of our political and democratic experiment to remedy the situation and erase the aberration from our political landscape.
Will you join another party if at the end the party stands deregistered?
It is too early to say anything on that. What INEC has done is a frustration of the whole democratic process. If it is not arrested it is the beginning of what I call a medieval autocracy. This is how Hitler began. We need to, by any means possible, stop this move by INEC. I am very confident that what INEC has done will be reversed by the judiciary. That is why I said it is too early to talk about that now.
Will you be contesting in the presidential election in 2015?
That is if Nigeria survives till then. If you look at the trajectory of our development you will see that a nation moving on this part cannot survive. That is why the United States made a prediction that by 2015 or thereabout Nigeria would have become a failed state and disintegrate. That is because they see the part that we are toeing. The part that the PDP has mapped out can only lead to destruction. I believe people who say that there will be a revolution. If Nigeria is still here I will definitely contest. But I believe that there is going to be a new Nigeria. There is going to be a kind of revolution that will bring Nigeria to a place of awakening or renaissance of some sort.