BY CHRIS IREKAMBA AND CHUKS NWANNE
Unlike the hustling and bustling that enveloped the premises last Sunday when Rev. Christ Okotie celebrated his 53rd birthday, the Household of God Church was quiet this afternoon, with the security guards at alert, yet friendly. However, there was no long interrogation before we were ushered into the Household head’s simple but detailed office; he must have instructed his men about the visit. Dressed in simple African outfit, Okotie arrived few minutes later in a red Range Rover Sport SUV, ready for the interview that touched on almost all aspects of his life. Excerpt:
How do you feel on your birthday?
I celebrated 53 years as a man on the face of the earth. But more significant was the fact that on that day, I was ordained Prince of Nigeria, which is a prophetic appellation that actually comes from my book, The Last Outcast. In the book, the protagonist is a man by the name Sam Uyota. He will in about 600 years from now be a Pastor in Household of God. He will reveal the coming of anti-Christ. Now, in spiritual things, though I’m the present pastor of the Household of God, I cannot stand in that office to speak about what Sam Uyota has done in the book, except after a period of about 12. So, in prophetic numerology as they are juxtaposed Biblically, Sam Uyota, who is really the Prince of Nigeria, takes the first 12 years of my ministry while I take the next 12 years. That’s why I couldn’t take that title until my last birthday; this last birthday culminated into the 12th year and if you add both years together, it comes to 24. What has happened is that, now, I’ve taken his title, so, I can communicate the last revelation of the anti-Christ; who he is, where he is coming from, the signs that shows when he is coming. I’ve spoken about those things, but now that I’ve been ordained in that prophetic office, there’s an impartation from heaven that will bring the enablement to complete the story, because the story of The Last Outcast is not complete.
Oh, definitely, there’s a sequel to it. But it is important that in fulfilling all righteousness, I must be ordained into the office. I cannot take his name because my name is not Sam. It’s just like Jesus and Adam. You know that Jesus is the last Adam; he stands in the same office as the first Adam, but his name is different, yet they have similar responsibility. Today, if you go to the spiritual realm and say you want to get in touch with the Prince of Nigeria, all spiritual activities will be directed towards me.
“Oh yes, I was young; I was 21 at that time and I had so much money, but no parental guidance because my Dad had passed on and I was left to myself. God just kept me away from drugs because He had already decided I was going to serve him. But I did a lot of damages to myself; thank God for the blood of Jesus Christ and the deliverance that we got through his name.”
And the ordination
The ordination was performed by George Amu; the general secretary of CAN (Christian Association of Nigeria) and a senior colleague in the ministry. But you see, he is the man that fulfilled the righteousness of laying hands on me; you can’t receive that, except heaven has already given it to you. When I was writing the book 12 years ago, the spirit of God already communicated to me what was going to happen in the future and I didn’t use my name; the book doesn’t say it’s Christ Okotie, it says it’s Sam. So, the pastor’s name in that book, who is the pastor of Household of God, is Sam Uyota.
Now, if I’m going to pick up on that, I have to stand in the same office with him. I already do because I’m the pastor of The Household of God, I can’t use his name, but I can use his title, which is what I’m using now. Just like the title of Adam; Jesus used it, even though his name is Jesus.
The first time Jesus appeared after his birth, he was 12 years and that’s the number. That’s why it’s prophetic for us to do this in block of 12 years. So, it’s something I had been waiting for and when the time came, another servant of God came here to follow biblical procedure to lay hands on me to begin the work. So, it’s a spiritual reality for me, not a secular responsibility. My secular responsibility is wanting to be president, but this is a spiritual responsibility ordained by God for Nigeria and the rest of nations.
Well, CAN is not involved in the goings on of churches; it’s just an umbrella for churches to ensure they are given the right space to operate and to make sure that matter that concerns the church are properly presented at the national level. But they don’t interfere in the goings on in the ministry. I didn’t write a letter to anybody about this because it’s unnecessary. But this is a spiritual matter; those, who are spiritually sensitive, who understand the modus operandi of the spirit and what God is telling Nigeria now, will understand what I’m talking about.
Why was Bishop Amu the only clergy present?
Why Bishop Amu then?
Oh, I invited him. Let me explain how these things work. When you are called to be a pastor, Jesus gives that office to you; he calls you into that office; but before you can stand in the office, someone in the church has to lay hands on you. If you read ACTS chapter 13, Paul and Barnabas were called to do certain work for God, but the church had to lay hands on them to fulfill that mandate that’s just the way it is. So, whenever the Lord tells you to do something, He will provide a minister or somebody within the body of Christ that will take up the responsibility.
Have you ever doubted the possibilities?
Not at all, because, it’s not something that is dependent on what is going on politically; it is not dependent on the opinion of the people. I work for someone; I work for Jesus and today, my life testifies that he has been faithful to me. In 1987 I became a minister, it was the same reaction. So, I understand the concern, but the truth of the matter is that those who know me know that once the Lord says it once, I hear it twice. And I must hold on to this vision until our country is delivered from the shackles of poverty and oppression.
Me and music
‘I was 21, doing music… and I did a lot of damage to myself’
I admire the new pop artistes, their brotherhood; though they copy each other a lot
Is there any place for music now?
Well, we use it as a tool for worship; music is very powerful when it comes to worship. I’ve had the privilege of writing songs; most people don’t know that I’m the writer of some of the songs they sing in their churches across the nation. I look forward to recording my worship songs someday.
Do you still have the collection of your old recordings?
Oh yes, they are the artistic works of Christ Okotie. I keep them where I look at them as creative works.
Do you still listen to them?
Sometimes. I refer to them as works of creativity; sometimes I listen to them to find out how I’ve grown musically. Essential in music, what makes the difference is the lyrical content; the melodies, the harmonies and all the instrumentations are basically the same. In some of the songs I did, I think the messages at that time were things I felt. If I’m to write a song today, the lyrical content will be different, but essentially the same Christ Okotie’s style.
Are you still in contact with Felix Liberty, Jide Obi and others?
Oh yeah, Felix is a minister now in Benin while Jide is abroad.
What is the relationship like?
We are friends because they are Christians. Like I said, Felix is a minister and Jide is somewhere in England.
The genre is still basically the same, just that it’s more of dance music now; you don’t have the music that people will just sit down and listen to the composition. Though there’s a lot of originality, only few artistes are really that creative and I discovered that they are constantly copying each other, too. There are some of them that are quite creative, but I won’t like to mention names.
Does that mean you don’t believe in their works?
I believe that they are artistic creations and they serve certain purpose in the creative industry. They need more encouragement and better facilities. When you listen to one song, it sounds like three of four songs you heard lately; so, there’s that plagiarizing; they are constantly copying each other. So, in the creative space, there’s not really much that have been done. But like I said, some of them are good.
I don’t want to mention names because it is a competitive industry. One thing I like about the industry today is the fact that there’s brotherhood that has arisen from the collaborations. So, you find this artiste singing with the other artiste, as it’s done abroad. So, it has created a brotherhood and friendship among the creative people in the industry, which is commendable.
The industry now is more lucrative than your own time, how do you feel about that?
I don’t feel anything because I was the highest paid artiste in my time. I had so many opportunities that a lot of artistes didn’t have because I started a type of music that is unique, so, it drew a lot of people to me and that gave me a lot of money. I don’t have any reason to complain because I was very well paid. Now, the industry is developing and artistes are not making money from records sales as they are making from endorsements. When you look at the market, they don’t have enough distribution networks, but I’m glad to see that through live shows, concerts and the coming of multinationals, artistes have received endorsements that have helped a lot of them to stabilise. That’s a very good thing and I thank God for that; if not for that, we would have been facing a lot of difficulties by now.
Any regrets playing music?
Oh yes. I was young; I was 21 at that time and I had so much money, but no parental guidance because my Dad had passed on and I was left to myself. God just kept me away from drugs because He had already decided I was going to serve him. But I did a lot of damages to myself; thank God for the blood of Jesus Christ and the deliverance that we got through his name.
Damage to yourself?
It’s difficult to be independent at that age when you are exposed to a lot of money like I was. I didn’t have a solid religious background that would have stabilised me because I was neither here not there as a Christian. But God in his mercies kept me and sustained me and that’s why I didn’t stay too long in the industry. By the time I did my fourth album – which was within a space of about two or three years – I was already fed up. People thought I became a Christian and stopped playing music. But the truth is, I stopped playing music, and then I became a Christian; I recognised that if I didn’t, it would destroy me completely. In 1982, I held a press conference in Enugu to say I was quitting and several months later, I became a Christian; that was 1983.
If not for the calling, would you have remained in the industry?
I probably would have been involved in Christian show business, trying to help young artistes. I probably would have done that and combined it with some other things that I have interest in. Yes, I would have.
Any influence from Michael Jackson?
I wouldn’t say at the beginning that Michael influenced me; I was more interested in Stevie Wonder because of his vocal ability. As a singer, I was drawn to Stevie’s ability to sing and control his voice. It was later on when Michael came up with Thriller that we saw his ability to dance and his showmanship, but I didn’t consider Michael a good singer. For me, he was more of a dancer and a showbiz personality than a singer. Stevie Wonder had greater influence on my singing than Michael.
My encounters with Jesus
How he cheated death
I had a near death experience in 1983 in Kaduna. I went to do a valedictory show there and was poisoned. It was as if there were some objects in my stomach. The doctors had said they couldn’t do anything and suggested that I should be flown abroad. Before leaving school for the show, a friend of mine, Ezekiel had told me that if I run into any problem, I should call Jesus. So, at that point when the doctors said they couldn’t help me, I decided to call on Jesus. I promised that if he helped me, I would serve him. Few minutes after saying that, I felt relieved; like something left my body. In fact, the nurse was afraid when she saw me coming because he thought I was dead. Funny enough, when I came back to Lagos, I didn’t fulfill my promise to God.
I gathered my friends in a niteclub run by Ben Bruce to tell them my experience in Kaduna; drank and celebrated my survival. I didn’t keep to my words for about nine months until Jesus came to my house to speak with me for about 12 hours. I was arguing that I was a good man. In the middle of that, Jide Obi came in around 4am; he had been standing in front of my door because he thought I had a visitor. So, when he walked in, he asked whom I was talking to, and I used that opportunity to run. He asked me to drive him home and along the way, I told him about my experience.
How did you contract the poison?
From a drink; they hosted me that night and Balamila and his band backed me on stage There were so many people and I got up several times to go and dance and talk to people; no one knew how my drink was poisoned.
‘Me and my women’
Did you have a girlfriend in your days as pop star?
I wasn’t doing any crazy thing, I had only one girl friend; I didn’t do those crazy things that other musicians do.
Before your marriage how many girlfriends did you have?
I only had one girlfriend at a time who would always be with me, because I was always at home. Some people enjoy attention and all of that, I don’t enjoy such. I’m a publicity shy person.
What do you miss about your first marriage?
Dressing and the pulpit
‘I dress to communicate relevant God’
Your style in terms of dressing
Christianity is a relationship and not a religion; that is how we define it. It must be relevant, every age redefined the public persona of Christians leadership. You can’t have a Christian leader who is in an age where he acts like a social miscreant; for instance, Jesus and John the Baptist lived in same era; one dressed like somebody from the prehistoric times, the other one dressed like one from the future. Jesus dressed like somebody who was futuristic; his clothes were good that at his crucifixion the Roman soldiers took it. But here is another minister, John the Baptist, his dressing was like Elijah of old. Because the message he was communicating was reminiscent of the anointing of Elijah. But Jesus was communicating a totally different message for a new age, and for a new era.
The clothe we wear would indicate the age in which we live and that God is not an antagonistic God; that the ages are His own creation. That’s why when I became a pastor I started dressing like people of my own time. If Jesus was dressing any different you won’t have Judas Iscariot to identify who he is because his clothe will give him up. But if he’s mixed up with other of his disciples you couldn’t tell who was who. So if I stand in the midst of Nigerians of my own social bracket, you can’t tell the difference. Because what we are trying to communicate is relevant God to a relevant message so you don’t have to think when you come to serve God you have to act like you are in the 60s, when we are in the 21st century. That has misrepresented the gospel and that is why the gospel has not been so readily accepted. But all that is now changing.
How often do you fix your jerry curl?
My hair is what you are talking about. It is stylish, it’s very contemporary now; but not jerry curl.
As often as is necessary but I cannot tell you that it is maybe once a day or twice a day. Just as I keep my body clean, I keep my hair clean; it doesn’t require anything beyond that.
Would you be happy seeing your members in similar fashion?
They are at liberty to wear whatever cloth they want to wear within the confine of decency. I don’t dictate to them what they should wear because it is the Bible that tells us what to do not the pastor?
Fashion is a whimsical expression… I think it’s of personal preference; it’s very subjective. For me that is just what it is, an outward demonstration of the whimsical preference in the area of clothe or personal style.
Who is your designer?
I don’t have any local designer. No, I used to like this one that I’m wearing; this is Nigerian made. People just make them and send to me. I usually wear European clothes like Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, among others. For me, if I see something that is good, it doesn’t matter who the maker is.
Only wrist watches. I don’t wear gold, chains and necklaces; I don’t wear those things. I’m a collector of wristwatches. I like wristwatches that is why if you notice very well our logo is a clock. I have all kinds of watches.
What is your choice of cars?
I like car because of the privacy it provides for me, that is why I don’t like being driven. I drive myself; even when I’m going to functions, I drive myself. Even when I’m in a convoy I’m driving myself. I’m going to be the first president that will drive himself. It provides for me that privacy.
I have all kinds of cars. When I was younger I was into sport cars such as Lamborghini and all that; but now, I buy the bigger cars such as Mercedes Benz, Range Rover and all that. But the car that you will probably be seeing me with is Rolls Royce and something like that because for me, it epitomises the privacy of style.
I don’t tolerate perfumes a lot. I have to be specific about what I wear. It depends on what is in the market at a time. Sometimes it irritates me.
I have always been a sports person. When I was in Edo College I was a judo coach, a national sport commissioned coach. So, if you look at the record, you will see my name there as a chattered coach in judo. I love martial art exercise; it is part of my life. God has given me youth. When I said I belong to the Methuselah clan… sometimes when I tell people they don’t believe it. But I have been around for a while. People like me stay long because we have work to do.