Read the excerpts of the chat below:
You read Mass Communication but you’re now a preacher, how did you make the switch?
For a while, I was actually a contributor toTELL and I worked with DBN but that was a brief stint. I didn’t have any idea that I was going to be a preacher. I was fulfilled reporting, investigating but when the call came, I couldn’t say yes or no, so it wasn’t a decision, it was a discovery. I didn’t decide to be a preacher; I was called to be a preacher. Like now, I have a TV station, so the journalism instinct still flows. I have written about 60 books and most of the books are bestsellers. So that part of me is not docile yet
We read somewhere that you were a cultist in school. What were the worst things you did as a cultist?
I was a dignified cultist. I come from a home where my mum and dad had religious issues; so every child from a home is bound to fall into the streets and vices, so I got into the school and wanted acceptance. You know, when I got home, my mother and father would be quarrelling, so I wanted acceptance. Somebody said to me that there was a cult called ‘The Brotherhood’ and that once you joined, they would accept you. And that it was like a family and I liked it. I didn’t know that there was a part where you would be beaten. I didn’t know there was a part where you would be taken to the bush, I didn’t like that. Once you’re there, you had to go into it. So they took me to the bush. It was what they called blending, they had to beat you and do all that. At the end of it, what I know I avoided were assignments- to go and hit people. No! So I was just, as it were, a floor member. You had to attend meetings and if they told you to do something, you pleaded with somebody to help you do it and paid for it. So I was not really a very formidable member but I was there.
What kind of childhood did you have? Was it memorable?
My childhood days were not memorable; they are not as it were outstanding. I started doing things on my own at the age of 14 or 16 and my dad and my mum had issues of religion. I had to live with my mum at a time and then with my father at a time. He had to forcefully pull us over because my mum had become a Christian. All I know is that my mum was very tough. She was a Christian but she was the tough one. My dad was a Muslim but was liberal. He was the one who would have no problem if you came home by 11pm. My mum was a Christian but you must be home by 6pm. You came home 7pm, she would open the door and teargas the room. She was in the police force. So you would be battling to breathe till morning. She was very tough.
Couldn’t you just get out of the room?
No, she would lock the door. She would open it, teargas the room, lock the door and go with the key. You can only think of getting out of the room when you can find the door. When you cannot find the door, you couldn’t think of getting out. So it was very horrible. I didn’t like my mum then, but now I’m so happy I went through all that training because it instilled in us some level of discipline. But then, we didn’t like my mum. But when we went to my dad’s house, we did all the corrupt things around him. My growing up was good and bad but I got into the streets very young, started fending for myself, doing this and that on my own.
You prophesied that there would be trouble if President Goodluck Jonathan went ahead to contest for the election. You said other things but they didn’t come to pass.
Yes, I said he should go back to his village. In 2012, I said I saw a new president. That was the last prophecy for that year. It was a prophecy of 2012 that was to be out in 2013. So in 2013, I prophesied again that he should not run, that I saw violence. On January 1 of that year, they brought down my church. Jonathan dismantled my church in Abuja. He hit me seriously. It was in the papers that I was a victim of prophecy.
What was the reason given?
Nothing. The certificate of occupancy was okay. They just came and marked it. On what grounds are you marking it? Nothing. So when people like Father Mbaka said they were threatened, I just laughed because I was not threatened, I was actually hit. They brought down the whole building and told us to leave. We tried to get another land but everyone we approached said they were being threatened. But let me tell you something about prophecies, they have leverages and you cannot judge prophecy except you have the spirit of prophecy. I’m a journalist and sometimes when I read in the papers how journalists criticise prophecies, I laugh. But I don’t blame them. If you watch that prophecy manual, I said very clearly that President Jonathan would not win but that the man that would win would not be given. It was stated there. I said a few prophecies about some other people- (Ibikunle) Amosun, (Nasir) el Rufai, (Nyesom) Wike and some other people. Whether a prophecy is fulfilled or not depends on who it’s said about. Few of the people prophesied about contacted me. I don’t want to call names but they contacted me. You said I won’t get this or that, I want it. Can it be reversed?’ I said very well. If you are given certain prayers to make, prophecies can be reversed. If you’re given certain things to do, prophecies can be reversed. And actually, there were some people I never thought would reach out to me, those who were Muslims, those who were stubborn leaders, they contacted me. So, I told them ‘this is not about man, it’s about God. If you’re humble enough, we can pray about it.’ And we prayed. Like today especially, I’ve got messages from people who were happy and said ‘Oh, thank God, it was reversed.’ Like that of the President, I saw him a month before the election and we talked one on one. All I told him was that he wouldn’t win. I personally told Jonathan to concede defeat. I told him he would save a lot of heads if he conceded defeat and left. I saw not less than half a million people without their heads.
We have a President who has had two problems–he is politically naive and he doesn’t understand the concept of power. We have had a President who has a media team that doesn’t understand what they call ceasefire. I told the President one on one that his media team didn’t manage him well. I told him, he would not come back. I said the other people had not just got the will of the people, they had got the will of some ministers of God in the place of prayer and few of them had contacted certain ministers of God and we had sat down and discovered we needed change. Inasmuch as and with all due respect to the leadership of the All Progressives Congress, that they are not the change that we need. So our President, the prophecy came for him but he wriggled himself out of it. So prophecies have been given and as they are given, people are now becoming wise, especially when they have seen the accuracy of some prophecies. They would say before I become a victim, let me contact this man. And when they do that, they get the prophecies reversed and it’s not in our place as ministers of God to talk.
Is that what happened in el Rufai’s case when you said he disrespected Jesus Christ and so would not win the election? He has won now.
I won’t mention names.
But what happened in his own case then because you said he would not win the election and he won?
Can you ask me what happened in Amosun’s case that I said he would win and he won? Can you ask me what happened in Wike’s case that I said he would win and he won? Can you ask me what happened in Ayo Fayose’s case that I said I saw him being threatened and removed and presently he’s going through an impeachment process? So if we could discuss positives.
Yes, we can also discuss negatives if we could discuss positives.
Like I said, when a prophecy is given, you can wriggle yourself out of it. And let me say something, I’m not tying this to an individual–that you won an election doesn’t mean you have been sworn in.
Some pastors said President Jonathan would win the election and he didn’t win, what does this make of Christianity? Don’t you think it embarrasses the religion?
I read in the paper and even online that I said President Jonathan would win the election. That to me was a lie that was concocted from hell because I don’t understand where that came from. I never said that. Even the Sunday (a day after the presidential election) while the results were still being collated, I said these people would not win but let’s hope (Gen. Muhammadu) Buhari (retd.) will rule because I don’t see Buhari ruling and even if he rules, I don’t see him lasting in power. I repeated it and some of the APC leaders contacted me, I told them verbatim that God told me this man is not well and that you people are evil. You could have brought somebody else. Don’t drain life out of this man because you have an agenda to push this man forward. Nobody should die for Nigeria. Nigeria will keep being Nigeria no matter how many lives are lost. So those pastors who gave the prophecies know where they heard them (from). It’s a spiritual matter which is very dicey. Some of the pastors said he would win, some even said what would happen after he wins. I think they have the public to face for an answer. And I will not expect the people to judge them because some of these pastors have given prophecies that came to pass before. Before people now believe them to that extent, there must have been some things they said that came to pass. When certain things are not going the way some people prophesied, they shouldn’t be judged. People should only know that ‘this time, he missed it, so let’s hope next time he gets it right.’
A lot of people see prophets, particularly those who give prophecies, as diabolical. What do you say to people who think you might not be getting your prophecies from God?
You don’t blame people when they don’t see what you see or understand you. Inasmuch as there are prophets who have abused some things. A man says he’s a prophet, he has three wives. A man says he is a prophet, he drinks. A man says he’s a prophet, he charges money for prayers. A man says he’s a prophet and he collects money from people to prophesy for them. So prophetic ministry has been abused but being smelly in an area doesn’t mean there is no soap factory. It means the people have not gone to get the soap and apply it on themselves. I grew up with the late Archbishop Benson Idahosa. He was not, as it were, a prophet. He was not prophetic, telling you predictions and all that. He didn’t do that, so you should understand my pedigree; where I’m coming from. I didn’t come from a background where you would be told that this would happen tomorrow, so I didn’t like it.
Have there been situations where you prophesied and the people concerned did not contact you for prayers and the prophecy still didn’t come to pass?
So what do you do? Do you go back to ask what happened?
The day every prophecy you give comes to pass 100 per cent, you have become God. And I think 46 out of 50 is a pass mark. If a man gives 50 predictions and 40 of them come to pass, that is a pass mark. When 100 per cent of your prophecies are fulfilled, you are not a human being, you have become God and when you have become God, you don’t need to be in this world anymore. God will take you home. So when people tell me you said this, I would say what about this and that that happened? They would say I think it’s true. So I tell them, let’s focus on the things that happened. And let me say something to you. Not all prophecies given in a year get fulfilled that year. In 2013, I prophesied that the former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, would become the Emir of Kano. Then he was CBN governor. I had never been so haunted in my life as I was at the time. Bloggers abused me. Some said they had to verify my certificate, some said they had to check if I was well schooled. They said how on earth could a CBN governor become the Emir of Kano when the Ado Bayero had sons to succeed him? It came to pass in 2014. So that’s why I said you have to study prophecy. If you don’t study prophecies, you can’t understand prophecies. There are prophecies of 2012 that are happening now. If they don’t come to pass that year, it may be the following year but we have to be calm. But when you have a vendetta against prophecies, if you don’t see them come to pass, you get angry and attack the prophet.
You celebrated your birthday recently and gave out cars and people wondered where you’ve been getting wealth from.
I’ve given out 360 cars in the past 10 years. I’ve been a blessing to many lives. I’ve given out four houses and I have a lot of people who feel I’ve blessed them. So I look for people I know who have been church people and faithful and in need and I give it out to them. I can’t sleep in more than one house and I can’t drive more than one car, so I don’t believe that I need that aggrandisement. So I’m like a channel through which the blessed reach the poor. So most people don’t understand, they think that the man must have so much for himself to give so much. So that’s how we have empowered quite a number of people. Presently, every Thursday, we feed widows. We have 190 widows on monthly salary. These are people who have lost their husbands and are above 65 years old.
Why are your churches not all over the place like some others?
We are in 42 countries. We have 2,000 branches and a direct followership of seven million people and we are just 11 years old. So we are expanding.
With the money churches make, people say they should be taxed. Do you agree?
I pay my tax as a responsible citizen but as a church, I don’t think that a non-profit organisation should pay tax. I think what people should say is that there should be a regulatory body looking into the finances of charity organisation. Presently, there is a regulatory body that controls church finances. The attention was on the revenue of the church. People were concerned that there should be a form of responsibility, accountability, so the CBN has come up with laws that certain amounts of money cannot just be withdrawn from the church account. Now, there are certain regulations and I support that. This sole proprietorship where a man has access to all the funds in the church, I don’t think it’s good. But talking of taxes, the church will only emphasise to its members the need for them to pay their taxes. But as a church which is a non-profit organisation, I don’t think it goes well.
But are churches supposed to be run on tithes or voluntary donations?
Even if you mention tithes, it’s still voluntary because no man puts a gun to your head and says you must pay tithe. All the pastors stand and say 10 per cent of your income belongs to the Lord. Like I said, most ministerial operations have been abused. So I was hit one time when I said I don’t think a pastor needs a jet. I had a sledge hammer on my head from ministers. And I still maintain it that I don’t think a pastor needs a jet. If a pastor of a church buys a jet and it’s run by the church, because of the level of pressure on the pastor, it’s fine. But for the pastor as an individual to own a jet, how is he funding it? There are widows in that church; there are orphans in that church. You know what it means to pay a pilot, the landing fees to park your aircraft, there are so many things involved. At the end of the day, it portrays the church in such a light that they (pastors) are milking the society as it were. So if you are talking of tithing, donations and all that, in every church where the pastor has his head screwed on his shoulders, such donations go back into the work. I have auditors who audit our church from Abuja. These are independent bodies. And sometimes when they audit our church, they discover that the expenditure is more than the income, so they call me and say sit down. This scholarship, how did that happen because we just saw the inflow? So I say some friends who are not members of the church who received blessings did this and this. So I really believe that pastors should have a regulatory body looking into their finances.
You spoke about pastors owning private jets and earlier you said you have churches in 42 countries. How do you travel round because their argument is that they need the private jets to travel at a moment’s notice because of their itinerary?
When they say because of their itinerary, they are not under pressure. Nobody is putting the man under any pressure that he must run to London. You are going to London because you want to go to London. It’s necessary but when you check funding, how does it reflect in the welfare of the led? When you are in a church where everybody is wealthy, buy 20 jets, I don’t have a problem with that. In fact, if you’re in a church where people are looking for what to do with money, then you can talk about an aircraft. But when there are widows, orphans and people in need in that church, I don’t think so. Someone asked me on live television on my birthday, are you rich? I said no man can say he’s rich until he has reached out. When there are still people to be helped and assisted, you cannot say that you’re rich. Nobody is truly rich until you start a project. You may think you have money in the account but by the time you start building, you discover that you’re broke. You think you have until you meet people who are in need, that’s when you know you don’t really have money. That is why we have commercial airlines. The airlines are there. If you know you’re that busy, plan your itinerary. If you are not too busy to eat or sleep, I don’t know why you would be too busy to board a commercial flight. That’s my personal opinion.
Then what do you think about churches that own schools and hospitals and charge outrageous fees?
Certain investments have to be a calling. Every organisation, spiritual or non spiritual, you have to go into social service. It then has gone beyond religion. You must understand that the concept of Christianity, Islam or whatever you believe, there are certain people that will not listen to you until it has become a social service. So I’m not really against people who own schools, you should own schools. There are drug barons who have children, by coming to the school, they get character reformation. So I don’t have a problem with that. Where I have a problem is where there is extreme profit. When I say extreme profit, most churches that have schools put up a standard, we know that. But when it becomes outrageous, that is where there is a problem. Churches can own schools, hospitals. For example, somebody met me from the US. He said he was into hospital equipment and he saw me preaching in the US and wanted to give out hospital equipment. I was happy, so I went to God in prayers and said God, this is awesome, he’s giving me hospital equipment for free. So I said Lord, what do I call the hospital? The lord asked me which hospital? I said you are the person that must have touched this man, is this not a directive from you? So God asked me, do you want to open a hospital? I said yes. He said okay, you will be the first to be admitted in your hospital. So I said I didn’t want again. He said it was not my calling. Don’t open a private hospital. So those who are called to open hospitals will be able to answer the question better than I can because they know what God has sent them to do. But if you ask me questions about crusades, publishing, running a TV ministry, I can answer explicitly because those are my assignments.
So will Nigeria get the change it needs in Buhari?
Let me say this to you. In the next six months, people may stone Buhari. The reason I’m saying this is because the expectation is too high. Nigerians expect Buhari to put gold on their tables. Two, the large chunk of followership Buhari has are youths and young people and they are impatient. Young people don’t believe in progressive change, they want change. When they say change, they see a new picture. And Buhari has been talking from the two sides of the mouth. During campaign, he told us Boko Haram would be a thing of the past. Now, you are President-elect, you are saying people shouldn’t expect a miracle. Are you a pastor? If I wanted a miracle worker, won’t I bring a Mallam or a miracle worker? When you were being voted for, we were not voting for a pastor, so don’t tell us about miracles. Like I said, Jonathan will be seen as a hero very soon because that’s the Nigerian story. Anybody who they feel is not doing well, get him out. The next few minutes, they miss this person. If by September, there is still a blink in power, people will start abusing Buhari. You said you were going to do this. Two, who are Buhari’s footmen, the large chunk are ex-PDP people and of course you know, many are still defecting. Nigerian politicians are the most shameless people (I know); they can’t bear hunger. They are defecting now to lobby for offices. If you should check the people around the man, it gives you an idea of where the man is heading. If you check the agenda, listen to their campaign, it wasn’t about issues, it was about personality. Change this man! And I wanted us to talk about what the issues are, brainstorm to make things better. I heard he had a five-hour meeting behind closed doors with President Jonathan. He has now seen the reality of how deep the issues are and it has now dawned on him that the man sitting there was actually managing to survive. That is one thing about leadership. When the ball is passed to you, you realise it’s deeper than you think. So I do not see change in Nigeria. The only change I see is we have a breath of fresh air, a new government. To say there will be instant change in Nigeria, I doubt. We are praying as Christians and believers. It doesn’t matter what the enemy is trying to do in Nigeria, as believers, we know that the will of God will be done.