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Bishop Mike Okonkwo

I Was A Chain Smoker, Drunk, But God Saved Me – Bishop Mike Okonkwo

Dr. Mike Okonkwo, the presiding Bishop of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM), will clock 70 on September 3. In this interactivesession with newsmen, he speaks about his journey to 70 years, the challenges ofhis ministry and how God hasbeen faithful to him. He also speaks on many national issues. Titus Eleweke who was there reports

At 70, how do you feel?
In terms of feelings, I would say that I feel
happy and excited .By the grace of God, I have
been able to go this far. I am grateful to God.

What is the secret, you look younger than 70?
A lot of people attribute my health and good
looks to exercise, watching what one eats and
all those stuffs, but to be honest with you, I will
attribute mine to God on my side.
Yes, I do exercise, but I don’t do exercise to
go and participate in Olympic . Many people get
involve with exercise but I have come to realised
that fitness is not about your size or stuff, so I do
little exercise. What I do most recently is to play
table tennis, I like to swim but I am not too sure
of the swimming pools in this country and I don’t
have a private one .
What I do whenever I am around is play table
tennis , two- three times a week. I play table tennis
but as for food I eat everything, I eat red meat,
some people will say don’t eat red meat, I eat carbohydrate
so I am trying to say dieting is not good
but for my own part I wouldn’t say that is my doing
but it just the grace of God.

What role has mummy (your wife) play in all
Wonderful role, I cannot thank God enough for
the type of wife He has given to me but I always
asked myself that if God did not give her to me, I
don’t think I would have been able to achieve the
much I have been able to achieved over the years.
Because with the type of assignment we have
as ministers of the gospel, two things we must tell
ourselves and understand that part of our duty is
not only husband to our wives but husband to
every person as a woman in your church, you are
also father to every person. And if you have a wife
that does not understand this fact and is possessive,
it could destroy your work and as for me I
don’t know how I would have been able to survive,
if every day we are fighting at home and with
the huge responsibility I have. There is no way I
would have been able to survive but I have an understanding
wife who people will even be thanking
her for something she didn’t know I did.
But if she is not somebody who understands,
she will come outside to rake and make noise.
As for that, Almighty God has been very kind
to me. She is good at knowing people, knowing
their names, individually and reaching out to them
when am not able . So is a huge contributor to the
work of God.
Sunday, August 9, 2015 ww.theunion.com.ng

What was the reaction of your parents to your
They virtually almost deny me , they did not
understand why I left banking job for the ministry
. I was working in a bank and I was comfortable,
I had a bright future in the then African Continental
Bank(ACB) which I started in Martins street,
with headquarters in Broad Street, Lagos . Suddenly,
I stared telling them I have the calling of
God and to worsen it all, of all places in the Pentecostal
church which to them was Aladura.
So they said if I want to answer the call of God
I should be in Anglican or Catholic.
At a stage, they told a police man to come and
arrest me, they framed all kinds of things just for
them to get at me or divert my attention but I was
resolute my mind was made up and nothing can
change it. So for four years, I refused to have contact
with them so that they will distract my attention.
I am glad to let you know that before my father
died, the ministry had started growing. He was
able to see that this is really destiny from God.
We are not even at Gbagada then, we were still in
Akoka and relatively small, but my parents were
able to see that this is the destiny of God for me.

What were the challenges you faced at the beginning
and how were you able to overcome them?
There were several challenges in the ministry,
obviously as you begin to grow, one challenge will
lead you to another challenge. The first challenge
I faced, was when I lost my first child. I got married
to my wife in 1980, we had our first daughter
in 1982, I went for a crusade in Abeokuta, Ogun
State, you know how crusades were done in those
days. We came back just the following day which
was 24th, a day to Christmas and on the Christmas
day, she sang in the children choir and at night of
the 25th, she developed high fever and by early
morning 26th she died and I was going to preach
in the church on that 26th.
I left her in the room with my wife and I went
to preach and I never mentioned to them that I had
this situation in my house.
So, to me for a young minister that was one of
the most challenges we had. Another major experience
was that my immediate younger brother
who was the only support I had when I entered
the ministry. He was the only one among my siblings
that supported me. My parents had 10 children,
six boys and four girls. He had passed his
advanced Higher School Certificate (HSC) from
one of the Government colleges in North and was
to study medicine, but my father refused to send
him to school because he was supporting me.
That was the punishment meted out to him,
with believe that he would stop supporting me.
With the help of God, he went to the University
Teaching Hospital, Lagos and graduated as a
medical doctor and joined the Navy. He was still
active in the church supporting the ministry, leading
the praise and worship.
One of the days I was travelling out of the country
and I gave him an assignment with one of my
elders and on they getting to the church armed
robbers trailed him in his car and close him up inside
the church compound and told him to give
them the key of his car. I think because of his
military background, he resisted and started fighting
them and he was shot.
They started battling for his life and I was
abroad, eventually they took him to one hospital
in Akoka. With Nigerian Factor, they knew they
can’t handle the issue and they continue holding
him there, eventually they were able to remove
him to another hospital and eventually, he died.
It was very devastating, but one thing God keep
telling me was that these challenges could make
one reject the call of God, because at the end of
challenge another would comes.
The best I can do was to be the best in what God
was calling me for. That is the only way I can be
able to grow. There were a lot of challenges; there
were challenges of not having enough funds to
do the calling of God. I don’t know how we have
been do every project we had carried out. It was
by faith and I still believe in the scripture that the
just shall live by faith.
God was actually the one that built this church.

Sir, would you please share some of your experiences
before your calling that can be a lesson
to the younger ones?
Before my calling I live all my life in Lagos, my
father came here a long time ago and we move
down to Lagos when I was around 5 years.
We were living in Apapa and I was schooling at
Baptist Primary School and as years went on. We
were a bit comfortable, my father worked with
Post and Telecommunication (P&T) and as a matter
of fact he retired as an Assistant Director . In
1957 he told me to go and live with a man from
the same town who was a lecturer at Offa Grammar
School. So, we are living in the place till I
passed in to Mayflower, Ikenne under Tai Solarin.
I was there for two years but with all the harassments,
because I couldn’t speak Igbo very well. Friends will turn to me and mock me that I had to go to my parents for a change of school. My
parents had to changed me to a School in Oba, in the Eastern region , close to Onitsha and that was where graduated in 1963.
All throughout, my parents made sure I went tochurch, Anglican church. Truly religious, but truly I did not have the experience of who Jesus is, my
parents were very religious but they did have encounter
with Christ. My father was a disciplinarian, he did not take bribe. It was one of the rules in our home not to collect any anything from any person. Things turned around during the war, there were certain things that happened in my life during
the war because I was working in a bank but had the experience too, people were offering bribes to exchange money for fake , collecting money that did not belong to them.
When the war intensified, I had to ask for transfer because people were afraid they were not safe in the western region again. I was transferred to Onitsha. When the war intensified they were recruiting people by force into the Army and they had to come to the Bank,
I was not picked because I went to buy cigarette. They came in the second time and this time they met me but I asked for a permission to withdraw some moneys, but I used the opportunity to run away .
My brother and I later went voluntarily because they might capture. We trained for three months and throughout these months ,we never fired one short, they never gave us any gun to use, they were just teaching us theory.
One day they just came and said they were moving us to the military headquarters and a lot of ideas were coming to our heads and in the night they were distributing guns to everyone and I told my brother not to take any gun .He asked what, we were going to do and I told him to wait.
Later we went towards the gate we came in from and we told the army at the gate that we wanted to go and help pick of the officers’ load he left in his car, that he sent us to go and collect. Surprising the gatemen allowed us and immediately we
came out we ran into the bush, the next morning it was ‘One Nigeria’ the war ended.
All those sent to the war front that night were all killed. Looking back, I now know that God kept me alive because of the assignment he had
for me.
As the war ended every persons went back to, smoking, drinking, womanizing and others, but one day I came to Lagos with Dr. Ilo and one of Doctor’s cousins were praying, because they have received Christ they did not invite me and I felt
lonely right there and I told God that night , ‘if there is anything you want to do with this life I give it to you, I did not know what I did but as soon as we went back from there, the next morning I was in church.
My friends said it won’t last but it has lasted till now. So I started serving God then. Some people said they saw lightening, they saw thunder, God call them by opening the ceiling, and mine was not like that. I didn’t see lightening or thunder but I know inside me that this is what God want me to do .There was opportunity, in fact I left the bank without resignation. I had the opportunity and prospects, I had everything but I was not interested and I wasn’t ready for any work.
It can only be God that put that inside me. For me it has been a journey of joy and victory, God took me step by step. Yes, God gave me wonderful promises concerning this ministry but to be honest with you I did not believe it. It was not the case of I was sure of where I was going He has done what he said and he is still doing much more and for me am excited.
Sir, at what point did you meet your wife and
how were you able to choose her?
Then talking about my wife, both of us were in
the same church she came to the church before
me and when I saw her I love everything about
her, but I did not have the courage to talk to her
, ordinarily am a shy person, it is only the pulpit
that am strong. I don’t know how to toast women. So when I
saw I desire to marry her but the only way I can
express it was to attack her most of the time and she attack me back.
She felt I was arrogant because then I would drive to church in my father’s car.
She came from a humble background, she lost her father at a young age. So we were like cat and dog. Later I saw that she was attached to my elder sister so I told my sister that I like her and I would love to marry her.
I was still a young Christian, people lie about the voice of God about marriage because they were not sincere, even if you have not heard the voice of God in your life, you don’t even know him much or how God speaks, but there is sincerity in your heart , it is God that will make him know He is the one speaking to you. For instance it is not a child that is born today responsibility to know how to hear the mother’s voice, is the mother’s responsibility to teach the child to know her voice.
So it is God that will teach us that He is the one speaking as long as there is sincerity. So I cannot insist I will marry her if God did not confirm it and ensure that this is His way for us and she was willing to let go. So when I spoke to my sister about it who spoke to her mother and then to our spiritual head
who supported us too. That was how she agreed to
marry me that was before I answer the call, I was still
working in a bank, I was going to church, committed
but after we agreed to marry.
Then people started convincing her that if she
marry me she will go hungry. Who in the world marries
a preacher, this type of preacher, you will die of
hunger. I remember one of my cousin told her that if
you marry him and you come to knock at my door, I
won’t open for you.
And my parents were also using other people because
they wanted me out of the ministry. They now
say Alright they will use her but to me I don’t care I
was ready to go ahead with the ministry.
For the next four years she travelled to United
Kingdom to study and I was here with the ministry
but God spoke to her through a prophet that your
husband is a preacher and he is in Nigeria.
To cut the long story short that was the end of
her school days and she came back.
Your regrets in life and why did your friends
said your being born again would not last?
In life people will always prove who they are
and you must be willing to expect shocks in your
work as you begin to live your life.
Don’t leave your life and thinking every person
is a saint. Challenges, pressures, difficulties are
part of this life. Life is made up of negative and
positive, it is never just one side, it is made up of
mountains and valleys. You must settle that once
and for all in your life. You should know that you
are living here on earth and you will be face with
one challenges of life but that should not make
you stop your dream, you should keep on dreaming
and keep on working because those are the
stepping stones to higher things in life.
If I had allowed the challenges, I had been
through to stop me, I won’t have been where I am
today. Challenges must come and you must learn
to carry your head higher, if you don’t know how
to hold your head high, learn to face difficulties of
life when they come.
Two, don’t play with relationship, God will
always bring some people along your path, no
matter who the person is, don’t take anyone for
granted because any of these people can be the
stepping stone to where you are going.
Three, no solo success in life, you can never
succeed alone, there is no self made man, let me
tell you two ways you can not be a self made man,
one, you did not give birth to yourself, two, when
you die, you cannot bury yourself.
Whatever I could have call regret is that I would
have prefer to be saved earlier but I would say that
is how God wants it.
Knowing what I know now, I would have preferred
that I was saved as a young person.
I wasn’t too rough because like I said I wasn’t
really into women , somebody who is shy how
will you talk to women, it is only when you are
bold to talk to them that you do something with
them but does not mean that I do not have my own
share .
I was drinking, I knew I drank a lot, I knew I
was smoking a lot. When I tell you smoking, I
was really a chain smoker that if I did not see cigarette
I would go to the ash tray and pick the one
that I have smoked before and light it again.
But all these stopped no one preached to me
that I should stop smoking, stop drinking, I just
stopped because I felt it was not consistent with
my Christian life.
Sir, what are things you share with your mother?
I am more like my mother than my father , my
mother was strong, was industrious, hardworking,
she was a trader, she was trading in Abada and
George as a matter of fact she had a store at Oyingbo
My mother was a strict disciplinarian, she was
very tough but we loved her, she took very good
care of us.
She believed in us and kept on encouraging us
irrespective of the challenges of life.

Sir, the issue of same sex marriage how do you
think the church, school and home can help so
that Nigeria youths will not take to it?
The issue of same sex marriage is not in the
Bible.I was ready something on it. The church
should not be shocked about this same sex marriage
thing because they are part of the end time
event and don’t be surprised there will be other
things that will come up, I won’t be surprised if
bestiality is introduced, but I will be shocked
if the church begin to get involved in it. Nations
don’t go by bible they play politics, they are playing
politics but the church must take a clear stand
and not accept it .
Parents must talk about it to their children and
make them know that that it is not a right thing to
do. Parents and church have the huge responsibility
otherwise when your child goes to school and
see two men kissing themselves, he may think
that is the normal thing to do, so we must let the
children know that this is what Bile says . Two
women or two men cannot produce a baby so I
think the church will be very vocal about it.
Who is your mentor?
A lot of people have mentored me but I
would say that my spiritual head in the church
where I started. I started in a church called
UCC in those day, I learnt how to be on my
knees because in those days we don’t know
much about bible but we can pray,
I learnt how to stay on my knees and get results
. Many other anointed men of God in and
outside the country were my mentor, most especially,
Arch Bishop Benson Idahosa, he was
an institution on his own, I was telling them
in church last year that no one had been able
to enter the shoes of Arch Bishop Idahosa, we
missed him because if he had been alive some
of the things that are happening today might
not have happened .
Things Idahosa did, no one has been able to
do it.He was a kingdom minded man , he was
bigger than the church of God mission and he
was a man that like to raise from little, he did not
care who you are, he raise you and showed you
what you can become.
He was the first person that made me ride in
a limousine , when V boot came out newly he
told me to sit with me in his car, a V boot, what
was he showing me, he was showing me visions
and dreams what I can become. He will prepare
a banquet table in his house, I will seat with them
and eat , he was teaching me, by example.
As one with God, what will you asked from
Grace, Lord more grace, grace upon grace.
Are there succession plans in place?
I am m praying to God, saying God, am seventy,
this work must continue and we need people
who will take it to another level. No single person
fulfils a dream, I have started thinking about it,
started praying about it and I trust God for that.
At what time in life did it occur to you in life to
get involve in the growth of young generation
through your foundation?
I don’t really know how it happened but I will
say Gods vision is progressing and things begin
to unfold, that is how the issue of some of the
things you are seeing . You get to a point in your
life and asked yourself what do you really want to
do. How many beds are you going to sit on.
In fact in your bed you can only sleep in a corner,
in your car, you are sitting in one side so you
will now wonder what is the essence of life, if it
does not add value to other people . So what
gives me joy is to see people who my input in
their lives has improved their lives, that is the
With the little resources God has given to
us, we put smiles on the faces of people. We
are motivating and challenging , who are you
going t lift up. I should let people to be responsible
Most people that have benefitted from my
foundation are Muslims. God made rain to fall
both on the good and the bad in other to reap
them, it is the goodness of God that leads to repentance,
it is God goodness in one’s life that
will lead the person to change.
Why will I take the money I had here and
leave my road, healthcare are not working,
education is collapsing , roads are death traps,
then I take the money to another country to
give to their people low interest rate . Our interest
rate is killing in Nigeria. The only way
to explain this is insanity.
I have never seen a person died and he or
she is buried with his money. I have not seen
this before.
Several ministers have lost their dignities
in the course of their ministry, what have you
done to have yourself intact and what advise do
you have for young ministers?
One of the things I will advise young ministers
are ;I have been minister of the gospel and as minister
of the gospel you are suppose to represent all
constituents, in other words when it comes to the
issue of politics, your desire should be how can the
citizens benefit and not what is your own interest .

Way out of insurgency in Nigeria?
Prayers, government should negotiate if they
are willing and then ensure that the military is rid
of saboteurs . At least let government do what they
can do as the government , go through the military and
ensure we don’t have saboteurs among them. Above
all, we should intensify prayers and support the government
and not just accusing them and judging
them. We really need a lot of prayers.

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