…Nigeria worth dying for – Pastor Ituah Ighodalo

…Says APC wasn’t prepared for governance
…Speaks on Buhari, Saraki, Tinubu, Oyegu
…Insists on economy that will make states stronger
…I have no problem with Pastor Adeboye

PASTOR Ituah Ighodalo, a chartered accountant, and an accomplished writer was born in Ibadan on April 6, 1961. He attended the King’s College, Lagos and the International School, University of Ibadan. He obtained a combined honours degree in Economics and Accounting in 1982 from the University of Hull, England. He is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and of the Chartered Institute of Taxation.

He is also a member of the Nigerian Institute of Management. He is the Editor-in-Chief of TIMELESS Newspaper, THE CHRISTIAN NEWS and TIMELESS BUSINESS & LEADERSHIP QUARTERLY. He also sits on the board of several charitable foundations and NGOs including the Courage Education Foundation, Eden’s Fields and Herotage Homes as well as a partner at SIAO (a firm of Chartered Accountants and Management Consultants).

He gave his life to Christ in 1993 and was ordained pastor in 1995. He has worked as associate pastor of Freedom Hall, (later renamed Hope Hall) as well as the City of David Parishes of RCCG and has been involved in international missions, helping to pioneer several Redeemed Christian Church of God parishes abroad.

Seven years ago he left the RCCG in controversial circumstances to establish Trinity House, an interdenominational church with headquarters in Victoria Island, Lagos. He is married to former Miss Lux, Ibidun Ighodalo nee Ajayi. To mark the seventh anniversary of Trinity House, SAM EYOBOKA & OLAYINKA LATONA got the debonair pastor to speak on the challenges of the ministry and the state of the nation. Excerpts……

PASTOR Ituah Ighodalo

From RCCG Christ Church to Trinity House. How has the experience been seven years after?

Even the rose has thorns. The journey has been quite challenging in that everywhere you go, there is something or the other that you need to overcome but the good thing about working for God is that if God is with you, first of all, devil will attack you but God will make a way for you to overcome that demon. The journey has its ups and down but I thank God that at every area of serious, sincere legitimate need, God has been so faithful and we are grateful to Him.

The first year after I left Christ Church, was a year at sea in that I did not know what to do with myself: I belonged to no parish but it was also a good opportunity for me to visit as many churches as I could. Every Sunday I would find myself in a different church. The only challenge with that, of course, is that no sooner that I entered the church that somebody there recognized me and that prevented me from enjoying my service.

After a while I was so particular with what I did and where I went and I began to pray to God to know what next: should I forget ministry and concentrate on my business and profession or just I do a few itinerant thing here and there. For a season I did not hear anything from God and I interpreted that to mean God wanted me to have a season of rest. So I rested, in between I was slightly ill and did my medicals. Thank God that everything was okay.

One bright day I just heard the voice ‘Trinity House’ and I began to ask God how will I go about this Trinity House because I did not have the resource to go into ministry. I kept praying and God in a mysterious way just provided the resources. Initially I asked a few people for support but I did not get positive response from them, only one lady responded and it was just only a token but God made a way Himself and He provided all the resources that we needed to kick start and run for a month or two and favour started coming from every quarter. I will never forget Jim Ovia who allowed us to use his venue free for two meetings and a few people brought equipment and my old people showed up and I knew indeed God was in this matter.

It has been very refreshing and very joyful to work with God. We worked with God in RCCG but now you deal with God directly. You have to take full responsibility for everything that you do and it also requires of your extra care. All the people that surround you are your direct responsibility, you have to look over them, their life and affairs. It is a very delicate work! Spiritual work is not something that you play with; it involves a lot of prayer, fasting, patience, listening to different kinds of people, some with agenda and some without.

I now understand why Solomon prayed for wisdom. Everyday I pray for wisdom because I need wisdom to deal with all the kinds of things that come across me and God has been consistent in giving us wisdom.

A cross section of APC supporters

And a lot of patience, understanding, tolerance of different kinds of environments and situations, boldness and courage to take some bold steps because at the end of the day, you have to take a decision concerning some certain things and sometimes some of those decisions are not very popular and if they are popular with one person, they might not be with another persons. One of my Pastor friends, late Pastor Eskor Mfon used to say if people are going this way, most likely God is going other way but we have to learn how to deal with unpopularity and eventually if it is God, they will see the wisdom in what you are doing.

How did you take your unexpected exit from Christ Church?

I took it like a soldier of Christ and you know when you fight a battle and you get hit by a bullet, it is painful but as a bold soldier, you take it as a soldier of Christ and know that it is something God allows for you to do other things. We took it very peacefully and there was no ‘wahala’ at all.

Were you angry with the leadership of RCCG?

Not at all! Because I could understand where he was coming from. I could understand his perspectives and what was going on and it was okay. He is my very good friend; I am close to him and I understand him very well and there was no place for anger, a bit of pain but no ‘wahala’.

You have reconciled your differences?

We had no differences. Like I said I understood what he was doing and we are very close even till tomorrow, I dare bold to say that. He is a very nice, friendly and humorous man. So we get on very well. I understand him, I know his strength and weaknesses and everybody has weaknesses and strengths including myself. So you work with the strength and tolerate the weakness and you move on.

You once told me that you would get Daddy G.O. to preach for you. Has he found time to do that?

I did not quite say so. He was the one that said he would come and preach for us and he has not done it. I did not say I will get him to do that, he on his own free will announced publicly that he was going to come to Trinity House and preach. Maybe he has been busy. When the time comes he will fulfil his words.

What has been the greatest challenge?

Typically with most ministries and with the way we started, it was finance because we did not start small. Most churches start small and grow bit-by bit. We started big from day one with a lot of what business people call historical or old problems. As in Christ Church, we started with a lot of welfare issues, people’s school fees, medicals, homeless children.

From day one, people knew the kind of grace that I carried and a lot of them came to look for me in the church, so it is like king David in the Cave of Adullam where all the needy people came. We have been carrying heavy burden and not only that we have quite a lot of technical people to give us quality and standard sound that we needed, so it was a kind of heavy lifting from day. Resources have been quite challenging. Even then God made a way—people you have never seen before would send you a cheque.

What will you say informed your passion for Nigeria?

I have a passion first of all to see things being done very well; to see people making progress. I grew up from a very upright, ethical and very morally standing parents. My mother, in particular, was the first female permanent secretary in Western Nigeria and at a time she headed Trade and Industry, Education, Information and at a time she was the chair person of Oduduwa Group of Companies in Nigeria, then WNDC. She was so passionate about Nigeria. She started her career as a civil servant and ended it as civil servant after 35 years. Till the day she died, she prayed for Nigeria everyday. If you like, it is in my DNA, my blood to try to make Nigeria work and succeed.

I see Nigeria has great potentials in mineral resources, in agriculture—Nigeria has no business importing one grain of food—great potentials in water resources, in human intellect, great potential in oil, sunlight, wind, tourism. The history and cultural heritage of Africa reside in Nigeria. We have great potential in landscape, almost everywhere you look in Nigeria, there are potentials including waste to wealth. The waste we throw away is wealth to some other people, the human dropping and other things are fuel in other countries. The toilet water is recycled in Israel; the sewage is recycled, separated, cleaned, reused and Nigerians waste almost everything.

APC Leaders

I went to Obalende recently to see a member of our church who was a bit ill and I was surprised seeing that human beings are living in that kind of circumstance, not to talk of people in Ajegunle, Mushin and people in the villages. When they were doing campaign in Edo state, I followed my uncle to encourage the people and the level of poverty is much that the things that a thousand naira could solve for my people in the village are huge. But you would find people who could not afford it. The decay in public schools is as if government did not know they even exist.

I followed a friend to Ado Ekiti recently to attend his father’s burial, the Ekiti that I met was the one that I knew in the 1960s; nothing has changed. Few things have changed in Ado Ekiti town but the surroundings have not changed. The roads that were built by the British in 1950s are still the same. When I was growing up, UCH was the eighth best hospital in the Commonwealth, Indian doctors used to come here to learn, people from West Indies used to come here to work in our hospitals, railway. Philippines used to come and learn tropical medicine, same from the United States but now it is the reverse.

Nigeria has the best doctors in John Hopkins, US. In the UK you will find out that 20 to 25 per cent of the workforce are Nigerians. Most of the professors in Harvard are Nigerians. The best student in America as at today is a Nigerian. If you go to China, Alaska, Norway, you will see Nigerians there. We are bold, hard-working, and adventurous. With all these capacities and intellectuals why are we still here? Is something wrong somewhere and that is why I resolve to do my best while I still have my breath.

Where did we get it wrong?

We did not allow a natural leadership evolution to evolve in Nigeria: the military as nationalistic as they claim they were, truncated our natural leadership development. In the beginning, the politics was a little bit rough, even now it is still rough but it’s getting better bit by bit.

More intellectuals and exposed people are getting into politics everyday, whereas in 1999 when this dispensation started, many intellectuals pulled back. Why? They did not think it would work. They did not trust the system, thinking the military would truncate it again. Then there was this horrible rumour that politics is dirty and it is only dirty people that get involved in it. But politics is the way to leadership.  If you put dirty people in government to lead you, you get a dirty environment and dirty government and that is what we are paying for in Nigeria.

If the military had not come in and imposed themselves; and these military officers were young men, fresh from Sandhurst. Military training is different from political, economical, administrative training. Because you are a good military general does not mean that you are a good politician or a good administrator or that you even know the dynamics of political training. If they know any economics, it is war economics but we are talking of handling resources, how the economy can be serviced, which civil servants have been learning for years and politicians have been exposed to through advice from civil servants.

We had non-accountability in that military regime: A military man from somewhere would be made a sole administrator in a place he had no affinity, obligation, accountability or motivation to do anything and nobody could call him to question because he was just imposed and we did not have people who had broad and esoteric mind to work effectively wherever they put them. The sole administrator was not accountable to anybody than the Commander in Chief of Armed Forces. And it couldn’t work that way—it was an aberration.

Not only that, when God blessed us with oil, we didn’t quite know what to do with it. We did not know that oil was as a seed and not bread. Oil was a seed through which economic emancipation of the other parts of Nigeria should have been fuelled. We should have used oil to develop industries, agriculture and other mining resources.

The military came and changed our derivation formula. In the first republic, each region was responsible for its own economy based on what it derived from its own economy. There was no strong central pull: the Western region ran its own parliament, ran its own laws, educated its own people and there was healthy rivalry and competition among the three regions.

They were copying one another. But by the time the derivation formula was cancelled because oil was found in southern Nigeria and the rest of the Nigeria wanted to partake in that oil by compulsion, there was no longer any motivation from any of the regions to try and ensure that they survived on what they could produce. They just waited every month for allocation.

The groundnut pyramids went, the palm kernel faded, the cocoa died, meanwhile oil should have financed better ways of doing cocoa, better ways of doing groundnut, cassava, education and better ways of doing other things. Our leaders were not motivated to get the best out of Nigeria and they had this mental poverty with what they referred to as ‘National Cake’, no nation can be built on cake sharing.

And now everybody is clamouring for restructuring…..

We must restructure and we must go back and look at our derivation principle. My suggestion is 50 per cent. Every state should consume 50 to 60 per cent of its natural resources and 30 to 40 per cent can go to the federal but because of our imbalance, we may tune it to five to 10 years; we keep reducing it every year. So that we sound a warning to everyone else to start developing their natural resources and start to become self funding.

And honestly, I did not think there is any state in Nigeria that cannot look after itself. The first is to feed itself through what it grows, the second is to educate its children and the third is to provide medical and social services. With a lot of efforts within 10 years, almost every state that is focused and is allowed to develop its own mineral resource and allowed to take 50 to 60 per cent of its earning should be able to stand on its own.

If I was head of state, I would have a 10-year plan and reduce the revenue sharing formula and taper it up to about 30 to 40 per cent so that the states can have 50 to 60 per cent of what they derive. It is their resource. They should do anything they want to do with it, share it among the people so that this clamour for oil will no longer be there and every state should go and look for its own oil.

Singapore has no oil and they are doing well. They even refine oil. Ghana leaves on cocoa and gold. Even in America, those on whose land oil is found own the oil and pay heavy taxes.Califonia is growing on agriculture and ICT and its richer than Texas where you find oil. Boston grows on technology and education, its not suffering.  Every state in America has it own strengths: some are just tourism and music and they are doing well. Samsung, Huawei and Kia fund the economy of South Korea. They did not have oil and they are surviving.

Have the current class of politicians helped the situation?

They could not because you cannot give what you don’t have. The problem is that people like us did not have the boldness, the foresight or the resources to go into politics in 1999. You didn’t need much resources to be in politics. You just needed to present yourself and almost everybody that presented themselves in 1999 got in and when they got in, they became kingpins and warlords because they started controlling resources. People like us stuck to our profession, nobody to mentor or advise us. Those who should advised us, told us that politics was dirty and not meant for us. But Nigeria is worth dying for.

For any good change, somebody died. Indira Gandhi died for India, Nelson Mandela died for South Africa, many people died for Israel, Lee Kuan Yew died for Singapore. What we need is a leader who is actually ready to die for this nation. These present crop of leaders, are they ready to die for the country? I am sure of one thing; that Nigeria is actually worth dying for.

Mandela said: “It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” And that is exactly same thing that I am saying that: Nigeria is worth dying for. We need a leader, a President who is ready to die for the country.

Will you consider going into politics?

I am into politics a little bit but because of my pastoral calling, I am a little bit non-partisan at this point in time except if it becomes glaring and needed. My role right now is to speak truth to power, develop a crop of political leaders and I am prepared to offer myself if a specific role I wish to play is open before me.

What is the purpose of the Honour Nigeria Awards that you give annually?

There are many stools on which the emancipation of Nigeria stands: one is to recognise those who have served diligently, ethically and morally. It is to thank and appreciate them and showcase them as people worthy of emulation. Every nation has its heroes. Unfortunately, in Nigeria we do not have many of these people and where we have, they are hiding because they don’t have the money to proclaim or promote themselves. So we look for them and honour them. We believe we are honouring Nigeria as we honour them. Some of them are well known while some are not known. It is to showcase them as role models.

But the award have gone beyond Nigeria

Yes, we have an African award which late Mandela won, Kenneth Kaunda, the first President of Zambia, he did very well for the freedom of Zambia, and we will still go beyond that. I am African centric not just passionate about Nigeria and I think if Africans could pull together, unite and think right, we can emancipate ourselves from the clutches of the Western world. I know that Africa has a lot of potentials.

What’s your assessment of two years of APC government?

The problem with APC government is that they were not prepared for governance. They were more focused on getting power and when you get power, what are you going to do with it? That is why for the first four, five months, they were just feeling their way. Before Donald Trump was sworn in as President, he had chosen his cabinet. In Britain we have what they call a shadow cabinet.

But APC was not quite prepared for governance. It took them long before they chose their cabinets and and such slows down the economy. Two, their focus and fight against corruption almost distracted what they should have done. They should have set up a special task force on corruption and fight it while the Presidency will focus on the economy rather than only corruption. Corruption is not the only problem in Nigeria but one of the key problems.

Nigeria lacks vision. The vision, mantra has to be defined. A nation lines up behind a mantra, it goes beyond promises. We want Nigeria to be number one in Africa; number one in economy, friendliness, in education, environment, number one in quality of life and happiness of its people; number one in tourism and others.

But unfortunately there is no vision and people queue behind one who has vision. When a leader goes they may not remember other things but they will remember this is Mr. number one. We remember Obasanjo for Operation Feed the Nation, Buhari and Idiagbon for War against Indiscipline but we have gone past all that. We should think about making Nigeria great again. We even came out with that slogan before Donald Trump started saying make America great again.

They have not quite chosen the best of hands to drive our economy. In several positions, we do not have the best in class and in Nigeria, we always have the best in class: go and look for them wherever they are all over the world. It is time to get rid of too much politics over everything, let us go and look for the best in place.

APC itself is fragmented, there is no real political party as such and there is no real central unit pulling the political party together. You can say anything about late Chief Obafemi Awolowo but he formed and ran a party, Action Group, UPN. It was well coordinated and everybody bowed to the supremacy of the party and the party was cohesive and united. Although there were few renegates here and there which is natural but the party took control.

In APC, where is the party? Again it is like strange bird fellows coming together to take power, there is no central figure piloting the party. Any time, any moment anything can happen and this was my initial challenge to them. When all these things were starting, I kept on asking the leaders where was the party, where was the voice, spirit, the theme and strength of the party or the succession plan? They said they wanted to win the election first. Now the chickens have come home to roost, you have won the election what next?

Everybody is thinking 2019, that is not what we want. How is it going to benefit Nigerians and that is why to some extent I salute Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu in that he was compelled to bury his personal ambition but now he is feeling that somehow he has not benefited. But he should be patient and be a statesman, be magnanimous enough and move on. We want something that will benefit all Nigerians. Nobody is thinking for the poor masses who have not taken a meal for a day.

We want a real party for a change. I think it could be better if somehow the leadership of APC can come down and put Nigeria first, let someone be their leader to form a cohesive party, bury individual ambitions, talk to themselves and put their best foot forward for the interest of this nation.  The leadership must talk to themselves and stop all these greedy, selfish desires, personal interests that are destroying our economy.

They all know the truth; it is just only about self interest. Nobody can tell me that they did not know what Buhari can do or his best, or Tinubu, Oyegun, Amechi, Osinbajo, Saraki and others. Why does everybody want to become the President? When you put a group of boys together on a pitch, when they play you will know who has leadership skill, you’ll know natural number two and others.  The main challenge is that the real support that Buhari needed, he didn’t get. They were not sincere about giving him that support and in choosing the right team.

Nigerian Christians are at war with the government over a change to the education curriculum that fused IRK, CRK to one subject to be known as Religion and National Values….

That is unfair; a man should have a choice of what he wants to study. It is dangerous because it depends on who is teaching, it is a back way of doing something delicate. Nigeria is a secular state and there must be freedom of religion, worship. It is either you have a curriculum that caters for all religions including African Traditional Religion for those who are interested and then you chose your course, or you cancel everything completely allowing only technical and professional courses and get religious teachings at home.

But we should have Muslim students to go for Islamic Religious Studies while Christians attend the Christian Religious Knowledge class. If Christians opt to go for IRK, there is noting wrong with it but it must not be forced on them. Such will not be acceptable.

Nigerians used to do things together. I grew up in a background where my grandfather was a Christian and his brother a Muslim and almost every family in Nigeria was like that and there was no problem. My mother would buy ram for my aunty during Ileya festival. They would slaughter it and eat in peace. She also celebrated with us during Christmas period and attend church with us. We did not have any problem at all.

What is the secret of your youthful look?

I will say it is the grace of God. The second is a peaceful mind and the third is fare diet. I eat little and moderate, I am not a greedy person. You are what you eat, people eat, they are bloated, uncomfortable, unable to sleep, they eat almost everything. I don’t eat all those things. I eat fruits, vegetables, small proteins in decent quantity and I drink a lot of water and I have peaceful mind. When your mind is at peace, you are not angry often, you are not squeezing your face, no undue aggression, it will reflect in your face. I take life easy.

You are almost on every social media platform and yet you have managed to stay out of controversy. How do you do that?

I have just told you. I take life very easy. I mind my business and I try to speak the truth. I quarrel with nobody and don’t make enemies. Actually some people will not like you but I like them. I am not competing with anybody.

I am running my own race and I don’t quarrel with anybody that have issue with me. I will just tell you that I do not agree with what you said and I will suggest that there are better ways of doing it and you can take it or leave it. And everybody has a good and bad side. I look out more for the good side of people, there is no one I can not work with.

How did you meet your beauty queen wife? Does she find time to make your food?

I met her at a wedding reception where I went to minister. One of my people was getting married and I was invited. I greeted her and somebody who noticed that I gave her a bit of attention at the wedding decided to make an introduction, and we began as friends.

What I like about her most is her mind, she has a very fresh, determined and forthright mind. I decided to marry her and help her to become what God has destined her to become and I think I have tried my best in that area.

I married her to fulfil her purpose in life because I loved her for who she was and I made no demands on her for whatsoever and to answer your question, she does cook my food from time to time but I do not make any demands on her.

Not only that she is a fantastic home manager, wherever she is in the world, she supervises the home and my diet. Presently, she is out of town but she has instructed all that I am going to eat. She is very fantastic, generous in giving of herself, very hard working. She has the usual ‘palaver’ most people would have since nobody is perfect but honestly she is a really wonderful woman, forthright, hard-working, willing to support me to any level that I want. She is determined to be successful and she is very caring.

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