By Ephraim Oseji & Anino Aganbi
Pastor Goodluck Okotie Eboh of The Ark fellowship, Houston, Texas is one of the children of the late Finance Minister, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh. In this interview, Good-luck shares his childhood memories with Sunday Vanguard about his childhood among other things.
Tell us why you made this trip to Nigeria?
We are aware of some of the practices that some of our pastors have here. Some of the things embarrass me over there in the US because I see pictures. Some of the things you hear are really outrageous and I can’t really understand how that can be.
We know there are young pastors today in Nigeria who do not have people to mentor or direct them to the way the gospel should go. The Bishop of Holy Spirit Mission Church had this vision about having a conference to let them know they do not have to follow some of the practices that Ministers have here.
We want them to focus on serving Christ. We came up with this conference to bring pastors together and teach them the way to go and the way to run the Church. Right now, based on what we have done and based on what I saw in this meeting, I already know that God’s hand is in this. He has a purpose.
Where He is going to drive this movement, I really don’t know. But I do know that the scripture says that what God starts, He finishes. And the end of a matter is usually much bigger and better than the beginning. So I think we have had a good beginning and this will help to correct some of the ill practices that Ministers have here in Nigeria. Some of the things some pastors do here, if they do it in America, they will go to jail.
What was growing up, as one of the children of the late Finance Minister, Chief Festus Okotie Eboh, like?
Growing up, you would hear a lot about him from people. My father was in Lagos doing his thing. We heard so much strange stories and we began to wonder where all these things we heard about were kept. The stories include the one that said our father was hiding gold in the basement of our house. So I went back home and started searching for where he could have hidden the gold. So we heard all these stories about his stashing of money and gold and they were not in the house. But my father was a very simple person.
I was to go into secondary school the year before he died. He called me up to ask me what school I wanted to go and I told him Federal Government College Warri. He looked at me and said I knew he had a school. So he made to take the entrance exam to his school and I had to pass without any special preference.
But luckily I passed. In my opinion, in that year, he was beginning to wind down. In 1965, he hardly left home and that was when we had a sense that something was about to happen. He stayed with us planning things, a lot of which never materialised before his death. He wanted to leave politics but his fellow politicians wanted him to continue because he had money. After his death, one of the most traumatic things I still remember till date because Nigeria has no history except what just happened in the colonial time. I would be sitting in the classroom and people would be talking about how they killed my father. That was one of the most painful experiences I had to go through as a child. Everybody had his opinion about what he was like and I would sit there whether I liked it or not. That was the most painful part for me as a child.
Why didn’t you join politics like your father?
I enjoy politics. Right now I enjoy the politics of the United States. I am political by nature. But as a Christian, I don’t want that kind of life. I tell my children that I have the greatest job that any man would ever have as a human being. The President of Nigeria is employed by Nigerians. I work for God and there is no bigger employer than Him. He will pay you well and protect you. Soldiers won’t come to your house to try to kill you.
I enjoy being called a pastor. I remember coming back to Nigeria once and some immigration officers asked if I was Festus Okotie-Eboh’s son. They wanted me to come and run for political office. I prefer what I am doing right now especially as God has called me and I am in another country where I am able to reach people
Would you say the name Okotie-Eboh opens doors for you within and outside Nigeria?
My father has been dead for so long. The younger generations do not know much about him. Even in the US, when they call me, the name sounds familiar to the younger people but they do not know the history like the older generations. I would say it does because there was one time my pastor visited Nigeria. When he returned to the US, he kept saying I am an important man in Nigeria. He said while he was going through immigration, he was asked what he was doing in Nigeria and he told them he came to visit the Okotie-Eboh family.
And they ended up not checking him. My brothers may get more recognition since they are the ones resident here. I was able to get to President Obasanjo’s office when I needed something. Sometimes the name helps. At other times, some people think my father was corrupt, some think he wasn’t. Some think he was rich while some don’t. Some people think he was one of the few people who brought corruption to Nigeria and I have to hear all of that. But I am able to separate myself from all of that because I am a child of God. That’s more important to me than being Okotie-Eboh’s son.
How were you able to raise your kids in a country where it is believed you can’t spank children?
My eldest sister came visiting some time ago and she asked me how I managed to get my children to be so respectful. I thought about it and I really do not know. This is one thing I found years ago, there’s a passage in Isaiah 54 where God said, “In righteousness you shall be established. Great shall be the peace of your children.
All our children will be taught of God”. And so I grabbed on to that scripture. I grew up without a father. My brothers and I were quite wild when we were growing up because we had the money and factories and there was no supervision, so we acted really bad. Back then, you would hear parents say “we don’t want you being like the Okotie-Eboh children” but, then, Jesus changed my life.
Now I live without a father, and my father wouldn’t allow any of our mothers to be near us. I didn’t know how to be a parent. I saw that scripture and I held on to it. I trusted that scripture and did what I and my wife knew how to do and it seems like it is working for us. My wife and I can’t take credit for that. We know that God helped us to raise our children and I am very grateful for that.