Rev Chris Okotie : The Man, The Myth, The Legend By Arc Nya Etok - Ezekiel - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE

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Sunday, June 21, 2020

Rev Chris Okotie : The Man, The Myth, The Legend By Arc Nya Etok - Ezekiel

                               • Okotie

It was in the 80s that we met. He was the undisputed King of Pop in Nigeria who had broken every known and imaginable record in the music industry. He was rich, very, extremely rich!!! His shows were constantly sold out, and he had a near fanatical fan base. 
Our meeting was on Enugu Campus of the University of Nigeria, where he was a Law student, while I read Architecture. 
While he was the  Pop Star, I was simply Brother Ezekiel, the Christian Union (CU) boy with a near fanatical love for music.  It was this love for music that made me the Eastern Zonal Chairman (South-South and South-East), of Gospel Music Promotion (GMP), of which the Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey, was the National Chairman. 

I guess it was music that was the bond between Chris Okotie and myself initially. As at that time, I probably had one of the best collections of contemporary gospel music in Nigeria. 
I started talking to Chris Okotie through giving him some amazing gospel vibes, one of which was a song by Cliff Richard (Yesterday, Today, Forever). He was so fascinated with the song that he would come to my room and spend hours listening to, copying, and playing the song with his guitar. Before long, he had not only mastered the song, but introduced his unique flavor to the song. This was the beginning of my secret love and admiration for Chris Okotie’s Vision, Determination, and Commitment. 

By 1986, we had both left the university campus. While he moved to Lagos to go to Law School, I moved to Maiduguri for my National Youth Service. 
When I returned in 1987 to Lagos, Chris took me in as a younger brother, and I became one of the very few people that ever lived with him.
 He had become a born again Christian before we left Enugu Campus. Though many had linked me to his being born again, this man’s zeal and commitment to God often made me wonder how much I appreciated the gift of being born again. 

It was an exciting experience from a different perspective. When he became born again, some Christians at that time had sharply divided opinions. A good contemporary example is if Obaseki was to join PDP today, while many many PDP members will be happy with what would be considered a major loss to APC, with the big fish coming to PDP, some members  of the PDP who have been calling the shots may not be so excited as they would suddenly become relatively smaller fishes. 
In the case of Chris Okotie, many of us were excited that the devil had lost a general, and it did not need any imagination that, like Apostle Paul, he would become a major kingdom mover. On the other hand, a  particular young lady felt that God was being unfair that a man who had enjoyed the best of the secular world, was now coming to enjoy the peace of kingdom rather than go to hell and pay for his wicked exploits in the secular world!

On my return to Lagos, I observed that  Rev Chris Okotie still took the Christian life as a matter of life and death. He would read the Bible as if he was studying for Law School final exams!!! He made a 100% turn from the activities of the secular world, including singing his secular songs. Expectedly, with time, the inevitable happened, -drying up of his source of income which was performing the secular songs which he had stopped because he found it incompatible with his newfound faith in Christ. At a point, it got so bad that he would disguise to go and buy food on the street to eat . 

It was at one of such moments that an offer came which got me very excited as I thought ‘money was coming’ ,There was to be a major show and he was to be paid a huge amount of money to be the main artiste for the show. I sat with him as he listened to the proposal.  At the end, he simply said “ol’boy, una know say I no dey do shows again, and na only gospel I dey sing now”. While I was happy that he took his stand for gospel, I was at the back of my mind thinking of the big opportunity we had seemingly lost to make some money.! As if God answered my prayers, they agreed he should come and perform gospel songs at the show. To my shock,confusion, annoyance and cocktail of rioting emotions, it was as if I did not hear him well when he told them “Ol boy, I no dey do show again, God don tell me make I leave show for now”. Bottom line is that the people left disappointed. 
It was with this that his real passion and zeal to obey God at all costs showed. 

For me, though my argument was that he had missed a major opportunity to witness for Christ, the honest truth was that witnessing was not my biggest concern.  Rather it was the cash, tons and tons of cash that he let go of even though he was obviously very broke!
By now, while people draw lines on the sand,Pastor Chris Okotie, leaving nothing to chance, had carved a line on the rock - a line he had crossed and he would never go back for anything in the world! He was passionate about God, he was committed about his calling, and he was determined to pay whatever price that was required to preserve that.

 By the time he started the Household of God Fellowship in Ikeja, Lagos, we had Pastor Taiwo Odukoya and his late wife, Bimbo, Anselm Madubuko and his late wife Connie , one brother Albert, myself, and of course, Rev Chris and Rev Mrs Teena Okotie in the meeting before the inaugural church service.
It was one of the hottest meetings I can remember. On that day, it appeared to me that he replaced the line he had carved out on a rock,which separated him from his life before he became born again, to tempered steel!  He had undertaken a covenant of salt with God, and irrevocably sold his soul to the blood covenant with Christ. As if in a trance, I saw through his soul and before me was a man whose die was cast!
The setting up of the church brought me to a new revelation with this man. Unknown to many people, Rev Okotie is a man who understands commitment and dedication like no one I have ever read about or seen.
With the commencement of the church, I had to move to the boys’ quarters as the  guest room downstairs became his office, and the sitting room downstairs became the main auditorium of the church. 
His schedule was religiously adhered to: by 8am, he would come down to the office and study till 12pm when he would go back upstairs to  have his lunch break which lasted for exactly 1 hour.He would return to the office till 6pm when he would close for the day.
The door of the office was always open and I would either peep in from time to time, mischievously  ‘stopping by’ to convince myself that he was not napping!  Not one day did I find him napping. 
He read not just Chapter to Chapter, or verse to verse of the entire Bible severally,but word for word from Genesis to Revelation. He studied the Greek, Hebrew, contextual and ethnic context of every verse of the Bible. He studied the history of the people, and their traditions to understand what every verse of the Bible was all about.
 For about seven years, Rev Okotie was the sole preacher every Sunday and every Wednesday in the church. He also refused to honor any invitations to preach at other churches, -notwithstanding the popularity appeal and possible monetary consideration for large crusade invites. It was in one of our discussions on this subject matter that he said to me ‘’Ezekiel, Christianity is not a popularity contest, a christain that will get the best reward in heaven is the Christian that will do what God asks him to do -even if such instruction was for him to pastor a church of twenty people, I have known what Christianity is all about: God’s will, period!’ .

Rev. Okotie is one man that has by far had one of the greatest influences in my life. It was from him that I learnt the staying power, I learnt focus and commitment, I learnt excellence  and diligence. 
Rev Okotie is without a doubt one of God’s biggest generals in this nation. 
This is the second time I am writing about a man I had one of the closest relationships over a period of over forty years. It is very easy to respect a man of God from afar.
You can comfortably count on the fingers of one hand the number of people that have had the close relationship with Rev Okotie that I’ve had and yet, over ten years after I left HouseHold of God Church in Lagos to live in Abuja under an awesome pastor, I can still put anything on the line where Rev Okotie is concerned!. 
Many people may not know this but Rev Okotie has been used by God to bring several revelations to the church of Christ. This is besides the fact I can comfortably say that over 70% of the top hundred pastors in this country have been through his ministry directly or indirectly. 
On several occasions I read comments about him on social media and I can’t stop shaking my head on how much he is often misunderstood. Rev Okotie will never be in a hurry to tell you how wrong he is in a matter and how much he is determined to stand on his conviction on what God said. I do not know if I got this direct from him but I I know that one of favorite sayings which I learnt from him is ‘’ I would rather be sincerely wrong than hypocritically right’’. 

How many people know that the concept of church security started with Household of God Church with what he coined Holy Police? How many people know that the concept of welfare support for church members started with what he coined Benevolence Department? How about contemporary Pentecostal church buildings, we the members of the church literally called him names when he had the vision of buying the entire street in Oregun, Ikeja and building one of the most outstanding edifices there as for the church.  It took many years for us to appreciate the vision he saw over ten years earlier. How about some of the gospel songs we sing in churches today which were written by Rev Okotie one of which is
“You are highly lifted up There is no one like you, Halle, halle, halleluyah”
And so many others.
I wish I could go on and literally could for the next one hour or more because there is so much about this man, this enigma, this God’s general that people don’t know. Myself who has been prime beneficiary of the grace of God in his life, should openly appreciate him -in the very least! It is therefore on account of this, and many more, that I say with all humility, 

Happy Birthday my Friend, my Brother, my Boss, and my Mentor!!!
 
- Rev Chris Okotie, founder and Pastor, Household of God Church, Oregun, Lagos was a year older on June 18.

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