BY CHRISTY ANYANWU
It was a dream come true for Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo, founder, Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC), London recently. On the great day, the versatile preacher attracted dignitaries from all walks of life to his hometown, Ode Omu, Osun State for the opening of his dream project, Kings University, and the matriculation of the first intake of the institution. The climax of the day was the investiture of the Asimolowo as the Chancellor of the university. The cleric spoke with Effects at the ceremony. Excerpts:
How do you feel on a day like this?
After so many years, Kings University took off today. It has been very challenging having to go through the Nigeria process of starting universities. May I say, it has been discouraging because N2 billion was tied down here and the Nigerian University Commission (NUC), is the final authority. Whatever they say, whatever term they like, it’s not a business venture. If it were a business, we would have been bankrupt. Our dream is to transform lives. We know that government has good reason for adopting the method but many of our kids are running to other countries. It is my opinion that government should encourage private universities. If anybody thinks private universities are profitable, they may not know what they are talking about; certainly, maybe, not Kings University. We spent N2 billion to built this place and the fresh students are on scholarship. So, we’re the first private university to offer 112 scholarships to students.
Are the scholarships for Osun State indigenes only?
No. As long as the intakes are ready to conform to the principles of our university. We made it open to all Nigerians, not only Osun indigenes. We have people from Anambra State and other parts of the country. It’s our dream and our joy that we are able to do something for the nation. I grew up in northern Nigeria in the barrack. At that time, you could sleep anywhere when the night fell. It could be in the home of Hausa family, Ibo family, or in the barrack. In fact, I didn’t learn Hausa, I only speak it, I didn’t learn Ibo, but I just speak it. It was even my Yoruba language that I had to come down South to learn.
So, what’s your perception about today’s Nigeria?
I believe Nigeria is great, Nigeria has great hope. I travel around Africa every year. Sometimes, I visit eight to ten nations. Nigerians are the most complaining people but they don’t know what they have. I visit some African nations, and when I come back, I feel like kneeling down to kiss the ground of Nigeria. We are very blessed. We’re a multi-ethnic country, we have various kinds of opportunities, different types of food and soup.
Efefere soup, Nsala soup, Olugbu soup, Efo, different types of soup and there will be no less than 500 recipes of soup. When you visit some African nations, all they have is corn.
Infact, anywhere below Cameroun, all they eat is corn. In Kenya, they call it Ugali, in Zimbabwe, it is Zaza. In South Africa, they call corn, pap. In Nigeria, we have rice, beans; we have variety of food Africa cannot survive without us. When I look around Africa, my heart is broken because I see resources without good managers or leaders. With due respect to many of our governors, they collect money from the central government but spend 70 percent on salaries. That’s bad business. They should find a way to invest the money. If you are using 70 percent for salary, how would you build infrastructure for the future? The average Nigerian wants to do business; many don’t know how to go about it. We teach people why they should own your own businesses.
I lectured in a church recently on 30 reasons people should own your own companies as young persons. It was a young boy of 20 who started face book and all of us want to be on face book. Now, he is the second wealthiest man on earth at the age of 30. It’s just a simple concept. I believe we want to raise young people in Kings University who will use timely technology, who will be leaders, entrepreneurs. Be proud of Nigeria. I will implore government, particularly, our president, Muhammadu Buhari, being a man of integrity, a man who wants the best for Nigeria, to spend 20 percent of his time to pursue those who stole and 80 percent to build a future for us.
Because the economy is tight, we want to know where the foreign exchange is hidden. It will take eternity before we can find stolen money. In the interim, government should create an enabling environment that will attract people to come and invest. 20 percent of our time should be spent to take care of the past and 80 to face the future because if your eyes are on your rear view mirror all the time you cannot drive fast.
I listen to your messages, where do you get inspirations from?
I love to be informed. I believe my brain was not given to me for storage of information, that’s why I have a phone and a paper. The mind is not for storage of information. If it’s for storage of information, the paper is for writing. Our minds are for thinking, exploration, and to solve problems. I love reading, I read two books a week, I try to go through a 100 books in a year. Most times, the books are not really within theology, anything that will make me get well informed.
How would you access the standard of education in Nigeria today?
We are at the crossroad of great challenges. Unfortunately, it appears some people prefer the disorder because it is making somebody to make money. If a student passes JAMB, why can’t the student keep the result for two years. Rather, they are being made to pay for another year. University admission is considered invalid it is not used within the same year. I think that is for the regulators
We that are putting our money into building of universities, you would even ask if we are okay? The 300 acres of land that we bought in this town was bought by me and my wife. Currently, our children have completed their Masters degree and they are married, so they have nothing to gain here. My children don’t even live in Nigeria. They live abroad where I live. However, it’s all because we want to transform society and be part of Change. I think our students need to wake up. Cultism, and prostitution and all these kinds of things must stop. The unfortunate thing is that social media has reduced the world to a global village. The entire world is reading and they have no respect for degrees coming out of our University.
As a Pastor, writer, now a Chancellor, do you relax at all?
I play golf and I play the game everyday. You need to learn how to live what I call strategic living or quadrant life. You have to put things in a box. Strategic living is when you see me stand to preach. That sermon could later come in a CD, DVD, a TV broadcast and a chapter of a book. That message, when my congregation hears it, it’s for that moment. When it is on CD, or VCD, it’s for ten years. As for social media, we don’t know how long that will last. It’s a new technology. Meanwhile, I’m on Twitter nd I have 70,000 followers. I’m also on Face book with 800,000 following. But every message I preach is a chapter of a book and book lasts forever.
You are a stylish man how does this come up?
I do not think that being Christian should make me dress ugly. I think it’s a total package. I’m 64, but young people want to hear me, the reason is because I speak their language and I didn’t see in the bible anything that makes a person to think that ugliness is holiness. The bible calls us peculiar people, royal priesthood, a holy nation. When the Ooni of Ife came in, we all recognized him. He stood up and said that he had visited my house before and I was trying to find out when. When he whispered to me that it was Yeye who visited to my house hitherto, I almost fell apart. You can see what royalty had done to him. So, believers are royal people, not arrogant, not the one making fashion statement but one that is decent. That is the best way to reach our world.
Why did you decide to build the university in Ode Omu?
Firstly, this is the origin of my father. Also, Osun State needs encouragement. Thirdly, part of the problem of Nigeria in my opinion, having lived in Europe for 32 years, there is no equitable distribution of infrastructural facilities, businesses, and government institutions. Imagine if Customs have an office in Ikirun and Nigeria Shipping have their office in Calabar and Nigeria Immigration have its office in Anambra. But we concentrate everything in two cities; Lagos and Abuja, so we have a problem. I think a university in Ode Omu is encouraging. Then the last reason, Imagine the serenity of this place, the quietness, you are able to concentrate. I’m confident that we are going to be rolling out students with minimal 3.0 gpa because there are few distractions for the students except the ones that want to distract themselves.