Former Nigerian ambassador to the United Kingdom, Dr Christopher Kolade has recalled how he was detained at the Kirikiri maximum prison when he was director of programmes at the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation by the government of General Yakubu Gowon.
Kolade who clocked 90 on December 29 made the disclosure during a video interview with Niyi Adekunle published on YouTube monitored by Church Times
In the interview, Dr Kolade who has been variously applauded for his principled lifestyle gave a rundown of his career and how he ran into trouble with the military government of General Gowon.
He recalled that while he was the director of programmes at NBC, one of the staff on air made an infraction which caught the attention of the government. An inquiry was made and he was asked to present the officer who made the slip.
But Kolade said the training he got from home did not permit him to shirk responsibility. He told the government official who came to the NBC to arrest the staff that he knew the staff, but that since he was the director of programmes he would take responsibility for the action of the official.
He was subsequently arrested and taken to Kirikiri prison where he spent 17 days.
While in the prison the warders got to know he was the controller of programmes at NBC. They wanted to give him preferential treatment. But he turned down the offer.
Rather, he said he was willing to eat the same food and get the same treatment other people in detention were getting.
That decision did not go down well with the with the prison officials who feared that he would tell the world how prisoners were treated.
After about 17 days at the Kirikiri maximum prison, he was released. Two years after that experience, he got a message from the head of state that he had been appointed the Director General of NBC.
Kolade said, “When I got the appointment I was surprised because I did not see it coming. But then I had to go and pay a courtesy call to the then head of state to thank him for the gesture. That was when they apologised for putting me in detention.”
Kolade who started his career as an education officer, teaching Latin in a secondary school said his first love had always been teaching.
He said he got to NBC because the then government of the western region wanted to start an educational programme on the air. He was employed as an educational instructor on the radio.
While at NBC he went through several training programmes and eventually rose to the peak of his career as a broadcaster.
But the limitation of working for the government was there. “I thought I needed some freedom and needed to experience the private sector. That was how I made enquiries from friends and later moved to the private. sector”
He retired voluntarily from the NBC and got employed as director of Administration of Cadbury and later director of Personnel.
While at the Cadbury, Kolade soon made a mark. He invariably became the first Nigerian CEO of the organisation after the exit of the expatriate that was occupying the position.
He emphasised that God has been the one leading him and giving him direction on where to go and what to do. “Each time I follow God’s direction, I get positive results. But when I go my own way, it backfires” he said.
It was while at Cadbury that he had cause to undertake a programme at the Lagos Business School.
While in the school, he got involved in an exchange with a lecturer in one of the sessions. It turned out that he had some superior position on what the lecturer was teaching.
Kolade said two weeks after the lecture, he got an offer to come and teach in the school. It was at the school that the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed him as Nigeria’s envoy to the UK.
A graduate of Fourah Bay College, Kolade said his father, an Anglican priest gave him a lifetime training.
“As the son of a priest, I was expected to live up to some moral standard. I was trained to believe in God, accept his standards and accept his leading.”
He recalled that the only gift his father gave him when he was going to school in Freetown, Sierra Leone for his tertiary education was a Bible.
“When he gave me that Bible, I knew he wanted me to read it. That sent a strong message to me that I could not afford to disappoint him.”
While noting that everybody is open to peer pressure, he said, “ the standards of God are always what informs my decisions.”
He recalled how he refrained from using the official car given to him as the DG of the NBC for personal engagements.
“That decision did not go down well with some people. But for me, I did not see it as something heroic. I believe that is the normal thing to do.
“I was told from home that it is better to please God always than to please human beings. God is the one who determines right from wrong.”
While noting that he has been decorated with so many titles, he said, “The title I cherish most is what is stated in John 1v12, that I am a child of God. Every other title will go, but this one will remain with me till eternity.”