Christopher Kolade: Shocking testimonies that shaped his life
By Gbenga Osinaike
Dr. Christopher Kolade is well over 80. But because of the enormous endowment on him by God, it is pretty difficult to allow him lie low. He is so endowed of God that any opportunity to hear him talk is like drinking from a well of wisdom. That was the experience for this reporter who witnessed for the first time after a long while the story of an octogenarian who has passed through the vicissitudes of life.
His life right from his growing up days to his days as a career person have been shaped by God that one begins to wonder if Kolade had a special pact with God when he was being dispatched to mother earth. As you ruminate over this, he is quick to warn you and let you know that God is merciful to all “God has predestined us to end well. He has imbued in us the ability to succeed in life. His thoughts for us are good thoughts. Nobody was programmed to fail.” he said at a recent forum organized by Living Waters Unlimited, a church whose General Overseer is Rev Ladi Thompson.
By the way Rev. Thompson is the founder of Macedonia Initiative and has been so involved in reaching out to troubled spots in Nigeria and helping with relief for affected Christians. His advocacy work for the emancipation of Christians in Nigeria is legendary.
Thompson had invited Kolade to share some striking testimonies in his life that have informed his tenacious commitment to integrity and a life that is totally sold to God. Thompson was quick to confess at the meeting that, while many are comfortable with just preaching the word, Dr. Kolade lives the word describing the patriarch in glowing terms.
As Kolade, former Nigeria High Commissioner to the UK mounted the rostrum to speak, he took time to puncture the eulogies of Rev Thompson pointing out that man can not under any guise claim any credit. “I have come to realise in life that there is nothing that we have that we can lay claim to. God gave us life and we are just custodian of the life he gave us. There is nothing we have and we become in life that is not linked to him. In the real sense we cannot do anything without God.”
He then went on to reflect on his over 80 years sojourn on earth stressing that every single day of his life has been laced with the miraculous. “Right from my younger days till now, I must tell you that I have experienced the miraculous hand of God. My relationship with God has been so real that I relate with God on very personal level.”
On how he got to that personal relationship he said in response to a question at the end of his delivery that he encountered God in real and definite way. “My definite encounter with God happened while I was at Fourah Bay College, Sierra-Leone. There was a rainstorm that wreaked havoc on the premises of the school. I was playing the organ in the church when the storm descended on the building and crashed the roof on top of where I was playing the organ. But that did not happen until I had left the place.
“By the time I got to my room, I could not enter the room. I tried to force myself inside only to discover that the storm had crashed the roof and fallen inside the room to the point that it was difficult to open the roof. What that tells me is that if I had not left the room I would have been victim of the crash and if I had not left the place I was playing the organ I would also have been victim. This is clearly the hand of God. That was when I made a commitment to God to serve Him all the days of my life.”
But that was not part of the three testimonies he shared that day to members of the Lekki Chapter of Living Waters Unlimited. If you think the testimonies were about how he made money or got some big contracts, you are wrong. They are not even about a particular healing or a miraculous escape from death. Though all these characterized his life. The testimony that has to do with escaping death, which he shared at the forum was not about him but about his sister.
Christopher Kolade: Mr. Integrity, how he earned it
Indeed, for many people, the question is; how did Kolade earn the tag, Mr. Integrity? If you witnessed his delivery that Sunday morning on February 18, you cannot but conclude that elder statesman, who declared that his village could not even be traced on the map of Nigeria is a special breed. He recounted his growing up days and how he was brought up in the nurture of the Lord by his Anglican parents, how the morning prayers were compulsory and the teachings of his parents registered on him to the point that it now became difficult for anybody to derail him and his commitment to God.
But then his philosophy about life was shaped by the intimate fellowship he had developed with God to the point that God responds to every question he asks. “Apart from knowing what had happened to me, I also want to know why it happened.” He said. This philosophy is contrary to the generally held belief that it is dangerous to ask why. But in asking why, Kolade has been able to discover more treasures that have helped to shape his thinking and life. God’s response to his questions may however just be a silence.
He told the gathering which consists largely of young people how God intervened in every area of his life when he faced challenges. In today’s world, many would have found a human way out of the challenges and yet come to testify to the goodness of God. But for Kolade, it is evil to testify and praise God when the process of achieving a miracle does not follow God’s precept. He recalled with nostalgia how his job was threatened as the Managing Director of Cadbury because he would not succumb to what was generally the practice.
It was in 1986. Then, companies who import items for their production had to get import licence from government. But then, the process in those days was not straightforward. You have to bribe your way through in many instances especially when it was certain that your life depended on it. In Cadbury they depended heavily on imported stuffs for their productions and the onus was on the managing director to ensure that the company does not go under because of paucity of materials for production.
But here was Kolade who was not prepared to play ball. Time was ticking. The directors of the company urged him to do what others were doing to get the import license. But he was not ready to give what the people wanted. He got home and told his wife that he was getting set to leave the Cadbury job since he was not ready to play the Nigerian way. He made several attempts to see the commissioner in charge of the import license, a military officer but all the five appointments did not bear fruit. He would get to the receptionists but would be told the man would not like to see him after he had been given appointment.
Finally, the man agreed to keep his word and gave him another appointment making the sixth time. But unfortunately, the time fell on a day after a meeting organized by the Nigeria Institute of Management (NIM) and he was to preside over the meeting which was to hold in Owerri. And this appointment was on a Friday by 9 am in Lagos. How would he meet up? He wanted to take advantage of this last opportunity since getting the man was a hard nut. He went to pray and God assured him it would be well. He traveled to Owerri for the meeting. Slept over and headed for the Portharcourt Airport to board the next flight to Lagos on Friday morning to keep the Lagos appointment with the commissioner.
He bought the ticket and got the boarding pass only to wait to no avail. There was no flight going to Lagos for 7 am as earlier indicated. But then, a Lagos-bound flight from UK was to land in Portharcourt. There was an announcement that it would not take any passenger from Portharcourt; but was only going to land for passengers to disembark. But because he needed to get to Lagos before 9 am, he made a trial. He walked to the terminal in anticipation of what God would do.
As he approached the plane that was disembarking passengers, the officer checking passengers in saw him and identified him. “Oh, Dr. Kolade are you going to Lagos” he asked, “Yes” he replied. Do you have your boarding pass? Yes, came the response from an eager Kolade. “Please come.” The man beckoned on him and he joined the flight. He was offered a first-class seat.
But then, there was another hurdle. His driver would be waiting for him at the local airport while the plane would land at the international airport. There was no means of communication to tell him to move to the international airport. But that was resolved. As soon as the plane landed, kolade said he embarked on a life time race from the international to the local airport to meet up with his driver and thereafter gave the driver a stern instruction to move fast to the office of the commissioner at Ikoyi.
It was a breathtaking experience. But he made it. By 9.05 am he was at the door of the commissioner. The receptionist was so happy he made it. “Now he would see you” said the excited receptionist who had all along being empathizing with Kolade on the frustrations he had had to face over the import licence issue.
Kolade entered the office and met with some top officials of the ministry along with the commissioner and they asked him what he wanted. He told them he wanted an import licence worth $12 million. Ordinarily, you would think his request would be granted. But that was not to be. The commissioner told him they would only give him $1million worth of import license. But what would that do.? He accepted it anyway and moved on. Got to the office and continued working hoping against hope.
Yet, he cried to God. If the licence is exhausted, he would have no option but to be relieved of his position as the MD since the company would not fold up for the sake of integrity. But God intervened. Just six months after that grueling encounter, the federal government announced the abolition of import licence. Those who needed to make import could now buy forex and do their transaction unhindered. That was it.
But Kolade asked: Why did God allow me go through such strenuous time when he knew he was going to orchestrate the abolition of the licence? Certainly, to test his integrity. He then said there is nothing as good as waiting on God and holding unto him in the face of daunting challenges. He said later in response to how he carried people along in this journey of integrity, he said, “You have to make up your mind who you are working for. Are you working for God or for Mammon? By mammon I mean self. Some Bible translation describes Mammon as money but it is more than that. It is self. Anything that tends towards promoting self-good, self-worth at the expense of the instructions of God is mammon”
His sister’s close shave with death: How God rescued her
He also shared the testimony of how his elder sister got trapped under the bed while trying to hide for suspected thieves. “My sister was the only one living in the bungalow apartment. She had a strange sound and discovered that some people were trying to force their way into the house. In an attempt to hide and shield herself she ran and hid under the bed.
“The people who wanted to force their way into the house could not gain entry. They left. But my sister was trapped. She was under the bed and could not get out. She had been trapped. All efforts to move out of the confinement proved abortive. She then gave up trying and closed her eyes committing her soul into God’s hands and waiting patiently for death”
As Kolade relayed this story, he betrayed emotion recalling the agony his sister had to go through. “She was prepared to die and she felt sorry that she would go that way and that her brother would be wondering what happened. At the point when she was feeling sorry that people would wonder what happened that she had to die such painful death the miraculous happened. Suddenly she found herself outside the bed. She was brought outside by some miraculous hand of God. By the time we came to check the room, we could not even lift the bed. It was difficult to lift not to talk of somebody attempting to lift it up from under.”
Christopher Kolade: His only son dies
That event was to later confirm the awesomeness of God. And his faithfulness. But if you think Kolade is a yoyo believer who only relishes in the good and never prepares for the bad and challenging times, then you need to hear him share the testimony of how his son died in 1995. “I lost my son towards the end of 1995. He was 36.”
There was pin drop silence. What would this man want to make of the loss of his son? That certainly is not the type of testimony anybody wants to hear. We just listened to how his sister escaped death, now his son died.
Yes, his son died. For a man who had labored all his life, loved God, staked his life and career for the sake of obeying the truth of God’s word the loss of a son was certainly not a good way to be rewarded. But that in itself provided a cause to learn more from God. In the midst of the tragedy, friends and family members came to console him and share in his grieve.
While attending to visitors, Kolade said he suddenly felt drowsy and weak. His eyes were closing intermittently and he felt he should go back to bed though he did not have a sleepless night. He followed the dictates of his body, went back to bed. There he encountered God afresh. Suddenly, the comforting hand of the Holy Spirit rested on him. He slept for about one hour. By the time he woke up, the Lord gave him a scripture (Psalm 27 v1, 13) and urged him to read.
He read the scripture. It was an assurance. “the Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid.” The 13th verse reads, “I am confident that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living”. Kolade was to cap up the session by declaring, “indeed I have seen the goodness of the Lord. Despite the challenges. I have seen his goodness over the years. The Lord has been good to me.”
What a heart. What a testimony. What a declaration. A lady could not but ask at the event, “Must God make you lose your son and go through these challenges to teach you a lesson and assure you of his goodness? Good question. Kolade got the microphone and replied with yet another tragic instance.
Another lover of God died of cancer
“There was this cousin of mine. He loved God so well and we all looked up to him. He was so committed to the things of God and had a clear understanding of his relation with God. Yet, he had cancer. It was a strange kind of cancer. He was staying in London. After many attempts to save his life, doctors said there was no way he would survive. My cousin had called me earlier and said to me to that he was sure it would end well. I thought he was being positive that he meant he would survive the cancer. But what he actually meant was that he was going to be with the Lord.”
He was placed on life support but then the doctors said it was pointless placing him on life support. But they needed to get the consent of the family to remove the life support so he could pass on quietly. The onus was on Kolade being the most senior member of the family to grant the consent. “I went to God and cried to him and said Lord why did you decide to punish. Why must I be the one to carry out the assignment of giving instruction that the life support be pulled off.”
The Lord then took him through another session of tutelage. The Lord asked, “if your cousin were to choose between coming to me and staying back in the world what option do you think he would go for? I said he would prefer to be with you. He asked him again, if I am the one in charge of a person’s life and I am okay with the life of the person and I want the person to come back to me what has that got to do with any other person? I am the one who determines the duration of a person’s assignment. It has nothing to do with you.”
That settled it. Indeed, it was a time of learning and a time of refreshing. Kolade said when he was going to college the only gift his father gave him was a Bible and he had told him that there was no question that he would not find answers to in the Bible. “The truth is that God loves all equally. There is no special person. But we are at liberty to revolt against God because he gives us the will power to make choices. If any man turns away from God such person is just exercising his right to free choice. That has nothing to do with God. For those who love him and do his will, he will always guide and give direction. The bottom line is that it is what God wants for us that will come to pass in our lives as we follow him patiently and prayerfully. We must also appreciate that since we were not there when God decided to send us to this planet it should be comforting for us to always go to him every time we have issues because he is the one who owns our lives and had the capacity to direct it well.”