Apostle Goodheart Obi Ekwueme, is the lead pastor of Revival House of Glory International Church (RHOGIC) and first son of the nation’s former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme. He speaks for the first time a year after the death of his father on how the family manages without their patriarch.
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Ekwueme, who turns 50 December 3rd, also speaks on the role of the church in nation building and why the politics of bloodbath must come to an end ahead of the 2019 elections. He bemoaned the pains Nigerians are going through at the moment and called for concerted efforts to emplace good governance in the country from 2019. He spoke to JULIANA TAIWO-OBALONYE.
This is your first interview since the death of your dad. How has it been after the death of your father, Nigeria’s ex-VP?
It’s about a year since our dad died, precisely November 19, 2017. It is amazing how fast one year has gone by. We have been picking up the broken pieces, one year has gone thus far, we had a smooth sail. Evidently, the physical absence of our father and patriarch has changed everything. In many regards, he was the pillar of the family even as his chieftaincy title (Ide Oko) infers. Nonetheless, God has graciously kept the entire family united and strong. Though it’s already a year, it all still remains ever fresh in mind. As a family we have a lot to thank God continually for.
Since his death, what are those things you have been missing about your dad?
Quite honestly I miss him as a person. One of the many things I miss greatly is just the ‘knowing’ and added assurance that one has with the realization that you have a father alive somewhere! There seems to be some kind of indescribable ‘confidence’ that comes with having one’s dad alive.
A father who is alive becomes like an invisible shield of sorts around one ; a defence, a bulwark, a strong tower. I was saying to somebody recently that when my father passed on to glory that the best way I could describe how I felt at the time was as though someone had just shaved my hair or something. There was this feeling of the ceiling over one’s head being removed. I felt vulnerable and exposed to the elements. I felt like a certain protective ‘cover’ that I had enjoyed thus far had just been blown away!
To have such a towering figure of a father to be alive, you can go in and out, do battle and come back, he is there. I miss his amazing wisdom. He was evidently a man of knowledge in various topics and subjects. There was hardly anything you would talk about that he didn’t have something meaningful to say and contribute. He had great breadth of mind and was a very deep thinker. I miss his charm and warmth. He loved children, his family, he had a way of remembering all of us in various ways, birthdays etc. My birthday comes down the road, typically every year I expect my father to call me personally, the first thing he will do is to sing the typical happy birthday song to me in his rich baritone voice. So that is something, that I have not gotten once now during my last birthday last year Dec 3rd, shortly after he passed November 19th, 2017. This would be the second year that I will certainly not be hearing him sing me a happy birthday song on my birthday!
What kind of a dad was he while you and your siblings were growing up and how did you cope with the lifestyle of a politician father that would be always absent at home?
He was a fun loving dad. Before he came into government as the nation’s number two citizen, he was the kind of man that will typically take you some Saturdays to Kingsway those days in Lagos, Leventis to do your Saturday shopping or for your birthdays. So, he was a family man, he loved children. Of course getting into active politics took a toll on him, in terms of his time, he wasn’t as available for all of us as we wanted him to be naturally. But you could still see a man who was making the efforts to touch base with his family and kids. So he had to make time for his family such that Sundays became a family day. We will pack ourselves in one or two cars and we were off to church! Growing up we imbibed early enough the family tradition of going to church on Sundays. Those values that he instilled in us at an early age, early stage of our upbringing have gone a long way in molding and shaping us into the God fearing people that we are today. So in a nutshell, he was a good father. Though he didn’t have as much time as we wanted but we could tell that he still loved his kids.
We know you are passionate about your calling as a pastor but are you thinking of going into politics to continue your dad’s legacy?
I don’t know that I will. As a clergyman, I encourage as many people I know to go there because it was Edmund Burke who said that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. So whilst politics is called a “dirty game”, I don’t quite agree completely that it has to be a dirty game. I think the more good men go there the merrier. So I encourage people with good values, good intentions not to go there for a job, not even as a career but go there to serve. Right now, I don’t see myself going into an elective office but I am not God, I have no taste or desire for it to be honest, but I have also learnt in my walk with God to never say never, I take it a day at a time and let Him show me what next to do. But for now I have no such desire for an elective office, I know I am gladly playing a role of a father now in many regards in the nation. But who knows?
At 50, any regrets? Are there fresh targets you are setting for yourself?
I can’t say there are regrets because again walking with God I have learnt to carry myself as one who is imperfect in the hands of a perfect master, who also has the ability, willingness and the love to mold, shape, break you into what He desires for you to be. Even when you are walking with Him, there will be mistakes here and there but His love and mercy as the Bible says, He causes everything to work together for good to those who love him and are called according to His purpose. So, I can’t pinpoint any regrets per say, to be honest, I am very grateful that I have enjoyed tremendous progress. If I say regrets, maybe I could have employed my time to things that are more profitable like I said earlier on, not as wasteful as we did when we were much younger.
For 17 years you were in a former ministry and now you have your ministry, tell us about it?
Let me interject, somebody once said and I agree that you don’t have to start a ministry to be in ministry. I honestly don’t see myself to ever “own” a ministry or a Church. I am just glad to be called by God to serve Him in ministry. It is God’s prerogative as the “ultimate employer “ of His ministers to post or repost them to the duty post of His Choice. That was my case! As I mentioned earlier, the Lord caught me early and when He did, it wasn’t a time to be cold or lukewarm for the Lord, I threw myself right at it, I began to read my Bible, pray, evangelise and within a short time I knew I was right inside God’s will.
At the four walls of Ahmadu Bello University, I was a campus fellowship pastor. The Lord graciously used me to pioneer a fellowship and all kinds of things on campus. Many years later the paths of destiny between myself and the founder/ Senior Pastor of House on The Rock Churches would cross by divine providence in 1995 in the city of Lagos, where He led me to join and serve. It was from there that I was sent to Abuja precisely in 1999, to begin the daughter church.
I served there 17 years to the best of my ability. It was from that “spiritual duty post” that God would reassign/redeploy me to yet another “spiritual duty post” otherwise called Revival House Of Glory International Church (RHOGIC) – a young but growing Church/ ministry.
Are you satisfied with the roles pastors like you are currently playing in nation building or you feel there are rooms for improvements?
Rightfully so, pastors have a role to play in nation building. In my mind they form a great part of the conscience of the nation. Recently, I preached a message, ‘silence no more’ and I essentially took my text from the story of Esther, how she became comfortable in the palace, a woman who was orphaned, raised by an uncle, Mordecai, suddenly providence showed up as a Queen. Mordecai said, hey girl don’t you forget you are still a Jew, don’t get too comfortable in the palace. To cut the long story short, don’t keep silent for if you hold your peace, God will raise another to deliver us but should anything happen to Israel, it will affect you as well as a Jew. So I called that message, ‘silence no more.’ What was I harping at, I was challenging myself as a cleric that you cannot continue to stay in the place of neutrality. We must be willing to be vocal, while being vocal, know how to speak appropriately with respect and cordiality to those in power and authority. In other words there is a proper ‘rule of engagement ‘ when you speak truth to power. The point to be made is that, when a prophet speaks to a king, leader or anyone in authority, he must speak appropriately with respect yet at the same time with a lot of courage, boldness and precision of speech without mincing words because of the fear of the king or his office. So I trust God to raise in our nation more clerics that are bold and vocal who know how to speak truth to power appropriately. I speak of a generation of clerics who know and understand that they cannot be bought over or enticed to compromise the speaking of truth.
I think the moment a preacher is compromised financially, materially and in any other area, it weakens his voice, it weakens the punch of his voice. So, if we are going to speak truth to power and they must hear us, we must learn to not allow the “king’s dainty meat” to be our source or ultimately end up becoming compromised.
Ahead of the 2019 general elections, what will you be telling Nigerians especially the politicians?
2019 is around the corner, I pray sincerely even as we have been doing as a church family, that Nigeria will not go into disarray. Let me say this very cautiously; I pray that this difficult season that we have been for the past few years will give way, supernaturally, miraculously to a far better government and governance for us as a people. I see hunger in the face of Nigerians, I see tears, I see pain, I see question marks written all over many faces, chaos, confusion and as a cleric it brings me a lot of concern, a lot of hurt. Nigeria and Nigerians are deserving of a better system of governance and rule. I pray such better system of governance and rule will come into reality. Also I pray that it will not be a do or die affair for politicians in the coming elections irrespective of political affiliations, associations, that all Nigerian politicians like I mentioned earlier, will seek first and foremost to become nationalistic in their approach, and political endeavors, campaigns and so on and so forth. Every citizen and politician is first a Nigerian before they are party men, tribal men, cultural men, religious men. Remember we are first and foremost Nigerians before we are ethnic, tribal, cultural and religious. Let’s not pull the religious or tribal card because that is one way to divide and scatter the nation. Let our politicians campaign on issues, values, policies etc .
No one needs to pull down an opponent in order to go up! In your campaigns, say what you will genuinely be capable of doing sincerely and give the people the opportunity to vote. Let’s avoid political and antagonistic killings and murders, over what really? Senseless killings must come to an end.