Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo is the Senior Pastor of Kingsway International Christian Center. In this new interview with Punch, he talks deep.
Have you always wanted to be a minister of God?
I was born in Zaria and grew up in various barracks in Kaduna, Zaria and Kano. I was a Muslim and my name was Ahmed. My mum and dad were named Aishat and Salau respectively. My sister was Dijat and my brother was called Mudashiru.
I received Christ after reading a gospel tract when I was 20 years old. From then on, I began to have a passion to share the gospel of Jesus with other people but I didn’t know it was going to be a calling. By age 22, I worked briefly in church premises in Modakeke, Osun State. I was there for seven months and on the other hand, I was looking to get my O’levels so I could go to the Nigerian Defence Academy. I wanted to be an Army officer, because I was raised in the barracks and my dad was in the military.
My only passion in life at the time was to be an army officer in the engineering corps. The army engineering corps of those days built bridges and constructed roads.
Why didn’t you pursue a career in the military?
Somehow, I later became interested in becoming a preacher of the gospel. One day, a man came into the church premises and said I looked like a man who God would call into the ministry. Then, it didn’t occur to me that it might be my future. Once he sowed that into my spirit, I collected the address of the Bible College he attended in Ikorodu, Lagos and enrolled there in January, 1974.
Was your family against your love for Christianity?
While my dad, mum and immediate family members were Muslims, my dad’s extended family members were Christians.
Interestingly, my dad died in the Nigerian civil war and so, that removed my biggest persecution. With his death, my mum didn’t have any passion to persecute me. To a certain extent, my extended family expressed doubts and asked how I was going to meet my needs as a preacher. They didn’t realise it was a calling I had no control over.
Why then did the UK Charity Commission of Wales and England beam its searchlight on the activities of your ministry?
When you are a minority in any place and you have such extreme breakthrough and success, chances are that you will attract attention- good, bad and ugly. You will find that anything called a Commission would give legal reasons for their actions, but sometimes when you examine and discover that the same legal reasons were not applied to everybody in your circumstance, you begin to feel there may be other reasons. Looking back, it was just God that brought us out of the challenge. I say so because nobody has ever been fraught with all the machinery of the government and come out clean with a testimony.
Allegations of tax evasion and financial impropriety were leveled against your ministry in the United Kingdom…
No, there was no such thing. Did you read that in the commission’s statement? Nigerians just draw all kinds of conclusions; churches don’t pay tax, so the commission couldn’t have said that we evaded tax. Instead of the church paying tax in the UK, the government gives back money to churches because of its members who pay tax. Nigerians who do not know what the Charity Commission means and stands for came up with that notion.
How have you managed being a successful black man and Nigerian in the UK?
No matter how independent people are in their thinking, they would be lying if they say there is no prejudice or presuppositions in their actions. Whether racism was the motivation behind the allegations, I can only allude. From its own research, the government accepts that there is institutionalised racism even in its own bureaucracies, departments and sectors.
Did this give rise to the book you authored -What is Wrong with Being Black, which caused a stir?
It took me seven years of research and between 4000 and 10,000 references to come up with that book. It was inspired by the observation that anywhere blacks are in the majority, they are unable to build anything worthwhile. God did not create any man to be a failure. The ideal thing is to attract people to the question-What is wrong with being Black? The problem with us blacks is our inability to take advantage of God’s provision for us to become achievers.
What are your thoughts on homosexuality?
God created marriage for people to find procreation, mutual help, comfort and strength. When God started marriage, it was for Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. God loves all men and he loves homosexuals. It’s just that the constitution of God which is the Bible, speaks against the practice.