…Says “poor people used to call us poor”

• Reveals: “Constant hawking of bread for almost 4 years circled patch in middle of my head”


By Christy Anyanwu

Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo, a UK-based clergy, is a man of many parts. Besides being the founder of Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC), he has published more than 100 books and amazingly, he is a businessman of note. At a groundbreaking ceremony of 84 acres estate in Lekki-Epe expressway recently, he spoke to Sunday Sun about his life, which began from the barracks to hawking of bread, Bible school days, life as a pastor and businessman.


Take us through the process of who Pastor Matthew is, were you prepared for this great calling of God?

The usual answer is no; nothing prepared me probably because the beginning of my life is totally different from what it is now. However, the scriptures  Romans:  8vs 28, says, All things work together for good for them that love the Lord…. The challenge with a lot of people is, you want to arrive without a process.  There’s nobody in the Bible God touched or used, that didn’t go through a process. That was why the pregnancy of Mary was a shock because there was no process. However, that is a supernatural one. I got born again in a very unusual way. I was a young teenager who had visited a friend of his. I saw a pile of tracks. I picked up one and read. I gave my life to Christ there and then. However, in a journey of life people want arrival without a process.

Looking at your finesse and where you are now, were you from a rich home? Tell us your story growing up?

No. When I preach I always joke. When I was growing up we were so poor. Poor people used to call us poor.  That is the truth. We wore hands out, we wore second hand clothes, and I don’t even remember ever wearing new clothes. I wore second hand clothings. We used to call it ‘okrika wake up’. I remember my dad (army man) coming back from Congo uprising, between 1957 and 1964. Nigerian army was part of the United Nations peace keeping force, one of the times he came back and gave me one shirt. The shirt was so long and when I go to town, the boys will tie it and that’s how I rock it. Suddenly, in 1964 we were moved to Zaria again where I got born again. In the sense, I was moving to my destiny. I was coming to the chance of getting born again.  It wasn’t more than six years that I got born again.


What were the memories you’ll still remember as a child?

I was born on March 17, 1952 at military hospital in Zaria. By the time I grew up into consciousness it was in Kaduna, around 1965. After my dad’s death came another episode of suffering. My dad’s aunt I stayed with was inhuman. She turned us to slaves.  We will hawk bread in the morning, afternoon and night. Constant hawking of bread for almost four years circled the patch in the middle of my head. It wasn’t a trait from my family. But constant hawking of bread for four years.Though she allowed me go to school.  I was so brilliant. I don’t need to read to pass excellently.  I’m years ahead other kids.  I could speak, I had a good command of the English Language, and all the teachers would want me to represent the school in debates, in radio stations, anywhere. One day, I escaped from this slavery and went to my family in Ile-Ife. It was from Ile-Ife, I came to Lagos, Ikorodu to be precise, for Bible school.

Tell us more about life in The Bible school and thereafter?

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When I was in three Bible school, it was also tough. My brother who promised to support me with N10  wasn’t consistent. There was one semester I survived on garri. I was also brilliant in Bible school. I was the preacher of the class in my graduation. After the Bible school, the Canadian who was the principal of the school noticed two things.  He noticed my capacity to expatiate the word and my capacity to understand the deep mysteries of the word, especially Romans and Galatians, being the most challenging in the new testaments. He noticed me and began to challenge me to come and work in their denomination.   I didn’t want to. I graduated in 1976. I took one months to fast and wait on God. Then from December 18th, I resumed in Shomolu Foursquare Church as assistant pastor.  I served the first four years in Shomolu Foursquare Church as the assistant pastor, then the next four years as the resident pastor. That was where I met my wife. She is the daughter of the resident pastor. I served so well and I ate the fruit of my labour (laughs). While I was there, one of the things I also observed was: your gift will make room for you. A man who is diligent in all his ways will not stand before mean men, but before kings.  The church denomination began to think of reversed mission. Reversed mission means: Africans sending missionary to those who used to send us missionaries.  The head of that denomination that time was the late Dr Samuel Odunaike.  He wore so many caps.  He was the president of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), the president of Personnel Managers of Nigeria, and the General Overseer of a church.  God has sent angels ahead to make my destiny manifest. That denomination was responsible, used by God initially to send me to Europe and I resumed in London, February 11, 1984 as pastor of Foursquare Church for eight years. I pastored eight years in Shomolu (Nigeria), eight years in England, plus two years in Bible school. The Lord specifically led me to start KICC. When God gives you a vision there are those who will attack it, misconstrue it, say a lot about you.  KICC started on September 6, 1992.


You are based in the United Kingdom, what is your take on Nigerians migrating to the US, UK (Japa Syndrome)?

Forgive me. I think somebody may be angry if I tell you my opinion on Japa. I have lived in England for 39 years, but I think Japa is a bad thing. I think it’s a reversed slavery because the fist slavery is that people were carried within their will. The second slavery people were buying their own tickets and because they are given temporary lifestyle does not mean they can prosper in that system. I have lived in England for 39 years; I can tell you some systems are institutionalized. They create a barrier for you, whereas you can do well where you are.   One of the young men who helped us to organize this groundbreaking event had to leave England abruptly. Even though he was driving cab and having a Master’s degree programme in London, but today, his turnover is between $55 and $100 million in Nigeria, just supplying filtration systems.


It’s surprising to note that you own this gigantic estate project, what advice do you have for your colleagues in the ministry who depend solely on their pastoral earnings?


I think it’s a difficult question to answer. I would say that everybody would walk according to their conviction. I’m a man who always felt I’m called to do both business and ministry. So, this is the business part of me that God gave to me.


As a pastor, you also run some businesses. Recently, you had a groundbreaking ceremony of an estate in Lekki/Epe Expressway, why did you embark on such project and tell us more about the place?

Makarios Luxury Place is sure attempt to showcase Nigeria in a way that will make our nation a destination to go to. There’s a shortfall of 17 million homes in Nigeria.  We wanted an estate where people can live and give them a sense of excellence, in the sense of serenity and like a tourist destination.  I come to Nigeria with my children and my grandchildren. I have wanted to impress my grandchildren with where to go and there’s not much in a city of 22 million to 24 million.


Is this estate available to everyone regardless of your ethnicity and belief?

Makarios Luxury Place  is for anyone. Christian, Moslem, Hindus, whatever.  I deliberately told the MC at the opening ceremony to introduce me as Mathew Ashimolowo. This is business. This is not church.  So, I do not discriminate. I do not want that kind of estate. Every Nigerian is entitled to honour, dignity, respect, celebration and anyone who comes to Nigeria should feel we have not treated him badly on ground of religion. I grew up in northern Nigeria. My first language was Hausa. I never knew, I was Yoruba, Igbo when I was growing up. I eat in the house of my Hausa friends; I slept in the house of my Igbo friends.  I speak Igbo. That was the Nigeria I knew, that is the Nigeria we are building where nobody discriminates.