A fictitious interview transcript (based on some true stories) recording a discussion between the inquisitive Xavi Alatenumo and the influential Pastor (Dr.) Ajibade Cole
THE XAVI ALATENUMO SHOW
Interview with Pastor (Dr.) Ajibade Cole
Aired June 21, 2013 - 21:00 GMT
THIS IS A RUSHED TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
XAVI: Good evening and welcome to the Xavi Alatenumo Show. We have here with us today a very special guest. He is the head of one of the fastest growing churches in the Nigeria and he recently opened a second multi-billion naira cathedral in Abuja. Last month, he became the first African Pastor to feature on the cover page of Forbes Magazine. He is the one and only Dr. Ajibade Cole, Founder and Senior Pastor of Abundance Overflowing Ministry. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a born again Christian, but if you think I will be easy on my guest tonight, you are wrong. It's going to be an exciting hour. Welcome Dr. Cole.
AJIBADE: Thanks for having me on your show.
XAVI: You are looking very smart as always.
AJIBADE: Thanks. It's the grace of God. By the way, do you know where I got this jacket?
XAVI: Not at all.
AJIBADE: Ermenegildo Zegna designed it for me. My watch is a Cartier Chronograph Diamond Watch and the shoe was custom made by Testoni.
XAVI: Wow. So what have you been up to these days?
AJIBADE: We just finished our annual convention in Port Harcourt and I will be travelling next week to Paris for our European convention and the week after, we will be holding our North American convention in New York.
XAVI: Seems like a pretty busy couple of weeks.
AJIBADE: That's the price one pays for working in God's vineyard.
XAVI: Two hundred branches in the United States, three hundred branches in Europe, five universities throughout Africa and a congregation size of over 1 million people around the world and AOM has only been around for just ten years. What has been the secret of your success?
AJIBADE: God is the secret of our success, but as the saying goes, heaven helps those who help themselves. Running a church is like running a corporate organisation with the pastor playing the role of a chief executive officer. Anyway, after spending three years in ministry, I enrolled for a part time Masters degree in Marketing at University of Manchester and that’s when my game changed. A man of God once said, "God is a game” and I couldn't agree with him more.
XAVI: So how is God a game?
AJIBADE: This church business is not for the faint hearted. It’s like a Grand Slam tournament. For instance when Serena Williams is preparing for Wimbledon, she goes with the sole intention of winning and has to strategise to win. Likewise, as a pastor I go to each service prepared using a range of strategies to win the prize money.
XAVI: Can you give an example?
AJIBADE: While studying for my Masters we were taught the Four P's of marketing which are Product, Promotion, Price and Place. As Chief Marketing Officer of AOM, my role is to put the right product in the right place and at the right price by using the right promotion. A product is an item that satisfies a consumers demand. I treat my congregation members as consumers who need various products such as contracts, influence, husbands, wives, houses, cars and money. The second "P" is the most important part of the mix and the reason why I am in the ministry. The price is what the members are ready to pay for the products they desire. The higher the price, the more profitable AOM becomes and the richer I get. Promotion comprises of the various channels that I use to inform my congregation members about the product. You people will call it advertising. I try to package the product to make it so enticing that people are ready to pay any price to get the product. Once you maximise the promotion, you will succeed in maximising the price. The place is where my customers come to get their product, which are the various branches of AOM around the world.
XAVI: I’d like to get your views on poverty. Let me read you a quote from someone, "Our faith in Christ, who became poor, and was always close to the poor and the outcast, is the basis of our concern for the integral development of society’s most neglected members."
AJIBADE: I know who said that. Wasn't it Pope Francis? Well I disagree with his analysis of the church's role towards the poor.
AJIBADE: Because poverty is a sin.
AJIBADE: It's simple logic. Stealing is a sin and the reason why people steal is because they are poor, therefore poverty is a sin. That’s why we discourage the poor from coming to our church. Infact there isn’t a single poor person in my congregation as I have told them that any trace of poverty would be a reproach to my name.
XAVI: I find it odd that you have zero tolerance towards the underclass.
AJIBADE: Not really, I'm only saying my church is not for the poor. If the poor need a church to attend, there are millions of other places of worship in the country. At AOM, we have a three class system to weed out the poor from our midst. At the top, we have our diamond members made up of the ultra rich and a number of politicians. They usually sit on the first four rows. Every year we gather in Geneva for our annual Diamond Partners Conference, which usually takes place at Hotel President Wilson.
XAVI: And what do you do at the conference?
AJIBADE: We map out our strategy for the future and I also minister to them. At the end of the conference, I collect a special diamond thanksgiving offering. The next category of people are the Gold members, these people comprise of captains of industry and senior ranking officers in the private and public sectors. Finally we have the middle-class who are professionals like doctors, lawyers and engineers. So you can see from our structure that there is no place for the poor. Infact should a pauper make the mistake of entering our church he will feel out of place.
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves - Matthew 7:15
XAVI: Why are you sometimes called Dada?
AJIBADE: It's because I’m a father figure in the church. Just as a father is concerned for the wellbeing of his children, I'm concerned about the well being of my flock. My wife, who is also known as Mama and myself are like spiritual consultants.
XAVI: Spiritual consultants?
AJIBADE: Yes. Many of our members have problems making decisions, so we are there to help them. There was a woman who wanted to know how many times she should make love to her husband in a month and after consulting with us, we suggested that since she was 28 years old, she should make love at least 28 times in a month.
XAVI: Interesting. Can you give other examples?
AJIBADE: Sure. We advice people on the sort of cars they should buy, how many children they should have. For some of our ladies, I advice them on whether they should wear a Brazilian hair weave or a Remy Hair weave or to go for a more natural look. I tell people who they should marry, what jobs to take up and whether or not they should travel. In some cases, I tell them what to eat and what to wear. I also tell them who to befriend and unfriend on Facebook.
AJIBADE: A number of them give me their Facebook and email passwords and I often carry out random checks on their Facebook account and unfriend people who I believe are having a negative influence on them.
XAVI: Dr. Cole, some people describe you as a moving Bible computer as you are known to quote chapters from the Bible of the cuff. Of all the verses in the Bible, which is your favourite and why?
AJIBADE: Just a point of correction, I'd rather you to address me as Pastor Ajibade or Pastor AJ.
XAVI: Okay. Accept my apologies Pastor Ajibade. Pastor Ajibade, what’s your favourite Bible verse?
AJIBADE: It has to be Malachi 3:10, which says, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this." Every single member of my church has to memorise this verse and once in a while I randomly select people to come to the altar to recite the verse.
XAVI: I was expecting you to say John 3:16.
AJIBADE: That verse is widely quoted, but I think it's secondary to Malachi 3:10 after all, how can one have eternal life when there is no food in the storehouse.
XAVI: It was recently reported that you took delivery of your fifth jet and that Nigerian pastors spent £300m on private jets last year. Isn't this excessive?
AJIBADE: Not all Nigerian pastors have jets. For the few of us that have been blessed with private jets, it is a necessity and not a luxury. I’m a busy man who needs to touch several countries within a short space of time.
XAVI: But look at the Prime Minister of Britain; he doesn't have a jet. Infact when he came to Nigeria he had to charter a British Airways plane.
AJIBADE: You can't compare me to David Cameron. While Cameron is accountable to the people of Britain, I am accountable to Christians throughout Africa, Europe, America and Asia.
XAVI: But this does not explain why you should have five private jets. The Archbishop of Canterbury does not have a single jet.
AJIBADE: Each jet serves a purpose. When I travel within Africa, I take my Bombardier Global 6000, for my Europe travels it’s the Falcons 7X and when I go to the States I take the Bombardier Global Express 5000. Were we not instructed by the Lord to spread the Gospel to the ends of the world and how do you expect this to be achieved? With a horse or keke Marwa?
XAVI: But is it right for you to have many private jets, when some members of your congregation don't even own cars?
AJIBADE: Every one of our members has a car. And don't forget that when Jesus went to Jerusalem, he rode on a donkey, which was the private jet of the time.
XAVI: Ok. From Scriptures, we read of how God's prophets spoke truth to the powers that be. Moses, Amos, John the Baptist and even modern day church leaders like Tunde Bakare, Archbishop Okogie, Martin Luther King and Desmond Tutu all risked their lives for justice. Why don't we see the same level of intensity from many Nigerian Evangelical ministers?
AJIBADE: It's because politics and religion don’t mix, moreover we are told to give unto Caesars what is Caesars. As a matter of principle, I try to avoid criticising the government.
XAVI: Even if they are oppressing the people?
AJIBADE: You have to respect people in authority and also I have a lot to lose if I speak out against the government. I have acquired acres of land all over the country and should I oppose government's policy, the governors of the various states could revoke the Certificate of Occupancy and we will have to close shop. So remaining silent is a safer option for my ministry.
XAVI: Didn't Martin Luther King once say, that our lives begin to end when we remain silent in times of great moral conflict?
AJIBADE: I am not Martin Luther King.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs - 1 Timothy 6:10
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AJIBADE ADDRESSING AN AUDIENCE: "Believe me, if you eat it, you will get closer to God. Yes, you need to know your authority as a Christian. At the count of three, get down on your knees and begin to eat the grass. One, Two, THREEEEEEEEEEE"
(END VIDEO CLIP).
XAVI: When I saw this video on the Internet, I was disturbed. But honestly, how are you able to make your followers do such things?
AJIBADE: You see, many Christians are too lazy to read the Word of God, so they rely on every word that comes out from their pastors. In short they have delegated the reading of their Bibles to me and other ministers of God. The seeds for the incident began at the Nigerpolitan Club after I had a bet with a Lagos based pastor.
XAVI: A bet?
AJIBADE: Yes o. A one naira bet. We were playing golf and I picked up some grass to access the direction of the wind. As I was about to putt the golf ball, the other pastor, whose name I will not mention dared me that I could not get members of my congregation to eat grass. I told him that not only can I make them do it, but also that I will also walk on them as they eat the grass.
XAVI: You're joking.
AJIBADE: The following Sunday, after I finished preaching a sermon titled "Disobedience Is As the Sin of Witchcraft”, I gathered my flock around the church botanical garden. I then asked them if they had any doubts about my sincerity and you should have heard the response.
XAVI: What did they say?
AJIBADE: They said words like, "God forbid", "Let pastor be true and every other man a liar", "Pastor you know best". I later told them that I had a new understanding of the Bible and anyone who eats grass will be closer to God provided I stamp my authority on them by walking over them as they eat the grass. After the countdown they all began to eat the grass as you can see from the YouTube clip.
XAVI: Interesting. Let's go to another topic. Many pastors have come under scrutiny these last couple of years and I presume that you are not an exception. So how do you handle criticism?
AJIBADE: I agree there have been loads of criticisms especially from you guys in the media, but you people need to realise is that it is unscriptural to say anything negative against any man or woman of God. The Bible says touch not my anointed and do my prophet no harm. My flock are aware of this and that's why when anyone says anything negative about me, they will be quick to come to my defence. Infact I have issued a curse against any member of my congregation who backbites me.
XAVI: You curse them?
XAVI: I just finished reading Thomas Phillips book on the Welsh Revival and I was surprised to read how Wales was completely transformed.
XAVI: One would have thought that with the proliferation of churches all over the place, that Nigeria would be transformed just like Wales. Why has the revival in churches not translated to a revival in attitudes in Nigeria? I mean Nigeria is one of the most corrupt countries in the world and the level of wickedness....
AJIBADE: Let me stop you there. Wales in the early 20th century is different from Nigeria in 21st Century. In those days, preachers focused solely on the Gospel and the necessity of having a relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. As the people heard these messages, they were convicted of their sins and turned to God. Our forbearers preached that sort of message in Nigeria a couple of decades ago, I'm sure you remember the era of the so-called SU's.
XAVI: I do.
AJIBADE: In those days, people went to church seeking a relationship with Christ, but in today's Nigeria, we have a new set of Christians who want to at the very least enjoy the trappings of a comfortable middle class life. Our message therefore has to be tailored to suit the aspiration of our congregation. If I start preaching about heaven, hell, repentance, judgement, justification, the love of God or the concept of grace, people will switch off and the church will be empty. But when we organise seminars or sell DVDs on financial prosperity or promotion, people will start coming to church. Do you know what are my top selling DVD messages?
AJIBADE: "10 Keys to Unlocking Your Financial Miracle"; "Oh Lord Send Me My Millions" and "31 Strategies For Finding Your Proverbs 31 Man and Woman."
XAVI: Very interesting choice of topics.
AJIBADE: We also have many politicians and business men who attend our churches, so we have to tailor the message to suit them.
XAVI: It's good you brought that up. Another criticism of your church is that you seem to accommodate politicians and there are a number of captains of industry who despite being ordained pastors in your church are rumoured to have embezzled billions of naira.
AJIBADE: I'm not doing anything new, after all Jesus interacted with the tax collectors who were seen in the same light as today's politicians.
XAVI: But when Jesus engaged with the tax collectors, they repented of their sins and one of them even offered to repay back his ill-gotten wealth, why are you not encouraging your corrupt members to do likewise?
AJIBADE: We engage with tax collectors, sorry I mean politicians. When we decided to set up our headquarters at Abuja, we had the politicians in mind. We also have a thriving politician fellowship. Politicians are one of the major contributors towards AOM, so we have to be mindful about what we preach. In the case of the captains of industry accused of stealing, that's between them and God and who am I to judge? Or do you expect me to reject their offerings? Absolutely not.
XAVI: Even if it's stolen money?
AJIBADE: According to Scriptures, Peter had a vision in which some unclean animals were given to him to eat and he refused to eat because the food was unclean. The Lord later told him that he should not call unclean anything that the Lord has called clean.
XAVI: So are you saying that stolen money paid as offering should be accepted?
AJIBADE: Once any offering enters the House of God it becomes clean money and that is why we are not bothered with the source.
XAVI: Wow. That is what I call spiritual money laundering.
AJIBADE: If you say so.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions – 2 Timothy 4:3
XAVI: Why are your congregation so willing to spend millions on you?
AJIBADE: Xavi, I wouldn't say they spend money on me, it’s more like they are investing in my ministry.
XAVI: How do you mean?
AJIBADE: People don't buy me cars or watches or even private jets for buying sake; they expect something in return. A number of them expect me to pray for their businesses. Someone once offered me 200 million naira to pray for him every day for 200 days.
XAVI: Did you take up the offer?
AJIBADE: I don't need to tell you. Anyway, about six weeks ago while preaching, a man got up and dropped two keys on the altar. At the end of the service, the man approached me and told me that he had bought two brand new Jeeps for my wife and I, which he left in the car park. He gave me the gift because I once prayed for him and shortly after, he won a contract to supply some equipment to a Federal Ministry. The following week, as I was a preaching, member of the congregation started getting up from their seats and dropping keys in front of me. As the ushers tried to control them, a few of them became agitated screaming, "You can't deny me of my blessings, I have to bless Pastor AJ." At the end of the service, we counted over 400 car keys and these cars were all exotic cars.
XAVI: Oh my God.
AJIBADE: It's not good to use the Lord's name in vain.
XAVI: So what did you do with these cars?
AJIBADE: I kept about forty and gave the remaining to my pastors across the country. After all, a worker is worthy of his wages.
XAVI: But what are you doing with forty cars?
AJIBADE: They are my fruits. What do you think Jesus meant when he said we should bear fruits?
XAVI: You tell me.
AJIBADE: The fruits of a true Christian in today's world are the cars they drive, the clothes they wear, the watches they put on and the company they keep. You see the mistake of the past generation of Christian leaders is that they focused on heaven while neglecting the earthly realm. My father and grandfather were very talented men of God, yet they failed in their ministry because they died as paupers., I vowed never to make the same mistake.
XAVI: Pastor Ajibade, I know that you are not yet fifty, but permit me to ask you if you have thought about how AOM will continue to remain relevant in the event of your retirement?
AJIBADE: Xavi, you should have been more direct and asked me, what plans I have if I die. For me it's not an issue at all. One problem with many churches in Nigeria is that there is inadequate succession planning, so when the charismatic founder leaves the scene, the church goes under. At AOM, we have a robust contingency and succession plan. My wife sits on the Board of Trustees and she will one day take over running the affairs of the church and other people will support her. My immediate junior brother heads up our New York branch, while my other brother is in charge of the London branch. The remaining two strategic church branches or should I say subsidiaries in Paris and Canada are headed by my two sister in-laws.
XAVI: Seems like a keep it in the family strategy.
AJIBADE: I wouldn't say so. Our branches have to be handled by capable hands. My brothers and sister in-laws are well qualified, infact they all studied theology in some of the top Bible schools in the United States. Should any of them step out of line, my wife will be able to handle the situation.
XAVI: So now that you have finished celebrating the tenth year anniversary of AOM, where do you see AOM in the next couple of years?
AJIBADE: We thank God for where he has taken us, but we still have great ambitions. I plan to treble our congregation size and church subsidiaries over the next five years. We also plan to become the GO-TO church.
XAVI: What do you mean by GO-TO?
AJIBADE: Let me give you some illustrations. Say you want to check something on the Internet, where do you go to get that information?
AJIBADE: And if you want to urinate, where do you go?
XAVI: To the toilet.
AJIBADE: Absolutely. Likewise we want to make Abundance Overflowing Ministry the church of choice for all Christians around the world. We want AOM to be the first thing everyone thinks of when they wake up on Sunday. To make this a reality, we will improve the church experience of our worshippers so that they will keep on coming back. We plan to build cinemas in all our branches, Olympic size swimming pools for our baptism and there will be a sleeping centre for many of our spiritually asleep members. We have also recently renovated our bureau de change.
XAVI: Bureau de change?
AJIBADE: A number of our members feel ashamed putting naira in the offering bag as they feel more fulfilled tithing in dollar. So they need a secure place to withdraw dollars or euro’s within the church premises. We also need to convert our foreign currency offerings back to naira. We plan building more schools and branching into banking, telecommunication and oil and gas.
XAVI: But all these are profit maximising ventures. When the early missionaries came, they built hospitals and schools, which were enjoyed by all.
AJIBADE: We are not missionaries.
XAVI: If you are not a missionary, then who are you? Even members of your own church cannot afford to go to your schools.
AJIBADE: We are not missionaries, neither are we as some suggest businessmen selling the wisdom of God. But let me correct you, our members are wealthy enough to send their children to our schools. Can we change the topic please?
XAVI: Ok then. Can you describe your ideal congregation member?
AJIBADE: Well, I'd say he or she must be someone who reads most of my books and tries to copy my life style. She must be ready to defend me at all times and have complete trust in me. Fortunately, I am blessed with many followers who have these traits.
XAVI: What book are you currently reading?
AJIBADE: I am a voracious reader and I have three books that I am reading simultaneously on my iPad.
XAVI: Such as?
AJIBADE: The Jordan Belfort Selling Machine by Dwayne Lugo, Rhetorics by Aristotle and The Psychology of Persuasion.
XAVI: Before we close, can you tell us what you love most about being a minister of God?
AJIBADE: I will answer that question from a Nigerian perspective because the experience you get from being a pastor in Nigeria, is different from that of say a European or Latin America pastor, unless you pastor a group of Nigerian's in Diaspora. There are many benefits in being a pastor such as the ability to travel to different places and it is also financially rewarding, but the thing I have enjoyed most in my ten years of ministry is the recognition I get. I love driving round the country and seeing my image and that of my beautiful wife displayed on the billboards. I love seeing my image on the bookshelves of various bookshops across the country. I love it when people seek my advice when making life changing decisions. I love having lunch with the president and getting invited to the palaces of the various kings and chiefs in the country. I love walking into a room and seeing my congregation members fall to the floor crying "Dada, we would not be where we are today if not for you." I love it when rich people sow continuously into my life. I love it when cars clear out of the way when my convoy passes by. I can go on and on.
XAVI: Unfortunately, we have run out of time, but it has been a pleasure having you on the show. I hope that you will be able to come again.
AJIBADE: I hope so. God bless you.
XAVI: Thank you Pastor Ajibade.
AJIBADE: Thank you.
BELOVED, DO NOT BELIEVE EVERY SPIRIT, BUT TEST THE SPIRITS TO SEE WHETHER THEY ARE FROM GOD, FOR MANY FALSE PROPHETS HAVE GONE OUT INTO THE WORLD - 1 JOHN 4:1-6
A. Olayinka Sule, CFA
© Ahmed Sule 2014