Fondly called "Grace teacher" by the multitude of his followers, Okotieís teaching tend to evoke reactions more than edifying his listeners. His latest book, The Last Outcast, which he claims are revelations from God attest to his controversial teachings. The book has raised a palpable degree of dust among Christians because of its spiritual explanations on cloning, polygamy, the church, the anti-Christ, the virgin birth of Jesus Christ and more.
Rev. Chris Okotie, Senior Pastor of the Household of God Church is one name that can inspire and at the same time ruffle few feathers.
Itís all part of his life, a life lead in different measures. As an undergraduate, at University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, Kris (now Chris) said he sold buttons and colourful mufflers in the coal city market of Ogbete as a survival strategy. He claims also he had been in wholesale trade in Hausa special tea. That perhaps was one of the reasons he was recently appointed patron of late Mallam Aminu Kano International Foundation. His involvement in pop music with a debut album: I need someone made him a popular personality and for women, Okotie became something of bees to honey. None of these pastimes of his put our personage into any serious controversy. But this one-politics has.
The very moment he steps out of the bully pulpit of the clergy world, into the slippery pole of politics, expect a tempest. That exactly is what Rev. Okotie caused in 2003, when he declared he had divine inspiration of "The Lord spoke to me that I will be President." It was a vision he said he saw way back in 1999. That divine inspiration failed him or the system, failed him, when he contested for the presidency on the platform of the Justice Party (JP) in the last general election.
Ever since then, he never quite believed he lost the contest. He believes he was a victim of a fraudulent electoral process. His ideas about politics are congenial to his faith and dreamed up in his vision which only him can tell. It continues to propel him to launch a fresh campaign for the most coveted political office in the land. Itís through Nigeria F.R.E.S.H Ė the platform upon which he articulates his philosophy for governance.
Everyone who has cared to listen to Rev. Okotie says he comes across as a faith portrait of where Nigeria should have been, and the kind of man Nigerians should have had, as their President. Many will certainly disagree with him.
But, Rev. Okotie insists his interest in the well-being of people who are marginalised is a driving force. This is opposed to that of God. That, he will tell you, "is why every institution of oppression in the world has to be dismantled by divine instrumentality!" Nigerians, he adds, "have cried to God and have asked for His intervention. He sees himself as the person who has received Godís support to rescue Nigerians and Nigeria. "Thatís the difference between me and other politicians," they have the strength of men, (but) I have the strength of Almighty God." He therefore sees himself as the solution to most problems Ė poverty, corruption, budget irresponsibility, and above all, the leadership crisis.
But politics doesnít lend itself to such simple theorising, as Rev. Okotie thinks. However, he believes like President W. Bush has done to great advantage, using faith to build his ambition. That is America.
This is Nigeria, the country and citizens Rev. Okotie hungers to become their President. Thatís the difference. Thatís his main problem. How many share in his faith? Even within his own Pentecostal circle, Rev. Okotie recently caused a big tempest in Enugu where the Alliance for Democracy (AD) decried what it alleged was a plot by Rev. Okotie to use the church as a platform for the realisation of his presidential ambition.
Indeed, Okotie was in Enugu last weekend for the biannual conference of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), South East zone. There, he saw the opportunity to visit some Pentecostal Churches and canvass support for his ambition in 2007. Chieftains of AD in the zone were furious by what they called "unethical and ungodly" act of Okotie. They said the man of God turned the church pulpit into a political campaign. He must stop, they maintained, and urged him to separate politics from religion.
National Vice-Chairman of AD in the zone, Okechukwu Obiora went a step further to say that the behaviour of Rev. Okotie amounted to a "desecration" of the House of God." He said it was wrong for politicians to use the altar to canvass for votes. Listen to Obiora: "I am here to say that it is very unethical for church leaders to take a presidential aspirant to churches and introduce him to our congregation, as our presidential candidate for 2007. It is very wrong."
He alleged Rev. Okotie was brought to the church where he worships last Sunday by the State Chairman of PFN. "They interrupted church service for him (Okotie) to deliver his sermon," Obiora fumed.
As a matter of fact, Rev. Okotie has gone to great lengths to letting his ambition and mission in politics be known. He had, a week earlier, told PFN leadership in South East that he would be visiting to talk to members of the Pentecostal community in the zone. And everywhere he has gone, he seizes the chance. He has the gift for expressing it in a stately, lilting language that could appeal, simultaneously, to born agains and other secular boomers currently searching for a lost sense of uplift in their lives.
For Rev. Okotie, his ambition to become an elected President is an extension of delivering the Good News. And his abiding faith in this project, he tells people, is an equivalent of the Biblical injunction that thereís no mountain too great to climb once there is faith.
How far this will carry him remains to be seen. It is not something to be given on a granular debate based on theology where he excels. If he fails a second time, there will be plenty of reasons to give, but his critics will assail him of being blinded by his beliefs to the complexities of Nigerian politics.
Few doubt that Rev. Okotie is sincere in his faith, a worthy virtue for anyone who seeks to lead. But many insist he should face the reality of his ambition in the spirit of Oliver Cromwell: "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken."