Rev Cole @ 76: ‘The lord has been so faithful to me’
At 76, Rev. Cole Chiori, the Chairman, OceanGlory Commodities Ltd., is thankful to God for his life’s accomplishments despite his struggles in life. The former Pastor with Assemblies of God, father of US-based Nigerian middleweight boxer, Gifted Cole, spoke to CHIJIOKE IREMEKA on how he rose from being a bus conductor to a successful businessman.
Life at 76 will not be complete without ups and downs. How has life treated you and what are you celebrating in this seven and half decades of your life?
It’s been great. God has been so faithful to me. Like I said in the church, when my father wanted to name me, he took me to a pastor, at a tender age, I think it was about two years old, I barely know him, and said to him, ‘this is your namesake. He’s going to be a pastor like you and I (because my father was a pastor); take care of him. He will bear your name.’ I learnt that my father passed on after that moment.
I barely know him. We were together for about two years. After his death, I continued to live that way. I had no father but then that was good; that was the training that prepared me for what I am celebrating today. I was moving from one place to the other, to find the true meaning of life.
As nature will have it, God raised a woman that brought me up. This woman was so tough on me. The way she treated me, the worldly people would call it wickedness. Also, at that age, I felt she was treating badly but by the grace of God, she was teaching me toughness. And that prepared me for the task ahead of me coupled with God’s protection upon my life.
God has been there for me. I have encountered many temptations and accidents in my adulthood, but God, Who is always able to save, preserved me and has always seen me through in everything I have been through.
There was a particular accident that took place while we were going to Enugu from Yola for a crusade. It was so fatal that nine of us on one side of the bus died and were taken to Ankpa General Hospital’s mortuary in Kogi State. The accident occurred at Otupka but by the mercies of God, I woke up and found myself on the mortuary floor and people there ran away for one reason or the other. I gained my consciousness and somebody helped me from there back to Jos where our people were. They wanted to change my blood stained suit but I refused because I wanted to travel with my stained suit that way.
I have been involved in so many accidents, but God has been keeping me. On my 75th birthday last year, a car hit my vehicle from the back while I was celebrating in Lekki. The impact was much that the driver, a woman, came down and knelt down before me and said, ‘daddy I am sorry,’ and I said to her, do you want to kill me on my birthday?
She said she was sorry but I said to her, don’t tell me sorry; tell me congratulations and she said congratulations, then I asked her to go. If not for God, I wouldn’t be alive today. I give Him all the praise. Where God has brought me, made me to know Him the more. I didn’t go to school; I ended up in primary six, but my poor educational background didn’t stop me. My uncle who was supposed to train in school me didn’t. I got admission in Kings College in 1964, and another one in Yabatech but had nobody to sponsor me.
So, I took to rough life, became a bus conductor, plying Yaba to Lawanson but by the grace of God, here I am today. I have eight lovely boys and one girl as children. But for the reasons best known to God, He allowed the death of two, a boy and the only girl, but He preserved the rest. God Has been using them to take care of me.
So, in all those treatments you got from the woman, do you see them as blessings in disguise or distractions?
Yes, of course. When I talked in the church, I said that God raised that wicked woman to bring me up. If not for her act of wickedness on me, by waking me up with water by 2am, I may not be what I am today. It was a kind of training that made me what I am today. I tell you, when I started working in Lagos, all those training helped me. I woke up early in the morning and off to work. Today, I’m still carrying on. By 2am or 3am I’m up even at this my current age. So, it’s been more like blessing than distractions.
By the number of children you have, one may conclude you like people around you. Could this be the reason for the number of children you have?
It wasn’t intentional. I was looking for a girl child and I kept having more boys. It got to a point I said I have to stop before I have a dozen of children. So, God gave me these wonderful children and He a lone trained them all.
Having a professional boxer among your children could be a thing of joy. How did you feel when he initially told you of his intention to become a boxer?
Yes, one of my sons is a world champion boxer and I am happy about that. His name is Gifted Cole Chiori, my third son. When he told me he was about to join boxing, I was happy because I was once a boxer. I felt he was going to replace me in the boxing ring since I didn’t continue. I joined boxing as a young man trying to find meaningful life and I was good at it. He’s equally good. He has not lost a fight just like me. I didn’t lose any fight for the moment I was in that aspect of sports. I’m proud of him. He takes care of his mother and me; just like other of his siblings do He’s doing well.
Looking at your achievements and your lovely children at 76, what would you consider your highlight in life?
My high point in life is that life didn’t demand my poor educational background to make manager at different levels to the point of becoming general manager in an insurance company. These opportunities didn’t demand consider by poor educational background. To me, this the greatest high point in could record.
When one of my uncles visited me and asked whether I went back to the school, I told him no, as there was nobody to send me to school. But he said in surprise, ‘And you are a manger in these serious companies and made money.’ I told him it was only God. I told to him that I got into those places with the help of God. I went to Bible School, worked with the European Economic Community, which is now the European Union.
I applied as a driver but when they saw how hard working I was, they made me passage officer. As a passage officer, my duty was to bring in all the European workers coming to the country and getting their work and residence permits.
I worked there satisfactorily and it was from there that I resigned because of God’s calling upon my life. The wish of my father came knocking at the door. Remember my father made that statement when he took me to the pastor that I would serve God. So, I needed to resign to live out that calling.
At what point did you know that time is ripe for you to resign for that high calling of the Lord?
It was so much on me. Also, all the pastors that were coming to our church for programmes kept on telling me that there was calling of God upon me. Then, one night, in a dream, Jesus took me to the podium in a stadium and gave me a Bible and said I should preach this Word to the people. And I asked, how can I preach, when I don’t know what to say? And slapped me. In that dream, I shouted and woke up. My wife asked what the problem was. I told her that Jesus slapped me. When I told my pastor of that dream, he said it was a great calling.
Then, another night, I saw Him, as a mountain, under the mountain, was an inscription, ‘UGWU.’ I asked a question again, what is the meaning of this? And He said ‘you joined the gospel workers union.’ Again, I told my pastor that I was going to start a gospel union known as universal gospel workers union. But my pastor said no, that God was telling me to join the pastoral work.
Again, and the last one, God took me to a mountain and showed me many Hausa people (alhajis), down the valley and said, with this bible, you will go down and bring this people up. So, as I was called into the work of missionary and they know me as a missionary deliverance minister. After some time, Assemblies of God called for a mission in 1990, I was involved and behold, when I got to the North, I saw exactly that mountain, which I was shown in the dream. I quickly recognised it. I stayed there and started my missionary work, which was why most of my converts were mostly Muslims and I said what the Lord showed me about my calling has obviously come to pass. So, I did all my work in the North and retired there.
Seeing what you presented to the widows at the church, one would ask the reason behind that gesture?
July 2, was actually the main birthday, which I celebrated in my children’s house in Lekki. I decided to give God thanks for what He has done for me. And those bags of rice and the drinks among others were actually for widows and haves-not. I took photograph with the widows, and the haves not. I want to appreciate God for keeping me alive by reaching out to the widows. God loves the widows and He is the husband of the widow. So, whatever I do for them to be happy unto the Lord. So, whatever I do, I do unto the Lord. That is why I’m giving back to the society what the Lord has done for me. You can see that they were happily waiting to share them. It gives me joy to do so and it gives God pleasure when we care for the needy.
As a man, who works with the Lord, what message do you have for the Christians, Nigeria and youths amid crisis in the country?
My advice to young people is to know God, trust God and believe in Him. With God, we are more than conquerors. So, if we have God we have got nothing to tamper with us. So, my message to the young ones today is for them to leave drug addiction and believe in God. Those who are into prostitution should stop and embrace God. I would have died long ago if I didn’t have God with me. Let the youths accept Christ as their Lord and personal Saviour so that they would be saved and take control of the country. And for Nigeria, I pray that the country will get better because I have never experienced what is happening in this country now since I was born, as far as governance is concerned. The youths should take control of the country.
Going by what is happening in this country today, especially the way over elections have been commercialised. Comparing your days with ours, do you think there is still hope for Nigeria?
Our hope is in God. I tell Nigerians to return to God. Nobody owns Nigeria, it belongs to God and only God will put whosoever He wants. My hope in Nigeria is that God is alive. It’s only a dead person that doesn’t have hope. As long as there is life, there is hope. We will not give up on this country for we have no other one.