His Excellency, Dr. Christopher Kolade, CON, made our day on Thursday, September 16, 2010, when we ran into him at an event somewhere in Ikoyi, Lagos and he gladly obliged us with an exclusive interview.
Born in 1932 in Erin Oke, Osun State, the former Managing Director (and later chairman) of Cadbury Nigeria Plc attended the popular Government College, Ibadan, Oyo State; Fourah Bay College, Freetown, Sierra Leone, among other institutions.
A gifted speaker and broadcaster, he was at a time the Director General of the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and currently the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council of Pan African University.
One of the greatest Nigerians alive, the scandal-free elder statesman who loves the game of lawn tennis so much opened to us on the ingredients needed for success, how to soar without blemish and the things we must o to make Nigeria work…
What is the secret of success, what must a young man who wants to succeed in life do?
Who is the author of life? God. So, if you want to succeed in life you have to seek the face of the author of life. He is the one who decided to bring you to life, into this place. That is the first secret of success. If you don’t cultivate the habit of asking God, success cannot happen. Second secret, when God talks to you, you obey, you do what God says you should do. We pray the Lord’s prayer, ‘Thy will be done.’ So, you try and do His will. The third secret, you must work very hard, you must work so hard that there is no space that somebody can say that you didn’t do this, that’s why you didn’t succeed. The fourth secret: You must be ready to learn because this world changes everyday. The things that added up to success 20 years ago will not add up to success today, so those who want to succeed must be ready to learn at a go.
In spite of the years you spent in the corporate world, you are still one of the scandal free Nigerians we have, how are you able to do it?
The ability to avoid being stained means you are trying to do what is right each time. Why is that difficult? If you try to do what is right every time then you should avoid being stained. You try, sometimes you make mistakes but when you make a mistake, you correct it. If you are prepared to do that, I don’t see why you should be stained by anything.
Which are the biggest mistake young men make?
I don’t know, I am not a young man only young men can tell you what the biggest mistake they make is. As human beings will not get it right unless they seek the face of God.
Of all your achievement, which one gives you the greatest joy?
Everything gives me great joy. God leads you through life and at every stage of life you are doing His will you always have a great joy. So, my greatest joy today is what I am doing now.
You are one of those constantly referred to as a role model, an icon, an idol, how does it feel to be referred to as all this? Is it a big burden on you?
No, it is not because I always try to be just myself. I don’t pretend to be what I am not. So, if somebody says to me, ‘I want to choose you as my role model, I say to that person you don’t know all the things I have passed through, so be careful. What you are looking at now and you like it, there is a story behind it.
You are so humble and simple, I was thinking I will see a hordes of aides surrounding you?
You must never pretend to be what you are not. I can’t remain idle when there are works to be done and in Nigeria of today, there is a lot to be done, that’s why we must continue to do the work.
Will Nigeria ever become better?
The answer to that question will be to ask why did God create the world? Why did God create Nigeria? Is it so bad that it could be destroyed? Is it so bad that it could be a failure? Of course not, God doesn’t do that. God created Nigeria to be a success. Those of us alive today, He is giving us an opportunity to make the country good. If we seize the opportunity and do what He wants, the country will be good and if we don’t seize the opportunity, He will give it to somebody else.
So, when will be good?
I don’t know.
When will Nigeria succeed?
I don’t know. Until we correct ourselves and do the things we know to be good. If you and I try to do what is right, things will be good. Everytime we do what is wrong, things will go wrong. So, it is up to us.
Why are you still so humble in spite of all your strings of achievements?
I told you before I am only one person. Let me give you one example, if this man has a headache (points to another person) and he goes to the doctor, what do you think the doctor will give him? Paracetamol, two tablets. If I have an headache and I go to my doctor, what do you think he will give me? The same Paracetamol, two tablets. One person is one person, so why should I behave as if I am larger than you? Why should I do that?
How does it feel for you to be idolized?
You must ask the people, not me because I don’t consider myself an idol. People say oh, I have heard of you, this and that, it is because I speak. People who don’t speak you don’t hear them.
What is the best way to be a good speaker?
The best way to be a good speaker is to have something to say. To know what you want to say and say it as simply as possible. Don’t use big language, don’t try to intimidate anybody, say what you want to say simply. And of course, when you speak simply people understand you more. When you try to cloth it in big language, you lose something. Say it simply and when you have said it, sit down.
Do you still have any unfulfilled dreams?
You cannot go through life without having something that you would have loved to do, that you haven’t done why? Because by the grace of God, at anytime you are a journalist I am sure you can think of one or two that you wished you did, so sometimes after few years you think if only I had achieved this or that. There are times that things like that come to me and everytime it comes to me, I thank God that at least He made me do something that I love to do and that I was used to.
What will you say is the greatest thing that God have done for you?
The greatest thing He did for me is to let me know Him. To let me know Him to such an extent that I know that everything about me is from Him.
What hasn’t God done for you?
I can’t think because even the sins that I have committed, that I will still commit, He has already passed the penalty to Jesus.
A lot of people look up to you as a role model, are there people you look up to as a role model?
Oh yes! My parents were very much my role model. When I was growing up, my father especially because he is a man and after that, when I started working, there were two or three bosses along the way that I actually look up to because I like their examples. I like the way they perform. Yes, I have role models.
What would you have loved to see in Nigeria that you have not seen?
I would have loved to see the young people in Nigeria taking initiative, claiming their own territory, not allowing the older people to lead them astray when they know what is right. If you say you are my boss in the office, I knew what is right and you are doing what is wrong, God has given me the ability to tell you that what you are doing is wrong. I will not be rude, I will be polite about it and if I tell you and you did not change God has given me the ability to walk away and do something else. Young people in Nigeria today are telling us that because we have lost our values because many have come so big they must have money, I didn’t agree with that because the most important thing is that in your own time in your own space you do the best you can with what God has given you.
- THIS INTERVIEW WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN ENCOMIUM WEEKLY ON TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2010