Keniebi Kimse Okoko, a successful entrepreneur and pastor at Salvation Ministries, Port Harcourt, is one man with a heart of gold. He may not have tasted poverty all his life but he knows how to empathized with people who are in that shoe. On Friday, October 12, he was at his community in the Gbarain Kingdom in Bayelsa State to present relief to flood victims in the area. He spoke to TNN's JOHN ODEY.
You are giving relief to people in your community. What is the brain behind this?
Empathy, Sympathy with humanity. Beyond having wealth what's left in life. What does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul? If you have everything and you are not helping the community and the people around you, you are not wealthy. You've done nothing, you have not made an impact in life. I cannot sit back in the comfort of my house and see the less privileged living in poverty. People are already facing difficulties in today's Nigeria and now to worsen it, they are submerged in water. So, if you see all that and decide not to do anything, no matter how small, that is tantamount to being demonic .
Have you been to any of the areas that are hit by this flood?
Yes, I have been to my community and it is not a pleasant sight but most especially and most importantly, I would be going there from time to time to share in their pains and give them what I can, to alleviate their pains. I will spend the night there. I will go around, talk to the people, console them, apart from the relief materials I will be giving them. A tender word suites the heart. So, I would be doing that.
What was the first thing that struck you when you saw what the people are going through?
I felt their pains and I am still feeling it. But the question is, at what point will Nigeria decide that we are one and that everybody matters and that every life counts, and at what point will the wealthy ones realize that wealth is vanity upon vanity, if people around us are suffering?
I am one person. I hope what I am giving them will be able to touch as many lives as possible. I hope to be able to bring relief if, nothing else, temporarily the sorrow of many that have lost their properties and livelihood. I cannot be sure the number of people that will be touched but I hope a large number and I can assure you, it is not going to be a one off thing. This is an immediate response. I will call it a rapid response to an urgent problem and subsequently, many more will follow, I can assure you about that.
Many more will follow, how soon will this come?
I think within the next one week, I should be having my team send another truck load. This is just one truck load of items which consist of rice, indomie, tissue paper, water, blankets, mosquito nets, mattresses, pillows, dettol, izal, vaseline and I am even thinking of getting a medical team when the flood has resided, to go and look at the people so that there's no kind of cholera or excess infection and things like that.
This must have cause you a fortune
I don't look at money as a God fearing man, so I don't look at the cost implication. I look at the lives that I will touch. He says give and it shall be given unt0 you and He says seed time and harvest... If you read Psalms 41 and the first verse, God specifically talks about a man that helps the less privileged, that He will bless him and prosper him and then if you go to verse three, it says even in your bed of languish and sickness, He will help you and heal you. So what I am doing is not only touching lives but touching the brain of God and He will respond. Then we can talk about how much I have spent.
How do you feel when you see the poor, the less privileged, the helpless...how do you feel when you see what they are going through?
You know I didn't grow up in a very wealthy home. I grew up in a very comfortable home and my father provided everything that a child would need to be comfortable; good education, basic necessities of life that would not make you to be looked down on. Above all, parental guidance and fatherly love. Now, when you see the people of today that are less privileged, you don't see any of these things. The basic things cannot even be afforded because of the tremendous poverty. It hurts me that a country like Nigeria with immense resources, we are going back to the same blame game about who did what and who did not do what and we are fifty something years. I think Nigeria is 58 and in 58 years, we are still blaming ourselves. What happened when the dollar was a dollar to the naria? Why didn't we blame ourselves? What happened to those glorious days? Are you telling me that people that have that windfall were mental patients and mentally incapacitated? We are the architects of our misfortune and the sooner we leaders of this country look at the problems and say that enough is enough, the better. Nigeria can only move forward if our leaders start looking at things void of party lines and look at humanity, look at the disaster that is coming to Nigeria if not we will continue like this.
In 2012, the flood was massive. This year, it has come again. Where have we gone wrong?
We are not nature. You will go and ask God, this is not government's issue. It is not PDP, it's not APC's fault. This is a natural disaster. Flood is natural so we have done nothing wrong. Where we are wrong is our response to the cry of the people. That is where we have gone wrong as a people, as a nation, not even as a state. It should be a collective effort with the government agency, to send relief to these communities. I don't want to go into trivial sentiment but the polity in Nigeria is too heated to make unguarded statements. It's unfortunate, these things happen. If you look at the US, you see where the leader of the world, Donald Trump went to Potorico and was throwing tissue papers to the helpless, you will see where he came to Texas during the hurricane to help the less privileged. You see the agencies there swing into action, trying to create budget to quickly assist but in Nigeria, I haven't seen the government agency swing into action. I haven't seen the kind of assistance the less privilege would need from the government. I haven't seen the tax payers money utilized to help the less privileged and it has nothing to do with party lines.
Address the flood victims, as if you were talking to them directly
I will tell them that my dear friend, brother and sister, I cannot understand what you are going through because I have not gone through it and I don't pray to be in it but I want you to know first and foremost that God is not an author of confusion because He said my peace I give to you and the only thing that man needs in life is Jesus and when you have Him, He will surmount all your challenges. He said weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning. Keep thanking God that you are alive, keep thanking God that you are not dead from this, He said that there is hope. So believe in God that He will help you. I will encourage you to keep praying to God to keep helping you, to send destiny helpers. I pray that you will live to testify the glory of God.
It's rare to find a successful business man talk about God like this
You know I hear some foolish people say they are self made. I always refer them to Nebuchadnezzar in the Bible, the first animal scientist. Why is he the first animal scientist? He is the only man that turned to an animal, to go to the forest to study botany. You know when Nebuchadnezzar thought he was a god, he will say I will do that, I did this. God had to humble him. I don't even consider myself successful yet. I consider myself blessed by God. If you know where Choba is, I grew up in Choba in Rivers State, from Choba to Ikoyi is a long leap. It can only be God. I was not the best of students when I was in the University of Port Harcourt; my record will surprise you. But today, I am a graduate of Harvard Business School, verified certificate. I don't have false result hanging on my head. The truth of the matter is, without God, no man is anything. He said it may be impossible with man, but with God, all things are possible and when you have found Christ, you've found peace. I have business concerns but because of the one that says I'm a lender not a borrower, I'm above and not beneath. Every morning, I stand up and say father over to you. He says cast your burdens unto me and there's no day I have come back home not victorious and I attribute that to a father and a mentor called David Ibiyeomie that has tutored me for eight years of my life and has moulded me and accepted me with my flaws because I have flaws like every other person. It will interest you to know that I am also a part time pastor in salvation ministries. I encourage people to know God in spirit and in truth. I encourage them to know Him.