Why It Is Hard For Me To Say ‘I Love You’ To My Wife – Popular Nigerian Bishop Opens Up

Bishop Sunday Matilukuro is the Primate of the First African Church Mission. He shares his fatherhood experience with DOLAPO AKITOYE

What does fatherhood mean to you?

Fatherhood is like mentoring – taking care of a home, protecting the home and developing members of the home – in a way that will be beneficial to mankind and with the fear of God.

When did you become a father?

I became a father about 33 years ago.

How did you feel the time you held your first child?

Naturally, I was happy. I had joy in my heart that I had been able to do what those before me did. It’s like my replica, and naturally, I was thankful to God.

Did you wish for a particular gender?

I was not particular about it but the first one is a male and I thanked God.

How do you manage your role as a primate with fatherhood?

The scripture is very clear about it that a man must be able to take care of his home. The Bible further says he who is not able to take care of his home is worse than an infidel. If you don’t have a home, you don’t have a church because the people you seem to be leading will assess you, using your family. When they see that you are not able to take care of your home – your children have no work, they are uncontrollable, your wife is just doing whatever she likes against the norm – then what guts would you have? What effrontery will you have to stand before the congregation and preach? This is because church is a court of morals; it is not a court of law and morality starts from the home. If you don’t have it at home, then you cannot claim it in the church. Apart from the exigencies of the work in the church, I am more at home than any other place. I monitor my people, home, children and family at large. I ensure that they grow in the fear of the Lord and that is the only reason I can stand before the church of God and say, ‘This is the will of God.’

What challenges did you face rising to the position you are in today?

I have been inclined to the things of the Lord from my youth. I grew up serving God – from the choir to other areas in the church – and it was part of me. By the time it was time for me to settle down as a family man, my wife already met me doing that and she fell in line. Then, by the time we came up, it was not too difficult. If you look at my house, you will see a bell. We ring the bell every morning and I got that from my father.

By the time my father left, we kept on doing it to when I started my family. I trained my family in the way of the Lord. It was not difficult for me to take care of my family. Becoming a primate, you know, is ‘one amongst equals’. In the college of bishops, we have about 36 bishops and it is only one person that can become the primate.

I was not the most senior but I had a passion for the church; for the things of God and my church had gone through some travail for some time. I took up the challenge. I sat down and thought ‘What are you going to do if you get there?’ I mapped out my vision and I perfected it. I worked on the pathway and road map to achieving the mission and I offered myself. People were astonished though a few people came to me and encouraged me that I could go for it.

We went through the screening, the interview and the election. To the glory of God, I emerged primate out of three of us that vied for the office.

Did the election take any toll on your family?

It was not smooth because it spanned through two to three months. We had a process which we had to follow and travelling from place to place because at the time, I was a Bishop of Rivers State and it was in Lagos – where we have our headquarters – that the exercise took place. My wife had to sacrifice and I was away for some time. We prayed together apart from my own quiet time. Our children – the first one already has his own family.

God gave us two (children) and I am happy for that – a male and a female. The second one is in a boarding house. She is completing her secondary education this year. We put her in a boarding house for us not to disturb her own studies as a result of our work schedule. There was no problem between my wife and me. We could work together but we had to seek the face of the Lord and that perhaps, took something out of her. She partnered with me to pray together and you know, when you want to get to such a position, there is a bit of politics in it. She managed her utterances and actions because people would be watching. However, apart from that, I think it was God’s design for me to lead the church.

What values did you imbibe from your father that are guiding you now that you are a father?

One major value that I learnt from my father was that he was a completely upright man. He would never say ‘no’ when it is ‘yes.’ If he told you something, you can go to sleep. He would not change his position, no matter what. He feared God and served Him till the end of his life. My father had two wives, but you cannot know which child belongs to which mother.

What has been your major challenge as a father?

My son at a time was trying to take after me because I was very rascally when I was growing up. If you needed somebody to come and fight for you, I was available. However, in his own, because of peer pressure and delinquencies, he fell into the wrong group. He could take something from the home, lie and pretend to the point that I was highly disturbed.

You know that naturally, such would affect his education. But I am a highly disciplined person. When he was in his final class in secondary school, I observed that he was not really doing what he was supposed to do. I told him, ‘you would not be able to pass your examination and if you don’t pass, don’t think because I have friends here and there, I will listen to you. I will not listen to you. You must earn your result’.

At the end of the day, he did not make it. Then, he thought that there would be a shortcut and I was looking at him as he was going round and round. At a time, he left home. He was a teenager then, but I kept on praying seriously to God. He answered my prayer. It was a very big challenge to me because in the church, I had one or two of my members, whose children were giving them concern then.

In fact, one was a minister of God. They told me and God used me to resolve whatever problem they had in their homes. But my own was biting me seriously. However, I thank God because I cried to Him and he returned home on his own. I asked him when he came, ‘What are you up to?’ and he said that he had learnt his lessons. I asked him what he wanted to do and he said he would retake the examination and that was a turn-around in his life.

It was a very big challenge to me because then I was already a pastor and how was I going to explain that my child had gone astray? I thank God that today, my son is fully settled.

Do you think your role as a cleric puts pressure on you?

Naturally! Look at Prophet Eli and his sons, Hophni and Phinehas. God loves Eli. There was no blame concerning his work as a prophet but his children were wayward. When you look at the story of Eli, as a servant of God, you will be afraid. God can drop you just because of your children because all eyes are on you.

They are also looking at your wife and children. If there is a fault in your home, you have to be careful of what comes out of your mouth. So, it puts a lot of pressure on us as servants of God.

What things prepared you for fatherhood?

Well, I definitely took a lot from my father. He had the ability to put his home in order and nurture us in the way of God. I knew right from the beginning that I would do that too. I knew that I would do everything possible legally to give my children the best of education and that I would do everything possible to have a home that is of God.

How do you discipline your children?

Well, mostly, by words of mouth. I warn them but when it gets too far, I don’t spare the rod where necessary. As you know, my son is a man now, and so, I cannot scold him anymore because he is now a father as well. Apart from correcting them, you need to also pray for them otherwise, the world can take them away from you. Once they are taken away from you, forget it. It takes the grace of God for them to come back.

How do you reward their good deeds?

The one that is in school, I tell her that if she passes her examination, I will give her something. She is the type that does not forget things. She keeps on reminding me. Sometimes, I take her out.

Were you in labour room with your wife?

No. There are certain things I cannot stand unless it becomes compulsory.

How do you relax?

This is a big question. Before I started this work, I was in the secular world too. Initially, I was combining secular with spiritual work. But it got to a stage that the zeal for the work of God made me drop the secular work and this work of God is 24/7. You don’t have a particular time, especially the level that I am now. I work round the clock. Imagine 36 dioceses in Nigeria; 36 bishops in Lagos, Nigeria and even outside Nigeria and it is only this small me that is thinking about them. If there is any problem, they call the primate.

I find it difficult to relax but I take time to watch TV sometimes. I also like to grill sometimes. I like to roast plantain. On a few occasions, people come around and we have a chat.

What career would you have chosen if you are not a cleric?

When I was much younger, I planned to have three PhDs. I wanted to be a lecturer. I eventually became a lecturer. I lectured at the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos State Polytechnic and the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology before I dropped everything for God’s work.

I think I would have been in the academics producing professionals and experts. I love teaching a lot.

What course did you teach?

My field is business administration. I taught industrial relations, cooperative field administration, business studies and entrepreneurship development programme.

What has been the most interesting thing to you as a father?

The time my son overcame what he was going through when he was younger and started taking the right path; that gave me a lot of satisfaction because it took a heavy load off me. If he had continued, perhaps, I would have died; so, it gave me satisfaction. My daughter is doing great as well and we are praying that she clears her papers and heads to the university.

What advice would you give to children without fathers?

The Bible says that Jesus is the father to the fatherless. The role of the father in a home is very important. Take his role out of the home and there would be problems. If a woman decides to be a single parent, you would see it in the child unless the grace of God is granted to that woman. The child is going to be seriously affected by the absence of the father. I advise those without father figures to be close to God. Every other thing will fall in place.

There must be somebody in the home that the child fears just as a Christian fears God. Naturally, a mother will want to pamper a child if she remembers the pains of childbirth but a father will be more firm.

What do you think is responsible for parental failure?

Pressure! That is the first thing. The economic pressure is much now. I grew up in Lagos (though, I was not born in Lagos). The social vices were not (as much) as we have now and then, parents were close to their children. If the father went to work, the mother would be around. These days, the father is working either in the bank where he is doing a lot and the mother is working somewhere else and there is no room for them to go out.

The economic pressure is affecting homes and survival is what the parents are looking for now. The second thing is that our schools now– especially public schools – are not the same as the missionary schools somebody like me attended.

What precious gift have you given your wife to appreciate her?

I am an archaic man and my wife is always quarrelling with me. I even find it difficult to say ‘I love you’, but I know from the bottom of my heart that I love her. Well, I can’t say there is any particular thing but if God gives to me, I give. Whatever I am doing at all in this world, I put my family first. I want my family to have the best of comfort. That is my number one priority.

What is your advice to would-be fathers?

Number one is that there is no sin if you do not marry. You have not committed a sin if you have not married. You only commit a sin when you cannot discipline yourself. There is no point bringing a child to the world when you know that you would not be able to take care of that child. It is a responsibility that God has given to fathers. If you know that you would not be able to train your child properly, forget about it. You can marry and decide not to have children. That’s good. There is no problem or sin but it would be very sinful to bring a child to the world and you do not nurture that child. No matter what you think you have in this present dispensation, if you do not give education to your child, you have made life miserable for that child. This is because there is a limit to where you can reach in the world today without formal education. There is no limit to what you can do and where you can reach when you have a very good education. Then, you must be able to be close to your children.


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