“WE GET DISAPPOINTED AS CHRISTIANS WHEN WE TRY TO MANUFACTURE OR CONFIGURE THINGS FOR GOD.” – OLUDARE ONASANYA
My name is Oludare Onasanya. I am currently the Executive Director in charge of productions at HB consolidated media investment, a media content company that specializes in the development of television and entertainment content.
One of such in Nigeria and Across Africa is ‘Kids say the darndest things’, which is a global franchise; a CBS format. Apart from HB consolidated, I am also the one in charge of BAFOT studios which is primarily a production company; it is in fact my very first company, it’s been around for a while and it delivers top notch production services, and documentaries.
My testimony is multi-faceted; it starts from the very foundation. My father died when I was 9 years old. There were five of us; all boys, the last one was a year old when he passed so we grew up knowing that we had a single parent which was our mother- Mrs. Bernice Oluwatoyin Afolabi Onasanya, a very strong woman from whom we got most of the virtues we apply today in terms of business, and our knowledge of who God is with a proper application of that understanding that with God, all things are possible.
I have very little memory of my father; in fact, the only things I remember about him are the ways he played with me every time he returned home from work- he would carry me on his back, and the fact that he promised to buy me a bicycle when I turned ten but he wasn’t around to do so. My mum however ensured that I had a party though I didn’t get the birthday bicycle.
From then on, I saw my mum work extremely hard to a point where we really hardly lacked much, especially in school. If we lacked anything, it probably would be we didn’t have as many clothes as we could have wanted but then, we didn’t know the difference because we always had our Sunday wears as well as our party wears. My mother did everything she could to care for my brothers and I. However, the turning point came for me when I turned 21.
That was the year my mother died! I was a student at the Polytechnic when it happened.
At 21, I realized that the survival of me and my four younger ones was dependent on me and on how I choose to live my life.
My mum said to me before she passed on, “With the way you are now, I trust that you will take care of your younger ones” so when she died, I realized that she was telling me things in riddles. At the age of 21, I was both father and mother to four big boys and that helped me cast down every human wisdom I thought that I had, and it also helped me take my attention away from people because the first disappointment we had was from people. She died on the 20th of December, and she was buried on the 23rd; just three days after. After she passed on, I realized that nobody can really be like ones father or mother. Now, that is not necessarily because they are wicked, they may be willing to help but be limited. We needed #7,000 to go back to school and we were not used to begging so we didn’t know where or who to go to.
My younger brother was going back to sit for WAEC at that time, the last two didn’t have any problem because they were with Reverend Ayoade, the husband of one of our aunts but I needed to go back to school to complete my OND in Accounting while my other brother needed to sit for his WAEC.
I needed #3,000 and he needed #4,000 which was basically for his hostel fees so he could write his exams; the exams fees had been paid. Fortunately or unfortunately, my father’s relatives had promised to take responsibility so we couldn’t go back to my mother’s side which meant we had people who could help but we couldn’t go to them so as not to cheapen the other side; we were stuck in the middle of it all.
The people who were supposed to be directly responsible for us couldn’t afford what we needed to go back to school so that helped me to look up to God and say, “God we need You! If we are having this challenge at this time how do we forge ahead?” I realized that truly I needed God. I wasn’t born-again at that point but like every child raised in a Christian home, I was used to praying once in a while, you know, you pray when you want to sleep, you pray when you wake up and when you want to eat, and you also pray when you have a bad dream but I did not have a personal relationship with God.
Fortunately for me, before my mother’s demise, she had also guided me on the right path. She saw an artist in me so she put my foot on the right path. She made me learn photography and graphic art design which saw me spending every one of my holidays in graphic studios. She mentored me on that path but sadly, she was not around to see the final molding.
For direction on how to help my younger ones financially and all that, I needed God. For direction on my life I needed God, for direction on even what to do next I needed God and this is a God I didn’t have a relationship with, but I needed him, at least I know that I needed him, so by April 1997, I started attending that same church I used to sometimes fight my mother over before I would attend. Without being cajoled, I started going to sit in that same church, on my own. I won’t go to the pastor but I would sit speaking to God. I would tell Him I need Him to help me. Every time the sermon was going on, I would be saying, “God please speak to me.” Sometimes before I left home to church, I would have prayed my heart out asking that He will guide me.
And in April 1997, he spoke severally to me through the pastor on the pulpit. By then, everybody that stood at the pulpit even if it was a child was God to me. I consciously gave my life to Christ in April 1997 and I embraced Him wholeheartedly.
I had just one more semester to go in school when my mother died so after giving my life to Christ, I went back to complete my OND.
My mum died of some form of spiritual attack so her death was mysterious and at that time, I also had another form of spiritual attack, I think I ate poison somewhere that I couldn’t hear well, when people spoke to me, it would seem like they were speaking to me from three streets away, you know, then I will be asking myself questions that do you even understand what they have said and I will be answering myself that no I didn’t understand. In all of that, I still needed to write my final exams so it was like being in a black hole for a period. I needed God on every side and God indeed used all that circumstances to turn my life around. I wrote my exams not knowing what I was writing but I passed.
Thereafter, I had two options- Either go for one year IT before HND or take direct entry into the university but those weren’t even the questions on my mind. The question on my mind was if I chose to do my IT first, and I was lucky to get a good place, the highest I would get paid as salary was #2,500 per month which even as a student, I was spending more than so how would I go for HND? What of my younger ones? My Immediate younger brother just sat for WAEC, and the others were still in secondary school, what does the future hold for them?
I was concerned. I was scared. I was perplexed, and to crown it all, I didn’t know how to beg so when I finished my exams, I couldn’t come back home. I stayed back at school seeking God for direction; that was how I learned to trust God for everything till now.
In the place of prayers when I asked for direction, God said to me, “What do you have in your hands?” And every time I go to Him in prayers, He asked me the same question. He pointed me to Joseph that all he had was dreams and that that was what He used to turn his life around. Joseph dreamt his way to prison; he dreamt his way to problems and dreamt his way to the palace. He pointed me to Moses and said, “When I used him, I only asked him for what he had which was a staff, and every miracle I did in his life was related to his hands.” He reminded me of how the staff became snake in the presence of Pharaoh, of how Moses stretched it to part the red sea, and of how when they were at war, every time that same hand was raised, the Israelites conquered but when it went down, the enemies conquered. And He said to me that because Moses identified and acknowledge that I anointed his hands, people appointed themselves to lift his hands up so that the battle could be won.
Those were the very first words God spoke to me after the prayers and as I was meditating upon it, I realized that what I had in my hand was photography and He told me that with that, I will conquer every battle and every time I do, men will appoint themselves to serve me.
I decided to do my IT but only in my own company so I registered a company and I used a combination of my mother’s names Bernice Afolabi Oluwatoyin to coin BAFOT Studios. I then dedicated it to the Lord asking that He will indeed bless the business and make it go international and today, I testify that God is faithful. Along the line, we have fought so many battles but God conquered at every point.
After my OND, I stayed for 7 years to nurture the business and it was from that platform that all my younger ones went to the university. It saw everybody through and at the age of 28, 7 years after, that same business financed me through the university. I went to the University of Lagos and started from the scratch. I did my first degree in mass communications; and afterwards, I went abroad for my Masters.
Through BAFOT studios, three other studious have been birthed. We have Derock Multimedia, Studiocase photography and George Media. The last two now operates in both the USA and Nigeria. Two of my brothers have now relocated to the United States with their own immediate family. Now, we all can afford to go on tour to other countries on vacation and that is all due to the grace that God has given orphans. Our testimonies are many! Through this business, I also got married and my wedding was well attended. God has since blessed me with three beautiful daughters who are doing well in school; He has really been faithful to us.
I once consulted for a World Bank project at the University of Lagos and we had a major challenge. There was an attack by armed robbers at gun point and they carted away the school properties which wasn’t even used directly by me; it was used by the students but as their mentor and guide, I needed to recover those equipment and get them back to the department.
I went to God in prayer and He led me to call one of my mentors who’s an AIG- Richard Chime. When I called to brief him, he told me it was a tricky matter, and that I needed to act fast so he asked me to write a detailed statement and take same to the commissioner of police.
The Commissioner of police decided to investigate the matter by himself, so he called the station and asked to see everybody related to the matter, including all the security guards that were on duty that night. I think about a week later, the DPO called me and said to me, “If it is God you are serving, don’t stop serving Him o”. You see, the matter was so funny it would have implicated everybody, including me, including even the officer in charge of the case but God Himself showed up. All the equipment was found intact in a car somewhere in the bush; not even a USB Cable was missing.
I went back to God after that experience. I needed to know what was next. I needed for Him to lead me to something that would worth my while. My wife and I went solely into a prayer and fasting programme to understand what God would have us do next, and He guided us to do an act of benevolence.
I had a dream, saw an angel who asked me, “Do you want to do business?” and I answered, “Yes” but He said I didn’t have what it takes and I said to Him that I would do it. So He gave me N500 and N50 notes and asked me to give them out to needy women and children
When I woke up, I told my wife God has spoken. We went to the bank and withdrew the little we had in our account and we changed it into N500 and N50 notes. On enquiry, we found out we should go to Kano Street, and to my utmost shock, the very way I saw them lined up in the dream was how I found them in real life. We quickly shared the money giving N500 to the women and N50 to the children and we went back home celebrating. The revelation came on the 6th day of our programme and on the 7th day, we carried out the instruction.
I was meditating and thoughts started flowing into my head. “Why don’t you do franchise?” Franchise? Is there any left? X-Factor, Projectfame, Who wants to be a millionaire, Nigeria got talent etc. are all already here so what other franchise exist? Then I heard, “What about Kids say the darndest things?” Wow! I quickly went on Youtube to watch it and I laughed and laughed and laughed then it dawned on me that the primary target of Kids says the darndest things are women and children. No wonder the act of benevolence was to them!
While laughing, I heard why don’t you send a mail to them? The whole thing started like child’s play and here we are today, in the whole of Africa, we have the franchise.
The race is not to the swift neither is the battle to the strong; it is of God that shows mercy. This whole project started on paper- about 180 pages of both financials and pros. The first person I shared it with who happens to be my cousin ran with it, we started approaching people and before we knew it, money started coming into the business; people gave gifts and in the first year alone, over N200,000,000 went into the project. It’s only God that could have made that happen. The bible says, Paul planted, Apollos watered but God gave the increase.
All we did was to follow God and He, all by Himself brought the increase.
We are in the second season now. In the first, we aired on only one Television station but this season, we have aired on 8 channels and more are asking to air it. God makes our lives and our businesses attractive, all by His mercy. We had no resources of our own when we were starting; in fact, the only resource we had was and still is God!
I can never finish sharing the wonders of God in our lives; they are so many, we can only say in all ramifications, God has been faithful and merciful to us.
One of my younger ones was attacked; he was almost going mad and doctors told us they couldn’t find anything wrong with him. Someone advised we took him to Togo where he could be healed but I refused; stating that my bible tells me, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” (James 5:14) so if God by Himself now decides not to heal him let it be so. I took the matter to God, entered into a fast and committed it all into His hands; in fact we held his hands and legs and locked him in the church clinic.
I was preaching in Sunday school that morning and the topic was ‘Trusting God every time’ so I again handed the matter over to Him. God showed Himself faithful as always and within a week, he was totally healed. It has been well with him ever since. The same boy has gone on to set up businesses, and bought properties for himself; he is also married. God has helped us in many ways so much such that if we decide to number His goodness to us, we will not be able to finish counting them.
You talked about the times you trusted God and He came through for you but I want to believe there were times you trusted Him and the answers did not come the way you would have wanted it to come. Do you mind sharing such with us?
In my walk with God over time, what I have learned is that the way He works is different from the way we expect Him to work. Let me give you an example!
Like I said before, these things are not understood by carnal mind. How do you explain benevolence as a strategy to getting a global business? You want to get a franchise and the strategy is ‘Go and do benevolence”! It just doesn’t add up; it doesn’t make sense!
I have found out that people experience God in different ways. I once read about a magician who used to walk on ropes. He took people to the mountain, tied rope from the top of one mountain to the other, and asked them if they believed he could walk from one end across to the other end of the rope. The people said yes he could then he asked that anyone who believed he could walk from one end to the other should sit in a wheel barrow and he would push the person across. Nobody volunteered!
So I read that trusting God is you having an understanding that so long as He’s the One holding the wheelbarrow while you sit in it, He’ll take you across, successfully.
If it is dark and a child on a roof is asked to jump, even if he cannot see his father’s face in the dark but can only hear his voice, the child will jump because he trusts his father to catch him. That is what it means to trust God.
So, in most cases, I try not manufacture anything for God, including my wife; I waited on God to choose for me. I only tell God what I want and I trust God that He will bring it to pass.
For instance, when I was going to get married, I told God what I wanted. I wanted a woman who I will still be able to love in old age. A woman who will be my friend but in my own little wisdom, I told God I didn’t want a particular tribe for some very obvious reasons. However, God corrected me.
“I will make a helper that is suitable for you!” He said a prudent wife is a gift from Him, and if it is a gift, then it is not up to you.
I can’t say that I embraced God early because the age of twenty one is already too late to know God, but I embraced God as an orphan, as somebody who didn’t have an earthly father to depend on so, anything that I wanted to do or achieve, it needed to be God or nothing else. He was and still is my all in all, so I really don’t have choices with Him.
I have also observed that when you make things up for God, – in Christianity, people make things up. People speak in tongues when the Holy Spirit has not given them tongues, people prophecy when God has not told them so, people make things up when God has not done so, and when you do, most times, you will be disappointed. God can pass through any vessel that is humble and has made himself available.
As youths, I remember we held a crusade where we presented a drama and afterwards, gathered the people together, laid hands on them and they were falling under the anointing. I went home celebrating the first day it happened; I couldn’t believe that that type of power could pass through my person but I also understood that it is not a certificate for me to go and call the blind and the sick and start laying hands on them. God needed workers, we were available, we were not pastors, we were not called, we were only evangelizing and God needed us as His representatives and because we did it sincerely as young people, He passed through us to minister life to the people and save their souls from destructions.
Christians get disappointed when we try to manufacture or configure things for God as if we are specialists, there is nobody that knows the way that God works, there is nobody, the only thing that we can do is to humble ourselves under His mighty hand and trust Him for everything. In most cases, when I take my burden to God, I leave it there, and many times, He would have answered before I would remember I ever prayed about it.
So, there are times you expect God to answer but He didn’t or He answers in a different way. The way I understand God, if I ask God for ten things and one gets answered, I believe that He has answered the other nine. I always remind myself that mine is to ask, His is to answer and if He doesn’t, sometimes, He will tell you why; sometimes He will not. You just have to trust God always that He has a good plan for you. His grace is not something you work for; if you worked for it and you are not paid, then you can say you are disappointed but a free gift?!