It is fair to say Olakunle Churchill is a jack of many trades, even as a young man. The Nigerian is a youth leader, an entrepreneur, an ambassador of goodwill, a humanitarian and above all, a success.
The chairman of the Big Church Group of Companies is admired across his homeland and beyond, and he seems proud of his journey thus far; the significant progress he has made in his life and in his ever-expanding businesses.
Churchill, like most successful businessmen, is all action and few words, focused, tough. Despite being consistently slammed with demeaning snags, he fights back, keeps at it. This is a role model.
In an exclusive interview with Pulse.com.gh, Olakunle Churchill discusses his 10-year-old company and foundation and an upcoming youth empowerment programme in Nigeria, gives a rare insight into his infamous divorce with Nollywood star actress Tonto Dikeh, and looks ahead to life after marriage and amongst other things.
Years ago, Churchill - who is proudly religious - made a pact with God, one which he has been consistently fulfilling ever since he got the means to. The entrepreneur promised to invest 10% of every profit he makes from his business endeavours into humanitarian works via his foundation. He believes his benevolence was cultivated by the circumstances of his upbringing. While he admits to not having a tough childhood - "My background is not rough - I was born with a silver spoon" - he believes being raised by his grandmother, a philanthropist, and a Reverend, taught him the essence of God, love and charity.
His foundation, he says, is ready to do more as or marks its 10th anniversary. “We are not focused on only one major thing – we focus on so many things so that we can give back to the society," he says, passionately. “We recently donated an ambulance and some fire gadgets to the Ambulance Service in Nigeria. As a goodwill ambassador, I can go back to any country and give whatever that comes from my heart.
“We want to organise a moderate celebration. We are looking at having a C.E.O dinner and summit. We will be visiting two major orphanage homes in Lagos, Nigeria. I do this on my birthday often."
On empowering the youth
Churchill is planning a 3-year youth empowerment project called ‘Tech-Agric’ to recruit, train and help develop the skills of 36,000 Nigerians.
“We are looking forward to empowering 36,000 youth in Nigeria. Nigeria has 36 states so we will pick 1,000 youth from each state. We are trying to develop their skills and train them into I.C.T and agriculture. The training will last a year and we will proceed with plantation and harvesting in the third year."
Churchill's award cabinet has been busy over the last few years, and he beams with pride when the subject of his latest accolade, ‘La Mode Life Time Humanitarian Award for Youth Empowerment’, pops up. "We are just appreciating God because this award is big," he says.
"It has always been my dream to be successful but I thought all these achievements are happening too fast. It’s happening in my 30s and proves I have done enough. I have been winning awards since 2013.
"I have two rooms for awards and I am going to build my third room!" he laughs.
In all, Olakunle also has to his credit the “United Nations Goodwill Ambassador” (2013), “Philanthropist of the Year” (2014), “Man Of Year” (Humanitarian - 2015), “Lifetime Membership and Partnership with Lions Club” (2016), “African Youth and Governance Champion” (2017), “Honorary Chieftaincy Title” from the King of Kagoro in Southern Kaduna (2017), and “Honorary Chieftaincy” in Liberia (Youth Empowerment - 2017).
On Liberian project and chieftaincy title
There are a lot more projects in the pipeline, the most prominent of which will take place in Liberia. The story behind it is fascinating. “We went to Liberia for charity works where we met the president and she gave me a chieftaincy title along with 100-acres of land. We are going to start a farming project with the land - but before that, we will first train the workers.”
On marriage brouhaha and life after divorce
His well-publicized past marriage with Nollywood superstar Tonto Dikeh is a subject he doesn't fancy discussing, but he does so nonetheless - albeit with heavy reluctance.
“We only lived together for 6 months after she returned from the United States," he begins.
What he says next is done with tact and caution, almost sounding parabolic.
“It’s not been easy and you should know that you can’t have it all in life. I think it’s (marriage drama) is one of the things that life throws at you. Life has to throw something at you. I cannot say I’m not a good man or lucky but I think it’s one of those."
Eventually, though, he lets go, shooting straight and sharp. Honest, with a hint of emotion.
“I’ve not seen my child since December and I have no option. I can’t see him forcefully because Tonto Dikeh can use anything against you. She is an extremist. The drama was too much and nobody likes that.
“I was warned by friends and family not to marry her but didn’t heed the advice. I gave her the chance and she failed."
On domestic violence allegations
Churchill goes no holds barred in setting the records straight regarding the many allegations Dikeh made against him during their matrimony, paramount of which was those of domestic violence.
“She claimed I beat her but at that moment, I wasn’t at home – I was in Ghana. I tried to protect my family but she made things difficult. She’s not someone you can beat! All her allegations were planned to bring me down.
“The incident that happened in my mum’s house was on December 20, 2016. She had a charity event on December 22 but there was no evidence of beatings on her body. You can Google online to see the dates’ intervals about her ‘road fixing’ in Abuja.
As far as I am concerned, I’ve not touched her before. Maybe, it’s her spiritual husband that beat her up. She’s super hyper so I had to stay calm in our marriage. She’s stubborn so you can’t beat her.
“She had no evidence, no eyewitness, or even a medical report to back her allegations."
Of cheques and gifts
Contrary to claims by Tonto Dikeh that she bought their family car by herself, Olakunle disclosed that he gave a $28,000 cheque to his ex-wife as a gift. Not just that, he added a push gift last Christmas.
“I gave her a 10 million Naira (approximately $28,000) cheque as a gift on Christmas and in addition showered her with a push present. I have a copy of the cheque with me so she should prove me wrong.”