Dr. Kunle Hamilton is a man of many paths. He paid his dues as a journalist. He is the CEO, Virgin Outdoor, a top PR firm. As a Shepherd, he founded and heads PraiseVille Parish of Celestial Church of Christ in Germany and Nigeria. In this interview with the Nigerian Guild of Investigative Journalists, NGIJ, Hamilton delved into his life, both past and present.
Lets meet you?
My name is Kunle Hamilton, one side of me is ministry and I am the President of ShaddaiVille Ministries (registered in Nigeria, UK, US and Germany). I also shepherd the Celestial Church of Christ, PraiseVille Parish in Germany and Nigeria.
A little about you?
I went to primary school in Ibadan, secondary school in Lagos, and I got my three degrees from the University of Lagos. I am a husband of one wife. I studied Philosophy and Mass Communication, which I did to PhD level. Most of my life, I have been active as a newspaper journalist. I have put in over 30 years in the industry. I started my professional life with Vanguard newspaper and ended with ThisDay Newspaper, where I resigned from as the founding Editor of Glitterati news weekly, 12 years ago. I had also served as Saturday Editor of ThisDay Newspaper.
What prompted your resignation?
I felt I had done enough time in the profession. I also believe that nobody employed by an organization should use his employers time to do personal or commercial activities. I think it is morally wrong. My calling in the ministry became much stronger by the time I resigned 12 years ago from ThisDay and I wanted to pay more time to my calling as a minister of the Gospel.
Were you called or you just submitted yourself to Gods work?
Thank you very much. I try to make a distinction between having a calling and having a capacity to start a church or a ministry. You can have the capacity to start a ministry but not have the calling; and you can have the calling but not immediately have the capacity to start your ministry. In my own case, I have both. My calling came even before I was born. I remember my mother thought she was done with child-bearing and a prophetess stood outside her door, I mean on the street of Oke-Ado in Ibadan during her early-morning cry. She gave the prophecy that there is a woman here, you think youre done with child-bearing but the Lord is sending a prophet your way and you will soon be with child. As God would have it, my mother who thought she was done with child-bearing later found out that she was actually pregnant. And to be sincere, for the first 21 years of my life, I dont think my mother saw any sign that she gave birth to a prophet.
I was born and raised a Methodist but my prophetic gift did not come to the fore until I joined the Celestial Church of Christ in 1985. When it happened to me, it was so fast that God made up for all the lost time while the gift was buried. Very quickly, I rose to the level of a leader of prophets in my parish and I can tell you that from day-one that I got into Celestial Church, the prophetic pronouncement upon my life was that I was called to be a Shepherd in Celestial Church. My gift is that of a Prophet, but my calling is that of Shepherd. A Shepherd is Pastor, but I didnt like the idea of waiting on anybody to feed my family. So I went into a negotiation with God and prayed fervently. I fasted and spoke with God and He made me the best graduating student of Philosophy in Unilag. I then read Mass Communication for two higher degrees. When I got into the media, I became almost instant celebrity. From the moment people started reading my column in Vanguard, everybody knew me.
I can tell you that when you pray to God, He hears, and God really heard me and He gave me two names; ShaddaiVille and PraiseVille. I must confess to you that even now that I am nearer 60, it gets to me that Celestial Church as a body does not hold dear its public image. People hear and read more negative stuff about the Church than positive stuff; not because there are no negative stuff in other churches or denominations, but we just dont care about ours. I am one of those who does not like to be identified with anything that can stain my name, so I tried to run away from Celestial Church three times, and all three times, God actually sent messengers who never knew me who told me to go back to where I am running from, that it is my place of assignment. A lot of people can say they got to white garment churches by birth, and some can say problems led them to CCC. But I didnt join due to any problem. I joined CCC one week before I went for my youth service. I can tell you that, if not for ShaddaiVille Ministries – the Pentecostal arm of my calling, I probably would not stay in Celestial Church because I have a lot inside of me that the Celestial Church hierarchy and structure can still not accommodate.
I tried to institute leadership training many years ago, and at that time, the only other Church I knew of that was doing anything like leadership training was DayStar Christian Centre through success teaching. So it wasn’t as if I had anyone I was copying. However, Celestial Church didn’t understand it 17 years ago when I started and I didn’t want to rock the boat. So that was how ShaddaiVille was birthed. When ShaddaiVille turned 14 years old, God reminded me of my covenant; so two years ago, I planted my first Celestial Church parish in Berlin, Germany and God paid for everything. It did not cost me a dime. God sent me benefactors who paid for everything, from my travelling to Europe and accommodation, to inaugurating and sustaining CCC PraiseVille, Germany. I give glory to God. Towards the end of 2017, God said to me again that it was time to plant PraiseVille also in Nigeria. So we started with a service brand called The Celestial Showers in January this year. The Lord told me that in January 2019, I should take it to the public and that is why we are having The Celestial Showers Convention on January 26 at the Indoor Sports Hall of the National Stadium, Lagos.
Hows been life after leaving journalism?
When I left ThisDay, I wrote columns for two newspapers while I set up my PR practice. So left working for one major boss, but now I have many bosses my clients. In ministry, we ought to be frugal and modest with money. But I am very upset with our ostentatious pastors who give Christianity a bad name. Ministry is a lot of self sacrifice, even Church. Before a pastor thinks of himself, he should think of the widows and the less privileged in the church. I left paid employment so that I could have more time for my calling and my family, while my wifes business astuteness and my PR practice took care of things.
Any challenge during your time in journalism?
Journalism for me was a lot of joy as a society writer. I wrote about private and public people. Not once was I guilty of libel or scandalizing anyone, but my entertainment reporter had done a negative story about a certain PMAN President, which was later found to be false, after ThisDay had been sued. I hated the fact that I had to beg anybody on that matter, because from my own personal writings, I never had to beg anybody. My organization had no reason to protect me, because as editor, a gatekeeper, I had allowed falsehood to pass by me.
So, I held my head up high, took my suspension in good faith. People tried to beg on my behalf, but I knew I deserved the whiplash. That is what professionals do. We are not angels; we can make mistakes, but we must man up to our mistakes. After about two months, I was recalled and the reporter was sacked. I was back on the track for another few years before I resigned. Otherwise, I had a very smooth experience as a journalist. This profession took me around some African countries, and it gave me what I needed for PR set-up.
Your advice to the upcoming journalist out there?
Journalism is a wonderful profession. My advice to anyone who wants to practice journalism is first to make sure you are trained as a journalist. You dont have to get a degree or a diploma in communication before you can practice journalism, but make sure you get trained as a journalist. The ethics of the profession cut across whether you have a degree or diploma or not. If you flunk the ethics, you may end up in jail with a huge fine around your neck. Journalism is a noble profession. Journalists called the watchdogs of the entire society.
Journalists are meant to help their nations grow. They are meant to help the police, lawyers, politicians, legislators, etc do their job better. I will advise every journalist not to engage in corruption. Nobody can fault me where brown envelope is concerned and I cant be accused of taking it in my years as a journalist. I don’t think I deserve any award for that though. I have a salary, I earned it. If I work for you outside of reporting a story and you decide to give me gratification, that is honourable. But to ask for it and cast my headline and story around whether you give it to me or not, that’s disgusting, not only for journalists but for all professionals.
You should earn your pay based on the merit of how you discharge your work. I also want to encourage any journalist today that your time is different from ours. In our own time, there were no mobile phones; they came just a few years before I left the profession. In our own time, there were no computers. They just as I was leaving journalism. But were now in an era where you dont even need an organization to be a journalist. With a smartphone, everyone is a potential citizen-journalist. So how does a professional go beyond just being a mere citizen journalist? We must work by the ethics of the job. If you have a story, get all sides of the story, and don’t publish just a side. Do it for the nobility of the profession, and not for money.
There are legitimate ways of earning money and that is why newspapers earned their money from sales of what they print. But the bigger revenue comes from advertising. How does today’s online journalist earn from advertising? You cannot be doing general reporting which is the space for everybody and expect that people will come and advertise with you. What does an advertiser want? He wants his advertising to get to its target audience. Can you give your advertisers that audience? Can you give him that profit? Newspapers were lying in our time. Some newspapers claiming to be doing 100,000 copies, whereas they were not even doing up to 10,000.
The leading newspaper I knew before I left newspaper work was not even producing up to 50,000 copies. If it was like that then, you can imagine by how many thousands there circulation figures have dropped. Now that web journalism is rising, journalists who want to make money need traffic. Once you have traffic, even before you look for advertisers, they will be looking for you. One of the biggest Nigerian bloggers today, people only look at how much she is grossing today, but how many people know that she’s been blogging for almost 18 years of her life. When nobody was blogging in Nigeria, she had been blogging, so now that she’s harvesting, what you should ask yourself was do you have her traffic? If you don’t, then go and build your traffic. Any journalist with traffic will earn money.
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