Charismatic pastor and founder of the Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare is not one to be shy from he spotlight.
Bakare, who is a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and was the running mate of former military Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari in the 2011 presidential election on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) will be turning sixty on Tuesday, November 11, 2014.
Speaking in an interview with The News Nigeria, the man of God, who comes from a Muslim home, bares his mind on a number of issues, including the Nigerian political terrain, his spiritual life, the judgement of God which he insists will start from the house of God and why he left Pastor W.F Kumuyi’s Deeper Life Christian Church.
Read the interview below:
How did you get born-again?
On 10 April, 1964 I had a vision in the night. I saw a picture of an extremely bright light; big like an electricity pillar pole. It went high into the sky and deep into the ground. Where I sat, I could see that everywhere it penetrated, it was light all through. And the desire was in me to embrace this light. So I got up. The first obstacle on the way was a well, and on my left and my right was like thick jungle. I stretched one leg, manoeuvred the well and got to the other side, still pursuing the great light. From the left side of the thick jungle, came a python. I had no knife, no weapon, nothing. As it opened its mouth, I gave it my left leg and it swallowed it up to my thigh and could not go further. We began to roll on each other.
Eventually, the python died and I pulled out my leg. Remember, in the natural I had just been circumcised. A short distance from the pillar, there was an outbreak of water and at that period, I didn’t know how to swim, but I waded through the water and it didn’t carry me away. About 10 metres to the pillar that I wanted to embrace, there was an outbreak of fire. Because I was wet, I ran through the fire and embraced the pillar of light. Then I woke up. By the time I woke up, there was a pool of blood. All the time I was struggling with the python, I was squeezing my circumcised part in-between my thighs and there was blood on the ground. So it was like I was gasping for breadth. My step-mothers all surrounded me; they called the elders. I was telling them what I saw, nobody understood it and we left it at that. There was a blind man, but elderly. I went and narrated what I saw to him, and he said: “You know, from what you have narrated, it appears there would be obstacles in your life but you would be great.” That was the end.
On 24 September 1974, a Muslim friend of mine, who became a Christian, wanted to be baptised at the Yaba Baptist Church and he invited me to cover it for him. I said: “You must be sick in your mind. How would you think I, a core Muslim who read the Quran from cover to cover and graduated from Quranic school on 16 April, 1967, can become a Christian? Perish the thought.” Then he said: “Are you going to cover the event or not?” I needed the money. So I told him I would come and he said 4pm, because it was going to be an evening service. I finished my Muslim prayer and I had my little cap at the back of my head. I got in and an elderly man (I now know who that was) came to me and asked me to remove my cap. I told him I was not a Christian but that I’m a Muslim and we wear caps in the Mosque. That elderly man said: “In Rome, you must do like the Romans do. This is not a mosque. It is a church and we don’t wear it here.”
I removed the cap and went to sit at the back. Then one by one, they started dipping them inside the water. I learnt that was baptism, I had never seen it before. I was wondering why they would allow themselves be dipped into the water. You don’t know if they are peeing inside or what others are doing inside. If you want to take a bath, why not in your house? That was the thought inside of my mind, but I was there on an assignment and money matters.
So after the baptism, the reverend came out of the water. They had all changed and he was wearing white agbada, a shortish man by the name Reverend Emmanuel A. Alabi. And he said: “Before we receive communion today (I had never known what communion was), I thought that was what they would give to dead people or an old man that was about to die. The young man who brought me asked me to wait around and take the photograph of him taking the communion. But before the communion, Rev. Alabi came and said he was preaching the message: ‘Jesus, The Light Of The World.’ Remember, I was at the back and would only come to the front to take photographs. But the moment he announced the topic, that pillar I saw in 1964 stood behind him. I was looking at it and thinking the whole church was seeing it, but I was the only one seeing it. I said this is familiar. I never heard a word about what he preached till tomorrow. I was arrested and the next thing was to see my camera shaking in front. And when he asked who would like to receive Christ, I screamed: “I’ve seen Him! I’ve seen Him before!” And it was like, “What is wrong with you?” I narrated the whole story to him and I was eventually baptised in that church and that’s how I got born-again.
How did your mom take it?
You would say how did the whole family take it? I was given quit notice by everybody. They wanted me to recant. My brother said if I would renounce in five minutes, I could come back, but I didn’t want to go back. I didn’t have much to pack, but I packed my things and left and I thank God I left.
You were in Deeper Life and The Redeemed churches. At what point did you decide to open your own and why?
That’s what you call memory lane. I was in Deeper Life for five years, between 1978 and December 1983. Brother Kumuyi was and is still a great teacher of the Word. The person that put the fear of God in me was Brother Kumuyi. He laid the foundation for systematic teaching that many people see me do today. However, I rose through the ranks. I preached while I was there and conducted youth meetings. I was doing some legal works for the ministry also. I registered some of their companies. But one day, while I was ministering and a brother was interpreting, I was giving example of the “faith cometh by hearing and hearing the word of God” and I said, ‘Supposing you go to a supermarket to buy soap, you might not know what soap to buy but because you watched the advertisement of Joy soap on television, then you would look for Joy soap because you have been hearing about it.’ And my interpreter said: “If you have been watching the devil’s box…” I told him I didn’t say devil’s box but television, and he repeated saying the devil’s box and Brother Kumuyi was behind us. I said I didn’t say devil’s box and that the normal interpretation is amu ohun mu aworan, (the box that captures both the voice and the visuals). Anyway, he still said what he said. The following Sunday, Brother Kumuyi came up with what he called “Sunday Exaltation”; he said that even if you repair television, you are a child of the devil. Then I took my Bible and left. I went home and said I would serve my God, but was not interested anymore in church.
So I returned to Surulere Baptist Church. And one day, my photographer came to me and said I should not just sit like that and that I should come and join his church because I would enjoy it. I asked, ‘What is the name of your church’ and he said The Redeemed Christian Church of God. I said okay and that I would come one day since I was not interested at that moment. The first Sunday of March, 1984, I invited my wife and said we should go (we were not married then). I borrowed a car because I had no car then. We drove to that church and I discovered I had been to that church before. That was the place Deeper Life was doing their Bible study in 1978. Then there was this gentleman who walked up, they called him G.O. He is still G.O. today, but they call him Daddy G.O. He was the one who preached that day and the message was titled: “The Mercy of God.” I said this seems better than the background of what seems I was coming from, because, in fairness to Brother Kumuyi, he himself eventually went on television. He must have changed his mind, because that time he was very hard on such things. By the way, looking back today, there is a lot of evil on television. It is not the television that is the devil’s box, it is the programmes that people put on it. So you can choose what you watch.
So that first day, I enjoyed the message. I sat at the back and when it was time to go, Pastor Adeboye said, we want all God’s children to wait behind. I told my fiance, now my wife, that we should go and that he was talking to members of the church and that this was how all these Pentecostals talk. My wife asked if I wasn’t a child of God and I said I am. And she said that they said children of God and not members. So I stayed back. I was at the back of the hall again. Then Pastor Adeboye opened the meeting and said the church wanted professionals in the church. They had just started getting bits and pieces of their camp ground. They wanted engineers, builders, electricians and others who could deliver their services. I said I wasn’t any of those. I was ready to go and as I was trying to get up, he said: “And you!” I asked, Who? He said: “That brother wearing blue, white, blue. I was wearing a short-sleeve shirt with the colours he mentioned. He asked what my profession was and I told him I’m a lawyer; then he said I should see him after the service. He told me the church had some legal issues and asked if I could help. And that was how the relationship started. I was baptised and in 1988, I pioneered what is now called Modern Parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God at 1 Oluwole. On 1 October, the Lord spoke to me that my days were numbered in that place. He spoke to me about the Latter Rain Assembly. And I ran to tell him (Adeboye) about it. He didn’t want me to go, but I had made up my mind. I left and the Latter Rain Assembly was started in April 1989. The rest, as they say, is history.
You don’t use mantle, anointing oil and others for deliverance services like other churches do. Why is it so?
I will judge that question controversial and allow lying dogs to sleep and sleeping dogs to lie. There was a battle I fought at all levels in my life and most people who are involved in that…If your parents had been Aladura, and if they had used water to pray for you, oil to anoint you, it is just a carry-over. There are those who have argued that those things are in the Bible, asking why should anyone talk about it. But I can tell you where to find it. In Mark chapter 6, when Jesus was sending his disciples to the jews, He said: “I am sending you to the lost sheep of Israel. Go bring them back. As you go, anoint the sick with oil.” And they came back and reported back to him that they got result.
The second place you find it is James chapter 5. It says: Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing Psalms. Is any sick among you? 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. The prayer of faith will save the sick and if he has committed any sin, it would be forgiven. Confess your faults one to another so that you may be healed…” So if they bring the sick to you, and an elder is there to anoint the sick with oil, then it’s fine, no problem. But what we do now is to say the whole church is sick and anoint everybody. And they start holding anointing series. And pastors are making more money from even oil because they know that the people have become solely dependent on oil.
Do I believe in oil? Not at all. Oil cannot do anything. No! But the Jewish people, it was part of their culture. When Jacob left home for example, he had a bottle of oil in his pocket. They would rub their bodies against tsetse fly and other insects and it became part of their culture. And it is medicinal. For example, virgin olive oil in vegetable salad is a fantastic meal. Sometimes, when they ask me what I would like, I tell them virgin olive oil. It is good for me. But don’t fool me that there is power in oil to heal anybody. If the oil is the Holy Spirit, then Jesus is a lamb walking on four legs because John called him the lamb of God which carries away the sins of the whole world. This things are symbols of the Holy Spirit – oil, water, fire, wind. All those four show you can’t hold Him down, you can’t control Him, because He manifests His gifts as He wills. The last symbol of the Holy Spirit given to us in the Bible is the dove. Some people think the dove is the Holy Spirit, but no, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus like a dove. As a dove would descend so that nobody is rolling on the floor and shouting power!
All these extra-scriptural devices may just excite people. They fall down and they get up, I wonder what they get up with. And as for mantle, the places Paul could not go, he had people who went for him and he gave them mantle he prayed upon so they could place them on the sick until they themselves would have faith to do it…
I remember a woman here who was a seamstress and very godly woman. Her husband, we were told, was sick and lost his mind and was insane. She ran to my office and I told her, ‘I can’t follow you to Bayelsa,’ where they were from, ‘But bring me a handkerchief’ and I prayed. I told her: “When you get there, lay this upon your husband and trust God for the healing.” She came back and her husband was healed. I didn’t distribute mantle everywhere. What is wrong with the hands of the saints themselves when He said: “These signs shall follow them that believe, they shall lay their hands on the sick and they shall recover.”
Why should the pastors become stars or celebrities in the church? Our job is to keep the saints so that they can do the work of the ministry. But we do not judge any man who wants to sell oil; by the time the oil begins to fail and fail, every man would know for himself. That’s why I said it is very controversial. So let’s leave it at that. I don’t sell oil. They are made from Japan. Even Japanese use it for their own food and other things.
The name of Jesus towers above all things and the word of God towers above all those things. Jesus didn’t use any of them for example, or who did He anoint with oil or send mantle to? “In my name, you shall cast out devils.” Let’s stand on the word of God and die to all these pre-conversion dispositions we are used to in our Aladura churches, where many of these people came from.
How would you react to what is happening in the churches now, including how pastors now buy private jets?
It is not wrong to buy private jet, but that is if you can afford it and it is not at the expense of the work. I like to be upfront and don’t sweep anything under the carpet. In 1993, for example, this ministry and some other partners in this church, two captains in this church – Captain Sambo and Captain Benson – brought a proposal to me and they wanted me to invest. I brought Chief Oluwole Adeosun (of blessed memory) of First Bank and we bought a Boeing 707. You could see the logo of the Latter Rain Assembly on the Boeing 707 and it was christened the Latter Rain. But it was for cargo business. I entered that plane only once in my life with my wife to take photograph and they were carrying cargo to Saudi Arabia, up and down, to East and to West. And when they banned Boeing 707, we stopped the business.
But all these things they are doing now…Look, that is why they run into trouble; when fuelling it and parking it would almost run you into bankruptcy. I am only volunteering the information to you. I don’t take glory in such.
Let me tell you, in America there s a pastor who has two jets. He preaches in Atlanta one session. By afternoon, he would be in New York for another session. In those economies, you don’t even need to put capital down; you can wet-lease, you can lease a jet and if you have a private jet, you can pay for it like you pay for a mortgage. Life is not that miserable and the interest rate is not as high. But in a depressed economy like ours, the jet represent three things: number one, a tool of business for the likes of Dangote who could afford it because they have many places to go and things to attend to at the same time; a toy for the money-miss-roads who would just think because A bought it I must buy it; or a trap from those men who would buy you and shut your mouth. So, you would have to judge which one it is. Is it a toy? Is it a tool? Or is it a trap?
What about churches building schools that their members who contributed money towards cannot attend?
Again, I don’t like to make sweeping statements. And it’s easier to be critical than to be correct. We must look back to other parts of the world. The best universities in the world that you point to today were built by Christian organisations: Emory University by Methodist Church, Anglican Church is responsible for Oxford, Cambridge universities. They had Christian foundations. The Judeo-Christian philosophy is illumination, inspiration, light, revelation and education and you see that when the missionaries came, they brought education as well as hospitals so that the people would remain healthy and they are educated so that they stop behaving like barbarians. So Christian organisations starting universities is not a crime, especially when there is need for it. However, are these universities started with church donations? If they are started with church donations, then the sons and daughters who donated the funds, we should find a way of helping the poor among them such as giving scholarships.
But if they have gone to the bank to borrow money to establish these institutions, we must find that out as well by asking questions: How did you start your university? What is the motive for it and how do you apply for licence because I don’t need one. That is not the vision God gave me and you are not likely going to find a Latter Rain University tomorrow. I do not judge others who are doing it as long as it is contributing to a beautiful landscape and contributing to the society in positive manner. If it is a business venture, then the motive will be profit.
How have you been having a scandal-free church in the last 25 years?
It was not that they didn’t try. At a time, two people went online and said Pastor Bakare is having an affair with his administrator. They said I gave money to the mother of my administrator to go to Canada. So I went straight to the Commissioner of Police and told him I was not looking for a libel suit but that I wanted a criminal proceeding. I deposed to an affidavit that if those things were true, I was ready to be punished, but if it was not so, we must take these people down. Eventually, Yinka Odumakin brought the two men who wrote such scandalous stories and said they were given the information to publish, apologised and they withdrew it. I have seen that.
Any man with a navel is not an angel. Angels don’t have navels because they were created, not born. So there’s no man who is perfect in the world. If you come close, you’ll see my faults. I’m human, I get angry but I don’t let my anger lead me into destructive things. I like order, I like excellence. If you work around me, you might think, “Is this man a slave driver?” Because I set goals and by God’s grace, I achieve them.
But those things like scandals and other things that happen in other churches won’t happen here. There was water inside coconut before it rained. Before I came into ministry, there are people who can testify, senior pastors and others, who knew that God had blessed me before I came into ministry. I don’t say such words like I am a millionaire. You won’t hear me say so because I am a steward, I am not the owner. A steward cannot claim ownership. Even talking about millions, when did I make the first one? How old was I? Over 30 years ago. Someone saw me in the plane and said: “You have been flying first class since 1985” and I said, By the grace of God, that’s where I belong. Not out of pride but I fly so frequently, so often that I criss-cross. As I am talking to you now, in the next few days after the declaration by General Buhari, I am leaving the country that night to be back on the 21st October. I live within my means.
The head of our treasury department here is the managing director of a bank. So, do you want to do deals with such a person? You will never find anything negative. Every money belonging to the ministry goes into the account of the ministry. There is a special department of the church that would do a budget and every expenditure, you can trace it. And auditors come here to audit every year and we file all those accounts with government.
This church has been a blessing to me. Many people have given me things that I don’t even think I deserve. But I thank God for this. But truth be told, I want to join the class of Samuel who testified before God and the people of Israel and asked, ‘Whose gold have I taken so that I will give it back to you?’ And they said none. I want to be in the class of Paul who said: “I have coveted no man’s gold, I coveted no man’s silver, I coveted no man’s apparel, these my hands have provided for my necessities.’
And in my interaction with politicians, I received a tribute from Mr. President few days ago, and he said whether in public or in private, I have rebuked and encouraged and have never taken one kobo. So scandals don’t come to you except you invite them. Curb your greed and serve God and serve the people.
You have always maintained that the judgment of God would begin from the church…
Yes. It is not me that maintains, it is the Bible that says so.
But why do you always emphasise it?
Because He would have no right to judge the world if His own house is in a mess. His own house is in a mess, so why would He go judge the world?
Your wife always maintains a low profile compared to first ladies of other churches…
My wife is not a first lady. She is Mrs. B. She is a pretty and intelligent woman. Her ministries are five-fold; which are our five children – three girls, two boys. Two of them are with master’s degree, the last two are in the university, finishing next year. That’s it. We maintain that low profile because we own nothing, we are stewards.
We also learnt that former President Olusegun Obasanjo wanted to use your church for his thesis. Did he do it?
I do not know anything about that. I am hearing it from you for the first time. He only wrote to me that he would like me to come and commission his ministry and I turned it down and said: “Thanks a lot.”
Why do you call pastors who visit Aso Rock Palace Prophets?
It is from the Bible. Those who eat from the table of Ahab cannot bring a convincing message to Ahab. It is not all of them that do that. There are some who don’t while some pass through the back door. There are some whose hands are not free. In all my interactions with President Jonathan, it was only on one occasion I said he should stand and let me pray for him and I didn’t take a dime. I contribute my quota to the development of my nation. I cannot be bought because I have already been bought by Jesus Christ, who paid that maximum prize on the cross of Calvary. And I don’t need anything from them. The few things I need for the rest of my life are not in the hands of man. No, the President can’t do that, and that’s why he goes up and down. And his wife goes to hospital. Long life, he can’t give it. And like Muslims would say Aljana – heaven – he can’t give it. These are the things I need for the rest of my life. I don’t need money from them because I can work and if we compare notes, when God blessed me and decided to prosper me, the President was sill a salary earner.
Churches nowadays are being criticised of preaching prosperity instead of righteousness. What is your take on that?
Prosperity is part of God’s message. But prosperity must be with purpose. Prosperity without purpose will just lead you into captivity. Then you get caught up with money and when you have no purpose and you don’t know why it got to you, you would misbehave. But prosperity is a godly message: “I wish above all things that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospereth.” But righteousness is what exalts a nation. So when you have prosperity without a balance of righteousness, you believe that money can do everything, so you would do everything for money. Money can buy bed, it cannot buy sleep, it can buy education, it cannot buy brain, it can buy food, it cannot buy appetite. So money is not everything.
What was your most memorable day as a pastor?
It would shock you what I am about to say. I have had two of such days. The first was when I saw the little children of this church, ages between four and 10 reciting the things that they’d been taught, I heaved a sigh of relief that by the grace of God, I have been able to give to a generation what I didn’t have. The level of revelation that they displayed on that day brought tears to me because if they got it right, then Nigeria would be better because they can stand and choose to win by righteousness. It is something that happened here and it touched me significantly.
The second was the day my second daughter caught the revelation of Jesus Christ and walked up to me shouting: “Jesus is real!” I said, ‘Okay, now that you know it is not just something that we are mouthing, pursue Him.’ Those are memorable days in my life as a Christian.
His Take On Nigerian Politics
In 2011, you ran with Buhari. This time around, you don’t seem to be in the pack. Some are defecting, others are declaring their ambition to run next year. Where do you stand?
I thank you; you said I do not belong to any pack. Eagles don’t fly, they soar. You only see one eagle in the sky at a time. So I don’t belong to any pack. I had already written this in the book that is coming out – the series of events that took place before I accepted the prospect to be a running mate to Gen. Buhari, a quintessential and absolutely incorruptible leader, a leader that stood by many and has a burning passion to see a Nigeria that works in his lifetime. He was not looking for power anymore. At the last election, he said he would never come out again. But myself, el-Rufai and Jimi Lawal went to his room in London and persuaded him not to create a vacuum. I still believe in my heart that it would take the best of the North and the best of the South to steer this nation aright.
Right now, we are being underled or poorly led at all levels; in families, in churches, in businesses, we are being poorly led. But by the appropriate time and with the mercies of God, He would give us visionary leaders who would know that the purpose of power is for service and not for self and who know that the purpose of government is for the welfare of the people who God gave the resources of any land. So, I’ve done my bit, but I have not stopped. A wise man foresees trouble and flees, the fools run into it and they are punished. If you look in the Bible, most of those that God used in strategic intervention in governance were not campaigning for elections. They went to them to ask them. Joseph was in prison when he came and interpreted a dream and gave a blueprint for the economy of that nation not to go into ruin, Daniel was in captivity when he was invited to join those who would serve and he served excellently. They threw him into the lions’ den, the lions could not devour him. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were his colleagues. They threw them into fire and fire could not burn them.
Why? Because they purposed in their hearts not to defile themselves. Esther took part in a beauty pageant and then became a queen, Nehemiah was a butler who became one who inspired the building of the wall of Jerusalem and became the governor of Judah. These men did not campaign for election. They came to ask them. That’s why you would not see me form any political party and that’s why you would not see me join any political party. I don’t join political parties. When my services are needed, wherever the services are needed, they will come to ask me and if I see that the men that I want to run with are men of equal passion and credibility, I can stay with them. I’m not ready to go down with any dog and get up with fleas. So I choose my company and I choose my friends according to the Bible which says a righteous man chooses his friends wisely because the companions of fools destroy them.
What is your assessment of Jonathan’s government in terms of security, economy, power and infrastructure?
You can’t compare Jonathan’s government in vacuum. You must have a holistic approach to it. Talking of infrastructure and development in our country, look at Lagos State, the bridges that you point to today, whether it is Eko Bridge or Third Mainland Bridge, they were done by the military. Now, electricity has been a major problem but even when the almighty and all-knowing and all-wise Obasanjo was in power for eight years, he didn’t fix electricity. All we are hearing now is corruption, but corruption is not something that Jonathan started. He inherited some of the problems. You can’t blame him for Boko Haram, it was existent before him, it only escalated under him. And a people deserve the leadership they get. If President Jonathan has done poorly, I think he has done his best. Nobody can give more than what he has. You can’t give more than what you have. Look at it holistically and ask if it could have been better. See, in the western world, in America, in Britain, they go to Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge to drag the best brains they have to come to the civil service to formulate policies and see them through. Here, we look for the dropouts and the men that can easily be settled to be in charge of that. If you don’t sleep with the wife of the man suffering from hydrocele, and the man succeeds in sleeping with your wife, you would still catch hydrocele one way or the other. That’s the problem we have.
It is not just one man that should be blamed for it. Number one, our constitution, as it is presently, can never deliver a good and progressive nation. Number two, we don’t even know our census, we don’t know how many we are, so how can you plan effectively? Number three, the political class believes it is all about them and greed is the motivating factor for seeking power in Nigeria. How could anyone tell you that if you want to serve the people, and if it is for the president’s seat, then the form, you have to purchase it with N33 million? Are you wise? Are you stupid? Is the man going to serve you if he gets into power? Has he paid this N33 million just for fun?
There was a time you said there would be no 2015 if 2014 is not fixed. Now we are heading for 2015. What is your view?
There was the Save Nigeria Group that I convened in the days of the power hijack when the dying President Yar’Adua was smuggled out of the country and the cabal had taken over power, wanting to continue to use the insignia of office. We insisted that constitutionality be followed. I thank God that at the end of the day, that came to pass. Under some tremendous heat, the National Assembly came up with the Doctrine of Necessity. Then we had another President who on the 5th of May at the demise of former President Yar’Adua, became substantive President. From there he moved in to four years of an administration. He is now looking for another four years. Though he has not said so, his body language has pointed in that direction. He’s been adopted, he has not denied it. If you look at all of that, you would conclude that it is smooth sailing, but we are in the eye of the storm.
One of the things we advocated for was National Conference, for Nigerians to come together and talk about how they want to be governed and led. On 5 May, 2010 the Save Nigeria Group came with what we call a blueprint, a minimum of things the electorate should demand from those who govern them. And by the time we got to the National Conference, all parts of what we have been clamouring for became a reality when that conference began to settle old scores. If there is courage and will to implement what we got out of that conference, Nigeria will never be the same again. That is why I said the train has left the station, when I was interviewed. That’s part of the fear and the trouble we foresaw at that time because we were putting the cart before the horse and when you do that and you don’t make progress, then go backwards. There would be movement, but it would backwards when you put the cart before the horse.
This does not mean that the coast is clear. Look at the decampees. Nuhu Ribadu was in ACN, Nuhu Ribadu was in APC, Nuhu Ribadu is now in PDP. Obi was in APGA. He used APGA for eight years. Obi is now in PDP. Mimiko, the Iroko, uprooted himself from Labour Party and is trying to transplant and take root now in PDP. My friend, OGD (Otunba Gbenga Daniel) was in PDP, he left for one party he started, and then he became part of Labour, and now he is back in PDP.
So, why are they all looking for a place to hide their heads? Look, I don’t understand. Politicians must know what they are doing. Why can’t we build institutions and political parties that would not pave the way for a one-party state in Nigeria so that we can have what is available in America with the Democrats and the Republicans and the UK where some minor parties really take care of peculiar interests. Why can’t I have a party that would only make sure the local government in Abeokuta is doing well and the people are happy? That is where the elite have to come in from bottom upward. Let’s begin to take and position people in these local governments and states to bring about a difference.
But if you think these men who benefit from the mess we are in today would let go, then you better go and look for a Rawlings that would kill all of them. And Nigerians don’t want to kill anybody but simply to take from whatever they can get. Men in this country are not ready to die for their country, they are ready for others to die so that they can benefit.
About 2015, if I had my way, I would give room for two years to what I would call a national government – like the one we had in the days of the interim – where men of goodwill come together. Don’t remove the President, but let men of goodwill from North, South, East and West come together, look at the report that over 490 people laboured for about five months and all the recommendations made therein including a new constitution (because we have more or less torn the constitution into pieces, state police, state constitution, federating units, removal of the list of the local government from the constitution, zonal commission where states can come together and form one). We have viable states and non-viable states and so on as so forth. Let us find a way of implementing them. Then there should be a people’s constitution.
Number two, let us set a new political environment where the INEC receives funds directly for its expenses from a special fund so that it won’t be something by appointment and it becomes a case of he who pays the piper dictates the tune. Number three, let’s have an accurate census so that we know who is where and all these figures that we have been turning up and down and that has not been articulated properly.
Some people believe that the North is scarcely populated; I don’t believe that. I campaigned with General Buhari and we went into the North and I saw the masses of our people, majority of them with no jobs or future. If they are not properly taken care of, there would be no proper planning. We must do that and it will take two years to do this with the President in office. Then it would bring a situation of “as you lay your bed, so you lie on it.”
But with what is driving the politicians of today – securing power at all cost – you are going to play into the hands of the President in so many ways. If I don’t believe in APC, I would not move the motion for the merger. And you should know that I am a man at 60 who says it the way it is according to my level of understanding.
But when you look at what is happening in APC itself, you’ll begin to say: “God help us.” I believe in democracy and democratic principles, but I see all kinds of confusion coming. When we were going into the merger, we were thinking it was a merger between ACN and CPC and then eventually, ANPP came in and a faction of APGA also came in. All our thought at that point in time was if we can get the North and the South-West to come together, it would not be difficult to dislodge PDP from power after so many years, since 1999 that it has been in power. But the way things are now, it is going to be a tall order, because right inside APC are PDP men who left PDP for reasons best known to them and who are now looking for a safe haven to protect them because they may not be able to live if PDP wins again.
And by the way, the North is threatening that power must go back to the north as if it means anything in terms of the people themselves. When power was in the north from the military and in the days of Shagari, how many northerners benefited from the largesse and the government? From the days of the military, you have had power for 35 years, how did this benefit the ordinary people these? When it was in the hand of the southerner called Obasanjo, how did it benefit us? Ota bridge, you can still not pass through the place, yet he doesn’t want anybody to call him names. Who says Nigeria cannot have six Dubais in the six geo-political zones if you are planning effectively and we are not looking for immediate gains and short-cuts?
Now, if a northerner wins the election and those of the South-South think they were rigged out of that election, all your pipelines are not safe. They have asked Jonathan not to return home, he must stay there because it is their turn. That is the mentality they have with our money, as if oil is the only thing we have. Bill Gates did not make one kobo from any oil well, but from his brain. And if Jonathan wins, the North that says power must come to us, you can get Boko Haram times 12. So who wins or who loses, the election does not stabilise this nation. Let us look for what will stabilise our nation. You can’t ask the President to vacate his seat for you. You have to look at things that would stabilise this nation. And they also are not going to just say come and take it, you have to show that you have won.
I believe that if the APC puts its house in order and they pick the right candidate who can deliver the votes, and they go with the thought of changing Nigeria for the better, perhaps there would be that change. But if that is not done, they will be playing into the hands of the PDP. I hope not.
You are talking about a national government, what about the National Assembly?
Well, they will have to pay their way through. If they were doing well, why did we have a National Conference? I’m talking about the executive arm of government in particular, to be able to implement what we got from the National Conference. And if you say we will go for election in 2015 so that we will have a brand new President, I wish you well. Maybe that new President would take 100 per cent of the Senate, 100 per cent of the House of Representatives and he would have the whole of the judiciary backing him. I don’t want to waste my time but it is not going to be easy for whoever wins. Do I want the best candidate to win? Yes, I am not averse to that. I want the best to win in our time, but whether they would get there or not is in the hands of God. I don’t know how they would package themselves.
We want your opinion on the cash-for-arms scandal and the involvement of a pastor in the scandal.
I don’t have any penny in the money. How was a man of God involved?
His jet was used to ferry the cash…
He has told you that he leased it out and the company to which he leased it out was the one that leased it to those who used it and that he was not involved in any of those transactions. I think the jet had since been returned to him and the government of Nigeria admitted that they knew about it. So the question is: why that jet and not any other jet? Is it an accident? Is it planned? These are questions begging for answers. Yes, is this not an embarrassment because we function like we are doing money laundering? If the country wants to buy equipment for stopping Boko Haram insurgency, why do you have to, in this day and age when with the touch of a button you can transfer money abroad, why do you have to carry cash and why the jet of a man of God? Those are the questions we should direct to those men who are involved – the owner of the jet, the company to which it was leased and if the man of God also has an interest in the company to which it was leased. So you don’t even know which direction to go. Chris Okotie who tried to say this is an embarrassment, they have asked him to put his house in order and stop marrying many wives, so they would look for something to say back to you. We no longer blush and we don’t have a sense of shame. And when you don’t have a sense of shame, you do anything.