Pastor Tunde Bakare is the popular Head of Latter Rain Assembly. In this interview, he spoke about his voyage into partisan politics and why the government of President Goodluck Jonathan should tackle serious issues such as corruption instead of paying attention to mundane ones such as the same sex marriage. Excerpts:
Two years ago, you publicly moved the merger of Congress for Progressive Change and the Action Congress of Nigeria. Now the merger All Progressives Congress has come to stay but you are not there. Why is it so ?
Thank you very much for that question. I was asked this same question by The Guardian last Sunday. Every organisation has structure, whether CPC or ACN. Yes, at the Eagle Square, I moved the motion that the CPC should go into merger with ACN. But as the party was registered and INEC issued the certificate of registration, the structure of the party was put in place – spokesperson, national secretary, interim chairman. And when you have people who are designated to speak on behalf of an organisation, anyone not so designated is attracting attention to himself. So, I don’t have to speak all the time because I don’t have such designation. Lai Mohammed is the Interim Publicity Secretary, he is the one mandated to speak on behalf of the party. That will be my honest answer for now.
This means you are still part of the political structure that is in place now. But what is your relationship with General Muhamadu Buhari now?
Very cordial, I was with him yesterday (penultimate Saturday). He is a good leader.
The impression we get from your low profile is that you are not a member of and your sympathy for APC is no longer there. Are you still there?
You know journalists have a way of putting questions but don’t forget I am a trained lawyer and I will only answer the question I want to answer. When the time comes for membership, it would be considered and when I formally join any of the existing political parties, I will let you know. That is what I am going to say . The party I belonged to, CPC, is now defunct, but merged together with APC but you cannot see the structure and the position I held.
So, where do you stand now ?
I stand on my two legs.
Your political interest?
Nigeria. Absolutely whatever will make Nigeria work, whatever will make Nigeria a great nation, that is where I stand. You know definitely that I am not in PDP. So if I am going to participate in the political process, I must be part of a party. So, if I am not in PDP, I am not in Labour, when the time comes, you will know where I am.
Your group, the Save Nigeria Group has the vision of a new Nigeria but it looks like an interventionist of sorts. Is it still there?
At the beginning of any organisation, it’s like a baby is born, many people congratulating the parents, well wishers coming to give gifts to the baby. Nigeria at that moment was in serious crisis. And following a series of mission, I summoned a meeting to Sheraton Hotel, calling civil society organisations and leaders that we cannot be here and let Nigeria go down the drain and we marched from Abuja and Lagos and subsequently did so many things. But you see, Save Nigeria Group is not an organisation like so many other groups. It was not just an organisation created to intervene. Nobody called on us during the fuel crisis before we got up. We will not just speak except we understood what is going on and we sit down to talk. Whatever you see us do has always hit this nation. We want to address or bring correction to whatever is going on and when we see that nothing is going on we don’t just want to start talking and break things. So, yes, we are still working, and don’t forget that we had our own organisation before, International Centre for Reconstruction and Development. So we are still involved in delivering quality education and ensuring that educational system works properly, we are doing all that but we don’t blow our trumpets. But when the time comes, I can assure you that you will soon see mass movement again because of the way the nation is going.
You said you met with Buhari yesterday. Could you just tell us what transpired at the meeting. Did you discuss politics?
He was in Lagos to attend a social function. The Interim National Chairman of the APC (Bisi Akande) had his birthday. So he attended that. He also was in Ijebu Ode as a guest of Kabiyesi, Oba SikiruAdetona, the Awujale of Ijebuland, and on his way back, we met to share the things going on in the nation and what we perceived should be the solution to the dilemma.
And possibly to continue working together?
No. If you really want to know, what brought General Buhari and I together is our love for Nigeria. We are not political partners. I was not a politician in the sense of politics in Nigeria when he asked me to act as his running mate. Our love for Nigeria brought us together and everyone who actually loves Nigeria will work for the development of Nigeria.
Nigerians expect that you will continue to be more active in politics….
I will ask you a question. I will want you to be honest with me. Have you ever flown in an aircraft before? Did you meet the pilot? Have you ever travelled in a train before? Did you sit in the engine room? There are people working in the engine room, you don’t see them. I am not supposed to outspace General Buhari or look for every photo opportunity for you to know I am working. Nigeria is my primary concern and everyone is doing what is considered best for this nation to move forward. Let us not reduce anything to the matter of politrick and politics. If you are looking for answers, at the appropriate time that I will talk, I will talk. All your questions cannot drag answers from me. There is no way you will package the questions, I will only respond the way I want to respond. I believe General Buhari is a good leader. I believe that he is a good leader to lead this country. I believe that he is making genuine efforts to ensure that while he is still alive, the country feels his quota towards a positive change for this nation. But personally, I will work with him without rancour. There is mutual trust, mutual respect and mutual loyalty between us and you can take that to the bank. Nothing will change that. If this will be of any interest to you: if he calls me tomorrow that this will be my assignment and conscience wise I feel this is what it leads me to do, you will see my response. Remember, in the first place, I was invited to be his running mate. I did not look for the position. I am not a politician in terms of looking for opportunity to secure power. No, I am not that kind of person. My Biblical heroes: Joseph was in prison when he was called out, Daniel was minding his business when he was asked to come and interpret a dream, Nehemiah was far away in the palace of a king where he was a butler before he was asked to come and build the walls of Jerusalem and to bring order to the bondage that was going on then. In the fullness of time, God will see. Don’t forget that there are others who are part of what you can call my immediate constituency, even within CPC, who are now active officers in the APC and we can’t seem to be contradicting ourselves. They can’t say one thing here and I say another thing there. That is why you perceive some form of silence.
Nigerians, like you mentioned, are looking for principled people and you are one of them. If APC picks people who have left PDP….
Let’s be very pragmatic. I am a preacher. I preach the good news. I evangelise. When I go to the streets to evangelise, do I evangelise women only, men only, black only, white only? I have to throw my net, the net of the kingdom, into the sea and all kinds of fish will be in that net. Now, the visit to Abeokuta to see General Olusegun Obasanjo, did that make Obasanjo a member of the APC? Is he in the caucus of the APC or leadership of the APC? Everybody is concerned about the way Nigeria is going. And it was not only Obasanjo they have gone to see. They have gone to see all the others. I think what is giving Nigerians concern was the invitation to Obasanjo to be the navigator and the response of the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has already checkmated that: That if this was going to be the navigator, then expect a shipwreck. I think we are learning what language to use when we are asking people for this rescue mission.
What about the National Conference?
No, no, no. First thing first and please don’t confuse what I am saying with the conference the way it is presently constituted. What will produce a future for this country is a peoples driven conference that will produce a peoples’ constitution that will go into a national referendum, creating a new polity and level playing field for every citizen of this country. If you don’t do that, I think we are putting the cart before the horse.
In other words, you don’t believe in the confab?
It depends on how it is constituted. First and foremost, if you say let’s do an election into the conference, where is the resources to do it? Who or who will have the resources to produce credible people to go along? Instead of wasting our time and wasting the resources of this nation, empowering INEC with billions of Naira to let moneybags, many of whom are crooks who will steal from public coffers, to hijack the process, let the President look for credible men in Nigeria.. There are credible men everywhere. There are men in Nigeria who know how this nation should run. The American Constitution that they rely upon today was put together by a few, not the whole of Americans. Their nationals came together and they put their nation first. Among the President’s selection, let also the unions: labour, NBA, Nigerian Medical Association also take their representatives and the youths also. We have credible men in Nigeria. You know them. And you have charlatans who have cornered the resources of their states, who do not distinguish between public service and selfish interests. If those are the ones you send to the conference again, back to square one. And whatever the outcome is, if you are still going to send it to the National Assembly that is occupied by those not voted for by Nigerians, they rigged elections to be there, who are they going to represent? Their selfish interest. If this nation is not restructured, if we do not have the peoples’ constitution, not the imposed constitution and doctored by the military and imposed upon us, we cannot have a level playing field. Don’t ever expect clean, credible, free, fair and credible election or electoral process in Nigeria.
Does this explain the caution you are exercising?
That shows you the caution one is applying to himself. I cannot because of politics lose my values. I cannot because of politics compromise my principles. If politics is about joining any one party just to secure power, you will not find me there. I cannot be friends with everybody. I have a name to protect. I am a servant of God most High. I have principles I live by. There are reasons people could say oh, he is a credible man. I am not ready to compromise that because if you lie down with dogs, you are going to get up with fleas.
When you joined Buhari, many people condemned it but with what you are saying now, don’t you think they are justified?
No, because they did not know why I did so. They thought it was an overnight thing. Let me tell you how it happened. I and Dr. Amos Akingba, one of our statesmen, who was part of our meetings along with General Alani Akinrinade for Save Nigeria Group movement, came into our caucus meetings one afternoon and said: Lo! you are mobilising Nigerians to vote for who? We seem to have the same problem. The constitution is messed up. You will be like a clean man who jumped into a sewage tank. You can’t come out smelling like roses. You might need them. Engage the political class and let us find a way to restructure Nigeria. So, we decided to engage the political class. We engaged Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. We did not get good response from him at that time. We gave him papers, he promised to write us to let us know the solution he would proffer, nothing came. We met Atiku Abubakar and we did not feel that this man has what it takes to deliver Nigeria of our dreams. So we engaged General Buhari. We went there on a fact finding visit by the SNG. After we had done all that, we started what we called the arrow head meeting. This is for people who do not know the story. In that arrow head meeting, we gathered in my home: Nuhu Ribadu, Fola Adeola, Donald Duke, Obi Ezekwesili, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Jimi Agbaje, Yinka Odumakin, Hon. Wale Osun. And then others were brought in and expanded the session. People like Pat Utomi and a few others. We said how can you people like these be in Nigeria and allow it go down the drain. Let’s find how we can come into one party altogether and come into one state at a time and find a way to make a difference in the lives of people. I am fully persuaded that the church may not realise it today, but they are part of the problem of this country. The church leadership. Unless we can concentrate on prayers, evangelism and social activism like it happened in the days of Dr. Martin Luther King (jnr), Desmund Tutu in South Africa. The church has not been playing its pivotal role. I am not asking every man of God to go into politics but to become politically aware of politics as salt of the earth to stem the tide of corruption in this nation. When the arrow head gathered together, I accepted to be the chairman of that arrow head on the condition that nobody will drive me to join any political party and, number two, I will not seek any elective office. On the basis of that and of all the things we were doing, Nuhu Ribadu was the first person to jump up to go take the flag of ACN and he did on that table that night mention that negotiation was already going on. And we saw the opportunity to grow the likes of Nasir el-Rufai and others together to see if we could have a candidate. I was not thinking of myself. In the process, we saw that with the way the polity was constituted at that time, probably the only man standing that had one bit of probity and integrity was Muhammadu Buhari. And we decided on a platform of 3G: Good Governance Group, to liaise with them and see how we can position the party and bring a team of technocrat, people with know how, to run the nation around him, so that it is not just Buhari you see but a team of positive agents. That was all we were doing and when we tried till January 14 and nothing worked. We said we have done our best, let us wait for another election. At the last meeting we held, Nasir el-Rufai said: look 24 hours is too long in politics. Let us wait till Saturday, January 15 to register. At least he will vote as a citizen and then travel. I was in my house at 12 noon that January 15 when my phone rang and it was General Buhari at the other side, saying that he has weighed all the options, that he would want me to run as his running mate. I said thank you sir, but no thanks. I told the group that I am working with that I would seek no elective office neither will I be dragged into partisan politics and I am content with what I am doing. He said okay, I have been told you will say that but if you love this country call me in seven hours. So, I called Yinka Odumakin, I called Jimi Agbaje, I called Nasir el-Rufai and they said: yes, go for it. What are you saying? But I said I can’t do it because the first group to contact me to persuade Buhari to run on their platform was ACN. I spoke with their publicity secretary who came to me twice and while we were thinking of bringing the team together, I asked them who will be his running mate and when there was no clear cut answer, what was being suggested was a Muslim Muslim ticket. I said I will not be the one to broker that. So after Buhari called, I said this is unfair. I called Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to announce to him what I have just heard, with a view to asking him to give me a quick name among them to go present to General Buhari. Thereafter, I invited Niyi Adebayo to my house and I sought to reach out to others within their party if we could get a Christian to be his running mate. It did not work, so I decided to visit him and to go ask him a question. Between then and the visit, General Obasanjo called Nasir el-Rufai that if Buhari could drop Bakare and pick Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to be his running mate, he will support him. I was excited. I had not filled the form as at that day. So I took Nasir to General Buhari and said the Lord has made a way for us. Five reasons why you must ask Okonjo-Iweala to be his running mate: Number one, she is a woman: gender balance; Two, Delta Ibo: South-East, South-South balance; Three, she is a Christian: faith balance; Four, former minister of finance: experience; Five, Managing Director of the World Bank: international exposure. And along with all these, I adore her. I am a Christian but I am not a woman and I said use this woman instead and he paused and turned to Nasir el-Rufai and said: Hon. Minister, you have worked with Obasanjo and I have worked with Obasanjo, what do you think it is all about? He made his own comment and then concluded that let’s watch and see. And then General Buhari turned to me and said it was in my heart to call you and if you don’t want to be my running mate, today is the last day. It was in that mood that I signed the paper for the first time. Ever before that time, even Pastor E.A. Adeboye spoke to me twice and said go for it, regardless of the outcome, God will have something he wants to do with it. So it was not some ambition and getting up and going. And some of the Christians who are saying why Buhari, why this? I have only one question for them: Joseph served Pharaoh, Daniel served Nebuchadnezzar. Was any of them the Pope or the Anglican Bishop or Bishop of Canterbury? If we are going to change Nigeria, we must think and reason above ethnicity and above religion.
What is your take on the clamour by the Christian community that the next governor of Lagos must be a Christian?
If they can muster themselves together and produce a Christian candidate that they can support and back up, why not. But where is the structure that they have put in place to achieve this? It is not just mere talk. Where is the structure? It is not wrong. After all, for the past 16 years of Tinubu and Fashola, you have had Muslims governors. They must have the structure in place to mobilise and support and not sell themselves to politicians and think that it will work that way.
What would you say about the violence in your state, Ogun?
Wherever you see corruption, you see violence. It is as simple as ABC. Go to the Bible, see Genesis chapter 6. The whole earth was corrupt and violence was everywhere. If there is no justice, if there is no equity, if the truth is not in operation, you see corruption and violence manifesting everywhere. I don’t have all the facts at my disposal and I don’t pass comment anyhow. I have access to the governor, I will ask at the appropriate time. He is trying to fix his backyard and we can only wish there is peace in our domain and pray for it.
How do you rate the average Nigerian politician?
I told you that there are no good men in high places. This is our problem. The nobles are working with the servants at cross purposes. That is our challenge. But let me tell you that majority of the poor masses never run the affairs of the nation. It is a handful of men that will determine what will happen in that nation. If those handful are visionary leaders, then you see a progressive nation. If they are only interested in themselves, then you see a backward nation like Nigeria.
There are so many churches, yet there is moral decadence. What is your take on this?
I hear you say we have churches in every corner. I don’t know what your opinion is of mosques, as if there are no mosques. I don’t know your opinion of all the cultist groups that are springing up. Look at how our campus is. If the church is the light of the world and you say light is too much, put church out and see gross darkness. There may be mushroom churches and there may be churches that open for the sake of the belly and for the money they want to make out of it. But I don’t see any church that has compelled membership. If you don’t patronise them, they will close shop. Church is the only institution that Jesus put on the face of the earth. He said I will build my church on the earth and the gate of hell will not prevail against it. So if you see any inactivity in the church, that is not church. That is the synagogue of Satan.
What is your assessment of President Jonathan?
What is my own business to assess Jonathan? It is not my business. Nigerians who voted him should assess him themselves. They preferred him to us. So, if I say anything, they will say oh, he is bad loser. He is angry. You are on your mess. So clean it up yourself. You assess him yourself, whether he is working or not. But let no one blame Jonathan for the mess we have found ourselves. He inherited some of them. There has been a lot of protracted problem here before he came and nobody should put everything on him. Corruption got to its peak under Obasanjo. He perpetrated the mess we are in today. He imposed a sick person upon this nation because he was afraid of his own shadows and now he has become a letter writer and a town crier. Talking about the atrocities he committed while he was in office and passing the buck to another person? He should look into the mirror and feel sorry for himself.
Your take on the recently-signed anti-gay law and strong opposition from the West….
Let me tell you this: of all the problems confronting this nation right now, the only law he (Jonathan) has passed is anti-gay law. Of what benefit is that law? How do you enforce that law? As a Christian, I can tell you straight away and let me tell you this, I believe in the sanctity of marriage as consecrated by God between one man and a woman to the exclusion of the whole world. A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. He created them Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. For me, you don’t need any law to prosecute anyone. You know why? To be gay is to operate even below the law of animals because a male dog does not mate with a male dog, a female cat does not jump on a female cat. Something is wrong with the humanity of those who involve themselves in such things. The God that I serve does not hate homosexuals. He loves people. He hates their sins and He came to die for that sin. The way we preach the gospel of Christ and demonstrate the power of Christ, even such can be delivered of their bad cause. When you read 2 Corinthians chapter 6, it says that many of the Corinthians were formerly homosexual and now they are delivered, now they are set free, which means you can repent and change from it. Does that require legislation? Where the law says that immunity is no excuse for impunity in Nigeria that anyone who commits economic crime against our nation should go to jail, why are they not practicing that law and they are wasting their time over irrational excuses. Let them look after their own estates. I think I have said it all. The problem of Sodom was not Sodomy, read your Bible well. It was too much cruelty and not taking care of the poor. It is in the Bible. That is the real sodomy. Beyond that, I want you to know that God destroyed Sodom not because of what he found there but because of what he could not find there. He said if He could find 10 righteous men there, He would spare it. So when He did not find 10 righteous men there, he destroyed it. But it is beyond sodomy. That of not taking care of your neighbour. Taking everything and keeping everything to yourself.
Culled from the Union.