Nigeria’s famous cleric, politician and rights activist, Pastor Tunde Bakare, was President Muhammadu Buhari’s running mate, on the platform of a now defunct Congress for Progressive Change, in the 2011 presidential election. But that race did not lead to Aso Rock. Circumstances, however, changed in the 2015 elections with the merger of four political parties to form the All Progressives Congress. There have been divergent views on why Bakare did not run again, but none has been close to the real reason as revealed by the General Overseer of Latter Rain Assembly, in this exclusive interview with YEMI KOLAPO and OLUKEMI ADEBOYE. Excerpts:
Are you convinced that the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari can effectively fight corruption, having watched the earliest actions in this direction?
His past records would show you that he is a man who means what he says and says what he means. From all indications, he is very determined to fight corruption to the best of his ability in line with the rule of law. Unlike in the era of the military when you could set up a quick tribunal and get results, it cannot be that fast because of assemblage of facts and all the things you need to get to the point of conviction under the law. But with the steps he has taken, wanting to set up special courts to fight corruption in the society, I am very hopeful that he will achieve results. The problem in the past was the attempt to put the cart before the horse, talking of restitution before prosecution. If we put prosecution before restitution, and judgment is speedily executed, everything will work out for good. For, instance, if I can buy my way and get a plea bargain; if I can rob the nation with my pen and steal N10 billion; and you ask me to go through plea bargain and return N6 billion, it means I get a profit of N4 billion at the expense of the nation and the people. So, he is determined and I just pray lawyers and judges will also cooperate with him and help minimise the cancer called corruption.
In concrete terms, what areas of the economy do you think this administration should focus on if we intend seeing a sharp change within four years?
It should focus on infrastructural development and, in fact, overall development of all sectors. We can be a state that does not just punish criminals, but that takes a step further to recover stolen funds. But then, we must take one step at a time and in the right way. Like I said, elsewhere, the same man that promised change and came in on that campaign theme of change is now being called ‘Baba go slow.’ People should not forget that when a tree falls on a tree, you begin by removing the one at the top. He is assembling his team and I am sure with the way things are being done, there will be enough resources to invest in the segment of the society that will bring democracy dividends to the poor. For instance, there are developments that you can’t just sweep away. A few days ago, my wife said she had not heard the sound of a generator around here for about a week, whereas we had been perpetually on generator. Now, you may want to say that it couldn’t have been the result of Buhari’s intervention, it might be the result of what former President Jonathan had done. Whatever the case may be, that is not the issue. What we are seeing is as a result of the quality of the leadership we have currently. Men are sitting straight and saying, ‘look, you have to be careful; let’s get it right.’ The attitudinal problem has been fixed by a man, who is willing to assert his influence to get certain peculiar results. As a result, I know it’s not going to be ‘let’s catch the thief’; no, it’s much more than that. It’s going to be a robust, all-round government that will focus on the purpose of governance itself – welfare and the security of the people.
Do you regret not running with President Buhari at the time he won the election?
Not at all. He never dropped me at any time. I volunteered; I went to him and I said, ‘Sir, in order for the merger to work, one of the parties alone cannot produce the presidential candidate and his running mate. I said ‘I’m willing to sacrifice because you are the one we want to rule us. All of us can still contribute our quota; you don’t need an office or a title to function.’ I volunteered. He never ever said ‘go and get me somebody else.’ If three, four parties are involved, then you must have a way of distributing the offices in an equitable manner and that was what happened. So, I have no regrets whatsoever.
How do you think Nigeria can really confront the Boko Haram problem? Could the trip to the United States have thrown up a new strategy?
It is the determination of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces; the enthusiasm of the Armed Forces that is now properly motivated, the deployment of troops and equipment and the gathering of intelligence that will bring an end to the menace of Boko Haram. A few days ago, even yesterday, people were criticising the Chief of Army Staff for going to the warfront, that he was not supposed to be there, especially when it was an attack. But it’s a serious matter and I am glad we are seeing changes. The military is determined that before the end of the year, we would see the end of this terrible plague in our land. We should have a peaceful Christmas whereby we can sleep with both eyes closed. But we need America, we need Britain, we need the surrounding nations. And you saw that immediately he came into power and was sworn in, he visited the neighbouring West African Countries like Niger Republic and Cameroun to quickly ask them for help and they also have sent troops to Nigeria. An ambush more or less has been set for Boko Haram from all angles and when aerial bombardment is added to it, the efforts will yield meaningful results. I think they are still taking a little time because of the hope to recover the Chibok girls. If not, aerial bombardment would have levelled everything and then the troop can move in to do the mop-up operation as you see in Iraq. I am very hopeful that the end to the menace is near and I’m just praying we get some, if not all the girls.
You are so positive that there will soon be an end?
There is nothing that has a beginning that does not have an end. The expiry date is soon; the sooner the better.
Have your political activities in the past few years in anyway eaten into your time in the Church?
The church (members) that I pastor will be the best people to answer that question. Not in anyway. All the time I campaigned with President Buhari, I missed only one Sunday in church. I always came back. I’m not a full-time pastor that will sit tight there, morning and evening, attending to the flock. We train leaders, as the pastor is not to minister to everybody. His job is to ensure that everybody is ministered to by raising up the people that will do it. We’ve been able to do that to the glory of God, and there will be more people that will do better than we are doing because we’ve given them the opportunity.
Churches and mosques preach morals. We have so many of them in Nigeria, but the irony is that criminal activities are increasing. What would you say is responsible for this?
It is because some of the time, we have not really dealt with the issue. When we have people who preach prosperity without purpose and they don’t really deal with issues of righteousness and holiness, then you cannot have righteous people: garbage in garbage out. The thorough disciples were raised in the 70s and 80s in this country. Right now, what I see especially among the Pentecostals is that we emphasise success at the expense of character and the thing is that you have a people using God, not a people being used by God. And they just run to churches to look for quick fixes. They fake miracles and the gullible are taken advantage of, because if I tell you, ‘give N1,000 to God and you get N10,000 in return, without laying emphasis on God’s word that whosoever shall not work shall not eat’, then I’m not serving God. Some would even say, ‘whatsoever you lay your hands upon shall prosper, without emphasising character, discipline, prudence and diligence. Simply put, the standard has fallen but there is always a godly remnant that will raise that standard. Matured sons in strategic positions will begin to bring an end to corruption; there must be such people in our country. Until you get such, you don’t get the change you desire. If front liners in the church are embezzlers of public funds or embezzlers of private placements in their banks; if they wear the garment of sheep but are wolves inside, we won’t get any such change.
Do you have a private jet?
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