Outspoken General Overseer of Lagos-based Latter Rain Assembly and running mate to General Muhammadu Buhari in the 2011 presidential election, Pastor Tunde Bakare has revealed that he once nominated Prof Yemi Osinbajo to run as vice presidential candidate to the former Head of State. Osinbajo is now Buhari’s running mate in the March 28 presidential election.
Bakare, who spoke on Rockcity FM radio in Abeokuta, expressed deep fears over the forthcoming elections. In the interview monitored by TOSIN AKINOLA, the fiery preacher, however, noted that his loyalty and support for Buhari in the race remain intact. Excerpts:
I remembered you criticised the United States, talking about their sins shortly after the infamous 9/11 attack on the world trade centre. Tens of thousands of Nigerians have also died due to the wanton destruction of lives and property by the Boko Haram sect. Would you say that this is a result of the sins of Nigerians and that of their leaders?
Well, I do not know where you got your information from that I blamed America for their sins, what I said then was, yes terrorists, evil organisations but there will be no terror if there’s no error. If America would go to other nations and end lives of Osama Bin Laden, after using him against the Soviets when they tried to enter Afghanistan, and then, Osama will turn against them, what you sow is what you reap; the absence of fear of God and love of God, and godly principles is not just an American defect today, it’s a global sin. So, terrorism has gone global and what I would like you to note, the youths that are neglected, the army of unemployed but employable youths, who make raw materials available for terrorist gangs that can induce them with money, whichever way you look at it, there will be no violence if there is no corruption, the Bible says in Genesis chapter 6 that the world is corrupt and violence is everywhere, so in that sense, we can say the sins of Nigeria and the sin of America, but, usually it’s the sin of leadership.
Okay, if we were to actually blame the leadership on the challenge that Boko Haram now poses to the very existence of Nigeria, would you still say that the leadership has not done everything necessary to actually stop this destruction of lives and property?
It amazes me that the same country that fought civil war and won with meagre resources, the nation that came over the Maitatsine attack seems to be incapacitated right now. As regards this Boko Haram issue, I think Boko Haram has gone completely monstrous. It’s becoming a hydra-headed monster. It started as a little group, armed young men by politicians to attack the opposition or adversaries who now felt neglected by those politicians, turn against the state and then begin their targets from police stations and government officials. But right now, you can’t even say only Nigerians constitute the body of Boko Haram, allegedly they are being sponsored by foreigners and when the President once said that Boko Haram is in his government, that they are in the Judiciary, in the Legislature and the Executive arms of government, is very frightening. Now you can categorise them into four: Political Boko Haram, Security Boko Haram, Criminal Boko Haram and the original Boko Haram. The criminal Boko Haram goes to banks to rob and the Security Boko Haram keeps on ensuring that our security vote and security budget is increasing in leaps and bounds and of course, the Political Boko Haram, anytime citizens are about to cry foul or anytime people are about to rise up against anything, a bomb explosion occurs somewhere, I don’t think the bomb that exploded in Kano, not the one in the mosque, the five bomb explosions, I don’t think that’s the original Boko Haram, I think some other forces have taken over and if we don’t quell this internal rebellion, it might pose a threat to our national unity.
Talking about national unity and cohesion, United States which is seen as a strong ally has vehemently criticized President Goodluck Jonathan and the Nigerian military, especially when it comes to the issue of violation of human rights, they have refused to actually sell weapons to Nigeria, mounted pressure on Israel not to sell weapon to Nigeria. Recently, South Africa botched the cash for arms deal purportedly meant to fight Boko Haram. This has brought to the fore our diplomatic relations with the United States. Should we rethink our diplomatic policy with the United States?
That question should be directed to the government and those in power, I don’t have all details or the challenges they face. I still do not know why the military has been underfunded in spite of the budgetary allocation and poorly equipped over the years and now there’s just internal rebellion, it’s not even an external aggression like a foreign or a neighbouring nation attacking us, it’s right on our own soil. Now, what I won’t succumb to or subscribe to is America trying to ridicule us or the leadership. Yes, there may be some deficiencies and I’ve not seen a demonstration of strong character and capacity to curtail these, because as a commander-in-chief, all you needed do is assemble your armed forces and say ‘look get rid of these people once and for all’, there may be challenges, because same people will accuse you of human rights that are being violated.
You don’t want to shell or carry out some air space bombing or what have you, you could kill several innocent people and the girls you want to protect or want to bring back you can also destroy them, so it requires a bit of tact to really penetrate and know the best approach to use and what are the armed forces and their chiefs for and the security, DSS and the military intelligence unit, what are they there for? If they cannot sit down to curtail something that began in a location that has now spread to three states and is almost covering a geo-political zone. I understand that there are all kinds of weapons, explosions and gun exchanges in Maiduguri alone, that the people came in from four different angles, that’s pathetic. Yes, I acknowledge and one can see that there had been no serious demonstration or strong will to quell and crush Boko Haram from when it was not this strong, until it became this hydra-headed monster, but that does not give right to America to ridicule us because right on their own ground, the terrorists attacked the twin towers and almost wanted to attack other places until they were able to curtail it. Now that we agree that terrorism is becoming a global phenomenon, then all hands must be on deck to curtail it wherever it is. Once they wanted to declare war in Iran, they called it ‘Axis of evil’, let them deal with the evil men that are there and expose them, there are some people supporting them, there are some people sponsoring them, there are some people financing them, let’s get to the root of things and gather enough intelligence to be able to confront it, otherwise we would be a joke before the rest of the world.
You’ve called for the postponement of these elections in your State of the Nation address, last month, January. A lot of people, like you said have criticized your patriotic intervention. Can you please enumerate some of those reasons you think it is very important that we postpone the elections?
I gave about seven reasons, and I don’t want to keep on repeating the same things again because you can’t help the deaf by increasing the volume of your music or help the blind by turning on the light. I had no reason to want any election postponed to favour one particular party or another party, not at all. And in that same speech, if you bother to read it, I said my loyalty is to Gen. Buhari. I ran election in 2011 with him, so why will I suddenly back out on him, no, I’m a loyalist, but my loyalty has two parts: focus on God and focus on the well-being of Nigerians. Let’s take it bit by bit. How prepared is INEC for this election? When about 30 million people don’t have PVC, now they’re doing their best to reduce that number, we understand that 14 million PVCs are yet to be delivered, they were to be delivered on the 31st of January. Whether they have been delivered or they’re on their way now, we don’t know. Two weeks to election , the Sultan of Sokoto has no PVC, the Governor of Lagos state has no PVC, Bode George, who first reacted to what I said, later came back and said: ‘look, as long as there is handover in May, we can postpone till they are through with the preparation.’ That is one.
Two, when a part of the federation, a major part, the whole North East is under the siege, so how do you have an election that will be totally conclusive? It is a major question. Will it not lead to constitutional crisis later? That people like ABN did in 1993, rise up and challenge whoever wins the election. Number three, the security situation in Nigeria, the security challenge, how many Nigerians in that part of the country are willing to troop out and go to vote on that day?
And where is the military power to curb violence? These are some of the issues I raised, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see that the signs are very terrible. Just keep at the back of your mind that except God intervenes in our situation, head, they win, tail they win and Nigeria loses, what do I mean by that? Let’s say the election is free, fair and credible, Buhari wins. What’s going to happen to Nigeria? What will be the reaction of the South South people who are calling for arms and all kinds of things? And if Jonathan wins again, what’s going to happen to Nigeria? What will be the reaction of the North that has been out of the power equation for too long a time? And granted there is peace, like the eye of the strong, even if General Muhammadu Buhari wins, what’s going to happen between February and May, the handover day?
Look at the state of the economy, is it getting any better? Now our voodoo economists are abusing themselves on pages of some newspapers. Some are trying their hardest but it’s becoming like abracadabra, things are going down. What are the issues being canvassed? Where are the issues expect personal attacks, certificates, 1951 certificate, a person cannot answer phone call, he cannot remember his telephone number. Are those the issues confronting Nigeria? Where is the issue of restructuring this country along true federal principles, true federation that we really should practice federalism. Because Nigeria today is an amalgam of political varieties. We spent five months of our lives, some of us didn’t take a dime for that national conference to ensure that Nigeria could have a brand new people’s constitution. We could restructure our country along true federal principles along true federalism, we could have a proper census.
Beside all these points, the constitution of Nigeria says no president or governor should be sworn in more than two times. Jonathan had been sworn in two times, so if he wins this election, is he going to be sworn in the third time without violating that constitution? In addition to that, the same constitution that we say should be changed completely is saying okay, when you are sworn in twice, you must have four years term each and so President Jonathan does not have four year term, he only has full four years, and spent two years after Yar’adua, so he needs two more years. Instead of spending all these money, why don’t we form a transitional government that will involve both parties and their key leaders to sit down on how to move Nigeria forward and not waste all these resources? But it appears that our people think okay change is coming. I never called for interim government, I have people accusing me of calling for interim government which means the head of state should be removed and another person totally comes in. I said sit down and let both parties decide on the future of Nigeria, because whoever wins this election is inheriting trouble anyway and you still need both sides because nobody can win all these states, nobody. None of the parties will have a sort of landslide that will shock us. So, you still have to work together. Well, some of the reasons are better left alone.
You mentioned the various war threats from Niger- Delta region, many of them come from ex-militants, threatening to go to war if President Jonathan loses the election. Peradventure we have a free, credible election, INEC was able to actually organise the election to be transparent enough, distribute the PVCs and then a substantial number of eligible voters have their PVCs to exercise their franchise. Should we because of this threat from a section of the country, stop the elections?
No, that of the South-South does not bother me, it’s the people that will not be not be able to vote because of Boko Haram that bothers me, that’s where there is insecurity. Theirs is a threat for now, it’s not real and I don’t believe they will just wake up one day and bomb everything down and bomb themselves along with it, because when you go to a pipeline and you burst it, you don’t know whether it’s going to hit you too. Vengeance has no foresight, its shape is called boomerang, it can boomerang on you. The critical issue, I’m not looking at threat, I’m looking at present reality, is can we conduct election peacefully in the North Eastern zone of Nigeria? You can go to the Electoral Act and they can hide under some clauses there, some sections there, that if the total number of people disenfranchised will not in any way materially affect the outcome. For example, a party has 10million votes and the total number of people there are 5million and then the next person scores 2million, if you add 5 to his 2, he will still not win the election, they can hide there but is that the current reality? That’s all.
I’m for free, fair, credible elections. We saw it in 1993, it was the freest, all these entrenched power blocks that will not let Nigeria rest still manipulated it and they are still alive wanting to do it again. I’m for free and fair elections, there is no way we can deepen our democracy except we continue to exercise our fundamental rights of choosing who we want our leaders to be every four years. But why do we have the constitutional provision that when the nation is in the state of war. You might say a war is not insurgency, well, it depends on your definition, those 200 girls from maybe 200 families that are yet to be brought back, their parents will tell you that they are in the state of war.
In 2011, when you were picked to be the running mate to General Muhamadu Buhari, you first rejected, then after pressure you accepted to run with him on the platform of Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, do you have any regrets contesting?
Number one, I wasn’t under pressure, it was after due consultation I became fully persuaded. Nobody put me on any pressure, if they put me under pressure I would reject it instantly. I said no at the beginning but after wide consultation, I felt this man who has this much integrity as I said in the video that has gone virile now, ‘the Buhari I know’ requests me to contribute my quota, don’t let me just be the one that will be sitting on the pulpit talking, let’s go and do something meaningful and we assembled a formidable team that if we had won would have been able to cause phenomenal change but you know, the way the election went, but I would be honest with you, no regrets at all, not for a single moment.
Up till now?
No regrets, I still believe Buhari is a good man, I still believe he should be given chance to run this nation. I may not endorse the people around him, not all of them but by and large if we can curtail the excesses of those who have invaded the APC with their ill-gotten wealth, if we can curtail that, perhaps there is opportunity, not that PDP is any better also. They have all dipped their hands into filthy lucre, they are helping themselves, power in Nigeria is not for service, it’s for self, only a very few people are delivering what we call dividends of democracy. I have no regrets whatsoever, Gen. Buhari is such a good man, he is a patriot who loves his country and it was a pleasure knowing him that close and to know the kind of passion he carries for this nation.
You know him so well, a lot of people see him as a religious fanatic or bigot, would you say that the man you got close to and traversed the length and breadth of this country during that electioneering period is someone that can be called a religious fanatic who is all out to Islamise Nigeria?
If he is a religious fanatic, Boko Haram will not be trying to kill him, they will not be calling him an infidel now, he is not. I released a video to that effect for about six to seven minutes and I made my thorough investigations, I stayed close enough, I watched and I observed that man, yes, he is a Muslim, a true Muslim, but he is not a fundamental Muslim. General Buhari will not call me on a Sunday. Every time we were campaigning, I close everything by Friday evening, by Saturday I’m back in Lagos to preach on Sunday, I didn’t miss any single Sunday service throughout the time of the election except when we were in Maiduguri and I couldn’t get back here on Sunday, one Sunday throughout all that period. Number two, his personal driver of more than twelve years is a born again Christian, his personal bodyguards are Christians. In his career in the army, he never allowed the Christians to come to duty on Sundays and when Muslims said they wanted to go on Fridays he said it’s not written in your own Quran, I can’t see it there. That’s not a fundamentalist, not in the least.
Now, were you shocked when Prof Yemi Osinbajo was picked as the running mate to General Buhari?
What will be the shock? Somebody has to occupy the place and if I suggested him to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu four years ago when I was approached that Osinbajo or Niyi Adebayo should go, why would it shock me? Not at all.
You mean, you have actually recommended him before?
It’s written in my book that would be presented to public on April 3rd called “Strategic intervention in governance”. Yes, I recommended him and I sent people to him, I sent Engineer Ife Oyedele to Osinbajo to try and persuade Asiwaju Bola Tinubu because Asiwaju was interested in the position himself, he just didn’t get it and when they couldn’t feature Muslim/Muslim ticket, it’s the reason he reluctantly agreed that Osinbajo should go this time.
What actually transpired, I remembered that you were actually planning an alliance between the CPC and ACN then shortly before the 2011 election, what actually transpired? What botched that alliance?
There was no alliance; it’s a long story that I captured completely in that book to the best of my knowledge and the facts known to me. The rest can bring their own facts out if they know anything better. First and foremost, I got a text from Lai Mohammed asking me to help persuade General Buhari to run on the platform of AC before it became ACN, I was going to broker that, when I found out that Asiwaju was going to be the running mate and I was not ready to broker a Muslim/Muslim ticket, so we left it. Secondly , the CPC itself, some people, the board of trustees requested me to give them Jimi Agbaje to be the running mate of Buhari which I obliged until that didn’t work and General had to turn to me in the last minute and the day the General called me was the day I called Tinubu, that I’m not interested, I’m willing to take anyone that is willing to join Buhari to run because I’m not into partisan politics, I’m a nation builder and I don’t want to jump on the soap box campaigning for election . My biblical heroes that are used to nation building did not contest for election. Joseph, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Nehemiah, Esther, they were all called to come and contribute their quota, I won’t spend the kind of money I see people spend on election in Nigeria and I consider it insane, I consider it crazy, I’m being honest with you. That is why they go there to steal, if you spend such a numerous amount of money that the PDP was announcing , although they have come now, Jerry Gana, trying to explain that it is not just for campaign, that is medicine after death, they are trying to paper wall the crack. Talking of that last minute effort, it’s actually a long story but I’m cutting it short, it will be in my books, you can read it when it comes out. After I accepted to run about three, four days to the election, they now came with a proposal that I should resign as vice-president of Nigeria in advance and they will support us and if I go in there, three days after, I‘ll step down and I said I’m willing to resign and I did as Vice-Presidential candidate but not as Vice President, that’s the office I’ve not occupied, I’m a trained lawyer, that’s perjury, I’m not a fraudster. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu later told me that he was not aware I wrote a letter and I said that’s not true because it was public knowledge and I gave it to Gen Buhari himself.