Home » Latest Politics » What I won’t take as Buhari’s VP — Bakare

What I won’t take as Buhari’s VP — Bakare

Pastor of the Latter Rain Assembly, Tunde Bakare, surprised Nigerians recently when he agreed to be the running mate of General Muhammadu Buhari, presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), in forthcoming general elections. Nigerians know him as a fiery preacher with many devoted followers.

The preacher made his way into national politics, as the convener of the Save Nigerian Group (ANG), when the late President Umar Yar’Adua was ill and receiving treatment in Saudi Arabia. He led men and women to protest, on the streets of Abuja and Lagos, over what he saw as a vacuum in the Presidency.
In this interview, Bakare justified his decision to pair with Buhari in the April presidential election. Revealed how Buhari called to offer  him the position of a running mate, he said he was initially reluctant but later changed his mind, after consulting with people who have a stake in his life.

The pastor is confident that Nigerians would embrace the social contract the CPC is offering the people. He challenged the PDP presidential and vice presidential candidates to a television debates. It is also his prayers that the progressives in Nigeria would come together to face the PDP at the general elections.

You were not known to be a member of the CPC. How did General Muhammadu Buhari pick you as his running mate?
The General would be the appropriate person to answer that question. But I am sure he is a man of deep thought, as reflected in his politics and the circumstances of the nation. He extended that hand of fellowship to us and offered us this to serve the country.  But he would be the appropriate person to answer how and why he did what he did.

But you could tell us why you accepted the nomination when you have a church where you preside?
You know that it would have taken a lot of consideration, consultation and prayers. But that not withstanding, to whom much is given, much is expected. I use this opportunity to articulate not just in words what we believe in and the factors we have spent quality time on, which we know can turn Nigeria around. There is a great opportunity to put into practice those things we have learnt and those things we know can work. There are those things others have said over time can push Nigeria forward. At the bottom of the critical decision is the care for our country.

Some said you are not of any electoral value, as you are not a politician.
How do you react to that?

Those who said I have no electoral value are entitled to their opinion. I remember when Chief Obafemi Awolowo began the Action Group (AG); the NCNC that had predominance before he ventured into Nigerian politics, as it were, said he had no electoral value. But he won the election. Nigerians are not blind and they are not deaf. They can see and they can hear and they are putting their thoughts together. The elections of 2011 are different from previous elections.

How?
The bulk of those who will vote don’t even have party allegiance. They want to vote for those they know fear God.  They would vote those who love the country and love the people and want to see change.

What experience are you going to bring to the job, if elected, as people say you have no political experience?
I do not doubt that they are entitled to their opinion. But if you are a student of the Bible and you read your scriptures and the word of God, Joseph was a prisoner and not even a pastor. He came out of prison and his only experience was when he was in his father’s house at the age of 17 and then he was sent into slavery. His only experience at resource management was human resource, material resource that he gathered in the house of Potifer. From there, he was lied against; he was sent to prison, and he was never a lawyer or a pastor and he rose out of prison to become a world class ruler. People should know that in the process of doing other things, we have been learning how to deal with human situations and national project is just an extension of that.

If elected, what will happen to your church?
My love for God and love for the people of God cannot wane. I relocated to the United States in 2000 with my family. Between then and 2010, when we returned home, nobody knew my family even relocated because at least one Sunday in a month, I was in church. If it would not be out of place for the president to go to mosque on Friday, it cannot be out of place for me to go to church to fellowship on Sundays.

That means you will continue to preach?
I will continue to serve my God in whatever capacity is allowed by law and given time, because it is a new role and new responsibilities would come with it. I can’t say you will see me going everywhere preaching, but I will still serve my God. It is not only by preaching that you serve God. There are other ways that you serve God. Those in government are considered ministers of God too. The Bible talks about all that Jesus began to do and to teach. So, the doing comes before the preaching. It is called the Acts of Apostles and not the preaching of the Apostles. So, let us not put the cart before the horse. But that does not mean that I will never preach again. I will continue to serve God and testify about His goodness.

How would you marry politics with Christianity, as people believe that politics is very dirty?
The problem with many that raise such question is simple: they believe politics is dirty and good men and God-fearing men shouldn’t go into politics. The more such men are not in politics, the more dirty people get into politics. The scripture says when the righteous is in authority, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, they moan, they groan. Do we want to continue groaning? Politics is dirty because dirty people are in it. If clean men get there, they will equally clean the atmosphere.

You came to national political scene, so to say, when you convene the Save Nigerian Group (SNG). You did not tell Nigerians that you would be contesting 2011 election? What happened?
I never anywhere said I will seek elective office or I would join a party. That wasn’t my contemplation. But when the General (Buhari) made the call on January the 15, I was home in Lagos. He said: if I will accept, he will consider it a great honour by accepting to be his running mate. My first natural reaction was to say thanks, but no, thanks. I am content with what I am doing. I told the whole world that I was not going this way. I am a man of my words. I keep myself out of the bargain. I wish you well. And he said:  “you have not only told the world, you have told me too. But I want you to please consider and call me back.” The process of responding took some days and hours of real thinking, critical thinking and talking to stakeholders in my life – the church, my family and elderly people in the kingdom of God. When I was convinced that it was a right thing to do, I told him, yes, I will run with you.

It was Martin Luther King Junior who said: “At critical moment when certain positions are to be taken, different dimensions would begin to crop up.” For instance: cowards would ask: “ Is it safe?” Vanity would ask: “Is it popular?” Those who are politically correct would ask: “Is it politic?” But conscience would ask: “Is it right?” Is it right for a man to offer his services to the nation? That is what we should be talking about. Am I disqualified in any form? That should be the issue. If I can vote and be voted for and there is nothing against me doing that, why not?  Let us all rise and bring quality men, God-fearing men and women into our polity to save our nation and pull it back from the brink.

What is the state of the alliance talks with other political parties?
Regardless of what is out there in the press, we still consider it an important factor to our electoral victory in 2011. If PDP must be roundly defeated at the polls, those who consider themselves progressives must put Nigeria first at this time. The problem that I think we have is that those who desire to function in the public arena sometimes have ego bigger than the nation they want to rule. But with trustful give and take and putting the nation first above our personal agenda, it will require that we come together and face election against PDP.  I think that is still going on and it is still continuing. There maybe individuals that do not think so, but I tell you that it would happen.

What has been responsible for the parties not being able to reach an understanding to work together?
There is a committee working on this. They are working on different alliances and MOUs and they are better equipped to answer that question. You know I am just coming in and it is not proper to pass comments on what you have not been briefed thoroughly about. I was aware that those discussions are going on. From behind the scene, we encouraged it. We will still encourage it now. We will reach out to others and let them know this is not about us. It is about our nation, let us work together.

Does the CPC, as a party, have the structure, from local government to ward to face the octopus PDP at the 2011 polls?
The CPC, as a new party, is gaining ground by the day. As we are talking now, more people are rushing in; more offices have been opened. The PDP has been in office for 12 years and CPC came in a few months ago. So, you cannot compare their structure. But the truth of it is that Rome was not built in a day. We are putting structures in place. The one that are in existence are functioning and more will come. Before you know it, the remaining period that we have before the elections, people would be surprised about how many people of goodwill are willing to support and create that structure. When there is a will, there is a way.

General Buhari is not known to be a rich man and you are not known to be a millionaire. How do you hope to raise fund for the election?
Nigerians must come to terms with whether they want to continue to monetise politics, so that people would spend billions only to get into power and loot the treasury. We want to deemphasise that. Yes, General Buhari may not be a rich man and, like you have said, I may not be a millionaire also. But you know that if God is in a movement, he would raise men to give to them.

Remember Jesus was born in a manger and wise men came from the East to give him gifts. Not only that, Barack Obama, when he was going to the 2004 convention of his party, he put in his card and he was rejected and a few years later, he became the president of America. Ordinary people gave to them and we know once this thing starts, ordinary people, men and women, boys and girls of goodwill, would not only give resources, in terms of money, but their time, their talent, their energy and their ability to mobilize their friends, their relations and their territory of influence to vote.  At the end of the day, money politics would fail in Nigeria.

What is the ideology of CPC? How do you integrate yourself into the system?
We talk about ideology, as if we are still polarising the world. I am talking about eastern world and western world, as if we are talking about capitalism and communism. Time has moved beyond that. The purpose of government is the welfare of the people of the country. That is the priority of government. That people’s needs are met; that we ensure there is security. That is the ideology of the hour. With all the billions voted for security, we see the insecurity in our land. That must stop. Corruption must not continue to eat into the fabric of our nation. The central ideology is that Nigeria must be saved. It must be changed and become great in our lifetime and the people of this country must not continue to suffer in the midst of plenty. Whatever policies, whatever programme we are putting in place would be articulated in our contract with Nigeria so that they know that it is not about us; it is not about title; it is not about popularity but the people of this country.

If the like of Awolowo, the like of the Ahmadu Bello, Azikiwe and the like of Okpara did not live beyond self, some of us would not be here today. Awolowo blazed so much people-oriented programme that gave the like of us education at that critical point of our national history. Where are those men? They must return and their values must come back and we must make people the focus of governmental programme, not just building fantasies in the air and voting billions on what would not touch the lives of ordinary people. If we can get to the root of the matter and make people the focus of our attention and the purpose of government to be the welfare of the people, that is the ideology that I will embrace and I believe CPC will embark upon.

What would be the thrust of your social contract with the Nigerian people?
It cannot be business as usual. The local government chairman would come in broke and they will go home building mansions and all things. Funds that are voted for specific project would be executed within timeline and it would be obvious and evident to all Nigerians. You can be rest assured, I do not think I will come back richer than I am going in. I probably would come back broke. I don’t intend to touch anybody’s money but to put attention where it matters and to focus our energy on the development of the nation. You know you can trust General Buhari for that also. He has proved it over the years.

He is the only head of state without a petrol station. He has only two houses, one in Daura and they are just basic houses. He has no oil rig or oil well. He has no foreign account. He has no house abroad. He has lived even within his pension up to this time. He was petroleum minister and has no cent or one dollar per barrel sticking to his fingers. He has been governor in this country. He was Petroleum Trust Fund executive chairman and not a dime was traceable to him as being fraudulent. I think what Nigerians are face to face with is one vote for two honest men.

It is good you spoke about General Buhari this way, but you were once quoted to have said neither Buhari, nor Babangida nor Obasanjo would be part of the emerging Nigeria. Now, you are Buhari’s running mate.

How do you reconcile the contradiction?
The Christian word Messiah is saviour of souls and of the world and I don’t like such words being used for mere men. The best of men are still men at the very best. I won’t call any man messiah. Everyman will contribute his quota to the development of the nation. I know men who are rising, who are going to do their best. Using the word Messiah is making man God. That is what I want to communicate. But besides that, you did not quote me accurately. What you are saying was in 2006 October. I said some of these old men should allow young men to operate, to come into power.

But the truth of it is that emphasis of the hour. The current emphasis of the hour is not generational shift but generational integration so that older and the younger can come together as demonstrated by Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Yakubu Gowon.  Awolowo could father Gowon. He was 57 when Gowon was 30; they worked together to save Nigeria from that terrible time of our people in cold blood. May God heal the wound that it affected in our nation. Time has come for the young and the old, male and female to cooperate together and move on. 2006 quotation is not applicable to 2011. That was then, this is now.

You were quoted as saying in the interview that neither of them would be president?
In 2007, did they become president? They didn’t. That was my opinion for 2007. I didn’t say 2011 and I didn’t say they would never be president forever.

So, pastor, your opinion now is different from your opinion at the time?
Definitely, it is different. Remember, that is not peculiar to man. Even God Almighty spoke to Eli and said: “I said, now I say.” It is in the Bible. So, proceeding word is not what was said but the proceeding word of the hour is: this is the time of change. Nigeria has embraced this change. They would vote for God-fearing people who love this country and have demonstrated that they are not interested in materialism and they cannot be bought by gold but can put gold to use for the benefit of the society.

Many see you and Buhari as two strong characters. How do you avoid a clash when you have different opinions on issues?
There cannot be a clash. Issues would be debated, if my attention is called. The constitution is very clear on who the boss is. I can only make known to him when and as when necessary if I see a different perspective. But that does not make me lord it over him, as long as the decision being taking is in the interest of not only the electorate and the people who voted us into power. He would not undermine the security of our people and those who voted us into power. There are bound to be differences in opinion, but it doesn’t have to create clashes. Do you have differences with your wife and you still live together? That is the way it would be.

Under what circumstance can you resign?
I have firm principles I fought over the years. You don’t compromise principle, or you destroy yourself. General Buhari is also a man of principle. I don’t think either of us would violate the principle of uprightness, the principle of fairness, justice, fair play and the principle of individual liberty and freedom. Creating environment for our people to maximise their potentials and turn this country to a great country in our live time. If those things are never violated and I don’t see them being violated, there cannot be a reason for me to say I am resigning. If anything touches on my faith or compromise my faith in God or my values or my belief that people’s welfare should be the concern of government, it would be spoken loud and clear. But this is not a battle in which we are going with the mindset of resigning. Those who put their hands on the plough and turn back are not fit for the kingdom of God.

You are not just a Christian but also a leading pastor. General Buhari is a strong Muslim. Do you think he settled for you because of the need for Muslim /Christian ticket?
General Buhari is the one to be asked that question. I will not be answering for him. We had interactions. Not only with him but even the sitting president and other political heavy weights in the country. If he makes his choice, he knows the values he was looking for. I am sure he knows those values. There are other leading Christians well known better than I am. If he didn’t call them, he must have his reasons. We seize the moment to contribute our quarter. That he is a strong Muslim and I am a strong Christian should remove the doubt of anyone trying to Islamise Nigeria.

It is absurd and it is in the mind of propagandists who are spreading the rumour. It will surprise you to know that Buhari’s driver is a Christian and he has been with him for more than 10 years.  This is not known to the whole world. All those who say Buhari has done this or that, let them show prove that one day, this is what he did and he has used his position either as governor, minister or as head of state at any time to deprive any Christian of what rightly belongs to him.  How many people knew that when they were in power, Idiagbon’s wife was a Christian?
For a change, God is giving us the best of the North and the best of the South to come together to steered the ship of our country.

How do you hope to move the people of the South West to CPC? The ACN is domineering in the area.
Once upon a time, the NCNC was so domineering in Western Region that Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe contested to become the premier of the western region. But another person arose and swept the carpet and became the dominant person. Intrigues and other things followed. But the truth of the matter is: the South western people are very enlightened. They know what they want. They know it when they see it. They have values and when the time comes, they will answer. You can’t call monkey a dog. They know the difference. We are building alliances with all stakeholders in the South West. If alliance with the ACN does not work, direct alliance with the people will work.

What is wrong with Jonathan government that you and Buhari want to take over from him?
It is a question to be addressed at the appropriate time in a debate. I hope we would have a live television debate.

Are you calling for a debate?
I am calling for one so that the issues can be faced. The 12 years of reckless display of power and I-don’t-care attitude of PDP. You ask them how many civilians have died in the course of riot and religious crisis in the country. They don’t know. Why don’t they know? It is because they don’t care. The theme for 2011 should be anything but PDP and the best we can see is CPC: General Buhari and my humble self.

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