Popular Senior Pastor of the Latter Rain Assembly and televangelist, Tunde Bakare speaks on the many troubles of Nigeria, concluding that the cup of the nation is full, running over, and requires urgent rescue plan.
Bakare, who was the presidential running mate of President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2011 presidential elections bemoans the insecurity situation in the country and suggests state police to arrest the tide.
He also x-rays the suspended RUGA, Ranches, Fulanization/Islamization issues, of which he counterpoises that his job is to Christianize Nigeria.
The fiery cleric also reviews the 2014 National Conference report, saying that it has the necessary ingredients to put the nation at peace and grow the economy. He speaks more on other related issues like the 2023 elections, his political ambition and his meetings with Buhari.
Looking at the scary security situation in the country today, if anybody told you earlier that things will come to this pass, would you have believed?
Well, it is not a case of whether I will believe or not, it is a case of we are all living and facing the security challenges every day. And it kept on growing and expanding from way back until it reached where it has reached today. It is not a case of whether I believe it or not, it is a reality we are facing today and we need to confront it frontally and stem the tide, lest it consumes all of us.
The other day you reportedly wept saying that “Nigeria’s cup is full”. Is it really full and if it is, indeed, full and running over, what solutions would you proffer to contain it?
The Bible in the book of Ezekiel talks about a land that is filled with the crime of blood. That is what I was referring to. There are consequences for bloodletting, the type that we are witnessing in Nigeria today; where the highways are unsafe. Apart from the potholes on the roads that are death traps to our citizens, the highways are not safe. Insecurity has seized Nigeria. It is something that is disturbing and which we have allowed to continue without any redress. It has reached unprecedented heights of a mountain and it is something that is not only embarrassing, but also overwhelming for the citizens and government. So, all we have to do now is like what is being proposed by government and by the leaders of our nation. We need to sit and find solutions to it because if you don’t take it, it will overtake you.
You were President Buhari’s running mate in 2011. You have met him a couple of times in days past. What did you tell him concerning the daunting security issue in the country? If you have to meet him again what will you tell him concerning that?
I learnt a great lesson from Billy Graham many years ago; that if you have access to men in authority, what they say to you and what you say to them in private conversations should not be used in public situations like this interview. I am sure that the government is doing its utmost. If you look at Boko Haram; if you look at our soldiers being killed; and if you look at them fighting back; you look at policemen going up and down; we don’t seem to have any immediate holistic solution to this. Let us trust God that what will come out from the different meetings, confabs and initiatives will come to our aid.
Just yesterday, the vice president met with the Awujale of Ijebuland. He has been tipped to go meet with the traditional rulers to see how we can find solutions to this problem, which simply means it has become out of ordinary. It is not something you can say go there and quell like in Odi, or what happened in operation crocodile tears or what do they call it? This has become nationwide. Baba Fasoranti’s daughter that was killed is a trigger of so many things that if it is not properly handled, it can become a conflagration that will consume us all. So, what I say to the president and what he says to me will remain between us except he, Mr President makes it public. My office will not allow me to do that.
Now, deep inside you, are you not worried because most of the strategies deployed towards combating it have not yielded results and the thing keeps growing from kidnappings, banditry, terrorism and what have you. If you were to suggest, what unique strategies would you put forward to arrest these atrocities and anomalies?
Multi-faceted problems require multi-faceted solutions. If we don’t sit down and think critically and look for holistic solutions to these myriads of security problems, these multi-faceted problems would be like a termite heap and you want to use glue to fight it. The termites will eat it up. A leaking roof needs to be replaced instead of being sealed. We have become a house with a serious leaking roof. We either replace the roof completely or else the leaking will destroy everything that is inside of it. What solution that the government is considering and should be considering is the case of having state police. We had it before. It is not a new thing. If you think politicians or a governor can misuse it, likewise, any other person in power can also misuse it. Whether it is state police or federal police, anything is subject to misuse. We need to use it for the right things; for the safety of the citizens. Time has come for us to use it.
Some of the postings you see in the police force are absurd. You can’t send someone from Sokoto State to go and catch criminals in Port Harcourt. He has never lived there before. He does not know the terrain very well. In like manner, you can’t send someone from Abeokuta to Maidugiri. That is the problem. Each state can have enough manpower within to tackle the security challenges. The criminals and the police in the area will know themselves. They will know the flashpoints that they need to tackle. That is one solution. I think our military is overstretched. It is overstretched. God forbid that our policemen will have inferior weapons than our criminals are carrying. These are issues we need to sit down and ponder over because it is not one man’s doing. It started a long time ago, but it has reached a place where it has now grown wild. It will take all hands on deck to tackle it.
You said the military is overstretched? Why did you say so? Most of them are still in the barracks taking pepper soup
(Laughs) We use the military for elections. We use the military to tackle civil unrest. We use them to tackle Boko Haram. They are used to conventional warfare; not these kinds of storms and insurrections that we are having now.
They are also on the roads doing police work
Ah hah! It is not supposed to be so, but because of the level of insecurity in the country, we drag them into that also. The Lord has set them up. They are supposed to be in charge of internal rebellion and external aggression. But right now they do all sorts of things. They also in conjunction with the police protect big men. They have to protect them because it is the only way they can see the way to function properly. We need more manpower, we need more equipment, and we need more training. The time has come for all right thinking citizens and leadership of the nation to see who and who can come together and formulate such a policy that can tackle this insecurity.
The Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, the other day played down the heightened insecurity in the country, rationalizing that the killing of Fasoranti’s daughter was just one among many high profile killings in the country. They argued that under the regime of Obasanjo, Bola Ige, Dokubo, Funsho Williams were similarly killed and the country was not put on edge. What is your response to that?
I think we are mixing issues and confusing them. Political killings, because you want to eliminate your enemies is different from the harassment of citizens who have no political interests whatsoever. They sneak up to the farms and destroy them. They show up on the highways and kidnap people. They don’t confuse that with political killings. Politicians are doing to themselves what they know how best to do. They are afraid the other person is going to upstage them and because they don’t have the wherewithal and public appeal, and public support, they feel that by eliminating their enemy, they can gain political mileage. That is different from what we face now. The elimination of former governor, former minister of Justice, Bola Ige was political assassination. Whatever you want to read into it, that is not what we face today. The criminals did not go into his house to steal. They didn’t take a pin. They shot him dead.
But kidnapping and asking for ransom have become wild. It didn’t start today, but it has become a wild thing now that nobody is safe. Even the big men are scared. Why? Because you can have all the protection in this world, but can they give every child, every person, every family the same protection? Please let’s not confuse issues. If anybody says what happened to Fasoranti’s daughter is equal to high profile killings in the past, then we have lost our sense of empathy and compassion. A 58-year-old woman, harmless, visiting her 93-year-old father was killed in the streets for sports? I will not pray that the same thing should happen to them then they will know how terrible things can be for the 93-year-old man. My mother’s prayer when she was alive was may God let my son survive me. Let them pray that what happened to Baba Fasoranti should happen to them, and then they will know that they are talking from both sides of the mouth and they are not engaging their minds properly when they utter some things.
How do you look at the rise of the Miyetti Allah as a central force in this security situation?
Someone in government had said that Miyetti Allah is equal to Ohanaeze and Afenifere. My response is in the public domain when I was bothered. The truth must be told. It is new to us, but it is not true to those that are saying something different. They know more than we know and I would like to leave it there. But any socio-cultural organization or any…what do I call them now…must be labelled right now. I know Boko Haram has been labelled a terrible terrorist organization at par with ISIS. As far as Miyetti Allah is concerned, honestly it is a new thing in our nation that defies any form of logic where you have government in power. For them throwing challenges and giving ultimatums to government and nothing happens to them, I am waiting until proper consultation is made. But this hydra-headed monster must be tackled before it consumes us all.
There had been different professional organizations in our country and I cannot even imagine for a second that Miyetti Allah, which is supposed to be for herders and herdsmen has metamorphosed into a full blown threat. If there is a group protecting their interests that is fine. But if they are encouraging AK47-carrying people and some of them are killing and maiming and nothing is being done to radically confront it in terms of law, in terms of justice, no one is being taken to court, I don’t think we should begin killing ourselves. If nothing is being done, that way we have a problem in our hands. Ohanaeze is not carrying guns, Afenifere is not carrying guns. To now say that Miyetti Allah is allowed to function the way they are functioning, the way they are issuing threats to government, I pray that we will not self-destruct in no time. God forbid that we begin to kill ourselves.
Supposing some people got up after Fasoranti’s daughter’s killing and they look for innocent people to kill, the whole country will be on fire. The innocent will suffer. Fulanis have lived with us; we knew them as children; they herded their cows in peace; they were friendly with people. These AK 47 criminals should not be encouraged at all. This is not a socio-cultural group. This is a rebel criminal organization wanting to create panic and crises in our nation. If it is not tackled head on, we will have ourselves to blame.
Added to this is the threat of Fulanization and what former President Obasanja called Islamization of the country. Do you think it is real?
That question will not readily attract any direct comment from me and I will tell you why. It is because my job is to Christianize Nigeria through the propagation of the gospel of Jesus. As long as what they want to do… anybody can attempt to Islamize another as long as the person is an apostle of peace. If you’re preaching Islam to people, they have a right under the constitution to gather, but nobody can Islamize this country by force. We are not going to fold our hands and wait for that to happen. You are going to kill all the Christians? Or you’re going to certainly without constitutional change make sure that only one religion will fill all the positions in the parties and government? Then, you’re looking for trouble when that happens.
Fulanization? There is no fury about it. I don’t fear Fulanis; I don’t fear the North; I fear God and I know we will continue to propagate the gospel, but violence breeds violence and nobody has monopoly of it. The Lord Jesus Christ is the prince of peace, but before he left, he told Peter and the rest of his disciples ‘do you have money? Go buy sword because you have to defend yourselves.’ And we should not let our nation to get to that level. Nobody has monopoly of violence. Nobody has monopoly of thuggery. We do not want to destroy our future and destroy our children and use them as cannon fodders to create trouble and die in the prime of their youths. Do we want progress in this nation? Do we want increase in this nation? Peace is the foundation of increase. If we don’t have peace, we cannot attract direct foreign investments and respect. If there is no peace even our manufacturers can’t function properly. We are destroying ourselves on a daily basis by letting loose all this criminals on rampage. It is not in our best national interest. It is not in the best interest of the government, it is not in the best interest of the people.
The lopsidedness in the composition of the security architecture of the country, do you not think it is part of our security challenges and a threat to the corporate existence of the country?
Well, that has been over-flogged. It is there, but it is not going to last forever. We are hoping that in the next few months when we see the next composition. As far as I am concerned, it is the prerogative of the president to choose who he wants to be his army chief, naval chief, and this and that, but based on the constitution of our country; it cannot be lopsided without creating trouble. It can’t.
But it is already lopsided.
Oh well, then you fix it. You know there is seniority in the armed forces, which determines appointments.
But people from other ethnic groups are usually retired to pave way for the lopsided nature of the security structure?
I can’t say things I am not sure of. If they are retired for that purpose then somebody is shooting himself in the foot.
What is your position on the RUGA controversy and the proposed cattle ranches? Note that some governors have vowed not to co-operate with the Federal Government over it.
Nobody can compel any government or governor to bring land. Look, the Land Use Act, which was formerly a decree vests the land in any state on the governor. Right now, any governor that says I am not part of this, you can’t force him. There is nothing that can compel him to do it. And the governor that wants to do it is at liberty to do it. From what we have read from government side, it is those who want it that should apply. But if they say it is going to be compulsory, that is where you will have trouble in your hands.
What about subtle moves by the Federal Government and the National Assembly to repeal the Land Use Act in order to enable the Federal Government to appropriate land nationwide for any desired purpose?
Such moves, I don’t know. If they are doing it…the Yoruba say that the child that says his mother will not sleep, he too will not sleep. The rest are not going to fold their hands. I don’t know much about the moves, but if it is true that they want to take the land and do what they like with it, then it will not get to my village because I know the owners of my father’s farm.
You described former President Jonathan somewhere of running a corrupt government, but that his government was still better than that of Buhari because life was better for the people under him? I would like you to throw more light on this?
I don’t know where you got that from. Those are not my words. I don’t speak that way. Quote where you got that.
It was all over the Internet.
Anybody can say anything. Social media can mislead. Give it to me facts and figures, where and when I said that.
Anyway, let’s move away from that. 2023 beckons. Do you think a southern president is possible?
A Nigerian president is possible. It can be from the South, it can be from the North. For peaceful arrangement and for the stability of our country, even those in the North had conceded in times past when it was the southerners’ turn. When Obasanjo came and Yar’Adua died, a southerner still took over. A northerner is there now. It cannot be one part of the country dominating the rest of the nation forever. It will not augur well for the nation. Whoever that person is, I pray he will be a pan- Nigerian to plan progress and who will think about how to move our nation forward.
It is no brainer that someone from the North had eight years of uninterrupted tenure. Then, someone from the South should also do it. Fair is fair. But again, it depends on the party that will produce the president. We seem to have two major parties and that was because of the merger that took place in 2012 that produced Buhari’s presidency in 2015. In 2023, depending on the party that is producing who because if your party is not strong like those small parties there is no headway. They are just wasting time. If we are going to have two strong parties, usually you cannot determine forehand which party will win.
What do you consider as the role of the church in nation building, especially at a time like this?
I have spoken endlessly on that. The primary assignment of every church and the body corporate of the church is to disciple nations. You cannot disciple nations except you’re involved. You’re the salt of the nation, the light of the world. The seven mantles of culture will be where the church will focus attention on, education, religion, family, arts and entertainment, media, economy, politics. Those are the seven mantles of culture. When you have strategic changing men in those places, in no time we will be able to address serious issues in this nation and have personnel that we can trust. When I stepped into politics in 2011, it was regarded as anathema. The church rose against me, but today, we are seeing the results. It is a pastor that is the vice- president of Nigeria. Do you understand me? And there are many Christians who are governing states also. Let’s start that way.
You just mentioned your participation in politics as the presidential running mate of the current president in 2011. Looking back now, what were your sad and sweet experiences?
I don’t have any sad experience. I thoroughly enjoyed what I was doing. I believed strongly in what I was doing, because the manifesto that we had, spelt out the issue of restructuring of this country; spelt out the issue that no Nigerian would be asked to fill form and give state of origin and state of residence anymore and that we were going to work hard on the issue of the economic development of our nation. I regard that period as great and I never have a single regret about my participating. It is not over yet. I will still participate in the future. I will support those who are participating because no other people will come and develop our nation for us. It will be done by Nigerians of diverse experience from all walks of life; both those in the Diaspora and those of us at home. I have no sad experience or regret that ooh, I wish I didn’t participate. For me, it was a great opportunity to add value to what was going on in secrecy then. It was my singular privilege and honour to move the motion for the merger that produced the APC between ACN and CPC that eventually produced the president. It was a singular honour. I thank God I participated.
Politicians have this reputation of stabbing others at the back. During that time, can you recall any one that stabbed you at the back or betrayed you?
It is part of life. Jesus was betrayed. That is part of life. You can’t say because one person betrayed you, then you hands up and shut down and let them amputate your destiny, no. A number of people betrayed, but I have no record of wrongs or who did this or that to me. I just gained wisdom on how to handle people more; relate with others and your skills are sharpened and you’re toughened more. If you look at the bad sides you will not see the good. As they say in Yoruba, if you shut your eyes because bad men are passing, when the good ones are passing you will not see them.
People say you have a good future in politics. It could be because of your televangelism and your reputation that cut across all spectrums. As you just hinted, do you have plans to take a shot at the presidency this time?
All things are possible.
How soon will that be?
I keep my powder dry. When the time comes, if God is leading me in that direction, everybody will know. When it was time to come out in 2011 and opportunity beckoned, we considered it and went for it. I am not building any war chest, neither am I doing anything now like venturing to say I am going to open up the 36 states. No, no, no!
Look, God is not Pharaoh. He will not ask you to take bricks without milk or straw. If God is leading me that way, he will provide the wherewithal. The race is sometimes to the swift, the battle is not sometimes to the strong. If it is that way, Goliath should have defeated David. So, I take my time and wait for God and wait for his direction. But, playing active role in politics is not necessarily seeking political office. You can still add value. Sometimes influence is stronger than power.
If you become the president of Nigeria today, what will be your first priority?
I am not the president of Nigeria. When I become one, I will tell you what I will do. It is unfair to look at the person there as if he is not doing anything. I have a propositional platform called the International Centre for Reconstruction and Development. We propose, we go to government, we go to ministers, we go to the president and say we think this, we think that. If they find it good, they take it and implement it, rather than sitting down and saying if I were this or that. I don’t have such attitude.
How would you want to be remembered when you are no longer here?
Well, as someone who came; who served. I served God and I served mankind. And as one who left the world better than he met it. As simple as that. A man who raised his children in such a way that there will be a continuum and who will leave a lasting legacy.
You were reported to have placed a spiritual embargo on the 2015 elections, especially in the shift of voting dates. What actually inspired you to place the embargo?
I already wrote that in my book,” Strategic Intervention in Governance”. 2015 has come and gone. You don’t want me to look or be looking at the rear mirror all the time and be driving forward. Let us leave that behind us. I saw crises ahead; I saw trouble ahead and God knows, President Jonathan knows, President Buhari knows what role I played behind the scene with senior high commissioners in this country behind the scene to stem the tide of evil. I thank God the embargo was lifted. I remember the words that I spoke then and it all literally came to pass. And if you think that the loss of PDP is the gain of APC, pray that APC’s pain will not become PDP’s gain.
How do you see the next two to three years in our polity?
Let us solve these insecurity crises in our hands. Let us work on generating wealth and increasing our distributive pool, not just by focusing on oil, but by also developing other things in the country just like Agriculture as it is done in the North and also in the South. Let us find a way of arresting these restless youths that are now taking to crime by creating job opportunities for them. Let us find a way of curtailing crime in our country. Let us look at everywhere we have strength to create a rebirth of the nation that everyone can be proud to be citizens of.
There are fears that this nation may disintegrate if normalcy is not quickly restored. Who and who will you hold responsible if it happens?
I do not pray for a second that my nation should disintegrate. But a constitution that cannot bend will break. But I want to say of Rehoboam who said that my father beat you with sticks, I will beat you with scorpion. My little finger is stronger than the loins of my father. The children of Israel said to your tents Oh Israel. I don’t pray to see that in my lifetime.
The disintegration of this country will more or less lead to the collapse of Africa. Let us just be careful about the things we say. However, having said that, we cannot remain the way we are and expect that not to happen. We need to radically rise up now and fix it before we have ourselves to blame. There will be no one to be held responsible other than ourselves who with our eyes open have allowed termites to enter them.
There was a Confab in 2014, which is presently gathering dusts in the cabinet. Don’t you think that the Confab, which addressed virtually all the things that are holding us back today would have been handy to bring Nigeria out of the brink?
There had been conferences before that Confab in 2014, but that probably was the largest gathering of who is who in this country. I participated in it and so did some of my friends. I know it was only three or four us that did not take a penny from the Federal Government to participate – Fola Adeola, I, Olisa Agbakoba and I think someone else. We did not take a dime. We spent our own resources. We were there alongside others to contribute our quota. One of the problems of Nigeria is that government has not been a continuum. If it has been a continuum some people would have sat over it to say what can we benefit from this?
Let us synthesize and apply at policy level of the government without necessarily going to the National Assembly to adopt it into law. Things that we can implement in that report that will benefit the nation are like low hanging fruits. Here, the attitude is whatever he did I don’t want to build on it. Whoever comes will not like to build on mine. That is what has been responsible for our setback these years. I remember the day that the report was presented at the end of the conference, I was crying because I knew that if that were specified there were to be followed, some of the problems we are having now, we will not have them. – Culled from The Sun.