The Founder, Latter Rain Assembly, and running mate of Maj.Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) during the 2011 presidential election, Pastor Tunde Bakare, speaks to Sahara TV in an interview monitored by The PUNCH. Excerpt
There is an audio file being shared all over the social media that you have endorsed President Goodluck Jonathan for re-election.
You know that is not true, you just need to listen to the 49-minute clip that is on the Internet that said I am supporting Jonathan. There is nothing there. Even in the said audio, it is crystal clear that I said I am 100 per cent in support of Buhari.
In that same audio, you said you were waiting for the outcome of the Osun and Ekiti elections before commenting on some issues. Now that those have come and gone, what should Nigerians expect?
That shows you how old the audio clip was. It was sometime in England, among global pastors that I explained to them what was going on in Nigeria. The comment was made just immediately after the Ondo State election. So, that was my considered opinion about the happenings in Nigeria at that time as I explained to them. But the Ekiti and Osun elections have come and gone and we thank God that there was no widespread violence; whether there will be elections in 2015 or not is another kettle of fish because Section 135 of the constitution that stipulates that the presidential election must take place all over the country at the same time. Will they be able to do so in the northeastern states? If they are able to do so then there is no cause for alarm but if the emergency rule − which has not yet been extended or the uproar and constant barrage of attacks by Boko Haram is still taking place− then it might be difficult to conduct an election there.
A close ally of yours, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, seems openly predisposed to President Jonathan’s re-election. Wouldn’t that compromise your position?
Yinka Odumakin is who he is. He is an adult, there is freedom of association. He cannot say anywhere that he and I are in a particular political party. I am not in the PDP and everybody knows that. When President Jonathan sent for me because of what we had done in the past, and wanted us to forge a new course for Nigeria, I told General Buhari before I went to see the President. I do not double-deal and there is nobody in the world who can say “he took this from us so that he could deliver this message.” I love my country; I will contribute my quota regardless of party affiliation to see that Nigeria is at peace and that Nigeria is making steady progress. When it comes to partisan politics, I know where my loyalty lies. First and foremost, I fear God. Secondly, I do not betray those who trust me and thirdly, you will never find me in any game of double-standard. I am not double-faced that you will not know where I stand. My conviction is so deep that you will always know where I stand on issues and before the year ends, I am going to clarify all these issues and let people understand when I do my state of the nation address either before the end of the year or the first thing next year.
You have said you are not in the PDP. Does that mean that you are in the All Progressives Congress?
A house divided against itself cannot stand. I ran an election with Buhari on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change. My concern has been expressed to him in private and some of the things we said in private are coming out in my book, “Strategic Intervention in Governance” that will be launched on January 23, 2015. In the book, I stated why I find it inconceivable to jump into bed with certain characters. Outside of that, I know that with trustful give-and-take, if Nigerians will priortise the development of our nation, the anti-corruption stand definitely, he (Buhari) has all the things going for him in that direction. Can he do it all by himself? No, a tree does not make a forest. There are some characters that you don’t want to get into bed with but outside of that, and you will not find me talking against the interest of General Buhari any day because we have come a long way but the CPC is not the APC. The APC is made up of ANPP (All Nigeria Peoples Party), a part of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, the Action Congress of Nigeria and the CPC. These are the legacy parties.
Were you part of the decision that made Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) the running mate of Buhari?
Let me say first that it (Osinbajo’s emergence) is a welcome development. I cannot deny that I did not know what was happening behind the scene because you cannot be in the kitchen and say you did not feel some heat. By the grace of God, I was part of the engine room and everything that was happening. I was not in the country. I went to Atlanta (United States) and then Canada when the final choice (Osinbajo) was made but if you see the way it was narrowed down, you will know that certain efforts by individuals must have been there to make that a reality. Politics is all about negotiation and you do not negotiate from a position of weakness but a position of strength. They were those who had thought that they should be the vice-presidential candidate and rightly so because they laboured but here we are in a nation divided along ethnicity and religiosity. If you then go ahead to feature a Muslim/Muslim candidate, it would be as if these people are trying to actually Islamise Nigeria. To avert that, they said whoever is going to appear as the vice-presidential candidate must be a Yoruba man and must be a Christian. A Yoruba to show that the South-West is an equal partner with the North-West and the rest of the North and a Christian to ensure the balance of faith. Let me tell you this: A lizard jumps from an Iroko tree and nods his head three times. He says if they don’t congratulate me, I will congratulate myself. The same people who used their mouths anyhow when I went into politics, I wonder what they will say now because another pastor has emerged. The lesson that we should learn from this is that if you are digging a hole for a man, make it shallow because you may fall into it.
Some people now describe you as a political pastor. Are you now finally in politics?
Those who talk that way don’t really know my antecedent. If they did, they would have shut their mouths because right from my university days, I was in the student union and was actively involved. When the UPN (Unity Party of Nigeria) started, a former Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, and I, along with a few others started the youth wing of the UPN at the University of Lagos. We went to Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s house when we were being mentored by him and in my own way I have contributed in some measure to the political evolution in Nigeria. When Nigeria was in the throes of crisis over the absence of former President Umaru Yar’Adua, by the grace of God, I convened the Save Nigeria Group and led protests and when President Jonathan was being treated with impunity, we fought to a standstill and when the same Jonathan decided to increase the fuel pump price, we summoned our people and went to Ojota. So, those who call me a political pastor don’t know what they are saying. There is worse politics inside the church than outside because if you see the role that certain clerics who are in the forefront of the PFN (Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria), and CAN (Christian Association of Nigeria) are playing, it is worse than the politics that is in the world but I don’t want to judge anyone, I leave every man to God. Even General Overseers and General Superintendents apply politics on a daily basis to know who should be where. It is the art of negotiation. God, not Satan, created government; leadership is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, he that leads must lead with diligence, the Bible says. There are ministers of God who are not necessarily on the pulpit according to Romans chapter 13. It calls tax collectors and those working in the civil service as God’s ministers. We have confused a number of things and we come up with mumbo-jumbo and over-classify things and say because this person is a pastor, he should not do this. Have you forgotten that clerics like Rev. Martin Luther King (Jnr.) risked his life for the dream he had and if there was no Bishop Desmond Tutu, I wonder what would have happened to the issue of apartheid in South Africa. I used to have a parting at the back of my head when I was young. It means “let them say.” I am not a politician, I am a nation builder.
You were at the National Conference for five months and did not collect any pay. How do you feel now that it seems the report will not be implemented?
If those resolutions are not implemented by Jonathan, I will call him the greatest hypocrite that ever led this nation. I hope that will not happen to him because there are some of us who have made up our minds that we will demand for its implementation and by the grace of God we have what it takes to make it happen.