A Lopsided Governance Will Destroy Nigeria’s Unity, Pastor Tunde Bakare Warns

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Tunde Bakare, Senior Pastor of Latter Rain Church, apart from his passion for the unity and holiness in the Body of Christ, is highly concerned about the goings-on in the polity. He recently granted TheNEWS an interview in Lagos. In that chat with ADEMOLA ADEGBAMIGBE, DAVID ODEY, LANRE BABALOLA, FEMI ANJORIN, he spoke on the state of the nation and even spared some moments to speak on the longevity of his mother, now 106 years old.

Pastor Tunde Bakare Photo Credit Idowu Ogunleye

Q: Over time, your relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari, even before he became president, has continued to wax stronger after your failed presidential bid in 2011. Why is it so?
A: Well, in life certain things are matters of destiny. One of the things God spoke in his word in the book of Genesis after He created everything, is that it was good. He knew and in the interim he said it was very good, but one day God said it is not good for man to be alone. No matter who you are, you will need somebody. God had made the world and us people in such a way that whether going up or coming down in life, you will be responsible for it. So people around you can either aid you to climb higher or they can force you to come down. That is why the Bible says, a righteous man chooses his friends wisely because the companion of fools mislead them.
In the fullness of time, when it pleased God, the path of General Buhari and I crossed in 2007 and we soon found out that we both have a lot in common. He is older and I respect him and has been at it longer than I am in the issue of nation building. I remember when we finished the Kaduna flag-off in 2011, I told him a story, I said, “General, we just finished,” he came into his living room and was about removing his shoes and he exclaimed “Jesus Christ!” And I was taken aback. He was like “Pastor, you don’t have monopoly of Jesus Christ”. I laughed and then I said to him, when I saw the crowd (and you really needed to be there that day), I said we shook the city and I told him the story of an ant that came on the back of an elephant because the ant could not go through the bridge without getting swept away by the flood that has hit the bridge, but it climb on the back of the elephant and crossed over to the other side and while they were crossing, the bridge was shaking and the ant said to the elephant after they crossed the bridge: “We shook the bridge”.
So our paths crossed, and I regard him as an elephant in political matters but this little ant (Bakare) has something to offer too and I choose not to barge in, I think that has caused our relationship to wax stronger.
Q: What is your assessment of his administration so far?
A: I think, if I may use the word ‘inherited’ because it is not like a family affair like you inherit your father but because government is a continuum, you must have inherited a terrible mess, and to clean the house takes the time you have seen to even bring some sanity into the house. The Bible says in Ecclesiastics 11, when a tree falls on a tree, where the tree falls it stands. The Yoruba man says when a tree falls on a tree, you start removing it from the top, because if you try removing it from the ground, you break your back. It will be too heavy. Systematically, they have been trying to remove the rot because there was a syndicate of rot in the country, as we are beginning to find out. So, my assessment is yes, the administration might appear to be slow but slow and steady wins the race.
Q: A lot of people see you as a power broker in this present dispensation…
A: what is your definition of power broker? You will educate me.
Q: That you have a hand in the nomination of some of the ministerial nominees; that you participated in picking who would be minister in the present government…
A: That is your definition of a power broker and I did not. I did not broker anything for myself.
Q: They said you have a hand in the nomination of Fayemi and Fashola
A: That question should be directed to those who said I have a hand, it should be directed to them, not me. The president himself on the 1st of October did say to the nation, “after due consultation with the vice president and the party leadership”, and if he said that, he meant it. I do not hold any post in the party and I am not the vice president by the grace of God. Do you understand me? If anybody has a hand anywhere it should be directed to those he mentioned or else I will be violating a norm. I learnt from one of the icons of the evangelical mission in the world today, Billy Graham, he says whenever God gives you access to men in authority, what they share with you or what you share with them is not for public consumption. But I will be honest with you, as far as those bothering themselves whether I have a hand or not, my two hands are up here. The question to ask is, does Fashola merit to be appointed, does Fayemi merit being appointed? You can see for yourself whether those people had contributed to his emergence as a president of Nigeria today and if they deserve being given that opportunity to continue to serve. Anybody can put a hand in anything, if it is rubbish, President Buhari will not take it.
Q: As a follow up to that, some really think you are supposed to be one of the nominees…
A: Those who think that way should mind their own business.
Q: There is also a follow-up to that follow-up, that you ought to play a role in this administration given your closeness to the government. I mean President Buhari and your concern for the wellbeing of this country…
A: Those who know me very well know that I believe very strongly that good leaders don’t need title, or occupy any office to contribute their quota to nation building. Leaders focus on functionality. Am I being able to contribute my quota from behind the scenes, or am I being able to contribute my quota in the frontlines? You don’t need a title to be a leader, you don’t need the paraphernalia of office to contribute your quota. As far as I am concerned, deep rivers flow with majestic silence. I will continue doing what am doing for the advancement of this nation whether now or in future in the way I have chosen to serve. Do you know God’s signature is upon the ocean but you can’t see it? The great Everest, Mt Kilimanjaro, when you see them, you don’t see his photograph on them. (The Yoruba say “Oba ta ori, tan ri ise owo re) the visible things illustrate the attributes of an invisible God. I prefer to be like my maker to just act out good things so that they don’t grow stale. Time will tell.
Do you know God’s signature is upon the ocean but you can’t see it? The great Everest, Mt Kilimanjaro, when you see them, you don’t see his photograph on them. (The Yoruba say “Oba ta ori, tan ri ise owo re) the visible things illustrate the attributes of an invisible God. I prefer to be like my maker to just act out good things so that they don’t grow stale. Time will tell.
Q: When we look at the president before he came to power and when he was to contest, one of his cardinal programmes was to fight corruption and when he got to office he started fighting corruption. But the way he is fighting corruption, some people have been criticizing him. What is your take on this?
A: Well, Nigeria is a very complex society. Complex in the sense of administration. It is difficult to administer a multi-faceted nation like Nigeria. You can’t please everybody. I will share a story with you. Moses prayed in Deuteronomy chapter 1, and said May God multiply you a thousand times more. These are more than 600,000 able men minus women and children. He said May God multiply you a thousand times more, so population is not the problem. When I say it’s complex, am not talking about population because India is bigger, far bigger. What is the problem? Moses said “I alone cannot bear your complaints, your problems and your burden”. At Latter Rain Assembly for example, our leadership structure focuses on ensuring that complaints are dealt with within 72 hours max, because complaints that are not looked into become problems and problems not solved will become burden and when they become burden, they are much more difficult to solve. So, if he is fighting corruption, he alone cannot fight it. He is not the EFCC or ICPC chairman, he is not the Inspector General of Police; he is not the Director General of parastatals or permanent secretary. To put paid to the corruptive tendencies in our nation requires a change of heart by every Nigerian, especially those who are benefitting from the proceeds of corruption.
Again corruption is not something you define as kickbacks. No. From Genesis chapter 6, wherever you see corruption, you see violence. The real corrupt men are stinkingly wealthy and they are amassing that wealth on daily basis to cause confusion, unfortunately the little girl that becomes a parcel bomb carrier is not the real problem, somebody wired her up. And if you are going to tackle corruption at the root level, you need to go to the root causes of the problem and unlock the taps in those places or disconnect their power base and to do that requires much more than propaganda, not just talking loud and accomplishing nothing. So, whether he is winning or not winning, almost all the western powers agreed that Nigeria deserves help and they are coming in left, right and centre to help us, not only to deal with Boko Haram but to help and assist in our fight against corruption.
I was by God’s grace, on the good will of Mr President, part of the delegation to Washington and the first meeting we had was with the late Ambassador Adefuye of blessed memory and, Madam Secretary, Madeline Albright. I said Nigeria does not need a dime from America, what Nigeria needs now is for America to help us with the kind of enforcement or legislation they have in America. That no American citizen anywhere in the world can put money in any bank anywhere in the world, which that bank will not report back to the American system. They know they have the loot of corrupt men and women, probably children who have been influenced by the corrupt tendencies of their parents, of hiding that stolen wealth. So we asked them to help Nigeria in those areas; to put prosecution before restitution because when judgement is not speedily executed the hearts of men are set to do evil.
Why there is no widespread corruption in America as we see in our country is there is a system put in place to detect it early. How can NNPC have 45 bank accounts? Who traces what? With the TSA (Treasury Single Account) you discover trillions that have been mopped up in few months from money that is somewhere that they find a way of dispensing anyhow. So let us fight this war intelligently. I think that is what Mr President is saying and in a way the just will not be vilified because not all Nigerians are corrupt and not all those that pass through government are corrupt men. Now rotten apple is enough to destroy a carton of apples, but let’s separate the chicken from the pigeons.

Bakare:

So I think he is determined to fight this. In the first place, we put restitution before prosecution, therefore we just drop money and give a slap on the wrist of those who are ruining the nation, sending them to a seven-star hospital to spend their jail term. They call it plea bargain – just get some money and go away. If I have stolen N40 billion and you were able to get N30 billion, I live on the remaining ten and still use the ten to invest times two and still punish you if I can by ensuring that crooked men are there. First and foremost there should be prosecution and then restitution follows and then everyone will line up and say “oh there are consequences for your actions. When chances present themselves and you make your choices, be ready for the consequences. That is the hallmark, in my opinion, of where President Buhari stands.
Q: Some people have taken the ethical question further by saying people have stolen, if you have stolen, don’t take our money out, invest it here, so that people will enjoy it, people will get employment. What is your reaction to this?
A: That is not ethics. That is language of the syndicate of rot. It is annoying, so you can steal it and invest it here, what does that mean? Whether you take it abroad or you keep it here, you are a thief. You should be treated like a common criminal. I am sorry.
Q: Let’s take a look at the ministers. Many Nigerians are complaining that they voted for change and now many of them are old politicians – recycled. They are asking, this is not the change we voted for and Mr President is taking them back.
A: Give me examples..
Q: Audu Ogbeh was a minister in Shagari’s government
A: Audu Ogbeh was a minister, former chairman of PDP. Look, Moses was 40 years old when he killed an Egyptian. At the age of 80, God came to him and said you are still my man for the job. At the age of 40, Caleb alongside Joshua were sent with 10 others to spy the land. Ten  brought evil report, 2 brought good report. My mother gave birth to me, I gave birth to my daughter. My mother was 106 on October 28. Before my daughter got married, she had to go back to her grandmother to get blessing. It is called trans-generational impact. It is not recycled or old hand that is the issue. The queen of England has been in power since when? She is the longest reigning monarch in history of monarchy in Britain. The issue is not about old hands or whether he’s been there or not. I am not saying that we should not try young hands, but we should look for those who have been tested and rugged and who have this anti-corruption inclination. A new broom sweeps clean but an old broom knows where to go. So, we need a combination of both.
The queen of England has been in power since when? She is the longest reigning monarch in history of monarchy in Britain. The issue is not about old hands or whether he’s been there or not. I am not saying that we should not try young hands, but we should look for those who have been tested and rugged and who have this anti-corruption inclination. A new broom sweeps clean but an old broom knows where to go. So, we need a combination of both.
The Yoruba say the young and the old combined is a wisdom that has great effect The young man’s hand cannot reach the roof of the tent but the old man’s hand is too big to go through the palmwine gourd. So, you need where the young can go and the old can go. The collaborative effort of both is what will make Nigeria a great nation. As God said, “in the last days I will pour my spirit upon flesh – your young men shall see vision, your old men shall dream dreams.” Visions represent foresight, dreams represent insight. To bring stability to any nation is when insight stabilises foresight. You need both, but if you say any of them that has been chosen is corrupt, then you cannot use corrupt men to fight corruption. But if it is in the realm of allegation let it stay there. Once it is proven, I know what President General Buhari will say.
Q: What are the pitfalls or banana peels President Buhari should avoid to succeed?
A: You mentioned a word, banana peels. That’s a word used by the late Professor Abiola Ojo. He said that “this Supreme Court was standing on a banana peel, so it took a somersault.” He said this during a court case many years ago. President Buhari is not a new kid on the block, you cannot put him in the same class of those who just started yesterday and were lucky to be in government. For him, it has been a dogged process, like three, four cycles of election in Nigeria before he became the president. He started, if my memory if serves me right, since 2003, 2007, 2011, he actually stood publicly and said “No more!” Until by God’s grace, some of us put pressure on him and said “you cannot say no more”, never say never because you never can tell.
Like Abraham Lincoln, one more try could change the whole thing and thank God, that which we thought too has come to pass; those who think he carried something that could bring genuine change to the country. Someone asked a question, “is it the change we need?” When a caterpillar is in a cacoon, there is a lot of shaking, if you stop that process, it will never become a buttefly. So change is not immediate release of funds, stock fish like in the days of General Gowon who said Nigeria’s problem was not money but how to spend it and I know he meant well, even him because he was not corrupt. We didn’t see any money that he stole. We need to re-lay the foundation. To raise the foundation for many generations, we have to do it right but let me come back to the issue you raised – pitfalls, he is not a new kid on the block.
The Yoruba say the young and the old combined is a wisdom that has great effect The young man’s hand cannot reach the roof of the tent but the old man’s hand is too big to go through the palmwine gourd. So, you need where the young can go and the old can go. The collaborative effort of both is what will make Nigeria a great nation. As God said, “in the last days I will pour my spirit upon flesh – your young men shall see vision, your old men shall dream dreams.”
If he has gone through four electoral cycles, he was military governor in the north eastern states where there is crisis is now, north east is making Nigeria a banana republic, so that’s part of his heritage or his legacy, he was Federal Commissioner for Petroleum which we now call Minister of Petroleum before he became head of state. So does that man really need my counsel? He knows exactly what to do because he has been there for a long time. If I am put on the spot to say something to him, I will tell him “rememeber, what takes you to the top must sustain you there because there must be a reason why you have been pursuing this. Now that you have laid hold of it, regardless of whose ox is gored, keep your eyes on the ball because when you keep on doing what is right, what is wrong will leave you alone.”
Q: There is a security problem that Nigeria doesn’t seem to really tackle headlong now. It is the Fulani herdsmen. Recently Chief Olu Falae was kidnapped, after his release, his farm was also ravaged by Fulani herdsmen, it went to the extent that Yoruba elders said Fulani people should be banned from the southwest? How can this menace be tackled?
A: I thank you very much. I was invited to the meeting billed to address the issue but I couldn’t make it. It is a very sad day when the purpose of government is violated right before us. It is something I think is lost on the part of the governed and those who are governing. And what I think is lost is the purpose of government. The primary purpose of government is the security and welfare of the citizens. Now, let me digress a little because one can be emotional about what has happened to a respected elder statesman like Chief Falae who, on his 77th birthday, was captured like a common criminal. I don’t want to use the word peasant, he has served this country as secretary to the federal government, he has been a former MD/CEO of a bank in this nation after years of civil service as permanent secretary and then he was a presidential candidate. If what happened to him, happened to the green tree then what do you think is happening to dry trees?
I think the Chief Falae phenomenon, the attack on his person has given us a magnifying lens to see the problem the ordinary citizens who were raped, maimed had faced in time past and Chief Falae incident is bringing it to the fore, and it is catching attention now. According to Shakespeare, “When beggars die, there is no comet seen, but the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes”. I think the near death experience of Chief Falae has now put the whole thing in the front burner because the president dispatched the IG immediately. I want to see a nation where attention is paid to every citizen’s security. Today it is the Fulani menace, and if we want to destroy ourselves, let us begin to fan the embers of ethnicity, or revenge and or retaliation. Vengeance has no foresight.
“Why would I attack Asiwaju? Talking of politics, he has paid his dues. People were not there when I preached the message and that really celebrated Tinubu. That he single handedly fought the PDP to a standstill in the southwest. I sent him the tape. Do you understand me? Again this is our society, the moment you focus on issues, they reduce it to personalities. May I ask you the question maybe that would throw light on areas that you call criticisms by those who do not know the difference between critique and a negative comment.”
I read the communiqué of the Yoruba leaders, they are not asking for revenge, they are only saying, in a nation where their people cannot fulfill their aspiration, it is time to renegotiate our being together as a nation and nobody will fault that reasoning. For years, the Igbos felt left out and MASSOB is still there till tomorrow, for years the Ogoni land pollution that eventually led to the unwarranted killing of Ken Saro-Wiwa and all the things that had happened in South-South led to all the Niger Delta militancy. There is a perversion of protecting the rich while not providing for the poor. A society that cannot provide for the poor cannot protect the rich. This has eventually led to what you call Boko Haram. At the beginning, they were attacking the police stations, but some other people had hijacked it now and they are telling people you don’t know where the next bomb is going to explode anymore even in the federal capital, I think time has come for us to know that to put a stop to all these menace is to sit down together and begin strategic thinking to renegotiate our peaceful coexistence.
Except Nigeria is restructured, the future is filled with retrogressive forces, you can hardly see any predictable progress. I am a firm believer that true federalism is the key to our national dilemma, that was why when I chose to run alongside General Buhari in 2011, the first promise, manifesto was restructuring Nigeria along true federalism. I think this is what this is calling for. Let us give Mr President time. There is no way we will not get there one day. We will have to get there because we feel we may be sitting on a time bomb.

Bakare Photo Credit: Idowu Ogunleye

Except Nigeria is restructured, the future is filled with retrogressive forces, you can hardly see any predictable progress. I am a firm believer that true federalism is the key to our national dilemma, that was why when I chose to run alongside General Buhari in 2011, the first promise, manifesto was restructuring Nigeria along true federalism. I think this is what this is calling for. Let us give Mr President time. There is no way we will not get there one day. We will have to get there because we feel we may be sitting on a time bomb.
Q: There is this insinuation that President Buhari is not disposed to implementing the confab report and you participated in that …
A: Where did he say so?
Q: I mean that is the feeling out there, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, has already said he should not implement it, they came up with a statement. Nigerians want the report to be implemented because every part of the country was represented at the Cofab. So how come we are hearing this kind of depressing information that he will not implement it?
A: Well you said, a general feeling. No matter the feelings, he has not said so anywhere, the only remark he made privately and publicly that I am aware of is at that time they could not pay teachers, teachers were on strike, why did you have to devote N7 billon to paying for this kind of conference that normally elected officers could have looked into? If you have assembled them, a team of experts, and said these are areas that need restructuring, and if Mr President was very sincere for bringing this conference, why did he not implement some of it? Why? Do you understand me? When the conference report was being handed over to former President Goodluck Jonathan, if you were around me, you could see I was crying like a baby. I was in tears because I saw the future of Nigeria at a flash. That this is my biggest solution to the problems we were having but it will take trustful give and take. No one, there is nothing in the entire report that was not unanimously agreed to by delegates from North, South, East and West.
There was no single decision that we voted for and some people turned around to say they disagreed. I believe in Nigeria with all my heart but a lopsided Nigeria will do us no good. There is over concentration of power in the centre today and those things must be corrected for us to make progress and what we are practicing is called ‘federal paramountcy’ or ‘paramount federalism’. It is not going to augur well for this nation. Governments at local, state, federal levels must come to terms with how we have to govern ourselves and we that the centre is consuming money that is meant for development and that’s why no matter how long it takes, we will get there one day and restructure our country from the ravages of unitarism brought in by the military. This is not what the founding fathers negotiated.
Q: Let’s go to the economy. The country’s economy is in dire straits. How do you think we should go about tackling the economic problems in this country?
A: I hope by no economic blueprint you are not merely reducing the whole issue of monetary and economic policy to the journalistic pedestal language of dividends of democracy because there is more to it than meets the eye. No man, or head of family, parastatals, organization should be speculative in spending, no one should spend what he does not have. Our situation is so pathetic, for example, that our recurrent expenditure in the country is 70 percent. It is a shame. Where would the money come from for infrastructural development? We need a lean government. I heard some of the Senators quoting the constitution, that it is incumbent, mandatory upon the president to choose at least one minister from each state of the federation, and we have 36 states. Did we have 36 states in 1960? There was only one minister of education in the whole of the north and now we have 19 states with their commissioners of education,, there was only one minister of education in the whole of the west. Awo was able to spend 57 per cent of his budget on education alone, that gave people the rare opportunity to go to school; I would have died in a carpenter’s shed where I was packaged to go and learn carpentry. I wouldn’t be useful to my family or the nation today but for the foresight of that man that started free education the year I was born. Sixty years have come and gone and generations that benefited from that opened their eyes to begin to multiply unnecessary elite by having 36 commissioners of education minus minister of education and you think we don’t need restructuring our system of government?
“Buhari is a wise man, I know him enough that he will hear from the other side and he loves those who can tell him the truth point blank. He doesn’t have the big and large egos that some of our leaders have. He will listen and learn. If he finds out that you are a wheeler dealer around him, well the doors will be shut against you.”
 
What we have imbibed and embraced since the incursion of the military in 1966 has been extremely wastefulness. Today, not more than four state governments can self- sustain, namely Lagos, Kano, Rivers and perhaps Akwa Ibom. I don’t know of Bayelsa, though an oil-producing state, is yet to construct a simple bridge. You can do three third mainland bridges in Lagos and they cannot provide one bridge over the terrain in Bayelsa. And here we are today, we need to rethink, what we have done over the years is wasteful. You are asking for 36 ministers and Buhari is saying let us harmonise and have 19 ministries. Who made the law that we cannot change it? They imposed this constitution upon us, let us even set down this constitution. Look, even if we are going to follow that to a logical conclusion, show me how a clean man can jump into sewage tank and come out smelling like roses.
Let us think and change the law if we truly desire our nation to progress and we are not even asking you to scrap the states, create more if you need it. Within 6 geo-political zones, let each zone begin to focus on how to maximize the potentials, the resources to develop the 6 geo-political zones in Nigeria and let the centre be less attractive so that we can go back to healthy competition we had during or immediately after independence. Because of the western civilization we had, the resources the Western region used to produce the first television station in Africa before France, came from the proceeds of cocoa and agriculture. The rsources from cocoa also produced the University of Ife; the groundnut pyramids produced the Ahmadu Bello University, palm oil produced what we have or what we call University of Nigeria, Nsukka. The thinker is the enemy of the mob, but we have to think and reshape and renegotiate and restructure our country. If we don’t have restructuring, we have retrogression.
Q: Successive leaders in this country, had a problem or some people create one for them. These are people those who  go to tell the leaders what he wants to hear. What is your advice to President Buhari on how to treat people like that?
A: Some of the time when the fireworks of negative comments or attacks come to you, you want to listen to someone who will encourage you also. You see, it takes the two terminals of the battery to make your car work. If you unplug the positive or unplug the negative, your car will not move. Buhari is a wise man, I know him enough that he will hear from the other side and he loves those who can tell him the truth point blank. He doesn’t have the big and large egos that some of our leaders have. He will listen and learn. If he finds out that you are a wheeler dealer around him, well the doors will be shut against you.
Q: You talked about the economy. When you look at power, since President Buhari came into office, we can see some level of sanity in that sector but some people are giving the credit to the past government of Jonathan. Let’s have your view on that…
A: Very simple. I don’t know if you dug into the archives of former Daily Times and saw a Sunday Times report many years ago, of a man who acquired 21 different plots of land and built them halfway to lintel level and did not complete a single one before he died. I read it in the newspaper, he acquired 21 plots of land, for him to secure it, built them to lintel level. What’s the essence of you putting up all the things you need together and not being able to make it function? It wasn’t that those things were not available in the days of Jonathan. All that was needed was a leadership that will make people sit straight and say if you don’t perform you lose your job. That’s all you needed. That’s called leadership. Yes, some of the efforts might have been pulled back, probably he lacked the courage of Buhari, like if you cannot stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. We need to make things work.
When Nigerians see accurate leadership, when they see someone demonstrating that it can be done, they follow. At Ikeja airport here, you see bigmanism, everybody maneuvering…But do you know that it doesn’t matter who you are when you get to London? You have to queue in an orderly manner. So the problem is not Nigerians, it is systemic failure. If anybody should face the firing squad of public opinions or public criticism it should be Obasanjo. Look at how much he voted on power projects and for us having power, rather we became powerless. The late Yar’Adua will allow all the things brought in by Obasanjo to waste away. It takes a dynamic person to couple all components together. You know it is not only the battery that runs your car, there is a place for the engine, there is a place for even little radiator. There is a place for every one of those things coupled together that makes it work and it requires good leadership to put all the things together and you get good results. So let us say perhaps, Jonathan put the building blocks together but did not know how to, or the men around him, did not know how to make things function very well that the larger society would benefit. They can buy 12 million pounds house overnight.
Q: Is it right for President Buhari to man the petroleum ministry? Because it has been the talks on social media, some say he is supposed to be in charge because of the rot there, some say ‘No’, he should concentrate on governance and allow somebody to be there while he surpervises. How do you react to that?
A: I don’t react because all I see in the Bible is the acts of the apostle. What did you say the Senate said so that I can take it all together?
Q: The Senate said if he is going to be the petroleum minister, he should appear before them for screening…
A: You see sometimes we put the cart before the horse and people say if we put the cart before the horse that there will be no motion. There will be motion but you will be going backwards. Today the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy is still oil but people forgot that for about eight years Obasanjo was Minister of Petroleum in this country and he had no experience of Buhari when it comes to the petroleum industry. Look, it was during Buhari’s time that most of the refineries that they ran down now were built. So when it comes to the industry he knows his onions. And God has helped him to pick from outside someone that could bring some sanity into the system in the person of Ibe Kachikwu. Now should he allow a person like that, who is a technocrat coming from outside, not part of the rot to now be curtailed or contained by political process of frustrating the man who has direct link with the president? Because the ministers have become larger than life like the former minister of petroleum. She changed the group managing directors of NNPC at will; changed them like diapers. She changed at least four group managing directors in quick succession perhaps because they did not toe the line.
The board of NNPC did not meet more than three times under her because she boycotted the board and was taking direct authority from the president and it has brought us to where we are. Buhari says, “look, I have experience in this industry. I want to stop all the wastes. The things that were not working, they are now working, in two years you see the difference, if he continues to apply the same principles and dynamics that are brought in now and I think he is a better minister of petroleum than any other person. He worked side by side with the then petroleum minister when he was head of state.
Don’t think he is a micro manager, that is your fear. He did not even send a single note to Prof Tam David West when he appointed him as petroleum minister. They never met but he is a man who says I will not let the oil industry doom my administration. The looting and stealing that took place there must be curtailed and he wants to focus on that which is major, lest he begins to major in minor and minor in major. So, if I have my way, I won’t say to you more than what I am saying to you now, he will stay there and stablise it until he feels enough system structure and strategy have been built up there that it can now run itself smoothly.
Q: What is your advice to the administration at all the levels – federal and state-on how to tackle infrastructure decay, because our budget is structured in a way that the recurrent expenditure is higher than the capital expenditure, given the nature of the problem in the oil sector across the world.
A: No pain, no gain. It depends on what you want, if you want to focus on infrastructural development, there are some things you have to do right now and begin to point to long term benefits of what you are doing. Our people are willing followers, when they see leadership that shows interest in their future and the future of their children. Look I didn’t get married until I was 30. I was best man seven times for my friends (I used it to acquire suits!). Sometimes they will pull my leg and say, my children will be calling you big uncle and I said don’t worry and one day I faced them and said, you will find out that your children and my children will go to the same school. It is foresight and one day it came to pass. I got married. It is history now, my last child is out of the university. You cannot develop faster than the progress you made in your education sector.
Your capital development is being wasted on daily basis. When government and governance become accountable and you have a seat of governance that prioritises the needs of the citizen and the development of the nation, all these excesses will go. Ghost workers, engaging riff-raffs instead of the best and the brightest will stop. In Britain and America, they go to Ivy League universities to attract people into civil service because that is where policies are formulated but here we just employ anyone, until we change all that we cannot make any progress. We came into a league of the independent nations five years ahead of Singapore. But they are part of the first world today and we are still grappling with the biggest economy in Africa. Ghana took the ‘G’ in our giant, South Africa took the ‘I’ away so you have an ant.
Q: Let’s go to the church, you find many churches establishing educational institutions and now the majority of the children of the members of these churches cannot afford to pay the fees being charged by the institutions. This was not so when the missionaries came. Missionaries brought churches, education to educate everybody without discriminating between the rich and the poor. Now in some of the schools established by these churches many of the children cannot attend because of the high fees. What do say about this?
A: Your question is Catch 22 but I will not dodge it. The education those missionaries provided was subsidized. Education has never been free. It was subsidized by the missionary organization that brought them here or do you think that the books you were reading in those schools were not printed; the blackboard and the chalk used were not purchased? They were subsidized. Going back to mission established, or universities established by mission – Oxford, Cambridge, Emory University for example was established by the Methodist Church. The same Emory University charges $6,000 per month right now. Education is not cheap, let us not throw away the baby with the bath water.
The first thing we need to examine in your question is, do these Christian organizations, build the university or the schools with church funds? Do they go outside of the mission to go borrow money to establish those universities which means they have to pay that back? We need to examine that. I don’t want to judge what I do not fully understand, I don’t have a crèche, I hope to do so once our Citadel is built. We just received the approval. We will be able to have Citadel and perhaps make a difference because I have passion for the poor. The society that does not provide for the poor cannot protect the rich.
But let’s not judge that even members cannot attend those schools, let us also look at the government that has failed in making education a corner stone principle or factor in governance because one will not go to private schools if public schools are good. Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s daughter and Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s driver’s son went to the same school when Awolowo was Premier of Western Region. His driver’s son and daughter Tokunbo Awolowo went to the same school. Something is wrong and the church is part of the society; as the people so are the priest. The shepherd was once upon a time sheep. People deserve the leadership they get and leadership deserve the kind of people that follow them. But do not pass any judgement on Redeemers University as long as they are running accurately or pass judgement on Covenant University, I will say no, at least they gave opportunity to those who have been outside of university because we don’t have enough universities.
There are many people who are qualified today to enter universities but they don’t have space for them, but I know also that indeed if people have obtained mercy, if there are indeed people who came from poverty stricken background, then have mercy upon the poor. During the petrol subsidy crisis (in January 2012) I saw a banner that I will not forget. They lifted it up in Abuja, they lifted it here in Lagos also. You know what was written on it? “One day, the poor will have nothing to eat but the rich”. Our situation right now is that the church cannot continue to exist as an island of security in a quicksand of poverty because when Boko Haram entered churches there was no distinction between those who collected tithes and those who did not, and those who used it for education and those who did not use it for education. So what is our situation in summary, the poor man cannot sleep because he is hungry, the rich man cannot sleep because the poor is still awake.
Q: When we look at the campaign of PMB, we saw Asiwaju Tinubu as his backbone, he played a leading role in the emergence of Buhari as President. Recently in the church, I heard I wasn’t there, that you attacked Jonathan and Tinubu and when I look at your comment on Tinubu, I see that you always attack him, I want to ask, why?
A: Well, you told me you were not there, hearsay evidence are not feasible in court. Since you were not there, I would have asked you to go listen to the tape and come back because sometimes what looks like an attack is truth. Why would I attack Asiwaju? Talking of politics, he has paid his dues. People were not there when I preached the message and that really celebrated Tinubu. That he single handedly fought the PDP to a standstill in the southwest. I sent him the tape. Do you understand me? Again this is our society, the moment you focus on issues, they reduce it to personalities. May I ask you the question maybe that would throw light on areas that you call criticisms by those who do not know the difference between critique and a negative comment. Shall I pray for you that your children will not be greater than you? Will you say amen to that. So if God has used you to facilitate the emergence of someone who now performs better than you, shouldn’t you be happy.
My mother is a happy woman, she didn’t go to school but she sent me. And today she is at peace with herself that she has worked hard and worked well and I give her the honour. You may never meet my mother but you have met the letter she has written to the world. It not a letter written with ink and pen. Do you understand me. I don’t have any problem with Asiwaju. On 3rd of November 2014 I was in Asiwaju’s house and I said to him ‘Asiwaju, there are only four things left that I am pursuing in this world, and none of them is in your hands, my mother is 106, her prayer is that I should survive her and give her a befitting burial. Asiwaju, can you guarantee my being alive to do that?’ he said he can’t. No 2: ‘Asiwaju, I want to stay in health while waiting to give my mother a befitting burial, can any human being guarantee that?’ Nobody. I have five children by the grace of God, I want them to be greater than I am, and I don’t want them to go before me, ‘can you guarantee that?’
And finally I said I want to make heaven at the end, and to hear, ‘good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord your God’ can you guarantee that? he can’t. So why the basis of competition, what I am looking for is not in your hand. Am not looking for power, I am not looking for position, I am not looking for appointment. Can’t you understand that? I have never done contract in my life. So there is no basis for attacking Asiwaju except in the figment of the imagination of some people. But something touched me, and when matters are brought to me, I look at some of them, I take them all, sometimes I don’t bother myself because you must not fight every battle and lose the world.
But parents should be happy that their children are better, I couldn’t go to Emory University, I was a self sponsored student that worked – washing plate at a hotel around University of Lagos. I go there in the night, the lady , the owner of the hotel came to my 40th birthday to testify. I go there in the night to wash plates, she came to testify. I put the money together to educate myself, now my daughter went to Emory, passed through there, I was happy, I was crying and was happy at the same time. We were talking last time, my wife and I, she said nobody gave us a car when we got married. I said we had nobody to do that and now that God has enabled us to be able to do it ourselves, do you understand that? So our children should be greater. The ceiling of our own accomplishments should be their starting point, and we must not pull down our children. No. I stand by my word and will not change it for anybody.
Q: Pastor, have you noticed that CAN President Ayo Oritsejafor has disappeared from the public scene? Nobody hears about him again. This was somebody who was prominent during Jonathan’s administration…
A: Well, prominence is a matter of perception. Because Pastor Ayo still preaches to the best of my knowledge every Sunday to more than 10,000 people on the television, so maybe he has disappeared from certain areas and he is concentrating on other areas. So disappearance is perception.
Q: He was like a palace prophet. His visibility in Aso Rock then was prominent. People called him palace prophet…
A: It is not wrong to be a palace prophet if you are prophesying what is right. Nathan was a palace prophet, he rebuked David when he commited adultery with Batsheba. What you go to do at the palace is what will be said about you later. It is not wrong for a person to be close to the palace. But you said he was a palace prophet to Jonathan, is Jonathan still in power? Even Jonathan said he was forced out of his enclave because of the death of Mama HID to come and greet the family. So, if the man he was serving is no longer visible, do you expect him to transfer that to Buhari? Remember Buhari is a Muslim, maybe he can be ministering to the VP (Osinbajo).
Q: A few days ago, elder statesman Edwin Clark came out to rebuke former president Jonathan for his weakness, and this is a man who was there, who still has access to Jonathan. What do say about this?
A: I am wary in passing comments on everything I see in the papers, but if indeed that has happened I will consider it as shooting the wounded and I will be quick to restate that failure is an orphan, success has many fathers. You can be a doctor with the brain of a clerk, you will not know when to pass comments and when not to pass one. But I will simply say I won’t expect someone you look up to as a father to disown you publicly because the wisdom of the child is the wisdom of the father and maybe if your son is weak, it is not for you to now highlight and emphasise it. You have forgotten that it is your grace that he manifested because you publicly stood by him and called him your son. I think his first daughter is my in-law, married from Abeokuta, from my mother’s place in Abeokuta. So when I see Dr Clark we will settle the matter as in-law to in-law rather than settling it on the pages of newspaper. But honestly, if it is true, it is a very sad comment.
Q: Kidnapping is very rampant in the country. People are being kidnapped on a daily basis, we also have insurgency and other security challenges. How can our nation overcome all these problems?
A: You know Rome was not built in a day but Rome can be destroyed in a few seconds. Don’t look at the fruits, look at the roots. When you are rootless you are fruitless. They are the byproducts of something deeper, so treat that and you will see that it will begin to wane. But if all you do is to cut the leaves, the fruits, and the roots are still there, it will start again. Even if you cut the branches the tree will start again. You know that I am not suffering from kleptomania, it is not likely I will steal your phone, I have mine, I have colour TV, it is not likely I will come to your house to steal your black and white TV, but what I don’t have and I have done all I could do to have and the system denies me from having it, it will happen like it happened to a church at Idi Araba. Robbers went there and they left a note, after they had removed their TV, airconditioners, and some vital things, they wrote: “We the children of God have come to take away the goods of our father”. So it will happen.
The menace can be stopped when youthful energy is channelled towards a productive enterprise. I happen to be in the real estate industry, those who lay all these tiles, p.o.p. are all from Togo and Ghana. We have destroyed the middle class. Joblessness is not the greatest problem of the Nigerian youth. It is hopelessness. When there is life, there is hope, but when you withdraw hope from a person, and a generation, you have a time bomb in your hand. An idle man’s brain is the devil’s workshop. That’s what it will come to. You have taken hope away from a generation, they will hit back at the society and when it begins to happen even the so-called innocent will suffer. A student in Cambridge came from England and he saw an okada rider snatching the bag of a lady and he said you can’t do that and they shot him dead in front of his father’s house. Do you understand me? That’s what hopelessness does.
Q: Bumi your daughter got married recently, as a father how did you feel giving her out in marriage?
A: It was such a joyful thing because you don’t want your child to remain in your house forever and then you begin to do vigil for husband to come. So in the fullness of time God provided a good and godly man and they are married together. I am happy. They can be far away from me, it doesn’t matter but the grand children that will come out of it, they are mine. So there is no way you can rob me of those grand children. I am waiting for them. I want to spend quality time with them, at least time that I didn’t have to spend with their mother.
Q: How is mama? The last time we came to interview you in 2014, we saw how emotional you were talking about how she suffered to raise you and all that. How is she now at age 106?
A: She has lived a good life. I can call her for you and you can hear her voice loud and clear. She has lived a good life. She was waiting to see Bumi get married and now she is waiting for Bumi to have a child. So we are still at the long haul. I don’t think she is preparing to get out of here quickly but she has said to me: ” you took care of me in my lifetime, your children will do more for you, don’t waste money on expensive funeral for me because it does nothing to me and don’t let it hurt you.” She is the first school I learnt from and I thank God for her influence in my life. I am what I am by the grace of God. I have a disciplined mother and a supportive wife.

 

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