by Adeola Balogun, Nonye Ben-Nwankwo and Eric Dumo
In this interview with ADEOLA BALOGUN, NONYE BEN-NWANKWO and ERIC DUMO, Pastor Tunde Bakare of the Latter Rain Assembly speaks on a wide range of issues including his experience as a running mate to Gen. Muhammadu Buhari at the 2011 general elections
We heard you praising God for the Osun State governorship election despite the militarisation; don’t you think that the militarisation was responsible for the peaceful election?
I think I chose my words, I didn’t use militarisation; I used the word “federal presence.” I said in spite of the intimidating federal presence, things still went on peacefully. I have heard the word militarisation used, I do not necessarily subscribe to it. The reason being that the police are called peace officers and they were there to keep the peace. The military has been used lately in several elections because of the major environment, the violence going on and all kinds of electoral malpractices. In other places, elections are like picnic with citizens having the opportunity to exercise their rights. But when you are beginning to hear statements like “blood will flow,” “it is going to be fire for fire” and “you will be roasted,” you get scared. You begin to wonder if it is a matter of life and death. But that the Osun State election went peacefully, we thank God.
I also said that a time will come when we’ll stop suspecting ourselves. There are so many things that we cook up when things don’t go our way. We must become mature enough to accept defeat and concede to the winner like Governor Kayode Fayemi did in Ekiti without blood flowing or heads rolling.
Talking about general elections, you were once quoted as saying there might not be elections in 2015, but with what you are seeing now are you still holding on to that statement?
A number of things have taken place since I spoke. I remember it was 2012 that I started saying: take care of 2014 if you want 2015. There are two reasons why I have been saying that we should take care of 2014 and one of them is the conference. The national conference has brought us together to iron out some of our differences. I am not saying the conference is a magic wand that would bring all the solutions to our problems but definitely if there is courage to implement some of the things that we have resolved and are part of that report on the side of the executive and legislature; Nigeria would not be where it used to be. We are not where we ought to be, but we are not where we used to be. We have moved on.
Besides that, part of what makes 2015 a necessity is the 2016 census. Those are two extremely dangerous years. The year you are having general elections followed by census; those things are scary. So, if the foundation is not properly laid in 2014, we are playing with disaster.
Some people saw your participation at the national conference as a signal that you were coming into politics again, is this true?
Maybe you need to dig deeper and find out why I participated. Number one, I didn’t select myself; I didn’t force myself on the government. I represented the South-West geo-political zone. When the elders met, they put my name down. I pleaded with them that I would not even have the time. But they insisted that they wanted me there and you don’t reject your elders if they feel you have something to contribute or they consider that you are relevant.
Two, while I was still battling with who will represent me at the conference, the Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, also put forward my name. At that point I decided to give it a chance. But I gave a condition and that condition was that I would not take a penny from the conference; I would not be given any allowance and I wrote a letter to that effect and they replied me. I did this so that if anything went wrong, I would retain my freedom to express myself freely. That does not mean others who took the allowance are bad people. No! We see things from different perspectives. Staying in Abuja is very expensive. I won’t tell you how much I spent but I travelled on each occasion with my research team and about three to four staff and we stayed in a suite which is quite expensive.
Have you joined politics again?
I have never joined politics. I am a nation builder, I am not a politician. I sleep well, I wake up well. I have no ambition; there is no desire to be anything in politics. All I want to see is a nation that works. If you ask me today if I am seeking any elective office, my answer will be no. I was asked to be a running mate to Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, I was not looking forward to it at all. But if I am beckoned upon to do something, I will pray about it and if I see that it does not negate what I stand for and believe in, why not? The truth is that if good people don’t participate in politics, then we will continue to endure the rule of idiots.
When you were asked to be a running mate, did you ask God about it or did He tell you to go ahead?
Several times Paul would say in the Bible that “this is I speaking but not the spirit of God even though I have the spirit of God in me.” With every sense of modesty, a man like me would not jump without looking. If you don’t look and you leap, you can leap into disaster that would backfire on you and everything you stand for in the society. When my book is out, it would be clear to all the process it took for me to be a running mate.
I sat in my house, leading a group called Arrow Heads which is already public knowledge after Mallam Nasir El-Rufai wrote about it in his book, ‘Accidental Public Servant.’ We gathered a group of Nigerians we felt could make a change in our clime. People like Oby Ezekwesili, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Donald Duke, Nasir El-Rufai, Nuhu Ribadu, Fola Adeola, Jimi Lawal, Yinka Odumakin, Jimi Agbaje, Wale Osun and a few others. We said to ourselves that we should form the Arrow Heads to produce a change. And when I was given the privilege of being the chairperson of that group, I told them I would only accept on two conditions. Number one, that I would not join any political party and number two, I would not seek any elective office so that if there is a dispute, I can effectively resolve it. Those around me know that I have no desire for a political office but those who don’t know me think I am an opportunist. Gen. Buhari called me on January 15 of that year and said, that he had done his own little prayers and he wanted to ask me to be his running mate. I told him I couldn’t because I lead a group and I had given them my word and that my word is my bond. I also told him that I had no desire for a political office; all I wanted to see was a change and be among those who work behind the scene. So, Gen. Buhari asked me to pray about it that he would get back to me. Within six or seven hours, he called back and I told him that I had not consulted my people. The first person I called among others was my wife and daughter and then spoke to Pastor Adeboye twice on it.
Yes…you see people don’t know things that happen behind the scene. I spoke to him twice and he said look, don’t be afraid, step in there, whether you win or lose, God is taking you somewhere. I didn’t jump because of that. I spoke to my mother and she said she had a dream about it six months before; I still didn’t jump. I thought it would be unfair not to tell Bola Tinubu because I had been brokering some things between the then Action Congress and the Congress for Progressive Change before the AC became ACN. So, I called Tinubu in the presence of Jimi Agbaje and Yinka Odumakin. I said to him that Gen. Buhari had called to offer this, give me a Christian from your group so that I can present to him. I invited the former governor of Ekiti State, Niyi Adebayo to my house and told him that he would be a better person to handle this. Both of us were in the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos at the same time. So, I looked for every way not to take Buhari’s offer and I didn’t fill the form. I took my team and went to the General and asked him why he wanted me to be his running mate. He said three things, “your passion for Nigeria. You have been a Muslim before, you are a Christian now. You have lived in the North, you were born in the South, you understand the geography and I think you can be a positive influence to pull the nation together. Number two, your integrity, number three, supposing I die in office like Yar’Adua, I want someone who would not sell out, who would still continue my vision for this country.” Still, I didn’t fill the form.
I went to El-Rufai’s house, we sat down there and he encouraged me to take it and I said I was not taking it. I told him I needed to clear a particular thing in my heart. Everyone who had been assistant to Gen. Buhari died before him. Tunde Idiagbon is gone, Okadigbo is gone, Ume-Ezeoke is gone, why do I want to go and put my head in a death sentence. I need to know what is responsible for that, so I can’t just jump, I will need to pray through. I told Gen. Buhari the same thing I am saying now.
The day before the final submission of names, former President Olusegun Obasanjo told El-Rufai that he was ready to support Buhari if he could drop me and replace me with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as his running mate. El-Rufai ran to me, that this was what Obasanjo said. The three of us were in the same hotel but in different suites. We went straight to Gen. Buhari and I said to him that breakthrough had come. I told him I had not filled the form and that there were five reasons why he must take Okonjo-Iweala. Number one, she is Delta-Igbo, you would have solved the problem of South-East/South-South. Number two, she’s a woman, you have settled the gender issue. Number three, Christian, balanced ticket. Number four, a former minister of finance and former minister of external affairs, experience which I don’t have. Number five, World Bank top executive, international exposure. Even though I have travelled round the world, I have not worked in any organisation, she is a better candidate. This is the form, I have not filled it. General Buhari looked at me and said did Obasanjo speak to you and I said no that he spoke to El-Rufai and I believe him. And he asked El-Rufai to repeat everything Obasanjo said to him and he did. He said to El-Rufai that well, you have worked with him and I have worked with him too, he would have something up his sleeves which we don’t know. Buhari turned to me and said, Pastor Bakare, I have waited long enough and today is the last day, if you are not going to fill the form, give it to me, I will look for someone until we can get a person like you. At that point, I became overwhelmed and I signed the form and El-Rufai seconded. That was the process; it was not an overnight thing.
Do you have any regrets accepting that offer?
Not at all. If I have the chance, I will do it again. Buhari is an incorruptible leader. He is a man whose word is his bond. He is a reliable person and he loves this country. I don’t flatter people and you know I fought almost all military impostors in this country; there was a time I couldn’t stand any of them. But getting close to him, I realised he loves Christians as much as he loves Muslims.
For those who said why Buhari? I remember Adunni Abimbola Adelakun, she wrote why can’t Bakare run as President? Why do you have to be a running mate? I just laughed when I read that. Don’t forget that Joseph served Pharaoh, Daniel served Nebuchadnezzar, and we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, so you can maintain contact without contamination. Anything that would contribute to the wellbeing of the people of this country, as much as God gives me the grace, I would do it.
You just spoke glowingly about Buhari, is that why you said if that suicide attempt on his life had succeeded it would have caused commotion in the country?
Whichever way you look at it; Gen. Buhari has succeeded in stepping into the shoes of the likes of the founding fathers of this nation. It is like killing Awo in the West in those days. They jailed him but they dare not kill him. Look at the repercussions of what happened when Saudana was killed. It is like shooting Azikiwe. A time comes when people have such a large followership that you have to be careful about them. Gen. Buhari registered a party and went to contest for election after three months and had 12 million votes. I have seen the people following him running towards a moving plane. He is not loved because he has money to pay them, he doesn’t give a dime to anybody. Buhari does not have such money, he does not have a petrol station, and he has no oil well even after being a petroleum minister and former head of state. There was a time he took his children to public schools. Obasanjo investigated him with Haruna Adamu, and didn’t find anything against him.
Why didn’t you move with him Buhari to the All Progressives Congress?
A strategic man takes his time. I moved the motion for the merger of the parties publicly at Eagles Square. I worked tirelessly for that merger to materialise. But when you perceive that your presence, whether you speak or stay quiet, affects some of the people who think you are ambitious, you leave the stage for them. If you ask me if I am in APC, Buhari knows I am in Daura APC, not Ogun State, Oyo or Lagos State so that those functioning can be free to function without fearing that this man might have an ambition and might still want to be a running mate. I have had my fair share.
In 2012 you were quoted as saying that Jonathan was on a mission to ruin Nigeria, two years later do you still feel the same way?
You do not separate a statement and body of facts that led to that statement. President Jonathan himself is a victim of circumstances. Who groomed him for what he is doing? I think he has had to learn on the job. Whether he is learning fast or is taking his time, is for others to comment. I marched on the streets of Abuja, Lagos, led Save Nigeria Group in different campaigns for him to become Acting President and he subsequently became the President of Nigeria. He is alive, if I have taken a dime from him for anything, he can say. Not that they would not want to be a blessing to me but I don’t take. My hands have provided enough for me. I am contented. I have had the privilege of sitting with the President this year about five times and it is always about how to move the nation forward. I remember when the President wanted to see me; I called Gen. Buhari immediately to inform him about the invitation because I don’t double-deal. I am a loyal person and I made the President know that I informed Gen. Buhari before coming for that particular meeting. The things he said to me are not for now; they would come out at the appropriate time. I think Jonathan is honestly doing his best but history would judge whether his best is good enough. The Nigerian issue is complex. It requires a level of capability and dynamism and that is not common among the current politicians.
You have always been critical of America’s involvement in the politics of other nations especially Nigeria, do you also think that the monstrous painting of Ebola is also part of the conspiracy to further distabilise Nigeria?
I don’t think so, Ebola is here and you don’t run away from it. The man who smuggled himself into the plane and came to Nigeria probably didn’t know the magnitude of the problem he was about to cause.
When America got here over Boko Haram, what I saw on the television is what the Americans call show. You don’t ridicule another nation to look good as if you have your acts together. Right on your own soil, in New York, right on your faces with all your technology and the power you claim to have as the police of the world, terrorists humiliated you. The whole nations of the earth rose up to support you and now we are battling with something here and you are making our leaders look useless, and redundant.
Don’t you believe in church planting?
Any church that does not believe in church planting is like a woman praying to be barren. I have done church planting the way others have done before. We had about seven other satellite churches that we planted and at a time I said no, this is not the pattern I have seen in the Bible and so we started to follow the pattern which is to train men, raise them, so that when they are strong and receive the call, commission them, support them to plant a church. By so doing, we planted several churches without necessarily calling them Latter Rain Assembly.
You once described Nigerian churches as being a theatre where one man performs and the others are just mere spectators, does this not also apply to you?
It doesn’t. If you were here this morning (Sunday, August 10, 2014), I did the least speech. If you quoted me correctly, I said the difference between the cinema and the church in Nigeria is that for the cinema you pay a gate fee before you enter but in the church, they let you come in before they take from you. When the youth pastor was ministering today, I said wow, if I am out of here today, these people can continue.
You are not too prominent in Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria and Christian Association of Nigeria, is it by choice or by design?
So, one or two of our pastors attend to matters of PFN, but I don’t go there.
What’s stopping a big church as yours from establishing its own university like others have done?
I am not called to do that. I do not judge those who are doing it because they are contributing their quota to the system and they are helping the society in the area of infrastructure.
But I would have a question mark on the whole thing if part of what is going in there are the offerings of the people and their pastors’ children and members’ children cannot attend that university. Almost all the top universities in the world started from Christian organisations. My daughter graduated from Emory University in Georgia, United States, which is owned by the Methodist Church. Oxford and Cambridge were established by churches. If their real intention was mission and to educate a crop of leaders that would share the light. I commend their efforts. But if it is a money-making and profit-driven, then I don’t know what to say.
Every year we have big churches stage conventions, but we don’t see Latter Rain doing the same, is it that you don’t believe in such gatherings where lives are usually saved in multitudes or what?
It is not wrong to have an annual convention, it is not wrong to have Shiloh or Holy Ghost Congress. I have been invited to the congress about three times but I just didn’t have the time to go. Up till the seventh year of the Latter Rain Assembly, we had what we called Annual Believers’ Convention but I stopped it after then. Look at the population of people in church today and we have negligible righteousness. So, something is wrong. I am not condemning what people are doing. If they are called to do what they are doing, God would reward them. But if it is just a clever ploy to continue to control and manage people, one day they would say “to your tent oh Israel.”
What is your take on anointing oil?
People like to create their own Tunde Bakare. I love God, I love people, I love the godly and the ungodly and I try within my God-given ability to teach the truth. The reason I fought with my friend, Bishop David Oyedepo, and tore his book, I remember when we resolved this problem in London, we came out of a plane, he took me aside and said he was angry with me because I tore his book. I said I didn’t tear your book, I tore my book. That is fine, you wrote it, I bought it, so it was my book I tore. I saw errors in that book because he said the anointing oil is not a symbol of the Holy Spirit that it is the life of God in a bottle. How can you write that and I would let it pass. No! If the anointing oil is the Holy Spirit, then Jesus is a lamb walking on four legs. These are metaphors and when you have the real, you leave the shadow. Besides it is for the sick in the New Testament. So, you can anoint the entire church if they are sick and I would wonder how a sick church can bring healing to a dying world.