By Femi Akintunde-Johnson
As the man who confounds his admirers and torments his detractors with unusual gusto entered the senior citizen’s corridor few days ago (November 11, 2019), I found it convenient to bring out a pot of stew, and warm it vigorously to serve all…for the stew has not lost taste, vigour nor colour… It is remarkably stable, steady, and flourishing, with a strong hint of maturity.
In 2014, I titled my tribute to mark his 60th birthday: “60 Tablets For Pains In Pursuit Of Truth”. Today, we’ll simply call a spade by its common name: Tunde Bakare at 65: What a Life! What a Journey!
I merely seek to throw a little light on the man many believe deliberately courts controversy and is unduly harsh on his fellow religious leaders. A man some claim draw anomie to himself, and blind loyalty in equal proportion – like ants to sugar – by his choice of words, subjects of his vitriol and characters of his umbrage. In most cases, Bakare may even declare himself guilty, but with well-articulated reasons. If you can control your indignation and hear him out, you are likely to concede him the space necessary for truth and logic to soar.
Ordinarily, I am drawn to people who are not afraid to speak what they believe is the truth – at all times; who do not succumb to the pressure of impressing others so as to gain their adulation; people who are not bothered about the enormity of your anointing, if your obvious actions and conversations give you away as a charlatan… as sure as the sun rises from the East, you will be hung out to dry. Oh, I like such people.
Yes, people who see Bakare as a “noise-maker” or “rabble-rouser” may have a point. He does cause trouble with his statements… and more often than not rabbles are roused on account of his diatribes. The point to linger on is not what he does, but why he does those things. In private discussions, as I sought to probe the spine of his position on this issue…with a mischievous twist of his lips, he would labour to give words to the cascading thoughts in his heart – his glowing face reveals a man thoroughly at peace with the severity of his commentaries.
Well, 20+ years may not be long enough to write a profound character profile on a person, but I can state categorically that he writes down, dwells over, bounces off people, almost all his so-called controversial statements… He does not use the old and tested lacuna: “touch not my anointed…” in escaping troubling issues and scenarios when he is called to account. Bakare would over-prepare for contestation of ideas and understanding of the Word – whether the challenge comes from a peer or neophyte.
Oh, he does have a temper. Is there a man without blemish? Excuse it the way you want, he can be a bolt of fire against the devil in one instance; and if an associate, his child or acquaintance steps over or pulls down what ought to be carefully arranged or garnished, the tongue of correction comes sharp and long…touching the recesses of your inadequacy, purging you almost instantly of any dreg of incompetence.
Oh, he detests incompetence in any situation – more avidly, if he suspects incompetence, insensitivity or high corruption at the citadels of political power. He surely must share the same sentiment with the 26th American president, Theodore Roosevelt, who said: “Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.”
Religious hypocrisy and political charlatanism irk him most. Since “performers” of both “arts” prey on the minds and hopes of people, his most vitriolic condemnations are reserved for them, irrespective of their status, influence, motives or familiarity. When people say “Why wash your dirty linens in public?” – “Why doesn’t Bakare call his ‘brothers’ to order in private brotherly love?” Let me reassure you, on most occasions, he would bend backwards to reach out privately, and poignantly point out these “infringements” and “perversions” – especially within the body of Christ. Often, the others chuckled over such “bro-love” with glib assurance of acceptance… yet the issues fester, the complicity deepens…then Bakare explodes, and most people take off in pursuit of ringworm with leprosy left unchecked.
Like Apostle Paul, Bakare’s teachings are hard: in the pursuit of happiness and prosperity, “live holy, depend completely on God, repay evil with good, and do unto others much better than they to you”. He not only lives what he preaches, he challenges others to call him out on his convictions, and cross notes afterwards. He is bemused when people find it almost impossible to differentiate between principles (issues he vehemently attacks) and relationships (excesses usually committed by his friends and older associates in faith). He is hurt when hare-brained policies and exertions of governmental powers offload more hardship on ordinary folks – and he explodes where most leaders merely grumble and vacillate in soporific acceptance. He is undaunted and scarcely embarrassed when no one believes or even regards what he says God has shown him in visions or dreams – he simply pivots ahead using same as launch pads to more vigorous declarations. A strange man!
If his person is not violated, if his faith is not compromised; if his loved ones are not in doubt; if his God does not keep silent, then the whole world united in blatant, even punitive, antagonism against him, will not stir the little hair still remaining on his head. An enigma indeed.
Though little of frame, Bakare’s heart is large. Very large. His generosity sometimes bothers on thick-headedness. Somehow, if you investigate the strands of his magnanimity, you will find narratives of his humble beginnings. He obviously suffered growing up… well, like most successful Nigerians of his age… but his peculiar trajectory has diverse colorations and contours that will make a book on his formative years a compelling best seller.
So, in his generous spirit hides a desire to help people about to fall into extreme poverty. Don’t get it wrong: weepy, needling, obsequious appeal for mercy-cash will not move him. With undisguised compassion and keen intelligence, he would probe, and meditate on the circumstances of your situation and the potency of your peril. And to make sure you are not in any doubt about his position, he will ask that help should be given you, but ‘this and that’ are what you should focus your energies on so you can stand on your feet. But if in his estimation, you actually need more than the token you’re seeking, he will invite others who can effectively intervene in your affairs, so you can stand strong. A generous man!
Bakare lives his life in the open (a rare condition in this climate) – the hunger to share and teach makes him tell it all. He plants his own stories, warts and all, in all his public narratives as he criss-crosses the world teaching and preaching (often, to the grim chagrin of his immediate family members). While most of us will repent of our mis-steps and keep it hush-hush between God and us; that’s not Bakare’s portion. After repenting and restituting, the man will “call” the “whole world”, confessing his mishaps. And somehow drawing out a lesson or two why no one else should have any excuse for falling into same. The curious irony is this: he is quick to do that for his few mistakes; but zips his mouth when he does any of his numerous good and hugely benevolent deeds. A peculiar man!
As Gbolahan Babatunde Bakare steps steadily into his 65th year on earth, in lock-steps with millions of his admirers (and of course, millions of “others dem”), the constant swell of goodwill is that he will live long to give of himself to his God and his country, Nigeria – with calm boldness, profound power, flourishing wisdom, contagious prosperity, and ennobling grace… to such an extent that when the Lord arrives and asks if there is a trusted and courageous ‘errand-boy’ ready for Him to use, Layide’s husband shall confidently step forward and say: “Here am I, send me…sharp-sharp!”
Belated happy birthday, Pastor B!