- Says constitution that can’t bend will break
- Rejects Buhari’s all-comer visa policy
- Denies being consulted to replace VP
The Serving Overseer, Citadel Global Community Church (formerly Latter Rain Assembly), Pastor Tunde Bakare has warned that Nigeria is close to the rage of the poor citing the number of young people, who have taken to crimes.
Bakare, founder of Save Nigeria Group (SNG), has called for the review of the 1999 Constitution with a view to devolving more powers from the central government to the sub-national units, warning that any constitution that cannot bend will eventually break.
Besides call for true federalism, the priest dismissed claims that he was contacted to replace Vice President Yemi Osinbajo amid the crisis of confidence that some powerful forces in the presidency against the vice president between October and November.
He expressed concern about leadership failure in the country and its attendant consequences in an exclusive interview with THISDAY recently, saying if Nigeria “gets to the tipping point when people can no more endure, it will be difficult to escape the rage of the people.”
With the population of over 200 million people, Nigeria is neck-deep into socio-economic crisis with unemployment measuring 23.1 percent, underemployment 20.21 percent and youth unemployment 54.4 percent as the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reveals.
In 2019, the World Poverty Clock, the United Nations poverty monitor, revealed that 91,885,874 people in Nigeria lived in extreme poverty, representing about 46.4 percent of its population.
Also, according to the World Bank, a person can be said to be living in extreme poverty if they live below the poverty line of $1.90.
Contingent upon worsening socio-economic indicators, Nigeria has been plagued with insecurity with the prevalence of armed robbery, kidnapping, banditry, cyber fraud, ritual killing, piracy and oil theft nationwide.
Concerned with the spiraling socio-economic crisis, Bakare said: “I pray our country will not become an asylum of the mad. You can blame politicians if you want to. If they beat the drum and we do not dance, the party will stop. But they have a way of injecting money into the system.
“We are always clamouring for somebody else to fight our battle. That is the problem of Israel until the likes of David and Daniel rose up. The things going on in this country can be stopped. By the time they call us into a room and they drop bags of dollars in your booth when you are going, you sing a new song. “There are praise singers of every government from inception to today because they are beneficiaries of the loots. A time will come by the auspices of God Almighty Himself that the people will say enough is enough. We are getting there,” the cleric said.
Asked what gave him such assurance, Bakare simply retorted: “We are close to the rage of the poor. Look at the number of young people, who benefit now from the proceeds of crime instead of hard work. Kidnappers are Nigerians, though they may have external collaborators.
“But what else will you give them to do? An idle man’s hand is devil’s workshop. They have to survive. Now, if we get to the tipping point when the people say they cannot endure it anymore, it will be difficult to escape their rage. Look at Hong Kong. Look at how it was sustained. There is no government that can survive that.”
The cleric said because the government “has the monopoly of violence, a lot of Nigerians are chicken-hearted. They do not want any hardship or inconvenience. But this will continue forever. When you have some daredevil human rights advocates like Gani Fawehinmi and Beko Ransome-Kuti, these young people will follow them.”
He, specifically, said it was not difficult to bring those oppressing Nigerians down, lamenting that what “is helping them is the philosophy that if you cannot beat them, join them. But the day you join, you cannot beat anymore. But God will still have a remnant. Look at the history of the nations on earth. Ours is not peculiar.”
On Osinbajo’s travail, Bakare dismissed reports that he was penciled down to replace the vice president following attempts by some powerful forces to edge him out.
He said: “I know nothing about it. Nobody discussed such thing with me. I stood publicly that he should not be disgraced from office except he has violated his oath of office.
“I will not be dragged into such controversies. I have not held meeting with anybody to be anything. Do not forget. If they pencil down your name in Nigeria, the person, who has the pencil, has the eraser,” he said.
Besides his concern about the leadership failure, Bakare gravely lamented the country’s lopsided federal structure, noting that the structure “is not only lopsided. It is not federalism.”
Comparing the present federal structure with the pre-1966 order, the priest stated that a destructive means “cannot bring about constructive ends. What we have is destructive.”
With the promulgation of Unification Decree 34 in 1966, Bakare said Nigeria had since ceased to be a federal state, though acknowledged that there had always been cosmetic changes.
He said: “We created some states that have brought the nation to death. Many of these states are not viable. And we cannot think, if we cannot go forward, we should go backward and reset the country on the right track. This country is not working.
“And you know what? Any constitution that will not bend will eventually break. Where is Soviet Union? It was held together by force. Where is it? Those who do not learn from history will definitely repeat the blunder of history. They will become history themselves.”
He, therefore, called for a geo-economic restructuring, which according to him, should begin with devolution of powers because the centre is too crowded and too loaded.
He rhetorically asked: “What is the federal government doing with agriculture? Why should the federal government have the ministry of agriculture when it does not have land? The land is vested with the state. It is the state governor that has the power to issue certificate of occupancy. A local government chairman hardly has anything to do.
“You call a governor the chief security officer of his state, but he cannot give instruction to the commissioner of police and he obeys. That is the problem that we find ourselves. From Sokoto, you deploy a police officer in a terrain he does not understand in Abeokuta.
“It does not make common sense. Let us begin with the devolution of powers. Let us make the centre less attractive, not weak, strong state and strong centre. And states that have commonalities in culture, ethnicity, language and proximity can come together and form geo-political zones without disrupting the structure.
“But let them put their resources together to develop their own area. Nothing stops us from having six Dubais in Nigeria if we have the right thinking people and if we really love this country and want it to progress,” the pastor observed.
He, also, faulted an all-comer visa policy, which President Muhammadu Buhari announced at the Aswan Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development in Africa, held in Cairo, Egypt.
He said: “I just know no nation should be an all-comer territory because the good, the bad and the ugly will enter. And they do not need visa to come in. Criminals will enter. They might escape from somewhere and enter Nigeria. And without visa, they can enter.
“At a time, you do need visa to go to Britain from Nigeria. In the 1980s, I went to Britain without visa. But the British authorities changed the policy when they saw the characters that were coming from Nigeria. The federal government needs to put checks and balances.
“Yes, you can come to Nigeria. But in the final analysis, everyone has to go through a system and we can refuse you entry if we think you are not the person we want in our country.”