or Pastor Tunde Bakare, hiding behind the pulpit to prosecute political battle is not a smart option, writes Segun james
If it was a move calculated to tell President Muhammadu Buhari that he was still available as alternative Vice President, given the recent travails of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, it was not the most effective move. It has only served to bring him out as a political opportunist, seeking to leverage every available opportunity.
Pastor Tunde Bakare, the presiding Pastor of the Latter Rain Assembly, has stirred the hornet’s nest and the backslash has begun to unfurl in torrents, with a majority of the people asking him to drop the cassock if he really wanted to play politics.
The political culture is a weird one. It encourages one another to move across political divides without emotions. An average politician goes and comes as he pleases, what matters to them and permanent is interest at all times.
But that cannot be said to be the same, when it comes to religion. In Christianity, which Bakare professes as his religion, circumspection is crucial especially, the need to be Christ-like in one’s dispositions.
This was the situation, when Bakare took a plunge into the political arena penultimate week. The pastor had visited President Buhari at the State House, Abuja. Although details of the meeting are still shrouded in secrecy, the general belief was that last Sunday’s state of the union address by Bakare, who was running mate to Buhari in 2011, might be the outcome of his meeting with the President.
Bakare had in his Sunday, 5 January sermon, which he called “State of the Union” and tagged: Unveiling the True Enemies of Nigeria, urged the President to groom a successor that would take over from him in 2023.
Bakare deliberately disregarded the fact that presidents, like other political of seekers, are voted in by the people in an election that involves every adult of voting age. He was however vociferous that after Buhari’s second term elapses in 2023; he should not shy away from picking a successor.
Bakare enjoined the president not to leave the choice of his successor in 2023 to chance, insisting that it was important for Buhari to influence whoever emerges his successor so that his legacies would not be rubbished.
Bakare’s call for the president to handpick his successor arrived barely three months after he boasted that he was the President’s successor.
“Take it to the mountain top if you have never heard it before. I am saying it to you this morning, in the scheme of things, as far as the politics of Nigeria is concerned, President Buhari is number 15 and yours sincerely is number 16.
“I never said that to you before, I want to let you know it this morning. Nothing can change it in the name of Jesus. He (Buhari) is number 15; I am number 16,” Bakare reiterated, placing his right hand on his chest.
However, at his state of the union address, he added: “God is into succession. Anyone in government that does not concern himself about succession is destroying his legacy, because the person coming after you can just mess up everything.
“Let us ask God for grace of accurate succession; that he (Buhari) will not hand over the baton of government and governance to thieves and perverts, to corrupt and power-drunk individuals, but those who are true patriots, who will serve like our founding fathers served; though not perfect, they did their best,” Bakare said.
According to the clergyman, by institutionalising a system of succession, Buhari would join the league of strong world leaders like the late Deng Xiaoping of China; the late Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Goh Chok Tong of Singapore.
“As the government of President Muhammadu Buhari ushers us into the second decade of the 21st century, the third pivotal objective of governance should be to build a strong post-Buhari legacy facilitated by accurate succession.
“In this regard, Nigeria must learn from some of the best succession examples in recent history. Of note is the legacy of Deng Xiaoping, a second-generation Chinese leader, who laid the foundation for today’s China. Xiaoping flagged off the ‘Four Modernisations’ programme, which searched around the country for leaders who, in his words, were ‘revolutionary, younger, more knowledgeable, and more specialised’.
“In three decades, that programme gave China a succession of leaders, who piloted China’s economic transformation, including the current President, Xi Jinping. Without their foresight, we would not be running to China today to finance our shortsightedness.
“We must also learn from Nelson Mandela who stepped aside after one term, but not without positioning the likes of Thabo Mbeki and Cyril Ramaphosa. We must learn from the success story of Singapore, whose former Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong, once said, ‘Mr. Lee Kuan Yew has always emphasised political succession, and when I took over, likewise, I planned for succession…Prime Minister Lee is also working very hard to plan for succession.’
“Therefore, even as we build institutions of democratic governance, a key responsibility that history has bestowed on President Muhammadu Buhari at this turning point in our journey to nationhood is to institutionalise systems of accurate succession that will build and sustain the Nigeria we desire. This is a task that must be done.”
Words aren’t all that cheap after all. Indeed, they matter and as Bakare has found out since his address, the backslash from the speech has continued to reverberate negatively on him. The question now is, what does Tunde Bakare want?
Although Bakare did not mention any name as a possible candidate for the President to groom, his body language suggested that he had himself in mind. Some months ago he had named himself as a possible successor to Buhari.
It is in the face of this that the clergyman was urged to move fulltime into the political turf and engage others in the fisticuff instead of shadowboxing from the sidelines.
For Chief Lanre Rasak, an All Progressives Congress Chieftain in Lagos State, Bakare is simply a rabble-rouser.
“That gentleman is a pastor and I think he should concentrate on his pastoral work. He shouldn’t be more Catholic than the Pope and crying more than the bereaved. My advice to him is if he wants to continue with pastoral job, let him do that. But if he wants to participate in politics, he should join a political party and actualise his dream.
“He is just trying to create a situation whereby people would label Buhari as not being a democrat but I trust that Mr. President will ensure that he does things in accordance with the Nigerian constitution as well as the constitution and manifesto of our great party, the APC that brought him to power.”
For Prof. Pat Utomi, seeking to be president goes beyond ethnic and grooming people for the position.
“First thing first, you want to get somebody who has capacity. If you can find people who have capacity coming from different parts of the country, you provide a balance and additional value.
“But to just say it is the turn of these people or that people and get the kind of quality leadership that Nigeria has had is not worth the trouble. So, the starting point must be capacity – who can best provide Nigeria or which team of people can best provide Nigeria in the right part. “The second point is that there are fundamental structural issues that will likely make it difficult for Nigeria to make progress no matter who is leading it. We are still running away from addressing those issues, because Nigeria is not a productive nation; Nigeria is a nation of rent-seekers.
“And people who are jobbing for the position to take care of themselves without producing. So, the dominant political class in Nigeria is a liability on Nigeria. If Nigeria is to make progress, it needs to get rid of most of the politicians.”
However, putting a ceiling on this was the response by the presidency, which subtly replied Bakare, saying Buhari would not impose a successor on the Nigerian people, but leave behind a much better country.
“The President will not pick a successor; we know him, he is not somebody like that. Will he be interested in the process? Yes, he will. He will ensure that there is a free, fair and credible election; that nobody will come to use money and resources to bamboozle his way into the leadership of the country. It will not happen. The President will ensure a free, fair and credible process but to handpick a successor? No, he will not do that,” said Femi Adesina, his media aide.
According to him, “The President will ensure that Nigeria is in safe hands. There is no point having worked, having made gains, having made advancement since 2015-2023, to hand Nigeria over to those who will take her back or hand Nigeria over to looters once again or you allow looters to allow stolen funds to work for them to seize power. No, that will not happen.
“The President will be interested that much in who succeeds him but he is not going to impose anybody. Rather, he is going to create a free and fair process and Nigerians are then going to determine, who the next president should be,” he stated.
There is nothing wrong, of course, in a Pastor Bakare nursing a presidential ambition, what is not acceptable is hiding behind the pulpit and running others down in God’s name. The danger here is that by the time others choose to get in the ring with him, he would be held responsible for dragging God’s name in the mud of his ambition. So, the time to be clear with what he wants is now.