Tunde Bakare: I Won’t Beat My Chest in Criticism Until I’m on That Seat and Do Better

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The appointment with Pastor Tunde Bakare, serving overseer at the Citadel Global Community Church, was almost jinxed. The odds were rather unkind. First was the change in the initial date and time, which had sent an obnoxious feeling about its feasibility. And finally, when the rescheduled date came, something else came up. The man of God had been slightly indisposed and the facilitators did not want that mentioned to THISDAY. Their reasons were genuine. Having flown to Abuja from Lagos, a ‘No’ would have been devastating. Yet, they were not clear with how to manage the situation except that they tagged along with the understanding that something would give, ultimately. But Pastor Bakare did the magic. They wouldn’t come all the way from Lagos and return without the interview, he seemed to reckon. “I’ll do this”, he said with an air of authority to his visibly uncomfortable aides, who would rather he took a deserved rest. But a few minutes into the grilling session, the man of God got his groove back and the interaction went on as heated as it was envisaged. Excerpts:

In the past few months, you have been delivering state of the nation addresses from the pulpit. A lot of people have taken issues as to whether the pulpit is the right platform to project political statements and agenda. Is it right?
Those who do so are ignorant of our priesthood. There are three levels of priesthood in the Bible. The first is the Melchizedek priesthood, second is Aaronic priesthood and before Aaronic priesthood was the Priesthood of Midian. The principle of Midian is structure, strategies and systems. It was Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, who taught him how to delegate, not to kill himself. So when you see systems, structure and strategies within a church, it is the Midian Priesthood.

Aaronic priesthood was not mixed with politics at all or else they would destroy themselves. They were supposed to face strictly priesthood, but Jesus’ priesthood is after the order of Melchizedek. He was a king and a priest. Therefore, you can’t separate one from the other. The Prophet Isaiah said the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our judge. All the three arms of government are vested in him. Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, the government shall be upon His shoulder.

In fact, according to Romans 13, those who are in the government are called ministers of God, so our Priesthood is Melchizedek. It is a lack of understanding that makes them say it’s not the right place or he’s mixing politics with what he’s doing. I’m just declaring the word of God as it affects any nation, including ours.

The most topical issue now is 2023 and you have given indication that you are ‘number 16’ basically. In fact, that you will be number 16. What preparations are you putting in place to realise this prophecy?
I don’t take my words back. It’s not a prophecy because if it’s a prophecy, then, I’m saying thus sayeth the Lord. We must separate chaff from grain. I knew I would be the 16th President of Nigeria from age 13.

Do you still believe it?
Very much so. And there are living witnesses that I told as a young man. The day President Muhammadu Buhari visited my father’s house, I showed him the 16 steps. Right from the ground floor and he built that house in 1922 and that’s where they were buried. It’s clear in my spirit.

But let me also say to you, it is not a ‘do or die’ affair for me. You asked what preparations have I put in place? I will ask you a simple question in return. What preparation did Olusegun Obasanjo put in place to become the PDP candidate?
His name Obasanjo answered for him. I don’t know who in his family had laboured. He just came to inherit the fruit. He wasn’t in the forefront; it was Brig. Benjamin Adekunle, who was 3rd Marine Commando, but it was to him they delivered the surrender note. The man who did the work was somewhere.

Again, he was in prison. He was released. He didn’t know when PDP was being formed. He inherited it. And again, General Ford was not even in America, he was not the vice presidential candidate for Richard Nixon. His vice president dropped and they called him to just come and be vice president, not knowing that he would be president eventually.

There are those who will spend all their lives putting structures, strategies, everything in place, but one thing about this country you must recall is that, not that we do not have structure, not that they are not needful; they’re important. But if you spend all your life putting all the structures in place, you may not even get it in Nigeria.

We can go back to Shehu Shagari. He had got the form for the senate. He was going to the senate when they beckoned him to be president. Umaru Yar’Adua had finished his two terms in Katsina. He was going back to Ahmadu Bello University to resume lecturing when Obasanjo said, you are the next president.
And there are those who had laboured all their lives and it is like a tantalizer: you see it, but you don’t eat out of it. So I keep my powder dry. We know those we are going to reach out to. And we are doing that by God’s grace.

Aside the two main political parties, there’s hardly anybody that can get the presidency without going through either the APC or the PDP platform. So curiously, how do you intend to go about your ambition?
How do you know I am not a member of the party? Where did you get that from? I moved the motion for the merger of the APC at the Eagles Square. Someone was telling me, a brother of mine recently, that Pastor Tunde Bakare is about to join our party. We work behind the scenes.

Now, shouldn’t this be called inconsistency? At some point, you practically told the world that what Tinubu had taken, he would vomit. At another instance, you stood up and asked which other person had done as much as Tinubu to deserve the highest prize. That’s some mixed messaging and it’s confounding.
There’s no mixed messaging. In every good person, there are bad sides and in every bad person, there are good sides. You can’t run your car with just one battery terminal. The two terminals must be there. I remember what led to that message. I had said everything that anybody could say about Tinubu, but then, I began to see that the leaders, who are making derogatory remarks about him, I’ve seen them also getting some support from him and not returning them. Almost everything he’d taken, he has also returned.

How do you mean?
You see, there are some things that Tinubu has done. How he fought PDP from capturing the whole of Southwest is remarkable. And how he used whatever resources he was getting, either from Alpha Beta or any other source, to secure Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti, Osun and even Edo. Remarkable!
He didn’t get Ondo during Mimiko because I said if he came second in Ondo, then God has not called me and we walked the talk. We supported Mimiko in every way we could. I was there because I felt this widespread cancer was growing and a time is coming when he’ll become the only force to reckon with. We must have an alternative platform in the southwest.

So I’d said everything that would be said that was negative about him. Something then happened. A group of people, leaders in Yoruba land were going to have a conference regarding Yoruba position.

When they visited me at home, I asked them, have you considered Tinubu, because I don’t know how you are going to structure this without Tinubu? So they visited him and he gave them two conditions. One, if they believed in a referendum and two, if they believed power must come to the south or something like that.

In any event, the day they chose to do their own event, Tinubu also ran his own event in Ibadan. So they cancelled theirs. And they couldn’t go on with it. Now, they thought he did something bad. I could see it. But I warned them years before that this man is becoming a mighty Iroko and you’re not dealing with it now.

He would become a force to reckon with that you all have to go and bow to him. And what led to that, there is part two of that message, which nobody pays attention to. In all the wrong judgments we have about Tinubu, ignore his character flaws, because you’re also eating from his table, some of our top leaders are eating from his table, benefiting from him.
He has done so much good for them. I didn’t say he bought them, but if they’re benefiting from him, then, don’t deride him. Don’t say his mother is from Iragbiji, his father from Okesuna. A man may not be able to choose his father and mother, he can choose his role model. If I were Tinubu, I would have said to the whole world long before now, ‘Abibat Mogaji adopted me’. Simple.

But what does this say about a person’s background? So I pick Jephthah, son of a harlot. When war broke out, they went to call him: “Come and be our leader”. He said except you make me king because you rejected me before. And we saw the second part was David, who fled from Israel to the land of the Philistine. Anywhere, any village, any city they will go to, with 600 armed men, they killed everybody. It was almost “David-Haram”

Almost two thirds of the Book of Psalms is written by him today. Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future. That was the real message and in that message, I did not endorse his lifestyle, I did not endorse his politics. But nobody picked that up. The parts that suited them best, they started using it to advertise for him in 2023. I wish them well. We will meet in the public square.

Sometimes you get angry with Buhari about his choices and then you even said you won’t talk to him again. But recently you visited him and was seen elbow-bumping. Isn’t this another inconsistency?
Well, Pastor Bakare is a human being like you. Have you disagreed with your wife and say you won’t eat her food? When night time comes, you will know who is the captain. Any friendship that ends never started. What I was demonstrating there is that you do not sacrifice truth on the altar of friendship. That’s all.

You have also complained and lamented the state of the nation. But after your meeting, you sort of backtracked.
Not at all. I didn’t want to grant any interview to start with. I didn’t backtrack at all. They (journalists) started talking about 2023. And I said most people don’t know that 2021 will come before 2023 because I have said there will be a change of guards in 2021. Many people think I said change of government. I chose my words.

What does that mean?
You can change your guards in front of your gate, you don’t change the landlord. I answered their question based on 2023. They asked: are you throwing your hat in the ring? And I said this hat, I can’t throw it everywhere. It’s too expensive. But the truth of the matter is that all that is in my heart, I have shared with the president concerning my future and it’s between us both.

Does the President sometimes misread some of your statements or messages?
Many people don’t know President Buhari. He does not mind being told the truth. But he’s also a man of his own mind, no matter what you tell him. Some of us don’t have all the facts that he has, all the security reports that he has, and we see things from our own angle. And before you hear one thing in the public space, I’ve said 100 behind the scenes.
In fact, some of the elders and leaders said I kept quiet for so long, because they filled my pocket. And I came out and said President Buhari has given me money twice in his life. During the anti-corruption campaign when I followed him to the UK, I had some people that I put in the hotel and they were part of my research team. He sent 5,000 pounds to me and he said it’s not an estacode, because he knows I won’t take it.

And well, I know what I did with that money. I just put it in five envelopes and distributed it around these people. And he sent N5 million to the citadel that we are building. Yes, I have said it publicly. I didn’t request for it. He said, I want to identify with my friend’s project and he gave me.
Okay. You can then go and check if there’s any other thing between me and anybody. When they saw the citadel, they just thought nobody can do this. There must be something. So when I spoke, they said we thought you had been bought and I said nobody has what it takes to buy me, because the price that was paid for me is the price that cannot be matched by any person. Jesus paid for it, not any other human being.

Are you genuinely interested in running for presidency, because we don’t know what your feedback says? Many Nigerians do not think you are actually serious, not that you are not qualified. But that you are not serious about wanting to be number 16.
You are the people with feedback and feedback is necessary, whether it’s negative or positive. Nobody thought David qualified to be king. His own father did not even invite him when Samuel came and said one of your sons will be king. They didn’t call him at all. They called the first seven. It was after those seven that they said, is there still anyone? Then he said, he will not sit down until he comes and when he came and God said this is him.

The Bible is not a religious book to me, it is my GPS. I use it to navigate this world. The race is not to the swift, the battle is not for the strong. If the battle was for the strong, Goliath would have won against David. And those who say feedback or no feedback, let’s wait if it’s mere propaganda. Time will tell. What would determine 2023 will start in 2021 and we have three months to go.

You play a prominent role in Christendom and Christianity is such a large body. Why is it difficult to mobilise the body of Christ for an expedient political cause?
A deep river flows in majestic silence. They called something Abetu in my younger days. Abetu is a small stream and it is everywhere. But a deep river is flowing and you won’t even know it’s flowing.
A lot is going on underground right now. You listen to my last lecture on the state of the nation. Apart from the concentric circles, I also dealt with power hubs. Leave my constituency, we are working. In the month of November by God’s grace, we’re pulling people together to discuss the role of the church in nation building.

A lot is going on. Don’t think they are apolitical, they’re not. Some of our leaders are not just as politically savvy as they should be. But you don’t judge them harshly or wrongly, because no man can give what he does not have. You only walk in the light that you have. If you have believed the message that Jesus said, My kingdom is not of this world, there’s no way you want to step into politics, because you believe that.

But you may have read half of the message and you will have called that inconsistent about Jesus, because in Revelation, he now said all the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ and he shall reign forever. So if you read this part that says my kingdom is not of this world, and then you see ‘for God so loved the world’, you will say it’s inconsistent.

Whenever God wants to have controversy with his people, he will raise someone to start that controversy. And you will think it is that man that is controversial? No. Read the book of Nehemiah, it says God will have controversy with his people. Isn’t God controversial?

You have been somewhat critical of this administration at different times. But when Goodluck Jonathan was president, you did not just speak against him, you mobilised against him. Now, when it is convenient, you criticise Buhari and then go back to the Villa. Why are you not mobilising against this government?

That’s a wonderful question. President Jonathan is alive. Even after mobilising against him, how many times did I go back to the Villa, encouraging him and why did I mobilise against him?
Looking back now, he wanted to remove the subsidy. Maybe it would have been better off. It was the approach. He said we will go and hold town hall meetings to tell Nigerians about the reasons why I want to do this. And they did one meeting in Lagos. My friend, the 14th Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, was there to explain. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was there to explain and Dieziani Allison-Madueke.

On January 1, he announced and I said Mr. President, you have not gone around to tell anybody this and he said that’s what we’ll do and I said, we will meet in the public square.

Do you regret mobilising against that policy decision?
I have no regrets. His style was what we kicked against. And we said don’t kill Nigerians, kill corruption. Do you know things I did behind the scenes? What are the things that led to it? Unfortunately, my brother Yinka Odumakin, is late now and Oronto Douglas is also late.
He met with us at a Chinese restaurant and said what can he do? I said whether you call it sovereign or anything, constitute a conference, let Nigerians speak. And eventually, the Southwest people said I should represent the Southwest, and I went to that conference. The chairman of my committee was Gen. Ike Nwachukwu. What he sent to me after the conference, I have kept for my biography.

Almost all throughout the conference, I was seeing him day and night. Let me say this publicly, I don’t talk about what I do. When I saw crisis coming regarding that election, President Jonathan said, the South-west was against him. I said, they are not against you. So I went straight to the British High Commissioner, now Sir Andrew, in the House of Lords.

He called his counterpart in the Canadian embassy and found ways around the problem that was looming. In one day, I was at the villa three times, in the house of the British High Commissioner three times and with Buhari three times. I was going back and forth amongst them. Yes, God is my witness. Buhari is alive.

The conclusions were three. One, if he lost the election and went and there’s no trouble, he will not be seen as an election loser. He will be seen as a constitutional change agent. That’s number one.
Number two, if there are no human rights abuses, nobody will harass him. Number three, he will become a peace ambassador to represent anywhere there is democratic struggle. I eventually invited Kofi Annan also. I will write my memoirs, everyone will write their own history.

And President Jonathan said to me, he would not go for the handover parade, they could stone him there. I said if they stone you, may the stone be upon me. You must go there like a gallant soldier. I don’t know how many Nigerians visited him after he lost power. I did. The trouble between him and Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, I got involved and I reconciled them. There’s a lot to say. But people don’t know. But you don’t carry banners.

You are an important voice in the polity and you have far reaches. Frankly, what’s your assessment of this government in the last six years?
We learn from our elders, we learn from the Holy Spirit and we learn from the book. I will go to one of my elders, a force to reckon with even in death. Chief Obafemi Awolowo would speak the truth and back it with data. With one sentence, he killed the census conducted at that time, “That the recently concluded census is an exercise in futility’’ and so on and so forth. That was the end of that census.

When Ibrahim Babangida came to power and they said, you are not saying anything about him. He said no man has shown me greater respect like him. I’m not criticising him. Okay, if a man or a nation has gone in the wrong direction for 40 to 50 years, you have to reverse first and start going back. Our expectations were very high. Sometimes, I have sat down to think that, ah, as president, has Buhari not demystified himself, because the expectations of Nigerians were very high when he was coming to power.

To start with, the kind of ill health he had, he had never had such a thing and that affected grossly the first term. That ill health was a major thing. That he is still alive today is a miracle. If you put all the six years he has spent, other than infrastructure development, the promise he made to the public concerning Boko Haram or security, we know it has gone worse, as far as I am concerned.

They say it’s not as bad as we think. But I need to be convinced. The rail track, a few days ago to Kaduna, they bombed it. When my brother, Nasir el-Rufai said I should take the train to Kaduna, I said I will wait. They are trying their hardest, but no matter from which angle you’re looking at it, whether it is economic, whether it is politics, whether it is security, you will have something negative to say. But it is easier to be critical than correct. I will not beat my chest until I sit on that seat and do better.

Some people will take issues with that, because you beat your chest and condemned things in the past and spoke frankly.
I have spoken frankly to him, privately and publicly several times. I can send you the state of the nation I gave in the past three years. I would never sacrifice truth on the altar of friendship. That would be dangerous for all of us. President Jonathan is not my enemy by the way. He has never seen me as one. He knew what I stood for and he wrote on my 60th birthday. He (Jonathan) said pastor Bakare does not mind whose ox is gored. President Buhari also wrote that I have chosen to be on the side of justice and truth and that I am willing to pay any price for it.

Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer and the life of Christ does not abide in him. If a policy is wrong, I will say it just as I have done. I said the day they invaded Sunday Igboho’s house that it was beastly, because he’s a free citizen and he’s organising people and you have no right to go into his house and destroy it. You could arrest him if he had done something wrong and prosecute him.

A lot of people have started to wonder how a general, said to have chased criminals to Chad, hasn’t chased any out of Nigeria. But a lot of people are also saying he’s treating these people with kid gloves, because he’s sentimental to them.

Nigeria’s problems are hydra-headed. When he said I am for everybody and for nobody the day he was sworn in and moved the operational base to the warfront, I am sure he also assumed that in no time, the battle would be won. Then they came up with “we have technically defeated them” until the thing began to grow worse. That general you are talking about was in his 40s during the Chad (Maitasine) episode.

In fact, God used him to save my life during that episode. I was in Kano. My friend and I were doing youth corps service and what we had left in the house were about 16 pieces of potatoes, because nobody could move. Until the fourth day, when we started hearing Jos, Jos and we just jumped into the vehicle and found ourselves in Vom outside of Jos, the veterinary institute. That was where I spent Christmas in 1980. If he didn’t tackled Maitasine, they would have killed us.

Right now, it’s not only Boko Haram you are dealing with. You are dealing with ISWAP invaders, who have come in from other West African countries. You are also dealing with those who brought guns from Libya, according to what they say. I am not there. That’s what I read in the papers. I’ve had one or two occasions of asking the president and let me tell you this, because it’s not everything that one says. Despite my long association and relationship with Nasir el-Rufai, I have only been in Kaduna twice since he became governor.

The first day, when he started work, I went to pray for him, because I saw some revelations, which I shared with him. The second time was after I’d gone to Southern Kaduna to organise the elders and Christians there and brought them face to face with him so that we will have a lasting solution. One of those there was Emmanuel Kure.
I travelled from here with security front and back and we fixed a date and we met. When I went to the president, I said this should not be happening. Do you know he dispatched a battalion or whatever it is called, to go there, and quell all the trouble there. And the Fulani leaders came to that meeting and said, kill our sons, except you kill them, you will not have peace. Yes.

Why?
They said because they have nothing to inherit from us anymore. In the past, they knew they would inherit our cows, but the cows are no longer ours, they belong to the military top brass. We are just working for them and our children have found out that crime proceeds pay more than what they will get from cows. If you don’t kill them, you will not have peace. They said that. I was in that meeting.

And Emmanuel Kure said, please, don’t kill them, we will preach, we will pray and seek solutions. They must not be killed. Every life is important, which is good, because he is a preacher. That’s what preachers should do. But the man who dispatched the military immediately said, look whatever it is, maintain peace there. And what that means is, whatever it is, eliminate those who are causing destruction.

But the Christian community said, don’t you. And I’m not for killing people. We will find a solution to what is causing the problem. I’ve just told you one thing today, the fathers of those boys holding arms said if you don’t eliminate them, there cannot be peace. They have no respect for us anymore. They know they’re not going to inherit anything from us and they have found out that the proceeds of crime are more than what they could get from cows. This is the challenge we face.

The government is weak in both the economy and the fight against corruption, which was meant to be the president’s first priorities coming into office. You don’t think that all these boil down to a lack of capacity?
Three things you need as a leader: Capacity, competence and character. If you have the first two and you don’t have character, you will soon wreck yourself. Please, tell me, how do you define capacity? He’s been a soldier all his life. I can tell you this as a joke. I hope it will not be misconstrued. Publicly, when I was his running mate, he said Pastor Bakare has preached every day of his life (I wasn’t preaching every day), and he said he has written sermons every Sunday; he has preached on national television, please, let me speak before him, because if he speaks before me, it is finished.

But that doesn’t mean he can’t express himself. Until the Duke (Prince Nduka Obaigbena) assembled a team to go interview him, he was not speaking to anyone. In strict confidence, my wife and I visited him in London after the 2019 election. And he said to me, Nigerians are about to know who Muhammadu Buhari is. My health challenge is no longer an issue. We have won this election. Abubakar Atiku, who filed a case, the matter has been resolved in my favour, I am going back to give the best to my nation.

If you saw me when I was going to my car that day, I was 10-foot taller, because I took those words seriously. And if there’s anything we keep talking about behind the scenes and publicly, it is his legacy. What will be said about you and your administration? I wrote papers upon papers. I took friends along and he will shake their hands vigorously and say “you will not regret your coming’’.

When I was dealing with the last state of the nation lecture, I said, now I know that it is better to be on the seat of power than to be in the room, because in that room, when you come in and you believe what you think, that these are the low-hanging fruits that will make the difference. But as you’re stepping out, others are coming in to rubbish whatever you have planned. It only takes one rotten apple to destroy an apple cart. That’s what makes it look like a lack of capacity. And when I said to you, define capacity, the president can’t do all things. The reason there must be a changing of the guard is no matter how hot you are, if you’re surrounded by wet blankets, they will soon quench your fire.

Some 483 days to the end of this government, there is no time to render the service he wants to give to the country. Whatever he wants to do to make a difference is slipping away fast, because there’s no time. The people don’t feel him. No one can travel anywhere safely by road. This is not the Nigeria he promised us. Why is it so bad?
In my village, they say the poor man cannot sleep, because he’s hungry and the rich man also cannot sleep, because the poor is still awake. The purpose of government is the welfare and security of people. When not felt or seen, you can as well roll up that government and put it in the dustbin of history.

But unfortunately, what I’ve seen so far is, I look at the calibre of people around the president. I’m talking about his ministers, his directors of MDAs, etc. and because the president is one man, those you surround yourself with matter. Look, this is a man who worked with just one person called Tunde Idiagbon and they shook this country. I am not saying they did everything right.

I was listening to Lee Kwan Yew (former Singapore Prime Minister) and his high-handedness. Our problem is we put democracy before development. And the military power he exercised in those days, he can’t now, even if he wanted. Imagine how shocked he was when he learnt of budget padding. They will take this budget to the National Assembly and they will add things to it, and he couldn’t do anything or else they will not pass the budget.
You have mentioned insecurity, you have mentioned corruption. You don’t even understand what corruption is, unfortunately. The Bible says in Romans chapter 8, that the whole earth is groaning in the grip of corruption awaiting the manifestation of the sons of God. If the church is the salt of the earth, and the light of the world, that should be our major focus. You are an ambassador of your family, whether you like it or not. You come from a family. But when we gather in a church, we become what the Bible calls a holy nation. Where is the impact of those who call the name of Christ in government today?

I do not excuse the lack of vibrancy that Nigerians are talking about, I do not excuse it and we must not sweep it under the carpet. But I’m saying evil communications corrupt good manners. Who do you surround yourself with? I would like to surround myself with achievers. People, who have done something with their lives, who hate covetousness.
I want to see a day when people go into government, not because of what they can get, but what they can give, because power is for service, not for sale. And if a man is surrounded by those who are diverting public funds into their private use and what have you and he’s not doing anything with them, eventually, the buck ends on your table. Show me your friends. I’ll tell you who you are.

Please answer this question as frankly as possible. The president is a sectional leader, he’s nepotistic in his choices, in his thinking and he does not have any regrets about this. Do you talk to him about it?
Let’s not compare apples with oranges. When the trees are growing, they may look alike. When the fruits are produced, they’re different. A person like Obasanjo, who had been military president, has been civilian president and he ran Ota leadership forum for a very long time, bringing heads of state and what have you to Ota. In one of those days, I received a call from Obasanjo.

He called me because of then President of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda. And he said Kaunda has come to Ota forum and he would like to see you before he will speak. Now, what happened, we met at London Metropole, I was on my way to Hong Kong to minister. And his suite was opposite my suite.

And he invited me and I gave him the word of the Lord that was revealed to me concerning him. He got to his country, found it so and he said you have a gem here and I gave him my card. That was why he called. I went there to pray with President Kenneth Kaunda. As I was coming out of his room, there was Obasanjo. Now, I am laying the foundation to your question.

I wouldn’t tell you what role I played when he was in prison. That day will come. There are witnesses. Neither will I tell you the role it pleased God that I played to reconcile him with Yoruba leaders. That is it. It was that day he said if anyone had told him that pastor Bakare will do this, I would have doubted it. I don’t put it in the public space, especially when working privately.

I’ve seen Kilimanjaro, I’ve seen Mount Everest, I’ve seen all the seas in this country, but I have never seen a photograph of God displayed on them so you will know that He created it. So I work behind the scenes.
Now to answer your question, he (Obasanjo) also contested for the Secretary General of the United Nations, look at the exposures that he had and the wide horizon that was his. Difficult as it is, a man can only work with the people he knows. There are people in every state and in every geopolitical zone that would have enriched his cabinet. Let’s start from his cabinet.

That’s compulsory, you have to bring people from every state. But outside of that, don’t underestimate the skillfulness or the ability of the north to manage power and to concentrate it and to make sure that anybody that wants to take part of that will have to sit down and negotiate with them. You look at the Supreme Court, for example, that’s part of my constituency.

And you see that the line-up of those who are the highest at the supreme court level are one generation succeeding another, because while you and I as lawyers are pursuing SAN in Abuja, and pursuing big money, they start planting their own sons in the magistrates’ courts, in courts of appeal and promote them there.

In the past, in the part of the country I came from, being in the army was for thugs, who are difficult. If you are going to promote someone to chief of army staff or chief of naval staff, he has to be according to their ranking. So if they have put their own people like a tortoise, because you remember the race between the hare and the tortoise.

I will be honest with you. It depends on your horizon and power has a way of making you feel insecure around people that you really don’t know well. I am not saying it’s right. But you look at a person’s background, exposure and experience. Lawyers say it this way: Nemo dat quod non habet (you cannot give what you don’t have).

There are two critical issues that are dominating the polity currently. Power shift to the south and rotational presidency and you have kicked against this, stating that it breeds incompetence. How exactly do you mean?
Well again, this is a problem of the press. They take what they like and they leave what they don’t like. What I said was that first and foremost, rotational presidency is not in our constitution. But if politicians have agreed among themselves, they will have to be true to whatever they have agreed upon.

If you’re looking for capacity, competence and character, you have such people in every part of the country. The best, the most competent and the fittest should be the one that should occupy this seat from now on, or else we’re not going anywhere. It will be doldrums forever. That was my position.

There are secessionist agitators everywhere. You have Igboho, who wants Oduduwa republic, you have Nnamdi Kanu, who wants Biafra. A lot of people have attributed the rise of these guys to the style of governance of the current occupant of that position. Isn’t there truth to this?

Solomon lamented in the book of Ecclesiastes. He said all this wealth that I’ve gathered and heaped up, who knows who will inherit it, maybe he will be a fool. And maybe God heard him and answered him, gave him Rehoboam as a son, and the kingdom split in his face. Rehoboam, the people of Israel came to him and said, your father oppressed us. We are not asking you not to be king but reduce this oppression, so that we can serve you.
And he said, come back in three days. He went to the elders who served his father and they said, please hearken to these people now and they will serve you forever. Then he went to the yuppies around him and they told him, you are going to be showing that you are weak if you do that. You have to tell them who you are, that you’re made of sterner stuff.

So the third day came. And he said, “My father beat you with whips, I’ll beat you with scorpion. My small finger is stronger than the loins of my father.” And they said to him, to your tents oh Israel. We have no portion in the tent of Jesse. Any constitution that will not bend will break. Power of the people is stronger than the people in power. And that’s why we must stir up this nation. That’s what “Nigeria for Nigerians” is all about. And I’ve presented that to the president already. I don’t want him to hear it or see it on TV. We will mobilise this nation like never before.

Is that another Save Nigeria Group?
It’s stronger and more powerful than the SNG. I remember when SNG started, we had the first march in Abuja, people said you think this is a crusade. One person there said, mobilise me to take four vehicles to Ado-Ekiti and we will bring people to Abuja. And I said, you don’t need to do all that. Another brother said we have been in the trenches, are you sure you know how to organise this? I said you will see that the rest of us are not lazy either.

I have criss-crossed this nation and by the grace of God, when the day came, we pushed the button. Vincent Ogbulafor, who saw the people and said it was a parade was removed as PDP chair and the rest is history. We had the doctrine of necessity. My friend, Fola Adeola, said any man fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves is a fool. Nigerians don’t want to fight for themselves because there are things that have dented their psyche but we will restore hope and make them understand that the power is in their hands.

We will let them see what they can do with it. When our leaders in the church began to shout get your PVC, I laughed because you are putting the cart before the horse. You will not go forward, you will go backwards. You are not interested in who comes out in the primary. If the two parties produce two devils, you have to choose one with your PVC. Get involved from local government, states. We have the number.

Nigeria is threatened on all fronts. From the security challenges, the secessionist agitators and then the religious guys like El-Zakzaky. Where is the nation headed?
Only one thing can solve that problem. When there is fairness, when there’s equity, when there’s a sense of belonging, when you treat a citizen with respect, where the office of the citizen is as important, if not more important than the office of the president. That is what will solve the problem. Until then, if you lead a sectional government that everybody thinks you are pro-north or pro-south, people will agitate. Those who want to go are saying, we are not better off here, this union is creating trouble for us.

And I’m glad for what the former running mate for Moshood Abiola, Ambassador Kingibe, said. He said that our unity is negotiable. And in my address, I said what they’re saying to us is our disunity is non-negotiable, because we’re already disunited, and you’re saying we should not go by force or coercion. But you can’t oppress people forever. Israel came out of Egypt, the 12 tribes separated into northern and southern Israel, Southern Sudan, the whole of the USSR. You can’t force people against their will as to what they think is right for them.

But if there’s fairness, if there’s equity, if there’s justice, all the attributes of good governance are in that one passage I read earlier: Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. All the seven principles of good governance are there. I have told you that for me, the Bible is not a religious book. I hate religion with passion. The word religion is from the Greek word religio, it means to return to bondage. Jesus did not come here to start religion, He came here to start a relationship with God. They are two totally different things.

So when you stand at the altar, what are you doing if it’s not religion?
I’m giving them the truth. “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Educate the people more on this.

Is the Bible not the constitution of Christians?
The constitution of Christianity is in Matthew chapter five called the Beatitudes. The Bible has both the Old Testament and New Testament. Because two books are involved, that’s why it is called “Bible”. The New Testament is to fulfil, the Old Testament contains the new, the new enfolds and unfolds. There are some sacrifices you don’t need to perform anymore because of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus. If you think the Bible is about religion, listen to James, the brother of Jesus, the apostle, what he calls pure religion.

Do you know what he calls pure religion? He didn’t just define it, he said pure religion is visiting the widows and the fatherless and keeping yourself unspotted from the world, that’s when you are doing it. It’s not on the camera. Dressing up on Sunday, going to church, dressing up Monday to Friday, praying five times a day does not make you a better person. It makes you a religious person. That’s all.

The permutations for 2023 are still somewhat fluid. There are three scenarios people say might play out: chances of power being retained in the north, Muslim-Muslim ticket and a Government of National Unity (GNU). Do you share some of these views?
The way our country is constituted right now, no matter who wants to lead this country (I don’t like the word rule, because I’m not subject to any person), one of my friends while he was in exile said, “Why I want to rule Nigeria”. He had a word for me and I asked him who will be your subjects? Anyone that wants to lead this country right now will have to negotiate with the north and the north has a way of giving you the crown and holding the sceptre and if that’s going to change, our glorified death certificate called the Nigerian constitution must have to go through a rejig.

I honestly will say, almost all the things that were going for the north in the days of Ahmadu Bello are no longer there. The textile industries where they dominated are not there anymore. The groundnut pyramids, etc. And what they have is what they hold. They have power. Nigeria is structured in such a way that no section can win an election by itself. The southerner cannot win an election without reaching out to the north and the northerner cannot win the election without reaching out to the south. Three times, including the time I ran with President Buhari, he lost the elections. He didn’t believe it. He believed that it was rigged.

And I told him, look, with due respect, the best may not win because you do not know how to reach out to the rest of the communities that constitute the nation. How do you get 25 percent in two-thirds of states in Nigeria? You are just a local champion in the Northwest. Northeast, South-south and Southeast must come into agreement or northwest and southwest. That’s how you win. I do not think the north will say, come and take it, we are giving it to you. This is what they live on. Economy in the north, for example, is civil service. Civil servant that is paid monthly salary to go buy things from the market. And when they are not paid, they take it on credit, and they keep on giving them that credit waiting for the day they will be paid.

So if you have a civil service, there’s a power structure that supports it. We’ve travelled far and wide in this nation. I’m of the considered opinion that you use what you have to negotiate what you want, because this life is not fair. You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate. But you must negotiate in such a way not from the position of weakness, you negotiate from a position of strength. And now what constitutes strength in politics. Democracy is a ruthless game of numbers. Twenty three million people are students in our country, of voting age, according to the last electoral register.

But do you know they’re disenfranchised anytime there’s an election, because they registered on their campuses, and they shut down the campuses when the election is on. Now, those are things that many people do not know in Nigeria. We sat down to study it, and we are going to bring change to that. Housewives are 6 million people. No president in recent history had 23 million votes. Well, what Buhari used to negotiate with the Southwest were the 12 million-plus people that he had. So if someone can come up with 22 million votes, because that particular segment believes his message, then, you go to negotiate with strength. And you have to give unto Caesar, the things that are Caesar’s and you have to give unto God the things that are God’s.

Can I tell you that, that answer is not pretty straightforward? Someone will say, well, some things belong to Caesar, give to Caesar, some things belong to God, we give what belongs to God. That’s not what Jesus said, or meant. They said, shall we pay tax, or not. He said, Why are you trying to tempt me. Give me a coin, and asked, whose image or superscription is on this coin? They said Caesar’s.

Then He said give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God. So if we use image to determine what belongs to Caesar and use image to determine what belongs to God. And God created mankind in his image, including Caesar. The critical factor in 2023 would begin in 2021 and it’s the God factor.

Time is running out on 2021, so how will it start?
There’ll be a changing of the guard. Go and write it down. I don’t care, but by 31st of December, there’ll be a changing of the guard.

Is that a prophecy you can be held to?
I know it in my heart. There’ll be a changing of the guard very soon. And it is the by-product of it that will do 2023.

You are very passionate about this country, but given the current state of play, do you really believe in the unity of Nigeria?
We are better off staying together, provided there is fair play, equity, justice, and rule of law. What we have now is the rule of man, and with the rule of man, might is right. The day right becomes might, we are better off. It is not by accident that God put us together this way. We can say the British did it. What that book tells me in Acts 17, is that God predetermines the boundaries of every nation and they are dwelling in the hope that they will go forward. And there’s no nation, according to Deuteronomy, which is the handover note from one government to another. Moses was writing a handover note to Joshua, the generation that will cross Jordan and divide the line. He said there’s no nation on earth that God did not give inheritance to. Some squandered theirs.

There was a sermon that got me into trouble in those days. I began to sing Abacha will be butchered o. I went to Kano during the conference of The Apostolic Church and I said, Murtala Mohammed is not the last head of state that will be brought home dead, Abacha is coming home dead. I didn’t just start this yesterday.

How many people would know that I was a student union leader in my university days? How many people will know that we started the youth wing of UPN? How many people will know today that we brought Obafemi Awolowo to the University of Lagos in 1978 and that OGD and I were frequent callers at his Parklane. They will think I just woke up, he has no experience, he has nothing.

Okay, with the experience that they have, what have they done? We need experience, we need skill and we need expertise. But honestly, we have wasted time. A lot of it. But there’s still time for us. God has not given up on Nigeria, and we must not give up on our nation. I think to answer your question, we are better off together based on equity, fairness, justice, rule of law, where right becomes might. The Awujale of Ijebu land, Oba Sikiru Adetona, said to me, if you can write a letter to any ministry or MDA, and you get a reply without going there, I will give you money.

Wondering if you were the president of this country today, how would you handle these secessionist agitations?
I will sit with them. It’s called sitting on the table of brotherhood. A number of things that happened that were wrong, because you don’t expect the government to fold its hands, when police stations were being burned, when prisons were being broken into and people set free, when soldiers were being killed. That’s our last line of defence, being killed. No government will fold its hands, but good government or good leadership will say what is causing this?

There was a terrible famine in Israel and David enquired from the Lord, why is this famine continuous for three years. And he said it is because of the blood-thirsty house of Saul. They killed the Gibeonites that they had an agreement with. He said, repair the damage or there will be no respite. So he went to the Gibeonites and said what do you want? They said, we don’t want money, we don’t want anything; the man who killed us, give us seven men from his family to be hanged. They were hanged and the famine stopped.

So I said those of you standing on the red carpet, you’re standing on the blood of MKO and until you do him the honour that he deserves, Nigeria will not know peace. And if you go to President Jonathan, he will tell you how many times I brought Kola Abiola and thank God, President Buhari did the needful. Not only did he honour MKO, he also honoured my boss, Gani Fawehinmi. But honestly, I do not see the secessionist movement, if you call it that, winning, except you sit on the table of brotherhood. Don’t jail those people. In one clime, a freedom fighter is a terrorist, in another, he is a freedom fighter.

If you say sitting on the table of brotherhood, would you have also sat with bandits to negotiate?
No. Bandits are criminals. You silence them, you overpower them. These criminals, these bandits, they eat food. They don’t have any farm, where do they get the food from? Some people are selling to them. So they know them. It is the lack of intelligence that is hindering us or wilful collaboration with evil. It’s one out of the two.

Let’s talk about your Church, how were you able to build the Citadel?
When the citadel began, all that was in our coffers was N500 million and one day, my wife said it seemed a citadel was possible, because we had gotten the approval. The approval was given on my daughter’s wedding day – some five, six years ago. We didn’t have the money to build, but God granted us favour.

I’ve done some investment myself in times past. And there are members of the church, who gave their best, but I will tell you today, Citadel was financed by five banks, no government money, not one dime. The only person in government who gave us money was Buhari – the N5 million I mentioned earlier. There were individuals who gave this and that. Even the loans we took, we didn’t take a penny into account, they were paid directly to contractors.

Out of the five banks, we have paid two off. We are on the third one now. And that’s Fidelity. We have paid off Unity bank, we have paid off UBA. We are paying fidelity now, and the two other banks have restructured the facility so that instead of two years, it is now five years where we can pay in instalments and I’m writing a book on how Citadel was funded so that people can keep quiet. And honestly, the only security they took for this was my name and the land upon which it is built and the old building.

But how smart is it to build a church with a facility, when it’s not a business venture?
Then you don’t understand nation building. The book of nation building is the book of Nehemiah, read chapter one, read chapter two, and go to chapter six, you will see it there, the house I will live in, the citadel, the tempo, and the commercial section. The commercial section in that place, but for COVID, will pay for everything there, and you don’t have to really pressurise people.

There’s a banking hall, there are big shops that will attract commerce. Why do you put billions in a building that you use twice a week? It is madness. It (the Bible) said your gate shall not be shut day and night. There must be activities going on there. There’s an event centre there. There are schools there. All the classrooms that I use for Sunday school, we use for school from Monday to Friday. It’s a complete community model.

It’s interesting that you just have one church that you manage. Why do others keep having denominations everywhere when there should be industries instead?
The day Jesus gave up the ghost, the Bible says there was darkness all over the earth for a few hours. So if you are upset by churches opening up everywhere, then, let there be darkness and not light. I do not have branches everywhere because it is my considered opinion that a pastor can only pastor a church. To denominate is to divide, it is not wrong for those who think that is what they are called to do. But when I read my Bible, I see the epistle to the Romans, the epistle to the Corinthians, the epistle to the Philippians. So there’s a Philippian church.

There may be other house fellowships all around them. I’m not condemning them building churches, but it will be sad at the end of the day, if there’s nil or negligible righteousness in our land, because it’s righteousness that exalts a nation. When those men in those churches become righteous people, do you know we only have one service in our church in a very long time, because if you have to do Monday Bible study, Tuesday this, Wednesday that, when will they work?

But we are not responsible for the businesses that are going down. The government that’s not creating an enabling environment should be blamed for that issue. I do not have a good word for what I call McDonald franchising. The Catholic Church has branches everywhere. Nobody’s talking about them. Same with Anglican Church, nobody’s talking about them, the Methodist Church has branches everywhere.

It’s because they probably don’t preach prosperity messages as they are known today?
No. They do. Prosperity is not wrong. I’m not an advocate of a one-sided gospel. The gospel of health and wealth and not righteousness and not holiness and not sanctification. That’s where the problem is. Now, why are people not criticising the other churches? It’s because there’s order, there’s establishment. They’re not perfect, the day you find the perfect church and you join it, you become imperfect, because you’re not perfect, but there’s order. There are standards.

Anybody who wears a Tom Ford suit, and has Italian shoes, wears diamond ring and can read and speak small grammar can start a church. That’s why it’s become “In the Name of God PLC”. I have no good word for such growth, because not every growth is good growth. Cancer is growth.

Is it true you are handing over the running of the church?
I did that a while ago. I’ve stopped running that church for some years now. First, it was 80 per cent of my responsibility that was dished out to the management team. And then the 20 per cent has become 2 per cent and because I’m going into nation building, now, we’ve raised leaders to continue, I will die one day anyway. As beautiful as the citadel is to many people, I have only one thing there. Number one, in the 33 years that I’ve pastored, I’ve never held the key to my office or to the church building. Never. Not once.
I’m conscious that I will die one day. And if there’s going to be continued and enduring legacy, others will be empowered while I’m still alive. What I carry is a pioneering vision, but that pioneering vision must empower others to become part of that vision, that’s when it becomes corporate vision. Corporate vision is not a statement on the wall, it is a pioneering vision that empowers others, because Jesus said it, it’s expedient for me to go away. If I do not go away, the Holy Spirit will not come. You’ll be able to do greater works than I do when I go.
So if you look at the entirety of citadel, there is a place there that you may not identify. It is not known to the public, it is the place I’ll be buried when I am gone.

So you have prepared?
It’s an ultimate end and wise men must prepare for their end. Show me my end so I may know how frail I am. Man at his very best is but vapour.

What is really the issue between you and Bishop David Oyedepo?
What issue?

You regularly throw darts at him
When did I do that last?

Just throw more light. What happened? Journalists will always ask questions
Bishop Oyedepo and I were friends. We did meetings for each other. I went to Kaduna, because that was his base then before he came to Lagos. And I preached both in his church in Kaduna and in Lagos. There were conferences that were held outside. The two of us and our wives will stay in the same suite. He will be in one room with his wife and I in one with my wife and we will come to pray in the living room before going to church.

However, I deal with issues, I don’t deal with persons. But the beauty of it is that we made up. I was on the plane and we were both on first class and he came over to my seat and we were eating. My daughter in the faith froze and said how can you be eating with Oyedepo? I said, Oyedepo is not my issue, I dealt with the issue, not the person. By the time we finished, he said I am coming to your house and so we made up. The public does not know the difference between issues and persons. So I don’t deal with the person.