Nigeria can’t afford to put treasury looters in charge anymore – Pastor Bakare – Punch Newspapers

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In this interview with ENIOLA AKINKUOTU and TOPE OMOGBOLAGUN, Serving Overseer of the Citadel Global Community Church and a presidential aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, Tunde Bakare, shares insight into the state of the nation, his presidential ambition and other issues
Why do you want to be president of Nigeria?
This nation has given me a lot of opportunities in life. As far as I’m concerned, it’s payback time. It was President JF Kennedy who said, “Do not ask what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.” As a citizen of this nation, I have benefited in terms of free education in primary school that prepared me for secondary school and subsequently where I am today. Nigeria is a land that God has blessed and I’ve been blessed in this land. I want to make the same thing available, especially to the poor and the downtrodden.
You’re going up against about 23 aspirants just within your party, the All Progressives Congress. Don’t you feel daunted at all running against the Vice President, the Senate President, seven serving and ex-governors, and so many other illustrious individuals?

You make me laugh. There are so many that run in a race, but only one will obtain the crown. I gave an example just a few minutes ago to some people. How many people were in the full-time army the day Goliath showed up in the city? You are looking at experience. Many experienced people brought us to this doldrums. We need geniuses at this time, the ability to do the first thing the right way without any precedent. It takes more than experience to build a great nation.
Never in the history of this country has a non-politician won the presidential election. What gives you the confidence that you can break the record?
Doing the same thing, same way again and again and expecting a different result, as they say, is insanity. What would drive a person like me and others who have been waiting? Do you want us to wait in limbo forever or be on the fence and be looking on? No. We have what to offer.

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Give me room; let us demonstrate what I carry. How many years now have I been in the vanguard to ensure that a constitutional order is maintained in this country?  That I’m not in the civil service or public service does not mean that I’ve not been contributing to what’s going on behind the scene. Time will come when history will reveal what exactly we have done behind the scene to contribute our quota in this period. What we are saying is that it is time for Nigerians to roll up their sleeves. It doesn’t matter whether we have been in public service or the private sector; what is important is that we have contributed meaningfully to the health and well-being of our nation and our citizens. And now, we want to take the driver’s seat and do things right.
As the provisions of the Electoral Act stands right now, none of the direct statutory delegates will be allowed to vote in the APC presidential primary on Monday. This means the governors, the 23 of them, are the ones really calling the shots. How many of them do you have on your side, especially as you’re not part of them per se?
You want to know how many of them have visited me already? And how many of them have looked up to me in times past? I’m not about to blow my trumpet. There are those who walk in the corridors of power and there are those who are in the bedroom of power; and there are those who are intimate with those who make decisions. I’m not an outcast; I don’t operate outdoors.
But we haven’t really seen you in videos and pictures lobbying delegates the way many of the other aspirants have been doing.
I do not want you to contradict yourself. Statutory delegates are not going to vote. The congresses that produced these delegates only finished last weekend. So, who were they jumping to? They were going to meet statutory delegates that were not going to vote.  We have deployed a means of meeting those congresses. I have the list of those who emerged (as delegates) across the whole nation, and we are reaching out to them in our way. Deep rivers flow with majestic silence.
The presidential primary of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party which was held last Saturday was described as dollar rain. It is believed that of your party, APC, would not be any different. Do you have the financial muscle to guarantee a good showing at the APC presidential primary?
It is these monetised qualities that have brought us to where we are. The electorate in Nigeria allow themselves to be bought over at election time and then they give room to the politicians to devastate them for the next four years. Some of them call it stomach infrastructure. But money is about to fail right before us. Money failed in Egypt and money is about to fail again, because of the integrity card.

If you look at nations that make progress, they do not buy votes; politicians present their manifestos and track record and based on that, people make their choice. We want to try this because Nigerians are fed up with politicians who only think of elections and not the next generation.
I’m using the biblical story here about a man called Jephthah.  Jephthah was the son of a harlot, he was driven away from home, and he gathered area boys and began to develop his physical strength. When war broke out, all those who drove him away said, ‘Wait a minute, we have tried this before and it’s not working, let’s go to Jephthah.’ Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. Jephthah came and delivered them because he had developed capacity.
If you look at a king like David, he shepherded Israel with the integrity of his heart and the skillfulness of his hands. We need both integrity and skill, not just experience. We need integrity. Would you want to open the treasury again to looters to further worsen our situation? No, no.
There’s a way to do it. And we will do it right. And we have shown this track record. Several years ago, Beetles were sold for N30,000,  so graduates could not afford cars. In partnership with a friend of mine,  we went to Czechoslovakia and we brought Skoda cars into this country for the first time. This is to show you that anytime there is trouble, we have looked for solutions. We have done it over the years. We know what to do when, by God’s grace, we take over the seat and begin to use that power to engender what we call the material resources redistributive imperative in our nation. Nobody will be neglected. Nobody will be marginalised; everybody will have a say.
The President, Major General Muhammadu (retd.), did not sign the Electoral Act amendment bill, which would have made it mandatory for all political parties to adopt the direct primary method. Do you think this would have helped curb the menace of vote-buying and inducement of delegates?
We have a disease and it’s endemic because people think they will use money to buy power and it has become entrenched. It will take a major shift to change that. If you do direct primary, the same thing will happen, if you do indirect, the same thing will happen. In fact, it appears that consensus now may be part of the panacea for our problems.
You spoke of consensus and the President on Tuesday asked that he should be allowed to pick his successor. Fingers are crossed. Do you think you will be the favoured one, having been the President’s running mate in the past?

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If you were in my shoes, would you pray for this favour?
Having purchased the N100m nomination and expression of interest forms, will you be open to stepping down if the party resorts to picking a consensus candidate and you are not the one?
May I say humbly that the supremacy of the party is paramount? Nobody is bigger than the party, not even the President because the party produced the President. So, if the party decides that I should step down, and I fight, then something is wrong.

What I will do if that happens is to support whoever is chosen to make sure we do not allow the plague of the PDP to ever come upon Nigeria and Nigerians again.
Speaking of the PDP, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar has emerged as the presidential candidate and he’s said to enjoy quite a large following in the North. Some say the APC will need to field a northerner to be able to defeat PDP’s Atiku at the polls. Are you afraid that Atiku’s emergence has put you and other aspirants from the South at a disadvantage?
Fear has torment; I do not allow fear to drive me at all. I’m a man of faith and I act based on faith. All those permutations are going here and there. Atiku as a northerner has contested many times and has changed camps from AP, PDP, APC to CAN over the years. Has he won? Who has guaranteed that this is the time he’s going to win?  If he failed before, he is likely to fail again. The APC only needs to put its house in order and get the best of the South and the best of the North, because you’ve got to match them together.
In a situation where your chairman is from the North, where your presidential candidate is from the North, you are telling the others that they don’t count. And that’s why you’re going to find an implosion even within their (PDP) system. And this is the time to say, “Oh, let us be sensitive to others.” My advocacy is let the best emerge. My prayer to God is that it’s time for Nigeria to win, and I’m resolute about it. May God help us so that Nigeria wins in 2023. And then we can have a new Nigeria for every Nigerian, so that everyone can be proud to say ‘I am a Nigerian’. That’s my prayer and my focus. That’s what we’re working towards. But don’t think I carry the grace of God for nothing; favour is my passion, rich blessings and favour on every side. I’m surrounded with favour.

Should you become president in 2023, what will be your first concern?
The first thing I will pursue with my might and vigour is to bring peace back into our country. Without peace, there cannot be an increase, particularly, with all these agitations going on. Boko Haram, banditry, kidnappings are all fallout of agitations.  Let’s sit at the table. I advocated that as far back as 2014; I proposed the adoption of the whole of 2014 conference report. And I have written it in black and white.
The first thing will be to set up a Presidential Commission for National Reconciliation and Reintegration and Rebirth within the first 100 days, so that all this noise can die down. We can’t sweep them under the carpet. We must face them head-on. Those who are complaining about marginalisation, how are you marginalised? Peace will be the major pillar; following peace is progress, following progress is prosperity and financial prosperity is possible so that we are not a mono-economy anymore. We will venture into science and technology to ensure that Nigeria becomes a cutting-edge nation where the government is nimble but is very impactful.
Are you talking about restructuring?
Restructuring is a word that appeals to certain schools of thought and I’ve addressed that in the past. If there is no nation in the first place, there will be nothing to restructure. I’m saying, let us focus on what matters. For example, there are those who talk about restructuring but their focus is on what percentage of the ‘national cake’ they will get. Now, let’s bake the cake. Let’s have geo-economic restructuring, the groundnut pyramids, the cocoa, the palm oil, and all those things that enriched this nation. We were not like this. Let’s rearrange, let us have six Dubais in Nigeria. Let the geopolitical zones become centres of development in our nation by looking at what is on the ground of every place and begin to develop them accordingly.
We will scale up our educational system to achieve industrialisation. If you are coming from this area and this is the emphasis of this area, let education be targeted towards that so that when a PhD. student is writing his thesis, it will be something that will benefit that community and develop it
Geo-economic restructuring is what I’ve advocated for about 10 years now; we would have come out of the woods if we had followed it. A house divided against itself can’t stand.

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You are known to be close to President Buhari and you were an active participant in the 2014 national confab. Did you ever advise him to implement the report of that confab?
 I learnt something from Billy Graham, the great evangelist, who, more or less, was called upon in his lifetime at every inauguration to be the one that would lead prayers for America. He said whatever you discuss with those who are in power is your private business. I’ve done my best and God knows that even from the first date, the first month of this administration, I packaged what I call the ‘Buhari legacy.’ And in his own wisdom, he (Buhari) has also said there are so many things we don’t know, except you’re sitting on that seat.
Before you start blaming President Buhari for not implementing the 2014 national conference report, what happened to the President that initiated it? We encouraged back then that with executive power, if there’s political will, there are things that the executive can do, rather than waiting for the legislature. And he (ex-President Goodluck Jonathan) said, ‘When I win the election, I’ll do it.’ So, please, don’t pass the buck to another person.
The President has left the decision to retain or remove fuel subsidy to whoever will be his successor because the budget ends in June next year. If you are Buhari’s successor, how do you see yourself handing this touchy issue?
I wish you go through what I’ve written, TheCable news platform asked every presidential aspirant 12 questions, I answered mine, and I published everything. We are going to do it gradually. But it will be removed. You can take that to the bank. Remember, the Save Nigeria Group spearheaded the protest on subsidy. And when we ‘Say kill corruption, don’t kill Nigeria’, there’s a lot underneath it. But it’s a lot of human factor there. When things are done right and if you keep doing what is right, what is wrong and who is wrong will leave you alone.
Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, has said APC presidential aspirants from the South-West will be meeting with governors with a view to coming up with a consensus candidate. Do you look forward to this meeting, and will you be willing to step down for anybody who emerges as consensus candidate?
When we get to that meeting, we’ll hear what they have to say. When we get to that bridge, we’ll cross it. I didn’t pick the form to say I don’t want to participate. I didn’t join the race to step down. No, I’m stepping up. If there is a need to say, this is the best way forward and the party will decide that, not any individual. We can’t be coerced or intimidated at all.

There are areas in the North that have not voted a Christian since 2003. Is there a strategy as a pastor on how to win these states?
You look back, history is lived forward and it’s written in retrospect. When (the late) Musa Yar’Adua came out to contest for election in 2007, who was the chief campaign director for him? It was Obasanjo. He was going with him everywhere, especially in the areas where they did not have strength where he thought he had the strength. Those vote banks would still be there because I ran with President Buhari. And when it’s my turn to run, it will be part of me because I was part of the success story and he (Buhari) will be part of my success story.
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