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The Pastor of the Household of God Church, Revd Chris Okotie, shares with TUNDE AJAJA his thoughts on the state of the nation, his belief in an interim national government as the solution to the country’s challenges and other issues
You once made this call for an Interim National Government for Reconciliation and Reconstruction in 2018 ahead of the 2019 general elections, and now you are back with the same message. Why do you insist that is the way to go?
When you are dealing with people, it probably takes a while for them to understand your message. The presidential system of government Nigeria practices has failed us and has become inimical and subversive to the Nigerian cause and we must do something drastic about it. We are at the verge of a major national crisis and so some of the people who didn’t listen at that time are more likely to listen now, more so the circumstances have changed and the situation has become worse. There is so much anger and resentment now and our procrastination might lead to a catastrophe.
An Interim National Government is not in the constitution, how do you intend to push this idea through?
The circumstances determine for us now that there is nowhere else to go. To go forward with a presidential election is a journey in futility and a Sisyphean quest and it’s like seeking to embrace an elusive phantom. It can’t take us anywhere because of the existential problems we have today. There comes a time in the evolution of a nation when patriots must sit down and find a way forward and I think that time has come. I think what needs to be done is for the President to begin to work in that direction. I am persuaded that he is able to effect the necessary changes for the survival of this country. Once the National Assembly is with him on that, we can enact the necessary laws that can allow an interim government. I believe this is an auspicious time for that and I believe the patriots in government are already thinking about it.
In 2018, you said you wrote to the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party to allow you run an interim government, have you taken any concrete steps this time round by maybe writing to the National Assembly, the institution at the heart of making such an arrangement possible?
What I have done is to speak to the candidates first because they are patriots and they understand the realities that confront Nigerians at this time. I have asked them to temporise and maintain a hiatus so we can transition into an interim government. What I have done is to galvanise the Nigerian people into a conversation that would lead to this transition. At the end of this conversation, I intend to collate all the information and send as a transcript to the President and National Assembly. I know they recognise that we are sitting on a time bomb more or less and we must do something fast.
Have you spoken in person to the front-runners you mentioned in your press briefing, like Bola Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi?
I haven’t met with them personally because I just began to speak publicly on the subject and I believe their people would have communicated my position to them. In time, I would probably meet with them as opportunity presents itself. I’m persuaded that these are great men and are patriots. I am hoping that the nationalistic sentiments they have whipped and communicated during their campaign before getting the ticket would now supersede their personal ambition.
The National Assembly is pivotal if your proposition is to see the light of day, are you planning to engage them for the necessary legal framework for this to hold?
The first thing I’m doing is to communicate the concept of governance that I’m proposing. I call it aboriginal democracy. Within that concept, we don’t require a National Assembly. This tripartite system of government we borrowed from the United States is an affront to our cultural sensibilities. Our political conscience has not been developed to a point where we can apprehend that system of governance. That is why it has become inimical to the survival of our country. It has polarised our people, balkanised our society and demoralised the entire nation. The first thing I’m proposing is that we don’t need a National Assembly because we have established associations within the polity that are being duplicated by the various committees in the National Assembly. There are about 57 standing committees in the Senate and 89 in the House of Representatives. I’m saying these committees are conterminous with the associations, so if we give the professional associations the capacity to make laws, they will replace the legislature, and they will be volunteers so they won’t need to be paid. Take for instance, the Nigerian Bar Association was established in 1933; the Nigeria Union of Teachers in 1931; the Nigerian Medical Association in 1951 and the Academic Staff Union of Universities in 1978. Some of these predate the present political parties and there is a natural evolution within those associations, which I call gregarious socialisation. They have ties of professional consanguinity and they establish a nexus by way of enterprise and endeavour. So, they have been in the system and so you don’t need to replicate that in the National Assembly.
Many people may find this impracticable, how will they replace the National Assembly in making laws?
If we want to enact laws that affect their areas of specialisation, you go to them and they initiate the law. What we have now, which I call the fatalistic mimic spirit, doesn’t make any logical sense; to spend billions to sustain that structure when we already have the organic structures within the polity. It means if we don’t have the legislature, we won’t need the political parties. The empowerment of the associations would be done in the interim government, not by the present legislature. No sitting government would do these things, so once we get into that interim government it would become easy to formulate those types of policies. Once we don’t need political parties, we don’t need ministers and commissioners and even governors, the civil service has a structure that has been there for ages and it runs itself whether or not there are ministers. If we do this, we are going back to the original definition of democracy, which is why I call it aboriginal, where the power belongs to the people and they determine how they want to be governed, not what we are seeing today. The definition of their democracy is government of the party, by the party and for the party. That’s a fake verisimilitude of democracy and it has been parochialised to reflect the party system and its apparatchik, instead of the people. The framework for that aboriginal democracy will evolve during the interim government. This present constitution is a fraud. All of those things like restructuring that people have been clamouring for will be done within the interim government.
How long do you propose it will last?
It is difficult to say. It depends on when it begins and the terms of reference. Nigeria has been in a state of rot for a long time and it is decaying, so it will take a while to fix these things. It is only when it begins and you have sat with the actors involved that you can agree on the timeframe that you can calibrate the timeframe. What I know is that an interim government is a necessity at this time. There is nowhere else to go and any patriot would understand that it is the only way forward and I have ideas and concepts that would help to stabilise our nation. There are so many things we need to fix, like our federalism; what we are running now is a unitary state. When you look at the centrifugal and centripetal forces, they cannot even be manipulated and those forces are needful when you run federalism. Today, most of all the forces are directed to the centre; they are centripetal. We also have to fix the autonomy of the different states and how they are related to one another. The issue of resource control is also there. All these would be done within the interim government and I propose that I want to run that government.
Some would say you don’t have the requisite political experience to lead a complex nation like Nigeria, what do you make of that?
I think that is an advantage because I’ve not been a part of the corruption. Anyone who has been in governance today has been tainted by that corruption spectre that is now associated with people in public office. I ran for President in 2003 when some of the names being mentioned now were neophytes. What they call governance here is an aberration; you would be totally jaundiced if you come out of that kind of system. So, one of the reasons why I am glad that I can offer Nigeria a solution is because I have never been a part of the complete disorder we have seen in the country. Nobody can offer that as leadership experience and I do not require that kind of experience. I have been superintending a microcosm of this country in my ministry for the past 35 years. You can say we have a microcosm of Nigerians there. What I’m proposing is a novel idea of leadership, which the present actors have no experience about. Let the Nigerian people understand we have hope. You can say we have four candidates. We have His Excellency Atiku Abubakar, Bola Tinubu, Peter Obi and myself, Chris Okotie. The three of them are in one category, while I am in a totally different category.
When you mentioned other actors, you seem to be alone in this or you are working with some other persons?
It’s a concept that I am propagating. When you birth a philosophical concept, it begins with one person, because you have to figure out, for yourself, the practicability of that which you are about to propagate. These are philosophical abstractions that are seeking material practicality. You look at the galvanising impetus, meditational experiment and the expectations. These are things you must deal with by yourself before you begin the mechanical externalisation of that which you have internalised. At this point, I am proposing this as the author, trying to sell it to the Nigerian people as the only option out of the Nigerian conundrum or predicament that we found ourselves in. We have had images like that in the past, like Ernest Shonekan’s interim government but the circumstances are different now. The most important thing is to sell the idea to the Nigerian people that it is viable and it will save us billions of naira and eliminate corruption, which the current system has elevated to an institution. It’s so pervasive but it will no longer be business as usual.
There are countries that have substantive governments in place and were able to come up with a new constitution, why is that almost impossible in Nigeria?
It’s a political conscience. We have not developed a political conscience that can apprehend nationhood and would discard personal or self aggrandisement or the cleavages of ethnicity, religion and regional xenophobia. We have not extricated ourselves from those mundane cleavages that have held us back. Historically, if you look at those other nations, they probably have been through what we are going through, but today government is such a big business that people involved in it are not interested in leadership. They just want to harness wealth. So, you have two major political parties that are identical twins. I say to our people that Nigeria is married to two brothers. There is a concept called fraternal polyandry, a phenomenon where a woman is married to two men. Ours is a political fraternal polyandry, because Nigeria is married to APC and PDP, which are identical twins. They are both ends of the same continuum. Men and women of antithetical political philosophies bandying together for just one common denominator; wealth, and until we rise above these cleavages of religion and ethnicity to an altitude where all these cleavages would diminish in the terrain of national integration, they can never apprehend what you are saying. But aboriginal democracy has a different philosophy and because of the way it is structured, those mundane political appetites won’t find sustenance.
How do you intend to proceed from here given that the idea has yet to resonate sufficiently with the majority?
I don’t want to create religious provincialism but I think there is a simple philosophy that says to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. When the season comes, the agitation becomes ubiquitous and the mandate becomes an imperative. So, I have never been bothered by the inability of a group or a section of the country to understand a concept or philosophy. When the time comes, they will embrace it. I believe in 2019 we began the preamble, the prolegomena or an exordium for what we are doing now. This is not a Chris Okotie thing but a collective responsibility of all patriots who recognise that Nigeria needs to temporise and go into a surgical theatre to fix all the aberrations, anomalies and problems we have swept under the carpet so we can become a vibrant, workable entity. That is why people like me have this opinion about the interim government. As we move towards 2023, it will become obvious that this is the only solution we have to fix our nation.
When you wanted to be president in 2003, you said God told you that you would be, but you lost. You tried again after that but you lost. Did God speak to you about this interim government you are proposing or its your idea?
I said earlier that I don’t want to create religious provincialism. Being a minister, I cannot do anything without authorisation. God loves Nigeria and if He wants to save Nigeria, the first place He would go is to His own people who would submit to his leadership.
Many people have refused to separate this proposition from your presidential bid that didn’t work, especially since you said it was from God. What would you say to such people who feel if God sanctioned it, then it must come to pass?
When the Lord tells you He would do something, it doesn’t necessarily mean it would happen the next day. In the Bible, God sent Moses to Pharaoh many times but Pharaoh said no. He kept sending him back until it capitulated. So, we need to understand that the language of faith is different from ordinary parlance. Faith calleth those things that be not as though they were and faith is far more powerful than we understand it to be. That is what connects us to God, who is in the invisible realm. I don’t want to get people confused. Here is what it is; I am a patriot; I didn’t join politics because I was looking for leadership. If I was, I would have aligned myself with the dominant parties and by now I would be in the hierarchy of government. You cannot win an election on the platform of the Fresh Democratic Party. If you want to win an election, you would go to a dominant party that has structures nationwide. So, those who have a sense of logic would understand that being an intelligent person, that is what I would have done. But I wasn’t looking for the presidency. I was looking for a platform from which I would begin to articulate a concept of governance that would change the political climate and make people understand the difference between a country and a nation. The time for the fulfilment of whatever the Lord would want me to do was up to Him, but I began that process by teaching and articulating this concept of governance to let Nigerians know my intellectual capability. That’s why I always say I have paid my dues, denominated in resilience and tenacity. If anyone feels otherwise, they are entitled to their opinion.
The Serving Overseer of Citadel Global Community Church, Pastor Tunde Bakare, also said God told him he would succeed the President, (Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)) while you also said you had authorisation from God to do this. You are both servants of God, who is truly the next after Buhari?
You would have to speak to Pastor Bakare to give you that information himself. I cannot speak on behalf of a minister who is even a senior colleague. I can only speak for myself. I began a process as far back as 2001. Prof Yemi Osinbajo (the vice-president) is a pastor, if I hadn’t started the concept of the Melchizedek priesthood, which was what I began to teach at that time on why Christians should participate (in politics). It was something I introduced to the church and people thought I had lost my mind. It was that understanding that I brought to the body of Christ that has opened doors for many people to join politics. There are many things that the Lord wants to do and we cannot tell Him how to do it. But spiritual things are quite mysterious to those who know nothing about the Bible. As we walk along the chequered pavement of our mortal existence, we come to the realisation that there are powers that are beyond our understanding and higher than our influences. There is a God, whether you want to believe it or not, but we didn’t get here by accident.
If your proposition doesn’t work, will you go back to mainstream politics and maybe register another political party since your party, Fresh Democratic Party, has been deregistered?
I am not interested in political leadership as a career. What I’m interested in is providing a solution to the many problems Nigeria has. However, sometimes you will be required to take that office to be able to solve those problems, but it is not something I desire as a political career. Sometimes, it’s only necessary to withdraw from the arena to facilitate the process of re-examination.
Some people felt you could have started with contesting to be a governor so you could start effecting the change from that level?
It could not be that way because the philosophies that guide the political parties are antithetical to the things that I believe. What holds these parties together, as far as I’m concerned, is subversive to the Nigerian course, so I could never subject myself to an institution that impoverishes and decimates our national psyche. I will not be identified with a movement, party or association, that is inimical to the corporate existence of our country. So, the only way I could find relevance in trying to help my country is to come to a place where that leadership can impact the people, and that is the presidency. If the Interim National Government doesn’t work, it goes back to business as usual, because there is no political party that will change that system. Nobody and none of the candidates that have emerged can deliver successfully under this arrangement. None, until we change this system. It is incapacitated, predatory in its preoccupation and rapine in its disposition. This system is corrupt and has the capacity to strangulate anything that is contrary to its energy. There is no messiah that can operate within this system. We must change it completely. Nigeria borrowed a system that creates a self-destruct propensity. There is absolutely no way Nigeria can survive this system. It’s absolutely impossible. Our democracy has been hijacked by what I call elitism, mysticism and Satanism. The people have been completely deceived. The cupidity, political irresponsibility, greed, avarice and neo-colonialists mentality that the actors received from their colonial masters which they have tried to articulate and practicalise by subjecting their own people to the same ordeal has caused so much blindness and cowardliness within the society and it has constantly piled up in layers of misrule.
Have Nigerians done enough to challenge that misrule?
There is a level of docility in our system and it is a cultural reality. We have a culture where we respect our elders and no matter what they do, they are always right. When that culture translates to political reality, it leads to the suppression of the people by those who should scrupulously guide the people, so it takes a while for it to distil to a point where people realise that some things are not right. When we started speaking, people began to listen. For clarity, what we are proposing here is not a regime change but a change of system that would make it impossible for all of those primordial forces to operate. It will be a new day for Nigeria. If we go with this plan, things will change drastically and quickly.
Some people have tagged the killing of worshippers in Owo, Ondo State, as a sign of the end times while some say it’s a manifestation of breakdown in governance. What do you think?
The end times began since the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ but in this incident, it was just the same presidential system of government that failed. No matter what it is, every government has the responsibility to protect its people and for the adversary to enter the church and commit that kind of atrocity shows you that there is so much impunity. So I think there is a gap and government must re-assess its responsibility towards the people. I think that is part of what we are talking about. In the new system that I propose, states would have their own police where they can maintain order and you are not going to depend on the Federal Government to do that. If you have assets, you should be able to protect them.
The level of ethno-religious crisis now is alarming and some people still blame Lord Lugard for that 1914 amalgamation. Is Lugard to blame?
That is really anachronistic. However, remember that we have been living together. When politics began to digress from leadership to big business, all kinds of brigands and unscrupulous men began to partake in the process because it was like horse-trading. If you have enough money you could buy a seat in the legislature. So, because people had no political agenda, they had to play the card of ethnicity and religion because they didn’t have the intellectual capacity to say anything else. I don’t think Lord Lugard has a problem in this matter, I think it’s our own problem. Our politicians have created the state of emergency that we have in Nigeria today and I believe it can be corrected. What perpetuates this kind of reality is the system and once that system is changed, we will see a major change.
Since you said you got authorisation from God to make this proposition, if this Interim National Government does not work, don’t you think it will make people doubt that God said so?
This is a political situation and when God steps into a situation, in any capacity, he decides how it will work out. That was why I gave the example of Moses. There was a time the Jews started thinking that Moses was a false prophet because every time he would say ‘thus saith the Lord, let my people go’ and Pharaoh would say no. It took a process and time, so the fact that people are not saying yes right now does not mean it is not God. Jesus stayed in the grave for three days and the fact that he was there for the first and second days did not mean that the prophecy was untrue. He rose the third day. So, God is interested in the emancipation of people. He’s a God of mercy and love, so he would probably work with Nigeria according to these virtues so that the damage is minimal. There are times he comes with judgement, but I believe it’s still the same process of ‘let my people go’ that we are going through and Pharaoh is still saying no, and he will eventually say ‘yes’. Let people not be discouraged, to say well, if God said, it should be now. You cannot tell God when to do what.
Does it mean you are sure that someday, you would lead Nigeria, whether in the interim government you are proposing or a substantive government?
Absolutely! There has never been a thread of doubt in my mind, because what I have for Nigeria, I haven’t seen it around. It’s a novel idea. It’s important for people to understand that I began this journey as far back as 2001. I ran for President in 2003 and if I wanted a political career, I would have joined a dominant party and be in the hierarchy of government. But I am bringing a message of hope that embraces our reality and does not assault our cultural sensibilities.
Has this model you are proposing been practiced elsewhere?
It’s not been seen or practiced anywhere. We are going to introduce to the world a new concept of democracy. Aboriginal democracy has three dimensions to it; cultural historicity, evolutional modernity and global relativity as the necessary ingredients. Our creator is with us.
Clerics and some of the political leaders that contributed to running the country aground have always admonished people to always pray for the country, can a nation pray its way into prosperity?
No, it cannot. Nigeria is not a theocratic state, but the scripture says righteousness exalts a nation, which means doing the right thing. If we do the right thing, where policy and prophecy are contiguous, the closeness between the two would determine the prosperity of that nation. Prayer is to ask God to touch the leadership so they can do the right thing. We read that the heart of the king is in God’s hands, so if we supplicate before God, He can guide the leaders into the place of righteousness, which will attract his blessings.
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