Why I can’t pray for Jonathan -Pastor Bakare

The convener of the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) and Vice Presidential candidate of Congress for progressive Change (CPC),  Pastor Tunde Bakare, in this interview, spoke on the planned protest over the implementation of the subsidy probe report, the alliance between ACN and CPC ahead of 2015 elections, among other issues. Excerpts:

At your last press briefing, the Save Nigeria Group gave ultimatum to federal government and also said it planned to protest if those fingered in the fuel subsidy probe are not prosecuted. Why do you want to embark on this protest? 

We said at the press conference that we gave two weeks ultimatum to Federal Government to put concrete steps in place, such that those who stole the country blind will not go scot-free nor the matter swept under the carpet. We are not trying to stampede government to take a decision. Even from the way we couched the thing, we made it clear that this should not be like any other probe report. The power probe, nothing has come out of it up till today. Instead government is still investing in it without checking the excesses that go into it. To answer your question directly, on or before the expiration of the two weeks ultimatum, we are going to come out with facts that will really show Nigerians that those in leadership positions in this country double-speak and have double standards. Our emphasis is that this particular probe report doesn’t go the way of others.

Several other probes that exposed corruption have been dumped by government, without any civil society organization raising an eyebrow. What exactly makes this different?

Like the power probe, the aviation probe and all other probes, they all came out of the endemic corruption in our system. But they didn’t touch the lives of the citizens directly the way the fuel hike did. They were not as strong as the fuel subsidy issue was. I’m not saying they do not matter at all because eventually, it is still the people that will suffer for it if anything goes wrong in all of these. For instance, they said there would be increment in electricity tarrif. If those who were stealing the country blind had not been doing that, there won’t have been any reason for the new hike. If there had been a stipulated law in Nigeria or a recognized punishable law, then those who go ahead to steal the country’s money would have been more reasonable and avoid getting engaged in endemic corruption.

I’m sure you know that I’m a preacher. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes Chapter 8:11 that when judgment is not speedily executed, the hearts of men are certainly going to do evils. Ultimately, because of the excesses that took place in the power sector without anybody found culpable, citizens are now going to pay a higher tariff. If any services should be paid for, it should be for a service being rendered. If we had uninterrupted power supply and you are asked to pay tariff increment, not many people will grumble because they have seen things working.

The difference between the power probe and fuel subsidy probe is that the fuel subsidy touches the skins of every Nigerian. We were paying N65 before and all of a sudden we started paying like double of the same price or even more. Everyone said, ‘ha! enough is enough.’ But for you to now refuse to do anything on the report submitted by the probe panel is terrible? We would not allow that to happen! Every Nigerian who has conscience will not allow it to be swept under the carpet.  The money earmarked was not known to many people. But this particular one has caught the attention of everybody. Every Nigerian knew that there was allocation in the year 2011 for subsidy, which was N240 billion. And without appropriation, we have spent N3.1 trillion. The House put the excess at N1.3 trillion. In decent climes, that is not an issue to be swept under the carpet. It must be accounted for.  That is all we are saying. There is not much (turanci) in it.
Don’t you fear that government would say you’re being sponsored by the opposition again?

Let’s make something very simple for ourselves. You see, when many people speak, they don’t take certain things into consideration. And the question to ask is, in presidential system of government, where is the opposition? We are not running  a parliamentary system where there are members of the opposition in your cabinet. What you are simply saying is that Nigerian people cannot express themselves because they belong to other parties than your own. There is no opposition. In the presidential system of government, there is no opposition because winners take it all. Were we in opposition when we marched through the streets of Abuja at a time Jonathan was being schemed out of power equation? President Yar’adua was alive but was ill and yet we took to the streets. Were we for, were we against? No, we stood on the part of the constitutionalism. Sometimes when I heard some people make this kind of comment, permit me to say, they are unintelligent. Who is opposition? What has opposition got to do with this? That you are not doing what you’re supposed to do is the reasons we took to the streets. And the judgment will be delivered on the 24th of this month as it affects what happened at Ojota when they rolled out tanks there.
You were in touch with President Jonathan. Have you attempted to reach him on this matter? If so, what was his response?

Do I need to contact the president? That’s my choice. It’s my freedom. Let me put it this way, do I need to contact the president on the need for him to sit down and do what he is allegedlly voted for? Save Nigeria Group is not a one-man show. You don’t go behind and be contacting the president on your own. If the Save Nigeria Group wants to meet with the President, we know how to put things across to him. But nobody has helped the blind by switching on the light and nobody helps the deaf by increasing the volume of music. All these ideas of haggling around Abuja, giving fat envelopes when you are returning and all that, are irritations to us. Let’s not get out of the main issue. The issue at stake is a public interest issue. How many people have contacted him and what have they gotten out of it?
Talking about going to Abuja, you may be seen as a different kind of Pastor. Others go to Abuja to pray for him, but you want to engage in a protest. Why?

Pastor Tunde Bakare does not hang around the corridors of power and those in government, because it is my choice. And you know what my choice is? Because I didn’t see Jesus pray for President. He is my role model. Show me in the Bible the number of those who were in the position of authority and Jesus went there and prayed for them, that’s one. Number two, is it a must that we should pray for those in government and authority? For me, what is paramount is for us to pray for peace because when you have peace, there would be growth and development. Those things are connected. We keep on praying for those in authority and yet nothing has changed. Pastor Tunde Bakare does not hang around the seat of government and be praying for government officials. If I can speak the truth to you, there is no point trying to reach you behind the curtain. In fact, some of those who are in the corridors of power do not even deserve the prayer of the saint.

General Muhammadu Buhari met Asiwaju Bola Tinubu last Sunday in Lagos and you were at the meeting. Can you tell us why the meeting took place and some of the issues discussed?

To the best of my knowledge, the two leaders of the parties have been talking even before the 2011 elections. And it is customary that parties seek ways of joining their resources together to win elections.  It happens everywhere in the world. The Yoruba would say: ta ba nja, bi ti ka ku ko, meaning that “though we may be fighting yet we aren’t praying for any of us to die”. The CPC is not practising do-or-die politics. However, you may want to know what was discussed at that meeting. I think it is better you reach any of the two leaders. Either General Buhari or Tinubu himself.  It should not be over sensationalised. We were coming from a Life Time award given to General Buhari. We finished late and it was around 12 midnight when we got there.  We didn’t even spend up to 15 minutes or maximum of 30 minutes there. That couldn’t have been anything political. If I know you and I’m passing through your neighbourhood, I can decide to say ‘hi,’ to you. That was all that transpired.
Come 2015, will you say the CPC will merge with ACN to win power at the centre?

As far as I know, the party’s hierarchy has formed a reform committee to look into the past activities and prepare for the future. Until the committee finishes its assignment, anybody talking about CPC affairs is just shooting into the air and singing what he likes to say. When that committee finishes and submits its report and strategic position taken on how to move the party forward, then it would be made public. Until then, it is mere guesswork.
The Vice President just called on Boko Haram to dialogue with government, what do you say to this?

I will answer by using a Yoruba adage that says when your mother’s concubine is stronger and richer than your father, you call your father’s concubine, daddy. That’s my answer to that.
Do you see the Boko Haram insurgency as a plot by the North to destabilise Jonathan’s government?

Anybody who says that should prove it. I don’t know. There is a possibility but I don’t know because I’m not a party to that. Yes, in democracy, it is normal that changes take place. But there is a stipulation that even if there would be a change that may be when the president dies, resigns or is impeached. If any of this happens to Jonathan, he has a deputy that will take over from him. And if any of these also affects the vice, then the Senate President will take over and be acting in that capacity. So whosoever is planning to scuttle another person’s administration, such a person is only trying to inflict pain on himself and invariably, the people will suffer. I do not subscribe to violence. I’m not a violent person. I believe we would achieve more through peace and dialogue. If there are those who are using Boko Haram to scuttle his administration, such people are not doing anybody any good, whatsoever.
So if you are to advise the president on how to tackle the insurgence, what will be your advice?

Boko Haram . Some people call it BH. If you look at it, you will discover that there are many atrocities being carried out today, using the label, Boko Haram  and yet they are not part of the original Boko Haram . The president said recently that there are members of Boko Haram  in his government and every arm of government. That is, we have Boko Haram members in executive, legislature and judiciary. The president knows so much about Boko Haram  that he should tell those of us who do not know.
But if you are the president, what are the likely steps you will take to address the insurgency?

When I find myself there, I will know what to do.
Would you want to be Buhari’s running mate in 2015, if Buhari stands for presidential election?

Today, May 11, 2012, sufficient for today is the evil thereon. There are so many challenges the nation is facing now that should preoccupy our minds now than what will happen in 2015. Is it that Nigerian people do not deserve better services than what they are getting now? How to tackle corruption should also be of paramount concern to us. If we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill us. In Nigeria, officials are not just corrupt but corruption has become official in Nigeria.

Every nation around us has something to celebrate, but we have nothing to. Ghana, for instance, is witnessing influx of business activities because of stable power supply. Fifty-two years after independence, Nigeria can’t even generate sufficient power supply that can serve one big state like Lagos. I mean, if Lagos is fully industrialized and all the industries are working to capacity, the entire power generation for the whole of the country won’t be sufficient enough to power Lagos. Many of our young graduates are not getting any employment. That shouldn’t have been. Those who are already thinking of 2015 are enemies of the country.

But in order not to look as if I’m shying away from your question, in 2011, I did not seek any post. I did not lobby for any elective post. I was just doing the bit I could do when I received a call from General Muhammdu Buhari to be his running mate. I went through lots of thinking and consultations with some good people of Nigeria. So we agreed to give the chance a try and that was it. So, if in 2015 such opportunity presents itself again, it will surely go through the same process. And if I’m not called upon, there is no problem. All along, I have never been involved in politicking or at any political party until now. I am not a die- in-the-wool politician, someone who wouldn’t do anything because there is no politics. I have a lot in my hands. All I’m interested in is to see a Nigeria that works in my lifetime.

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