Pastor ‘Tunde Bakare is the serving overseer of the Latter Rain Assembly. He speaks during his Independence Anniversary address on Nigeria at 58, the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the 2019 general elections, among other issues. WALE ELEGBEDE reports
What do you think are the chances of both APC and PDP in 2019?
Right now there are two major dominant parties, the APC as incumbent and the PDP. The APC cannot rely on incumbency because that power has been broken before. They must rely on performance and be able to communicate to the nation exactly what they have achieved, the challenges they face and how they hope to improve on what they have done right now. As far as PDP is concerned, it needs to show that it has gone through regeneration and repentance for the years of locus that they engineered in Nigeria and for the corruption that became an established way of life to those in government. I wish President Buhari all the very best. He has the power of incumbency and he is going to do his best to win this election. And Atiku is not going to take no for answer but the grass will not suffer when they become forces against themselves.
Do you see Atiku upstaging the APC in 2019?
Atiku Abubakar is yet to come up with his running mate and Buhari also is yet to come out with his running mate. Nothing is settled but I can tell you one thing, I know by the grace of God, Nigeria will survive this period and electorate would be better for it if they are informed, if they keep themselves to the issues that confront us. There is no army as powerful as an idea whose time has come and anybody who is trying to rubbish restructuring in Nigeria today is taking a risk he may not recover from. I am not advocating for Atiku. Of all of them he is perhaps the most cosmopolitan. He is a Wazobia man. His first wife is Yoruba, his second wife Fulani; his third wife is Ibo. Experience wise, he has been Vice-President for eight years and he inherited something from late Yar’Adua that he has held unto and he has used effectively, he has been a businessman with business acumen and he has exposures. You see sometimes that is not what qualifies a man to win. I can’t say Atiku will win or Atiku will lose. I congratulate him, it makes the issue now much more robust. It is not going to be Eaglets vs Eagles. It is going to be Eagle VS Eagle; Old Eagle VS New Eagle; may be both of them are even old.
The nature of our elections every four years has been a source of concern to many Nigerians especially with its high budget and low returns. What is your take on this?
We go through this cycle every four years and seldom stop to ponder. Like a mob of zombies, we wander in circles, doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. We do not stop to ask if our wanderings have translated to the realisation of our national aspirations. Since the return to civil rule in 1999, INEC has spent N450 billion conducting five general elections and a number of by-elections. Meanwhile, N143 billion has been budgeted for the 2019 elections. Yet, we have not stopped to ask why our nation continues to suffer a staggering leadership deficit despite the cycle of expensive elections. Unquestionably, in the last twenty years, we have experienced bouts of outstanding leadership, particularly by appointment. We have also seen good intentions and laudable development agendas. Yet, neither the five general elections nor the wonderful intentions have translated into improved living conditions for most Nigerians.
How do you mean that the five elections have not improve the living conditions of most Nigerians?
Five general elections, yet around 87 million of us are extremely poor, earning our country the title “Poverty Capital of the World”; five elections, yet more than 37,500 lives have been claimed by the Boko Haram menace, 2.4 million of us are internally displaced, more than 228,000 of us are refugees, thousands of us have been kidnapped by terrorists, and 7.7 million of us require urgent humanitarian assistance. Five elections, yet millions of us still go to bed hungry and over 6 million of our infants suffer malnutrition. Five elections, yet 2,300 children under the age of five, and 145 women of childbearing age, died yesterday and will die today due to little or no access to healthcare. Five elections, yet over 13 million of our children are still out of school,[i] over 90 million of us, half of our entire population, have no access to electricity supply, and over 108 million of us are homeless. Five elections, yet our country has one of the worst infrastructural deficits in the world; needless to say, our roads are lavishly decorated with potholes and our airports are among the worst of the worst. Five elections, and most of our 36 states have remained economic vegetables relying on Abuja for life support, unable to generate sufficient internal revenue. Indeed, five elections and our paradoxical underdevelopment continues to confound the world.
What is your take on the recently concluded governorship election in Osun State?
The recently concluded gubernatorial selection, sorry, election, in Osun State is a pointer to the ignoble intentions of this political class ahead of 2019. What a sham, and what a shame. By what constitutional provision or act of the National Assembly is the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) empowered to cancel election results the way it did in Osun State? Section 53, subsection 2 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), which empowers INEC to cancel results, states as follows: “Where the votes cast at an election in any polling unit exceed the number of registered voters in that polling unit, the result of the election for that polling unit shall be declared void by the Commission and another election may be conducted at a date to be fixed by the Commission where the result of that polling unit may affect the overall result in the Constituency.” Whether the law is adequate or not, its stance on this matter is clear. Overvoting is the only legal ground upon which INEC is empowered to cancel results. Ife North Local Government Area was the only constituency where over voting was reported by INEC in Osun State and 353 votes were affected. Is it sheer coincidence that the difference in votes for the two leading candidates before the runoff was 353? Is this a case of daylight rigging as some have cried out?
Are you saying the rerun election in Osun is not justifiable?
Did we have a rerun in Osun State or a test run? In the 2015 elections, widespread incidents of card reader malfunction did not warrant election cancellation; instead, INEC resorted to manual accreditation. What legal basis has therefore warranted the Commission’s decisions in Osun State? Ought not the reasons given by INEC for ordering a rerun in Osun State be matters for the courts? Or has the umpire become a judge empowered by incumbents to interpret laws? Let me state categorically that I have no vested interest in the charade going on among the political class across the federation. As far as I am concerned, they are mostly birds of a feather, irrespective of their party affiliations. In approaching this company of questionable characters, I was well-taught by my mentor, Dr. Lester Sumrall, of blessed memory, who once said to me: “Out of two evils, choose none.” When I take on these matters, I do so as one mandated by a God who does not take sides but takes over when He steps into the scene. Is it not high time we stopped this unprecedented electocratic madness?
You once said that you will contest the presidency. Are you still throwing your hat into the ring in 2019?
At the beginning of the year, I made known to you what God said to me. I told you that while waiting on God, the Spirit of God said to me: “Politics is not over for you. There is still one thing left for you to do: Run for President…I will work it out Myself and make it happen in due course.” Since then, people have read diverse connotations to my declarations. A number have asked me to flag off my campaign. Politicians from the leading political parties have approached me with attractive offers. The gentlemen of the press have inquired as to whether I will run against the incumbent. My response has always been that I will not run against President Muhammadu Buhari. However, on this day, the 7th of October, 2018, I declare to you that I am running. Yes, I am running. I am running for a united Nigeria that will birth the New Nigeria. I am running to begin to stir conversations around the seven-point agenda. I am running to lead Nigerians in a movement to demand the adoption of the pragmatic steps towards restructuring Nigeria. But don’t get it mixed up. I am not running with my name on the ballot paper; my name is in the Book of Life. I am not running for any office in the 2019 elections; the doctrine of my election stands sure.[iii] I am not running on the platform of any political party; I am building a political family. For those who care to listen, I am the nationhood candidate. I am stepping in to pitch the unyielding political class against God and His agenda for our nation.
So, if you wont run against Buhari in 2019 when are you going to run?
I will not run against Buhari, never will I because we took sweet counsel together. And I sat with him for more than an hour before this broadcast. Perhaps there are amends he could make before 2019, who knows? But there must be a kind of introspection to see that the force that brought him into power was anything but Jonathan. And if care is not taken, Nigerians are being pushed to the wall to say anything but Buhari. But he still has enough times in his hands to make amends so that the contest will be on policies, programmes and agenda rather than sentiments that it is a northerner or Fulani or ex-Military or ex-civilian, those issues do not count any more.