Although he claims to have quit party politics, former vice-presidential candidate to President Muhammadu Buhari during the 2011 presidential election, Pastor Tunde Bakare, is still one of the president’s most admired allies, writes Shola Oyeyipo,THIS DAY
In today’s Nigeria, hardly has there been a preacher that has shown greater commitment to the revival of Nigeria than Pastor Tunde Bakare of the Latter Rain Assembly, Lagos. Also, as the convener, Save Nigeria Group (SNG), he has intervened in times of national crisis to the awe of even his critics.
For instance, during the protracted disappearance of the late president, Alhaji Musa Yar’Adua; after his death and the eventual swearing-in of former president Goodluck Jonathan; during the arbitrary subsidy removal by the immediate past administration and at various other times in Nigeria’s history, Bakare has led such revolutions that stood on the side of the people.
The Man of God and his congregation are extremely passionate about the country and Bakare has been particularly critical of successive administrations’ policies, corruption and wastefulness that have made many Nigerians to live below poverty line.
He was bluntly critical of former president Olusegun Obasanjo, whom he said was responsible for the numerous problems plaguing Nigeria at the moment because he did not take the right decision when he had the opportunity to do so.
The no-nonsense pastor, who is wont to say issues the way they are to the political leadership, irrespective of their takes, once rejected a cow gift to him by former president Jonathan as a Christmas gift and asked those that brought the cow to go back and tell the former president to give Nigerians good governance rather than sharing the country’s wealth with a select few.
He repeated similar modesty when during his 60thbirthday celebration he rejected a Rolls Royce given to him as a gift on the grounds that there are lots of Nigerians out there suffering.
“I am not in need of a 2015 model of Rolls Royce, which was presented to me as a gift. I was sitting at home one day and they brought in a brand new 2015 Rolls Royce into my house. My 60th birthday was coming. I looked at it, kai! This is awkward. When you open your car, your door goes this; its own door goes that way. It clears the way so that there is nothing blocking your way.
“Then I said: Oya, leave this place. Where is the road that I will ride it upon? My heart is not in things like this. I asked my son to take a photograph of the brand new car as a proof. I want to see good governance. I want to see discipline. I want to see equitable distribution of resources. I want to see the poor being educated; I want to see a nation that works,” Bakare explained why he rejected the expensive gift.
Not necessarily a leftist, Bakare – a former student union leader, lawyer, social crusader-turned politician and his church have been some of the most passionate prayer warriors for the total emancipation of Nigeria from pervasive mis-governance and leading lights in the quest for focused leadership because he considers Nigeria too blessed to be named amongst the poor nations of the world.
Thus, on Monday, January 31, when President Muhammadu Buhari announced him as his running mate on the platform of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) for the 2011 presidential election, it was obvious that Buhari – known for his impeccable posturing went for the best hand to assist him actualise his visions for Nigeria as at that time.
When Bakare accepted the offer; it was not a big surprise to watchers because he has been consistent in his insistence that government ought to be better ran and has remained very uncomfortable with the national disorder, absence of true federalism and untamed growing spate of corruption.
When the CPC, which is now an important component of the APC, lost the presidential election to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Bakare remained the preacher that he has been and continued with his fierce criticism of the Nigerian government and leadership.
But back then, for the admirers of the duo of President Buhari and Bakare – both coming from the supposedly opposing religions – their combination was perfect for the country. This is because of their anti-corruption stance, incorruptible personalities and clamour for reversal of the poor standard of living of Nigerians amidst plenty. If they had won the election, it was expected that they were both determined to bring about the change a majority of Nigerians yearned for.
He is obviously selective about whom he enlists as friend but Bakare is a man whose judgment of people is never clouded by the sentiment of his faith. He has quite a number of Muslims friends and particularly among them is Governor Nasir El-rufai of Kaduna State. He has always vouched for him and recently described him as a blessing to the people of the state and Nigeria because according to him, he has the potential of transforming the state.
He is however not comfortable with some elements around the president and this is one of the major reasons he decided to quit party politics and not join some professional politicians who are primarily in politics for what they could get from it, coupled with the fact that his foray into politics is not for self-aggrandisement.
He recently registered fresh concern about the intentions of some of those around the president when he prayed that they are not among those the president will elect to work with him in his quest to transform Nigeria.
“May the good Lord surround the President-elect with men and women of goodwill, great intellectual capacity, competence and character to help restore our wasted years. I pray sincerely that not all those who facilitated his winning the election will be among those who run the government.
“I did say before the election that I trust the person of General Buhari but not all those around him,” Bakare reiterated, adding: “I mean every word of it because many of them are nothing but Ali Baba and 40 thieves. And if these are the same who would go into government, you can’t fight evil with evil. You can as well kiss the anti-corruption stance of Mr. President-elect goodbye.”
There is no doubting that President Buhari trusts and loves him. In what is clearly sheer happenstance, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and Pastor Bakare have many things in common – pastor, lawyer, of Ogun State origin and are both of good reputation and self-discipline.
To underscore the fact that he is still very relevant in the mind of the president, his name has continually resonated in issues pertaining to selection of credible people to represent the new government. Once, it was reported that he was to head of the screening of members of the Transition Committee.
Likewise, in some of the unconfirmed ministerial lists that have been circulated, he has been named as Minister for Special Duties. And on the recent visit to Washington DC, United States on July 20, President Buahri took Bakare along.
As a military General, Buhari surely knows that taking your brave and loyal followers with you is important in winning a battle. He seems to be making it clear that he wants the Man of God around him and that is a clever move by every standard because where Bakare begins to criticise the administration openly, it becomes clear that things may have begun to fall apart.