By Ochereome Nnanna
IT did not sound real. When I read in the papers that the presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari, was considering Pastor Tunde Bakare as his presidential running mate, my mind did not dwell on it for more than a few moments because I thought the General Overseer of the Latter Rain Assembly and Convener of the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) would quickly call a press conference and give an emphatic answer: “No”.
Instead, what I heard from his quarters left me feeling sorry for a cleric who has already taken a withering hit as a result of his failed prophecies but remains largely intact due to his patriotic advocacies for a saner Nigeria. He reportedly told his congregation that he was hearing “voices” which were obviously nudging him to say “yes”.
I want to counsel the man of God to steer clear of the offer (if indeed there was one). Yes indeed, this is the right time for all well-meaning Nigerians to get involved, one way or the other, in the political process to ensure improved leadership. As Chief Ojo Maduekwe would put it, politics is too serious a game to be left to politicians alone. The question of whether as a full citizen of Nigeria he is eminently qualified does not even arise. But just because one is qualified under the Constitution to embark on a venture does not necessarily mean he should do it. One should still study the critical auguries before deciding. I have done a cursory surmise of the Pastor Tunde Bakare phenomenon, and have come to the conclusion that he should stay out of partisan politics.
First of all, he will lose credibility if he abandons the pulpit and the SNG socio-political advocacy project and become a political candidate. When he convened the SNG and championed the many protests that led to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua cabal allowing the then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan assume power in the continued absence of his boss, Pastor Bakare started being seen in some quarters (rightly or wrongly) as the Nigerian version of Reverend Martin Luther King. Some saw him as another Gani Fawehinmi, the social crusader. Yes, SNG has gone ominously quiet since Jonathan climbed into the presidential seat, thus leaving questions on many lips. But it is still a group that will be listened to if Bakare and his cohorts continue to use it to mobilise Nigerians for the common good.
If Pastor Bakare should accept to be Buhari’s running mate, he would be deemed to have embarked on the SNG venture as a platform to feather his political nest. He will no longer be able to have serious listeners when he speaks on Nigeria’s ills after the race, especially if he fails. He will become another Pastor Chris Okotie – irrelevant both as a cleric and politician. I learnt an important wisdom from fairly unlikely quarters years ago. Prince Yormie Johnson, the Liberian warlord who personally slaughtered the late dictator, Samuel Doe of Liberia, later wrote a book, which he insightfully entitled: The Gun That Liberates Should Not Rule.
I do not understand the calculations that the Buhari camp must have made before arriving at Bakare as his viable and sellable running mate. Perhaps, he wants to use a pastor to dispel the view of him in some quarters as an Islamic “fanatic”? Or perhaps, he wants to use Bakare to bring the votes of Southerners and Christians to counterbalance the criticism that his CPC is concentrated in the Muslim North? Either way, the math does not add up. Christians would not vote for Buhari because of Bakare. Christians once voted for a Muslim/Muslim presidential ticket in this country even though Muslims annulled the election. Even if a Buhari/Bakare ticket wins in 2011, will Northern Muslims vote for a Bakare/Muslim ticket later on, what with their difficulty in getting Muslims in Kaduna to support Governor Patrick Yakowa to replace his boss, Vice President Namadi Sambo? No pastor or imam will be president or vice president of Nigeria in the foreseeable future.
Besides, I do not think that Nigerians in general will seriously consider a Yoruba presidential or vice presidential ticket so soon after eight years in power. It has to “go round” first. Otherwise, emergent political leaders from Yorubaland, such as Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, would have taken up the presidential race. He knows the time is not ripe, so he supports a Northern candidate. In the same vein, Igbos knew their time is not ripe, so they ceded the contest to President Jonathan and the North. This is the mainstream direction.
A North/South West ticket will not sell at this moment. But a North/South East or North/South-South or South-South/North ticket will be look into.
I am not qualified to question Pastor Bakare’s gift as a prophet. But I remember that in 1999 he prophesied that former President Olusegun Obasanjo would not win or assume the presidency. Instead, he predicted that someone from Adamawa State had been decreed by “Heaven” to be president. This obviously hyped up former Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s presidential ambition to frantic levels. Obasanjo not only became president, he even ran for two terms and tried a third as if to rub salt into Pastor Bakare’s wounded pride.
Bakare should fast and pray that once again, he is not hearing the voice of deception. He is too important to us as a preacher of the Word and social crusader. I know one man who would desperately be wishing that Bakare takes up the tempting offer from Buhari. His name is General Olusegun Obasanjo, former President, Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. As soon as Pastor Bakare takes up the Buhari offer, Obasanjo will gleefully announce to airport correspondents:
“I dey laugh o!”