BY DAPO AKINREFON
PASTOR Tunde Bakare remains a fiery Pentecostal preacher in Nigeria. He does not mince words when he bares his mind especially on issues that border on state of the nation.
On Sunday, the Vice Presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, declared that that there was no viable opposition in Nigeria. While drumming up support for the Islamic banking being proposed by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, he swiped the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, for picking holes in the CBN’s proposal. He also argued that rather than allow Nigeria divide, he is looking forward to seeing a country fulfilling her destiny. Excerpts:
What is your position on the proposed Islamic banking by the Central Bank of Nigeria?
I do not see any legislation or anything from the Central Bank of Nigeria calling the product you are talking about Islamic Banking. Before Sanusi Lamido became the governor of CBN, the issue of non-interest rate banking had been there; and some existing banks have been buying into the idea.
So, if they call it Islamic banking, it could raise an eyebrow, so far, there is no legislation to that effect. There is no point creating a storm in a tea pot. If they call it Islamic banking, it does not matter, I have a right to call it whatever name I feel like calling it under the law, as long as I am operating within the law.
For every banking institution, it would have been established according to the law of the land. If the law is violated, we will be totally against it and we will rise up in unison; but if it is a matter of semantics or name calling, one is at liberty; you are at liberty to call it whatever name. Are there no Muslims in Nigeria; are they not bonafide as the rest of us? Let us stop this noise and stop making a mountain out of a mole hill; let us face larger issues that will benefit the lives of our citizens.
The Church should not be sidetracked in this useless and worthless debate. Because they did not consult me before they opened their mouth to speak, I am at liberty to speak. I have been stating my position because I do not operate on the same platform with them. Nobody can Islamise Nigeria, nobody can Christianize Nigeria. Do not be fooled by what our Christian leaders are saying, because they are speaking from both sides of the mouth. Islam is not the problem of Nigeria. All we need to do, is to practice what will benefit us, religion is not our problem, the real problem with Nigeria, is the greed of our leaders.
You have been castigating the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, since you have access to some of them, why…
(Cuts in) Because they did not consult me before they opened their mouths and spoke, so, I am at liberty to speak, because they have spoken. It is not as if I do not have access to them, access is not the question, I do not operate on the same platform with them, deliberately so.
What are the roles expected of religious leaders?
In almost every religion, call it traditional if you like, call it Islamic or call it Christianity, they (religious leaders) are the cornerstones of principle. There is one law that supercedes all laws. All the other laws and prophets hang on it. If our leaders have respect for others, we will not be in the mess that we are in today.
There is no religion especially Islam that teaches violence; the violence of today that you see from that angle is preceded by inquisitions even from the days of the crusaders.
Let us teach our people to fear God, to treat others with respect because my freedom stops where your own begins.
Changing of position
I cannot compel you to believe the way I believe; I cannot even do it to my son under my watch because I was born and raised in a Muslim family, later, I became a Christian and nobody killed me for changing my position.
So I have no right to force my will on somebody else. Issues of religion should be a thing of the heart and freedom of choice. That is my opinion. If such religion is not producing godly and God fearing citizens or good citizens, then that religion is useless.
Does your sympathy for Islamic banking have to do with your Islamic background?
My sympathy for non-interest rate banking is because I am a business man and I know you do better without excessive interest rates. My bias for Islamic banking is for the benefit of everybody and I will be one of those that will quickly open an account there. When God said do not put your brothers through the servitude of usury, he had a reason for it.
You can call it Islamic banking if you want to, but it is called non-interest rate banking, it is available in England, it is available in other nations of the world.
It is not because of my background, everybody has a background. You are not limited by the circumstances of your past; you are limited by the size of your hope.
During your sermon you preached on the coming of a dictator in the country. Will this dictator split the country into North and South as it happened in Israel?
I will pray against it for as long as I live.
I want Nigeria to remain a united nation, the best of the North and the best of the South to come together. Whether they split into one or they split into two, the united nation called Israel, without tribe, without ethnicity because a visionary called Joseph brought the brothers to the table of brotherhood to discuss their future. Today, you have Israel without borders, they are prospering everywhere they go, they run the economy of America and that nation is one.
So, I look forward to a Nigeria that is prosperous, whose people will fulfill destiny, the Nigeria that will work in my lifetime. I don’t believe in Oduduwa Republic, I don’t believe in Igbo Republic, I don’t believe in those things. I believe our differences can be harnessed so that we have unity in our diversity and become a strong nation that will bring lasting impact upon the continent of Africa.
There are plans to deregister political parties that failed to win elections into parliamentary seats. What is your take on this?
Unintelligent men waste their time on unintelligent things. You cannot stop the people from grouping together, it is their constitutional right. Whether you deregister them, it does not mean they will not register again. So, it is a waste of time.
And by the way, when you had SDP and NRC, what did it produce? It produced a lot of mischief that led to wastage of resources. It does not matter how many parties you have. As big as America and Britain’s landscapes are, there are smaller parties that only fight for their own domain and they keep on impacting on their own community. What stops any man from starting a political party just to benefit a local government? Let us not waste out times on non issues.
Political or election season
In any event and in any political or election season, you will see mergers and coming together of all these parties all the time. Except in 1993 to the best of my knowledge and all the rigging that have taken place in Nigeria, no political party has won hands down without cooperation from other parties. Even the PDP saw the opportunity for national government because they could not form a government without it.
Let the parties that are not performing strengthen their own base and do the best to ensure that the purpose for which they are established, they follow it to the letter just as we are doing in CPC. We are renewing the party; we are re-branding it to make it not just an opposition party, but a national party.
We will not only have people that will espouse the things that we believe in because there is no going back in it. There is no opposition in Nigeria as far as I am concerned. What you call opposition parties today are all appendages or branches of PDP.