By Sam Eyoboka
THERE are mixed reactions following the claim by the controversial convener of Save Nigeria Group, SNG, and General Overseer of the Latter Rain Assembly, Ogba, Lagos, Pastor Babatunde Gbolahan Bakare, who declared himself the successor to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Born on November 11, 1954 in Abeokuta, Ogun State as a Muslim who later converted to Christianity in 1974, the vocal 64-year old Prophetic-Apostolic pastor, in a viral video, stirred his church members into frenzy when he said: “I will succeed Buhari as President of Nigeria, nothing can change it. I am number 16, Buhari is number 15. I never said it to you before. I am saying it now and nothing can change it.
“In the name of Jesus, he (Buhari) is number 15. I am number 16. To this end was I born and for this purpose came I into the world. I have prepared you for this for more than 30 years”.
Bakare is not new to controversy.
In a ‘prophecy’ ahead of the 1999 elections, he had said of then-candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, former President Olusegun Obasanjo: “Obasanjo is not your messiah, he is king Agag and the prophetic axe will come upon his head before May 29, 1999.”
Reflecting on this statement, a public affairs commentator, Ikechuckwu Amaechi, said, “Simply put, these religious shenanigans thrive because there is no backlash. Because of Bakare’s false prophecy, many feared that Obasanjo would never live to be sworn in as president.
“But the opposite was the case. Obasanjo governed for eight years. He even tried, unsuccessfully, to secure an illegal third term. And 20 years after, the man is still alive”.
Amaechi added, “However, Bakare is not alone in this business of politically-tainted prophecies. During Obasanjo’s first term in office, another ‘god of man’, Pastor Chris Okotie of Household of God, claimed that God promised him that he would be Nigeria’s President in 2003. He contested the election but made no impact whatsoever, and none of his followers ever asked him what happened, whether God had become a liar. He simply moved on. And they too. Okotie’s false prophecy was exposed in 2003 when Obasanjo was returned for second term”.
He then insinuated political scheming into the Bakare video saying it is curious, particularly as there are rumours that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has run into troubled political waters.
Amaechi said, “The coincidence is too uncanny. Could it be that Bakare deliberately threw his 18-month-old prophecy into the troubling political mix hoping to profiteer from Osinbajo’s misery in Nigeria’s debilitating power calculus?
“Is it a plan to put Bakare in pole position to reap bountifully from Osinbajo’s political travails – particularly given the perception that the all-powerful and unforgiving Presidency cabal, the real powers behind Buhari’s throne, may engineer Osinbajo’s impeachment?
“It will be sad if Bakare is plotting and conniving with those who want to disgrace Osinbajo out of power considering that the two ought to be kindred spirits. They are both Yoruba and Pentecostal pastors. But it will not be a surprise. The South-West political history is replete with such betrayals.
“It is possible that God actually signed an irrevocable deal with Bakare that will see him enthroned as Nigeria’s president in 2023 willy-nilly, though we are not in a theocracy. Those who claim to have a direct line to God and are, therefore, versed in His inimitable ways and idiosyncrasies insist that since all power comes from God, He gives it to whoever He likes. “So, it is possible that He has actually signed a pact with Bakare.
“But since God does not lie and his covenants are immutable, if He has promised to lift Nigeria’s political diadem – the Presidency – to Bakare in 2023, then the idea of President Tunde Bakare is a done deal, a fait accompli whatever the people say. So, why would anybody vote in 2023 if God has already decided who will succeed Buhari and that person is Bakare? In which case, casting a ballot against Bakare would be an affront on the supreme authority of God”.
Reacting to the rebroadcasting of the Bakare video made from a Sunday sermon on February 18, 2018, the umbrella body of Christians in the country, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, would rather ignore such dreams and face much more salient challenges currently confronting Christendom and the nation at large.
The Director of Legal and Public Affairs of CAN, Evangelist (Barrister) Kwamkur Samuel Vondip, said CAN is currently working on more important national issues than to speak on personal ambitions of certain individuals.
“I recall the role Bakare’s Save Nigeria Group played in the intervening years of President Goodluck Jonathan,” the CAN spokesman, however, stated, noting that if he desires the office of President, he has a whole of restitution to do on many fronts.
Speaking in similar vein, the Secretary of CAN in the 17 Southern states of the country, Rev. Joseph Ajujungwa, queried the credentials of Bakare to dare to aspire to the office of president. “No matter what anybody thinks about the nation, anyone aspiring to be President must have certain basic credentials besides educational qualifications. Does he have the political clout to run for the office of President, even if he intends to use the two dominant political platforms of APC or PDP?
“We have heard similar prophecies in the country and at the end they have all ended up being vapour. Constitutionally, he ought to have verifiable offices in the 36 states of the country and Abuja and financial muscle to nurse such an ambition. He should have a faint idea of what it takes because he had contested as running mate to the incumbent President in 2011.
“Secondly, what the credentials he is bringing to the table to convince Nigerians to vote for him. Nigerians today know his antecedents and will be wary of entrusting the nation’s fortunes on him after he has rubbished several others in the past including his colleagues on the pulpit,” Ajujungwa further argued, stressing that in serious countries of the world, a presidential material can be spotted from a distance.
A church growth expert, Rev. Francis Akin-John, who has since 1994 devoted quality time to the development of churches and pastors, was not impressed by the news of Bakare nursing a presidential ambition.
According to him, Bakare would be better staying behind to nurture his one parish church to uplift the spiritual standard of his adherents rather than delving into the murky waters of politics in the nation. After some unfulfilled prophecies, Akin-John argued, how does he want people to believe his latest one?
“Nigerians have not forgotten that he prophesied that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was not messiah and would not be President but the man ruled for eight years and even attempted an extension. Neither have Nigerians forgotten how he shot down the nation with his Save Nigeria Group protesting an increase in fuel prices, saying there will be no increase in petrol prices”, the President of International Church Growth Ministry further argued.
“Are Nigerians paying less now? They told us that power can be fixed in six months. They promised to make the nation’s currency at par with the dollar. How many protests has Bakare’s SNG organized since then? Or does he find the current situation better than the one he continually lampooned and forced out of office? People like President Obasanjo, Prof. Wole Soyinka and others who campaigned for the election of Buhari in 2015 have since seen their folly and have openly told Nigerians they made a mistake. What’s Pastor Bakare waiting for?
“I am not campaigning. I am only stating the obvious gauging the feeling of millions of Nigerians. Except for a miracle, I don’t see what Bakare will present to the nation to sell his candidacy. He relishes in rubbishing other people’s doctrines including those who should be his mentors and has forgotten to do the needful”.
From the Methodist Church Nigeria came what looked like an endorsement but also with much skepticism. Spokesman for the worldwide mission, newly promoted Venerable Dapo Daramola, is of the opinion that if Bakare claimed to have heard from God, nobody has the right to fault his claim, noting that, in Christendom, revelations are personal to individuals which nobody can question.
According to the new venerable, Bakare, like hundreds of other Nigerians, is qualified to aspire to any office in the land “for as long as he is a citizen of the country who meets the constitutional provisions to contest for the office”.
He went on: “My only grouse with the candidacy of Bakare would be his temperament.
In Christendom, it’s unethical for Christian leaders to attack one another but Pastor Bakare has virtually run down virtually every other Christian ministry in the country——Pentecostal as well as orthodox ministries. I am not sure if he is an affiliate of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, which is supposed to be his bloc in CAN.
“But if it’s the will of God for him to be President, nobody can stop him though he has offended several groups of people and there is the need for him reconcile with those he had wronged in the course of his political voyage”.
Avid critics of Bakare are also not quick to forget a statement credited to him in an interview on October 2, 2006 where he said: “Let me tell you the truth by the spirit of God, neither OBJ, Atiku, IBB and this tall one, Buhari, are part of the new. They are part of the old that is decaying. That old one is passing away. The new is emerging and these ones are not part of that new.”
As a pastor who had learnt the ropes under the Deeper Life Christian Ministry and the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, before founding the Latter Rain Assembly on April 1, 1989, his critics allege he had lied against the Holy Spirit of God because his so called word “by the spirit of God” did not come to pass.
To the band of critics, after claiming that Holy Spirit told him Buhari was part of Nigeria’s decaying past, he went ahead to accept to be the vice presidential candidate of the same Muhammadu Buhari in 2011 under then-Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).
One of the other sins of Bakare was the role played by his Save Nigeria Group (SNG) during the Occupy Nigeria protests largely regarded as a socio-political protest movement in response to the fuel subsidy removal by the Federal Government of President Goodluck Jonathan on January 1, 2012.
Recently, Bakare announced a new movement which, according to him, would serve as a platform to champion a new political agenda for Nigeria. He declared that the movement christened ‘New Nigeria Progressive Movement’ would champion the restructuring of Nigeria along the path of true federalism.
After the 2019 Nigerian general elections, Bakare stated that he would run for President after the expiration of Buhari’s second term in 2023. He is a supporter of pan-Nigerianism.
The Latter Day Assembly Senior Pastor has claimed that many pastors in Nigeria get away with “fake prophecies” because their followers often do not hold them accountable. Bakare was criticized however for claiming in a sermon in 2006 that Buhari would be a bad leader for Nigeria, yet he accepted the offer to be Buhari’s vice-presidential candidate in the 2011 elections.
The trending video shows Bakare declaring: “Take it to the mountain top, if you have never heard it before, I am saying it to you this morning in the scheme of things as far as politics of Nigeria is concerned, President Muhammadu Buhari is number 15 and yours sincerely I am number 16.”
That declaration instantly brings the church members to their feet with shouts of hallelujah so loud and animated it shakes the foundations of the auditorium. Bakare is not done yet. He continues, “I have never said that to you before, I have never said that to you before. I make it plain to you this morning, I let you know it this morning, nothing can change it in the name of Jesus; he is number 15, and I am number 16. To this end I was born, for this purpose came I into the world.
“I have prepared you for this purpose for more than 30 years. That is why if he (Buhari) wants to run in 2019, I do not oppose, he is still number 15. It is when he steps out, that I step in. His assignment is that of Moses to take Nigeria to River Jordan but he can’t cross it. It will take Joshua to go to the other side and begin to distribute resources for the people of this nation.”
Does Tunde Bakare possess the qualities of biblical Joshua (Hebrew for God saves)? Joshua was Moses’ assistant who became the leader of the Israelite tribes after the death of Moses. According to the Bible, Joshua was born in Egypt prior to the Exodus.
Joshua was one of the 12 spies of Israel sent by Moses to explore the land of Canaan. In Numbers 13:1–16, and after the death of Moses, he led the Israelite tribes in the conquest of Canaan, and allocated the land to the tribes. According to biblical chronology, Joshua lived sometime in the Bronze Age and died at the age of 110.
Joshua also holds a position of respect among Muslims. According to Islamic tradition, he was, along with Caleb, one of the two believing spies whom Moses had sent to spy the land of Canaan.
Israel’s military conquest of Canaan symbolizes the spiritual warfare of Christians against godlessness, and their settlement among the remaining Canaanite people symbolizes the hazards that Christians face in the midst of a hostile world.
Muslims also see Joshua as the leader of the Israelites following the death of Moses. Some Muslims also believe Joshua to be the “attendant” of Moses mentioned in the Quran before Moses met Khidr. Joshua plays a role in Islamic literature with significant narration in the hadith.
Does Tunde, the son of Bakare, fit the footsteps of the nation’s Joshua?