The Street Journal recently had a chat with Pastor Tunde Bakare,former Vice presidential candidate of CPC and General Mohammadu Buhari’s running mate at the 2011 presidential election. Bakare who is the pastor in charge of he Latter Rain Assembly Church was in his usual element in the explosive interview. Excerpts!
You’d recall that I moved the motion of merger between the CPC and ACN because we’ve always believed that all these smaller parties will never be able to win a presidential election in Nigeria…never! Except there would be a handshake between the Southwest and Northwest, then PDP will remain in power for ever. I’m not saying that all those who are in PDP are devil and all those who are in APC are saints. At a close range you’d like to thank God that you know what you are doing. Right now as presently constituted, whereas all we were looking for was a merger between Northwest and Southwest. The bulk of voters are in those groups. The whole of South- east and South- south equals South-west in terms of number of voters. So when you take the Southwest and Northwest together; if they can vote for one party en-block, that’s the end of the game.
Your Relationship With Buhari
Let me backtrack here. The first time I ever saw General Buhari in my life was in my office. He was led by someone-Sen. Afikuyomi who was going to run on his platform then of ANPP as Governor of Lagos State. By the grace of God, I taught Afikuyomi Sunday School at Yaba Baptist Church. And when they asked him to take them to a Christian of high moral values he brought Gen Buhari to my office. That was the first time I saw him physically. The second time was at the instance of Tinubu. Tinubu sent Lai Mohammed to me. Lai Mohammed I brought from International Centre for Reconstruction and Development to discuss Nigeria in our Knowledge workshops concerning issues and solutions to our problems. I was landing in Abuja for our SNG meeting when Lai Mohammed sent me a text saying we need to see you urgently so that I can help persuade Gen. Buhari to run undr AC. It was AC then ACN .
I accepted the challenge and I booked an appointment to meet Gen. Buhari. I’m giving you this background so that you can know that the merger was not an overnight success. The day before we left, Jimi Agbaje, myself and Yinka Odumakin were to go to broker the coming together of AC and CPC with Buhari as the presidential candidate. I asked Lai Muhammed who would be the running mate. And he said Tinubu. I said I cannot broker a Muslim/Muslim ticket. What would the Christian community do? Or if they found out what would they say to me?
I’m giving you this background because of the things I’m about to say. So I called Gen. Buhari and I said I’d not be coming any more. And we didn’t see again. When Gen. Buhari called me and said I’d like you to be my running mate on January 15, 2011. Apart from calling, my daughter was in the house with me. I called in my wife; called Pastor Adeboye. Tinubu was the next person I called to say this what Gen. Buhari has said. I say to Ashiwaju Tinubu, this man called me today and said I should be his running mate. Do me a favour. Give me a Christian from ACN that I could take to him and that would still go to your platform. He thanked me profusely and said my respect for you goes to high heaven. He said I’ll get back to you. He never did. So, I invited in Adebayo; former Governor of Ekiti State. He was my classmate. We were in the university together and at the Nigerian Army. But I got to the Law school before him. We were in the same faculty. And Niyi came to my house and I said to him…persuade Ashiwaju. You’re a Christian. Either you or Osinbajo I’ll take to Gem. Buhari to run with him.
Niyi said if I want him to stay alive I should not do such thing except Ashiwaju who suggested it can’t come from any of them. I didn’t know what to do any more. I still did not accept. I took Elrufai, Jimi Lawal and Yinka Odumakin to see Gen Buhari to ask him why do you want me to be your running mate?. I’m not a politician. I’m not a member of your party. I hold no party card. What’s your reason? He said when he saw me matching for Nigeria with such a large number of people within a short period, that’s why he picked me that I could mobilize many people. Then it means I must have some followership. You know politicians speak in numbers.
He said number two, he was an old man, supposing he dies in office, he wanted someone who could hold Nigeria together so that Nigeria would not disintegrate. He said he had checked me out. I was born into a Muslim home and I became a Christian. So I know the two sides of religion. I was born in the south but raised in Sokoto. I know the two sides of the country. That was his calculation…and that he had checked me and know that I have integrity. So we can work together. I still did not accept. We left that place to go to Nasir el’Rufai’s house. I still did not accept. I don’t want to work with this man.
Obasanjo’s Scheming To Have Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala As Buhari’s Running Mate
Nasir was in PDP then. And he said because of what we have done with arrowhead, He said he was persuaded that I’m a leader to follow. So he decamped from PDP to join CPC. The night of the afternoon that I signed that vice-presidential thing (form) was the last day that the thing would be submitted. The night before, the three of us were in the same hotel. Unknown to Gen Buhari and I, Gen Obasanjo was also in the same hotel with us. He was in another presidential suite and we were in the other presidential suits. He sent for Nasir el’Rufai to speak with him. He told him that Gen should drop me and pick Okonjo-Iweala as his running mate for him to give his full support. He said he had called IBB and Dangote to support him to win the election.
Nasir el’rufai came to meet me in my suite and told me everything. I said, praise the Lord. Let’s go and meet him because I’ve not signed the form. And we got to Gen Buhari’s room. The reason for my background story you’d find out in the next five minutes. At this time General and Mallam were not in speaking terms. They were at war because of what he said Gen Buhari said about him during the Senate trial of him. He said he saw him as an elder brother, a father figure and if he had anything to say he should have called him to say it privately to him and not publicly. I brokered peace and they could see eye to eye again.
I relayed what Gen Obasanjo had said to Mallam and I proffered five reasons why he should pick Okonjo-Iweala as his running mate. The sixth reason I kept to myself but it was known to El’rufai. One, she’s Delta Ibo. That will solve South- south, South-east problem. Two, she’s a Christian, however, nominal. It will fix the faith balancing ticket…Muslim/Muslim. Three, she’s a woman. That will solve the gender problem. It was Gen Buhari who first passed into law that the gender issue is part of what his government would do to put women in government.
Number four; she was a former minister of Finance and External Affairs. That’s an experience which I don’t have. And number five; Managing Director of the World bank, an international exposure. She almost single- handedly handled the debt cancellation for Nigeria. I said for these five reasons I appeal to you to please take her. I had not signed the form so I brought the form out. I said it would not cause complication. I’d call a press conference and declare to the whole world. He faced El’Rufai and asked him, since Obasanjo spoke to you directly, what do you thing about this?
El’rufai said I’ve worked with Obasanjo and you have worked with him, you should know that Obasanjo would do anything except he has an interest. But nonetheless, let’s play along and Gen Buhari said you know I don’t do that. I’ve called you Pastor Bakare because my heart picks you. If you refuse don’t worry. I’ll look for another substitute in the next 15 days. You can drop the form. I told them the reason why I didn’t want to sign the form. I didn’t want to die before my mother.
Pastor Adeboye Encouraged Bakare To Accept Buhari’s Offer
Every Assistant that Gen Buhari had died. Tunde Idiagbon, Chuka Okadigbo, Ume Ezeoke. They’re all dead. People don’t know what goes around them in their season. I signed the form and they took it to INEC and I became public name. Those 15 days were 15 days of death and resurrection. I prayed; I did not hear God speak one word to me. I talked to Pastor Adeboye twice and Pastor Adeboye said I told you the last time I came to your church; that season is around the corner.
When I first brokered it, I went to Pastor Adeboye to help persuade Dr Okwesili to be the running mate and he said no, no, no. We need a strong Christian. Emphasis is on STRONG. He reminded me that when I said it he knew that I’d be the person. And I said sir! I called him the second time and he said don’t be like Moses. Whether or not you are not going to win this election, go there and stand for the God’s kingdom there. So I led Gen Buhari to see him then and he said he had never felt any pain in his heart except the time Buhari was overthrown because he was bringing some order into Nigeria. He said now that his sons had joined him, he’d pray and he wished us well. That was what he said to me privately and publicly.
IBB, Gusau, Tinubu’s Opposition To Buhari/Bakare Combination
And whatever was said or heard I don’t know because I’ve some other things. And towards the tail end Tinubu came and said that he wanted an alliance …that there cannot be a merger anymore. He said they were dropping their presidential candidate and that General should drop me while they would provide the vice president. Three days before they called, an emissary had come to me from the Atiku camp. Atiku was part of that configuration; Atiku, IBB, Gusau and Tinubu. They met and said look we can’t have Buhari and Tunde Bakare; in case they win this eletion, they’ll be too tough.Let’s look for someone else.
General said you can have any position, finance or anything; but I think it’d be wicked to ask Tunde to step down because he didn’t ask for it and I pleaded with him and I know what we went through before he succumbed. You can have anything. But I’ll not ask him to step down. But I had got information from the emissaries that came from Atiku that I was going to be offered compensation …cash compensation and buildings and what a few. Another informant was a senior Oba in the Southwest who called to tell me that Tinubu and my older cousin, former Governor of Ogun State, Osoba were with him and told him their mission to Abuja and they have been told not to touch me. And I told the Oba that I’m willing to resign to move the nation forward.
So at that time it was too late for me to resign and they now brought an idea that I should resign as Vice president of Nigeria and postdate the letter to June 17. And I told them my mother did not raise a fool. I cannot commit forgery. I’ve not occupied the office for which you are asking me to resign. I’m willing to resign as Tunde Bakare which I did when I gave them the letter and not as vice president of Nigeria. They said it’d not get to the press. The following day it was on the front page of Vanguard saying that I had signed the letter. But I didn’t sign any letter. So we had to go into that election and the rest is history.
Why do I say the rest is history? Because they know that they didn’t win that election. Justice of the Court of Appeal had ordered that all the ballot papers be brought for forensic examination. And when we paid the money to bring the expert in and the machinery, they removed Salami and disbanded that panel and formed another one. Even if they had won that election, we’d have done a rerun because CPC was registered in December of 2010. And CPC only came out that December. Within three, to four months it had more that 12 million votes.
Buhari Is A Unique Nigerian
If you had gone to any of the campaign with us; that’s why Obasanjo said Buhari is a spirit because it’s only a spirit that can organize a party in four months and have 12 million votes. At rallies you’d see a sea of heads. His name just invokes some kind of passion in the North. When we did the first public campaign that we flagged off from Kaduna; I stood there and said God how did i get into this? Because if there is a stampede, here everybody will die. It was so much. And then we got home; and Buhari staggered and said Jesus Christ of Nazareth. I was almost angry. I thought he was just using the word. I said General what did you just say? He said you think you have the monopoly of Jesus Christ.
These are things you don’t know. Buhari’s driver that has been driving him for the past ten years uninterrupted is a born again Christian. His armour bearer, what you call body guards are all members of Light House, Pastor Sola’s Church. Buhari fought Idiagbon to a standstill because he was going to divorce his Christian wife. He said that’s unfair. They have hung that thing on him so that he’d not win the election.
Why IBB Did Not Want Buhari
They thought there would be reprisal attacks on them for what they did to him when he was overthrown. That’s coming out of a book-the reason for the overthrow because IBB himself was about to be retired for certain reasons and they quickly moved. He’s coming out with his own publication soon.
I said all these to say why I have kept quiet all this while. We were in London-Nasri, Jimi Lawal myself and General. I was reading in his bedroom because the living-room was being cleaned. He said we have three things in common. He said you are the last son and last child of your father; I’m the last child of my father. There are only two of you left on the earth planet out of several children. And me and my sister are the only two left. But I beat you in the third one. So, out of 22 children, mine was 23. And I said there is one I beat you in also. I was born a Muslim, now I’m a Christian; but you still remain a Muslim. And we just laughed.
Why I Can’t Abandon Buhari
Mallam and Jimi later came to join us on how to move Nigeria forward because General said not in his life anymore. The reason I can’t abandon the man is that we pushed him to come out again. Yes he’s old. But in term of integrity, public record, accountability, there is no leader like hm in Nigeria today who has not messed up himself. He’s been a Head of State he has no petrol station; he’s been a head of state, he could not afford to send his children to private school. They all went to public schools except those in the university now outside the country, his only son.
He has been governor Northeastern states. He had been petroleum minister in Nigeria; he has a record. He has asked anyone who has any information that he took an advantage of the treasury by one penny to come out and expose him. He has also asked anyone who would say he used his religion against him to say it publicly. There’s something about him that’s unique. He may not be a Christian but he’s a leader that can stop corruption in our country. It takes more than stopping corruption to run a nation. Integrity is not enough. There must be skills in one sense of a team can be built around him, the best of the North and the best of the South, then we can move our nation forward. And in order to do that we then said let’s start talking with ACN about merger. So the talk began. And somehow the merger became a reality. I moved the motion for the merger publicly at the Eagle’s square in Abuja.
Where is the man who said he wants to do an interview? I’d have said all that needed to be said I’ve just said.