Let's go back to very recent history. Whether as a pastor, politician, Pentecostal leader, man of God, lawyer or civil rights activist - all of which he is - Pastor Tunde Bakare has always been forthright and no-nonsense.
As a lawyer, he worked in the Gani Fawehinmi Chambers. In 1999, when almost everyone was excited about Olusegun Obasanjo's candidacy, Bakare was almost a loner declaring that Obasanjo was far from being the messiah. He declared that Obasanjo would, in fact, be a major part of Nigeria's problem. He has since been proved right beyond words. And, not only that, Obasanjo became Nigeria's albatross; he became the harbinger of every bad leadership that followed him including this one.
When President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua got incapacitated by illness and became brain-dead and a self-serving cabal was trying to take advantage of the illness and prevent the then vice president, Goodluck Jonathan, from taking over, Pastor Bakare led his Save Nigeria Group (SNG) to force the politicians to do the right thing. President Jonathan is now too close to his new friends to remember the efforts of Pastor Bakare in those dark days. By the way, all of us, including Tunde Bakare, who insisted that section 144 of the constitution should be invoked and that Vice President Jonathan should take over as president straightaway and not even acting president, did so only because that was the right thing to do. I was even particularly against the funny "doctrine of necessity" used by the Senate to declare the vice president an acting president when section 144 is sufficiently clear and unambiguous about what the nation should be doing under those circumstances.
Pastor Bakare speaks hard truth to power the way the Old Testament men of God did. The pastor is not only fearless, he also has the brain power to match his intrepidity.
A few days ago, the pastor was invited by the SSS over his utterances. It's doubtful if the SSS could have invited Bakare without the president's prompting. That was an assault on free speech and it has no place in any democracy in the world. These are the kind of things that happen in Nigeria from time to time to remind the world that Nigeria is not the democracy that it claims to be. Pastor Bakare was invited because he said President Jonathan's destiny was to bankrupt Nigeria and that, with the rate and level of corruption in Jonathan's Nigeria, it might be futile to be talking about 2015. That's what Bakare said. Nobody has told me yet that they found guns or bombs in his house or church with which he was contemplating to violently overthrow Jonathan's government or that there were evidences that he was linked to the terrorism that has taken over Jonathan's Nigeria.
But what is wrong with what Pastor Bakare, the CPC's vice presidential candidate in the 2011 election, said? If he said President Jonathan's destiny was to bankrupt Nigeria, what is wrong with that? Is it not true that this is exactly what Jonathan is doing? If Jonathan "spent" N2.6 trillion in one year on fake fuel subsidy payments where other presidents before him spent less than N300 billion, how would anyone fault what Pastor Bakare has said? Or, does the president want to slap Nigerians in the face and at the same time stop them from complaining or even crying? The truth, however, is that if Jonathan squandered N2.6 trillion in an election year on an appropriation that was supposed to be N245 billion on fuel subsidy, it would simply not be enough for anyone to declare that Jonathan's destiny was to bankrupt Nigeria. On that score, Pastor Bakare has been far more lenient to Jonathan than he should be. The situation is far worse than that. If this so-called contraption called democracy had been working, Jonathan would be impeached and removed from office on account of this singular frightening act of expending N2.6 trillion illegally.
The pastor also insinuated that with the level that corruption has been taken to in Jonathan's Nigeria, it will be useless to be talking about 2015. Pastor Bakare has said exactly what everyone else is saying. He only did President Jonathan a favour by telling him what virtually everyone - including those who claim to be his associates - are saying behind him. And I would really be surprised if no one had told Jonathan this to his face. The trillions of naira that get stolen on President Jonathan's watch will certainly crash this country if it is not stopped at once.
The fuel subsidy heist, the pension fund multiple robberies, the theft of crude oil which got to unprecedented levels of nearly 400,000 barrels daily, the Block 245 sleight of hand and so on and so on and so on and so on. Yes, Nigeria has had a reputation for corruption but not the kind of madness we have witnessed in Jonathan's Nigeria. It is precisely for that reason that nothing is working in Nigeria. When President Jonathan promised transformation, we didn't know that was the kind of transformation he was talking about. Even the N300 billion the late President Yar'Adua released for the transformation of the Niger Delta shortly before he got incapacitated - no one knows what has happened to that money. The total amount that the PTF used to make all that difference was about half that amount.
And then to add insult to injury, President Jonathan instructed poor Governor Henry Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State to appoint his wife a permanent secretary. That was after he had scandalously awarded his spiritual leader, Tompolo, the contract for maritime security. One day, time will come when Nigerians will publicly be told the real relationship between Jonathan, the commander-in-chief of Nigeria's armed forces, with a militant (whether former or current) whose operations had killed several members of the armed forces. Nigerians and indeed several discerning foreigners I relate with lately are so, so confused about this. Yes, it is so confusing.
And it is important that President Jonathan should know that free speech is one of the appurtenances of democracy. Just like free press and freedom of association, such right cannot be abridged in a democracy. Assault on free speech is fast becoming a habit of the Jonathan government. The president wants to be able to do just whatever he likes and even misbehave and no one should talk about it? He wants to expend N2.6 trillion on fake fuel subsidy payments in an election year after the National Assembly had appropriated N245 billion and Pastor Bakare has no right to say President Jonathan's destiny is to bankrupt Nigeria? Last year, Nasir el-Rufai, another opposition politician, was detained at the airport because of his critical writings against the president, and, in 2011, before the elections, Bola Tinubu was invited by the SSS because he said, referring to Jonathan, that Nigerians should not pay attention to the words of a drunken fisherman in the creeks. That was in direct response to Jonathan calling ACN a bunch of "rascals," when he said the "south-west was too important to be left to rascals". Of course, the south-west people responded accordingly by completely voting out Jonathan and Obasanjo's party out of their domain.
It is very difficult for anyone who loves Nigeria to simply keep quiet about the way the country is currently being run. Pastor Bakare has only helped the president to know exactly how Nigerians feel about him. The pastor has also said that a major revolt is imminent in Nigeria because of the way the country is run, especially the wanton manner in which the nation's wealth is being plundered.
The president has insinuated by his body language that he really doesn't give a damn. President Jonathan should know that he is writing his own history by the way he is running Nigeria. And that is why he must change his direction forthwith and start giving a damn.
Richard Branson's Statement On Nigeria
Richard Branson, the maverick but very successful British businessman, was reported to have described Nigerian politicians as dream killers. Branson should know. He had brought in his Virgin Airlines into Nigeria and was on the verge of investing a further $600 million (N96 billion) before he decided to pack his business out of the country. I think it's about time we started asking questions about investors running out of the country and relocating to Ghana and South Africa where they feel more comfortable to operate. Yes, Branson is right. But Nigerian leaders are not only dream killers to foreign investors, they are also dream killers to local businessmen and entrepreneurs. Businessmen not only have to contend with corruption every day, they also have to procure their own electricity supply, build their own boreholes for water supply and, these days, even procure their own heavy security. And, if you have to import anything through the Nigerian ports, then, you have additional problems.
The judiciary is in a class by itself. No country without a respectable judiciary that would enforce rights can attract investors. It took a foreign country to convict James Ibori after he had been acquitted of all charges in Nigeria and it took a foreign court to also indict Erastus Akingbola last week. Many things are wrong with Nigeria. I have often said that it is impossible to succeed as a country and a nation with the way Nigeria is being run. Branson has told us the truth. If we get shamed or angry enough to start redressing our situation, then, we would have helped ourselves. Or else, we shall continue to remain a byword for everything that is wrong, and a laughing stock of the world.