By Udoka Igwe
Reverend Christopher Oghenebrorie Okotie, the senior pastor of Household of God International Ministries literally took the nation by storm when in the run up to the 2003 presidential elections he audaciously declared that God had told him to run for the office of the president the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He also told the nation that he would win and send the then president Olusegun Aremu Okikiola Obasanjo back to his Otta farm from Aso Rock villa.
To make his dream come true Okotie jumped into the political fray. He joined the National Democratic Party (NDP) where he was taught his first political lesson. He was schemed out of the NDP primaries. Okotie’s next stop was Justice Party (JP) then chaired by Ralph Obioha. The elections came and although Okotie was quite noisy in the media, he was seriously trounced by Obasanjo.
Come 2007 presidential elections Okotie jumped into the political fray once more. This time still claiming divine anointing for the job. He founded Fresh Democratic Party, FRESH.
Once again he was in the media space letting anyone who cared to listen that he was God’s anointed for the job and that he would win. That year the Nigeria Election Debate Group, a group that has the backing of almost all public and private media concerns in Nigeria organized a presidential elections debate. Okotie was not even given a chance to participate in the debate. The reason may not have been farfetched. The group was obliviously more practical as they had only a chance for eight parties they considered most serious.
The group was obviously not under any illusions or religious spell regarding Okotie’s declaration that he was God’s anointed for the job. Okotie whined upon missing the debate opportunity but no one listened to him. Come the May, 2007 elections proper, Okotie was humiliated by Umaru Yar’ Adua of the People Democratic Party (PDP) at the polls.
In 2011, Okotie again declared he was God’s choice for the job of the president of Nigeria. As always he was sure he win but he was seriously trounced by Dr, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of the PDP. Not done in his now perennial presidential runs, in 2014 he was at it again when he told the world that God asked him to run in 2015. “I will run in 2015, God willing. God spoke to me about my participation in the political process, which was why I took the step in the first place. He has not said anything contrary. I don’t want to talk about it now”, he had declared but funny enough, he did not bother to join the race when the time came. The 2015 presidential election was won by incumbent president Muhammadu Buhari.
At a Sunday service in the build up to the 2019 presidential election, Okotie came out of his political hibernation once more. This time however, Okotie shocked the nation and said God asked him to tell the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and the People Democratic Party (PDP) to adopt him as consensus presidential candidate for the 2019 elections his words; “a few days ago, the Lord asked me to write APC and the chairman of the PDP, asking them not to field any presidential candidate that they should adopt me as their candidate”. Not done, Okotie declared “I ask the APC and PDP respectfully within the confines of conventional propriety, to temporize and observe peaceful hiatus in the commonality of the Nigerian brotherhood and embrace me as a consensus remedial facilitation”.
Well it turned out that the APC and PDP were not interested in obeying such a “divine” directive. APC was said to have replied media enquires about their response to Okotie’s letter with three laughing memes. The PDP on its part, advised Okotie to go and join the party in his ward first, get a membership card, pick the nomination form and contest as the party had no ticket to dash any one.
I have taken time to do this long narrative on Okotie’s perennial presidential runs for serious reasons. For a so called reverend gentleman using the name of God and claiming God spoke to him to tell us lesser mortals some divine directives and prophecies which to the consternation of all never come to pass, questions arise as to what went wrong? Can God be lying?
This brings to mind also the participation of another reverend gentleman, Pastor Tunde Bakare, the serving overseers of Citadel Global Community Church formerly known as Latter Rain Assembly. In 2011, Bakare was running mate to President Muhammadu Buhari on the platform of Congress for Progressive Change during the presidential election.
Bakare’s strongest defence at the time was that he heard the voice of God and the voice of God is superior to man. One is not questioning this? My question is did both men hear from the same One God? Or did that One God in a moment of confusion anoint two of his servant to be in the presidency at the same time though from different political parties?
Your guess is as good as mine. I believe God can not lie. I believe God can never be the author of confusion. Buhari who chose Bakare as his running mate never drummed it into Nigerians head that God told him to run or even choose Bakare as running mate! If anything, he was practical and pragmatic about his choice of Bakare. He only chose Bakare because he wanted to use him! Yes, you heard me right.
Buhari in his usual off the cuff utterances recently revealed in Katsina that he chose Bakare to burnish his image since he was perceived by many as a religious bigot. His words; “… when people said I am a religious bigot, I decided to take a pastor so that I can shut their mouth up”.
Anyone who understands packaging for marketing or propaganda will understand Buhari’s strategy.
Like Okotie, Bakare some time ago not only expressed his willingness to contest for the presidency in 2023 but went further also at a church service to declare, “God told me to run for president”. Again in a video that surfaced and trended recently Bakare declared he is “number 16” after President Muhammadu Buhari, who he says is “number 15″ in the ”scheme of things”.
He described Buhari as Moses, who will take Nigerians to River Jordan, and himself as Joshua, who will take citizens across the river to the promised-land. ”Take it to the mountaintop, if you have never heard it before, I’m saying it to you this morning; in the scheme of things as far as politics of Nigeria is concerned, President Muhammadu Buhari is No 15, and yours sincerely, I’m No 16. I have never said that to you before. I make it plain this morning, nothing can change it; he is No 15 and I’m No 16,” he told to his congregation. ”To this end was I born, I have prepared you for this for more than 30 years”, he also declared.
To me Bakare is saying he would contest 2023 election and he will win and that God told him so and we mere mortals must take it ipso facto. This is not in any way different from the Okotie rhyme. But has God spoken to Bakare? Your Guess is as good as mine.In my candid opinion, any one has a right to say God, gods or even spirits spoke to them about anything but what one finds nauseating is when people seemingly try to pull a word over the eyes of the public. Religion is said to be the opium of the masses and for clerics to utilize the platform to religion to bamboozle the public is not actually in good taste and all men of good will must rise and point it out. I have no quarrel with any one saying God called them to be pastors which is what Okotie and Bakare have successfully been able to make many of us believe and it may well be true that God called them. If that is true however, to literally abandon serious spiritual matters and now seek to serve tables is a sign that something is wrong, somewhere. For a shepherd to abandon his sheep and go fishing for political power is questionable. Only a hireling abandon’s his sheep. A good shepherd never does that. Bakare and Okotie are what I may refer to as set men or even Apostles in their various ministries being ‘founders’. If the Apostles abandon ship to go fishing for temporary political office, what becomes of their congregations or are they no longer called to win souls for the Lord using their ministries as platforms as they have hitherto made the public believe?
Okotie and Bakare are televangelists and one of the dangers of that activity is becoming a “celebrity” pastor with the attendant risks of delusion of grandeur. One only hopes this is not the case with the two clerics. It would have made sense if both clerics used their ecclesiastical positions to push for positive value change in Nigeria in a concrete way like Martin Luther King.
If they were championing social movements against the now systemic poverty, tribalism, nepotism, religious bigotry and other social ills that are holding Nigeria’s nationhood and development hostage it would have made sense to take them serious. It is not for them to hold any political office at any point in such a venture.
When David was anointed to be king in Israel it was not a matter for public campaign. We never saw him bandy it up and down that God spoke to him at breakfast or lunch on his anointment to be king of Israel. When Mary the mother of Jesus was reportedly told that she would give birth to Jesus Christ, the Scriptures said she kept it to herself. Self promotion using God’s name may well turn out to be a dangerous gambit when the bell finally tolls. Okotie and Bakare may well be playing the religious card to fool the gullible or unwary. On the other hand it may well be a case of presumption. But then only time will tell in the case of Bakare’s own latest gambit to contest 2023 elections. Whatever it is, my ten kobo is, Nigerians make una shine una eyes o.
Udoka Igwe, a public affairs analyst writes from Abuja