He needs no special introduction. Pastor Tunde Bakare, the Presiding Overseer of Citadel Global Church, formally known as Latter Rain Assembly, is one clergy in Nigeria that has never been shy of the spotlight.
Bakare, a lawyer, has variously been referred to as controversial for frequently challenging the norm, most times offering views considered as direct hits on the country’s leadership.
Indeed, the convener of the Save Nigeria Group (SNG), to many Nigerians, has become predictable, when it comes to his critical stand on issues, as he spares no word, however harsh, in conveying his message.
What many Nigerians have, however, not been able to properly place is his insistence that he would be the country’s president after the expiration of the tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023. He has held on to this position on five different occasions.
It would be recalled that on February 18, 2018, while preaching during a Sunday service at his church, then located at Akilo Road, Ogba, Lagos, Bakare had said he would be president after Buhari.
“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 I am number 16.
“If he (Buhari) wants to run in 2019, I do not oppose. He’s still number 15. It’s when he steps out that I step in.”
For many, those words were just too straight and sharp, an indication that the cleric was so sure of what he wants or what was playing out somewhere. But if there were doubting Thomases, who felt Bakare was just doing his normal thing, speaking outrageously, the lawyer turned pastor, had more for them.
On March 9, 2019, the day Nigerians filed out to vote in presidential and National Assembly elections, Pastor Bakare reiterated his earlier statement on succeeding President Buhari after voting at his Opebi Grammar School Ikeja, Lagos polling unit.
He said: “I am going to throw my hat into the fray. I am just waiting for President Buhari to finish his tenure (in 2023). We cannot continue this way because we have something to offer this country, and we will by the grace of God.”
Bakare, no doubt, seems to know what many Nigerians do not know as he had consistently hammered on his match to the presidency in 2023.
On the 4th of June, 2020, during the Future of Faith Instagram Live broadcast with Chude Jideonwo, Bakare, while insinuating that he was pressured in 2011 to run with Atiku, said God’s counsel to him has remained that his political career is not over, adding that the counsel also included that he will be called upon for more responsibilities and he is obligated to answer.
To underscore his seriousness, Bakare on 27 July, 2020, re-echoed his position on the nation’s presidency when he insisted that President Buhari was number 15 while he was number 16.
“Yes, I said so in the Church. I am a free citizen, my desire can be expressed and anyone who is angry about that can express their own. I said he is number 15 and I will be number 16.”
Pastor Bakare, however, added another dimension to his now famous 2023 presidency, when on November 11, 2020, he insisted he would become Nigeria’s president just like Joe Biden, the new US President-elect.
This time, the clergy failed to put a timeline to his presidency, choosing to say, “as the Lord lives, one day I will be President”, a clear departure from his earlier assurance of the date.
“There is something called destiny. I am not one to hide under the umbrella of one finger and make ambition look like vision, I do not camouflage.
“It is not a matter of life and death, but you can write it down. As the Lord lives, and as I am given the opportunity, the day will come, like Joe Biden, that I will be the President of Nigeria,” Bakare said.
What many, however, find interesting about Bakare’s most recent submission is the slight modification to the energy behind his presidency ambitions. Not anymore is the claim to certainty but an acknowledgment that men could actually throw spanner in the wheels.
The shift in position, therefore, raises important posers for keen watchers of Nigeria’s polity. Many are wont to ask, beyond claims to the supernatural, are there things the maverick cleric is not telling Nigerians?
Indeed, what gives Bakare the confidence that he would be succeeding President Buhari in 2023? Is there a pact between him and President Buhari that Nigerians do not know?
Critics might be quick to dismiss Bakare’s claims, knowing the prevailing high wire politics currently dominating the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Seen as a dark horse, many wonder how he will upstage the likes of Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, Rotimi Amaechi and Atiku who are widely acknowledged as veterans in the murky terrains of Nigerian politics, and whose ambitions to occupy Aso Rock have never been hidden.
It is not also known if the President, knowing his character, would be ready to stick out his neck for an APC outsider like Bakare, and willfully rock the party’s boat beyond repairs.
This is not to discountenance that President Buhari once picked Bakare as his running mate in 2011, even as an outsider.
Next is, are there forces in the country that are propelling Bakare for the presidency? Though this may not be impossible, that is yet to be seen in concrete terms.
A plausible scenario is the argument that Bakare, besides his foray into partisan politics in the 2011 presidential election, when he was running mate to Buhari under the platform of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), may be banking on the support of the country’s radical community which may want one of their own to take a shot at the nation’s top office.
How effective this community can be in wrestling political power from the established political class is, however, yet to be seen.
Whatever the source of Pastor Bakare’s confidence, he has been able to moderate his ambition by not having it cast in stone yet, and this is by admitting that it is not a ‘do or die affair’.
As Nigerians wait for the 2023 dateline, Bakare’s direction, source of confidence and game plan is sure to unravel and become clearer.
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