'INEC is a quango, terminological deceit’ - Rev. Okotie
Reverend Chris Okotie, founder and senior pastor of Household of God Ministries is not new to politics; having taken a shot at the presidency twice earlier in 2003 and in 2007. In fact, he is one of the two veterans of that contest. The other, of course, being General Muhammadu Buhari who is currently parading another pastor- Tunde Bakare, as his running mate.
In this interview, Okotie, who is being regarded as a political pretender debunked that notion, saying that Nigerians more than ever before have a responsibility to reject the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP now or risk the destruction of their democratic structures. Excerpts:
What’s your assessment of the just concluded voters’ registration exercise?
It started on a very slow note and there was not much cohesion in the whole system. That is characteristic of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. We have a nation that does not recognise how sacrosanct our legal protocol, the Constitution is, so from time to time they tinker with it. Since it is a Peoples Democratic Party, PDP affair for now they can always rally themselves round and amend the constitution, because it is characteristic of PDP-political ineptitude.
It is the government’s responsibility to conduct free and fair election. They are the ones who appointed and superintend over INEC and the initial hiccups was a deliberate ploy to create a state of emergency. This is the usual PDP proclivity. I have said it before that INEC is a quango and therefore owes its allegiance to the government which appointed it. If government has appointed an organisation that is unable to perform; then the blame rests on the government.
Will you hold INEC responsible for the initial hiccups?
I will not because INEC is incapacitated ab initio and until we look at the big picture we will not be able to solve the problem. INEC is not independent; it is a terminological deceit. It depends on the bureaucracy of government to carry out its responsibilities. As far as I am concerned, the PDP government owes it to Nigeria to conduct a free and fair election and if they cannot it will not be the instrumentality of the INEC that I will blame; it will the government.
On the PDP presidential primaries in Abuja
What I saw is the beginning of destruction of our political process and when I say political process I am talking of democracy. I know there will be seeming democratic atmosphere that was created there, but the events that led to that primary indicate that we are treading very dangerous grounds. That is all I can say for now; but let me make it clear that the Goodluck Jonathan presidency will further polarize and balkanize our nation.
We have never seen Nigeria so divided; maybe the nearest thing to it would be the last Civil War; but we are treading a very dangerous ground and I will want to appeal to all progressives to come together. I believe that Jonathan presidency will lead to chaos and will never take Nigeria to the next level. I believe it is time for all progressives to come together and form a strategic alliance and I believe that the only viable option will be Rev. Chris Okotie because I come from the same region with him and it will be easy to defeat him on that level.
But there has been several attempts to bring the progressives together….
Yes! The process is usually slow but I believe that for the sake of the unity of this nation and to guarantee the longevity of this political experiment called democracy, to ensure that there is no disintegration and fragmentation of our nation; it will be become imperative for the progressives within and outside political parties to come together to stop PDP. What PDP is attempting to do is to destroy the rudiments of our democracy and to create an enabling environment for chaos because in my mind this is not democracy. We are moving towards a totalitarian government and it doesn’t augur well for this nation.
The Progressives already have a platform with people like Prof. Pat Utomi and others. Will you work with them?
It will depend on how our desires intercept; because the most important thing here, is not just desiring to lead Nigeria, but understanding the ideological bases of what I am saying. I am saying that we have the political party, PDP that has begun a dangerous trend by ignoring institutions of democracy that are set within every society to act as checks and balances i.e. the North South divide, ethnicity, religion amongst others.
These are institutions that are subsumed within the democratic framework to check excesses so that it creates equilibrium and a democratic process can gravitate towards the ultimate of articulating and crystallizing the wishes of the people. When you ignore and circumvent these institutions you derail the concept of democracy within a federal structure like ours.
That is why I said what PDP did at their primaries is unprecedented and if we do not create a monolith of opposition, our democracy will be gone in a couple of years. I know and I have said that there is a God who oversees the affairs of this nation and that what we are seeing here is a façade of the fascist concept of government that is in infant stages and if we don’t do something about it, it will become totalitarian.
Are the totalitarian tendencies more pronounced now than when President Olusegun Obasanjo was in power?
Definitely! During the Obasanjo regime these institutions that guarantee the safety, the union and establish the confidence of the weaker federating units were not so blatantly ignored. If these institutions are ignored or circumvented then there is no basis for our union. You cannot just ignore what the North says, or what the South-South says, or what the West says, or what religious organizations say; like we are seeing in Jos.
You can’t! Because these are material; they constitute those ingredients that harmonize the democratic process particularly in a federalism. What is federalism? It is manipulating centrifugal and centripetal forces. So, we cannot just have either centrifugal forces or centripetal forces; they must intercept and harmonise into an equilibrium. What PDP has done is to create a new paradigm and use its own methodology to facilitate this new concept into the paradigm and I am saying that it is a very dangerous precedent.
People may not see it because they have hoodwinked Nigerians into believing that it is a South South thing we are packaging for you guys. But the whole concept of how they attained this phenomenon is what is worrisome to me and that is why I am saying that Goodluck Jonathan presidency will further bulkanize and polarize this nation and it will lead to chaos because it does not entrench the precepts of democracy as we know them.
It will only create fear, intimidation and once we have those kinds of aberrations in a society they lead to chaos. That is why government has not being able to solve the problem in Jos, because they are not just aware of the realities confronting Nigeria at this point in time.
I respect President Goodluck Jonathan but I am saying it without any provocation that he is not the man for this moment, he cannot handle the difficulties that Nigeria is going through. And I say it with all respect. This is not Obasanjo! This is Goodluck Jonathan. They are two different people. If we have a man that have the strength and will of President Olusegun Obasanjo; it will be a different thing.
But we can no longer practice presidency by proxy. If the South-South people believe that it is time for them to be there, then they should look out for someone who will epitomize the Nigerian dream and interpret such dream in reality with globalization in the present 21st century Nigeria context and with all due respect, Goodluck Jonathan does not fit the bill.
Are you therefore throwing your support for zoning as being canvassed by some Nigerians?
I believe that zoning as an integral part of political setting has fused because it creates a balance but the issue is that you cannot arbitrarily offset the equilibrium just to achieve either a personal or party agenda. There are certain institutions that are sacred to our democracy that must be respected, whether it is zoning, whether it is religion and whatever it is. These are the institutions that make it possible for us to operate a democracy in a nascent federalism like Nigeria because we have not understood what federalism is all about.
It must be understood that I am not in support of a particular individual or party, but I am talking about the concept of our democracy. The reason I am involved is because I believe there was a democratic process that began in 1999.
That process can only be sustained if we understand the institutions that are within our society. It is these institutions that guarantee the freedom of the people, the expression of liberty of the people because that is what democracy is all about.
Once those institutions are circumvented you are on your way to despotism or tyranny. Tyranny always begins with an institution and then it becomes personalized. Any group of people who hijack the party will determine what the party is going to do, irrespective of the constitution that the party has.
In April, you will join Gen. Buhari to contest the nation’s most coveted position for the third time running….
I have become a veteran of sort…. (Laughter) I believe that a man can receive nothing except he is given from heaven. When you look at a man like President Goodluck Jonathan, you will understand that he is not where he is because of his political projection or trajectory.
The same thing for his predecessor, President Olusegun Obasanjo. I believe that every nation responds to its crisis at every given period by the supervision of Almighty God and I believe that this year, Nigeria will respond to the crisis of nationhood and by going beyond partisan affiliation, beyond the usual political proclivities that have brought us to where we are today. And for the first time, Nigeria will go to a place where we can find harmony, unity and friendship and when that time comes, Okotie will be the name on the lips of every Nigerian.
What is your take on comments that you don’t have platform to win support even in the South South not talk of the North?
That is not true. If there is one person that the North can say they trust, it is Rev. Okotie and not President Jonathan or anybody from the South, because they have observed me through the years and seen that I speak the truth and I don’t involve myself in highlights that I don’t believe in, that have done damage to our nation. I speak the truth in love and I admire those I admire based on the logic of the situation.
That is why I am saying here that when the time comes, it’s going to be Rev. Okotie and nobody else, because there have been many that came claiming they are messiah that would lead Nigeria to prosperity and bring peace but what have they achieved? I think that the time has come for Nigeria to embrace that faith that is irresistible to project me into the fray.
Most of the presidential candidates have just emerged and we know those who are engaged now and proper campaign has begun. But there is no where you get to in Nigeria that people will say they have not heard of Okotie. They know me. I am more popular than President Jonathan. The only reason people talk about him is because he is the president.
Are you likely to work with the older…
I will work with anybody who has the interest of this nation at heart particularly in the present situation. I will stick to any man or woman who has something to contribute. I respect them a lot and I believe that there is much we can learn from them. I often say that when you take the past and you infuse it with the present you will see a society of great possibility. There are many things we can learn from these men. And I believe that when the time comes, the stuff with which they are made of will determine how far they can go with us.
But, I am very sure that there are great men and woman in the South and North who will rise up to the occasion of our present day reality and our county will be salvaged. That is what President Obasanjo did and that is why I respect him.
He is a great man. The same reason why I respect Babangida, because these men project their thoughts and maintained that philosophy irrespective of what any man thinks. That is the good quality of a leader.
What will you tell Nigerians ahead of the election?
I want to encourage them that after the voters’ registration exercise they must be prepared to vote to bring about the change. The PDP government has almost destroyed this nation. Go out and vote, so that we can send them packing. Nigerians should vote and insist that their vote is counted. And remember that divine intervention has been the only panacea and elixir for our political process.
So, even while we are voting, faith must be placed in God, because He is the One who will galvanize that change and I believe He is going to do it. I want to assure our brothers in the North that they are secure and safe and they can trust Chris Okotie’s presidency because Jonathan presidency is unreliable. It is fraught with suspicion, perfidy and mendacity and they must never look at that direction.
How you would react to the unending sectarian killings in the North?
I keep saying that this is not a religious war. The problem in the North is not a religious one but governmental irresponsibility. In any society there would be disagreement and even the tendency to anarchy when there is no rule of law. That responsibility rests squarely on the government and since the government is incapacitated and does not know what to do; it is distracted by its own agenda that is why some miscreants are causing havoc in the North or in the Middle Belt. If this government was a responsible one or a Christian government as it pretends to be it will show more concern.
But because everything about them is hypocritical and sycophantic and pretentious they don’t care at this moment because all they care about is the election and matters arising from their primaries that have nothing to do with the Nigerian people. They have demonstrated that ineptitude and callousness for which they ought not even ask Nigerians for a single vote.
I want to ask Nigerians to be patient; two wrongs don’t make a right. Defend yourself is what I will say, since the government cannot defend you.