The 1st day of January every year always presents a once-in-a-year opportunity for some Nigerian Pastors to boost their public profiles owing to their plethora of New Year Prophetic Declarations (many of which spell doom, by the way). In fact, all you needed to do to appear on blogs was to release a “prophetic” list of 50 things to happen in Nigeria and there you go – if not for anything; sheer talk-ability.
This year, I was particularly on the lookout for who was saying what about whom and where and I wasn’t at all disappointed, the prophecies came in droves. One of the most interesting things that I stumbled on was a video from the Lead Pastor of the Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare where he not only announced his ambition to run for the Presidency but made it clear to all that he had no personal intention of such, except this time, (actually, like every other time) he was urged by God.
And as I watched, I specifically ensured that I was not trying to push forward my own bias. So I took the time to watch repeatedly and to do so with a reasonable level of attention, taking it all in and giving it time to settle before sharing my concrete opinions on the matter.
In the video, Tunde Bakare gave a short lecture from the bible after which he went on to describe an “encounter” he had with God where he was told specifically not to bring his political career to a close; as there is still more to do. On that premise, he announced he would be running for the Presidency, although at an undisclosed time. “When it is the appointed time, He (God) will do it. When He tells me the time, you will hear about it” he had said.
As one who has spent a reasonable amount of time seeing this pattern of spiritual new year declarations, I should not be bothered, but with Tunde Bakare’s, I was. The truth remains that Pastor Tunde Bakare is an adult and is eligible to do whatever he wants at whatever time he chooses but when he makes it a “God-issue”, then he brings all of us into it in a way that suggests that since we are all Christians and he refers to the God of the Christians, hence, we agree.
Tunde Bakare’s political journey on it own has been a quite unique one; mostly cloaked with a lot of “God said this” and “God said that”. In 2011, He had claimed God told him to run with Buhari and we all know how that ended.
Normally, statements of this nature would not weigh much, except this is Nigeria; a country where we lose our sense of judgement when a “God said” comes into the conversation; it’s some sort of immunity; from questions, from raised eyebrows and from criticisms.
By labelling themselves as God’s choice; they have subtly imposed themselves as the one that needs to be voted else the future of this country is at stake. It appeals to the part of us that agree with things as long as they are clothed in seeming spiritual garments.
When we continually make “God said” the standard of acceptance and validity of our choice of business partner, of political leaders, then we leave very little to elements of accountability and democracy. Because, how do you expect to lead a multiethnic, multireligious, multilingual, democratic state when they can hardly demand accountability when right from the onset, you have been labelled as God’s choice; the ordained one that cannot be questioned.
And this is not even an attempt to subtly express contempt – what you would call “throwing a shade” at Pastor Tunde Bakare. Because he is not the only one involved. I’m inclined to sternly assert that such is more prominent in Nigeria because Nigeria is my sample space and I can be so sure about Nigerian politics. But, it isn’t.
Let’s digress a little.
If you’ve ever had to sit through any “Christian” relationship seminar or if you are like me, seminars, you would have noticed this has become an issue for quite a long time. Because, regardless of how exposed and educated the audience seems to be, there’s always that one person who would ask the one question in the minds of many; does God tell me who to marry? Do I have a soulmate; the one person God ordained for me at the beginning. But that’s just by the way. The last time that happened, it ended up with “Is it not the woman you gave unto me?”
This reveals to a large extent the fabric of our baseline for decision making and like earlier stated, why we would easily fall for scams because it has been carefully wrapped in spiritual garments.
Back to our politicians.
I remember specifically a trend of strategic visit by politicians to churches – churches with a high level of mass appeal even, during elections period and how the church most times, naively give away their platforms to people seeking of opportunities for acceptance from a crowd.
Well, I believe that the evangelicals who, in 2017 camped behind Donald Trump to announce that he was God’s will for America certainly have some explanations to give. Throwback to that time when Revd. Chris Okotie of the Household of God in Oregun, Lagos came in 2003 and 2007 with the “God said I will be president” label. Let’s just say it didn’t work out so well.
Dear Christian Politician, The onus is on you, regardless of your conviction, experience or encounters, to join the race like every other candidate. To campaign, to make your intentions known, to do the work and not emotionally or in this case, spiritually blackmail an unsuspecting audience into believing that they owe you a vote simply because “God said”.
It’s less than a year to the next election and like they have always done, they will come to our churches, not because they cherish the Pentecostal tradition so much but because they want to appeal to your sense of faith, your sense of God, and be accepted. It’s our responsibility not to let that happen.
It’s great to have personal ambitions to run and it doesn’t speak less of your character or integrity as a person when you lose. Just don’t don’t it a topic of spiritual conversation; because it isn’t.
It’s manipulative when we decide to garnish the political conversations with Jesus, Spirit, God said in an attempt to change the narrative to suit our ambition. Also, the pulpit is not for endorsing candidates. Let’s leave it that way
Let’s ask the right questions and give people the opportunity to do so too. Before we jump into the “he’s the perfect will of God for us” conversation, it sounds more rational to ask; Is he/she competent or skilled? Does he have experience with leadership? What impact has he/she had on the populace in the past? Does he/she have empathy? That’s the way God would want us to approach politics
Like Nigerian political commentator, Japheth Omojuwa once said, “No matter how hard you pray and fast, you can never pray for someone that is pretending to be asleep to wake up; you leave them to decide when to wake up”.