@Omozuwaspeaks: What manner of man is Bakare?

by Omozuwa Osamwonyi

As the convener of Save Nigeria Group, Pastor Tunde Bakare, turned 60 on November 11, it is appropriate to review his influential contributions to the consolidation of democracy, examine the import of his prophetic messages to Nigeria, and what the ecclesiastical establishment could glean from his fearless decrier of the travesties of justice.

Bakare exudes profound understanding of the dynamics of salt. His foray into politics shows he crosses boundaries without changing identity or stomping his integrity. Better still, he makes “contact without contamination.”

The Save Nigeria Group, which at a critical point in this nation mobilised savvy architects of national transformation from diverse backgrounds, owes its success in part, to his egalitarian disposition. Bakare demonstrates that in today’s globalised world, only leaders that can meaningfully engage people from a spectrum of values can proffer far-reaching solutions to perennial crises and open up vistas of growth for all.

Bakare, the multi-vocational Serving Overseer of the Latter Rain Assembly, was thrust to national limelight during the dark days of military dictatorship, for his war against leaders contemptuous of justice. His prescient admonitions and advocacy for civil liberties burnish his reputation as a prophet-judge.

His audacious words; “SDP will fail, be cut off and swallowed up. The military will fall. Verdict ’93: Our God reigns” is evergreen in the minds of many Nigerians. These hinted on an element of his prophetic calling; bearing the torch of illumination where confusion reigns and providing guidance to Nigeria in turbid times.

The pinpoint precision of a catalogue of his prophetic messages; particularly those alerting Chief M. K. O. Abiola of impending doom and forewarning Nigerians about the oppressive temperament of Abacha’s regime proved he is not a regular “prophet”, who makes fuzzy predictions that are compatible with any outcome. For example, his poser; “Is there no old man in MKO’s house to restrain him because once he begins, he will not come out alive?” is a classic in prophetic exactitude.

In view of these, some pundits cast him as “Nigeria’s prophet of doom.” This portrayal reached its peak when he was arrested by the State Security Service (SSS) in 2002, for alerting the Obasanjo-led administration of looming mishap. Indeed, some still see him in that light. They are correct to the extent that as an oracle of God, he speaks beforehand without sugar-coating. Being no stranger to the throne of grace, he sees from God’s telescope; consequently, informs the nation about looming peril or hope in the horizon. This does not translate to being a doom-watcher. Rather, it presents him as a prophetic sentinel.

Being a learned pastor, social activist and transparency campaigner, Bakare is wise enough not to court controversies, yet, bold enough to frontally address hot-button issues.  For example, in 2010, he vowed to mobilise 12 million Nigerians to oppose the candidacy of ex-military President, General Ibrahim Babangida. In fact, he has addressed many thorny issues ranging from misappropriation of public resources, terrorism, power vacuum, land reforms to decentralisation; minimum government and maximum governance.

Admittedly, his knowledge of the centrality of the pulpit to consciousness-raising and social reengineering empowers the citizenry to design their future. While many are enamoured by his efforts to enlighten Nigeria’s conscience via Moment of Truth, his church-sponsored TV programme, some consider it off-putting.  To buttress this, let me share two stories.  Many years ago, I found my father viewing Moments of Truth. As a staunch Catholic, he is sceptical of televangelists. So, I was amazed when he urged me to view it with him, noting that, Bakare speaks uncommon truth.

Months later, I visited a pastor friend in Lagos, living with his senior pastor and other pastors. When I arrived he wasn’t in. One of the pastors received me warmly to his apartment. Afterwards, he went out, and Bakare came on air.  When he returned he changed the channel, and said something like, we don’t watch Bakare.  When my friend eventually returned he told him what transpired. His response was thank God “papa” did not come around.

Bakare elicits reactions like this in certain ecclesiastical circles, because as an apostolic reformer, he smashes religious black markets and unmasks underworld traffickers in black magic parading as pastors. The cult of gods of men, excuse me, deified pastors know he is God’s steamroller that crushes self-serving theologies, so they try to demonise him. There are those who would want him to desist from speaking truth to authorities magisterially, walk on eggshells, tinker at the margin and learn the patronising language of sycophants.

He comes across as object lessons in ministerial excellence. His ministry flows from his being. A recurring motif of his teachings; “winning by righteousness” stirs Nigerians to uphold probity. Its transformational power is amplified by his lifestyle. He detests luxuriating in obscene opulence, while poverty dehumanises his fellow compatriots. This explains his involvement in the protest against the removal of fuel subsidy.

Bakare inspires the hope that the Christian church can satisfactorily fulfil its core apostolic mandates: transform cultures, disciple nations, and orient humanity toward a superior world order.   For this hope to be realised, the church must smash its ivory tower, unite against abuse of power and be a beacon of light, not in name only.

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