Posted by The Daily Champion on
He is not all about grandiloquence. The young charismatic musician-turned Pastor, Chris Okotie of the House of God Church, Lagos, says in this interview with LAOLU HAROLDS and CHARLES OKOGENE
He is not all about grandiloquence. The young charismatic musician-turned Pastor, Chris Okotie of the House of God Church, Lagos, says in this interview with LAOLU HAROLDS and CHARLES OKOGENE that it is time Nigerians shoved aside the old tired legs on the political landscape and usher in young people with vision. And he says he has been chosen to lead this pack. However, he has strong words for the old breed politicians, especially in the present administration, whom he accuses of truncating (through unpopular means) his God-given mandate in 2003, warning that if they attempt the same fraud in 2007, it would be tantamount to declaration of war. Excerpts:
After your attempt in 2003, most of us thought you would bid the whole idea goodbye. But here you are campaigning for 2007. What exactly is it that gives you the inspiration to carry on the struggle?
First, Iím not the one given to the tendency to run away from that which you do. Iím not given to that whimsical trait that is found in men. Secondly, we believe that the process that we started was truncated. It didnít get to its logical conclusion. We believe that agents of government destabilised the Nigerian people, frustrated their aspiration and imposed a government upon us. I made a promise to those people that we would fight this battle to the end. And that is what we are doing. I also believe that the mandate that was given to me by the Lord has not been fulfilled. He alone will determine the time when that will take place. My responsibility is to join the fray and fight on behalf of the Nigerian people. That is what Iím doing. So, whenever they decide to conduct the election Ė2007 or whenever Ė we are very confident that we will emerge.
The last time you contested, it seemed as if the vision was not clear enough. Many people believed that if truly you had been given the mandate by the Lord, as you claimed, you wouldnít have failed. What really happened?
You know itís amazing that 90 per cent of the people who say this did not even hear me say that. Itís always stories carried from one person to the other. I never said at any point in my interviews that the Lord told me that I was going to be President in 2003. I never said that. Even on the night of the Presidential debate, I said it (they had it on tape) that even if donít win it today, (I was saying in Abuja that night) we will continue the battle until it is won. Itís amazing that the enemies of Chris Okotie have taken the things I said and mutilated them and created the impression that I said God said this must be and it didnít. But you know, I ignore those things because these are men of low intellectual estate who are always in futility trying to decipher the Chris Okotie enigma. And in the end, they articulate incoherent inconsistencies. For me, itís an essential comic relief from the tedium of the day. It never bothers me. What matters is that I made a vow to the Nigerian people; I undertook a mission that was given to me by the Lord Ė which is to challenge the status quo, and to say to the ones that have held our people to ransom: ĎEnough is enoughí. And I am going to do it. The Lord who sent me together with the collective will of the Nigerian people will bring it to pass. They cannot stand if we have a proper election in this country. They are not as popular as I am. And they had the surprise element which is the advantage they had the last time, because knew they would do this type of thing. But we are ready for them this time. The vision has not changed is what Iím telling you; itís the same one. God allowed them to get away with it because the bible says Ďhe takes the wise in their own craftinessí.
Generational shift was the main plank of your campaign the last time. But do you really believe the solution to the problem of this country lies in age, sex or gender?
We said Ďgenerationalí, and when we say Ďgenerationalí it is all-encompassing. It involves religion; it involves sex; it is not discriminatory in those areas that you mentioned. What we are just saying is that we need to go from one generation to another Ėage bracket, because we believe that this present generation is operating in what I call geriatric circle of redundancy. Most of them are suffering from geriatric fatigue; they are too old. And because of the fact that their ideas are not coterminous with that of a globalisation which is the current universal phenomenon in the world today, they found that they are unable to survive in a Nigerian society that has gone beyond their base. They are still in that wazobia mode of Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba; very anachronistic in their thinking. And Iím saying that Nigeria has gone beyond that. The generation that I am talking about is the younger generation. Thatís why we are saying that there has to be a paradigm shift. There has to be a national philosophy that is put in place to take Nigeria to the next level. Because the ones that are there now are incapacitated ab initio. They are jaundiced. There is still that suspicion: if Iím a Yoruba man and you are Hausa, I donít trust you. These are social aberrations that should not even be mentioned in 21st Century Nigeria. That is why they cannot take Nigeria to the next level. And they know it; and Nigerians did not vote for them. They used the mechanism of government to impose themselves on us. And we allowed it in 2003. But now, I can assure you that if they try to replicate that, we will meet them on any front Ė even if it degenerates to war.
But the argument is that even the youths, the young generation that have been able to grab power have not been able to make any difference
(Cuts in) Like whom?
Like those at the local government level, state assemblies, House of Representatives and even those of them that are governors. They are all in the Ďyouthí bracket. How do you explain that?
I must let you know that there is a group of young men that I call Ďtutelage conscriptsí of the geriatric generation. Every time an old man is passing away, he always bequeathes whatever he has left to a person that he has trained to follow his path. The people you are talking about do not represent the generality of the Nigerian youths. These are an insignificant, infinitesimal minority of the Nigerian people. The people who make this county tick are men and women of my generation. They are the captains of industries; they are the ones who can galvanise Nigeria in a path that would make you proud today to say ĎIím a Nigerianí. They understand global trends. They are global in their thinking, in their perception. Most of those ones are the silent majority who are not yet politically active because they deem it an impossibility to achieve anything in the dirty streams of the political atmosphere. But that is why Iím speaking on their behalf.
The time has come for a universal change in this country. How many people are governors and how many people are in the local government? The entire government is about two per cent of the entire Nigerian population. S o we cannot use that empirically to determine that this is the modus operandi of the young people. So, I am telling you that there are men and women like me whose lips are pregnant with the fire of patriotism and we are galvanized by nationalistic sentiments for a time like this when we are beginning to challenge the status quo. And we know that if we donít rise to the occasion, this country will disintegrate; will self-destruct.
That is why this is the finest hour in the history of our nation, when we have to do whatever it takes to chase out these men and women who think that Nigeria is theirs, and to let them know that there is another generation that is armed with the protective armour of the armadillo. And we are ready, God on our side to make sure that any opposition that stands in our way this time will be crushed. And Iím not talking sentimentally. Iím talking to you that even at this moment, there are young men in the creeks of Niger Delta who are armed to the teeth, and who are battle-ready. It has come to that. And that is why Iím saying that in 2007, if they try to replicate this, then of course theyíve declared war. And they will be the first casualties.
Itís obvious you are very passionate about this issue. Here you are, a respected man of God, venturing into a terrain riddled with monumental corruption. How do you hope to come out of this with your integrity intact?
Light has always been greater than darkness. Those who fear the dirty waters of politics are those who are dirty themselves. But if a clean man goes into that place, he knows who he is, he is a man of light, he will bring illumination into that place. We must begin to reappraise the role that we have played. And this is the philosophy that these old men have taught the young ones to keep them away, so that they can carry on business as usual. But we are telling them that time has come to an end. And given a level playing field, none of them can compete with someone like Reverend Chris Okotie. And that is the gospel truth. None of them whose names are being touted, the only credential they have is that they were ex-military officers. There is nothing they have done for this country. They have not brought any meaning to the lives of the Nigerian peopleÖ
I am talking about the encumbrances of the legislature. Of course you canít go in there in a democratic setting and become a tyrant; youíve got to get permission from the legislature for every decisionÖ
Are you not seeing what some people are calling the tsunami now in government? You see, time has a way of taking peopleís agitation to different levels. Thereís a philosophy in government that is called Sol vito ambulando. Itís a Latin philosophy. It means you solve it as time goes on. Time is your best teacher and healer. In time, all those clandestine activities, the conclave of corruption is beginning to be dismantled. Where have we seen in the history of Nigeria, where an ex-IG will be handcuffed and brought to court? There is nothing you can do to stop change. And Iím amused, because when I look at all these demagogues, they have history to teach them, to bow out when the ovation is loudest. But rather, they are sedentary in their acquisition of power. They think that we will sit here like that African mentality that is going on in Zimbabwe and all those places; that we will sit here; I and my grandchildren will rule this country. In a country where we have Nobel laureates like Prof. Wole Soyinka ; where we have people like Chinua Achebe; where we have all the intellectuals in this country. They think that we donít know what we are saying, and that we donít have the will. But I am making an announcement, and telling them that there are many young men like me all over this country. In 2007, Iíll be 49 years old. And we have taken a decision; that we believe in democracy. But if they will attempt to frustrate this, then we will show them. As the Japanese used to say: ĎExperience must recognize the strength of youthí. Anything they want to do this time, we are ready for them. Iím not worried about the House of Assembly; time will change all that. Itís just a matter of time. And President Olusegun Obasanjo, maybe heís just arising from his slumber, is already showing some strength. We cannot live in a country where corruption is institutionalized. Well, come people may criticize and say he is doing this belatedly. I donít care when he did it. The point is he is doing it. So, he is setting a precedent, which we are going to follow. Heís going to clean up that house for the next generation. I believe that God is going to use him to do that, so that people like Babangida and all those people who epitomised corruption and are synonymous with Ďsettlementí as we know it can understand that their time is up; that the environment is no longer conducive for the tentacles of corruption that they epitomize. And people need to know that he is just an ordinary man, because when Abacha was here, he was silenced.
You were quoted in the papers to have said that you were not surprised that there was corruption at the National Assembly. Are you convinced about the anti-corruption crusade of the President? How would you have tackled it if you had succeeded?
I would have done exactly what the President is doing now, much earlier; because the law is no respecter of persons. You see, in a government like PDP, you find all of this imbalance, because when you bring people together, a disjointed conscription of men and women with antithetical political ideologies; there is no ideological coherence. And because they want form government, they make compromises. That is why you have all these problems. That is why you have corruption at a level involving the Senate PresidentÖHow much is N55 million that a man of such stature would succumb? Iím not saying it should be a large amount, Iím just saying that itís embarrassing. Itís a national embarrassment. President Olusegun Obasanjo has demonstrated a certain propensity towards cleaning this country. I am a minister; whenever I see good, I recognize it. God calls Ďgoodí good, whether itís in the morning or at night. You may say it is belated or whatever, that is not my problem. Posterity will judge him. But what he is doing right now is very good. And we must encourage him to do much more. And you must know that he is showing today that he is the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces. No man put him there outside of God. Babangida had no hand in Obasanjo being President of this country. Anyone who imagines that it was IBB that made Obasanjo the President of this country needs to have their head examined. I am encouraging the President to go on, because righteousness exalts a nation, and sin is a reproach to a people. By every means possible within the aegis of the constitution, he should bring those men to book. Let them know that they are not above the law. And nothing is going to happen; because they are always threatening that if you do this, this is going to happen. Nothing is going to happen. They are mere men, and itís God who controls the destiny of men, and he will do so in Nigeria. This is what we have always expected, and when he finishes I will take over from him.
The youths seem to have endorsed your candidature massively. What programme do you actually have for them?
Iíve heard people say the youths are the leaders of tomorrow. That is totally untrue; itís a fallacy. The youths are the leaders of today. The children are the leaders of tomorrow. If you look at the global trends, you would find that it is the young people who are positions of authority at the highest level, because you need that strength to be able to carry the responsibilities of todayís realities. First and foremost, the idea is to create the enabling environment for these young people to contribute to national development. People are going to America today not because they want to go and see the politicians that are in America; they go to America today because of what the young people have made the world believe that America is. When you think of America today you think about people like their actors, their athletes; you think about their recording artistes. People like Michael Jackson, the Ushers of this world, Alicia Keys and all those people you look forward to when there is an Olympics. These are the young people that create the image for America, for which today, America is the dream country. Itís not the old geriatric ones that are there. And America has provided the atmosphere for these young people to enjoy the wealth of their nation. Their talents are harnessed into the development of that country. I am saying today that my government will create the same atmosphere, the same enabling environment for our young people to channel their energy positively; creating wealth for them, because today you have talent that is not coterminous to wealth. If people like Okocha and Kanu did not leave this country today, they would be impoverished. But they went to a place where wealth is created for them; where there is an atmosphere where they can use what they have to acquire wealth. That is what we are going to do for the young people.
The belief is that even churches are not left out of this corruption thing; they abet these corrupt people, in that they still share this their ill-gotten wealth with the church in form of tithes and offerings.
You canít put a blanket stigma on the church. In every situation, you will have an abberation. Even among the disciples of Jesus, there was a Judas. But they are usually in the minority. Those guys will always be there who are charlatans, sycophants and pretenders to the faith. And they give the church a bad name. The only place you are going to find an equilibrum when it comes to righteousness, where there is nothing that taints that righteousness is in heaven. As long as we are still here walking the chequered pavement of our mortal existence, you will always find some people doing the wrong thing. Our responsibility is to continue to teach the word of God without compromise; to communicate doctrines to those people so that they can change, because Godís word does not tolerate those things. But I do not subscribe to the assumption that these things happen in all the churches.
How do you also see the frequent ďmissionary journeysĒ some church leaders undertake to Aso Rock, and when they come back, they begin to see things from the other side? Every other thing the government does becomes perfect in their eyes.
If you are a sycophant, your words will always demonstrate that; if you are a Ďyesí man, you will always say yes. The church is called the pillar and the ground of truth. If you as the minister of truth now involve yourself in falsehood, youíve lost your identity. And I think those ones are known. There are some people who are praise singers, and as soon as they start their melody, you know where they are headed. There will always be those ones.
Will you still be contesting under the banner of Justice Party?
Maybe. Right now you know we are in the CNPP because of the collaboration. There is an amalgam of political parties. But the realities of that day will determine what alignment and realignments we will consider.
How would you handle a situation where your opponents would want to make a mountain out of a molehill from your marital status, like it is done in America?
I wouldnít even give them a time of the day. Any man who has lost nothing has never really walked the path of truth. When you walk the path of truth, there are things that you encounter. Jesus made a statement: He that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall be persecuted. Men when they begin their journey and they pursue truth, sometimes you lose an arm or a leg. Sometimes you lose your wife; sometimes you even lose your life, like Martin Luther King. But I think above all, itís judging a man by what he is. There are some of them who claim to have wives, and itís just nominal. But that is really no concern of mine. I believe that Nigerians know who Rev. Chris Okotie is. Theyíve known me since I was a recording artiste. For many years, they have observed me. And I think they can make a fair assessment of who I am.
This question is not political, if you donít mind. For many years now, your ministry has been here on this spot. Some people are saying why is he not expanding? And really, why no branches?
Because we donít believe in all these branches.
Well, from biblical standpoint, I do not see any biblical authority for it. Some people would argue that; but for me, itís not an issue. Iím persuaded that only Jesus can appoint a pastor. And if you start a ministry and decide to appoint a pastor, you will have to sort that out with your Master.
Is it true you donít have a choir; that youíre a kind of one-man choir?
We have a choir; itís just that they donít stand on the pulpit. Our pulpit is not large enough for our Household choir, so they do it from the congregation. Everybody here is a singer.
Most times, when we watch your programme on television, the complaint has always been yourÖ
Elevated dictionÖ (Laughs)
The whole essence is mass communication, and you find out that in the end, you donít get across to people.
I realise that and Iím working on it. Itís something Iíve been doing since I was in the secondary school. I just discover that Iím given to some grandiloquence. I recognise what youíre saying. Many times when I minister, I say the same thing in three different ways just to be understood.
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