BEING TEXT OF SPEECH BY PASTOR ‘TUNDE BAKARE AT THE THANKSGIVING SERVICE FOR HIS 60TH BIRTHDAY ON SUNDAY THE 16TH OF NOVEMBER, 2014.
VENUE: THE LATTER RAIN ASSEMBLY, 4, AKILO ROAD, OFF OBA AKRAN AVENUE,
OGBA, IKEJA, LAGOS.
VENUE: THE LATTER RAIN ASSEMBLY, 4, AKILO ROAD, OFF OBA AKRAN AVENUE,
OGBA, IKEJA, LAGOS.
THEME: THE NIGERIA OF MY DREAMS
Good morning; God bless you.
Say to your neighbour: Peace to you, peace to your household and peace to all that you have.
Now that we are rounding off the week-long Diamond Jubilee Celebration, we can get back to the serious business of nation building. Just before the broadcast today, let me place on the register my sincere appreciation for the magnitude of demonstration of your affection for me, my wife, children and family.
From far and near you have encouraged us to do more in the service of God and humanity in this second half of my earthly journey.
It is impossible to forget your labour of love and we trust God to richly bless you all. How can I thank those who in spite of their lofty positions decided to pour encomiums on me through their tributes? Words fail me to appreciate in this regard the contributions of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, and former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari; elder statesmen: Sir Olaniwun Ajayi, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, General Alani Akinrinade, Dr. Amos Akingba, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, my brother and friend, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, HRH Muhammadu Sanusi II SARKIN KANO, and Dr. Tokunbo Awolowo Dosumu.
The fathers of faith and generals in the army of God were not left behind. Tributes came from Pastor E.A. Adeboye, Dr. Wilson Badejo, Bishop Mike Okonkwo, Rev. Felix Omobude, and Pastor Afolabi Oladele who also brought a timely word from the throne of grace. I must make mention of the tributes of my dear friends and partners in destiny Dr. Jonathan & Helen David far away in Malaysia, Pastor & Mrs. Bank Akinmola who are here present, as well as the CAN President Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor who, in spite of his Annual Conference in Warri, flew in to Lagos to celebrate with us.
We also appreciate the active participation of the Ogun State Governor and his wife, Senator & Mrs. Ibikunle Amosun, Ondo State Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Mrs. Adejoke Orelope, former Governors of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osoba and Otunba Gbenga Daniel and his wife, and former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who came in after the service, as well as former Minister of Education, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, and the trio of distinguished Senators Adefuye, Bajomo and Okurounmu, two of whom came with their wives. The Royal Fathers also honoured us with their presence alongside their Oloris: The Awujale of Ijebu Land and his royal entourage, The Alake of Egba Land, The Olu of Ilaro, The Olowu of Owu, The Osile of Oke-Ona Egba, just to mention a few. May the good Lord lengthen their days and give them rich fulfilment that nothing will take away from them all, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
A prominent role was played at the symposium last Monday by the best and brightest of the media, including Chief Ajibola Ogunshola (who chaired the occasion and also came to the birthday reception on Tuesday with his wife in spite of prior commitments that day), Segun Adeniyi who delivered the keynote address, Femi Adeshina, Simon Kolawole, Azubuike Ishiekwene, Edward Dickson, Funke Aboyade, SAN, and Bashorun Dele Momodu. May their tribe increase in the Fourth Realm of the Estate.
In addition, who can quickly forget the contribution of Prof. Pius Adesanmi, a writer with poetic license, who blew the trumpet of conscience at the public lecture he delivered ably on Friday? May this star in our firmament continue to shine brighter and brighter, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
The gifts and sacrifices of notable men and women of Commerce, Banking and Industry: Otunba Subomi Balogun and his Olori, Olola Fola Adeola and his wife, Chief Mrs. Nike Akande, Asiwaju S.K. Onafowokan, Chief Olusegun Osunkeye, Senator Daisy Danjuma, our own Tunde Ayeni and his wife, Segun Oloketuyi and his wife, Rev. Tunde Lemo, the retired Deputy Governor of the CBN, as well as others too numerous to mention, are deeply appreciated. I am so overwhelmed by the display of love towards us. God bless you all.
SIGNIFICANCE OF BIRTHDAYS
As far as I am concerned, birthdays are not the celebration of the days we were born but a celebration of the fact that we have been able to conquer death for another year. It is also a celebration of the fact that we have been able to overcome numerous obstacles on our life journey. Therefore landmark birthdays should be celebrated as victories over the forces of darkness that everyday bestride our paths in our quest to make a positive impact in this cruel and fallen world.
In Nigeria today, where life expectancy is one of the lowest in the world, where the health sector is more or less comatose, it is always a miracle when one lives for another year.
For this reason, my wife and I are grateful to God who has added life to our years and who we trust to add years to our lives, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
PREMISE FOR TODAY’S BROADCAST
As a premise for today’s broadcast, permit me to quote Ghandi at this juncture. He said: “Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly”. Add to that the words of the American author and poet, Ella Wheeler Wilcox who said, “To sin by silence when they should speak, makes cowards of men”. I also consider it appropriate to add herein the contribution of our own Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, who along with his amiable wife honoured us with their presence at the leaders and choir luncheon yesterday. He said: “The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny”.
And so as an assembly of the Bold, Courageous and Faithful men and women, we too refuse to keep quiet in the face of impunity and lawlessness.
The theme for today’s broadcast is: THE NIGERIA OF MY DREAMS.This is my 60th birthday gift to my nation. I hope it will be well received by all men and women of good will.
Habakkuk 2:1-4 (NKJV):
1 I will stand my watch And set myself on the rampart, And watch to see what He will say to me, And what I will answer when I am corrected.
2 Then the Lord answered me and said: “Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it.
3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry.
3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry.
4 “Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.
Ezekiel 12:26-28 (NKJV):
26 Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
27 “Son of man, look, the house of Israel is saying, ‘The vision that he sees is for many days from now, and he prophesies of times far off.’
28 Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “None of My words will be postponed any more, but the word which I speak will be done,” says the Lord God.’”
In the past I have had to explain to those around me why I have been so consumed by the burden of my nation Nigeria to the point of putting my life on the line. I would love to lead a quiet life, minding my business and just spending time with those I love as a husband, father, son and friend, insulated from the chaotic environment that we have to grapple with as a nation, but the burden of Nigeria would not afford me that leisure. I would love to take luxurious cruises around the world in the company of those dearest to my heart to savour the magnificence and splendour of the sea and better organized nations, away from the pressures of this environment, but the sense of responsibility for Nigeria would not let me.
By the grace of God, I have the means to leave the shores of this nation to relocate to climes of much greater comfort and never come back here but the promptings of destiny would not permit me. Like a pregnant woman, I cannot sleep like others sleep. Like one in the season of birth, I cannot ignore the pangs that rouse my spirit in the night seasons regarding my beloved nation Nigeria. Like one taken by labour pains, I cannot disregard the quickening of the New Nigeria, a seed divinely implanted in my womb of destiny from infancy, whose delicate life I have grown, with the sense of responsibility to nurture through its full gestation, on behalf of the One who planted it and to Whom I owe account.
Some have wondered why I would rather spend and be spent than take even what may be considered a legitimate compensation. Some have wondered why my teardrops flow at the slightest bruise on my nation’s soul yet my heart leaps for joy as to a story still being told. Some have wondered why I would rather incline my ears to the melody within my reins, as to the beats of a distant drum, than flow with the crowd whose roaring noise seems to make my voice but a silent hum. I am compelled to lay it bare to you and to generations yet unborn why I would rather confront than conform; why I would rather contend than compromise; and why I would rather combat than condone where the destiny of my nation is concerned. Though the landscape seems stricken by gloom, the background against which my hope still blooms, I wish every Nigerian would find their thrill as I unveil the Nigeria of my dreams, for any jewel that’s worth this fight must be a pearl of such great price.
I was a child when Nigeria gained her independence from Britain. I was almost six years old at the time; but I remember the great expectation that heralded that event. I remember the 1st independence celebration that accompanied it. I remember the delicious jollof rice that was distributed to us as children and the green-white-green hand flags that were waved in jubilation. Infants though we were, we were conscious of the dawn of a new era and nothing seemed more symbolic of the promise of national greatness than the lowering of the Union Jack and the hoisting of the Nigerian flag in its place. So melodious was the national anthem whose lyrics and rhythm we subsequently had to learn instead of the British anthem. Our infant hearts were stirred with patriotic fervour as we belched the tune of Nigeria We Hail Thee from our tender bellies. Heroic images of our founding fathers were etched on our minds as we learnt of their great exploits and aspired to be like them. Chief Obafemi Awolowo was my personal hero. I grew up idolizing this colossus of a man who to me was the quintessence of leadership.
On April 10, 1967, as a ten year old, I had a dream in which I was on a mountaintop seated between Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon. In this rather mysterious encounter, we were discussing the future of this nation. After that experience, a seed of destiny was deposited in me which, though I did not fully understand at the time, I could not deny or shake away. A year before then, in 1966, when Chief Awolowo paid a visit to Abeokuta after he had been released from prison, I struggled through the waiting crowd to give him a warm handshake. He, together with the rest of our founding fathers, the likes of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and, before them, the likes of Sir Herbert Macaulay, had laid the foundation of a nation whose future I had much hope in. The dreams of our founding fathers reverberated in my heart because they gave meaning and offered a promise of closure to my childhood experiences.
Born in Abeokuta, in the South of Nigeria and, at some point, raised in Sokoto, in the North of Nigeria, with relatives across different ethnicities, I could understand what our founding fathers meant when they agreed to the promise of a nation where, though tribes and tongues may differ, in brotherhood we would stand.
Born in the midst of dwindling wealth and raised in abject poverty after the death of my father, the promise of a prosperous nation characterized by peace and plenty with equitable wealth distribution resonated with my aspirations.
Born to a father who died when I was only two, leaving me nothing but the legacy of a name unstained and highly respected years after his death, I could understand the creed that guided our founding fathers as they counted as gain the prospect of handing over to the next generation a banner without stain.
Born by a mother who, after my father’s death, was subjected to oppression and untoward suffering, the kind of suffering many a Nigerian woman goes through in the hands of a harsh socio-economic environment especially when they lose their husbands, my heart resonated with the promise of a nation where no one is oppressed and whose flag shall be a symbol that truth and justice reign.
As I proudly took on responsibility at an early age, engaging in manual labour from the age of nine, hawking kolanut and plantain, hewing and selling firewood, fetching water to earn meagre wages to support my widowed mother who struggled to take care of me and to give me a future she never had, I understood the ethos of our founding anthem that Nigerians are proud to serve the sovereign Motherland.
Through the free education policy of Chief Obafemi Awolowo without which the likes of me would never have gone to school, and through the free health services by the same government, I became a beneficiary of the use of the right public policy mix to achieve socio-economic improvement for families who otherwise have no chance at the better life for which they strive. As the Western Region blazed the trail on the continent in taking developmental strides and as I learnt of the successes of the Northern, Eastern and Midwestern Regions at improving the socio-economic conditions of their people, despite the troubled politics of the era, my expectations were high as to the height that this nation could attain in the community of nations.
When the fabric of nationhood was threatened by the forces of secession and its foundation shaken by the winds of division, the lofty ideals of a nation in peace or battle honoured, painted in our anthem and adopted by the founding fathers, and the corresponding patriotic zeal etched in me as a young Nigerian, stirred me up to offer myself as a recruit in the army that was mandated to keep Nigeria one, believing that I had the mental prowess to execute the assignment even though my little frame would not add any advantage as I was reminded when my offer was refused.
As a Muslim student in a Christian school, I spearheaded the fight against domination of religious minorities by the majority only to end the battle and move on without rancour as soon as equity was achieved. Though I did not know it then, I was only reverberating the ideals of our founding fathers as articulated by Sir Ahmadu Bello whose Sokoto I had been raised in – the ideal of a nation of many different races, tribes and religions knit together to a common history, common interest and common ideas, a society where the things that unite us are stronger than the things that divide us. Like Ahmadu Bello, I was only reminding the staff and students of Lisabi Grammar School that ours is a nation of a firmly rooted policy of religious tolerance where leadership should have no intention of favouring one religion at the expense of another; where, subject to the overriding need to preserve law and order, the aim of public policy should be that every citizen has absolute liberty to practice his belief according to the dictates of his conscience, an ideal which, years later, at the just concluded National Conference, this time as a Christian, inspired my insistence on religious neutrality. I have faith in God. I do not practice any religion. Religion is bondage.
As a young student from Abeokuta, upon relocating to Lagos and representing Zumratu Islamiya Grammar School Surulere at the 1974 National Finals of the Red Cross Society Debates, faced with a formidable opposition from a mixed European student from King’s College Lagos, I refused to be intimidated by the colour of his skin, by the shape of his nose or by the sophistication of his accent and I went on to win the cup for my school. Though I did not know it then, I was simply echoing the ideal espoused by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe in his book Renascent Africa published in 1937 which I had earlier read, where he reiterated the words of George Bernard Shaw that the greatest civilization would come from Africa.
Dr. Azikiwe, himself, as a young man, had visions – visions of Nigeria becoming a great country in the emerging continent of Africa; visions of Nigeria offering freedom to those in bondage, and securing the democratic way of life for those who had been lulled into an illusion of security under colonial rule. At independence, when he had become an older man, he dreamed dreams of the ever increasing prosperity of the people of his Nigeria, dreams which were echoed by my childhood aspiration to overcome poverty and obtain a better life for my mother and me, and to facilitate equitable redistribution of wealth to better the lot of poor and suffering people, many of whom I had encountered in Sokoto and Abeokuta. This aspiration took me from Abeokuta to Lagos with nothing but a few belongings in search of the Nigerian Dream and its promise of prosperity for even the most unlikely as articulated by the founders of our nation.
Indeed, every nation is born in the bosom of founding fathers – men and women who take responsibility for the birthing of the nation and the establishment of the framework of state; patriots who facilitate the emergence of a national culture; political and socio-economic craftsmen who engineer the national structure including the nation’s geopolitical and economic structures; nation-builders who spearhead the building of national institutions; wise men and women who guide the evolution of a national system of laws; and statesmen who set a precedent as far as national leadership is concerned. These founding fathers become the progenitors of the subsequent generation of fathers who are the custodians of the foundational pillars established by the founding fathers. This legacy of fatherhood of the nation is then bequeathed to each succeeding generation so that the national dream, the ideal to which that nation aspires, is preserved from one generation to another.
However, when, in the vicissitudes of national life, the nation is severed from the foundation laid by the founding fathers such that the pillars upon which the national ideal is rested begin to crumble, when the building blocks of nationhood are falling apart and the centre cannot hold, when the principles of constitutionality ascented to by the founding fathers give way to a perverted system of laws characterized by the desecration of the legal institutions and the replacement of the rule of law by the ruse of law, when corruptibility and mediocrity replace integrity and excellence in leadership, then that nation is in need of a transgenerational breed without greed who can reconnect with the creed ingrained by the founding fathers upon the stones of the nation’s founding, men and women who have climbed the shoulders of these fathers to catch a glimpse of the dream and who, themselves, have been transported by grace to behold the end to which the nation has been destined. By the grace of God, I have mounted the shoulders of founding fathers and I have had a rendezvous with the Nigerian dream; I have been to the mountaintop and I have seen the Nigeria of my dreams; I have journeyed to the presence of the Almighty and I have beheld the New Nigeria. I am compelled by a sense of destiny to proclaim what my eyes have seen, my ears have heard and my hands have handled.
I am persuaded that when the North and the South of this nation were amalgamated, the bedrock of a potentially great nation was laid by the hands of the Almighty for a purpose that is soon to unfold to the world. I am determined that the labours of our founding fathers and of our heroes past to build a great nation where our diverse tribes and tongues would stand in brotherhood shall not be in vain. I am convinced that the founding fathers of this nation bequeathed to our generation the call to rise above our differences and forge a more perfect union.
Moreover, I am grieved by the fact that, despite the lofty dreams of our founding fathers, and in spite of the great destiny to which this nation has been called, we have thus far tottered on our journey to nationhood, swerving time and again toward the edge of a precipice, rising up against one another and playing the ethnic and religious cards, destroying lives and shattering dreams. My heart bleeds at the subhuman existence the majority of our people are still subjected to, fifty-four years after independence. There is little need for the grueling statistics that show that the majority of the Nigerian people live below the irreducible minimum standard of living envisaged by the founders of our nation.
I need not remind you that 54% of our young people remain unemployed. I need not remind you that over 9 million Nigerian children have no access to education. I need not remind you that 130 million Nigerians self-generate electricity due to the failure of the power sector. I should spare you the fact that 64 million Nigerian adults are illiterate in the 21st century; I should spare you the fact that 100 million Nigerians live in destitution; I should spare you the fact that 68% of Nigerians lives below the poverty line.I need not bother you with the fact that the life expectancy of the Nigerian is not more than 54 years. I need not bother you with the fact that 12.1m Nigerians live in a state of hunger or undernourishment according to the 2014 African Multiple Scorecard on Hunger and Food Security. I need not bother you with the fact that 158 out of 1,000 Nigerian children die before the age of five.
Oh! Let me not ruin your day by reminding you that over 6,000 have been killed in terror attacks in Nigeria while over 250,000 have been displaced due to the heinous activities of terrorists; let me not ruin it further by reminding you that over 400 bombs have exploded in Nigeria since 2010; let me not ruin it even further by reminding you that there are girls and women still held hostage by terrorists while more are being captured. There is little need for these or other statistical proofs of the sorry state of our nation because evidence abounds all around us.
For a long while, village life has ceased in Nigeria especially in the North where villages have practically become ghost towns taken over by insurgents; neighbourhoods in the South are full of jobless young people, many of whom are engaged in internet fraud, drug dependency, petty theft or even armed robbery, while young girls drown in subtle or express prostitution. All around us are the signs that we, as a nation, are not where we should be. Consider the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The true test of civilization is not the census, nor the size of the cities, nor the crops, but the kind of man the country turns out.” What kind of man is Nigeria turning out? And what type of politicians and public servants occupy our landscape?
A CRITICAL QUESTION:
At this sensitive period in our polity when the nation seems to be tottering on the edge of a precipice, is a general election the solution to our crises or will elections aggravate the problem? As strange as the question may seem, there could be nothing more pragmatic than providing honest answers to these posers at this crucial juncture in our national existence.
With parts of the North under the siege of Boko Haram in the form of outright territorial control in some cases and guerilla styled terror attacks in others and with the government failing to bring the situation under control, what is the guarantee that there will indeed be general elections in 2015? Even if elections are held successfully in some parts of the country, would results be conclusive without elections in the troubled parts? How would displaced persons cast their votes or are they automatically disenfranchised? How safe would massive campaign rallies be? With politicians and their militant cronies on both sides facing up to one another ahead of the elections and sounding the drumbeats of war should the elections not go in their respective interests, what would be the aftermath of a general election? We may argue that elections have been successfully held in some states under heavy military presence but let us not forget that we do not hold staggered elections in Nigeria. We are talking about general elections.
If one were to ignore the atmosphere of intimidation and the warlike environment that such massive military deployment across the nation at the same time would create, do we even have sufficient security/military personnel for such a mission? What would be the impact of such a thin spread of our military on the safety of terror-stricken areas? In whatever way the results of the general elections go – North or South – are we prepared for the reactions that could ensue? Against the structural and systemic backdrop of the chaotic state of the nation, what is the wisdom in holding elections without dealing with these foundational problems? If the politicians ignore these salient questions and go ahead to juggle for power in the midst of chaos, then that would seem to lend credence to the allegation that the politicians do know what the Nigerian people do not know and are behind the crises in our nation, competing among themselves to see who can best manipulate the situation for political gains, not caring how many lives are lost in the process as long as personal ambition is achieved.
I have consistently alerted the nation since 2012 that if we fail to fix 2014, there would be no 2015. We need first to address the underlying problems by joining forces to deal with insurgency, seeking national reconciliation and integration, forging a new people’s constitution, developing a blueprint for development along zonal lines, organizing an accurate census and establishing a truly independent electoral commission whose head is not appointed by the President and whose financial allocation will be obtained from the first line charge of the Federation Account. The structural framework for such necessary pre-election reforms is beyond the scope of today’s broadcast.
However, in my capacity as a servant of God and a watchman mandated to warn the nation ahead of impending danger, I have already made it clear to the nation that we need a transitional arrangement to pilot our nation out of this chaos before we can talk about elections. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Ladies and gentlemen, “there is no greater sign of a general decay of virtue in a nation than a want of zeal in its inhabitants for the good of their country.” (Joseph Addison)
Therefore, rather than the usual finger pointing of the past, we must understand at this crucial stage in the history of our nation that this is no time to engage in the blame game that has torn us apart these past one hundred years: the blame game between the North and the South, the blame game between the Christians and the Muslims, the blame game among political parties and the blame game between the leadership and the people.
Having been helped by the Almighty these hundred years, it is time we stopped to ask ourselves why the bush is not consumed amidst the flame of fire; it is time we pondered the purpose of our corporate existence; it is time we healed the wounds of the past in order to forge ahead as one united country; it is time we rose up to the greatness foretold by our founding fathers; it is time we rose up as one country of diverse strengths united by a common purpose, a common ideal and a common destiny; it is time we deployed our diverse strengths to surmount the challenges that we are now confronted with and to build the Nigeria of our dreams. For even though that dream has been blown about by the wind of oppression and the storms of injustice, the dream lives on; even though that dream has been emaciated by the pangs of poverty and the throes of despair, the dream lives on; even though that dream has been threatened by the malicious forces of disintegration and the roaring lion of terrorism, the dream lives on.
Yes! The dream lives on! It lives on in the smile of that teenage child hawking on the streets of Lagos hoping to add a few more naira notes to his mother’s purse so she can afford his school books by the start of the term.
The dream lives on! It lives on in the sleepy eyes of that father who lives in Mowe and must wake up at 4.00 a.m. so he can join the bus, hoping to catch some sleep on the way before he gets to his office in Lekki, the only place where he found a job by which he is able to put food on the table for his wife and children, some of whom may have fallen asleep by the time he returns at 11 p.m..
The dream lives on! It lives on in the drips of dye from the hands of that adire maker in Abeokuta who must keep up the family’s ancient trade in the 21st century but must do so under the same crude conditions in which her ancestors did theirs for that is the only way she can support her cutlass-and-hoe-bearing farmer husband to take care of the home front.
The dream lives on! It lives on in the nets of the fisherman in Okpoma (Okpo-Ama) Kingdom in Bayelsa State who must scout for fish in an oil-polluted river if his aged father and mother and his young wife and infant child must live to see the next day and whose wife must find alternative fire sources, as the family cannot afford a litre of kerosene even though the ground that produces it is only miles away.
The dream lives on! It lives on in the local ingenuity of the shoemaker in Aba who finds a way to weather the storm of power shortage and the inability to access capital as he strives to provide local content in the shoe industry, competing with importers from better organized economies.
The dream lives on! It lives on in the sweat on the face of that yam farmer in Makurdi who, against all odds, ensures that his part of the country lives up to its name as the food basket of the nation.
The dream lives on! It lives on in the voice of that young teacher in that remote village in Sokoto who defies all odds including the dilapidated school building, the unconducive classroom environment where students have to sit on mats and, most of all, poor pay, to ensure that the next generation has a taste of the vestiges of the dreams of our founding fathers.
Yes! The dream lives on! It lives on in the walk to school of that little girl in Bauchi who defies the threat of terrorism as she steps out in pursuit of basic education.
The dream lives on! It lives on in the gallantry of the young men of Borno State known by the name Civilian JTF; young men who put their lives on the line and who, with inferior weapons or no weapons at all, have taken responsibility for the defense of their villages against the evil forces of terrorism.
The dream lives on! It lives on in the bravery of those heroes among our soldiers who would rather die in honour of the fatherland than surrender to Boko Haram or flee to Cameroon for cover and put the Nigerian flag to shame.
The dream lives on! It lives on in the hope of the women and girls still held in captivity and in the relentlessness of Nigerians in civil society and in government, who have continued to hope that one day, the bonds of terrorism will be broken and all captive Nigerians will be returned alive to their families.
The dream lives on! It lives on in the hand-held devices of young Nigerians on social media who keep on the front burner of public consciousness those issues that affect the Nigerian people in the hope that one day a movement for positive change will be ignited.
The dream lives on! It lives on in the drive of young men and young women who challenge the notion of job scarcity to start-up innovative enterprises, creating jobs for themselves and many others like them.
The dream lives on! It lives on in the dedication and commitment of the Nigerian worker who, in spite of poor pay and poor working conditions, has kept alive the dignity of labour.
The dream lives on! It lives on whenever a public office holder, at any level of government, realizes that God has exalted him or her for the sake of the Nigerian people, and decides to set aside selfish interest to serve the people with the integrity of his heart and the skillfulness of his hands like King David (Psalm 78:72).
The dream lives on! It lives on in the hopes and prayers of every Nigerian who believes in, and is working for, the emergence of a New Nigeria.
Fellow citizens of Nigeria:
If there is a New York, it’s because there was an old York. If there is a New Delhi, it’s because there was an old Delhi; if there is a New Mexico, it is because there was an old Mexico. If there’s going to be a New Jerusalem, it’s because there is a present Jerusalem that is in bondage with her children. And so I say to you Nigerians, that out of this one that has become a byword for corruption among the nations, there shall emerge a New Nigeria, a nation built on the pillars of mercy and truth, righteousness and peace; a land of freedom and of justice and a home of equity and fair play, where no one is oppressed and no one is discriminated against on the basis of ethnicity or religion; a nation where women and girls, the young and the old are protected and no one is denied her due on the basis of her gender.
I speak of a New Nigeria where, though creed and tongue may differ, the people will unite in the pursuit of a common national destiny; where faith will be used as a catalyst for integration and nation-building and not as an instrument of division; a new nation with a new spirit in a new people, where differences are settled amicably at the table of brotherhood and where indigeneship shall not be a basis for enjoying full citizenship rights in any part of the country.
I speak of a nation guided by the rule of law where every citizen enjoys liberty and equality under the law; where justice is administered without fear or favour and where the lady of justice will not yield to the temptation to take off her blindfold to see who is at the dock before passing judgment, such that the same law applies to the pick-pocket caught stealing a mobile phone in Osogbo and the pension thief caught stealing billions of naira in Abuja; a nation where executive impunity in the name of criminal immunity will be wiped off our constitution and leadership will set the pace in transparency, accountability and responsibility – one nation under God led by a new breed without greed and a radical opposition to corruption.
I speak of the new Nigeria, a nation of peace and safety reconstructed on the altar of reconciliation and integration, where the returned Chibok girls will grow into accomplished women, and their sons and daughters will sit in the same Nigerian History class as the sons and daughters of the former Boko Haram members who once captured their parents, and both will be taught by a female professor who, as a final year student of Chibok Girls Secondary School, had almost lost all hope of completing her education or of even surviving those dark days that she spent as a captive in Sambisa Forest.
I speak of the New Nigeria where little children can walk and play safely on the streets without fear of being kidnapped; where fathers and mothers will have no need to sacrifice precious time that could be spent with children on the altar of economic survival; a nation where no child is denied access to quality education or health services because of the socio-economic status of their parents and where no child has to engage in labour to afford an education; a nation where no retired or elderly person will be let alone to spend what ought to be the best days of their lives in misery.
I speak of the New Nigeria, a nation where young men and women will be afforded the opportunity to develop and deploy their potential to the maximum and by so doing contribute to the development of the nation and to the wellbeing of their families; a nation where the resources of each part of the land are used to develop that part of the land, with adequate contribution to the centre that binds strongly the constituent parts such that no part of the country will again have a reason to cry marginalization; a nation where the best, the brightest, the fittest and most competent are given opportunity to render service for the good of all and where leaders understand that leadership is all about service to the people; a Nigeria that will fulfill the dreams of our founding fathers by bringing total liberation to Africa and by leading the continent to greatness.
This is the dream that has kept me on the move for this nation. It is a dream that is rooted in the dreams of our founding fathers and which other patriots have lived and died for; but much deeper than that, it is a dream that is rooted in God’s plan and purpose for our nation and whose fulfillment I will see in my lifetime.
It’s why I have fought against the domination of one section of the country by another; it’s why as a young lawyer, I refused to engage in compromises that could bring me to captivity; it’s why as a pastor, I pray, preach and prophesy until revival comes; it’s what led to the formation of International Center for Reconstruction and Development (I.C.R.D) and Save Nigeria Group (S.N.G); it’s what led us to march the streets of Abuja and the streets of Lagos when the seat of power was unconstitutionally hijacked; it’s what took us to Freedom Square at Ojota for five days to resist the plundering of our people; it’s why I stepped into the political arena at the invitation of a man of like persuasion in an attempt to provide leadership for the nation; it’s why I am committed to the Nigerian project, for, in the words of the One who called me and to Whom I owe account, “for this cause was I born and to this end came I into the world”.
At this juncture, let me reiterate for the umpteenth time what I consider Nigeria’s most critical problems and the solutions thereof. As a man who reasons purely in Scriptures and whose navigation system is the Word of God without prejudice to the secularists among our people, let me show you the root cause of the national dilemma that has characterized our struggle for nationhood.
Please come with me to the household of the patriarch Isaac and his wife Rebecca:
Genesis 25:19-28 (NKJV):
19 This is the genealogy of Isaac, Abraham’s son. Abraham begot Isaac.
20 Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah as wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padan Aram, the sister of Laban the Syrian.
21 Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived.
22 But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If all is well, why am I like this?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.
23 And the Lord said to her: “Two nations are in your womb, Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.”
24 So when her days were fulfilled for her to give birth, indeed there were twins in her womb.
25 And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau.
26 Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau’s heel; so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.
27 So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents.
28 And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
Just as the struggle of Jacob and Esau began from the womb, so did the struggle of the North and the South of Nigeria. As the parents were divided in their affection for both Esau and Jacob, so were the colonial masters divided in their affection for both the North and the South.
As time progressed the two became so wealthy that the land could not contain them. Let’s see the profile of the family of Esau:
Genesis 36:6-8 (NKJV):
6 Then Esau took his wives, his sons, his daughters, and all the persons of his household, his cattle and all his animals, and all his goods which he had gained in the land of Canaan, and went to a country away from the presence of his brother Jacob.
7 For their possessions were too great for them to dwell together, and the land where they were strangers could not support them because of their livestock.
8 So Esau dwelt in Mount Seir. Esau is Edom.
What follows the multiplication of resources in the land of Edom is the creation of dukes, chiefs and kings, the stratification of the society and the class consciousness that breeds two types of citizens: the haves and the have-nots, the privileged and the despised, and the princes and the almajiris as you largely have today in some of the emirates in the North. See Genesis 36:15-43.
While all these were going on in the camp of Esau, a dreamer was born and was being raised in the household of Jacob. That dreamer was Joseph. Let us read about him in Genesis 37:1-11(NKJV):
1 Now Jacob dwelt in the land where his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan.
2 This is the history of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers. And the ladwas with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to his father.
3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors.
4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.
5 Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more.
6 So he said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed:
7 There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.”
8 And his brothers said to him, “Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.
9 Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.”
10 So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?”
11 And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
The resultant effect of these two nations and two types of people dwelling in proximity to each other can be seen in the Book of Ezekiel (chapters 35, 36 & 37).
In Ezekiel 35:1-15, instead of healthy competition, there was petty jealousy and deep-seated hatred.
In Ezekiel 36:1-15 you have the rebirth of the land preceding the rebirth of a nation.
Ezekiel 37:1-11 expose the depraved condition of the people and the role of the Prophet in breathing life, hope and vision back into these dry bones in the valley of despair and despondency.
And for this army to rise and fulfill destiny, rulership must be reconfigured:
Ezekiel 37:15-22 (NKJV):
15 Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
16 “As for you, son of man, take a stick for yourself and write on it: ‘For Judah and for the children of Israel, his companions.’ Then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel, his companions.’
17 Then join them one to another for yourself into one stick, and they will become one in your hand.
18 “And when the children of your people speak to you, saying, ‘Will you not show us what you mean by these?’—
19 say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Surely I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will join them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.”’
20 And the sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes.
21 “Then say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land;
22 and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again.
The best of the North and the best of the South must come together. Instead of mediocres mistakenly labeled moderates, the best, the brightest, the fittest and the most competent must come together and steer the ship of the nation along the path of predictable development and progress.
To the discerning, such an opportunity for reconfiguration occurred in the month of March 2014 as men and women from all parts of the country and different spheres of influence in the society gathered in Abuja to dialogue on the future destiny of Nigeria upon the convocation of the National Conference 2014.
I am grateful to God that I was privileged to serve with statesmen and patriots – men and women of like passion – as a delegate to that conference and I thank the President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan for finding the courage to convene the conference even when cynics thought it would amount to no good. After months of painstaking deliberations, hundreds of recommendations were made in a bid to catapult our nation closer to the Nigerian Dream. Amongst these recommendations was a Charter for National Reconciliation and Integration into which we distilled the ideals of the Nigeria of our dream. Not only did we pledge our commitment to these ideals, every delegate appended his or her signature to this Charter as the basis of our union in place of the amalgamation, which, we believe, was not a homegrown decision to coexist. Not many Nigerians are aware of that charter or of its significance. By that charter, a new era of nationhood can begin in Nigeria; by that charter; we will cease to be peoples coerced to coexist, instead we will become a people who willingly come together to forge a more perfect union; by that charter, our nationhood shall no longer be the result of colonial amalgamation or military proclamation, instead it shall become the result of a people’s declaration; by that charter, we have the opportunity to evolve a social contract that spells out the principles under which we shall coexist, outlines our responsibilities as citizens and highlights the irreducible minimum conditions under which we shall be governed and below which we shall refuse to fall. In the words of Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, the Deputy Chairman of the 2014 National Conference, contained in his tribute for my 60th birthday: “the 2014 National Conference adopted a NATIONAL CHARTER OF UNITY which was the brainchild of Pastor Tunde Bakare. This Charter which was unanimously adopted fell under the radar of the press and commentators. Yet this may just turn out to be the proverbial mustard seed of national unity and reconciliation”.
It is a declaration of the Nigerian Dream that every Nigerian must become familiar with and whose implementation every Nigerian must rise up to demand. And so, let every Nigerian obtain and digest its articles until they stand out as words on marble and as the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen; let its words compel every politician to prioritize the destiny of this nation and the lot of the next generation over the next election; let its creed place a demand on the statesman in the president – a demand on him to seize this opportunity to give Nigeria a new start; let it find its way into the hands and hearts of every girl and every woman held captive in terrorist dens that they may find hope and a reason to live on until they are brought back alive; and let even the terrorists who come across it realize that they need not dwell in dry places anymore for they can still beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks and return home to be part of a New Nigeria; a nation of peace and equity.
I am persuaded that if you believe and I believe, and we all work for it, Almighty God will grant us grace and Nigeria will be saved, Nigeria will be changed and Nigeria will become great.
God bless you and God bless our nation Nigeria.