PRESIDENCY: I WON'T STOP RUNNING UNTIL VICTORY COMES — CHRIS OKOTIE
Two-time presidential candidate and leader of Fresh Democratic Party (FDP), Rev Chris Okotie, on Tuesday indicated his interest to contest the 2011 presidential election. He said that his involvement in politics is a divine call from God.
In this interview with Saturday Sun , Okotie said that he would continue to contest the presidential election until he realises his dream of becoming the country's president.
Okotie, who is also the leader of Household of God Church, reiterated his declaration that God told him he would be president of Nigeria, although he was not told when this would come to pass.
You have joined the presidential race again. What informed this decision?
I have always said that mine is a divine mandate predicated on the desire of Almighty God to see a certain equilibrium in this country; to juxtapose Nigeria's position with that of the international community so that we can begin to realise the greatness that has been given to us.
This is the third time you are going to run for president. Why the obsession?
It is simply because one has not actualised the desire all this time. This doggedness and desire are to establish that which is needful for our nation to grow and to become what it must be. And so, I am galvanised by that desire to see Nigeria become what it must be and that is why I have kept the fire burning.
Are you not a little disappointed that you ran the first and second times and you did not actualise your dream?
I am not disappointed because Rome was not built in a day and Nigeria is going through a transition. I believe that the third time round, things would definitely be different. I know that is not that Nigerians have not desired I become president, but because of the system, where votes are not allowed to count and where the whole electoral process has been fraught with fraud and a certain inefficiency, as a result of the ineptitude of the political party in government.
Do you think that the system has been reformed now that you are running for the third time?
There is a certain consciousness with the Nigerian people that was not there before. Because of the global events that we have witnessed in the past few years, Nigerians have become more aware. There is a kind of universal tutelage under which Nigeria has sat. One thing is clear, the people must stand up to establish their mandate and I believe that is going to happen. We are going to see Nigerians stand up to demand that their votes count.
There is talk about electoral reforms and the Federal Government actually set up a committee, Uwais committee, which submitted a report. Do you believe that Nigeria could actually have electoral reforms?
Nigeria can and will, in time, but it will not be under this government because this government is only interested in perpetuating itself in the position of authority and, therefore, would not look dispassionately at the issues that have been raised in the report, because those issues are inimical to their own existence. They can only thrive in an atmosphere of fraud, perfidy and mendacity, but I believe that an interim government will help to establish the true electoral reforms and that are still ahead.
But the constitution does not provide for interim government.
I know, but the constitution can be amended and there are situations that can occur that lead to it. If that is the only way Nigeria will survive, it will eventually take place.
When you ran for the first time and you lost at the primaries, I listened to your speech where you expressed disappointment, before you joined another party. Was that what informed your forming the Fresh Democratic Party?
I discovered that there were certain philosophies that were being propagated by political parties that didn't mean anything to them. They were paying mere lip-service and it was purely cosmetic and superficial and that is why at the NDP, which you were referring to, it was clear that rather than negotiate the future of Nigeria, they entered into a robust tactical negotiation to perpetuate and enhance their own personal agenda. That is why it failed. Progressives like us are not overtaken by pessimism in situations like that. We dust off our shoes and then we continue the march.
What makes the Fresh Democratic Party different?
We are a political party with a pan-Nigeria philosophy, where we recognise that today's greatness is not a personal agenda but a universal concept of nationhood. That is what can take Nigeria forward and the acronym for FRESH, 'faith, responsibility, quality, security and hope,' becomes the pillar upon which a new Nigeria would be founded. The Fresh Democratic Party is a gathering of men and women who desire to see meaningful change, who desire to see Nigeria fulfil her potential and then begin to potentate the Nigerian people. We represent the future of this nation.
But the party did not win any elective office, whether in the House of Assembly or House of Representatives or Senate?
That is because of the system we operated on; that is because we have a political party that created such blatant level of fraud that has never been witnessed anywhere in the world, in terms of elections. I believe that the dynamism of the society will bring us to a place where these juggernauts that have held the Nigerian people to ransom will discover that they are mere mortals and they would recognize that their time is up. So, I believe that the time has come for Nigeria to rise and to fly.
What do you expect from the 2011 election?
First and foremost, if you look at the personality involved, you would recognise that Reverend Okotie represents the future, not the past. I respect the great men and women who have indicated interest to participate in the process, but I know we can no longer subscribe to political archeology, where we excavate the ruins and relics of our past and recycle; we must now become progressives, become political architects to map out the future of this great country.
The INEC has been reconstituted with a new chairman appointed. What do you expect from INEC?
I am sure of the desire to do good, but they are constrained ab initio because once they are established by the government, it is only the natural proclivity that they would submit to the dictates of that government. INEC cannot be fully independent under the statutory laws that are responsible for its creation. The men and women in INEC are good men, honourable men, but circumstances under which they were appointed and conditions of their appointments make it impossible for them to function independently.
I assume that you talked about interim government because an incumbent president could influence the direction of election. Why is this peculiar to our country, as in other places incumbent presidents sit in office and contest elections?
The psychological sociological atmosphere in our nation makes it impossible. There is a neo-colonialism mentality that has pervaded the political landscape. The concept of nationalism is not present in our political revolution at this time. What we have is a group of men and women, a conglomerate, an assemblage of men and women of antithetical philosophies, who have no ideological connectivity but a common denominator, which is to annex wealth together and see politics as a business enterprise. Because it is not influenced by the spirit of nationalism or patriotism, you cannot compare us with the others that you have mentioned.
There is a controversy, so to say, whether President Goodluck Jonathan would contest the next election. What is your view?
The debate or the dichotomy only resides within the PDP. It's not a Nigerian issue. I do not want people to confuse the PDP problem with that of Nigeria. Within the PDP, if there is any provision in their constitution, that Dr. Jonathan should not run, then they can even argue that, but I do not see it. And within the Nigerian constitution, there is no such provision. So, I believe he should, if he desires to run and it would make the competition more competitive.
You are not in PDP, quite all right, but what is your view on zoning?
I think that zoning is anachronistic. It cannot find any space in progressive society. Zoning is a mechanism put in place by those people who do not have the political clout to win elections. They must polarise their political party to such a situation, where they can only be elected either by ethnic or religious grounds.
There is a tendency where Nigerians always clamour, especially for a sitting president to go for election. Why is it so?
I think it is not Nigerians' full clamour; it is the adherent of that political party. The Nigerian people are totally disconnected from the PDP; they don't recognise the PDP as anything but a group of men and women who have been oppressing and suppressing the Nigerian people. If you look at the polity, there is such anomy and people are suffering from some kind of political atrophy because they recognize that they are not part of the democratic process. This is what I call, terminological deceit. We don't have a democracy. But those people within the PDP, who will benefit from incumbency, will definitely agitate for their perpetuation. I am saying clearly, with due respect to the president, that he should run if he so desires and I would definitely run against him even though we come from the same area. I believe that the better man would win. I think that President Goodluck Jonathan is a great man, but we don't need a serendipity president.
If you become president, what are you going to do?
I would connect Nigeria back to their leadership. I would prioritise them above every other thing else because, today, they make oil more important than the Nigerian people. The mineral resources are more important than the people; that is because this is not yet a nation. When I become president, Nigeria will become a nation and the people will come first.
Other political parties are talking about merger. Is Fresh Democratic Party involved in this talk?
I believe that the realities of that day will determine for us if we are going to enter into any kind of coalition. So, we will leave it until then.
What if it comes to you stepping down for another person?
No. A coalition would not be that. If you notice, after each election, I return to the church. I have never been a part of any government of national unity or any contraption that was set up by government to perpetuate itself in office. I have never been involved with them, if I had wanted to, I would have done that long ago. I believe in what I am doing. I believe it is a calling. I believe I have what it takes to take Nigeria to the next level. I believe that the aspirations and the yearnings of the Nigerian people can only be realised in the leadership that I head.
Talking about the church, if you leave the church for government, what would happen to the church?
I am not going to leave the church for government. Don't presidents go to church?
Will you still oversee the church?
When you are a president, you have a better platform. We have priesthood now that is known as the Melchizedek priesthood and that's why we can do what we do, because it is only under the Melchizedek priesthood that you can become a president, hold a secular office by the grace of God. That is why when Jesus returns, He would still be priest, but He will be a secular head.
Are you not afraid, as government tends to make people soil their hands?
It is not the government that makes people soil their hands; it is the people themselves and what they are made up of. There is an intrinsic nature within man that galvanises him to do evil. It has nothing to do with his environment; it has nothing to do with his upbringing; it is a nature within him and until that nature is changed, which is why we say when a man becomes a born again Christian, the power of that nature is broken; such a person will continue to be a slave to depravity and degradation, but thank God that in Christ Jesus that chain has been broken.
What are you going to do differently as president?
I will prioritise the people above everything else. Once the people become number one, then everything that has to do with them will become number one. That means that you will care about infrastructure; you care about energy, power, schools, education, medical care; everything that has to do with the people will become your priority because they come first.
How would you assess government so far, since 1999?
Outside of President Olusegun Obasanjo's tenure, it's been a total perambulation in the wilderness of retrogression. I believe that God raised President Obasanjo to bring stability to our nation and to chart a course for a new Nigeria. The PDP didn't understand that it was a singular action that God has determined concerning this man to bring a new beginning. But if you look at the things that have happened, you will realise that a lot of them did not realise that; so after his time, there comes a soap opera of the life and times of President Yar'Adua and subsequently, President Jonathan Goodluck. I respect these men; they are great men in their own rights, but they have nothing to offer this nation, as far as we are concerned.
The National Assembly has started the process of amending the constitution. The lawmakers have actually concluded and moved it to the state Houses of Assembly. Are you satisfied with what they did?
Is there anything incredible in the recommendation? That is why I said that it is impossible for a sitting government to conduct electoral reforms. First and foremost, they are not sincere in the recommendation they have made, particularly, asking people who have been indicted to contest election and things like that. In any place, where there is honour, that kind of provision will never see the light of day, but what you are seeing, is a realistic piece of fakery. PDP has the propensity to always create the impression that something is being done whereas nothing is being done. How many speakers of House of Representatives and how many leaders of the Senate had had problems during their tenure? And they all belong to the PDP.
The shame that we are seeing in the legislature today is within the PDP. So, they don't have the moral right or responsibility to talk about electoral reforms and I believe that the time is coming when the desecration of the sacred halls of the legislature would be cleansed and we can go back to governance that inspires and epitomises the dreams of the Nigerian people. Right now, we are seeing the medievalism, where there is a survival of the fittest. This is not democracy.
How would you assess the anti-corruption war being carried out by government?
I haven't seen it. The only government that I know that was genuine and fought this battle with courage and inspiration was President Obasanjo government. Every other government after that has pretended and has not been sincere. So, there is nothing really to write home about.
The INEC chairman has just been appointed and we are already in June and election was supposed to take place before May next year. Do you think within the time-frame a credible election could be organised?
I do not think so. Not because I do not believe that Professor Jega can do his job but because he is incapacitated. A professor in the university knows the methodology; he knows the modus operandi of the Nigerian people and how their election go. And they have already created a problem for him, as it is, but definitely they will conduct some form of election. That is what they always do. And this time, it's going to fail and this is what is going to bring a new government, a new Nigeria for us. We are going to see the hands of God, like we have seen it in the past.
From all you have said, you are disappointment with the outcome of previous elections, but you never went to challenge any of them. Why?
To my mind, it was a journey in futility. It is sickening to embrace an elusive phantom and to abound in comprehensive folly to think that some court in this nation will set aside a presidential election. It's never been done and I do not think it would be, particularly not under the PDP. We are wise enough to know what to do. In 2011, we are trusting that the omnipotence of Almighty God, the omnipotence of the united trinity will bring a new government into our land. He has done it in the past. If you have taken all the governments in tandem, you will see clearly where God has intervened. I believe He is going to do that to save this nation because we are sitting precariously on the edge of the precipice.
What do you expect from Nigerians next year?
I expect that the spirit of the Nigerian, which I call the confederacy of the Nigerian brotherhood, would arise mightily because when the time comes, our people know when to rise. I am sure that with the level of resentment and the disenchantment of the people towards PDP, God is already moving and that the Nigerian people are going to stand up; we are going to see a revolution.
There was a prediction by the United States that if things went on as they were Nigeria would break up in 15 years time. Already 10 years have gone?
We are waiting; we still have five years. Notice that there is a proviso. If the level of corruption continues to go unchecked; if the 'I don't care' attitude of the government of the day continues to be perpetuated by those who consider themselves untouchable; if the power of those within the PDP, who regard themselves as sacred cows, goes unchecked, then you can be sure that Nigeria will fizzle out definitely in five years, but I believe that is why people like me are involved. We are progressives; we are patriotic and we love this country; we are nationalistic; we are the ones who hold the key to the future and we will never let Nigeria perish.
Who is funding your political programme?
The party and the Nigerian people.
The world is shifting towards the youths. Young people are now taking over leadership positions. But that is not happening in Nigeria. What is responsible for this?
It is the system itself. We have what I call a geriatric circle of redundancy that is imposed on the Nigerian people; so you have the geriatric politicians, who constantly recycle themselves and again I mean no disrespect. I just speak the truth; so because they are the same people discovering and rediscovering themselves, cycling and recycling themselves, definitely we have been going round and round in circles without making any progress. But there is a time that is given to such profligacy and when that time expires, the one who gave man and made man a free moral agent, which is God Himself, intervenes; that is why every system of oppression has been dismantled by the divine instrumentality, whether it is apartheid or slave trade; you name it. The days of the emancipation of the Nigerian people are here; they are going to see an implosion within the PDP, so that God would eventually dismantle this leviathan that has held us captive.
There is a projection that by 2020, Nigeria will be among the first 20 biggest economy. Do you share it?
I have a dream that it is possible, but definitely not under a PDP government. These are some of the worst leap years of our existence, as a nation and it is because of the leadership. Now it is possible that in 2020, Nigeria will rise from the ashes. We have been talking about economic phoenixism, like the phoenix rises from his ashes. It is possible that we can become that great nation, but it cannot be under the leadership of the PDP government. Absolutely impossible.
Is there any sign that PDP would leave government, because people who leave are going back and others are joining from other parties?
If you are a student of history, look back a few years when Abacha terrorised this nation. It was the prognosis of the people at that time that 20 years, after that time, he would still be in power. Vision 2010 and all the contraptions they put together were superintendent by his government. What you are seeing is just a facade. It is outward. This is a Goliath that is standing tall and bestriding the Nigerian people, like a colossus, but he would soon be brought down because PDP is made of mortals; men and women are transient creatures of time. They don't have eternal life, and longevity of any government is determined by God. I am absolutely sure that this will not continue for too long.
Nigeria prides itself as the giant of Africa. Do you see Nigeria as the giant of Africa?
I do, but I believe that right now, we are experiencing a certain somnambulism, which is sleep walking. Nigeria is sleep walking; that is why we lack direction, inspiration and the courage to do the things we are supposed to do, because we are operating in a subliminal atmosphere. We do not have that conscious deliberation as to where we are going and where we are headed; so I believe that this a wake-up call and by 2011, Nigeria would have woken to the responsibility given to it by its creator because it is Almighty God who made this nation great by all the resources that are here.
What is wrong with Nigeria's leadership?
It is retrogressive; that is what it is. A leader is either leading forward or backwards. Our leaders, so far have tended to take us backwards and again I will make an exception for President Olusegun Obasanjo's tenure because if Yar'Adua had built, particularly, on the economic blueprint of his predecessor, we probably, must have made some mileage now, but when he came in, with all due respect, instead of the determination of a leader and that compelling desire to take Nigeria forward, he resorted to vindictive purposelessness; dismantling foundations and principles of leadership and have entered into convolutions that have left the government nowhere.
Are you satisfied with the followership?
Man is created in such a way that he is impressionistic. The followers always respond to the leader. That's why when God created earth, He only created one man, Adam, because He knew if Adam had the inspiration, everything would be fine; so what we need to do is change the man who is in front. Once you put the right leader, Nigerians would be inspired. We are a diligent people. We are a blessed, industrious, resilient and intelligent people. And the spontaneity that I see among the Nigerian people, in difficult times, has continued to corroborate my position that this is a very unique nation. I am absolutely sure that in time the true greatness of Nigeria will manifest.
What kind of campaign do you expect next year?
Same things that I have been saying and would continue to say, that the PDP is the bane of Nigeria's politics. Dismantle that behemoth and Nigeria would have the future. Number two, leadership must be sacrificial. It must be messianic. You must be willing to lay down your life for the people. I'm not asking the people to make a sacrifice. That is the difference between Chris Okotie and previous leaders; they have always asked Nigerians to make sacrifice; that's why we are nowhere. When the leadership begins to make the sacrifice, there would be a quantum leap.
Are you ready to make that sacrifice for Nigerians?
I said it before, Nigeria is worth it. My boss, the Lord Jesus Christ, epitomises what messianicism means; He is the ultimate messiah and all of us who believe in Him must be willing to follow the same.
What message do you have for the Nigerian people?
To let them know again that power belongs to the people under any democratic dispensation; that they should not be misled. For too long, we have sat under the hegemony of a business conglomerate because these are not even politicians; they are businessmen and women who have exploited the Nigerian people and have marginalised our people. I tell them not to give up hope because it is darkest before dawn. As long as long as people like me are still around, there is a future for Nigeria and I believe when there is credible election in 2011, Reverend Okotie will emerge and there will be a new day for the Nigerian people.
There is a security problem in some parts pf the country and some people are clamouring for state police. What is your recipe for security?
I wouldn't blame those people who are desiring state police because under a true federalism, we should have that. However, I won't subscribe a state police situation under the PDP, because they have not demonstrated the commitment and the responsibility that comes with that kind of endowment. I believe that as we establish a stable government that is accountable and responsible to the people, we can then enter that mechanism where the state has its own law enforcement agency. But I don't think the PDP, as a government, can engender that kind of situation.
There was a controversy some time ago when the leader of Libya prescribed that Nigeria should be divided into North and South, along religion line and many people came out to criticise it. Do you think that religion is really the problem of Nigeria?
It is not the problem, but has been used as an instrument by the politicians; that is why the Libyan leader made that statement from his own observation, because when you take the mayhem that occurred in Jos and some other parts of the North, it was very clear that politicians were using religion as a weapon to foster their own agenda. That's why it looks as if we have come to a place where we are so polarised on religious grounds that we can no longer co-exist. But I do not think so. I think these undesirable elements within the government and political party known as PDP have fomented trouble because, in themselves, they are unable to attract no votes to establish a political career and so they would use anything that is available. I think we've lived together as brothers and sisters, irrespective of our different religious persuasions, for many years.
In a free and fair election, if you lose, how would you take it?
I will live to fight another day. What I say to people is out there in the scripture. God sent Moses to the land of Egypt. It took him a while to set the people free. He was not intimidated by Pharaoh; he maintained a certain tenacity because of the revelations he had from Almighty God. Those who have been to the burning bush and have seen the greatness of their God will know the difference. We often say that any man that can look his creator in the face will not tremble before the sons of men. I have been to the burning bush and I have seen the power and the might of the God who answers by fire and therefore, I will not tremble in the presence of mortals. Whatever happens, one thing is for sure, this battle will continue until victory is ours.
You say that your calling is divine. Did God tell you exactly when you would become president?
He never tells you that. If you read from the Bible, He never says so. When He told Moses to go, He didn't tell Moses what he would encounter. He never tells you. He only tells you the end; that you would succeed at the end. That's what he tells you. Every man who has ever received the vision from God will always tell you he always saw the end of the vision, not the vehicle that will take him there or the things he will encounter, because it is the end of the vision that maintains your sanity, faith and the impetus with which you pursue, because you have seen the end from the beginning.
What role would your wife play in your government?
No role. She will be my wife and that's all.
Others are talking about first lady?
I married the woman who would live with me and share my life with me and not politics.