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Rev Chris Okotie, pastor of the thriving Household of God Church, Lagos, recently declared, for the third time, his intention to contest for the highest post in the land on the platform of FRESH Political Party. Okotie cuts a multi-dimensional image. He has a music background. He became a pastor and now a politician. For the past 30 years, he has been in the limelight. He made history as the first pastor to gun for the Presidency. He has a message for Nigerians, a message he says, is predicated upon the dynamic political leadership of FRESH Political Party, as opposed to the ideology of the past.

Sir, now that you have declared, for the third time, your intention to contest for the highest position in the land, how do you intend to achieve your aim, considering the hurdles on the way?

The most important thing for us now is to articulate our concept of government and philosophy upon which our party is predicated, which is FRESH - Faith, Responsibility, Equality, Security and Hope. We believe that if Nigeria can imbibe the philosophy of FRESH, there will be a new beginning for us; the renaissance of Nigeria could begin. So, my responsibility now, as the candidate of my party, is to disseminate this information and to remind Nigerians of what I had said, because this is my third time. And I believe that the harsh realities confronting Nigerians today will cause them to listen.

What's new in your agenda?
It's the same thing we've been saying. It's just that we haven't had free and fair election; so one has not been able to properly measure the response because of the intransigence of the PDP in their desire to perpetuate themselves in government. Most of our people have been disenfranchised. But I've been saying that the most important thing for us today is the Nigerian, he's our number one priority. So, our emphasis would be human capacity development, to develop the Nigerian people.

How would you marry spiritual leadership with political leadership?

In the priesthood we have today, these are technical issues but I have to say so because there are no terms. The priesthood we have today in the church is both secular and spiritual; it is called the Melchizedek order. It is that priesthood that enables you to do service in church and in the marketplace.

In your declaration speech, you said something about replacing the 'anachronistic ideology of the past' with the dynamic political leadership of your party. Would you please explain this further?

We are talking about the PDP government that has become so partisan and blinded to its responsibility to Nigerians. The PDP concept of government is a party for the PDP, by the PDP. Nigeria is not included because the party is hydra-headed. It's like an octopus and there are so many interest groups. It's a conglomerate. Their preoccupation is to serve the needs of their patrons within the party and that is why they have abandoned the Nigerian people. My desire is to rekindle faith in the true democracy; whose definition is government of the people … if that is so then our priority would be the Nigerian people. We'll shift emphasis from building things to building people.

Now that President Goodluck Jonathan is there, do you see him toeing the same line as the others before him?

Why is that so?
The PDP, as I said, is a very amorphous organisation. I do not think, with all due respect, that President Goodluck Jonathan understands its complexity. He does not understand how intricate that political party is because he's been almost like an outsider. He doesn't understand what transpires in that organisation. I have often said that if a man as courageous and perpendicular as former President Obasanjo couldn't take his agenda to its logical conclusion, President Jonathan does not stand a chance.

You had said that what is destroying Nigeria is the tripartite evil of elitism, mysticism and Satanism. Could you please elaborate on that?

First, I talked about elitism. It's an eclectic gathering of people in a society. In Nigeria we have the elite who constitute themselves as power block. They decide who runs for a particular office, and as long as its okay for the elite, it is okay for the people. They think they can decide for the people. The elite's philosophy is not democratic; it must be eradicated. Then I talked about mysticism. We have some so-called juggernauts that see themselves as godfathers; they decide when and what will happen in any political scenario. These ones must be demystified if Nigerian democracy is going to survive. That's what I mean by mysticism, in a nutshell. Then I talked about Satanism. These are the ones who have adversarial tendencies; they are troublemakers. If you ignore them, they foment trouble; they precipitate a state of violence. They are feared because of this very demonic quality. They inspire fear in the hearts of people, so they get away with almost everything. These ones must be brought to book; they must be reminded that nobody is above the law

How do you intend to do all these?
It's the government that has the power to do all these. It's the government that is authorised to do those things. If your policy is people-oriented, then you'll navigate your cause in such a way that you circumvent the elite; you go directly to the people. You'll not believe in all those sacred cows, like all those mystics we have in politics and anyone who breaks the law must face justice.

What do think is fuelling crime and corruption in the land?

First is the party, because man is impressionistic; he is controlled by his head, the images we sees. The authority we have determines for us the direction we go in most cases. And because the PDP is inherently corrupt, as a political party, they have not cared to institutionalize an anti-graft system. That's why it was a one-man battle during Obasanjo's regime; it is not an institutionalised concept within the party; it was one man fighting a party. As soon as he stepped out of the place, the party continued business as usual.

How can corruption be eradicated in the land?
For us to fight corruption, first and foremost it must be institutionalised that corruption is contrary to the dictates of any normal progressive society. Number two, you have to create an enabling environment that will make the people shun corruption. Number three; you must have one standard, not double, so there are no sacred cows; what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. It must be across board and then begin from the bottom, not from the top, to create an enabling environment for Nigerians to thrive in the pursuit of happiness in the business of their dreams, paying salaries that are commensurate with the prevailing economic climate, ensuring that you create what we call social security apparatus net - we are talking about pension, housing, transportation system. These are the structures you must put in place if the society must develop to a place where the ordinary man on the street must shun corruption. But that is not the case with Nigeria.

What is your assessment of Nigeria as a nation at 50?

I think it is universally accepted in our nation today that Nigeria is a failed state and it's not because the resources are not present, both human and natural resources. We have had problems with leadership. The bane of Nigerian society has been leadership, right from the time of our independence and its just steadily getting worse. And I believe in 2011 a new leadership will emerge that will reverse this order. But we thank God that we are still existing as a nation, other than that there's really nothing to celebrate.

What if a presidential candidate of PDP emerges in 2011 as the president. What would it portend for leadership in the country?

It will be that Nigeria is under a curse.
In order to avert this curse, what is the collective might of the opposition doing against PDP?

There is nothing that the opposition can do.
What didn't you do before that you will do now for the people to vote for you?

The people voted, their votes were discountenanced; they were disenfranchised; that's why you have this apathy because they will tell you they voted and no one takes cognizance of their votes; so they are no longer interested. But we say, don't give up because Nigeria is worth fighting for. The people are so incapacitated. PDP will use their power to usurp government.

What if it happens again?
We are trusting God that the people of this nation will rise against the oppression of PDP government; that is the only thing that can happen. Because the military is on their side, the armed forces, they have the guns, the weapons, everything. But until the Nigerian people rise and there is a direct divine intervention, there is no hope for Nigerians. I think God has already intervened. The confusion we are seeing in that party is indicative of the presence of God in the affairs of that party.

Are you referring to the zoning system in that party?

That's part of it.
Your party's policy does not involve zoning. Why?
It's not necessary. We believe that leadership should be open to Nigerians and that WAZOBIA has brought nothing but bad luck, retrogression and there are more tribes in this country than the Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa. The minorities are also part of this country.

People have clamoured for a shift and now power is in the hands of the Niger Deltans. You are from the same minority with the president. Won't it make more sense to support him instead of contesting against him?

Why don't you ask him why he's not supporting me? So, I'm not doing anything unusual. I believe that the sentiments in regional politics must be predicated on the desires of that region to present its best candidate. And that we cannot, out of blind regional thinking, choose someone we recognise as incapable of ruling this nation. We'll be doing Nigerians more harm than good. In as much as I respect President Jonathan, I recognize, as a Nigerian and I say it with all due respect, that he's not capable, at this juncture in our political evolution, because there are many problems besetting our nation that someone with his political antecedents cannot, mind you, take Nigeria beyond where it is today. Let the Nigerian people try and debunk the position that I hold. But I have never believed in this low sentimentality that does nothing but gratify some superficial propensity.

I think that if we truly deserve to rule this nation, then we must create a forum to bring all our sons together and then say, these are our sons who desire to rule this nation, which of them is more competent, which of them has the intellectual capability, who has the compassion, who has the fear of God, who has the understanding of the concept of globalisation, who is neutral that will not lead Nigeria into a war of vindictive purposelessness to settle old scores, who is the person that will become a rallying point, that will unify our nation. If you consider these things you will recognise that President Jonathan does not even fall within that bracket. I think incumbency is not enough criteria for leadership.

What, in your view, is really the problem with Nigeria?

It's the example set by the leadership. People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. They are not interested in how much knowledge you have about leadership until they know how much you care about them. Nigerians have given PDP 10 years of their irredeemable lives that have been squandered on the altar of partisan politics. Nigerians have given their time, money, paid taxes only for these to be squandered on what I call governmental profligacy, just like we saw the billions spent on celebration of independence when you have doctors and professionals that are not well paid, that the society needs. They don't prioritise correctly. They don't care; that's the bottom line. As long as they don't care about the Nigerian people, the Nigerian people will not care about them. That's why there's a disconnection between the leadership and the people.

What you think about the bombing last October 1 at Eagle Square, on the day of the 50th anniversary of Nigeria?

I believe that there's no reason that can be given for the destruction of lives.

They said they needed to drive home a point, that there was 'no reason for celebration'.

I know, but I'm saying that two wrongs don't make a right. I want to caution that we exercise restraint so that we don't start this finger pointing. Investigations should be thorough, unbiased, unprejudiced if we are going to get to the bottom of it. Terrorism, under any guise, should not be condoned. There are too many confusing reports that we are getting. I empathize with the family of those who lost their lives because we have a government that is unable to provide necessary security for her people.

What do you think about Babangida, Atiku, and Gasau collectively?

They belong to the same generation as President Goodluck Jonathan; they belong to the same political party.

But I think President Jonathan is not of that generation?

They are the same generation. Now some people believe President Jonathan is of the new generation. Is that what you are saying?

Yes, sir
No, he is not, because a generational philosophy is not always by biological age. He has sat under the tutelage of the PDP philosophy. He has imbibed their concept of governance. He is a part and parcel of the political laboratory that is called PDP; so he cannot exculpate himself from the responsibility of the present leadership. And I say it with all due respect and I say it within the confines of conventional propriety, the truth of the matter is that they all belong to the same political party. They all belong to the same generation; that's how I see it.

So, what would you tell Nigerians, so that they vote for you?

Nigerians know who I am. They've known me since my university days, when I was a musician. They have watched me grow before them; they know my antics; they know about Okotie. I have never been in government, but people care about what goes on in my life; that's why the people care to talk about me. So, when I stand to say to them that I have an inspiration to lead, they know I' not frivolous; they can tell by the things I have achieved. I have no reason to do what I'm doing outside of the fact that I love this nation and I'm God's servant. It can't be that I'm looking for money because I'm rich. It can't be because I'm looking for popularity because I'm more popular than all of them, with all due respect. Because these men are only popular when they are in positions of authority; the minute they finish their tenures nobody cares about what's going on with them.

But it's not so with me. I believe my seriousness has been demonstrated through the years, this is my third declaration. I have spent my money, my time, put my life in harms way. I didn't have to do any of those things but I do it because Nigeria is worth fighting for. I'm asking Nigerians to go and register, so that they can vote and they should leave the rest in the hands of God because He is the one who will bring forth the new leadership for us; that Nigeria of our dreams will become a reality.