REV. OKOTIE’S DIVINE MANDATE ET AL
AGAIN, he wants to run. And his isn't one of those stories untold. His calling and passion are also not areas yet unexplored. We are familiar with him and his ambition. It's a life of somewhat extraordinary story. It began with how a shaggy undergraduate law student sold buttons and colourful mufflers and Hausa special tea to make ends meet. Later, he became a musical hunk, got 'born again' Christian and senior pastor in the church he founded, Household of God.
And now, and since the last seven years, Rev. Chris Okotie (formerly spelt Kris) has been dreaming to be Nigeria's president. An interesting aspect of his life is that it seems like an unfinished biography. Each passing day a new chapter is introduced. It makes potential readers to search for it in the Gift shop. There must be something in the man that rivets attention. It is how faith and ambition have become one.
The former drives the latter.
Maybe, Rev. Okotie's life is built in compartments, each stage with a price, the price of fame. It offers a sort of grabbag of eye catching ideas and promises he claims will lift us all from the present despondency and 'malaise of the spirit'. It is a soaring story with a religious bent and political heft as well. The personality of Okotie partly explains why his story will always make headlines. He has a gift of eloquence and presence.
He can't be missing in a crowd. Not because he has raffish looks. More than that. When he speaks, it is in soaring phrases. His ideas sound pleasing to the ears, and his delivery absolutely stunning despite the fact that he often makes simple issues look complex. Maybe, because he prefers using big words to ones that give charity of understanding. Small wonder he couches his sentences in churchchillian English as if he is in a contest for the best preacher in English Language. Take it, or leave it, that's partly why Okotie inspires many, but he has ruffled few feathers as well. It's all about his life, a life lead in different measures.
The very moment Rev. Okotie declared way back in 1999 that he has a revelation from 'God to be president of Nigeria', he has kept so many people waiting for the fulfillment of that divine inspiration. It failed him in 2003 on the platform of the Justice Party, when he lost to the incumbent President Olusegun Obasanjo.
He cried foul. He still believes he was a victim of a fraudulent election. Perhaps he was right or he was blinded by his faith and iron self-confidence. He lost yet again in 2007 under his own party, FRESH Democratic Party. One year to another crucial election, Okotie still believes his defiance and determination will see him through as the next occupier of Aso Rock, Nigeria's seat of power, because he believes president, Goodluck Jonathan whom he derisively calls the penultimate, not the ultimate will hand over to him. Interesting!
That's why faith is so vital in the affairs of men. That's why faith is the substance of things hoped for, and evidence of things not yet seen. No surprise anyone who has bothered to listen to Rev. Okotie speak of his presidential ambition, the third time in four years, will be excited and maybe, curious to ask: why again? Note, this is all about a faith portrait of a cleric who envisions where Nigeria ought to be, and the kind of man Nigerians should have had as their president. Who says politics in our land is no longer interesting. If you read Okotie's statement last week from his press conference in Lagos, you can only live in faith as George W. Bush did when he declared his intention to contest the presidency of the United States in 2000. Bush said; 'Behind all life and all history, there is a dedication and purpose set by the hand of a just and faithful God'.
A close attention to Rev. Okotie on what propels him into politics, reveals something unmistakable; he has a good dose of confidence. Perhaps too much confidence, a situation some people say has become a problem for him. It's when one's optimism overpowers his judgment. Few will however doubt that Rev. Okotie is sincere in his faith, and the revelation he claims he has from God.
This, may be, is a worthy virtue for anyone who seeks to lead. In a recent interview he granted The Guardian (June 26), he claimed that from the very first time that he declared his presidential ambition, it's all about a 'divine mandate'. He said, as a servant of God, I do nothing except I am instructed by God, and every man's destiny lies with God… and I believe that it is part of my destiny to assume the leadership of this nation…' He has repeatedly said that every nation has timing for divine intervention and that Nigeria is about to see that with him (Okotie) as God's instrumentality to arrive at that destination. That 'divine' vision which he said he saw way back in 1999, as we all know has failed him twice, in 2003 and 2007. But he insists he's not tired of running for that exalted office. His uses Moses in the Bible to validate his longing, believing that he will one day be the occupant of the ASO Villa. In Lagos, last Tuesday, he repeated that at a crowded Press conference to formally declare his ambition that it is about 'divine mandate'.
How far this will carry him remains to be seen. Certainly, it is not something to be given on a granular debate based on theology where he supremely excels. But, it is interesting that Rev. Okotie is acutely aware that in his quest, he's up against what he called the 'forces that are in battle to destroy this nation.' It is refreshing also to hear him say that he is ready to deal with these forces that have messed up Nigeria and heal our wounds inflicted by the ruling PDP. Rev. Okotie's foray into the murky waters of our politics leaves two intriguing questions: Can Rev. Okotie adjust his language, thinking and approach to politics to suit new circumstances? On this, he said he had learned the hard way – how to adjust, how to speak the language of the people, how important to communicate in the context that gives meaning to both the ordinary folks and elites. If he finds it easy to relate with the electorate in the south, many of whom are likely to see him as one of them, a 'brethren' of some sort, selling his faith and candidature to the North will be a test of his 'utmost for the highest.' Will come to that presently.
But the most critical question is: Should a reverend or Pastor, indeed, a clergyman with some flock to tend to, go into active partisan politics or seek elective office? I have no clear answer to this question. But, it is one big question that continues to divide the church, that body of Christians that believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the only way to salvation. This question becomes necessary because it is believed that active partisan politics can, and do sometimes, prove to be a huge distraction to one's religious calling. To this, Rev. Okotie defended his decision. He says according to the 'word of God and Priesthood of Melkizedeck, men are authorized to hold political office while 'we carry on with our religious duties, because authority has to be given to a man, who has been appointed and anointed by God'. He cited King David and his son, Solomon as examples. But many will disagree with his premise and conclusion.
Among the Jehovah's Witnesses, (where my parents and siblings are members), devout Christians should neither participate nor seek elective political offices. Reason: the giddy, slippery pole of politics has a corrupting influence and there is hardly any way one can be part of it without being a victim or recipient of the tendencies of corruption or suffer outright destruction in extreme cases ( John 6: 15 and Daniel 2:44). True Christians, they argue should strictly adhere to Jesus Christ's command not to be involved in politics, because it will amount to serving two masters. Christ himself refused to be made a king when the Jews wanted to make him one. In raising this question, I have Rev. Chris in mind. Can he avoid this sticky dilemma and stigma? Can he separate his faith from his ambition to be the next President of Nigeria, especially when faced with the complexities that politics presents?