According to the founder of Household of God Church, Oregun, Lagos, Rev Chris Okotie, has revealed that Nigeria will collapse if he’s not allowed to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in the forth coming election. He said to avert a national catastrophe, he, Okotie would have to head an interim government.
In an interview with Saturday Sun, the pop star-turned cleric said the current political system in Nigeria, including the National Assembly, state assemblies and other government structures must be dismantled, noting that an interim administration headed by him would then midwife a brand new political system for the country.
What informed this strange talk about an interim government after Buhari that must be headed by you?
We are in a juncture in our political evolution that it becomes the logical and the next step to take. The presidential system of government that we have been operating for so many years now has failed woefully. We redefined democracy to be government of the party by the party for the party. To that extent, they excluded Nigerians from the entire process and that is why things have degenerated to the level that we see today. To bring democracy back to the people; to re-establish the parameters in which we operate as a federalism, to rekindle brotherhood, to avoid war, segregation, the interim government is the only next logical step to take.
When Chief Afe Babalola recently called for an interim government, he received knocks from across the country. Don’t you think Nigerians might stone you for calling for what some could be described as a ‘civilian coup’?
Not at all. What I’m proposing is inspiring a conversation in the country where all our people begin to talk about the problem that we face right now. When those conversations have been collated, I will send them as a transcript to the president and to the National Assembly so that they can energise the process that can lead to a transition, not from a regime to a regime, but from this regime to an interim government because Nigeria should be fixed.
As a lawyer, you know an interim government has no place in our constitution. So how do you implement this system?
That is what I have just told you. The legislators and the president are Nigerians. Man was not made for the law, but the law was made for man. If the will of the people is that we have problems in the nation today (it is very clear, go to the streets and ask people, there is disillusion everywhere, resentment, anger), and there is the need to do something very drastic for our sake. Democracy is the ascent of the people. If the people say this process is not working, we need to do something urgently; that is why the National Assembly is there. They will now make a law signed by the president for transition into an interim government so that Nigeria can be fixed. I don’t think that there is any difficulty in that.
How do you think the National Assembly would agree to throw away their jobs and support an unconstitutional arrangement?
I expect that that they are patriots. There comes a time when a man must prioritize the needs of other people than himself. They were sent there as representatives of the people; the government is representing the people. So, if you find out that there is a political system that is not practicable to bring harmony in our society, it is the responsibility of these people to rectify that situation; it is a patriotic duty. I believe that with the scenario we have in the country today where things are really dilapidated, there is enmity (these politicians play the card on religion and ethnicity), we are so polarised , balkanised, I feel that they must recognise that as the only solution and therefore will rise this time as patriots and do the right thing. There comes a time in the affairs of men when you recognise that if you do not do the right thing, it would be catastrophic and cataclysmic and therefore, as intelligent people, lovers of this country, I believe that they would be galvanised by the circumstances to rise to the occasion of this reality. I also believe that the president has been kept by God in the means of all the debilitating illness that he had so that he can do something to protect this country before he leaves, and I believe that this could be his greatest legacy.
Don’t you think a sovereign national conference would address these problems that you have identified?
No. It is impossible because no subsisting or extant government can give that kind of latitude. It is an interim government where you do not have political considerations that usually work against that which is conducive for harmony and the wellbeing of the people. It is an interim government that can do that because it has no political agenda of its own; it is a corrective mechanism to salvage the political process, otherwise there may be great catastrophe and calamity. That is why none of these confabs has succeeded because an existing political institution like government cannot take that kind of responsibility. That is why it is inevitable at the moment that we move with the interim government for the sake of the corporate existence of our nation.
Many Nigerians would no doubt consider this interim proposition a joke…
Not at all! You can see the signs; you can see how divided Nigeria has become; how polarised we have become. The politicians themselves have divided our nation so that they can rule. But I’m saying, as a patriot, it is my responsibility to proffer solutions. The interim government would correct all of these. For instance, our democracy has been hijacked by elitism, mysticism, Satanism. Our democracy is no longer government of the people by the people for the people. It is now, government of the party by the party for the party. It is an aberration, a terminological inexactitude. So, we need to come back to democracy. That is why I’m saying that this interim government will give an opportunity to proffer a solution. It is what I call, Aborigine democracy. For instance, we don’t need the legislature; we can eliminate the legislature from this tripartite system of government where you have the executive, judiciary and the legislature. So the legislature is totally unnecessary. We can take power and give it back to the people because what the legislature does is to run committees; participate in committees to discuss issues that are already in existence in our polity. You have the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASSU), etc. These are institutions that are already there, you should involve them in lawmaking instead of getting people who do not understand the mechanism or dynamics of situations that confront the Nigerian people.
My suggestion is eliminate the legislatures, give the power to these institutions so that when it comes to lawmaking, go to them; they are part of the people. It is what I call, the concept of gregarious socialisation, where lawyers binding with lawyers, doctors binding with doctors, journalists binding with journalists, market women binding with market women. They understand the realities within their own firmament. If you want to make a law on health, you don’t go to senators, but you go to the NMA or the affiliate, they can tell you what is necessary in their society; they emerge from that society. In this way, the financial burden that this nation has been trying to maintain will be eliminated. I call it Government of National Reconciliation and Reconstruction.
What do you mean by this system of ‘elitism, mysticism and Satanism?
The elites belong to echelon politics. There are those people who have a certain intellectual capacity; they are trusted by their people and have deceived them along the way because they have been in kaput with the rich men, the Plutocrats, the oligarchs, the hegemonies and they come to their people and say, this is the direction because the culture of our people is to follow people we consider to be leaders. Many of them are technocrats who are politically inclined but they pretend that they are democrats, but they only represent their masters. I call it political ventriloquism (somebody who throws his voice at a distance). When they open their mouths to speak, you hear their masters’ voice. They have systematically oppressed the Nigerian people, deceived the Nigerian people and established their own personal agenda for self aggrandizement. They are problem number one. Problem number two is mysticism. These are people who call themselves juggernauts; ‘without me, nothing will happen.’ They have acquired their money, acquired everything. I call it social irredentism, where everything belongs to me – I bought this, I bought that, I have everything, I have all the money stored somewhere for the day of reckoning. These ones must be demystified. Problem number three is the Satanism. These are the ones who bring chaos; if my party doesn’t win there is a state of emergency and then there is chaos and there is anarchy. This is the tripartite coalition; diabolical coalition that has militated against the democracy of our nation. But that would end when we have a government that understands its responsibility. One of the things in this interim government is that we would no longer have political parties. It is not necessary. In the definition of democracy, you will never find any reference to political parties mentioned. Political parties were engendered by the rich as a mechanism to suppress the poor, and to keep the rich in the place of power. You don’t need political party system for democracy, what you need is ascent.
An example. In 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari polled over 15 million votes to become the president. What happened to other millions of Nigerians who didn’t vote? But it didn’t stop him from becoming the president, as long as those people agree that whoever polls the largest votes becomes the president. That ascent is democratic. If you look at the football mundial, you find out that when they were about to pair teams at a particular time in the competition, they put them in a box and people will just come and draw; they say Nigeria will play Brazil. There has never been any quarrel about it because it is a democratic process. So, we don’t need political parties. As we don’t need political parties, we don’t also need ministers or commissioners because the civil service structure has been running for ages. They are political appointees that have no relevance; they are just there as part of the victory charm for their political parties to do whatever they want to do with those positions. If we curtail all of these political excesses, Nigeria will be better for it, and that’s what I’m suggesting.
What you are saying, for instance, is that the NMA should be given the power to make laws on health?
Yes, that is what I’m saying. Let the constitution enable these people who are within the society; you don’t need other people representing them, let them represent themselves so that if you want to make a law you go to those establishments. For instance, NUT was established in 1931, NBA was established in 1933, NMA was established in 1951, they predate all these political parties; even ASUU was established in 1978. If we are truly practising democracy, then go to the people themselves, why asking people to represent people when the people can represent themselves and they are not paid? All that cost of spending billions on an institution that is a replication of what we already have will not be there again. If you empower these institutions, they will give us laws that are more appropriate and very relevant to them. That would be true democracy; it could be a presidential system devoid of an institution that is unnecessary.
How long will the interim government last if it is set up?
It depends on the responsibility and the terms of reference and terms and rules of engagement. The important thing that we need to understand is that you cannot ask a man who is debilitated by some ailments to run a race; you have to fix him first. Nigeria cannot run the race of joining the comity of nations when we are incapacitated, when we are fractured and polarised, it is not possible. We need to fix the nation first before we start talking of the political process.
Look at the party primaries and the things that we have seen in the political arena, it is disheartening and it’s done with so impunity right in your face and that is because we lost sight of what truly democracy is and that is why we need to pause; there has to be a hiatus. Some of our great politicians have qualified for the next election as flag bearers – Their Excellencies Atiku Abubakar, Bola Tinubu, Peter Obi and others. These are Nigerians first of all and they understand as patriots that this nation is greater than anybody and if they love this nation and I believe they do, they must align themselves with the current situation that something must be done outside what has transpired for so many years. We cannot proceed to the polls, it is a journey in futility and elusive, it is like trying to embrace an elusive phantom. Nothing is going to come out of it and we are back to square one. So, an interim government is the only way forward.
But these presidential flag bearers are saying that they are well aware of these problems and are prepared to tackle them and reposition the country
They may have such intentions, but the concept of the political system that we are operating is faulty ab initio. It is not a question of saying that I will do this and that. I’m saying, the reason we have these problems, which are symptoms of a major pathological situation that we have not addressed, is because we are always addressing symptoms. What are they going to do about the definition of federalism; how are they going to do that because the constitution that we are using doesn’t support federalism. How are you going to change that; how are you going to change that fundamental issue of what is it that holds us together as a nation?
So, you have to get a new constitution and you cannot do as a sitting government; it is not possible because of political interests. You need a mechanism that is not connected to any political party; that doesn’t have that kind of interest and can sit down dispassionately and say, this constitution is faulty; we need a democratic constitution and not the one that was handed over to us by the military. We need to address issues that affect our relationship. What is federalism to us? What is resource control to us? What is regional xenophobia to us? What are the forces militating against the unity and coherence of our federalism? These are things that must be done dispassionately outside the political parties.
Where and when did this rain start to beat Nigeria that we got to this level that you are talking about?
It’s been a long time, but we have the tendency to sweep things under the carpet. Our political ancestors, the patriots that handed over democracy to us, made frantic attempts to bring unity to our country, but it was not that possible. Going back to Independence, you will still find out that Nigeria was balkanised along ethnic lines. It was already there and I believe that the patriots were hoping that with time, our people would rise to a place where these cleavages would diminish to a superficial laceration in terms of national integration. But it didn’t happen. Then the military came in and the country became more divided. So, as we progressed, instead of sitting down and stopping the entire process, and say, let us get a holistic approach to governance, people were more eager to be involved in political offices for self aggrandisement and have nothing to do with the nation. So it has steadily degenerated; a downward spiral and that is why we are here today. Thank God that we still have another chance to rectify these aberrations and put things in proper perspective, and that is why I’m here. That is why I’m speaking at this time, asking our people to join hands so that we can take Nigeria back to a place where healing can occur, where we can ameliorate the opinion of the people and they can rise and say, ‘ok, we still have faith’. It can only be done with an interim government.
If political parties are not relevant, what will be the vehicle to throw up leaders?
That is the example I have given you from football situation. For instance, if we don’t have political parties and we don’t have ministers, you don’t have commissioners, what offices will they be running for? There is only one office you can run for, which is that of the president. There will be no governors. What we will have will be people who are elders, tetrarchs ,who are about 80 years old, who are volunteers, vested in the affairs of a particular state. You look at their qualifications, you look at their antecedents; how much they served the country, you collate their names, put them into a box and there is a draw. They are working with the civil service, professional associations who have now been empowered and given legislative powers. Their role is purely supervisory. That way, politics is no longer business. Anyone who is looking for service will be these people in that age or joining an association to make sure that they promote the cause of that association. If we do so, there is no access to the money, and a lot of these people who are in politics today will have to find another profession because politics is the biggest business to them. More so, our political conscience has not been developed enough to follow an American model; that is why we are where we are. We must evolve a system that caters to the cultural sensibilities of our people; understanding how our people are, and knowing that if you give access to funds, governmental monies, you are going to breed more corruption and we are intelligent enough and that is why I’m suggesting this mechanism. If we follow this suggestion you will find out that the people are in charge of their destiny and no one person will come and tell them what to do with the money of a state or how they want to dispense these monies. It will be the responsibility of the people themselves.
Why must you be the person to run this ‘interim government’?
I’m the person to run it because you cannot know a product better than the manufacturer. It is a concept I evolved; therefore, you cannot understand it better than I do. Secondly, I have never been a part of this problem; a part of any major political party. If I wanted a political career, I would have joined APC or PDP, but I evolved a political party so that I would have a podium to talk to Nigerians about the future of our country, not for political office. Many of these people whose names are being touted today were neophytes when I ran for president in 2003. The concept of national leadership has not even registered in the metrics of their political thoughts. If I had joined PDP or any other party at that time, I would have been a chieftain by now, but I wasn’t looking for a career, I was looking for a solution for a nation that was gradually disintegrating. That is why I have sat back, prayed about it and came out with a solution. Thirdly, I have paid my dues, denominated in resilience and tenacity; I’m a known face. I’m successful at what I do and Nigerians need someone who has not been a part of this system, who has that compassion and intellectual capacity and understands the pain of the people. I have never been drawn into the vortex of partisan politics, and that is why I believe that I can handle the job.
Now if Nigerians, the legislators and the presidency don’t buy into this your proposal, what does it portend for the country?
It will bring disaster, catastrophe, calamity and tragedy. You can see where we are headed; the indicators are very clear that if we do not do something now while we have the time, this nation will break into fragments. It could even lead to war because there is so much anger, there is so much resentment. The politicians have divided us into ethnicity and religion. That is why we must do something at this point in time. Only a credible leader can have the kind of support from Nigerian people for this kind of project because they themselves know what is going on. Things are so bad. I have been a pastor for about 35 years, and I work with people and I know the pain, their anguish, the resentment that is growing in the polity; we must do something to assuage the situation. Those who know Chris Okotie know that I only stand on the truth. I believe that as I begin to expatiate and elucidate this concept, our people will listen because they know that is the only way forward. If not we are back to square one. We don’t need a regime change; we need a system change. Nigeria must change its system of operation. That is the only way we can have peace, unity and prosperity.
You ran for president three times and failed. With this interim government proposal, people would ask, aren’t you trying to get political power now through the backdoor?
It’s such a jejune ‘infantility’; that is such a political naivety. If Buhari had run on the platform of Fresh Democratic Party, would he have won an election? No. If former President Olusegun Obasanjo had run on the platform of Justice Party, would he have won the election? No. If former President Goodluck Jonathan had run on the platform of Fresh Democratic Party, would he have won? No, because they understand that politics is a game of numbers. If I wanted a political career, I would have become a member of the dominant parties. Anybody who is making that kind of statement, as far as I’m concerned, is totally illogical. Some people cannot decipher the Chris Okotie enigma and sometimes they articulate incoherent inconsistency because it is not logical. You cannot beat PDP on a platform of a political party that does not have structures. I didn’t go into politics for a political career; I went into politics to teach, to demonstrate to the people that it is possible to be patriotic, to have a nation that understands nationalistic sentiments. That is why I didn’t join those parties. So anybody who makes that kind of statement is naïve. Why are they all struggling to be the flag bearers of APC and PDP? It is for obvious reasons that in today’s politics people don’t vote for personalities, but they vote for parties.
Give us a glimpse of this interim government arrangement?
We are going to offer the world a new concept of democracy, which is people-oriented, which is a mechanical externalisation of the true definition of that concept. When the Greek called it democracy, they were speaking from two words: Demos – people and Cratus – invisible power. That is, when you look at governance, what you see is people and their power. But in Nigeria what you see is the party and that is not democracy. What we are going to do is to bring back the true definition of democracy by giving power to the people. The only way you could do that is to eliminate the legislature. Once we put that into practice, other parts of the world would begin to adopt it. If you take a look at the world today, politics is dominated by the rich. The party concept of politics was introduced by rich men to hoodwink the people into thinking that they were involved in the democratic process. What I’m proposing will demystify this and bring democracy back to the people.
By the time this your concept is applied, what system of government do you call it – presidential, parliamentary?
I call it Aboriginal Democracy because it goes back to the roots. This is government from the people for the people with the people. It will be a new concept completely; you have an executive, the judiciary and the people. If you want to become part of the lawmaking process, you join your union or association, but if you want to run for an office you don’t need to join a political party, you just go by the mechanism that would be set up, maybe by the Ministry of Justice or Internal Affairs. If you qualify, your name will be put into a box and a draw is organised. You don’t need to campaign.