***‘How Jimi Agbaje, Oby Ezekwesili, Niyi Adebayo couldn’t make presidential running mate’
***Says Tinubu proposed alliance with Buhari as far back as 2011
***On presidency: My day will come like Joe Biden’s
By Dapo Akinrefon
You have an intimate relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari…
President Muhammadu Buhari’s destiny and my destiny kissed on October 1, 1984. We had not met at the time. I had just been fired at work, two months before my wedding. I was fired on September 24, 1984.
I got married on November 24, 1984. I was so aggrieved that two months before my wedding, I was fired for confronting my boss that he was a member of an occult group.
What would I do? I went to church and my pastor, Pastor E.A. Adeboye, asked me to start my own chamber. I told him that it was not possible because of Private Practice Decree which said you must have spent five years as an apprentice before you could start.
I had not fulfilled that. But he told me to go and pray about it. I went to pray about it and God told me to start my own chamber on October 1.
I said God and Adeboye missed it because they both don’t know the law of the land. But I have learned to obey God. I asked my best man when I got married, Femi Fatunbi, to come and pray with me.
We prayed overnight from September 30-October 1. But when we woke up, we were watching television and General Buhari came on the television to say that the Private Practice Decree had been abrogated.
I prayed for him as if I had met him before. He was eventually overthrown and our path never crossed again.
I came into the Ministry and one of those who had attended my Sunday School in Baptist Church where I gave my life to Christ, Tokunbo Afikuyomi, was the person who brought Buhari to my office.
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Buhari was the ANPP presidential candidate when they came. He said Buhari was meeting with pastors so that they will not put the toga of an Islamic fundamentalist on him.
I took him (Buhari) to my inner office and said to him that the spirit of God impressed on me that he wouldn’t win the presidency in 2007, but if he kept on trying, he would win. He left and our path didn’t cross again.
How did you now emerge as his running mate in the 2011 presidential election?
One thing led to another and God showed me some revelations that led to the founding of Save Nigeria Group, SNG.
The day that I led a march in Abuja, Professor Wole Soyinka, stood to my right, Femi Falana to my left, with my two daughters behind me, President Buhari was coming from the other end in an SUV, with three others, and they were going to the Senate.
They jointly signed a letter that the Senate should follow the Constitution. He saw me and said is that not Pastor Tunde Bakare?
President Buhari later said it was that day he made up his mind that I will be his running mate. At SNG, we engaged the political class. We had engaged former President Goodluck Jonathan.
We had engaged Atiku Abubakar. We engaged him (Buhari) also and told him ‘you lost elections in 2003, 2007, and you are about to lose in 2011 because there was no balance of terror’ and I didn’t mean violence.
We said to him that ‘you don’t really have that inroad to the South-West. The way Nigeria is structured, you cannot win the presidential election except there is a handshake between the North and the South’.
I was in Spain when the call came that I should get them a vice-presidential candidate. I was so excited and I gave them Jimi Agbaje.
I took him to Abuja to meet with them and they met a couple of times, but something happened, they dropped him. They called me again and I went to Pastor Adeboye to give me Oby Ezekwesili.
I called her to run with President Buhari, she refused. But Pastor Adeboye told me he (Buhari) would need a strong Christian to be his running mate.
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I said to him that Oby was strong too. He said no, adding that she must not leave certainty for uncertainty. She was working at the World Bank then.
So, I sent for the current Minister of Trade and Industry, Niyi Adebayo, that I will like him to take this opportunity.
Before this time, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, had sent Lai Mohammed to me that I should persuade Buhari to run on the platform of Action Congress, AC, before it became Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN.
But when we went to meet Buhari we asked who will be his running mate, he said the greatest grassroots mobiliser in the South-West.
I said I can’t broker a Muslim-Muslim ticket, so we left that. I sent Ife Oyedele to go to the current Vice-President. I asked him to tell Osinbajo that he should run with Buhari in 2011.
When all that failed, those I assembled to work with me as arrowheads, Donald Duke, El-Rufai, Oby Ezekwesili, Jimi Lawal, Fola Adeola, and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, were determined to bring good governance to our nation, not just activism.
We were meeting regularly but we ended the meeting because we had no candidate. On January 15, 2011, at 12 noon, my phone rang, it was President Buhari.
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He said, Pastor, I have prayed the way I know how to pray, and I want you to pray also. I want you to be my running mate. I said to him, ‘thank you but no thanks because I had given my words to those arrowheads, those I mentioned, that I will never seek an elective office or join a political party’.
He said I should pray about it and call him in seven hours, but I didn’t call him. I called Pastor Adeboye and informed him. He said that was it and that he already said Buhari needs a strong Christian.
He said I am the man and I must go there. I consulted and agreed on the last day to become his running mate. Of course, we didn’t win the election.
Are you still interested in becoming President of Nigeria?
There is something called destiny. I am not one to hide under the umbrella of one finger and make ambition looks like vision. I do not camouflage.
It’s not a matter of life and death, but you can write it down, as the Lord lives, and as I am given the opportunity, the day will come like Joe Biden, I will be the President of Nigeria.
What is your take on moves to regulate social media in Nigeria?
There is no free freedom anywhere in the world. There must be freedom with boundaries. I am not saying curtail them or we can’t use social media in Nigeria, but there is no nation where there are no balances.
Look at the picture of a drama that was staged somewhere else that was used to say soldiers have killed protesters. Those things can create troubles. But we cannot be draconian.
We are not going back to Decree 4. We must do things decently and orderly, listen to the people and formulate laws that will be beneficial to all of us.
Vanguard News Nigeria
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