Pastor Chirs Okotie, a former musician is the Head Pastor, Household of God’s Church, Lagos. In 2002, he told Nigerians that God told him he would be the president in 2003. Using his Fresh Party, platform, he tried and failed in 2003 and 2007. Fifteen years after, Okotie is back on the political scene with the theory of interim government. He told GEOFFREY EKENNA and CHINYERE ABIAZIEM that Nigeria has lost track of the true meaning of democracy
In 2002, you said God told you that you were going to be Nigeria’s president in 2003. You contested for the seat of the president under Fresh Party, it did not materialize. You contested for it again in 2007. It is surprising that almost close to 20 years after, you have awoken to it again. What exactly has changed?
The mandate is still the same. God does not change his counsel; it is immutable. But there is a concept that I call a tactical political catalases which is just simply the fact that sometimes it’s expedient to retreat from the arena of conflict.
This hibernation will enable you to reassess methodology, strategy and may re-emerge, recruited, renewed and rejuvenated. When God begins a work, it’s usually spread over time.
There’s a beginning and usually, we’ll say there’s a call; there’s the preparation and there’s the separation. So, that’s the same thing. We’re still on the subject of the emancipation of Nigerians.
You are not going under a political party or are you?
No! I do not belong to a political party at the moment. I do not believe in partisan politics. I never believed in it.
But you had Fresh Party?
Yes! I did because that was the constitution. You cannot participate in political activities if you do not identify with a political party.
The concept of a political party is not bad in itself. It’s just the way it’s interpreted. Okay. So, our democracy has been hijacked completely.
By elitism, mysticism and Satanism. The definition of democracy as it is known today is a completely different experience because democracy is supposed to be the government of the people by the people for the people.
But what we have today is the government of the party by the party for the party. It’s ‘partysaniam’ and that’s why Nigeria has come to where it is now. That was why I said last Sunday that it is time for an interim government, so we can fix things before the nation implodes.
How do you expect this interim government to be midwifed and how is it going to work?
Democracy, governance is based on the will of the people. Whether you are practising the presidential system, whichever system? It is very obvious now that the presidential system that we are operating is faulty. It has degenerated to something that is entirely a caricature of its original concept. It has polarized this nation, balkanize our society, fractured people and we must do something about it.
That is why it has become necessary to halt this process, so that we can fix whatever problems we have before we can proceed. I have said, proceeding with this election cycle as far as I am concerned, is a journey in futility. It is like seeking to or striving to apprehend the transcend mirage. It will never work, and society is almost completely destroyed.
So, what I’m proposing is that we change the system, and we can’t do that if we don’t have an interim government. So, I have begun a conversation nationwide, galvanizing Nigerians into a conversation on how we can transition from this regime into an interim government.
So, the only way we can do it is to send a transcript of these conversations to the President of the National Assembly; they enact the necessary laws and suspend this entire process. So, we can take Nigeria into a theatre and do the necessary surgery. So it is possible because we still have the House of Assembly.
We still have the president. The necessary laws can be put in place and the transition can take place. I believe that President Buhari has the capacity to effect any changes and that this could be his greatest legacy.
Within the remaining eight months of his tenure…
How is that possible? How is he going to do it as presidential candidates have been nominated by parties with campaigns starting in August. Are we going to halt everything to plan for this interim government?
Yes. If you have a medical condition and you recognize that it is fatal. You’re not going to allow the climatic circumstances to determine whether you’re going to receive treatment or not. What is before us is tantamount to the extinction of our nation. It is more important than any personal ambition or any partisan considerations.
So, we must as a matter of duty, halt this process and fix Nigeria first before proceeding. The constitution needs to be fixed; our federalism needs to be fixed. The whole concept of democracy that we are practising today is alien to that definition.
So, we must come back to true democracy and that’s why I’m advocating what I call aboriginal democracy as the mechanical instrumentality for the crystallization of the Nigeria of our dreams. There’s no other way.
What is this aboriginal democracy like and what exactly in your thoughts could be described as true democracy in Nigeria?
Right now, we don’t have true democracy. We have a fatalistic mimic of that concept. This is what I described to you as ‘partysanism’ where it is government of the party by the party for the party. That’s what the definition of democracy has been parochialised. So, true democracy has to do with people.
The Greek introduced that word. The Greek word is actually Democratia and is a compound word which comes from the compound word demos which is people and the word Kratos, which is a power.
There are many words that translate power in the Greek, but they choose the word Kratos, you have the word exousia, which is authority. You have the word Dunamis which is power, but they chose the word Kratos because Kratos is the visible power. So, democracy is supposed to be the visible power of the people in government but we don’t have that.
What we have is an aberration?
Aboriginal democracy, giving the government back to the people and I define it as government, from the people, for the people and with the people. One of the ways we can do that is to eliminate the legislature.
If we eliminate the legislature, how are we going to get to the people since the legislature represents the people?
That’s what it’s supposed to be. Aboriginal democracy proposes a concept where the people are no longer represented but they represent themselves. In the legislature, what they do is that they gather together in that place and form committees. Through the committees, they begin to appraise the circumstances in the nation. What I’m saying is that it’s totally unnecessary.
Our people there is an intrinsic movement within the human society to represent itself. For instance, instead of having a committee on law in Abuja, you have the Nigerian Bar Association already. You have a committee on health. You have the Nigerian Medical Association already. These are voluntary organizations. The lawyers binding together and doctors banding together, market women banding together in what I call the concept of gregarious socialization.
They have an organic nexus by way of endeavour and enterprise. So, they form that union and they have been here longer than political parties. They are in touch with the realities on ground. See, the Nigerian Bar Association was founded in 1933 before any political party.The Nigerian Union of Teachers was founded in 1931 before any political party. The Nigerian Medical Association was founded in 1951. Even the Academic Staff Union of Universities was founded in 1978.
These are channels within the polity, within the Nigerian society, people who have gathered together to investigate the areas of their specialization; their own firmament and how they can better our society. I am saying instead of the huge expenditure on people representing other people, they can represent themselves as volunteer organizations and you can empower them in the constitution, so that they have the capacity to begin the process of legislation in those particular areas of specialization.
You cannot ask a representative from Africa to come and talk to you about issues that are affecting people in Lagos, Ibadan, Kaduna particularly in specialized areas. You need the people who are in that areas who understand what the experiences are. They can represent themselves and if we give them the capacity to be part of the formulation of legislation.
All the expenditure and all the kinds of people that populate the House of Assembly will be a thing of the past. That’s just the beginning. In major democracies of the world, they have the legislature. What is wrong with ours? Is it the style in which we are practising democracy? Maybe or Maybe not. We have not developed a political conscience that can accommodate that tripartite system of governance particularly in the presidential system.
We must understand that the fact that America has succeeded with it doesn’t mean Nigeria would. If America taught that the Britain was good for them, they would have adopted the British system.
But they didn’t. They didn’t follow that though they came out of the British society. They recognize their own antecedents. They recognize their own cultural sensibilities and decided to create a system that would enable them exercise the kind of political responsibility that was necessary at the time. We cannot keep imitating. First, we tried the British system. Now, we’re doing the Presidential. I believe that before we imbibed the concepts of imperialism in politics, we had leadership in this country.
That’s where we’re going back to back to our roots to look at those things that are in line with our cultural, historical system, so we can understand what it is that is necessary for the Nigerian society. We cannot operate this presidential system. The indicators are very clear that we have failed woefully. Our society is almost decimated.
Our national psyche is relegated, is decimated, is fractured, because we’re trying to practice an alien system that is contrary to our cultural sensibilities. So, we must as intellectual people, as the people who understand history, evolve our system. That is what I’m saying that if you do that, then politics will no longer be big business.
It would just be service because then you don’t need legislators. You don’t need ministers and you don’t need commissioners. All these are political appointees, we don’t need them.
The people can organize themselves, give them the capacity to do so and it will work out. I have planned based on all of these things that I have been studying over the years for the salvation of our nation.
Can you give insight to some of your plans?
That’s what I’m saying. Number one is to return legislation to the people. Redefine democracy, as government, from the people, for the people and with the people. Eliminate political parties, because we don’t need political parties to practice democracy. We don’t. Democracy requires public assent.
The concept of political parties was engendered by the rich people, so that they can continue to suppress the poor. If you look at that Nigerian experience today, politics is for the rich, is for oligarchs, the plutocrats and they invented political parties because it suits them all over the world. But I’m saying we don’t need political parties.
If we have a situation where democracy goes back to the people, whoever wants to vie for a position if that position is available, we can do it by what I call the democratic box. Just like what they do with football. How do they pair the teams? You put them into a pot, people come and draw out and say Nigeria is going to play against Brazil and there is no argument. That is democracy because there’s assent to it. We can do the same here.
That way, you are not going to have godfatherism, you’re not going to have political parties dictating to the Nigeria people what they must do, what they must not do and imposing candidates on them.
Have you heard of cold and hot balls during such draws you talked about because there could be rigging?
There is no situation on earth that is perfect, where you will not have any aberrations. It is all based on supervision. People don’t do what you expect but do what you inspect and the transparency of that process is what is going to determine its authenticity.
But I’m saying that it is far cheaper, it is far more democratic than any of the things that we have practiced so far. So, that if you, for instance wanted to become something, you start from your local government. If you already have the necessary qualifications. In that way, your name and that of others are put in a box where people, not politicians come and draw. Whoever comes out, that’s it.
For instance, talking about the presidency, you get 36 names. You put them in a box and you get a name right there. That is what our country can accommodate now. Everything else has led to the destruction of our economy. Look at where we are economically.
It’s an embarrassment. It has isolated Nigeria people from the process of governance. It has brought all kinds of juggernauts. We don’t have a say any more. Our society is totally polarised. That is why we must do something now even if it’s ad-hoc to stem this profligacy. If not we are looking at something catastrophic in the future.
We need to fix things temporarily and that’s what we need because if we don’t do that, the consequences will be dire. So, I think we are at that point now that Nigerians know that the way forward is not this election that is before us. It is not at all.
What are you looking at fixing? Is it the general insecurity in the country? Is it the economy or the division all over the country? What exactly?
You see, these are symptoms. Our methodology has been approaching the situation in a symptomatic manner but there’s a pathology to it. What is the reason for all of these aberrations? The system itself.
What I’m trying to do is change the presidential system by taking power from legislature, giving it back to Nigerians. Once you give power back to Nigerians, you solve the basic problem of leadership in our country. Then Nigerians will tell you exactly how they want to relate with each other.
What kind of a federalist sys- tem do we have? We’re talking about centrifugal forces, centripetal forces different forces. Then, we begin to understand how they are going to be manipulated. Once you have already given the power back to the people, and they know that they are in charge of their destiny, then we can fix that. The question of insecurity will not even arise because the people of Nigeria will tell you exactly how they want to be protected.
They will tell you how that is going to work but because we have a system of governance, that is so alienated from the people, you have that gap that has created the morbidity, fear in the hearts of the Nigerian people. We will bridge that gap. My father didn’t have much but he took care of his family.
He didn’t have to go to school of economics but he took care because he had the responsibility to do it without any interference from the outside.
That’s what we’re saying. Allow the people of Nigeria to take care of themselves within the confines of the constitution. Then, you will solve the problem of restructuring because they themselves will tell you how they need to be important to one another.
What if they say they want to go their separate ways?
They will only say that if you do not understand the need for the kind of association that will augur well for any federating state. I always tell people that people didn’t wake up overnight and say ‘we don’t want to be a part of Nigeria’ because they know the advantages of belonging to a great nation.
But when the people are marginalized because you have a government that is insensitive and they begin to feel a sense of insecurity, then they will want to maybe extricate themselves from that way. But, I believe that means you take things back to the people and they understand that each federating unit is unique. The uniqueness of each federating unit augments its simplicity.
It’s a simplistic utility that is unifying power. See, so Anambra brings the rice, Imo brings the oil, Lagos brings the tomatoes and we bring all these ingredients and we synthesize the soup right there in the part of the federation and we know that we need one another. I think it’s the leadership that has balkanized us.
This concentric arrangement of the WAZOBIA alliances just brought the separation. We have to get rid of that and that’s what I’m proposing that all of these four lines we must fix in an interim government because the people will be involved in this process and I am sure that it will be easy to resolve.
So, let us begin first by putting this process- this presidential system in abeyance and let’s get back to a place where we can find ourselves again and begin that association in a Nigerian brotherhood that our political ancestors gave to us. I think that’s the way to go.
Are you seeing this as a failure of the PDP and APC since 1999?
There’s no doubt about that; the parties have contributed to the dilemma that we face today. PDP’s umbrella, has undergone a systematic perforation and discoloration. In fact, it has become hazardous to those who seek to recline under a shadow. As for the APC, welding their broom, which is supposed to be emblematic of sanitization. They have swept and swept themselves into a place of confusion and ambivalence. In any case, the broom is not a clinical prophylactic.
It doesn’t prevent disease. It might clean the place but it cannot prevent infection and so we are seeing the same thing that what they were trying to sweep has infected them. Now corruption has become pervasive.
You know, and our society has been so stratified that corrupt corporate corruption has been elevated to an institution of Byzantine complexity. So both parties and all the parties who have been there tributaries have contributed to where we are today. That’s why I’m saying that they have redefined democracy as government of the party, for the party and by the party, and that’s an aberration.
Comparatively in the past seven years of APC, we seem to run into a deeper hole than we did under PDP?
I don’t want to criticize because I am here to bring the solution. So, I don’t want to be seen to be partisan in my thinking. What I’m saying is, the entire party system itself has failed and I’m not going to point fingers at this person or that person, so that I’m not guilty of what you call the fallacy of ad hominem.
I don’t want to say this one did this. What I’m looking at is the fact that the entire system has completely collapsed. That ‘partysanism’ has collapsed whether it’s from PDP or APC. It is the collective responsibility of political parties and they have failed this nation.
So, what you think will solve our problems is an interim government?
Yeah! It is the beginning of reassessing ourselves as a people. It is reappraising the parameters that we have defined for ourselves within our parameter. It is embracing the Nigeria brotherhood. It is understanding that we have a common destiny.
To that extent, religion and ethnicity cannot be part of the process because it is the politicians, who have divided us by the sentimentality of religion and ethnicity. But when we come together as a people, we will recognize that we rise above these to an altitude where all these cleavages diminish to mere superficial acceleration in the terrain of national integration.
It will become a natural process for all of us because there’s brotherhood stronger than partisan politics and partisan affiliation. The political parties have divided us but they have failed and that is why we must embrace this government because that’s the only solution we have. There is no other way forward.
As a Pastor, you don’t believe religion should appear in our national structure?
I do not think it’s necessary. Religions create a moralistic environment for the actors and those who claim to be in positions of leadership, where they bring their morality as an asset to governance, but we must never at any point in time identify Nigeria with a religion because Nigeria is not a theocratic state. It is a secular state and religion must remain personal.
But because some of these political actors have had no manifesto, they’ve had no political problems. They have degenerated to things like ethnicity, religion. So, that they can put the people into thinking that they can provide leadership on the basis of these cleavages and I disagree with them.