Sep 12, 2013

Chris Okotie for President

Chris Okotie: Source:The Nigerian Oracle
If you were born after the Nigerian music storm of the 1980s, you will know Tuface, D’banj and P-Square but not Chris Okotie. A former Nigeria pop music star and divorcee, Christ Okotie is the founder and pastor of the Household of God International Ministries, Lagos Nigeria.

Chris Okotie stomp the consciousness of Nigerians in 1980 with his all-conquering song, I Need Someone, from an album of the same title. The prominence of his music was so strong that it defined the Nigerian urban life of the 80s; you play it and travel back to see how life was at the time. He remained conspicuous for about half a decade and, then, went behind the veils.

Sometimes while I watched the screen of a huge TV of two basic colors in the 90s, there he was, Chris Okotie with his jerry curls,  seated on a bed and dramatizing his encounter with God. He heard God’s voice while in his bedroom. The voice told him: “sit down I want to talk to you!” That was the encounter that transformed him into a minister of the Word, leading to his establishment of the Household of God Ministries International.

“Politics is a dirty game,” goes the saying. For a long time, in Nigeria, however, only the military played the dirty game. This is why many Nigerians remained naïve of the complex nature of politics. When Reverend Moses Adasu joined politics to become the Governor of Benue State during the third Republic, it was weird to many Nigerians – it is a dirty game, unbefitting of a pastor … a man of God! Then, in 1999, the military decided to drive off the filthy path of politics, leaving it to the civilians. As 2003 approached, the rhythm of political campaign started building. One of the emerging political parties was the Justice Party, fielding a former musician, dancer and a pastor, Chris Okotie, as a Presidential candidate. Since our political inexperience taught us that politics is never for the men of God, it made Okotie’s declaration extremely controversial in the eyes of Nigerians. His argument remained Mathew 5:19: “In the same way, let your good deed shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

The convincing argument became a strong demonstration that Nigerian democracy, if allowed to continue, will eventually grow from nascent to full maturity (we just hope that the maturity will not take too long; we are still waiting).  Uncle Shege better known as Olusegun Obasanjo won the race, Mohammadu Buhari claimed he actually won the election but was robbed, Okotie and the rest accepted the outcome. We were, however, left wondering what Okotie set out to achieve; his campaign was designed to lack an overcoming force of speed. This was in 2003.

In 2007, I walked in the Gyel neighborhood of Jos-South and beheld a glamorous Rhinoceros (Hummer) Jeep heading in the direction of the “palace” of the late Wazirin Jos, Da D. B. Zang. The next morning, I learnt that Okotie drove in that jeep that was worth more than N25 million at the time.
D. B. Zang was, at a point, the richest man in Plateau State (that also included Nassarawa State). There were times when he single-handedly financed the activities of the Plateau State branch of the Nigerian People’s Party, NPP, which ruled Plateau State, under Solomon Lar between 1979 and 1984. The trajectory of his life made him a vocal political figure as a result. The aim of OKotie’s visit was to seek for political support in the journey towards 2007 when there will be new elections.

I had persuaded Adams, my brother, to vote Buhari as I did not like the way late Umar Musa Yar’adua was bundled into the race, unprepared. When Buhari came to Jos for his political campaign, his followers sharpened cutlasses along the Bukuru Expressway and chanted religious slogans. Adams was disenchanted and voted Okotie.

During the visit to Jos, Okotie was hosted by the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, Jos. Adams watched and was astonished by the way Okotie answered questions flung at him. He came to the conclusion that Okotie is the type of man he would have wanted as Nigeria’s President. He used his vote to make a statement, certain that Okotie will not win. Had Adams told me this, prior to the election, I would have acted likewise.

In 2002 as the campaign for the presidential elections gains force, I was still in Port Harcourt. An oil worker and fellow tribesman, Sunny Timeh, perceived Okotie’s expression of interest in the Presidency as an insult to Nigerians. According to him: “how can someone declare he wants to become Nigeria’s President after wearing jerry curls, tying a cotton band around his waist and dancing with a petty guitar?” I also listened to a friend of mine joked about Okotie’s presidential campaign, years later. According to this friend, the campaign poster of Okotie and his female running-mate actually looked like a wedding poster. The “cocoonus” north of Nigeria see Okotie as a man who is too western in lifestyle and will not embrace their aspirations as a result. They are also of the feeling that a man like Okotie is the type that will throw a disco party in the state house in the event of becoming a president, an outrage. To them it is like a throwing a party in a hallowed temple.

I have often thought that a political revolution must involve an apocalypse (!). The initial stages of The Arab Spring however taught me otherwise. As we have seen in Syria, even a violent approach has failed to bring about that desperately-desired political change. The change that can bring about a revolution in Nigeria is that of the mind, a change that will let us understand what we truly need, a change that makes us understand that the president we need must not wear a fluttering traditional agbada with a cap to fit and chant banal political slogans.

Perhaps Sunny has been right, to a certain degree. Okotie does not help his political ambition, by insisting on the ultimate as a starter. Yar’adua rose from lecturer to governor and, ultimately, to president. Goodluck Jonathan went through a very similar path. Okotie should have aimed at something comparatively modest such a governor, senator or aspire for a cabinet ministerial position and use it to exemplify what he can do. I don’t want to see his insistence on the ultimate as a show of poisonous hubris, often administered by the campuses of universities; he is humble and philanthropic with emphasis on apache kids.

Our inability, as voters, to look around to see what goes on elsewhere shows that we could be the problem of our own country and not the leadership, that what goes on at the leadership ranks is normal: a stage that many nations had passed through, albeit briefly as they had scrupulously rational and ruthless electorates. We need not look too far to see instance of individuals who came from modest backgrounds to become leaders of their own nations. Recently, Nicholas Maduro became the President of Venezuela after Hugo Chaves, his boss, died of cancer. Maduro was a bus driver. Also recently, was the election of Michel Martelly to become the Prime Minister of Haiti. Like Okotie, he was a musician. Lula Da Silva, who, a few years back, ended his second term as Brazil’s President, oversaw the country’s most remarkable period of development, a period during which it showed one of the world’s fasted growth rates alongside other nations with which they collectively came to be known as the BRICS nations. Lula was, at one time, a shoe-shine boy. Andry Rajeolina is Madagascar’s leader. He was a disc jockey (or DJ, in case disc jockey sounds too advanced).


 If Okotie’s music past was an imperfection, what about his status as an attorney … as a pastor? For those who consider music playing a immoral, what about the religious admonition that teaches us to forgive sinners who have confessed their sins. We must remove the log in our eyes to see the tiny specs in the eyes of others. What we have always wanted, desperately, has always been here with us. Grow up Nigerians.  

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