A Dream Sculpted From The Pulpit

by Osita Okoroafor

“When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President; I’m beginning to believe”
– Clarence Darrow

Kris Okotie, former button seller, lawyer, former musician and Pastor wants to be President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Did I hear a guffaw? (By jove!!! Control your bad mouth). I am pretty sure that President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva Brazil’s former shoeshine boy and former union leader now first leftist president (with all accoutrements of power) would have elicited same reaction when he first announced his lofty dreams.

To compare our Reverend Kris Okotie with Brazil’s Lula could be interesting and I am tempted to attempt this: Both men have clearly demonstrated abilities to dream of the near impossible. One has given flesh to his dream; the other has not (just yet). One nursed his street dreams through aching years of seeing his wretched reflection on the tanned leather of priviledged customers’ shoes, then rose through the ranks of brawny union brawls and endured years of successive humiliating defeats at the polls to actualise his quest. The other had similar street dreams, became a lawyer, swooned and crooned in our ears (sweetly lyrically though) for years and still spotting his trademark slick jerry curls announced his calling to the robe (I bet you with the laughing disease must have chortled then), and took to this calling and acquitted himself excellently.

However there are points of divergence: One, despite no divine instruction to seek his nation’s coveted number one seat, has done so through persistence, and the popularity and appeal of the hitherto buried Socialist party and its manifesto. The other claims a divine mandate and has sworn to carry it out on any platform that affords him its ticket.

Reverend Okotie’s ambition is proper. It is well within his constitutional rights as a law-abiding citizen to aspire for the nation’s over-coveted “hot” seat. He believes his ambition is a divine inspiration (who has ever claimed his presidential ambition is from the devil? you might ask). That Reverend Okotie has implicit belief in his divine mandate is not in doubt (and you are best advised not to try and dissuade him or you might be cursed, or worse be called The Antichrist). You are further advised to ignore the myriad variables that are likely to raise a million probabilities against the feasibility of this quest in the present democratic dispensation (or you will have a headache).

As a matter of fact I must ask if Reverend Okotie why not President Okotie? Despite criticisms and guffaws from sceptics Reverend Okotie has managed a very successful ministry. When placed alongside other frontrunners in the race for the presidency he has a most attractive mien. He is charismatic and charming. He lacks a penchant for president Obasanjo’s curious habit of clearing his throat intermittently any time he speaks on national issues. He is more colourful than bland General Buhari and has not Christianised his campaign. Unlike General Ike Nwachukwu he does not pander to ethnic sentiments and does not dance to its jingoists. He best represents the sentimental “generational change” slogan bandied by National Democratic Party (NDP). He is attractive without appearing cosmetic quite unlike Senator Jim Nwobodo. He does not struggle for words to make his points on National issues. Instead he commands an impeccable armada of jaw-breaking vocabulary to score his points. Unlike Chief Ojukwu he is not a feared warrior (except maybe for Christ) and does not serve as reminder of the most painful period in our national history.

In view of these and other sterling qualities of Reverend Okotie’s I state that it is no crime to be different. However, the crime therein is that ‘to be different’ habours two extremities: to be unique or to be weird. You are revered for the one and reviled for the other. Here is the crime in being ‘a Joseph’. If Reverend Okotie becomes President Okotie he will be unique, like Lula he will be revered for his feat, if not he will be weird for trumpeting his lofty dream as a divine mandate. I ask again; is Reverend Okotie a Lula?

Lula demonstrated conviction in his cause. Despite several unsuccessful shots at the presidency he kept faith with his party and its ideology. He understood politics as a game of ideology and numbers. He had a political soul thus he understood that every good ideology would be bought eventually. He knew that he must show unflinching faith in his ideology and by so doing get a majority of the electorate to believe it too. He knew that even the gates of hell could not come against an idea (or in this case ideology) whose time has come. Thus he tried, failed, learnt his lessons, won more believers and tried again. Ditto Abe Lincoln.

Every astute politician understands politics as a game of numbers. Therein lies the voice of God trumpeted by Pastor Okotie. Any politician with a political soul knows that the voice of the people is the voice of God. Therefore I ask: whither pastor Okotie’s political soul? NO!!! Not with IBB silly!!! That’s just the rumour mill working over time – trying to lend the boogieman of Nigeria’s politics the awesome persona, which he craves but is fast eroding. I shall rephrase my question: has Reverend Okotie demonstrated his possession of a political soul?

It is trite that Nigerian politicians are politically soulless. You must have heard of mass “decampees” (a term borrowed from Nigeria’s political dictionary) and the furore created in Nigeria’s political landscape by carpet crossing politicians. It is made in Naija that the traffic of mass decampment is driven by a bunch of Ali Baba wannabes swinging from one carpet to the other (be it linoleum carpet or Arabian Rug) in so far the carpet is flying towards a political post and ultimately the national treasury.

I dare say Reverend Okotie has not demonstrated possession of such political soul to guarantee the health of his young political life. He need not be caught in the traffic of the soulless lot. He jumped ship immediately he lost the NDP’s presidential ticket and the only reason he had was that: God has told him he will be president and as such he must seek a platform that would enable him realise this goal. This is testimony to acute political soulnessness and is most” un-Lulalike”.

Reverend Okotie seems to have found justice with the Justice Party. Whereabouts the ideology he championed as a presidential aspirant under the umbrella of NDP (the party he jettisoned for ignoring the voice of God, and has since stopped believing in?) What ideology does he preach under the justice party?

Such political fickleness is not the fairy godmother of lofty political dreams. Commitment to ideology is the magic wand that will grant Reverend Okotie his august wish. Any other cause is highly inimical to his mere breath of a political life. Ideology defines the politician and his near uncompromising adherence to its tenets (ask Senator Storm Thurmond) creates his legend. Such a politician should also be attuned with the political airwaves to infer whichever way the political wind strolls. This would ensure his ideology becomes popular and accepted. He is wise who shapes his ideology to accommodate the popular demand.

Reverend Okotie possesses pleasant qualities as noted above, but it is the “Lulalike” political soul that makes kings out of mere men. It is my fervent wish that while Reverend Okotie grows his political teeth he would internalize these facts. Maybe then we too will hear and recognize the voice of God, because He speaks through us and we for Him.

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