By Bolaji O Akinyemi
It was late Chief Adedibu who said if you don’t want to know who befriended your mother before she married your father, don’t join politics!For this and other related reasons Christians in Nigeria have stayed off politics for so long, the dirt associated with the practice of politics in Nigeria will scare even an angel. Of particular concern to persons with penchant for civility are the mudslingers who hang around political corridors looking for who to smear. It is not out of place that our respected Pastor Tunde Bakare (PTB) whose fraternity with President Muhammadu Buhari is of public knowledge, will be dragged in the mud and mucky waters of politics.
Bakare’s bond and brotherhood with Buhari dates back to 2010 when he was picked as his running mate. Though a Pastor, his support for the ideology for which Buhari is a demi god to the fundamentalists should be of concern to every kingdom minded christian. The word “Haram” gained a new usage in Nigeria lexicon with the Boko Haram declaration of Western education as Haram, when Bakare stood with Buhari on the campaign ground in Maiduguri, and declared like Boko Haram did against the Nigeria state, PDP Haram!
The bond between Buhari and Bakare seems to transcend the “Haram” Ideology into financial principle and practice. Between of 2015 and 2017 just two years into Buhari’s presidency our debt has grown by 5.4 trillion naira. Our debt profile is so blown that we are just practically able to service the loan without any immediate plan to pay back, the cost of SERVICING our debt in the 2022 budget is projected for 3.9 trillion naira. This should be worrisome to everyone patriotic Nigerian at home and in diaspora, sincere friends of our nation should equally be bothered by this plunge into the ocean of debt that the country is made to be swimming in.
The President of a country is the Chief Executive, he/she must be business wise, and financially informed to make decisions that will improve the economy to create growth and development. Against this background how wise the choice of Buhari was since 2015 is in our debt book to see and economic performance to measure.
The news about Pastor Bakare’s Citadel Global Community Church is nothing special, except for the fact that he is not a regular Nigerian pastor, he is aspiring to succeed Buhari. The news is therefore of interest to Nigerians because we need a President that will provide leadership for a debt burdened nation, to ease our economic misery post Buhari presidency. That Pastor Bakare will walk the leadership foot steps of Buhari if given the opportunity to be President is very certain. Beyond his personal prophecy that Buhari is number 15 and he is number 16. Financial prudence of the pastor of former Latter Rain Assembly now Citadel Global Church is of essence. Latter Rain Assembly had a befitting property at Akilo Road in Ogba, it was from there that he became the toast of President Mohammadu Buhari and the Nigerian public, through his many broadcast on the state of the nation!
Growth and development are integral parts of the challenges of leadership. It is expected that Leaders will prove their mettle by the ability to initiate growth and trigger development, but these must be well thought out and carefully implemented to avoid leading their organization into financial Crisis. It is not strange to have churches apply for loan and be corporately responsible to pay back. It must however be stated and noted that church leaders such as Bishop David Oyedepo have set a new goodly and godly standard for church operations in Nigeria and beyond in that none of their projects is driven with loan!
Though, there is nothing wrong with Pastor Tunde Bakare leading Citadel Global Church to obtain loan, but if the none performing rumour in respect of the loan is anything to go by, then it is an embarrassment to the God of heaven who owns the earth and everything therein that his servant has to take a loan to grow God’s work and yet couldn’t service the loan when expected!
Bakare, like Buhari may plunge the country further into unreasonable debt burden and may lead the country into unbelievable economic quagmire. It is important to note that a loan is not evil on its own when it is engaged in the productive sectors. Could he have rebranded, grown and developed LRA to Citadel without the option of loan? Yes! LRA facility could have been renovated and a longer time of development drawn for the Citadel project for such a time when enough saving has been made to fund it. The citadel project to any sound kingdom mind within the context of this loan issue comes to mind as nothing but a pride of life.
The reason(s) why there were public outcry against loans taken by the Buhari led Administration is because they have not been judiciously used to provide the needed service delivery to get the needed growth in the economy, same seems to be the thrust of Citadel Global Global Community Church.
It must be established here, that United States debt is higher than that of Nigeria and yet heaven has not fallen. Simply because they have the capacity to pay back because they are a productive country and not a consumption country like ours. A loan can be considered a bad debt if the money borrowed is spent on a depreciating product. For example, if you borrowed money to construct roads that will degenerate within a year and there is no toll taking on the roads. Then, it is a bad debt. People may argue that social amenities are among the responsibilities of the government and that it improves service delievery. Fine! Nobody is contending with that but a social amenity that will not service the cost of borrowing is absolutely a bad debt. On the other hand, a good debt is that which is able to service the cost of borrowing. We have heard how government have borrowed billions of dollars and are still borrowing to fund bad debt projects. I believe, that CBN as the government bank who are also engaged in the act should have been in a better position to advise the government.
The culpability of the Senate in the debt burden is very well established. Within two weeks, they approved 3 different loan request by President Muhammadu Buhari.
On July 7, 2021, the upper chamber approved a loan request of N2.343 trillion, approximately $6 billion and another $8.3billion and €490 million.
The conspiracy between the Executive arm and the legislative arm at belabouring the country with debt should initiate a probe into how Citadel Global Community Political is structured. If PTB is the Chief Executive, who and who are on the board of the church who were part of the decision to take the loans and what are the reasons for taking it. Or is PTB a one man riot soldier like Buhari who finds it difficult to play in a team. Beyond the sentiment of his handlers, there are questions we must ask and request answers to in this PTB loan saga.
There have been a lot of civic engagements and need for accountability from citizens, civil organizations and other pressure groups to make the government see reasons to why the borrowing should not be spent on consumption but on production. But because we have a government who feels that they know better than the people and that their development approach of Top- Bottom policy is the best rather than engage in civic engagement before embarking on the issue on borrowing.
We must look at developmental economy; the option of Loans and its crippling effect on the Nigeria economy. Our dependency on colonial culture of running our economy must be broken to encourage a pan African model. Barter trading that leaves us with no burden of loan must be developed. Private Partnership Model of Investment in Infrastructural development will free up money that are tied down and create fluidity of funds without necessarily creating inflation. The implications of loans/debt on the economy can be said to be positive or negative. Positive, if the loans/debt are invested to pay the borrowing cost of debt servicing and still have surplus for development. However, if a loan is unable to service its debt and we still have to borrow to service debts, then something is wrong some where. It is the function of the CBN to advise the government when embarking on getting these loans and to advise them on the area of priority in the economy that will be beneficial to the economy in both short and long runs. Inspite, of public outcry from economic experts, institutions, civil society going against the borrowing, the government still went ahead to borrow to the detriment of the economy!
Church growth and development should be kingdom driven. A heaven focused ministry should know that blocks and mortar have no value before the God of heaven, Christ’s leadership example never built any structure, yet promised to build his church (people) which the gates of hell will not prevail against and of course will not kowtow to Mammon. If the allegation of N4.5 billion loan taken from Wema Bank to build Citadel Global Church that has now grown to N9billion is anything to go by, we can then be sure that Bakare’s presidency will not be 15 and 16 in debt growth but 15×16! Our debt profile will obviously not grow in arithmetic progressions but geometrically!
Just think twice before you engage another loan driven hand to steer the wheel of our nation!
We all must be busy bodies; interested in the present affairs of all who are applying to lead us come 2023? If indeed PTB has led his church into debt that they are unable to pay back nor effectively service, then there are reasons to be worried about his aspiration.
Cyber bullying and harassment is no face saving on this. We need to learn from our dear pastor and his church board if he has any, they should show us the church books, how much was taken, reasons they are having challenges at fulfilling their obligations to their creditors and the plans they have at correcting the situation. If loans were drawn from 5 banks and 2 have been offset remaining 3 and one of the 3 is Wema said to be N9billion, what is the total indebtedness of Citadel Global Community Church to the financial sector in Nigeria. We sure don’t need a number 16 who can obtain loans more than number 15. We already have enough loan burden! This however may be PTB’s opportunity to sell his candidacy, he should show us his payment plan and keep to it. Nigeria needs a president who can pay back loans taken by Buhari and not the one who will increase it.