“I love President Goodluck Jonathan and I used to be his ardent fan, but I want good for my people and that’s why I want Nigerians to vote out Goodluck Jonathan and vote General Muhammad Buhari. I don’t care if Buhari is a Muslim and from the north; all I care about is that Buhari can save Nigeria,” Ejike Mbaka, a Catholic priest, had said in January 2015.
Fast forward to January 2018, Mbaka had this to say: “Unless President Buhari quickly and strategically positions the right people and changes the former ones inaugurated by him, the wind of change, that he himself inaugurated, will blow him away shamefully… God said you are toying with the privilege given to you.”
Clear difference, no doubt – all in the space of two years. What went wrong?
MBAKA, THE FIERY PRIEST
No doubt Mbaka is known for being outspoken, especially on issues concerning Nigerian politics and the well-being of Nigerians.
His endorsement of Buhari had come in a damning message titled ‘From Good Luck (in mockery of the former president) to Bad Luck’. In the message, the priest bared his mind open on why he felt Buhari was the “saviour” that Nigeria needed – in contrast to Jonathan who was now a “bad luck”.
Two years after, Mbaka has a strong warning for the president: “Change or be disgraced.”
What could have happened?
FRIEND TURNED FOE?
In December, shortly after Buhari’s emergence, he hosted Mbaka in Aso Rock, Nigeria’s seat of power.
At the meeting, the president described the preacher as a “man of courage” and thanked him for his role in the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration.
The cleric, on his part, said he was happy with the mission and methodology of the Buhari administration.
He had gone ahead to later reveal that during his visit to Aso Rock “for prayers, what I demanded from him was good governance for Nigeria,” adding: “I didn’t ask him to give me one kobo.”
In what could be described as a move to strengthen the goodwill between them, the president later celebrated Mbaka as a “wise counsellor and teacher”.
So, at what point did things go bad between the duo? In his recent message, Mbaka raised some issues which Buhari’s critics have used against the president. Those who are not on the same page with the current administration have concluded that the anti-graft war is one-sided, a position which Mbaka took while “de-marketing” the president.
There have also been reports of a cabal in the presidency, the cleric also made mention of this in his New Year message.
Well, Mbaka is not alone.
THERE IS ALSO TUNDE BAKARE, AN OUTSPOKEN CLERIC
Bakare, who is the general overseer of the Latter Rain Assembly, is another cleric that has kept the president on his toes.
Since the 2011 presidential election in which Bakare was Buhari’s running mate, the pastor has continued to make his stance clear on the president’s policies and actions.
‘BUHARI HAS A GOOD HEART’
Shortly after the first anniversary of the Buhari administration, Bakare rose in defence of the president amid criticisms that his administration was “too slow”.
“It’s too early and just too soon to begin to judge. If there is anything I know about Mr President, it is that he has a good heart. He loves this country and he wants the country to run well,” he had said.
Later in January 2017, Bakare insisted Buhari’s government did not lack direction as claimed by some citizens.
He had pinpointed security as one of the areas the president had achieved much, while quoting Nigerian Security Tracker, a portal of the United States Council on Foreign Relations that maps violence in Nigeria.
RECALL ALSO BAKARE’S 42-PAGE MEMO TO BUHARI
The lawyer later revealed that at the early stage of the current administration, he presented a 42-page memo to Buhari on how to restructure Nigeria for effectiveness.
He spoke of how “at the long last, APC has now formed a committee to define restructuring”.
“Two months into this administration, we prepared a 42-page document for the restructuring of Nigeria and gave it to the president; this is the way to go, now they are forming a committee to define restructuring,” he had said.
ADVISOR TURNED CHALLENGER
Although it is not yet clear whether Buhari would be going for a second tenure come 2019, he and his party sure have a key challenger in the person of Bakare, with the pastor’s recent comment concerning the nation’s number one position.
After several months of admonition and suggestions, Bakare has declared that he will be running for president of the country.
He, however, did not say whether that would be in 2019 or afterwards.
Two separate ‘coins’ flipping to the opposing side in the space of two years? That’s troubling! The president needs to put in his best to retain his diehard supporters because he can count on them when the chips are down.