The prospect of Pastor Tunde Bakare of the Citadel Global Community Church, Lagos State, facing legal consequences for his alleged hate speech against the Igbos peaked on Tuesday when the Igbo Board of Deputies, comprising stakeholders of South-East extraction, gave the cleric seven days to recant his statements or be dragged to court over his “genocidal comments”.
The Igbo stakeholders issued the ultimatum in a pre-litigation letter addressed to the politician- cleric, stressing that Bakare should recant his statements using the same pulpit.
Recall that recently, Pastor Tunde Bakare, who was once a running mate to President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2011 presidential election, gave a dangerous sermon, in which he dubiously claimed that the Igbos are cursed because they killed late Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa in the 1966 military coup, knowing same to be a false narrative.
The Igbo group, through their lawyer, Austin Okeke Attorneys, said it would “approach the appropriate forum, both local and international, for all available legal relief. These actions shall be at your account.”
The letter was copied to 76 different national and international organisations as well as personalities.
It reads, “We act for Igbo Board of Deputies, a Non-Profit Company “NPC” and its Trustees for the time being “our clients” under whose instructions we address this letter to you. We have waited reverently for Lent and Easter period to end before addressing this letter to you. It is our instruction not to join you in the desecration of a very sacred and holy Lenten season; it being the bedrock of the Christian faith all over the world. Your hate speech and your premeditated incitement designed for ethnic cleansing of the Igbo people in Nigeria were aired and viewed right at the heart of Lent. You are a pastor of a church indeed.
“We have waited without success for you to, on your own accord, recant your hate speech and/or withdraw the incitement of genocide against the Igbo people. It is very obvious that your speech on the day was well thought out, planned, and executed so as to achieve the purpose it was designed. These comments were made deliberately at a very fragile and tense period in the history of Nigeria, when insecurity and killings are rife.
“We are advised that on and about April 2022, you on the pulpit of Citadel Global Community Church in Lagos, Nigeria “your church” and before a multitude of congregants, worshippers, and viewers all over the world, made inciting comments against the Igbo people in the following manner: ‘on the day the late Tafawa Balewa was killed the Igbo soldiers arrested him, removed his turban, poured wine on his head, and forced him to drink and then shot him. While he was being killed, he cursed the Igbo race; that they would never govern Nigeria.'”
“We are of the view that your comments on the day were calculated to rouse and stoke hatred against the Igbo by a region of the country. These were the sort of falsehood sold to other regions of Nigeria as part of the hate campaign that justified and resulted in the mass murder and subsequent pogrom against the Igbo before, during and after the 1967 Nigeria-Biafra civil war that reportedly claimed over 3 million lives of the Igbo.
“We are advised that your own account of the 1966 military coup and in particular the death of the then Prime Minister of Nigeria; Alhaji Tafawa Balewa is false because you were not present and therefore cannot qualify as a credible witness.
“In the circumstance, we have been instructed to demand from you, as we hereby do, to recant your statements using the same pulpit within 7 days from the date hereof. Failing which, we have instructions to approach the appropriate forum, both local and international, for all available legal relief. These actions shall be on your account. We hope the above does not become necessary, and we do not wish you to enter into this quagmire.
“Kindly note that our clients shall enforce their rights and their resolve within the ambit of both domestic and international laws, unless and until you have publicly withdrawn your false comments. The fact that we have not exhaustively dealt with this matter at present should not be construed as a waiver, omission and/or novation of our clients’ rights. All our clients’ rights are fully reserved. We hope you find the above in order as we await your prompt reply.”
The letter was copied to the United Nations Human Rights Commission; the International Criminal Court; and the International Court of Justice.
It was also sent to the President of Nigeria, Chief Justice of Nigeria, Senate President, Nigeria, embassy of the United States of America, the European Union, and the African Union among others.