• Sunday, June 23, 2024
businessday logo


How to achieve the Nigeria of our dream, by Sam Igbe


Q:What in your opinion is the role of traditional institution in a democracy?

Well, if you call it a democracy, everybody must be involved. All through the ages, traditional rulers have continued to perform honourable roles in the good governance of a nation. Whenever political officers have problems, especially on how best to deal with the people, they come to the traditional rulers who are closer to the people and the problems are solved. If the government can now say, how do we constitutionally involve the traditional institutions, that will be very good.

What have been your contributions to the Benin kingdom?

I think this is a question the people in the Benin Kingdom should answer by themselves. I do not need to speak for myself. In those days, the Iyase was the warrior or what I can call the generalissimo of Benin Kingdom, but today, we no longer have wars involving machetes, where people slaughter one another with machetes etc. What we fight today is economic battles, social battles and battles to ensure that people live well generally.

If you were given an opportunity to govern this country today, what would be the immediate things you would do?

Am afraid you can’t have immediate solution to corruption apart from enforcing the law. Somebody does a wrong thing, you must punish him, and then teach him how to live without corruption. That is the area we are not looking at. We are talking about real orientation. Every day, we hear egg heads talk about what we should do to move the country forward, all manner of lectures are being held where people say good things about the Nigeria of our dream, but we never tried anything at all.

During the recent Muslim celebration, the President said his transformation agenda was going to be total; the Senate president, David Mark, said everybody should ensure he makes Nigeria habitable and the speaker of the House of Representatives said the Muslims must have a rethink and join the rest Nigerians to make the country move forward. These are familiar tunes. Have we really started as a people to do anything that can move the country forward? What are the roles of the orientation agency? Is it not to sensitise Nigerians on nation building? What are they doing now, do we even hear of their existence? What of parents, teachers and other government agencies that are supposed to inculcate the right values into the youth? It appears nobody is interested and we are paying direly for it. If we all do what we are supposed to do, there will be a change- positive change in this country.

You are from the South-South geo-political zone where power resides now, and there’s this conflict of interests or so it seems. Take for instance, the development in the governors’ forum and the establishment of a parallel one by the PDP, what do you make out of all these?

It doesn’t appear to me that it told us what really is happening. One of our greatest problems as a country is that our value system is gone. We don’t even tell our children the truth about this life. When we were growing up, we were told that if we stole, ‘Ogun’ (the god of iron) would kill us. So we were afraid to touch whatever did not belong to us. But today, God is presented as a father figure who does not kill no matter what anybody does, provided the individual would say ‘am sorry’. Nobody tells children of nowadays that God sometimes gets angry when an individual continues in his/her line of sin without repentance. Nobody tells a child today that if he steals he will die. At least, nobody wants to die, let alone a pre-mature death. So, the children grow up with that notion that whenever they steal they go to God and say please forgive me and they will be forgiven. They are not sufficiently told that if they do it again, God can punish them severely. So, for this reason children of today take things for granted. Moreover, we have thrown away our culture, and because we have forgotten our culture we have lost even the very essence of life.

Some people say we seem to have one nation but different judicial systems; this view is expressed as a result of divergent judgments being given by judges on similar cases. What is your take?

I am deeply sad at what we are seeing these days, especially the plea bargain thing. It is the most unfair way to solve problem of corruption. The day the recent judgment was given about the man who stole N23billion police pension fund and they said he should pay N750, 000.00 which he did and walked away free, there was somebody who stole N10, 000 and was fined N7, 000 and was still sent to jail for three months. So when you read the two different judgments, you are bound to think we have two countries- one for the rich and one for the poor. That cannot help the fight against corruption. One of the ways to make people do whatever they like is when you give them cause to believe that nobody cares about whatever anybody does; or when you petition the right quarters when you have been ill-treated and nothing is done about it and you are left on your own. For instance, something serious has happened to you, you petitioned the police and you are warned to drop the case or you suddenly become the accused; or a situation where the first person that gets to the police becomes the innocent without any investigation by the police.

You are from Edo State, how would you assess the Adams Oshiomhole administration? 

All you need to do to know whether or not Oshiomhole has done something in Edo State is just to step out of your house. It is only if somebody is blind, even if somebody is blind, at least the person can hear what people say about the transformation of the state by the governor. There’s nowhere in Edo State that you cannot see what he has done. What I normally tell people is, even if you are not in the same party with him that does not mean you cannot appreciate what he has done. If you are a PDP man and you want to come to that state, appreciate what somebody has done and tell the people this is what I will do to surpass him, otherwise, any right-thinking person will not vote for you because you don’t like progress. All I am saying is that Oshiomhole has positively affected the lives everybody in Edo.

What are your motivations for writing the book?

I have a hatred for this thing called corruption. I was a police officer. I retired as a commissioner of police and like the lizard that fell from an Iroko tree and said if nobody praises me, I will praise myself; I do praise myself how I acquitted myself well during my career in the police. If anybody says he gave me bribe of I gave somebody (bribe) in the course of my duty, let the person step forward and say it. What am saying is that I have always hated bribery and corruption. That’s one; two, it appears to me that we Nigerians deceive ourselves so much. We don’t want to tell the truth about Nigeria. If we can tell the truth about Nigeria, there’s nothing we cannot fix. That’s another motivation. These things made me feel there are things to talk about. We must begin to ask ourselves salient questions about Nigeria – what Nigeria is, the problems confronting Nigeria and how to go about solving such problems.

Lastly, I have read so many things about ethnicity, some people tell us to forget about ethnicity and think about Nigeria. But how can you successfully talk about Nigeria without talking about the people who make up the entity called Nigeria. You say you want unity, who are you uniting if it is not the ethnic nationalities? Take for instance, America is made up of different nationalities, yet they come up with ideas about how to live together without killing one another over where each person comes from. Move a bit north of that place, go to Canada, some speak French, some speak English, yet, they remain Canada; nobody is telling them to forget about their ethnic nationalities. Why are we doing that? Even in small Britain, you have the Irish, the Scott, the Welsh and the English- they are still living together. They come together to form Great Britain, yet are they not giving more emphasis to their tribes now? The Scot, the Welsh, they have not stopped speaking their dialects.

In your book, you mentioned the need for youth development and their role in nation building. How do we achieve that? 

To achieve this demands the collective responsibility of parents and the state. Starting from the day a child is born, parents have the responsibility of inculcating in the child the right values. As a parent, you smile at the new born baby, it smiles back at you. By so doing the baby learns to be cheerful. If it sees you frown every day, it learns to frown also. It is what you give that you will get. What parents do while bringing the children up matters a lot. When the children go to school, the teachers must build on the good foundation that has been laid at home for the children. Teachers from outside the country who are not conversant with our culture may not be of any help in building up youths that will suit the need of the country in the future. Leaders must also show good example so that the youth would be willing to copy their leadership qualities, sense of patriotism and other virtues.

It is said that the Nigerian elite class does not read books, how then would the good message in your book get to the target audience?

Quite honestly, the book cost me much money to print, but I don’t think about how much it cost me but about the circulation. On the efforts to get it to the right places, that’s why I came to Lagos where I spent most of my career life. Lagos is the commercial hub of the country and where there is commerce there is the likelihood of higher cases of corruption. That’s one of the reasons I want to present the book there. The book is topical and national in outlook. Those who will buy it will use it. Again, I want the book to get to the grassroots. I am already thinking how to get the university community to see how they can make use of the book; apart from the fact that I want to get the vice-chancellors and Liberians to see how they can put it in their libraries.

The book is about Nigeria, how we started, where we are now and where we want to be.