POLITICS REMAINS THE ONLY LUCRATIVE BUSINESS IN NIGERIA
You will instantly run into a brick wall if you want to categorize Chief Gregory Iyke Ibe [Phd]. Although he describes himself simply as a University teacher, there is more to his life. For a fact, he teaches at Abia state university but to see him from that standpoint is to foreclose the complex manifestations of a 46-year-old man who has consistently participated in government, behind the scene, since he was 23. However, it was the Olusegun Obasanjo presidency that threw up Dr Ibe to a pedestal that drew national and international attention. He functioned as a close ally of the ex-president, in a capacity that remained largely unknown to the public, yet he was an arrowhead to that regime.
Even now, Dr Ibe, a consultant to the United Nations, has remained close to the presidency and would not, therefore, speak ill of the regime given that he has the assess and opportunity to speak privately to the powers that be. Why curry undue publicity and bravado on the pages of newspaper? It would then be impertinent to blow hot air in the media.
Today he has new passion, which has seen the first African Bohemian, building a private university in Uturu, Abia state, from where he hails. That would be icing in the cake for a man who has turned the sleepy university town into a beehive with hotel complexes and the annual Igbo[Uturu] cultural festival, fast assuming the toga of a mega event.
Standing at one of the several 1500 capacity lecture halls under construction at the university, whose play ground currently serves as venue for the cultural festival, Ibe told this reporter that his vision was to bring back renowned black professors in the United states to retire at the proposed Gregory University. He has had problems bringing them to do their sabbatical in Nigerian universities. Ibe now resolved that he would put a permanent stop to that problem by putting up a university that would not just give the American professors an opportunity to do their sabbatical but provide a conducive retirement home for the egg heads who would want to reconnect to their roots in old age and impact knowledge on younger ones.
On the political terrain he is piqued at the state of affairs of the Peoples Democatic Party in Abia, where those who built the party have been consigned to the nadir and virtually forgotten in the scheme of things. He spoke on a number of other issues. Excrpts:
Do you believe that Nigeria leaders are prepared for leadership
I want to let you know that the only industry in Nigeria today is politics, our market is politics, our academic system is politics. Nigeria is a country that has only one channel of business called politics. We cannot make progress that way. You asked if they are prepared for leadership, the preparation is either if the criteria to be in the House of Representatives is to have an OND, everyone would go on a crash programme to obtain it. There is no criteria or categorization on what makes anybody a leader. There is nothing that says if one wants to vie for any position, he or she must have made a certain achievement, or reached certain status in life. That means, our laws should take cognizance of that, one must have attended a certain aspect of life, offered himself to humanity, done a leadership training, in fact be prepared along the line.
But, if the only entry is obtaining school certificates or degrees, everyone would want to join. Today, almost everybody is busy trying to be a politician, no body thinks of any other thing because politics is the only lucrative thing, It has become lucrative because the little guy you know yesterday who got his OND by the door, is using an X- class or Prado Jeep, donated to him by our government with our money. So, he gets rich because he decided to vie for political position. All our business empires today are political appointments , nobody is thinking of any other thing, there are no more research work, no thinking of how to set up small business in the neighbourhood, and when the money enters their hands , it keeps on recycling and it would only produce crises. In fact most of our political leaders are not prepared in any form, mentally and otherwise, except that they were able to obtain papers, and may be blessed by one godfather or the other, then they were able to present themselves for political manufacturing business.
Now, how do we make these offices less lucrative, such that it would not become the only viable industry in the country
You can see that ASUU lecturers went on strike. The major reason was that the young boys that graduated yesterday, a councilor is receiving almost N250, 000 or more, and a professor that taught them is sitting there collecting peanut. Then at the National Assembly, they are making plans to increase their salaries to match that of CEOs of banks. We have two businesses in Nigeria today, one is banking, and the other is politics, so there is no way expect someone that would make more money in politics or work in the bank. Many people left the bank because of the recession that met the whole world and left us a little bit on a bad side of the economy. So, only few want to be in the bank, many people have left. Even then police cannot get enough men to work in the police today because the best business we have today is politics. For instance in 1999, when Obasanjo was in power, the economic system went down when he came, and he started to do one or two things. Mr. President created NAPEP.
Because the system he met was down. He wanted to get the arm of the productive economy going. There is dignity in labour, if Nigerians will decide today to make refuse collection the most lucrative business, they will make it. For instance, when the telecommunication industries were building , they were laying cables from Sokoto to everywhere, every road you go, you will see Nigerians digging for them, instead of them using excavator, they did not transfer people from Sokoto to dig in Akwa Ibom.
They were still Nigerians from different tribes digging and getting money. You see, the moment you make anything lucrative Nigerians will fall to it. So, this politics should be made less lucrative so that there will be no fall back position on it. Kidnapping was the best that could put food on the table, and everybody followed it because it became more lucrative, so today, they make politics lucrative because a councilor who does nothing in the village, is getting N250,000 and from there, will steal the remaining money meant for project within the local government area, he buys vehicles and is living big. So, there must be discipline and sanction because any law without sanction is not a law. To put these things in place we should have the right leadership. Somebody there at the top has to be decisive, without that the system goes no where.
What do we do to attract the right people to the position?
There is what we call politics of give and take. It must be a selfless service. Serving your people, leaving your name on a right foot let somebody believe in your course. People all over the world have served their communities, and even when they are no more, they will be praised. They will name things on their names because they did selfless services.
Leadership is more of selfless services, it is not winner takes all. Then, if you want to tell me that if you pay them well, it will discourage them from stealing, then what is happening with all the money being paid to the people in the National Assembly, has it stopped them from taking all the money from the ministries, has it stopped them from coming to the ministries to make sure that they swap all the money on the budget. Ask all the ministers, if somebody is not talking, he has to do so now, and open up these issues. Because we accept these things as a norm, they become good practices. So, it is high time we said no to all these things and let the people that will go into politics be those that are ready to provide selfless services so that they can work for the nation with their open heart.
Some can sacrifice their money. Is there anywhere they do that in this country today? Of course, it is a chain reaction, if they do not steal more from there, they will tell you that the election is very costly, and the moment they do that, they will be in position along the line. So, somebody should explain these things and it should be in practice.
From what you are saying is there hope that there is internal democracy within the parties and that they can survive, having learnt from the past?
Like I said, except sacrifices are made, people will avoid certain things. President Goodluck Jonathan has said it that there will be free and fair polls, he has it in his heart and he has passed it on.
But to what extent has it worked. I was told that the primaries in my local government area, Isiukwuato has been concluded, they called me on phone that an aspirant won clearly in an option A4 System of Voting, but by the time they got to the state capital, it was changed immediately. I was also told that everybody was returned. So, can somebody explain the meaning of such act that such thing happened, even in that my little area. We are all PDP members, and we spend our money, trying to support our party, but when it comes to having a say in the party, providing a selfless service, we will be denied the opportunity of being part of the system. I am a PDP man and from Abia State, but I do not have a place, for all I have expended.
When our state was not controlled by PDP government, we kept maintaining PDP structures, spending money doing all the rallies, buying vehicles to make sure that the party stands, and when it was time for recognition to be given for selfless service people, especially those of us who are not seeking for elective positions, what you are hearing today that every body is returned, there is not hope for any poor man. So for people that believe in democracy it is not easy for them.
I am not the only one affected, several other PDP members are also facing the same problem. But remember that President has said that things ought to be done properly.
Even if they set up a panel to try to reverse what was done, it will still be left in the caprices of whoever is the party leader in the state. He decides what he wants. All the things that were put in place and all the things Mr President said are being rubbished along the line. So, he needs a lot of decisiveness in making sure that these things trickle down, if not, they will jeopardize all chances.
So, are you saying that nothing has been learnt so far?
Yes, nothing has been learnt, it is still the old system.
You said that you helped to sustain PDP structures in Abia State and that you feel disappointed, why?
I am disappointed because I am seated at Abuja, trying to do the politics at the Centre, but in my state where I have touched a lot of lives, nobody cared about it, because people are scared, I do not really know what is wrong.
If we may drive it further, what kind of recognition are you talking about?
If my belief is to offer what I have gotten from God in my business empire to make sure I touched lives of the people, then if I am given the opportunity to serve, I will not take anybody's money and call it mine. I have transformed the system, so that those that are down will feel the impact of God and good leadership. So, if I am given the opportunity, this is what I am going to do. But, because the yardstick to measure those people who take a lot from the people's money want to believe that they are offering us our money, would not want me around in any form, they are scared. If there is any yardstick to measure who is supposed to lead, let us do that to know our capabilities. The problem is that there is no inner chamber or adjudicators that would sit down and appraise who should provide leadership.
Do you not think that power is not given, rather one goes for it?
No, I do not believe that. It is the struggle and the language you used that makes people to kill in order to secure the position the want. Power belongs to the people, therefore the people should be allowed to bring any one they know that would give them the service they want. It is not because I want to be governor, then I will take my resources to go and fight the governor of a state, then there will be confrontations and killings, that is not what the language means. So, in order for one to take the power from the incumbent the person should be able to have provided selfless services to the people, that if compared with any other person, you should stand as number one.
How does one make First-Class in examination? Is it not through preparation. So, you have to work for whatever you want. Then, why should someone who did not work for position come from nowhere and want to be in position. This is the situation in the whole country, it is not just one man.
Have you ever offered yourself for service, and you were denied?
Of course, PDP had denied me at the state level. It is not a new thing. I have called many people and discussed with them that I have been sustaining the party, before now and I was thrown away, but nobody talked to me because they believe that I have been living above board. If not they would have been contacting me. They believed that I have created a yardstick of measurement, that if you compare it, nobody will come closer, they did not want anybody to dwarf them, so the decided to avoid my way. But, I am still at the federal, making sure that things in the party works as expected. Again, if I am called upon tomorrow on a just scale to provide services, I will definitely appreciate it because, I do not want to lord myself into going to lead. The feelings of every well thinking Nigerian is that the people should be given the opportunity of choosing who their leaders should be.
Chinua Achebe once said that the problem of Nigeria is leadership do you believe that, and what type of leader does the country needs at this point?
Well, the leader we need now is one that would have the decivessness, no matter who is concerned, he will be able to take decision, because the Nigerian system will continue to come with different attitude to deviate the person from taking the right decision and to cause confusion. The person should also believe in the entity called Nigeria, our flag. It is that he will protect without us irrespective of the challenges we should protect this flag this is our oneness, it must be protected without bias, he should not be seen as a regional leader and also the leader we are thinking about should be devoid of corruption.
We've borrowed a lot of our management attitudes and the governance during military, what I mean military; military is the existence of governance from the section of the world (this world) so every aspect of our learning goes back to the military. Even if at the point of decision the man at the point of that decision is a corporal and he takes a decision to save the remaining members of the troop, that is the person that is the leadership. You don't need to call crowd to come and help you decide, you should wake up in the morning and get focused on where you want to go and let Nigerians know you are either right or left. They know, this is your type of reasoning. The moment you start calling committee and calling committee, advisory role and so on all those ones would be wrong because when decisions are beyond two people am sorry they can never work because it would be interpreted in different languages to mean different things and different people will feel it is against them and before you wake up people are against that policy. So, you just wake up and say I'm going to take this decision and that decision will fly.
In line with the principles you have recommended now among the gladiators did you pick any?
Well, I wouldn't call my leaders gladiators (laughs)… there are lots of leaders that have come across this country. Some have their past pedigree, some have their present everybody has its own past. Nigeria being diverse we have a lot of things militating against each one of us even if I come out today to vie for presidency there will be issues that people will present, people will say no, people will not say no. if an imaginative Igbo man comes to present himself to serve Nigeria other tribes will come with a lot of fault.
If I go by what you are saying really, the implication is that all this tussle and quarrel about the he most be from the North, South South, South East is not necessary but one thing is that the hope everybody has in Nigeria, the party structures will sustain the country. The point I am actually making is this: we had President Yar'Adua who died in office, his former deputy became President now wants to run people from the North are saying he should not run reason, our man died in office, we have not completed our tenure, you should allow us to complete our tenure, therefore the Nigerian political structure does not look at what somebody has to offer rather is looking at where the person comes from.
How do we get out of this?
What led to this, that is the question? Where are we coming from? We are coming from the high level of disadvantage. That most of the tribes or regions in Nigeria have tested is it not? That's why if you were in a particular political party came up and say this is the way we are going to go is it not? If the party has been going that way and its been good to them and they have been providing leadership they should continue with it. If the other party is sitting down somewhere and said they are going to do something that would be acceptable to Nigeria. So, whatever you are going to do take decisions that are more acceptable. If you have the power to do anything or to agree amongst you better get it done.
As we wind down, I would like the readers to know who Chief Iyke Ibe is?
Well, I'm a lecturer, like I said we just come out of seven (7) months strike. It's been very difficult, I lecture and I'm also a business man, an academia. I do things that have to do with science education in the country and I consult with United Nation agencies. I am doing a lot for research institutes all over the world and Nigeria, I need to see how best we can improve, and also a consultant to the last administration. I represent both west in my country Nigeria so what I do is try to do a lot of reverse in engineering, steal what is up there come and blend it with what is workable in our own context and make sure it is delivered.
I understand also that you are the proprietor of a university? Is that true?
Yes, my foundation, is doing something that is unique trying to set up a university that would have affiliate to the black universities in United States because most of our black people at an old age they feel they need to go back to their home. The culture of America doesn't help them at old age, the feel disheartened so I'm getting an affiliation the black universities in the US so that most of our professors that are our products there can always come here and impact knowledge. That's why we started the university, so that we have the opportunity to bring back most of our black professors to Nigeria, so most of them can come back home and naturalise and find their roots. We have the first class brain there but they need a place to exploit it there. They can't do without Africans so they are looking for opportunities, that is why they have foundation.
Have you tried to sound out some of these black professors in America, are they enthusiastic.
They forced me to set up the university. They want to come and teach, and each time I call up a university that I am sending judges and other people to do sabbatical with them, they reject them because they cannot afford to provide the accommodation they need. So why should a lot of things happen in the entire business world, why did America abandon Africa, because we are not ready to develop our skills. Our manpower development was completely down, so, they went to far away China to develop the manpower there, and then they built China, very soon, China will outsmart them. But even if they developed us, we would not outsmart them. Now I am pushing up with them to see how we will provide at least three nuclear plants in the North that would provide about 2,400 megawatts. So, that would have reduced the expenses for the nation in wasting money drawing pipelines to feed the gas plants that provide electricity in the Northern part of the country.
So if this nuclear plant system called generation 3 system, APC 1000, we produced 2,400 megawatts in the whole Northern states and for the next 75-80 years, we will not complain of power problem over there. So, what we need is fresh water and we have valley in Kogi, Adamawa and a small quantity of it to be able to have it, and all the things we are doing over there in spending money on thermal would have been a thing of the past, and then the South would just concentrate on using the natural gases that are here to power the system. So this is the programme I have in mind. So it would start as soon as Nigerian signs what we called 123 agreement. It an international United Nations pact, which a nation must sign before any such project, can be embarked upon
If PDP where you belong, push you to the wall, what would you do?
My boss said that he is laughing and as soon as he finished laughing, he would advice on what to do.