Why Corruption Festers in Nigeria – Ude [interview] (allAfrica.com)

Jackson Ude is a journalist with specialisation in political communications, media, public policy and political management. He was trained in the United States and Canada where he bagged his degrees. He was a House of Assembly aspirant for Abia North and a presidential strategist. He spoke with CHIBUZO UKAIBE on the political terrain and other matters.
Considering your background overseas, would you say that successive governments failed Nigeria?
I will tell you that governments before President Goodluck Jonathan failed largely because they took Nigerians for granted. Nigerians are very quiet and hopeful people and not prone to violence like other countries. Besides the June 12 demonstration, I don’t think there has been a strong demonstration that caused the change of government. So, quality infrastructural and human capital development have never really being in the agenda of past governments. Look at the Almajiris who are being rehabilitated now, they have been there under successive northern leaders. Before I left Nigeria years ago, I had accompanied a political officeholder to his country-home in one of the northern states. I went to the restaurant to eat and while I went to wash my cutlery, some young boys came into the restaurant, snatched the plate of rice and before I could blink, not less than 10 children pounced on the food. This is what has been happening and successive governments saw this over time and never cared. But one credit that the north should give to President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration is that the president has on his own showed compassion and love by going to the north and building Almajiri schools and ensured that these people have hope for tomorrow. He could have said he has liberated them from the bondage of ignorance, poverty and hopelessness. He has showed concern where other governments didn’t care. So now they are guaranteed the basic education that can begin to give them a brighter future. Education is the only key a man needs to emancipate him from mental slavery ravaging the north and some part of the south. So any man that can give you the opportunity to be educated cares so much about your development. That is what the PDP Government under President Jonathan’s government is all about.
On Road, the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway is a classic example. Past leaders including former President Olusegun Obasanjo who is from that zone abandoned that road. Today, that road is nearing completion because President Jonathan stepped in and showed love. The Abuja-Lokoja Road is another. That road, as important as it is, as the only road that connects the South and the North, has been a single lane dilapidated road but today under President Jonathan, it has become a dual carriage way. President Jonathan has fixed the Railway system that had broken down for years. He has successfully privatized the Power sector in the most transparent manner and work in progress to fix the broken down system that a predecessor had spent over $16 billion. As a matter of fact as I am talking to you now, there are areas where power has improved and people are happy.
Security-wise, do you think the country has fared well?
I will also trace the issue of security to successive governments. They did not equip the military well to deal with terrorism. What we are witnessing in the world today is terrorism, which is taking a very scary dimension globally. And the funding for terrorism is so large that countries that do not have the financial muscle won’t be able to withstand the effect.
Before now our military had no weapons or facilities to tame this act of extremism. Our military was neither prepared nor trained for it. We were good at peacekeeping mission where we don’t need much military hard wares. So back home here we didn’t fortify our military in case of acts of terrorism like the one we have now. So it becomes difficult for the government to tame it with the lack of equipment.
Getting equipment requires a lot, it involves a lot of processes. It is not buying tomatoes and pepper. And that is why it appears as if the government was a bit lackluster. We didn’t have the equipment and the process of getting equipment was hard because we started facing huge international conspiracy. A particular country was not ready to sell us weapons because they became angry because of our relationship with another country. That was the beginning of it. We tried and tried, applied all manner of diplomacy. When it was getting obvious we were not making headways and Boko Haram was expanding it grips, the Government decided to do what it had to do to protect the life and properties of Nigerians.
For Nigeria to go to China and do business, which has a potential of expanding the Chinese economy and giving it more reach, was seen as working against the interest of the U.S. So the U.S used what they have to get back at us. That is how we got to the stage where they refused selling weapons to us, claiming poor human rights records. But they will sell weapons to Arab countries. They won’t sell to you because you stepped on their toes by going to invest in China. These were the issues and challenges that came up but not every Nigerian know all these. Everyone wants Boko Haram to be wiped out but no one cares how that is done. If we produced weapons in this country, we won’t need anyone’s permission to produce the ones we need to fight terrorists. We don’t produce arms in this country. We rely on arms from the U.S and other countries. When we failed to secure for the U.S, we went to South Africa. When that happened, the U.S blew the lid that we were going to purchase arms illegally in South Africa. It became an embarrassment to this country, calculated at shooting down the Jonathan led government, to discredit it in the eyes of Nigerians and the international community. We went to Israel, and at the verge of getting equipment; the U.S went and blocked it. When that also failed, as a people-caring government, the Jonathan’s administration had to do what it had to do to protect the people. So those who don’t know what is happening but go about town saying that the government does not care are being sentimental. The government did what they had to do to tame the terrorists. If we didn’t have these hold ups caused by international conspiracy, we would have acquired the weapons long time ago and the issue of Boko Haram would have been taken care of and the elections wouldn’t have been postponed ab initio.
The conspiracy dragged too long. The Government used all manner of diplomacy to smoothen the rough edges. But when that did not solve the issues, we went elsewhere. Thank God we have gotten enough weapons now and Boko Haram is on the run. That is success.
Who are these insurgents and do they have international dimensions?
To say that Boko Haram has foreign fighters among them is not completely false. Boko Haram is an ideology that promotes an extreme form of Islam. So anywhere some Muslims who shares same ideology as Boko Haram hear that ideology, they have sympathy for it and join. Some Chadians, Nigeriens and Cameroonians have keyed into the Boko Haram ideology because it soothes them. That does not mean every Muslim is a Boko Haram sympathizer. Islam is like Christianity where you have Protestants, Catholics and Pentecostal; it applies in Islam where you have the Ansar U Deen, Alhmadiyas, Shiites, Sunnis and others. Some preaches violent ideologies, others don’t. So it depends on the ones you fall into. If you go by the one that preaches violence, then you may have sympathy for the Boko Haram ideology. So that is why we have these people from different countries joining Boko Haram because they claim to be fighting the ideology that they believe in. The Sunni ideology which is what the Boko Haram sect tends to propagate came from other countries such as Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia and few other OIC countries.
I know you joined politics to correct some societal anomalies, what are some of these anomalies? What best would you do to change them?
First, I am a believer in a strong and united Nigeria. What makes America strong today is because they are big, strong and united. All races in world are there. And when it comes to anything that affects America they stand united and speak with one voice: love and unity. They don’t speak religion, tribe and ethnicity; they speak “the united states of America.” That is what I want to see in Nigeria. It shouldn’t matter where you come from, tribe, religion, and educational status, family lineage; so long as you are a full-blooded Nigerian, you should have equal rights and be proud of this country.
I want to be a politician that changes the perception that you are only good if you are from the North or South. I want to preach unity and love. The kind of politics we are seeing in Nigeria does not give room for these things to thrive.
It is very scary to hear some people talk about ethnicity, religion and tribe as the basis for who they will vote. That is not how this country will grow. The way this country will grow is when we all come together no matter the diversity. This country will be strong economically, socially, and politically if we speak one voice and respect ourselves. Sadly, today some people will tell you I want to vote Jonathan because he is from the South likewise others will say they want to vote Buhari because he is from the north. That should not be the basis; it should be about who could best take Nigeria to the promise land. Who has the capacity and credentials to lead this country to where it ought to be. Nigeria has over 170million people. That alone is strength. There are countries that are praying hard to be us. Nigeria is one of the richest countries in the world endowed with tapped and untapped human and natural resources. There is no reason why religion and tribe should tear us apart.
The God-given resources deposited in Nigeria was not meant for us to divide, it was given to us to use it and show love amongst ourselves and build a much united Nigeria. We should not have the notions that because I am from the North, I am born to rule or because I am from the south, I must rule because the resources come from my part of the country. We should not be talking like that. We should talk about how to pull our resources together for the overall greatness of our country. The reason why we are respected in the comity of states is because we are very large in terms of population and endowed with huge natural and human resources and we must not let that slide.
A sore point of Nigeria’s development is corruption. How would you advocate or help in the fight against it?
The issue of corruption is not only a Nigerian thing. I live overseas for a long time, so when some people run down this country on account of corruption, they are just being unfair to the people of this country. It is an insult to Nigerians and Nigeria for some people to keep saying that Nigeria is one of the most corrupt countries when we know what happens in foreign land. It is all perception and that perception is wrong and calculated to scare away international investors.
Corruption is not only stealing public funds. It is also forging documents, cheating during exams, lying to obtain permanent residency, cheating on your wife or girlfriend and disobeying laws of the land. Corruption is also using your powers to foist your wills on others. Corruption is also disobeying traffic lights. So everyone and indeed, every nation is guilty of corruption and no one should be a judge on this.
Fighting corruption has to do with building a strong institution with strong legal backing that can take care of corrupt cases. As it is, Nigeria does not have laws that fight cybercrimes. We were not ready for the internet age. If we have such laws they are not strong enough. The criminal justice system in this country is weak and obsolete. Only recently, the National Assembly passed the criminal justice bill, so for all these years we have been living under a criminal justice system that enables criminals to walk the streets freely. Criminals will be indicted for stealing. They find their way to the National Assembly and earn salaries from the system they have stolen from and use same to pay their lawyers for a crime they committed against the system simply because the criminal justice system is weak. You go to court and it relies on legal instruments that ask for perpetual injection from being prosecuted, meaning you cannot try them forever. Where in the world do we have that? We have to have a functional legal framework that guarantees the speedy trial of persons. When we don’t have that, corruption will fester. So for me as a politician, I will fight in my own little way, I will talk, advise and help to build a strong legal framework where the agencies responsible for fighting crimes are strong and independent enough in doing their jobs.
Even the APC that are shouting change how will they change the system? What legal framework are they coming with to fight corruption? How many years do they think it will take them to pass a bill that will fight corruption when in the first the national assembly where the bill will get to, is filled with people who are over fed from the system. In the first place can they reduce their salaries first? That would be a good place to start in the fight against corruption. Also, we as a people, we have to change our orientation and be really ready to fight corruption, not only as government officials but also as citizens of this great country. We must obey simple laws, we must support institutions created to fighting corruption and be willing to shun and report acts of corruption. We must know that it is a crime to see a crime and fail to report it. In fact, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) has a lot of work to do.
The Southeast is a stronghold of PDP but the APC in chanting change wants to make an incursion there. How do you see this charge by the APC?
The APC has no hold in the Southeast. They are just paper tigers as far as that zone is concerned. It is just a chanting party. Beyond Imo state where the governor is APC by membership and PDP by heart, I don’t see any way the APC will make any in road. They cannot win presidential election in that state. Okorocha, the only APC governor in the Southeast is there because it is convenient for him now. Okorocha tried to muscle his way into the top echelon of the PDP, he tried to foist his interests and ambition. He tried many times and he failed. He then went to APGA and then APC. APC has no ground or base in the South East. They would fail woefully. It is not a party that has anything positive for the average Igbo man. They have supported ideologies that killed and destroyed Igbo men and their businesses. Any sane Igbo man would run away hearing that name APC. The only reason why an Igbo man would be in APC is purely for personal interest and not a collective interest of the Igbo people. Igbo people must shine their eyes and vehemently reject APC at all levels. It is a party of angry, frustrated and tired people with questionable past.
APC was created out of malice. It is an organization peopled with politicians who either were not appointed into the Jonathan’s cabinet or who were frustrated out of the PDP or those who just believe that their voices can only be heard if they belong to the opposition party. No member of the APC is an ideological politician; they are just a bird of different feathers, struggling to flock together. Their leaders are men with questionable past. APC was not good yesterday, not good today and will never be good for anyone tomorrow, not even for the Igbos. It is not a Party that preaches and believes in the Unity of Nigeria. Utterances of their leaders say it all!
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is the only party that has all it takes to fix the rots in the system in this country. It is currently laying the foundation for growth. The world now reckons with Nigeria. Our economy is booming. Nigeria is currently rated the biggest economy in Africa. It is happening under PDP Government.
The PDP Government led by our amiable President Jonathan has championed the reconstruction of major roads such as the Abuja-Abaji-Lokoja, Kano-Maiduguri, Onitsha-Enugu-Port Harcourt, Benin-Ore-Shagamu and the popular Lagos-Shagamu-Ibadan highways and there are more goodies in the bags of PDP for Nigerians to enjoy. It is just about sticking with the winning party, the performing party, the biggest party in Africa, the party not owned by any individual, the PDP.
The second Onitsha Bridge is under construction and these and many more are verifiable projects under the PDP Government. It is better to be with a Government with achievements to show than being with a party with huge and empty promises that are only aimed at winning an election.
You were an aspirant for the State Assembly but you stepped down for others. Are you restrategising for 2019?
I was invited by my people to serve based on some philanthropic services I had rendered to serve for my people at the State Assembly under Ohafia North State Assembly to represent my people of Nkporo and Abiriba in Abia State. I am from Abia State. I consulted but had to step down because I felt more propelled to serve at the presidency, as a Strategist. It is in the plan. Remember, I am a strategist and every day, I not only strategise for others but for myself too. I am still young. 2019 may look so far but it is very close. So it depends on what my constituents say. If they insist that I must continue with my aspirations either for the Assembly or Something higher, I will throw myself into the ring again. If that does not happen I am still very available and ready to also continue doing what I am doing at federal level, which is also service to humanity and building and deepening our democracy. I feel if people like me can leave our comfort zone in the United States and come back home, it is not for pecuniary reasons. I feel we are more needed here in Nigeria, a developing country, than we are needed in America, an already developed society. You are needed in a developing society where your skills and manpower are needed to ensure accelerated development that can stand the test of time. You cannot stay overseas and criticize the system, expecting a change to what you like, if you don’t come down to contribute. I came back after many years with the believe that I am one of those who have so much to offer this country beyond my first calling which is journalism, beyond being a political manager and communications strategist which are my second and third calling. There are too many things one can offer which are the main push why I came back. I have opportunities of staying back in the U.S, I have a job there that I left, and I have all the good things of life. Sometimes after staying here for a while, I get tempted to return to the U.S, considering the power supply challenges, inadequate infrastructure and your friends calling on you to return to the U.S. I made up my mind that this is where one should be because this is where I am needed most and my services more impactful.