‘Corruption has crippled every effort to develop this nation’
Rev. (Dr.) Felix Omobude is the National President of Pentecostal Fellowship (PFN) and General Superintendent, Gospel Light International Ministries, a.k.a New Covenant Gospel Church (NCGC). He spoke with AYOYINKA JEGEDE on Nigeria at 60, way forward and other national issues.
Nigeria just turned 60, what’s your impression considering the rate of development and growth?
In the first place, we are grateful to God that Nigeria is still an independent Nation, although we have a lot of things that we are struggling with. We have every reason to be thankful to God that we have been able to manage our affairs up till this moment. The dreams and the ideals of our founding fathers, I can tell you, have not been achieved. When the independent was granted and we all celebrated, we all hoped for better things. So, if after 60 years we cannot access just drinking water and the basic things of life, it is something to think about.
In your opinion, why have we not developed as a nation considering resources available?
Sectionalism, ethnicity, and religion have not actually worked in the advantage of the nation. We must own up, corruption has crippled every effort to develop this nation. These are indices that things are not moving right. Much as the present Federal Government tries to highlight the fight against corruption, corruption is still at its peak.
Nigerians must come up and don’t leave the issue of development solely to political class; we must be willing to make our contributions and stand by it.
Is Nigeria on path of nationhood and economic development?
It is very sad that Nigerians begin to wallow in poverty; you don’t need to go far to know that Nigerians are suffering. When this government came into power, Naira was about N170/180 to a dollar; now, it’s about N400/500 to a dollar. The cost of petrol in 2015 was N87, now it has increased to N150 or thereabout. We cannot say that we are making progress, certainly Not!
Nigerians want to be able to have food on their tables. When our children graduate from schools, they are all roaming about the street, so we cannot say that things are well. I think that we must try to move from just political independent to economic independent. We have rich natural resources on the soil of Nigeria, we have rich agricultural potentials, things that we can develop that can make us self-sufficient; we have them enough. The challenge for government and the people is to look inward. We cannot continue to borrow and enslave our future in order to sustain our today; economic freedom is important.
What are your thoughts on governance and democracy ideals in this country 60 years of independence and 22 years of stable democracy?
The desire of every good Nigerian is for good governance; government that puts the people first, government that serves and services the needs of the people. Nigerians are not asking for the impossible; they are asking for the basic needs of life. They want to have education, they want to have jobs, and they want to be able to access health. They want to have drinking water, they want to be sure that they can go to bed with their two eyes closed. They want to be sure they can travel from one point to the other in the country without being harassed or kidnapped. These are issues.
Now, you talk about democracy after 60 years, have we made the right progress? Certainly not! A situation where there are manipulations all over the place; a situation where those who seek for power steal public money in readiness for campaigns and use it to buy votes, buy people conscience; that cannot be said to be a good one. Although the last election in Edo State seems to show some rays of light, but where impunity is allowed to continue are evidence we must come up; we need to work on that.
I like to use this opportunity to call on the present Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari to do everything possible and bequeath to Nigeria and Nigerians a democracy that can stand a test of time. A democracy that is truly free, fair and accountable; a democracy where everybody has a say, though the majority may have their way; a democracy where the government should truly be for the people and by the people. These are the yearnings of Nigerians.
At 60, how have we fared?
Certainly, we ought to be doing better than we are doing, there’s no doubt about that. Every nation has had or is having their own struggles, but for us in Nigeria with years of civilians and military interventions and then civilian and military intervention, certainly we have shortchange ourselves; there’s no doubt about that, things are not moving the way they should. It could be actually better than what it is now; Nigerians are hoping for the best.
What are the things that we are doing wrong that affects our growth as a nation?
Nigerians have never been divided as we are today; criminality has never gotten to the peak. At 60, good numbers of our children, especially from a certain part or region, are still roaming the street without education. At 60, we cannot talk of stable electricity. There is no portable drinking water; the health system is not anything to be proud of. We can continue on and on, but we must also look at the positive side.
As the largest black concentration in the world, although we have these issues, but we have been able to manage ourselves. Nigerians are tolerant both of their leaders and of themselves. I do hope that we can use our diversity as our strength and see it as a cloth of many colours.
Why is our democracy not working?
I don’t think there’s a country that does not have her challenges, but I think ours is monumental; people believe they can buy their way in Nigeria. People fight those who do not see from their political point of view and rubbish them if you don’t belong to the political party in power either in state or the federal; you are likely to be victimized. That doesn’t spell a healthy democracy. In an ideal situation, everybody should be free to say what he/she wants to say and the constitution should be supreme. In an ideal democracy, the opposition plays a major role and they should be allowed to play that role. The press should be free to do their job properly; the judiciary should not be influenced. Public institutions must serve the interest of the public; the police, the ICPC or EFCC and all anti-corruption agencies should be free and not be seen as tied to the apron of the government of the day. These are the things Nigerians are concern about.
Has the presidential system of government worked for us or should we look the way of the parliamentary system of government where Nigeria started?
I have heard people suggest return to parliamentary system and all the rest. The problem is not in the system; the problem is in the people. Any system where people are determined to make it work will work. If we are determined to scuttle it and we are determine to always do things contrary to the law, to drive against the traffic, fight against the tide at all times and cut corners, such system will not work. Whether Parliamentary or Presidential system of government, the people must be willing to make it work and the power is within us; we can if we decide to.
Many people are of the opinion that leadership is the problem of Nigeria; do you share in that view?
You cannot say it is not true that we have leadership challenge; we have our challenge in leadership. Leadership is very important, if we don’t have good leaders, if we have leaders that are going nowhere, they are bound to affect the nation. However, we should not objurgate ourselves and put all the blames on leadership. Leadership is a product from the society; we must begin to think globally and properly.
We must begin to think what part we can play in an evolving nation. Yes, we have a lot of aspirations there are things we want, but we don’t have. There is a need for patience on the part of citizenry, but we must be able to call our leaders to question to account for their deeds; we should not be satisfied sharing from the crumbs from the masters table. The politics of ‘this is my tribe man, this is from my tribe’ should now be over; we must look for credible and capable people that have the fear of God; people that are capable of delivering the dividends of democracy and find them from this nation. This is a great nation; we have credible men and women that are capable.
What in your opinion will save Nigeria from it’s current situation?
Someone who was born 60 years ago, I think should be near retirement, according to public service rules. But there is still hope for Nigeria; we must have the collective desire and bring our efforts together to move forward. We must now think outside the box what our possibilities are and what we can achieve. How do we get the best brains without being sectional? How do we ensure that our future generation, our children are taken care of so that things don’t degenerate than what it is today? These are things that we must consider and every parent has a role to play. The church has a role to play, the traditional institutions, educational institution and all our institutions must brace up. Let’s do things in the right way; we’ll be able to come out of this, if we decide to.
What’s your advice to Nigerians?
We have every reason to be grateful to God for the life he has given to us, for keeping us together and for keeping us alive. Nigerians should be determined to make their own contributions; Americans developed America, British people developed Britain, the Chinese developed China. If we are hoping that someone else is coming to develop us, it would be a mirage; we must be willing to develop Nigeria.
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