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"Nigeria Led By Low-Quality Politicians" — Bishop Ighele

Bishop Charles Ighele is the General Superintendent of Holy Spirit Mission Church, the Happy Family Chapel, with over 60 branches, outreaches and neighborhood assemblies. Ighele, a Political Science graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State, in this interview, with BOLA BADMUS, speaks on various issues of national interest.

With a few days to its one year anniversary in office, do you think the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is on the right track?

About being on track, it is a pity to say that it has not been easy to find a government being on track in Nigeria, as politicians spend most of their time fighting for power. When in office, they spend their spiritual and mental energy watching their backs and also fighting for more power. Afterwards, there is now less time used to think about the development and welfare of the people. Only a few politicians really spend their time to think about the problems of the country. One of them was Chief Obafemi Awolowo. It is unfortunate that most politicians don’t know Nigeria’s problems. So being on track is out of it.

There are insinuations that Nigeria has a long way before attaining development. What is your take on this?

Let’s ask ourselves: what is development; what makes development and what forms the concept of development? When people know what development is, they would know how to raise an underdeveloped people. As it is now, we are not even developing, we are an underdeveloped country, as you can’t use a third class brain to build a first class world, and most of our people have third class brains. So, it is not possible for this nation to develop and that is the way it has been over the years.

Don’t you think Nigeria needs to change its system of government?

You see, we are still making the mistake. Nigeria’s problem goes beyond the executive and legislature; it is about what the Nigerian leaders value. As to what they value most, it is being in power, though not all are guilty if this. But the truth is that you will spend most of your time on what you value most and only a few value the plight of the common man. I believe politics should be about lifting up the lives of the people, so it not about the system of government we are using. Both politicians in the legislature and executive arms of government are birds of a feather. They are all the same; always having clash of interests, in which they fight for everything.

What do you mean by hardly on track?

Though I am not referring to any government, when you talk about government being on track, you talk about the prosperity of the people. Are Nigerians poorer and richer than they were years ago? Is life better? Is quality of urban life better now than it was in 1961? Is education and health care better? In the village where I stayed, there was a dispenser in those days, are they still there? How can the question of being on track come up? In fact we are off track.
But the president has said we need a change of character...
I have said earlier, that hardly any Nigerian government is on track and I am not selective nor am I referring to his government.

What is your take on Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s religious bill?

You’ll find out that both Christian and Muslim leaders have come out to kick against the bill. There is something about leadership; a good general knows when to attack and when to retreat. Even when you are right, when you notice the heat generated by what you want to do, you stop to think about whether you are right or not and how can peace reign instead of winning the war. I will want Governor El-Rufai to withdraw the bill and let peace reign, even though to him, the bill is intended to bring peace to Kaduna State. The bill has been one of the hottest religious arguments since the Sharia-generated controversy in Zamfara State in 2003.

Which is Nigeria’s problem, followership or leadership?

Everything. It is the elite that determine the quality of people. It is like parents determining the quality of education the children will have, food to eat, among other decisions. So the fortune of a nation is determined by the elite; they are like those who parent the nation. When I say elite, I mean politicians, business owners and religious leaders to which materialism is key and not the people’s prosperity, although not all, but majority of them have corrupted the citizenry who behave like them. The quality of leaders that we have determines who we are.

So, the crisis between the executive and legislature has always been a stumbling block to development in the country?

You see, the issue between the legislature and executive is an ongoing issue and the media has always been used to fight this war and the people at the receiving end are so gullible that they don’t think before believing what the media publishes. I know the presidential system gulps a lot of money and if you want a parliamentary system of government, trust Nigerian politicians, they will make it costlier. Look at the local government reforms of 1978, brought about by the Obasanjo military regime. This was something that was meant to bring development to the grassroots. And at that time, as an undergraduate, I was highly interested in the policy. I was following the whole thing and noticed that it turned out to be one of the sources of draining the funds.
The present local government arrangement has turned into a system where the revenue of the country is wasted as you have a local government chairman having advisers. The presidential system of government in America is not as costly as we have it here, so it is about the quality of people we have at the helm of affairs. We are a people of low quality and that is the fact. And the funny part is when they go outside Nigeria, they behave well, but when in Nigeria, they urinate along the street. We have to know who we are and when you know your level, then development will start.

Some people are of the notion that there is something amiss about the bill as it came after the clash between the Army and the Shi’ia Muslims. What are your thoughts on this?

Governor El-Rufai is a Sunni Muslim and you have the shot backed by the Iran. So this is what the bill is seen to be. The bill is meant to address issues relating to the Shi’ites, other religious groups including the Christians, whereby he seems to be promoting the Sunni Muslim which he belongs to. That is the perception of the bill, but people may be wrong. But as it (bill) has generated a lot of controversy, I think the best thing is for him to withdraw the bill and even if passed, trust Nigerians to disobey it.

What is your take on banning of some items from being imported into the country?

Past and present governments have been doing this. We have been in this battle before, but till today, these things still find their way into the country, so it is not about banning this and that as it is not the cause if hardship faced by Nigerians. A country like ours shouldn’t be importing these things, but international trade is beyond ‘don’t import this and that,’ as it is trade and every individual has to determine what he or she wants to buy. If I want to buy toothpicks from England, you can’t stop me. But I think what we should ask ourselves why people buy those things? After addressing the why and solving the problem, people will stop buying those things. We should apply a more intelligent approach than wielding the stick. We need to think about the workforce of our nation and according to renowned writer, Adam Smith, what determines the wealth of a nation is the leaders, who must harness the resources of such nation to make them productive. And if you look at it, Nigeria as a country will never develop as long as we don’t harness our resources, including human, natural resources, among others.
I always tell people that if Bill Gates was a Nigerian, he would have been a poor man. And I tell people that any nation where people’s prosperity is hinged on who you know, progress will not take place in that nation.

Senate President Bukola Saraki’s case has generated a lot of controversy and some have claimed that he is being persecuted by his party, APC, for going against their wish. What is your view about such claims?

I see the Saraki case as an intra-class fight not a moral fight. And most importantly, most Nigerian politicians’ fights are about power and not based on morality. I would want to believe that what is appearing to be a power play is to the detriment of the Nigerian masses. With this, you will find out that Saraki, who is defending himself, is using a large part of his energy on a fight which he could use for developmental purposes and this is really sad. I appeal to our politicians to channel their energy to better the life of the common man.

Do you support the devaluation of Naira?

I think we all know a lot of dollars is sourced from the black market, and maybe only the privileged ones are giving dollars at the official rate by the commercial banks to import what is needed. So, already we have a problem. When multinational companies complain about scarcity of dollars, then we are in a problem. But I know right from IBB days, Nigeria had a strong aversion towards IMF and anything devaluation. We need to ask ourselves if things have changed. The president should arrange a Nigerian Economic Summit, where intelligent economists would sit and discuss about the country, and we must leave politics out of it.
Tribune Church

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