Mordecai Sunday Ibrahim is the Chairman of the North-based Arewa People’s Patriotic Front (APPFRONT). In this interview with Correspondent, John Adi, he explained why corruption stands as a cog in the wheel of progress of the country. He also bared his mind on other national issues, including the forthcoming elections in 2015. Excerpts:
What would you say is responsible for the present backwardness in the country?
I think it is corruption. That is the first basic reason why Nigeria is crawling after almost 54 years of Independence. The second reason is lack of genuine interest and love for the country. Let’s take the post-Independent leaders such as Tafawa Balewa, Sir Ahmadu Bello. And then come to Late Murtala’s regime and to the period of President Shehu Shagari, through the days of General Olusegun Obasanjo as a military Head of State. Those were leaders that believed in Nigeria. They led Nigeria, they worked for Nigeria, they spent their lives for Nigeria. If you see any meaningful development or progress we made in Nigeria, they date back to those period when these crop of leaders were in positions. Unfortunately, when Gen. Buhari came in 1983 he came with discipline. He didn’t stay long in government, so we don’t have sufficient data to assess him. He was in power from 1983 to 1985. That period is short for anyone to do a thorough assessment of a leader. He still did his best. If he would not be remembered for anything else, he would be remembered for discipline. He tried to imbibe discipline into Nigerians because he identified that discipline had been eroded in Nigerian life. But I say without fear of contradiction, or without apology to anyone, that corruption became legalised and institutionalised in the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida as Head of State. Settlements here and there, and since that time it has been growing. The monster has been growing and developing branches, giving birth to children and great grand children so much that now there is nothing you want in this country today that is not associated with corruption. Unfortunately, it has entered even sacred places like the church and other institutions. We were at the FCDA, Abuja, last week – you would be shocked that there was a parking space and the security there told us that there was no parking space. I had to beg and cajole him to let us enter and he later told us he was hungry. I didn’t give him money, but we understood the language – that he was asking for money. I told him to open the gate and that I would settle him when I am going out. He thought I would give something but when I came out he was waving and I waved back. How can you have development with corruption? They don’t go together. Corruption is a representation of darkness while development is a representation of light. And light and darkness don’t co-habit.
A road that would be constructed for five million naira, where is the money to do other things? A classroom that would be built for maybe three million naira is done for ten million naira; the cost of three is spent on one. And where is the difference going into? It is going into the pockets of those who are awarding the contracts and into the pockets of those who are processing the papers for the contracts, cashiers, and so on. Virtually everybody is corrupt in the ministries. Corruption is not only in the government circle but also in the private sectors.
You just alleged that your brother from the north, President Babangida, institutionalised corruption, is this not an indictment on northerners?
I have not disowned my brother because he has done what is wrong, but I should be able to look at him, eyeball to eyeball, and tell him the truth.