Rev Sam Ekeledo, Public Affairs Analyst and former Executive Chairman Umuahia North Local Government Council is not new to controversies. In many arenas he is seen as a Marxist due to some of his socialist inclinations, and he has never failed to question orthodoxies or interrogate the permissive ignorant of the Nigerian elites. In this interview with NewsCritic Editor, Rev Sam Ekeledo speaks on the New Abia and on why Nigeria is incapable of fighting corruption, insisting that we must embrace corruption and grant general amnesty to looters to survive as a nation. Excerpts:
Q. Abia State has slipped out of the hands of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, after 24 years in power, as a critical stakeholder and someone who has occupied several political positions in the past, are you satisfied with the change that we have now?
Ans. I think the change was inevitable, over the years the PDP strangulation of the state was beginning to incur the people’s anger, so it was inevitable and of course necessary because from time to time changes like this help the health of any economy.
Even for Gov Alex Otti who took over power, he has a job cut out for him because he has to show greater responsibility, make a departure from all those things people perceived as erroneous and bad. I welcome it and I’m also happy that he has picked up the gauntlet and running with it. I’ve seen an attempt to physically develop the state. He has initiated other well-meaning plans, including the Abia Industrial Innovation Park at Owaza in Ukwa West LGA. I believe in these things because they are things that have capacity for the generation of a better economy. He must be alive to the fact that he is in the field of politics, so from time to time he is bound to be criticized by the people.
Q. Besides serving the government of Abia State you are an illustrious son of Ohuhu, and as we speak there are complaints that unlike what obtained in the past no person of Ohuhu extraction has been appointed into the present administration led by Dr Alex Otti?
Ans. What about Chinonye Mba Uzoukwu? who is Chief of Strategy to Alex Otti. Perhaps he might not be one of the names we have always known, but he is a well-positioned Ohuhu personality in Otti’s government. Maybe again, because he came in a little later into the administration…I think he is there. Notwithstanding, we are Ohuhu people, we bring light everywhere we go, it is not something we should worry about because it is Otti’s loss. I think it’s obviously in his best interest to scout for Ohuhu people who are deep thinkers, and there are several of them all over the place who have the sense of gift of government to help his government. So as far as I’m concerned it is not something we should gripe about.
Q. The Supreme court has ruled in favour of President Bola Tinubu in the appeal against his election by Peter Obi and Atiku Abubakar. Now It’s exactly five months since the president was sworn in, what is your impression of the new federal government?
Ans. Many years ago I too was a candidate in the national election and one of the critical stakeholders I interacted with, indeed the man called Dr A.I Nwabueze, he listened to me after canvassing my views and ideas, then he said young man the efforts you are making I endorsed…however, I hope you have prepared for rigging’?
I’m telling you what happened in 1992, so I wasn’t surprised when they started harassing Tinubu because they too became victim of the naivety, I suffered in 1992. They were campaigning but obviously they were not prepared for the rigging, that is Nigeria politics for you. It is either you take it or leave it. The secondary activity called the judiciary and supreme court for me is of little consequence, the fact is that INEC declared Tinubu winner so what do you want the judiciary now to change, how do you want to do that? Politicians should have this understanding that in Nigerian elections, there is a campaign and there is rigging, these are the two components that make up our electoral process.
Q. The Tinubu that was acclaimed to have developed Lagos economically and otherwise is now the president of Nigeria. The economy has taken its worst beating with inflationary trends and unemployment rate very high, the Naira is weakest now even in the sub region while the price of PMS has gone haywire. What do you have to say about the present economic situation of Nigeria?
Ans. The truth is that over the years, we had certain loopholes but it came to a cumulation in the Buhari era. Actually, Nigeria sank economically under Buhari, he succeeded in sinking the economy. I praise the incumbent now for managing to hold certain bold steps, however very painful they are, certain steps he took if we are a different kind of nation the whole place will be boiling. We are quite resilient, understanding and optimistic. It is not a surprise to me that the president and his men are scouting everywhere to find the bridging money to hold and stabilize Naira, even that won’t work. We are in a deep mess, whether we sale NNPCL or NLNG etc none of them will work because the fundamental issue which is corruption can’t be dealt with…we are incapable of dealing with that matter called corruption. We are not talking about part-time looters in the civil service, we are talking about brigandage, how state allocations and such federal government monies are looted and re-looted. So, we are not going to get out of it, everything else might appear as a palliative because the strength of the foreign exchange is key and we don’t have it, and incapable of earning it. The one we earn from NNPCL is badly manipulated inside NNPCL, so we have a bad situation.
Q. Then what do you think is the solution or are you saying there is no way out of this mess?
Ans. There’s only one way out, what we can do is what I refer as part of our own economic nationalism. We need to think of our circumstances, the way we have lived and celebrated life and then bring out a home-grown policy and legislation. That is to say that every product of corruption whether the money is domiciled in China or los Angelis, wherever we may find Nigerian citizens, those of them who are under the EFCC corruption radar that are on the run, I’m saying that all that should cease.
Let the president give a general amnesty to every corrupt person starting from the presidency to Governors, politicians including Diezani Allison Madueke…we should grant amnesty to every corrupt fugitive…they should all be allowed to come back and have their money. Now when you grant this general amnesty you will achieve very reduced pressure on the Dollar because they now realise their naira is safe with them.
In fact, the addition to the legislation is that having become recipients to this presidential amnesty, nobody is permitted to operate account anywhere in the world with foreign currency, whatever you have should be in our local currency. So, there will be Dollars everywhere…and should will find any of them keeping foreign currency anywhere, that person should go for life imprisonment.
Q. You hold the opinion that the naira crisis can’t be solved through conventional economic policies except this kind of theory. So, who initiates this action?
Ans. Tinubu is best suited to initiate it and execute, the reason being that he is a very versatile politician with a knack for operating differently. As governor of Lagos State, he was in a league of his own. This is not a duty that should be passed on to another person, and for me it dovetails into that same idea of restructuring because I’m constraining myself to what I call economic nationalism.
He is a man of difference, so he can propagate and execute it successfully …why are we in this situation, it is because we are a cultural people, corruption really doesn’t taste bad by way of our cultural exhibitions. Corruption doesn’t carry that odium; we live with it and acknowledge it. In our culture corruption is an achievement one makes for the attainment of heroism, try and define it in any other better way.
Why would you fight that which you own, rather embrace it, grant amnesty let’s get out of where we are, we are in a rot. This can’t continue where everything you earn is just to buy fuel. Let’s produce something genuine and indigenous to ourselves. I can guarantee us excess foreign currencies that will flow into this nation when we grant a general amnesty to corrupt individuals.