Thursday, 3 September 2015

How Murthala & Obasanjo instituted Corruption in Public Sector – Multilinks Founder, Ezekiel Fatoye | Says “I am yet to find best Nigerian President since Independence”


By on 15:39
Share this Post Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Email This Pin This

The GDA meets Telecoms Guru, Chief Ezekiel Olasunmoye Fatoye

Chief Ezekiel Olasunmoye Fatoye can be described as the “Grand Master” when it comes to private telecommunications business in Nigeria. When the history of public and private telecommunications business is being documented in further history, the name Ezekiel Olasunmoye Fatoye will take a special page.
As a former Executive Director of Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) and the only black founder/partner of one of Nigeria’s leading private telecommunications  net work, Multi-Links, this Gbongan, Osun state born telecoms guru has seen it all. In the last 50 years, he played prominently in the evolution of the Nigerian private telecommunications industry, especially in the CDMA sector. After he was forced out of NITEL under the regime of late General Sani Abacha, the very intelligent and innovative telecommunications engineer who started his career in the old P&T, joined hands with some investors to establish Starcomms a private CDMA technology company. He didn’t stay long with the management as he later left to establish MULTI-LINKS with some Indian expatriates and investors in 1996. Since then, his name has become very synonymous with private telecommunications business in Nigeria and he has also become a voice of wisdom in top issues concerning telecommunication business in Nigeria. In 2004, at the peak of the GSM revolution in Nigeria, being a man of vision and foresight, the Telecoms Chief led his management to sell off the CDMA company, MULTI-LINKS to TELKOM of South Africa at an undisclosed amount of money and many industry observers who heard of the deal never saw what Chief Fatoye was seeing.  They thought he and his team were fools. But today he has been justified for his discretion.
Chief Fatoye who is 77 years and presently chairman of Spectranet hosted your Africa’s number 1 Celebrity encounter blog Asabeafrika inside his VGC, Lekki Peninsular home sometimes before the last Presidential election where he told us few things about the evolution of Nigeria as a political entity and how the short-lived Murthala/Obasanjo regime of 1975-1976 brought massive corruption into the Civil Service due to bad government policy. This is the first in a series of memoir-like encounter with the biggest telecoms chief in the history of Nigerian telecommunications. Enjoy!
Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika...'Nigerians are orderly at British Airports but they step into Nigeria they become disorderly'
Sir, at your age (75) would you say there is anything disturbing you about Nigeria?

I thank God for being able to see this day; I think God is the only one to be thanked. Because I never thought I could reach this age and the reason is simple; because of the falling quality of life in Nigeria, one will say it is very difficult to get to this age. The life span count in Nigeria is very low; the average life span of an adult in Nigeria is forty-something. So, anybody that could live above forty in this country should thank God. There are lots of problems which I believe can be solved with good leadership. Nigeria is one of the best countries in the world with all what God has given us; God has given this country a lot of things that poverty shouldn’t have been an issue. We have sea ports, we have virile lands, we have gold, we have diamonds, there is nothing we don’t have in this country, yet we are one of the poorest in the world. It shouldn’t be so. There are some European countries where they don’t have anything yet if you visit their country, you see a different outlook. Nigeria today, you go and see slums all over the place, bad roads, everywhere is flooded yet we are so lucky in this country, we don’t have natural earth disaster like many other countries. We don’t have earth quakes, we don’t have tsunamis, and we don’t have typhoon or abnormal downpour. So, we have every course to thank God. But we are still in trouble. I am so worried; I don’t know what we will bequeath our children because if things continue to go like this, then we are in trouble. I look at what life was before independence and now, things were even better before independence than now. Things were better under the colonial masters than now. I grew with them and I know exactly what happened then and the benefits we enjoyed in those days. Today, life is so brutish. People are getting poorer, there is nothing like the average man or the poor man any more. That gap has been decimated. We only have the very rich and the very poor; and society seems not to take this into cognizance.
“When you are in London, you see everybody on queue. There is no big man, there is no small man. Everybody is the same, you take your queue. You pay your ticket and you board the plane. But the same group of people, on landing at Nigeria airport, they are disorderly”.
Sir, you just said something about life being fair to all during the colonial times than now. At what point exactly did you think Nigeria started breaking leadership wise?  
I think the problem started with the exuberant attitude of the people who took over from the colonial powers. When you look at the beginning, Nigeria was made of people who are in a hurry; people who are in hurry to be rich, who are in a hurry to be successful and at all cost. When I look at the first republic, the time of Tafawa Balewa, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and the rest, things were better in their time because they inherited a system that was working. I can’t remember in those days when they will say NEPA took light or there is power cut off. Of course we knew few villages where there was no light but on a large scale, you can’t be treated with the psychological shock of say “light is off”. Never, If I want to travel from here to Kano, I will go and book train and it will be straight to Kano. Today, there is no train anymore. Nigeria Airways in those days you will book your ticket and travel to any part of the world but today there is nothing like Nigerian Airways anymore. And the worst of it all is a national parastatal like the National Shipping Line, in my younger days, I travelled from London to Nigeria in National Shipping Line and it was comfortable but  today, there is nothing like that anymore, a company like NITEL is dead completely. So, why should we have these sad episodes in a great nation like ours? And when you look at it all, it is the same people that supposed to lead us that are killing these organizations. You set up an organization and you kill it. It is unthinkable.
“The life span count in Nigeria is very low; the average life span of an adult in Nigeria is forty-something. So, anybody that could live above forty in this country should thank God”.
Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika...'I am yet to find a corrupt free Nigerian President since independence'
Do you think the problem is related to attitude of the black man or it is pure witchcraft?
I think we have one of the best set of people in the world. Let me tell you, if you are travelling from London to Nigeria, direct or via other routes. When you are in London, you see everybody on queue. There is no big man, there is no small man. Everybody is the same, you take your queue. You pay your ticket and you board the plane. But the same group of people, on landing at Nigeria airport, they are disorderly. They are disorganized; everybody wants to go before the other. You will struggle to go and clear yourself from immigration but you don’t realize that when you get out of the immigration shed, you have to wait for another hour to get your boxes and luggage.  But that is what we are; when we are over there, if somebody is behind you, you will just stay cool there. But here, they will struggle and cause trouble. Our major problem is indiscipline. Indiscipline is the number one problem we have in this country. And indiscipline has created corruption; it has created lot of other bad things that has set us back.
High Chief Ezekiel Olasunmoye Fatoye speaks with the GDA
The opinion is high that our political class has failed us woefully. Do you agree with this opinion?
The political class believes that to rule a country is like a war. I remember Jomo Kenyata said once, that there is no African language for opposition. That the word opposition means enemy and what you do is to fight your enemy. You see the reflection of that philosophy in our political life here. When there is an election, it is all cutlasses, guns and all sorts of ammunition. You get all the area boys and thugs and give them all sort of weapons to fight and kill your own brothers.  That is our own definition of opposition; in Yoruba you call them “Alatako”.
If somebody is your “Alatako”, it simply means that person can’t be your friend but a foe, an enemy and you treat him like one. So, you can say that is the attitudinal problem that is killing our political leadership. My fear is that our generation might not witness the political reform we diligently desire.  Maybe the next generation after ours will have a better life because we have been going through the same thing for decades over. 
“Today, life is so brutish. People are getting poorer, there is nothing like the average man or the poor man any more. That gap has been decimated. We only have the very rich and the very poor; and society seems not to take this into cognizance”.
Yesterday I was listening to some interviews of past leaders like Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, Obafemi Awolowo, Ladoke Akintola, Chief Okpara, Nnamdi Azikiwe and the rest,  I was going through their archives on the internet and I was listening to some of the issues they were raising in those days, and quite funny, the same issues are still the ones we talk about till this moment I am with you which is rather unfortunate because we are talking of issues of fifty years apart. We are just moving in the same circle of viciousness, we take two steps forward and take three steps backward. Perambulating! We are always on one stop, no movement, nothing.  It is a sad thing. And I am very disturbed with what is happening to us now.
 How Murthala/Obasanjo Brought Corruption to Nigeria
I recently asked General Sam Momah, a former Minister of Science and technology who is also in the septuagenarian club like yourself in  Abuja to tell me his best leader of all times and he mentioned General Buhari. Sir, in your years of seeing Nigeria grow, who do you think was the man that was close to it in terms of leadership?  
You mean in Nigeria?
Yes, sir.
I would have loved to say the late General Murthala Mohamed but I am very reluctant to say so.
“You steal one million, it is still not enough, you steal one billion and now they are stealing trillions. I mean It is so ridiculous; and all these monies, you don’t know how to spend them. You put money abroad, your children can not access it and you die. That money automatically becomes their economic bounty”
Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika..'Murthala and Obasanjo started instituted corruption gale in Public Sector
Why are you reluctant?
He actually started very well; he was a bold leader, quick in action, a man who takes quick decision and all that, which was very good. But if Nigeria had allowed him to stay for another five years, people would have seen his weaknesses. We didn’t have the opportunity to see him through, but I can say he started well. Like I used to say, the problem in this country, especially when it comes to corruption started around that time. What happened then was that the civil servants were happy with the job they had and believed that when they retire, they will retire with their gratuity and pension and they were comfortable with that. Thereafter, you can build a house; maybe a four apartment building; you live in one apartment and rent the remaining three apartments out. The rent you collect from the three apartments and your gratuity is enough for you to live the rest of your life. You live and you die thereafter. That was the consolation of an average civil servant. But one terrible thing happened then, they started this retirement without notice thing. That people will work and serve their nation conscientiously and one day, they were asked to leave without notice. A lot of people left service because of this problem.
Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika...'If you are lucky to live above 40 in Nigeria, you must thank God'
And those who were left in the service, then said well, if people who were so hardworking and doing very well can be asked to leave just like that, suddenly, and he had nothing to fall back upon, why should I be there, why should I be like that?. So, the tendency was to start looting money, accumulation of wealth to the extent that we don’t know when and where to stop. You steal one million, it is still not enough, you steal one billion and now they are stealing trillions. I mean It is so ridiculous; and all these monies, you don’t know how to spend them. You put money abroad, your children can not access it and you die. That money automatically becomes their economic bounty. If you buy buildings abroad, you can not carry those buildings to Nigeria, you can renovate them but that building is still going to be in that country. And the money you spend has gone like that, to help furnish other people’s economy. If you steal and you use that money to invest and you employ people and multiply success in the economy, it is even better than people stealing billions of naira and taking it off to Europe to develop other people’s economy while your own is depreciating. It is an unfortunate thing. It is an African problem.
Are you saying, sir, that the corruption in the civil service started with the sudden retirement of people without compensation?
That is part of it, because I know in those days in 1975, a lot of people were retired. They were retired suddenly and some people died because they didn’t plan their retirement. They collapsed and had heart attack and so many cardiovascular accidents.
Under General Murthala’s regime?
Yes, that is under Murthala/Obasanjo regime. It was a big mess then and I can tell you that was the beginning of the attitude of corruption in the public service which has now become a national embarrassment to us.
Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika...'Nigeria of today has no Middle Class. What we have is the Poor and The Very Poor'
But you have still not told me your best leader of all times? Are you saying you can’t lay your opinion on one?
That is a tall order. If I have my way, I would have loved the first republic to continue and then we develop from there. But it was cut off on tribal and ethnic basis. It shouldn’t have been like that; we should have allowed them to continue. At least they were the ones who fought for the independence of this country. We got the independence, if we had allowed them to continue to pilot the affairs of the country, gradually; maybe life would not be the same for us, today. But we now had aggressive young men who wanted power at all cost, imagine a young man of thirty something years buying a house of four billion naira? Throwing party all over the place? And all you hear about him is that the father is a farmer somewhere; the father is poor man somewhere. Why should it be so? You see that his intelligence is still very low to what he is controlling. That was what happened with those people who strangled our flow of leadership in the first republic.
The 75 years old Telecoms Chief receives a copy of CITY PEOPLE Magazine that carried his story from Asabeafrika's GDA
In a nutshell, you can’t pick on any particular person after the first republic?
All of them are the same; it reminds me of my days as a student in the United Kingdom, when we have a union executive in a year, you give all sort of allegation on that person, claiming that they stole money, they are corrupt and all that. I am talking of the Student Union o. Then you now vote those people who are very vocal into power, and what do you see? You discover that they are even worst than those you voted out. Then you start criticizing and before dawn they are out, you have new ones and they become even worse, a vicious circle. And you find out that these are the people who come into this country to become political leaders over the years. As soon as people see money, they want to steal. That is the saddest eventuality because they now think of their background. Maybe his parents are living in vey poor area, somewhere, and because he wants to change everything so suddenly, he would have to steal commonwealth of the people. We used to have ten percenteers in those days, now it is a different thing entirely. The difference is infinite.  They will even award the contract and steal at a go without execution.
Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika...'Politicians steall millions and billions before but now they steal trillions'
If you are to advise political leaders in a leadership event, what will you tell them to do differently?
In one word, they should stop this greed of get rich quick. People should plan for the future. Plan ahead for the future and monitor your plan on yearly basis. See weather you are approaching it sufficiently or you are not approaching it sufficiently. What you have done wrong and how you can right it; what you should do next and gradually you grow and grow like that and not to think of how to get money at all cost, how to steal or loot public money, how to go for yahoo-yahoo on the net and make cheap money and enjoy life. We had such problems in this estate (VGC) some years back where virtually all the rich young boys in the estate were Yahoo-yahoo boys. People must know that success stolen will never last. It is what you earn legitimately that stays with you for long.
Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika...'I am very disturb with the present situation in the country'
(Read Chief Ezekiel Fatoye on “How Abacha ruined NITEL because of David Mark” on this blog after this time out)


































Gbenga Dan Asabe

Africa's Number One Celebrity Encounter Blog

0 comments:

Post a Comment