Wednesday, 15 June 2016

How Corruption Industry Started in Nigeria — Chief E.O. Fatoye + 3 things Nigeria must learn from India

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Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika....'Nigeria has a lot to learn from India or else our children might suffer'
Chief Ezekiel Olasunmoye Fatoye
a former Executive Director at NITEL is a living legend.  He is a legend of telecommunications business in Nigeria; an engineer per excellence and the Godfather of Private Telecommunication business in Nigeria. Chief Fatoye can be described as a man who has always seen tomorrow with an apt instinct for strategy and dynamism. When NITEL had crisis couple of years back and communication business was going to be given a privatization process, the Gbongan-Osun State, South Western Nigeria born Fatoye saw it coming. He and few others started what is today known as the first Private Telecommunication revolution in Nigeria by establishing Starcomms. But sensing that his views were not well respected in that venture, Chief Fatoye assembled a team of well talented Indian expatriates and established MULTI-LINKS which stood out for almost two decade as the leading elite telephone service provider in Nigeria. But in 2001, at the inception of the Global System Mobile (GSM) Technology, Fatoye saw the future again and quickly urged his team to sell off MULTI-LINKS, a CDMA technology to TELCOM of South Africa. By the time many other CDMAs like Starcomms were crashing like broken eggs, Fatoye and his team had walked away into safety. Years later, he birthed SPECTRANET a leading data band service provider. The very agile Gbongan born Chief who had a mild stroke attack in 2013 at age 75 is now 78. Though now keeping much to family and philanthropy, Chief Fatoye  who is quite displeased with the direction the country is going in the last one year opened his Victoria Garden City (VGC) Home to your Africa’s number 1 Celebrity Encounter blog, Asabeafrika on Tuesday 8th of June, 2016. The Very intelligent and dynamic telecoms guru and elder statesman opened up for the first time on the history of corruption in Nigeria. How it was nurtured and birthed and why it might not be eradicated in a long while. Enjoy the excerpts with the Chief. 

The GDA with Chief Ezekiel Olasunmoye Fatoye after the encounter
Sir, we are much honored to meet you once again after the last encounter in 2013. We feel the country as it appears, is drifting towards chaos and great disillusionment  and like the
Yorubas will say, ‘Agba kii wa loja, kori omo tuntun o wo’. As an elder statesman, we sincerely feel you should not keep quite over the present Nigerian situation? Sir, what do you think is wrong with Nigeria especially one year after President Muhammad Buhari took over as Civilian President?
Thank you very much for coming around. I am so grateful for this opportunity given to me to add my opinion to events as it affects Nigeria. The first thing is that everybody including myself, everybody in Nigeria was happy that there must be a change. If we did not have this change today, only God knows what Nigeria would have become. Maybe we would have become a bankrupt nation and the economy would have nosedived because it would have been business-as-usual because people will keep stealing without control and sometimes you sit down and ask ‘Why should people steal so much money that you cannot spend in your life time? Do you want to keep the money for your children?’ The money which belongs to everybody for the development of this country? But that is the reality by the way. The question now is ‘how do these things happen?’ how did we become so corrupt? How does corruption thrive so much in Nigeria? How did we become a country of very corrupt people?
Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika...'Coruption Started when Nigeria stopped paying attention to gratuity'
The History of Corruption in Nigeria
(Cuts in) Yes, sir, I think it is a very pertinent question because with the kind of revelations coming out from the Economic and Financial Crime Commission today, one will think corruption as it were, is the biggest industry in Nigeria?
The real reason, in fact, what we are seeing today is like treating the symptom, not the real disease. The culture of corruption started from when we were very young. Let me give you a point; in the olden days when the British people were here. When we were under the colonial system, you can hardly see corruption because people who work in the civil service are contented and were assured of getting their gratuity and pension when they leave service. But most of this people are now in penury and real difficulty. Because the government is not paying their gratuity, they are not being paid their pension and you find that their own children will now say ‘Oh, if my parent can suffer like this after working so much for government and I now work for government, if I have the opportunity to steal money, I  will steal’. And once you start stealing, you don’t know when to stop, you will just keep the tradition going. If you can steal one million, you will want to steal one billion and if you get away with that, then you graduate into stealing one trillion and nobody can notice it. You steal ten billion and you steal trillion and that is what we are seeing today, a situation where an individual is richer than the country. It is rather an unfortunate situation. I will give you an example, we have a lot of Nigerians who worked in Britain before now, some have worked for ten to five years but today, they have a comfortable pension taking care of their old age. And even if they don’t show up, the British government will be looking for them to come and pick their pension; that their pension is accruing here. And if you are pensioned in Britain, the benefit is so high. The government will provide accommodation for you; you have free transportation on the train and other means of transportation. As from 60 years and above your general well-being is totally in care of the government. The government provides you accommodation free, they provide you transportation free and if you are sick, your Medicare is free. And even if you are very old and you cannot go out again, they will engage somebody to be coming to look at you at home. A civil aide care-giver who will care for you, prepare your food for you and instead of going to the ‘Old People’s Home’ they will make you live comfortable in your house and they will be looking after you until you die. So, what will encourage people to steal when you know that ‘if I get to this age limit after I have served government, I will be comfortable. Weather I work for government or I work for private company or I even work for an individual, because I pay my tax as at when due and I can live on It’. So, everybody will be comfortable. But today people are not comfortable, they are not sure of their after-service life, they are not sure of tomorrow and because they are not sure of tomorrow, they want to take as much money as possible. I was reading something this morning, somebody told his wife that ‘Honey, if I die, burry me with all the money I have acquired. If I go, just burry me with all the monies I have acquired’. So, when the man died, the woman decided to honor her husband’s wish. She wrote a very fat cheque and her friend was astonished. She said ‘hey, what are you trying to do?’ and she said ‘I am trying to honor my husband’s last wish’. She said ‘I want to put the money in his coffin so that he can carry it to heaven’. So, the friend now said ‘how are you so stupid like this?’ and the woman said ‘I am not stupid, what I have just done is to look at the entire money he has in the bank and I have written a cheque to it, so that when he gets to heaven he can cash the cheque there’ (Prolong laughter). So, you can see the riddles of such a demand. I mean, how can somebody have billions of dollars and they will steal these monies and go invest it in Europe, America and Dubai where their economy is well developed. And the same people receiving our own money to develop their own economy are still abusing us that we are corrupt. This is the annoying thing. They receive our money, they know that this is stolen money, you collect it and you are using it to improve your own economy and yet, you say we are corrupt. It is a great irony.
Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika...'I am very sad the way Nigeria has turned up today'
Muritala Mohammed, not IBB invented corruption…
You have just given a fantastic analysis of how corruption started in the rank and file of Nigeria’s civil service, a lot of people still thinks that the corruption industry actually started under the regime of President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida. Do you agree that IBB’s regime designed and implemented corruption?
If I have to be sincere as an insider, I walked in all the government circles right from the colonial era down to present times; I think corruption started from Muritala/ Obasanjo’s regime when people were retired without gratitude. Under that regime, you can just retire a Permanent Secretary or you dismiss somebody who has been working for thirty-something years without benefits. And as a civil servant, you are not sure when you are going to be sacked. You could just be at home listening to your radio and you will just hear that you are retired. Many people died in the process. People who have worked, who have lived comfortably in Ikoyi, who worked for thirty something years and getting ready to retire and they said they are retired without benefit. Many of them retired with nothing, nothing to fall back upon and that is one of the reasons corruption started. It started from Muritala/Obasanjo and went on like that as successive governments didn’t do anything to improve the situation. Before then, it was more or less British type of government; it wasn’t as tedious as it was after the Muritala and Obasanjo era.
General Babangida
Then, we had had the Shagari era where people started looting heavily in NPN. So, because civil servants were dismissed without gratification, the next set of civil servants went on a binge of high level corruption. That is one of the evil things that happened that time, a lot of people lost their lives. I remember there was a head of service that collapsed and died. Some judges were dismissed and the government of that time did it without looking at the effect. The effect is what we are seeing today. People are now asking ‘if my father or mother was retired without benefit, why should I be so committed to government, why should I not steal?’ You see people struggle to get into Custom and they will just amass lots of money at the peril of government, monies that could have gone to government. One person will amass so much wealth to the detriment of the majority of people. Go and see what is happening in Niger-Delta today, people are just doing what they like.

 “If you can steal one million, you will want to steal one billion and if you get away with that, then you graduate into stealing one trillion and nobody can notice it. You steal ten billion and you steal trillion and that is what we are seeing today. A situation where an individual is richer than the country”.

Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika....'Corruption Started under Murthala & Obasanjo's Military regime not under IBB'
Niger-Delta Avengers should fight their leaders, not Nigeria…
Sir, right now, Niger-Delta issue seems to be the biggest thing cracking Nigeria at the moment. The boys are blowing up oil installations and cutting off energy sources. There is also the anger and campaign against the nature of oil well allocation which is said to have more northern business men having oils than the southerners. Sir, do you think the Niger-Delta boys are fighting a right course?
I think they are doing the wrong thing because you cannot throw away the child with the bath-water. I mean, if they now ground the whole economy, is that the way out of it all? We earn 90% of our income from oil; now, we are having problem with our balance of payment. We don’t have dollars to buy anything and where do we get dollars? It is from oil, we are not producing anything for export; agricultural products are no more there. The palm kernels, the Cooca, the groundnut, all those things that we used to send abroad are no more there. So, what do we do? And the only commodity, oil that we hope to have, they are blowing it up. I think it is wrong. The best thing they should have done if they have any grievances is to dialogue. There is no section in this country where there are no grievances. If they have any grievances, they should sit down and talk to government to say ‘ok, this is our problem’. This people (South-South People) have much to themselves, the country gave them NDDC, they have Ministry of Niger-Delta, and they used to have OMPADDEC and several other interventionist agencies. Upon all that, they were given 13% derivation fund from the federation account but the effect of all this interventionist funds is not shown and you ask, ‘what does their politician do with all these allocations?’ they only share it among themselves and move on with life. My suggestion is that we have to go fundamental.
Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika....'Nigeria has a lot to learn from India or else our children might suffer'
Nigeria must be re-structured…
What do you mean by going fundamental?
Fundamental is that first, this country has to be re-structured. I think this is the most opportune time to do it because everybody is now facing it. When the pipelines are being vandalized, everything is being vandalized and the country is getting to its kneels then everybody will see the reason for re-structuring. Now, the other point is that the cost of governance is too expensive.  774 Local Government areas, 36 states with a Federal Capital Territory, everywhere you have an over bloated number of people doing nothing. In fact, you go to some states and you just see a lot of people who are just milling around, they have nothing, do nothing and add nothing. I believe that we have to really re-organize ourselves if we have to be sincere. I am surprised people are still asking for states to be created and you will find out that many of the states are not viable. They cannot even pay their civil servants. What they do is to wait for the end of the month to get money from federation account and share and because of their complacent nature; most of them can’t even pay their staff again.
So, my suggestion would have been, first of all, we have to re-structure the country. The system we are running now is not the ideal one. We don’t need two houses in Abuja, House of Rep and House of Senate, no. I believe if we can remove House of Reps and leave only the Senate and the Senators must be on part-time not full time. That will cut down a lot of expenses. Then, for the states we should take the bold steps to restructure. Instead of having 36 states, we should have just 6 regions; that are South-West, South-South, South-East, North-West, North-Central and North-East as Geographical areas now. Each of them should develop with their mineral resources. The issue of Niger-Delta will die down. They are talking about oil, let them keep the oil. Let every other region discover and develop her own natural resources and let’s pay royalties to the Federal Government. Let them keep their oil as we pay royalties to the Federal Government. Let the regions be powerful and let the Central be less attractive. The Federal Government should mainly deal with security, not the police per se; I mean internal affairs and external affairs.
Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika....'In the time of Muritala-Obasanjo, civil servants were sacked without gratitude and that is the bane of our National Corruption today'
So, how did we get to this stage where we are frantically asking for re-structuring?
It all started because of the military interventions. When the military came in, they took everything and took all the powers to themselves. And the chain of commands comes from the Supreme Headquarters. And from there they appointed the various state administrators. That was how they established military government when we were saying we have federal, we don’t have federal government as it is today. And I don’t know whether all these things have been discussed in the last National Conference because I learnt we have a report from that conference.
Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika....'It is amazing that people who received stolen monies from us to develop their economies will turn up to say we are corrupt'
Yes, the report is there but President Buhari recently said he is not interested in the report and that he will rather want the report to end up in the archives. Do you think this is a right step by Mr. President
Well, I think what we should do is to fine-tune that report, I don’t think the report should just be thrown away into the national dustbin because we spent a lot of money to make that report and the report is made by Nigerians. Let’s forget that it was under an opposition government but the report was made by Nigerians. We should look at it and probably get some people to look at it and come out with a new structure that will help this country because if you take about three or four states in Nigeria, you will discover that the others are not viable at all. Majority of the states are not viable, that is the fact. And when you look at what happened in the past when we had regions, we had western region, eastern and northern region, you will notice that each region was developing according to their knowledge application. For instance, the West introduced free education, the east tried it but they couldn’t do it. They stopped. In the north, it was a different kettle of fish. Education was more or less free; if you enter a school in the north, it is more or less free. So, if you can develop at your phase, you can now concentrate on your resources.
President Buhari
Since your resources belong to you, you can harmonize it and pay royalty to the Federal Government and that money you to pay to Federal Government can be used to pay ambassadors and do other national assignments. With that, you will find out that the issue of resource control they are shouting about in the Niger-Delta will just seize. It will just stop because now, if you want to build and make that Niger-Delta as beautiful as Dubai, you have all the monies in this world to do it. Unfortunately, oil is going down and it will continue to go down until nobody will be interested in it because every great nation is looking for alternative source of power. Nations are doing several researches and at the end of the day, you will discover that oil is not a sustainable resource. We have to look for other resources; we have forgotten all the other resources we have. Even though they might not be as precious as the black gold but they will be able to help us. There are many countries in the world with no natural resources and yet they survived. Take for instance, Switzerland, they have nothing, no cash crop, no oil, nothing. But Switzerland is one of the best countries in terms of human dignity. So, there is no reason why Nigeria cannot be great. But we have to go back and re-organize ourselves. It is a very serious determination. The Ijebus are asking for a state, Eastern Region is asking for additional states, South West is asking for additional states. Before, each of these states we are talking about was like a province in those days. For instance, Oyo Province contained Osun and Oyo states. Ondo Province contained Ekiti and Ondo States. So, it was on provincial bases but everything is now cut into bits and pieces. I think we just have to restructure. It is more than important.
Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika....'Nigeria must be re-structured now because we have been pushed to the wall'
Why we have bad roads, dead hospitals & dark nights…
Is there a difference between restructuring and going apart?
I think going apart is different from re-structuring. I believe the more we are together, the stronger we are. The more we are united the better. America is so big with about 19 states or thereabout. Why are they big today? It is because they are able to hold themselves as United States. India, we are not one tenth of India, we are not one tenth of China yet they are not talking of going apart. Whatever our grievances are, let us look at them. If we can restructure, it will solve our agitations. If we can restructure and say okay, all the 5 states in the eastern region are one region, all the 6 states in the west are one region, and all the 6 states in the south-south are one region. If we do that, what do we want to fight for? All we just need to provide are few commissioners to manage these regions instead of the over bloated team of governors in the entire 36 states and the cost of governance will just drop. The cost of governance will become one third or less than one third of what we have today. And we will then have enough money to do capital projects. Today we are struggling to make do with 30% for capital development and that is why things seems not to go  successfully. People will complain ‘oh, our roads are bad, there is no water, there is no electricity’, so, how are we to have electricity? It is because we don’t have money to develop that sector. So, these are the urgencies now. Unless you really develop what you have, unless you have enough export to earn foreign exchange. And our quest for foreign imported items is another major problem we have. In fact, it is a major problem.
Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika....'The Niger-Delta boys are fighting a wrong war'
What Nigeria can learn from the Indian Economy?
 I remember I was in India many years ago; in India you can hardly see an India man with a Mercedes Benz or any car that is not made in India. It is compulsory you must patronize local trade, you cannot buy or import a foreign made car and if you are to import it, the cost of custom and exercise is quite expensive. Even if you see a Mercedez Benz or a Japanese car in India, they could only be used by diplomats but their own people ride this three-wheeler car, what we call Keke NAPEP and they drive small Maruti cars. Maruti is just a compact car, very small and you will see a Managing Director of a big company ride in Small Maruti.
General Olusegun Obasanjo
(Cuts in) Not Range Rover or G-Wagon?
Before you see a G-Wagon in the city of India, the person must be a diplomat; and every consumable food items you see, everything you buy on the street is made by Indians. So, you find out that as large as they are, they manage their resources so well. You know they are a third world country but they are able to successfully live without any foreign infiltration.
Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika....'We have too much people doing nothing around our over bloated politicians'
I remember you once told me some couple of years ago during an encounter with you at MULTI-LINKS that in India, every home has something produced at the back yard?
Yes, I found out that backyard industry is the commonest thing in India. People turn their backyard into factory to produce small-small things. Small scale industries are so common. In fact, that is the commonest thing in India; very common, very, very common. In fact, it is the standard thing you get in India. Imagine even tooth-pick, that we use, we import it in Nigeria. Is that not a shame? And we have carpenters all over the place but no one could produce or create a tooth-pick economy. We wear foreign made clothes, we don’t encourage our local industry and that is why I say we have to suffer first before we know the truth. Maybe our children will be the ones to start the entrepreneurial drive. But dividing Nigeria into pieces will not solve the problem. In fact, it will make us worse than Togo, Cotonou and all those small-small African countries. The pride of Africa is Nigeria, even in the whole world, we are respected and the reason is that we are many. We are large. For instance, I remember when I was in NITEL, to get five hundred thousand telephone lines in the country was a nightmare. It was almost impossible to get five hundred thousand lines in the country.
Murtala Muhammed
hen (General) Murthala first came to power, that time, we had about fifty-something thousand telephone lines in the country and Murthala said ‘Ah, ah, for a country of forty-five million people (As at then) how can you have just fifty-something thousand lines?’ How can we generate money with this kind of lean telephone economy? The next thing was that ‘Ok, in the next fifteen months I want to increase the lines to one million. How do we do it?’ We had to tell all the contractors ‘Oya, submit proposals to make one million lines’ and that was the beginning of the telephone revolution in Nigeria. In fact that is what brought ITT to the telephony business industry of Nigeria. Everybody is blaming ITT for all the long and short time challenge of telephone business in Nigeria but ITT was the only company that could surmount the challenges of huge telephone connection across the nation. So, they were given the bulk of the deal. Ericson and all the other companies were given small-small portions. But even then, the whole exercise was done in a hurry, there was no planning to it and the whole thing failed and at the end of the day when NITEL came in, we were not able to get one million lines.
Why sir?
Because the planning was poor; Initially, Nigeria had so much money, especially when Murthala was there, Nigeria had so much money, even before he came on board (Under General Yakubu Gowon) we had so much money and we didn’t even know what to do with the money. We were confused on what to do with the money. But instead of investing it, we wasted it. If I tell you how much was lost at the inception of the communication problem, if we have that kind of money today we will be better than MTN which is the largest network in Nigeria. So, we have a problem.
Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika....'We need to break down Nigeria into 6 regions with commissioners to run them'
Nigeria’s biggest problem is….
Can you say our major problem is lack of foresight or the ability to plan ahead?
We have foresight but no planning, no experience, the experience is limited and when we get consultants to help us, we don’t even evaluate the consultants very well. Sometimes those consultants underplay us because of our lack of what I call ‘evaluative intelligence’. Let me give you a recent example, the NITEL deal with Pentascope, they were not experienced and they were billed to run NITEL before they were exposed and ran away.
The GDA meets Chief Ezekiel Olasunmoye Fatoye
(Laughter) A one day company registered within few hours coming to take up a behemoth like NITEL?
That is what I am saying, if we had evaluated them properly, there is no way such people would have overtaken us by surprise. So, we lack experience and the ability to plan ahead and we don’t normally take ourselves serious. That is the major problem with us.
(Watch Out for Part 2 of the Fatoye Exclusive titled “Why I established Spectranet after we sold MULTI-LINKS” + how Chief Survived Stroke on this blog shortly).

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