Mallam Yusuf Ali was one of awardees of the recent Kwara State Polytechnic’s Fellowship. He spoke with journalists on the award and other national issues. Our correspondent, Hammed Shittu, was part of the interview.
What is your take on the recent rejection of the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) Ibrahim Magu, by the Senate as the substantive chairman of the agency?
I am not sentimental about issues. The president has done his own side by submitting the name of Ibrahim Magu to the Senate for confirmation and the Senate has also done its own side by rejecting him confirmation as the substantive chairman of the EFCC. In fact, there is nowhere in the Nigerian Constitution that says that the Senate should give reasons for rejection of his confirmation. For me, I don’t think people should start reading their personal interest into the Senate action. It is unnecessary. The Senate merely looked at the security report presented to it by the Department of State Service (DSS) and the report questions the integrity of Magu.
How do you think the acting CJN can tackle corruption in the judiciary?
Nigerians are skeptics. We don’t believe in our leaders and institutions. And you can’t blame them. Maybe, it is a product of their experience of having been let down by the system. I have said this severally, it takes two to tango. Before you can see somebody taking bribe, there must be a giver before you have a taker. Usually we go after the takers. The givers are there still waxing stronger. Until the day the Nigerian elite start to think that justice could not be bought, we will be running in circles. The truth is bitter, but we must say it. The average litigant in Nigeria believes that you can buy justice. So, with that frame of mind, it is a very difficult. That attitude of believing that you can buy justice must stop. What I have said is very apparent from the way litigants react to judgements. Somebody who had tried to reach a judge unsuccessfully, if judgement goes against him, he believes that the other person has given higher which may not be true. But more than it all, Nigeria is a very rife market for rumours. Tell people to come and tell you what happened, they begin to scratch their heads.
How will you assess the anti-corruption war of President Muhammadu Buhari?
At the presentation of my book ‘anatomy of corruption’ in Abuja in May
this year, in my speech I said categorically that top to bottom approach on the fight against corruption can never work. If you want to fight corruption, you must create a mass movement. Majority of Nigerians must buy into it. But when you arrest three people out of 10,000, what have you achieve? What is going on is fight against corrupt people, not against corruption per say. Corruption is an institutionaled thing. So, to fight against it is more than what we are doing. Because if we are not careful, things we are not doing properly may become a culture. If you want to fight against
corruption, we have to dig deeper. I tell people that for the street to be clean, every member of the street must keep his corner clean. Corruption is symptomatic of a deeper problem. When you are talking about corruption, we should not limit it to bribery. Bribery is a fraction of corruption. Nepotism is corruption; ethnicity is corruption; tribalism is corruption and influence peddling is also corruption. People still stop motorists on the highways, extorting them. What do you say to that? There are all sorts of corrupt allegations about government officials. It is a good attempt that we are trying to fight corrupt people, but we should give attention to fighting corruption itself.
Will the award being given to you spur you to do more philanthropic works?
My philosophy about life is that anytime something good comes your way, it is an invitation to do better. And the price for doing well is to do better still. To me, recognitions like this humble me and make me know that what God wants to do He does, irrespective of who your parents are. Who you know and who you don’t know? This award came from the blues. I wasn’t expecting anything at all. The other day, the Rector of Kwara Polytechnic, Alhaji Mas’ud Elelu and his team came here and said that they were planning their convocation and that they wanted to give fellowship awards to five eminent Nigerians. They mentioned Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Erisco’s owner, the CEO of Kamwire limited and myself. I know the CEO of Kamwire is the largest employer of labour as an individual in the whole of North-Central. Those who work in that company would be more than 1000 and then they mentioned my name. I then asked ‘why me?’ So I see this honour as an invitation to do more to the society to justify the confidence the people reposed in me. That is the way I see.
What is your take on African leaders?
A country gets the kind of leader it deserves. And that is why I am always against the setting up of special courts. I ask ‘are you going to bring people from heaven to come and sit on those courts’? We are having those problems because of leadership and followership problem.
Look at the campaign rhetoric of Donald Trump before the US presidential elections. Look at what is happening now because he knows his society would not accept certain things. Nigeria and by extension African society is where anything goes. If we want to hold our leaders accountable and we want them to be upright, it must start from all of us. All leaders have their evil tendencies; it is the society that disagrees with them. We don’t have minimum standard for our leaders. The American society is what it is today not because their leaders are superhuman but because the average American would insist you do what is right. Watch this hacking by Russia preparatory to the American presidential elections, you will see the outcome. Because that is the society that digs deep unlike us that are very superficial here. Here we try to look for quick fix solutions. There is nothing inherently wrong with Africans, it just that we are too lax. You have just do little believe that you have excelled, whereas people outside there, for everything they do they have to improve upon it.
How will you describe the current recession in the country?
The problem of recession for me as a layman is lack of confidence in the Nigerian market and economy for people who want to bring their money here for investment. Simple! What caused it I don’t want to dabble into that; the way out is for us to go out and market our country. After all, there was a time in this country that oil was selling for $11 and we were doing well. Then we were producing 2.2 million barrels. Now even at 40 something Dollars we are not producing well. So it is not about oil, it is about lack of confidence in Nigeria.
What is your take of the craziness for certain courses in tertiary institutions?
The colonialists gave us the kind of education they wanted, just to have a pool of averagely educated people that would be used in the civil service and other places. When they left, unfortunately we never thought that is a problem. The chicken has come home to roost. Every person who went to any higher institution in Nigeria looks for government employment. The way the new set of universities are going, which is entrepreneurship is the best option. We must prepare the graduates for the world outside the universities and from the world outside of paid employment.