Mr. Peter Obi on an interview with Sun Newspaper
Interviewer : What would you recommend as the best way to fight corruption?
Peter_Obi: The best way to fight corruption for me is very simple; it is to ensure that money goes directly to where it should go. Do things in a professional manner. For example, as governor, every contractor that fulfills his obligation must be paid within 90 days. There might be some, which takes 100 days. With that, if I am a supplier and you say you are going to buy things from me for N10 and I supply it, I don’t have to pay anybody because I know my money will come. Go and ask Zinox and HP. We bought computers from them worth over N2.6 billion and we paid them before they delivered one computer. Go and ask Innoson. They supplied us nearly 1,000 vehicles. We paid him before he supplied. Go and ask Coscharis. We bought buses from him as well. We paid. In education, we didn’t need to go and work in schools. We gave the school management and the Parents Teachers Association money to carry out projects. When we returned schools to the churches, we also gave them money directly for developmental projects. The more money you remove from the system, the more you reduce transaction. Give the money meant for the schools directly to the schools. I agree that total eliminate of corruption in any system in the world would be difficult except in heaven. However, what you need to do is to manage people’s greed. You reduce corruption when you reduce actions that will bring about cash transaction. Incentives for transaction must be reduced.
Interviewer: Another major issue, apart from corruption, is youth unemployment. Some have described it as a time bomb, which would one day consume everybody. People have also linked the increased kidnapping and banditry to unemployment. What are your views?
Peter_Obi: Unemployment is the number one problem the country is facing and must be dealt with immediately. Unemployment is a far bigger threat than corruption and I will tell you why. The most productive asset of a country is the human being. We now have 21 million unemployed youths in their productive age; that is why this country is suffering from low production because our tax to GDP is too low. Taxation and employment are related. The more productive people are, the more tax you can get from them as revenue. You can’t tax people who have no job or savings. I have been at a place where a man brought a huge bale of used underwear and lots of people were rushing to buy from him. So, for people to go and do that, it means they cannot afford to buy a new one. All I am saying is that we need to do something drastic about unemployment. Employment is what is going to turn our economy around and it is not rocket science. This has been done in countries, like India and China. Less than 10 years ago, Nigeria was number four in the total number of people living in poverty; India was number one and China was number two. Today, Nigeria is not just number one, but there are more poor people living in Nigeria than India and China combined. India and China’s population is almost three billion, so we are not even up to 10 per cent of both and we have more poor people living in our country than both of them combined. Between 2000 and 2015, China pulled out 439 million people out of poverty.
Interviewer: Is it not the corruption of the past that caused Nigeria’s problem?
Peter_Obi: Corruption has nothing to do with unemployment. Economies are driven by the private sector. In India, they brought a First Class professor from Oxford to be their Prime Minister and he contributed his quota, but the revolution in India today is being led by somebody who came from the system. They saw what he was able to do in his region and brought him to the centre. In our own case, somebody comes from the moon and starts promising heaven. Everybody believes him, but when you put him there, he is confused. So, we need to change our leadership recruitment process and recruit people who have ideas and can also have the political will to take decisions and follow them through. We should also recruit leaders who have record of past performance that is verifiable. It is not about someone that speaks grammar in conferences. I do not think any country holds more conferences and prayer warriors than Nigeria, but see our situation.
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