2023: Nigeria will never be the same again - Prof. Anya 
Prof. Anya O. Anya


Prof. Anya O. Anya, elder statesman and pioneer Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG), has noted that the 2023 polls will be a defining for the country, and that no matter the outcome of the February and March elections, the country will not be the same again. 

Prof. Anya, Nigeria Merit Award laureate, and former Chairman of the Governing Board, Nigerian National Merit Award (NNMA) who recently turned 86, noted that the current youth movement is a catalyst for change, because it’s a response to the elders having ignored the way society was going, noting that there is no way Nigeria will not come out of this stronger and better.

The intellectual giant, who spoke in this exclusive interview with Business Hallmark, however, warned that the country could go bankrupt between 2023 and 2024 if urgent steps were not taken to address its mounting debt profile and the outrageously unsustainable subsidy bill.


How does it feel to be 86?

That question has been posed to me several times. But I’ve always said that 3rd of January (his birthday), was just another day for me. I mean, I didn’t feel any new excitement or anything. Life goes on. But I’m grateful to God for the opportunity to be here. When we were younger, we weren’t quite sure that we would make it this far. And there are many of my friends over the years, who should be here, but they are no longer here.

Two months ago, I was with Prof. George Obiozor and neither he nor me could have thought that today he would no longer be here. So, we thank God for each day. What I ask God is that whenever it’s time to go, let me go peacefully, and let me meet all those things he promised us in the good book.

Your generation is known for integrity – people Onosode, Kolade, Joda etc. – something that Nigeria did not benefit from. Given the aspirations you had and what we have now, how do you feel? 

Well, Nigeria is not different from many other countries. If you take China that is the toast of the world now, they went through terrible times. But they sorted themselves out, and if you ask the Chinese, they will always tell you that leadership made the difference. So, leadership is important.

What we are seeing in Nigeria today is due to failure of leadership. Whatever little achievement my generation is able to point their fingers to was only possible because the environment was conducive. First, there was good education. Two, there was competitive environment. Third, there was a commitment to merit and excellence. These are the fundamentals, and any society that turns its back on them is destined to fail.

As you know, countries of the world now prefer to be described as the knowledge society and they are the ones that you see getting richer. Because knowledge is the foundation of all that man can do, whether in terms of the economy; in terms of organising the society, and in terms of the politics. But when you get to the point where ideas, like federal character take root, obviously you are not serious. We’re are not the first society to face challenges, but others fixed theirs, because leadership recognised that this is not the way things should go and changed them.

But what leadership can do depends upon two things. First, I’ve already talked about merit and excellence, but also any society that ignores the values of society will be in trouble. The fact that you are good, for instance, doesn’t mean that all the resources of the society should be given to you, and that’s where the values of the society come in.

For example, a society that is built on equity, being fair to everyone; a society that is built on justice and a society, that is compassionate, has a future. Once you ignore those values, you will have problems. And Nigeria has consistently, since the end of the war, ignored all the things that make societies work. And the limit is where we are now. If anybody told us 15 years ago that we would be in the kind of situation that we are in now, with so many children out of school, illiteracy on the rise, poverty increasing, universities falling in standards, we would not have believed it.

Indeed, it’s difficult to believe that a society that produced the likes of Chinua Achebe, the likes of Wole Soyinka, Christopher Kolade even my humble self, would be in the state that we are in. It doesn’t make sense. And it’s because we’ve ignored the values of society. The ideal society gives incentives for good behaviour, and gives rewards for good performance. But that society also punishes bad behaviour. We are not doing so.

What is it really that we are doing to encourage the young Nigerians to do good so that they would be rewarded? Like I said in a public lecture recently, we’re in a situation in Nigeria where the best of us are now ruled by the worst of us. However, I believe that we will come out of it. The youths are giving me confidence that there is a great future awaiting the country.

You mentioned the fact that we’re here on account of failure of leadership. I mean, there’s been this debate over the years about whether it’s leadership or structure. Achebe also pinned it down to leadership in his book, The Trouble with Nigeria. But recently, Afe Babalola (SAN) argued that no leader can change the country with the current constitution. In essence, he’s saying that the country must be restructured. Is it a view you also share?

Well, the evidence of contemporary history suggests that that’s a defeatist approach. The interactions in a society will always throw up leaders, and when they are anchored on values that are acceptable across the board, things will start changing. And you will be surprised how short a time it takes to swing a society from going down to going up. I give you an example, China.

The changes we celebrate in China today happened within eleven years. And that’s because there is an economic reason to it. The economists will tell you that when the GDP of a country starts growing at 7.5 percent or above consistently, it means that it has reached a point, where every decade, the GDP will double. And by the time it doubles once or twice, you are on the road to automatic progress. That’s what happened in China.

But China induced it. Deng Xiaoping first encouraged China to retain its political system, but borrow the market economy from the West because they’d seen that that’s how wealth is created by blending both systems. The result is that a new outlook or value system emerged in the society. But more importantly, they recognized that leadership was important, so they made a rule that every 10 years, the entire top leadership must change. But they did not expect what is happening today under Xi.

However, it meant that they would identify members of the up and coming generation, give them exposure; give them challenges and train them. After 10 years, they are ready to take over. It went on like that for some time, and that’s why they made the kind of progress people are celebrating today. But the current man Xi looks like he wants to change it. Let’s see what happens. He now wants to change the system that produced him. He should be getting ready to leave the stage for the next generation, instead he has elongated his tenure, but these things happen.

So, in all, I don’t think I share Afe Babalola’s pessimism. But he has one point, the youth, left on their own, may not be able to do the things they set out to do. They would need advice; they would need help. That’s why the change should involve the entire society, not just youths. The youth will be the vanguard, but the elders are important because they have experienced a whole lot of things and those experiences will allow them to give suggestions on how things can be done. They could have learnt also from their failures.

Right now, some of us know the stages by which we are where we are. If you go back to 2014, before this government came in 2015, I gave an interview, first in Vanguard, and second, in The Sun. And I said that the man we are hailing as the new messiah has been here before. He was there from 1983 to 1985, and it was not a good story. Let us interrogate what happened before we start promoting him as the messiah. But they shouted that he was a reformed democrat. When did he practice the democracy since he left office?

Nowhere. And he did not go anywhere that could give him an opportunity to interrogate what he has done and to learn from it. There are times that success is founded on failure, provided you learn lessons from the failure. Indeed, success often comes after multiple failures. But we’re where we are now…and I tell people that I’m no longer concerned about the past but the future. The past is gone, and we’re now interested in what’s coming. And what’s coming seems good.

How much confidence do you have in the Peter Obi movement? Are you confident that the youths will succeed in what they appear to have set out to do?

If anybody tells you that he expected what has happened over the last two to three years, and what is likely to happen this year, that person would be lying. Indeed, even Obi himself doesn’t understand what’s going on. It means that God is intervening in the affairs of Nigeria. Before this time, God gave us the signal through the EndSARS movement, but the lessons were not understood. The way it was organised and carried out showed the competence and the confidence of the younger generation. And it was not violent.

But the lesson expected would have been to say, young men, young women, we’ve gotten the message. We will do things differently. But instead, the clarion call that went along to the politicians, and that’s the story they sold to President Buhari, was that these young people want to overthrow you.

So, the reaction was to call on violence, which is what threatened governments do. If, in fact, we had followed up the youths and dialogued with them, we would have taken their plans, added with those of the elders like us and we’d have gotten to a point where everyone recognizes that things have gotten bad, but we can fix it. It is the duty of everybody. I said it first at the national conference of 2014, and I had cause to repeat it at the conference of elders that we had recently.

There is no area of Nigeria that doesn’t have serious problems. There is no area of Nigeria that left on its own, can solve its problems, but some need more help than others. What that means is that if we rallied to solve our problems by helping each other, we would have come out better. But we have adopted a divisive approach to the running of the country.

We have a country that is sinking, and you are choosing those to fix it on the basis of who comes from where. For goodness sake, all we need now is who will save us, not where the person comes from. And that is why the youth movement is a catalyst because it’s a response to the elders who have ignored the way society was going. And there is no way Nigeria will not come out of this stronger. It doesn’t matter what happens on the 25th of February 2023, or even in March. Nigeria cannot be the same again.

Anybody who wants to run the country the way it has been run over the past 20 years will be in for a shock, because it will not happen. But it is possible if we pool our resources, energies and ideas together to pull Nigeria out of this situation. Whether you like it or not, the greatest problem of Nigeria today is largely the Northwest where you have the largest number of children, who are out of school. But that’s not a northern problem, it’s a Nigerian problem.

Therefore, I, who am from Abia State, have as much stake in changing the story in the Northwest as any other Nigerian who is thinking about the future of this country. But what we have is that people are still remembering who said what or did what 20, 30 years ago and are unwilling to face a future of change.

The Minister of finance said that by June this year, we will be owing a debt of N77trn. Then, we used to talk about billions, but now we are talking about trillions, and I’m lost; I don’t even know how much is a trillion. But the important thing is that the size of Nigeria’s problem is so huge now that you need everybody’s help to get things fixed, and that is where the youths are important, because youth is a time that you dream dreams and have the energy. You think you can do everything. We need that kind of drive coming from the youths, but we also need the experienced people to start bringing out the lessons learned from what had happened and start applying them to bring people together.

You talked about the debt profile, which is humongous, and then you have subsidy compounding the problem. People have said subsidy has to be removed because that’s where the issue is. And it’s also having impact on the value of the naira. What will be your position? 

Some of us have said this over the last five years. The subsidy story is a scam at the highest level. But scam or no scam, you need to be able to put a stop to it in order to reorganize the economy. You can’t be borrowing money in order to pay salaries; in order to run services. It doesn’t have to happen because it makes no sense.

The way you run a country is a mirror of the way you run your house. You can’t go on borrowing when you are not using it to produce more. If you borrowed in order to build a hospital or an educational institution that will produce people that can repay the debt, it’s not a problem. But if you are borrowing to eat, when you have eaten, it goes out. The first thing that would happen is that your creditors will turn the tap off and say that the one you have borrowed, you are not able to pay back. At that time, what would you do?

So, as they say, when you are in a hole, the first thing you do is to stop digging. But, unfortunately, that’s what this government has refused to do. It has refused to put a stop somewhere; to reorganize and start doing things little by little until we move to safer territory.

People say the country can’t go bankrupt, but we have seen what happened in Sri Lanka, which has been declared bankrupt as we speak. And the indications are that unless we do something fast, this year, going into next year, Nigeria will join. And given the level of violence we already have, it is an invitation to chaos. Already, you can’t travel on any Nigerian road and take it for granted that you will get to your destination without challenge. There is kidnapping all over the place. There is violence all over the place, and this government seems to have now decided to do nothing except to postpone the evil day.

Remember, they said last year that they were going to remove subsidy by the end of 2022; that they have no alternative than to remove it. What happened? They have decided that it will be in June. In June, this government won’t be in office, because they will hand over by May 29. So, they are welcoming the new government with multiplied problems. The little they could have done between last year and now, has not been done.

But despite it, I believe that things will settle down because there will be sympathy for the people of Nigeria. The people of Nigeria don’t deserve what they have now.

But the height of it is that people, who are responsible for where we are now are the people, who tell you that they have the right to continue to govern you. However, it’s not to govern, what they are saying is that they have the right to continue to misgovern  the country. But when the time is ripe, many of the people that went out will come back. Whether in China, India or Malaysia, the way the human psyche operates is that once you give people the confidence that change is coming and that new people who are more responsive are coming, you will find out that human beings will rally. And that will happen in Nigeria through God’s grace.

Prof, I know that you are a Zikist…? 

What does it mean?

Well, a follower or somebody who followed Zik’s ideology…

Well, I don’t know if you know the history of the Zikist Movement to which Mokwugo Okoye, Tony Enahoro and so on, were all members of. They were young people at the time. That is exactly what is being repeated now. Young people are now, once more, becoming vocal in the affairs of Nigeria. But when you put it as Zikist, I think you are putting garb on it that many people probably won’t understand now.

I know that he invited you to return to Nigeria when you were in the United Kingdom…?

He sent Colonel Alderton who was his Principal Secretary when he was premier of Eastern Nigeria. And when he became chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Alderton was running an office of the University of Nigeria in London. He sent him to come and see me; little me at that time. He was president of the country and he’d been a legend in the country. He said he wanted me in Nsukka…

So, I went to Nsukka and spent 37 years of my life in Nsukka. Of course, you know I’ve also been involved in the Zik Prize for Leadership and all that. I was the foundation chairman of the Advisory Board, and I’m happy that it has succeeded and survived. So, basically, I try to avoid labels and deal with concrete things like what we did, why we did it and so on. When you put a label, it may mean different things to different people.

Back to the economy. Obviously you want subsidy removed as soon as possible… ?

Yes, we have no alternative. What Zainab Ahmed, the Finance Minister, is saying is that they are going to borrow in order to pay subsidy. Who runs a country like that? You borrow to pay debt that is not producing. I’m sure that Zainab doesn’t run her household that way. So, something has to give, I don’t know what it is, but whatever it is, through God’s grace, it will not lead to violence because that’s one thing we can’t afford now.

Again, the events leading up to the elections. Sometime ago, President Obasanjo intervened by endorsing Peter Obi for president. Pa Edwin Clark and Pa Ayo Adebanjo also did. In this quest to get Nigeria right, how much confidence does their intervention give you?

Earlier I talked about when you are digging a hole and you are getting deeper and deeper, you stop digging lest you become incapable of coming out. The same thing applies here. We should ask ourselves the fundamental questions. Let’s take the generic one. In the history of this country, the Igbo have gone this way, the Yoruba have gone the other way. Now that two leading Yoruba people, Obasanjo, as a former head of state, and Ayo Adebanjo, the leader of the most consistent Yoruba political group, Afenifere from the 1950s till date, are telling you that the solution to the problem in Nigeria today is an Igbo man; an Igbo, who has character.

Every Igbo man should ask himself the question, how come that outsiders; people, whose past contributions to Nigeria have not been particularly friendly to Ndigbo, are  now the ones championing our cause? And all those fooling around should be ashamed, because the Igbo leadership is being challenged right now to join the quest to salvage Nigeria. And they are misreading the signals. You sweated to build Nigeria, you cannot abandon it now. But instead, people are gloating around because the unfortunate thing is that the things that have happened have happened so quickly that people have not been able to think it through and understand it. This is so evident with our so-called Igbo politicians.

The politicians have the model that they have used for elections in the past but that model can no longer work. And the reason is simple, it is that model that brought us to where we are. The situation dictates a paradigm shift; a major paradigm shift. But they are still playing the game of politics the way it was, and they don’t have the humility to ask where did we get it wrong and how do we make amends. They are still continuing as if all is normal, but things are not normal. I would even go further. Atiku Abubakar knows the personal effort I put in some of his initiatives when he was in government.

We’re friendly, but I gave a lecture in Enugu where I advised that he should work to get a pan Nigerian Igboman to come out of this process, and he will anoint such a person. If he did that, he’d have become Nigeria’s number one hero; one that rose to help save the country when it was in trouble. But he listened to people, who encouraged him to follow a different path. He has followed that different path, we have seen the result of that. He’s not increasing his ability to solve Nigeria’s problems, he’s increasing his inability because in the soul of the PDP, there is this element of perfidy. It’s that perfidy that is playing out, and that’s why when they think they are arranging things this way, it scatters that way.

Why do I say perfidy? First, the PDP constitution, section 7 is clear. It defines zoning and how it should be carried out. When you go north, you come south and vice versa. In addition, within the north and the south, you try also to move it around, so that in a diverse society, such as we have, you carry everybody along; everybody will think he has a stake in Nigeria. That was the reason for that.

But at this point in history, if he applied that, and it came to the south, you will ask, last time Southwest, what happened? Obasanjo came and took the share of Southwest. Jonathan came and took the share of the South South. Of the three zones in the south, only the Southeast has not had it. So, are there people in the Southeast who can bring leadership to Nigeria? The answer is yes. Every major achievement of the Obasanjo years had an Igbo signature: Okonjo-Iweala, Soludo, Ezekwesili, Ojo Maduekwe, ABC Nwosu etc. Atiku himself knows the role I played in that government when they had problems.

So, it is as clear as the day that if you were running an equitable society, nobody would argue about an Igbo in the Aso Villa. What we did before – because it’s not the first time – was to choose between two Yoruba from opposing parties. Who said that would not have been done for the Southeast? It would have ended the Nigerian civil war in a fair, just, compassionate, patriotic and equitable manner. It would have been historic. But where the perfidy was confounded was that they set up a committee to say whether they should throw away or should obey zoning. They forgot one thing, an item in a constitution is so fundamental that you don’t play with it.

If you played with it without going through the process that you are supposed to go through, you are inviting chaos. If you throw away your constitution, why do you think I will believe you when you make promises to me? If the constitution that is sacred is played with, why should I believe your word of mouth? From day one, you have already sent a signal. I shouldn’t believe what you say. And that’s the problem of PDP.

It goes beyond that. They confounded it because Iyorchia Ayu as chairman of the party, set up a committee that was still working when he asked everyone to buy forms. And everyone bought forms, including Atiku. Then, eventually the argument became that if you say it should go to the Southeast, what about people who bought forms? Because that was deliberately injected in order to cause confusion. The intriguers thought it was a smart and deft move.That is why a respectable party, the PDP that has a lot to be proud of in Nigeria is in chaos. It has to be because they are no longer on the straight and narrow path. They’ve told lies, they’ve cheated and at the end of the day, the result is unfortunately the Nigerian people who will suffer it. The uncertainty only increases the possibility of violence in the country, but through God’s grace, we will come out of this.

In the midst of this chaos in the country, is there a way the Igbo could have conducted themselves to look as good as they used to? 

This is a very fundamental question. You see, certain forces in Nigeria have tried to do two things to the Igbo: First, and foremost, was to deny young Igbo people the opportunities they should get as a matter of right. When you have a schoolboy or a schoolgirl, who scored 300 marks over 400 and you tell him he can’t go to a university of his choice because he comes from an Igbo state, but somebody who scored 100 will enter the same university because he’s from another state. It comes back to the issue I raised about merit, excellence and justice. Once a society does it, you create problems. What you are doing is that you are making people to ask, what is the basis of my being a citizen of this country if this blatant discrimination can be carried out and nobody is saying anything against it?

Secondly, unknown to many Igbo people, there have been consistent effort to recruit leaders for Ndigbo by forces from outside Igboland. As they say, he who pays the piper calls the tune. The result is that experienced, hard-working and intelligent elders have tended to stand aloof and say, if this is the kind of leadership Nigeria wants from Igboland, then so be it. The result is, of course, the disorganization and instability of the Southeast that we’re seeing.

But all these are temporary. Once you find the right leadership, you will find things falling back into place. There are people parading as leaders, who know that they cannot be leaders. A northern friend of mine an elder statesman made a joke. He said that their fathers, that is the generation of Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello and so on, always preferred to work with the East than any other part of Nigeria. But after the war, they thought they could return to that model, which was why they encouraged Alex Ekwueme to become Vice President.

But after Ekwueme, we decided to send our houseboys, our drivers, our maids and so on, as the leaders of Igboland. And they couldn’t believe what happened to Igboland and the quality of people that the Igbo would produce and send as their leaders in Nigeria. He actually named five Igbo people, so-called Igbo leaders two of whom have been governors. He asked, how can such people come from Igboland as leaders in Nigeria? So, part of the Igbo reaction had been to say, I won’t get involved, let me just look after my family. But you cannot look after your family in a society that is going broke. You need to face the problems of Nigeria with other Nigerians. You reorganize your place, then you will have your place and others will have their place.

Isn’t it surprising now that some of the strongest voices to have said that Nigeria at this particular point in time has been unfair to the Igbo, are non Igbo people? They are louder than the Igbo. Unfortunately, many of the Igbo politicians parading as leaders are only thinking about their interest. However, that interest can no longer be met by the old rules, new rules are emerging. Instead of spending time to know what the new rules dictate, they are still running with their old rules. In fact, some of them are the ones encouraging Atiku and saying, don’t mind our people, when all this is done, the Igbo will embrace you. That’s the advice he’s getting. What a pity?

Some Igbo people who come from states outside the Southeast seem to have over time tried to deny their Igbo identity…?

Listen, don’t go into that, and the reason I say that is simple: An Okeke in Ogwashi Ukwu, an Uche in Rumukrushi are still Igbo, whether they affirm it or not. An Amadi is Igbo whether he comes from Benue State or Cross River State. This is what Nigeria has done to us. And when you follow it, you look foolish. It is a reaction to the circumstances they find themselves, and you must understand it. But through God’s grace, we’ve already proved in a number of things that the past is the past.

There was more support for Jonathan from Igboland than from Ijawland. When people wondered why, I say it’s the right thing because it was said that in Eastern Nigeria, the Igbo were oppressing the other groups. But the Igboman has been open minded, and that was demonstrated in that support. Circumstances may come where you ask why this thing should be this way, but the people who have built Nigeria and continues to build Nigeria, mostly are Igbo. So there ought to be an alternative Igbo narrative.

There is no other group that has stake all over Nigeria as the Igbo. Any state you go to, when the indigenes, whoever they may be, have claimed their rights, the next large group is Igbo. People, who hate their neighbours don’t behave that way. So, the Igboman should be selling his own narrative in Nigeria, and not allow what people say and what people believe to stop him from being who he is. He is the one Nigerian that wants a great Nigeria, and has suffered for it.

Let’s come home to Abia State. The state has lagged behind for some reasons. In the characters of those who now want to be leaders in Abia State, what criteria should we look at?

There is no criteria you would be looking at that you did not look at before. So, the question is, why have those good intentions and good characters that you look for in leadership all fizzled out? It’s when you answer that question that you will know the answer to the question that you are raising. Abia is still one of the states in Nigeria that had given leadership but needs new leadership. If you can’t give leadership within your own enclave, then we should find out what is wrong. If we are tolerant of incompetent leadership, then we bear the consequences.

Last year, it was announced that the national merit award will not be given because nobody was deserving of the award. As a past winner and past Chairman of the Governing Board. what does it say about Nigeria? 

Let me start by saying that December 8, 2022 was exactly 30 years that I won the Nigerian National Merit Award. And not only did I win the merit award, I was Chairman of the Governing Board from 2000 to 2006. So, the merit award system is one of the successes of Nigeria that I’m always proud to say that I’m associated with.

But I think the newspaper headlines spoke out of ignorance. The Nigerian National Merit Award, since it started in 1979, there were years we couldn’t award. In one of the six years that I was chairman, we couldn’t give the award because the candidates, using the criteria that we use, were not quite up to it. So, it’s nothing new. And it’s wrong to give it the screaming headline that 32 professors failed. The system runs this way:

Nominations are made; you can even nominate yourself. Afterwards, all the nominations are aggregated into medicine, engineering, science, humanities and so on. Then you empanel well-known, experienced and  internationally renowned teachers and academics in those areas and hand it over to them. They go through it; what we call peer review. They look at your work and ask, is it up to the standard to win the most important honour in the country and beyond? People don’t realize that you don’t just earn Nigerian National Order of Merit Award, (NNOM) unless there is a prima facie case for exceptional merit and excellence because even by the law establishing it, it is expected to be equivalent to the GCFR and GCON.

But like most things in Nigeria, some regard all honours in Nigeria to be a kind of lottery. In my time, people would ask question, am I worthy of this honour? Unfortunately, Nigeria is now in a phase where people don’t assess themselves. If ABC can do it, how about me? But you’ve not done the things that ABC did. So, the result is that there is a certain lack of rigour. We throw our hat into the ring without preparing for the battle. I am happy to observe that in the 54 years of the NNOM, not one award had fallen short of exceptionality since no controversies like the other two Orders of Dignity in the Nigerian system.

When people, at the first shot don’t get it, people say how terrible, does it mean there is no longer any qualified Nigerian? It’s because people are no longer assessing themselves properly. And that’s one thing that will continue to happen in Nigeria, especially after the Buhari years, because all sorts of characters have come out looking important.

Many people like that will still jump in and still think that if A and B could be a minister, I’m better than them. But the world doesn’t work that way. So, those headlines misunderstood the process by which laureates are chosen. When I was Chairman of the Board, I had a good understanding with Obasanjo, and that’s why I like him in some ways, because when you confront his bluntness with the facts and logic, he’s the first to withdraw. People don’t know this aspect of his character, he’s always wanting to be educated. Once you tell him the right thing, he’s there.

When he was president and we came with that particular year’s list, he said, you people have done it already, why do you want to involve me? I explained the process to him, and why it has certain checks and balances. He said, then why do you have to get the president involved in this? I said because the law says you are to confer the award. So, we must bring it to you to authorise. I assured him that in the process, I, as the Chairman, cannot influence it. If I have questions, I raise it with the committees.

When the committees must have finished and looked at the questions raised, they would decide whether to amend or whatever. Once they finish their work, that’s the way we carry it to the president. So, the judgment is given by those, who are the authorities in the areas, not just any professor. So, when they said 32, they didn’t give us the details. I can’t make comments on the quality of the people. But it does happen occasionally that in some years, the people, who apply for it are not up to the standard.

As Nigeria goes into the elections, what’s your message to Nigerians, especially young people?

I think that the young people have made their case, and their case is unassailable. Peter Obi has also given them hope that they will have a listening ear if they emerge. But above all, let me say two things: first and foremost, I think that there will be surprises before February. The reason is simple: In all the planning that the politicians have done, they have not included lessons that have been taught  as a result of the actions of this government that is going out. They are assuming that the way things have gone in the past is the way it will continue, and that’s where people will get their first shock. Additionally in strategy there is always the unexpected as well as the fact that we must also make room for the God factor.

That’s one, the second is that the younger generation are better educated, better experienced than we give them credit for. When you go outside the country, and even within the country, young Nigerians are doing amazing things. What will happen is that the new beginning that is coming will give them scope to do a lot more, and we’re going to discover a lot more competent people, and competition on the basis of competence; on the basis of capacity, merit and excellence will start emerging once more as it was in my generation.

In my generation, people assessed themselves and could say this person can do this, while I cannot: I will wait a little. But we’ve now gone through a process, because of the kind of people that happened in our politics, they now think that by whatever means, just do it. And when they crash, there are no consequences for their actions, and that is the thing that Nigeria has paid the greatest price for, not punishing people, who have done the wrong things, or not allowing people to face the consequences of their actions. That’s the greatest failure, and that’s why the country is the way it is.




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