Preparations for the general election have intensified. What is your advice to Nigerians?
I think everything boils down to two things: leadership and system. I have lived in Europe for 35 years and the reason the United Kingdom works is not because they have more minerals or human resources than we do, but they have excelled with these two things. The system in Britain is so robust, that is why anybody, even an actor, can become a president, and nothing will change. A farmer, Jimmy Carter, was once an American president and we have a list of others, but nothing has shaken the country because the system is robust even to handle tremour and earthquake. In fact, election is not a big deal in Britain, because people would just walk into designated places to vote and take their leave peacefully. With boldness and due respect as a 67-year-old Nigerian, I have the right to speak about my country. The challenge of Nigeria is the absence of good leadership and most people we call our leaders, are tribal chiefs that only surround themselves with people from their villages. The second challenge is that our systems are very tiny. In Nigeria, we have big men and small systems. If we can develop big systems and good leadership, the country will not be faced with self-centered personalities from the North, East, South, or West. However, geographical setting cannot produce good leadership. Instead, content will determine a good leadership.
Some individuals have clamoured for youths to be given the oppurtunity to lead the country. Where do you stand?
The clamour for the younger generation to rule does not justify that our youths are not corrupt. President Lawrence Kabila took over Congo at age of 31 or 32 and he is now in his 50s, yet Congo is still broke, despite its largest deposit of minerals. This is a country where a police officer is being paid 10 dollars (N3, 600 as minimum wage), a nation that should be only second to countries like China or the United States. It is not youths that lead, but the content and the capacity. Therefore, we need to develop all these and challenge more young people to participate actively in politics, because passing comments or condemning politicians on the fence will not help matters. I want to charge all Nigerian youths to be confident in restoring the nation. They should register with a political party, get PVCs, and stay connected from your ward to state and the national level.
The education system in the country is in a shambles because of abysmal neglect by the authorities. How can the sector be resuscitated, given the importance of education to national development?
I think Nigeria’s education will persist until every institution becomes competitive. Hardly can government-owned institutions generate funds internally. The Federal Government pays the lecturers. However, there is no great university on earth that waits on government for funds; they create systems that generate fund. As long as you keep looking unto government, you will not look inward, create systems, generate funds, and even generate ideas. For the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), I respect its educational capacity, but the truth is that if our government will put money in education, it should not be in the pockets of individuals, but for the creation of infrastructure and bursaries.
You recently orgnaised an outreach for 12, 000 widows; what prompted the gesture?
It is part of my commitment to humanity. We thank God for the success of this year’s programme. The beneficiaries included more than 4,000 widows from Ode-Omu and its environs, and 7,500 (widows) from Modakeke. Many will wonder why the huge number from Modakeke. You will recall the town was faced with war. In addition, many young men that are motorcycle riders in the town that are married to more than one wives died prematurely through accidents. Other factors are responsible for the high rate of widows in the town. We intended to bless about 18,000 people, but we deliberately reduced the number to 12,000 to avoid stampede. Above all, it is such a great honour to have people around from all over. Some of the beneficiaries have been participating in the programme since its inception. In fact, a woman told me that she had 13 cloths already from the 13th editions of the programme. The initiative is just to give them a sense of belonging. We gave them cloths, fed and gave them money.
Looking at the huge number of participants from towns in Osun State, you should be concerned about the high rate of poverty in the country or are you not?
It really hurts me. With all due respect, to our government, I think our statistics on poverty is totally doubtful. The reported rate of unemployment in Nigeria pegged at 20 million to 40 million is not true; it is between 70 million and 80 million people. In my own opinion, I do not think many of our state governments are in touch with and sensitive to the welfare of the people. Many do not have access to common health facilities; some do not even have money to buy drugs to cure basic ailments. This was why they were all delighted when we gave them money, because many of them had never even seen a crisp note. However, I am proud to be a Nigerian. I visited eight African countries, including, Botswana, Namibia, Congo, Malawi, Kenya, South Africa, Ivory Coast and Ghana, last year. After touring all the countries, I am excited to be a Nigerian, because this is my home.
There have been several insinuations on the motive behind the “give back’ initiative. What actually prompted the gesture, despite your busy schedule?
This is what I have been doing in the last 13 years and God has really been manifesting Himself through the programme. The idea came out of my passion to contribute my own quota to help humanity. This is not the only platform where I give back to humanity. I think this is one of the core responsibilities of clerics. In fact, I have a bigger vision for the initiative. This programme will metamorphose into an all-embracing one. We want to set up a meeting tagged: Christ Compassion to the Rural, a programme that will cater and provide medicals for 50,000 people’s. I just need peoples’ prayer to accomplish all these dreams. Importantly, I cannot achieve this alone, but I trust God for support from kind-hearted people; just as we had at the just-concluded programme where fellow clerics and a Muslim friend, who believed in the vision, supported us at the 2019 Widow’s Outreach.
The post Most Nigerian leaders are tribal chiefs —Ashimolowo appeared first on Tribune Online.