Dr Hayford Alile is pioneer Director General and Chief Executive
Officer of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE). Now the Spiritual Leader of St. Joseph Chosen Church of God, Alile, in this interview, speaks on the state of the nation.
Many Nigerians are worried about the future of this country following the political challenges that seem insurmountable. Are you also worried?
Yes! In the last few years, many prophecies in our church have put us on the alert, prayerfully reminding God about His duties to Nigeria. It’s a country that is very well blessed with human and material resources as well as platforms for locating God…it’s unfortunate that people of different religions forget the last bus stop in their request is God. All of us——whether Christians or Muslims or what have you, except those who do not know God…I can assure you that as many of us who believe in God, our frequency, intensity of prayers to the Almighty has increased. God, even when we were not as close to Him as we are today, answered our prayers very quickly. In this current case, I am sure He will also answer our prayers. So that Nigerians will get to know each other better.
There’s a renewed agitation across the nation today and people are calling for true federalism and or a complete of restructure of the federation apparently because many Nigerians are disenchanted by the current structure and its inability to address their challenges. What’s your take on this development?
Well, we are human beings and frail. All I can say is that as they get scared, they should increase their faith in God. There’s nothing we ask the Almighty God to do for us that He has not done in different ways. The Bible tells us that God so loved human beings that He gave His only begotten son to die for us on the cross and seek for forgiveness for us. What bigger sacrifice God can do for man. So, we should continue to exploit that sacrifice that God has already made for us and certainly it will work for us.
Beyond prayers, isn’t there something Nigerians can do to avert the pending danger?
There are lots of things Nigerians can do. Those who know God should go out and let others who don’t know that all things are possible to the Almighty God. Talk about alternatives to get freedom and true democracy that will be suitable for us as a country. To a great extent I am very proud and happy the way our elder statesmen and older leaders are coming out now to say we should not break ourselves to pieces. We are the largest assemblage of black people in the world. Nigeria represents that bulk and a lot of other African countries are looking up to us to lead them.
I remember in the early 60s when I was elected as the secretary-general of National Union of Nigerian Students, NUNS, I was shocked that anytime I travel out to represent the NUNS which is today called the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, immediately I arrive whoever was seating on the front role including the chairman would quickly get up to declare that Nigeria—our parent—has come. When we set up the Association of African Students Movement, the first get together was in Nairobi in Kenya, and we chose the president of the Kenyan Students Movement as the president and he occupied that seat for one year for another president to be elected. I was elected after the pioneer president stepped down. And almost all the time, ‘what did Nigeria say on any particular issue’, was always the talk.
I was very happy a few days ago listening to former President Ibrahim Babangida, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Prof. Anya Anya and several other leaders who were not talking about Igbo, Edo, Urhobo, Fulani, Yoruba or what have you. They were talking about Nigeria. Whether we like it or not, if there is shortage of food and accommodation and fresh air in certain parts of Nigeria, immediately, Nigerians from other geographical locations hear about it and go out to help. We should not listen to the noise of these little boys who don’t know what Nigeria is all about and what God has in mind for us in leadership of Africa.
I must say that some of us who spend about 60 to 70 per cent of our time praying for those who can go out and carry the flag for Nigeria are not relenting. After interface with a lot of Nigerian platforms and movements, I have trust and faith in this country. We will have some challenges but we will certainly overcome.
I can perceive that you want the status quo to remain. But, today, the clamour for restructuring is growing louder by the day while those in authority are not showing interest….
They have no alternative. We will restructure. My prayer is that those who’ll take the leadership in the restructuring argument or dialogue should be mature people such as we saw recently, so that we don’t waste time and resources on unnecessary debate over needless equations. The debate should be such that we are not going to look at one geographical area blessed with people who have given attention to making sure that the blessing of God to them is multiplied and empty the place to give to people whose duty is just to consume. We want people who can produce, multiply to lead the discussion. And I am quite sure God will direct all of us to do the right things.
How do you make of statements emanating from Arewa youths giving ultimatum to Igbo people to vacate the North with some of the elders in support; and arrogance displayed by some suggesting that the nation has been given to them to rule?
The truth is that some of the states, especially, unfortunately so, from the North are illiquid. They find life difficult to live and yet they pretend that if they are the president of Nigeria or the governor in one state of the North and two states in the South, so that you have three gubernatorial seats, then they will now be able to rule. The leaders in the North are not telling their people the truth that they are bankrupt, that we should work. It is unfortunate that our youths there have not been exposed to the reality of life and are making such foolish statements, that their own brothers should vacate the accommodation that they have worked for, even though geographically it is their territory. The best thing is to come closer to each other, know what the Igbo man in your area is doing that gives him the opportunity to build a house, buy a car and you are still walking around. Such opportunities abound there, it is available for you, much more available to young men in the North than an Igbo man who has travelled long kilometers from the East.
It is surprising that some elders came in support of the youths. In my village, the elders share the stories of our life with us: how you were born, how they struggled to send us to school rather than spending money lavishly; but these ones supporting the youngsters to drive Igbos away…. It is a joke taken too far. Thank God, specific tribal leadership in the South has not reacted badly to the issue. We hope that with time everybody will simmer down and listen to the wisdom of God.
There are people who believe it’s all part of plan to Islamise Nigeria….
Whether they have such thing in mind or not, the first thing to do is to look globally and see whether those who had such thought in the past succeeded. Britain or United Kingdom that we used to look up to, a small country that became one of the most powerful nations in the world, how did it get there? And now things are almost collapsing )in Nigeria), why? We should look at those things the nations that succeeded did and apply them to ourselves. There’s no doubt in my mind that Nigeria is going to be one of the leaders of the world: it may be 10 or 20 years time, but we should not go about it foolishly and, instead of 10 years, we delay it to 15 years.
There is this claim that some people are planning to islamise Nigeria….
I do not understand what they mean by that because while some people are planning islamisation, others are also planning their own, they call it Christianisation or what have you.
Christians are worried that most of the crucial positions in government in the security and education sectors are held by Muslims…
It may be for four years. Considering the statement made by our past president, Ibrahim Babangida…he is a good man, I had opportunity of interfacing with him when I was having challenges in serving government on one occasion or the other. He said this is the time to restructure Nigeria, and part of that restructuring is that every state should have its own state police.
But you should remember that it is this same Babangida (who without consultation) upgraded Nigeria’s role in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), from observer status to full-fledged membership which many believe is the genesis of religious crisis in Nigeria….
He may have felt that he was doing the right thing. How are we sure that tomorrow OIC willl not break into pieces. Because we are members does not mean that I am going to get my daily bread from OIC.
But the Constitution of OIC is what we are seeing today—most of the strategic government appointments are reserved for Muslims….
Maybe but I can tell you that all good things come from God. I am quite sure that if you look at the Constitution of the OIC, its leadership and movement, they aware there is God and God created us and the people who put OIC together and that God is very equitable and fair.
Do you say the agitation by the Igbo for Biafra is justified?
If we do things that will make an Igbo man happy, he will not be talking of Biafra. If you look at the history of Nigeria; Anambra, Enugu and Imo were all part of Benin Kingdom and they were comfortably living together. And I’m quite sure that as many of us as possible who are exposed to education, learning to respect one another will know how these things will disappear. The vocabulary of Biafra will disappear from the dictionary very quickly.
Which means their agitation is justified because they have not been totally integrated into the Nigerian society since after the civil war?
That’s what they are claiming but you and I can appreciate statistics. If we sit down and look at the statistics that is very vital to our existence, then you will see that these people are telling the truth and see clearly the bias. And it’s also true that you send your own child from Niger State and somebody sends his child from Imo to a distinguished school in Anambra, and the child coming from Niger goes in there and takes the first position, how do we do? If the teachers were biased in scoring, eventually they will pay a price for the unfairness.
But as one platform is open for everybody to compete, you’ll find that we will respect ourselves whether we like it or not.
The economy, for almost two years now we have been in recession and there’s no hope that we’ll come out of it. They’ve just signed the 2017. Budget which was supposed to have been signed since June. What hope do we have?
I think we have a lot of hope. It would have been signed earlier if President Buhari was well. I can see that very clearly. But as things are now, no matter how the acting president works, there are certain issues that can be signed off in a day that takes about several days, several months to communicate between here and London. People who type may spell it wrongly. But if the president were here and well, this recession that we have would not have lasted till now. From the data that one is seeing today, we will get out of it and we would have learned some lessons.
How soon do we get out of the recession?
That’s not for me to say. But one can guess, we should be getting out of it in 2018. I can see some figures that begin to give us hope.
Will the N7.4 trillion budget bail us out?
I don’t think so. A lot of the flogged, misdirected resources that God gave us are beginning to get uneasy and unhappy. Money is an energy. Whether they like it or not, those who hid money under the mattress, under the well behind their backyard and so on are feeling very uncomfortable. Just look at this young man, Evans the kidnapper, he said the other day that he was tired and ready for death. It is money that is the energy working in him. The billions they have stolen and taken away to other countries, they would want to find their way back. You will be surprised, some of these ministers and ex-ministers and leaders will be confessing and seeking for freedom on their own. Just give another two years. Those money and where they are hidden, those money and where they came from will regenerate. It’s like you see a mango tree in another person’s compound and you go and pluck the fruits. You cannot finish all the fruits. Next time, the owner of the tree, if he is wise, will set guardians. The fruits you went to hide somewhere will get rotten. A lot of things are going to happen and unfortunately some of the parents are not keeping watch on their children.
The first area will be to reorganize our schools and the children have to leave school with valuable lessons of life. No matter how bad the economy will be, Nigerians have human beings who are very educated, very mature, that have a lot of discoveries in their brains. All they need is to be generous and throw that wisdom around. We challenge the people with negative forces in this country and push them aside. Nigeria has a purpose. Can you imagine that Prof. Akinwunmi Adesina, our former minister of agriculture, recently, won the prestigious World Food Prize 2017, the first black man to be so honoured. A lot of them are there like that. Whether we like it or not, there are more human beings that like better things than those who do evil and the evil ones will not overtake us in this country.
Will the capital expenditure of N2.24tn stimulate the growth that we are envisaging?
Sometime ago, certainly there are some human beings who will like to serve their breakfasts in two or three plates and as they eat the breakfast, they find that they cannot go beyond one plate and they begin to hold back. A lot of things that happen up to the last five to seven years was that the appetite of Nigerians went beyond bounds and some of them are now beginning to see that they didn’t need all that to eat for breakfast or lunch. They have realised they could have lived with one third of it and the country would be in a better shape. The issue of approval of budget is just to dance to the music of two or three people in the National Assembly and they have the power. Well, whether they like it or not, their children will die before those who are already learning.
Budget generally is done in such a way that you look at the average of what you have in the last one or two years and I hope there is provision in our Constitution that allows us to continue to spend as the power drunk leaders start to say ‘we will not approve this until August’. Now, the people who delayed our budget we will not vote for them next time. I’m sure they will forge electoral figures in their own favour but as time goes on, they will pay the price. But certainly whether they like it or not, there will be some releases. Otherwise, you and I won’t be eating by now, if the system were to dance to their tunes.