… The leader of Nigeria needs in 2023
By Sebastine Obasi
Ituah Olajide Ighodalo, 60, pastor, commentator on national issues and founder of Trinity House, is passionate about Nigeria.
Ighodalo, who celebrated his 60th birthday yesterday, believes yesterday that with competent, passionate, truthful, and sincere leadership, Nigeria can achieve greatness. Speaking about the state of the nation in an interview with Vanguard, he said, among other things, that Nigeria can be transformed through policy restructuring, repositioning of ideas and free market economy.
Happy 60th birthday. How do you feel when you turn 60?
To be honest, you don’t really feel any different physically. I just feel like life goes on. I feel like 35 years old in terms of my physical composure. If you think about it deeply, you know that by age 60 you are mature. At 60 you are no longer a small child.
At 60, you saw the peak of your youth. At 60, you are in the age of consolidation, the age of advice, the age of expression, an age where you must behave very well, with dignity and respect.
How did you grow up
I grew up in beautiful Nigeria. My parents were civil servants. My mother worked in the civil service in the western region. She rose to be the first permanent secretary in Nigeria. My father started at Western Nigeria Development Corporation. First with Nigerian breweries and then with the Western Nigeria Development Corporation. He ended up at the Mid-Western Nigeria Development Corporation and then at the University of Ibadan, where he was promoted to Assistant Fellow and Acting Fellow at the same time.
You are a well-known pastor. All of a sudden you became an activist. What’s the motivation?
The truth is, I was an activist before I became a pastor. To be honest, I’ve always looked after Nigeria since the 1970s, even during my school days. I was concerned about the development of Nigeria.
When I came back from England in 1982 and saw the state that Nigeria was in, I had a regular article in The Guardian, Thisweek, Vanguard and Punch from time to time. I wouldn’t call myself an activist. I am someone who is deeply interested in the evolution of humankind, especially in Nigeria, Africa and around the world.
Nigeria is said to be at a crossroads. How do you see the state of the nation?
I think Nigeria could have done a lot better. I am even surprised that there is this level of development in Nigeria. I know there could be a lot more because we have abundant resources in this country. We have all the intellectual power. We all have people. We all have parameters that make a nation great. What we have not been blessed are great, truthful, passionate, and sincere leaders.
Recently you said: “We know the goalkeepers. We know those who hold Nigeria by the carotid artery. “Can you shade more light on it?
This is not the time, space, or forum to be named and specific. What I have decided to do with some of my friends is go to and talk to each of these people in turn. We want to see how we can restructure and transform Nigeria together.
It won’t be nice to mention names in public spaces, but we know everyone who has been involved in the development of Nigeria over the past 60 years, those who are still alive. We know the people who were involved in the power play in Nigeria. Some of them serve. Some others do not serve, but they are very influential. All we want to do is have a conversation and tell these people that we can use our influences positively for Nigeria’s growth and less for our personal gain.
You also said that one of Nigeria’s problems is that we are not telling the truth to each other. What is the truth?
One of Nigeria’s challenges is that people don’t like to be criticized. People don’t want to hear you if you try to make a frank comment. People take things personally all the time. I want to assure everyone that my comments are not personal.
My comments are about making Nigeria a great and outstanding country. If someone is your friend and you tell them what you are doing is not good, they take it personally. If that person has power or influence, they use that influence against you to protect themselves. It has become a problem. However, one of the great qualities of a good leader is the ability to listen to his people, to know how they are feeling, to take criticism, good or bad.
There is poverty in the country. Today Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world. What’s the way out?
Nigeria doesn’t have to be poor. Nigeria has more than enough resources to support its citizens. We have about 33 different types of minerals in Nigeria, such as bitumen, gold, manganese, diamond, columbite, coal, bauxite, not to mention agriculture, fishing, poultry, pigsty, palm kernel, cashew nuts, soybean, sesame, etc. Nigeria’s problem is the production. We don’t produce. We don’t harvest. Nigeria’s problem is that of the environment.
The business environment is hostile. It doesn’t support business people. Any person holding the gate that should enable you to do business is either greedy or corrupt and insists on what they can get from you before they do their job. If you do not give in to his request, he will not allow a good project that should benefit the population to go through. That is the problem we have in this country. The environment is hostile and does not allow free enterprise. People should be able to make and harvest what is in the ground. There is enough intellectual capacity in this country to make sure things are done right.
Do you think there will be elections in 2023?
I don’t see any reason why there shouldn’t be an election in 2023. We look forward to elections in 2023. I hope that the INEC Independent National Electoral Commission will register as many people as are willing and able to vote in the next elections. Voter registration should begin now. The registration must not be manipulated to benefit any part of the country. If INEC is playing its role very well, there is no reason why there would be no elections in 2023.
The shift in power south in 2023 is noisy. How do you see it
My only concern is that we want a good person to rule Nigeria. This power shift issue is another task of sharing natural resources. Why should power shift north or south? What we want is a good Nigerian who loves Nigeria to rule Nigeria. The person can come from anywhere as long as he is a competent Nigerian and can love and rule Nigeria well for the good of Nigerians. When people say they want power to move to part of Nigeria, it means they are complaining that it appears that when power is in a certain area, most of the resources go into that area . Most of the people who benefit from this government are people from this region.
This is a comment on nepotism in Nigeria. When you have a good leader who is fair to every part of the country and who makes sure that every part of the country is able to develop its own resources at its own pace, I don’t care who the President of Nigeria is. I just want a good and competent person. We need a leader who loves every part of Nigeria. In the US, did you hear that power was shifting from California to Florida or Texas? Nigeria needs a leader who is competent, hardworking, honest, and God fearing.
How do you see the issue of insecurity in the country?
It’s all part of the same themes. We are not sincere at all. We ask the question. Some people play politics with it. There is no reason why there should be uncertainty in Nigeria. We have good armed forces that should be well equipped and guide us in the area of security. People play politics with all of these things. Some people make money from confusion, and so it is in their own best interest that there should be uncertainty.
How are you coping with the afterlife of your wife?
We thank God for his grace. It was tough for me. It’s like half of my body is literally gone, but God was gracious on me. I have received help and support from different types of people. I take life one by one.
You were an area pastor in the Redeemed Church of God before you left. How is your relationship with Pastor Adeboye, the general overseer?
I have been a senior and recognized pastor in the Church as well as the leader of protocol and international travel. So far we are very close. He called me yesterday to wish me all the best on my birthday. He is my friend. We get on well together. We talk about national issues. There was no time I needed his support that he didn’t provide. I didn’t have time to tell him something that he wouldn’t open his doors for me. I don’t have any problems with him. I didn’t take what happened to me personally. I took it as the will of God.
Where do you want to see Nigeria in the next 10 to 20 years?
I think if we allow Nigeria, with the right kind of leadership and sincerity, to develop a lot more people who are competent in 20 years, Nigeria can be better than Dubai. It took Dubai about 40 years to get where they are with very few resources, just brain and intelligence. Nigeria has people with brains, intelligence and phenomenal resources. We can skip it and get to where we should be, especially when the young people are doing very well in IT, especially in the digital age. With sincerity, policy restructuring, repositioning of ideas, liberating the economy and developing what we have, Nigeria can really be transformed.
After all, at the beginning of this interview, when you were 60, you said you felt mature. What did you do when you were young that you can’t do now?
There are two things I’m going to say here. When I was young, Nigeria was very safe and free. I could drive from Lagos to Benin, Port Harcourt or Ibadan at any time of the day. If you want to move around Lagos and don’t have an escort, you will be scared. Personally, I miss this freedom that we used to enjoy in Nigeria.
When I was younger I used to go to parties. I’ve often arranged parties. I was the toast of the city, here and there disco. I did this consistently until I was 30. At 31, I was born again. It wasn’t even getting old that forced me to change. Meeting Jesus Christ and being born again changed my life. I suddenly realized that you can have a social life, but not an irresponsible social life. In Christianity I still have a social life, but not an irresponsible social life like philandering, the pursuit of women with no consideration or respect for anyone.
You can still have social obligations, go to dinner, go to social occasions, but you are behaving. Don’t exaggerate. However, as you get older, there is a level of behavior that comes with it. I am still a freeman. I go to the market, I go to the bus stop. I’m going to Ajegunle, Iyana Ipaja. I am going to any part of Nigeria. I mingle with people. Many of the Area Boys are my friends. Now when I go to Campos you will see how they greet me. I eat with them, chat with them.
Vanguard News Nigeria