How Corruption Industry Started in Nigeria — Chief E.O. Fatoye + 3 things Nigeria must learn from India

Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika….’Nigeria has a lot to learn from India or else our children might suffer’

Chief Ezekiel
Olasunmoye Fatoye
a former Executive Director at NITEL is a living legend.  He is a legend of telecommunications business
in Nigeria; an engineer per excellence and the Godfather of Private Telecommunication
business in Nigeria. Chief Fatoye
can be described as a man who has always seen tomorrow with an apt instinct for
strategy and dynamism. When NITEL
had crisis couple of years back and communication business was going to be
given a privatization process, the Gbongan-Osun
State, South Western Nigeria born Fatoye
saw it coming. He and few others started what is today known as the first Private
Telecommunication revolution in Nigeria by establishing Starcomms. But sensing that his views were not well respected in
that venture, Chief Fatoye assembled
a team of well talented Indian
expatriates and established MULTI-LINKS
which stood out for almost two decade as the leading elite telephone service
provider in Nigeria. But in 2001, at the inception of the Global System Mobile
(GSM) Technology, Fatoye saw the
future again and quickly urged his team to sell off MULTILINKS, a CDMA
technology to TELCOM of South Africa. By the time many other CDMAs like Starcomms were crashing like broken
eggs, Fatoye and his team had walked
away into safety. Years later, he birthed SPECTRANET
a leading data band service provider. The very agile Gbongan born Chief who had a mild stroke attack in 2013 at age 75
is now 78. Though now keeping much to family and philanthropy, Chief Fatoye  who is quite displeased with the direction
the country is going in the last one year opened his Victoria Garden City (VGC) Home to your Africa’s number 1 Celebrity
Encounter blog, Asabeafrika on Tuesday 8th of June, 2016.
The Very intelligent and dynamic telecoms guru and elder statesman opened up
for the first time on the history of corruption in Nigeria. How it was nurtured
and birthed and why it might not be eradicated in a long while. Enjoy the
excerpts with the Chief. 

The GDA with Chief Ezekiel Olasunmoye Fatoye after the encounter

Sir, we are much honored to meet you
once again after the last encounter in 2013. We feel the country as it appears,
is drifting towards chaos and great disillusionment  and like the
Yorubas will say, ‘Agba kii wa loja, kori omo tuntun o
. As an elder statesman, we sincerely feel you should
not keep quite over the present Nigerian situation? Sir, what do you think is
wrong with Nigeria especially one year after President Muhammad Buhari took
over as Civilian President?

Thank you
very much for coming around. I am so grateful for this opportunity given to me
to add my opinion to events as it affects Nigeria. The first thing is that
everybody including myself, everybody in Nigeria was happy that there must be a
change. If we did not have this change today, only God knows what Nigeria would
have become. Maybe we would have become a bankrupt nation and the economy would
have nosedived because it would have been business-as-usual because people will
keep stealing without control and sometimes you sit down and ask ‘Why should people steal so much money that
you cannot spend in your life time? Do you want to keep the money for your
The money which belongs to everybody for the development of this
country? But that is the reality by the way. The question now is ‘how do these things happen?’ how did we become so corrupt? How does
corruption thrive so much in Nigeria? How did we become a country of very
corrupt people?

Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika…’Coruption Started when Nigeria stopped paying attention to gratuity’

The History of Corruption in Nigeria

(Cuts in) Yes, sir, I
think it is a very pertinent question because with the kind of revelations
coming out from the Economic and Financial Crime Commission today, one will
think corruption as it were, is the biggest industry in Nigeria?
The real
reason, in fact, what we are seeing today is like treating the symptom, not the
real disease. The culture of corruption started from when we were very young.
Let me give you a point; in the olden days when the British people were here. When we were under the colonial system,
you can hardly see corruption because people who work in the civil service are
contented and were assured of getting their gratuity and pension when they
leave service. But most of this people are now in penury and real difficulty.
Because the government is not paying their gratuity, they are not being paid
their pension and you find that their own children will now say ‘Oh, if my parent can suffer like this after
working so much for government and I now work for government, if I have the
opportunity to steal money, I  will
. And once you start stealing, you don’t know when to stop, you will
just keep the tradition going. If you can steal one million, you will want to
steal one billion and if you get away with that, then you graduate into
stealing one trillion and nobody can notice it. You steal ten billion and you
steal trillion and that is what we are seeing today, a situation where an
individual is richer than the country. It is rather an unfortunate situation. I
will give you an example, we have a lot of Nigerians who worked in Britain before now, some have worked for
ten to five years but today, they have a comfortable pension taking care of
their old age. And even if they don’t show up, the British government will be looking for them to come and pick their pension;
that their pension is accruing here. And if you are pensioned in Britain, the benefit is so high. The
government will provide accommodation for you; you have free transportation on
the train and other means of transportation. As from 60 years and above your general well-being is totally in care of
the government. The government provides you accommodation free, they provide
you transportation free and if you are sick, your Medicare is free. And even if
you are very old and you cannot go out again, they will engage somebody to be
coming to look at you at home. A civil aide care-giver who will care for you,
prepare your food for you and instead of going to the ‘Old People’s Home’ they
will make you live comfortable in your house and they will be looking after you
until you die. So, what will encourage people to steal when you know that ‘if I get to this age limit after I have
served government, I will be comfortable. Weather I work for government or I
work for private company or I even work for an individual, because I pay my tax
as at when due and I can live on It’
. So, everybody will be comfortable.
But today people are not comfortable, they are not sure of their after-service
life, they are not sure of tomorrow and because they are not sure of tomorrow,
they want to take as much money as possible. I was reading something this
morning, somebody told his wife that
‘Honey, if I die, burry me with all the money I have acquired. If I go, just
burry me with all the monies I have acquired’
. So, when the man died, the
woman decided to honor her husband’s wish. She wrote a very fat cheque and her
friend was astonished. She said ‘hey,
what are you trying to do?’
and she said ‘I am trying to honor my husband’s last wish’. She said ‘I want to put the money in his coffin so
that he can carry it to heaven’
. So, the friend now said ‘how are you so stupid like this?’ and
the woman said ‘I am not stupid, what I
have just done is to look at the entire money he has in the bank and I have
written a cheque to it, so that when he gets to heaven he can cash the cheque
(Prolong laughter). So, you can see the riddles of such a demand. I
mean, how can somebody have billions of dollars and they will steal these
monies and go invest it in Europe, America and Dubai where their economy is well developed. And the same people
receiving our own money to develop their own economy are still abusing us that
we are corrupt. This is the annoying thing. They receive our money, they know
that this is stolen money, you collect it and you are using it to improve your
own economy and yet, you say we are corrupt. It is a great irony.

Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika…’I am very sad the way Nigeria has turned up today’

Muritala Mohammed, not IBB invented

You have just given a fantastic
analysis of how corruption started in the rank and file of Nigeria’s civil
service, a lot of people still thinks that the corruption industry actually
started under the regime of President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida. Do you agree
that IBB’s regime designed and implemented corruption?
If I have to
be sincere as an insider, I walked in all the government circles right from the
colonial era down to present times; I think corruption started from Muritala/
regime when people were retired without gratitude. Under
that regime, you can just retire a Permanent Secretary or you dismiss
somebody who has been working for thirty-something years without benefits. And
as a civil servant, you are not sure when you are going to be sacked. You could
just be at home listening to your radio and you will just hear that you are
retired. Many people died in the process. People who have worked, who have
lived comfortably in Ikoyi, who worked for thirty something years and getting ready
to retire and they said they are retired without benefit. Many of them retired
with nothing, nothing to fall back upon and that is one of the reasons
corruption started. It started from Muritala/Obasanjo and went on like
that as successive governments didn’t do anything to improve the situation. Before
then, it was more or less British
type of government; it wasn’t as tedious as it was after the Muritala
and Obasanjo

General Babangida

Then, we had had the Shagari era where people started
looting heavily in NPN. So, because civil servants were dismissed without
gratification, the next set of civil servants went on a binge of high level
corruption. That is one of the evil things that happened that time, a lot of
people lost their lives. I remember there was a head of service that collapsed
and died. Some judges were dismissed and the government of that time did it without
looking at the effect. The effect is what we are seeing today. People are now asking ‘if my father or mother was retired
without benefit, why should I be so committed to government, why should I not
You see people struggle to get into Custom and they will just amass
lots of money at the peril of government, monies that could have gone to
government. One person will amass so much wealth to the detriment of the
majority of people. Go and see what is happening in Niger-Delta today, people
are just doing what they like.

 “If you can steal one million, you
will want to steal one billion and if you get away with that, then you graduate
into stealing one trillion and nobody can notice it. You steal ten billion and
you steal trillion and that is what we are seeing today. A situation where an
individual is richer than the country”.

Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika….’Corruption Started under Murthala & Obasanjo’s Military regime not under IBB’

Niger-Delta Avengers should fight
their leaders, not Nigeria…

Sir, right now, Niger-Delta issue
seems to be the biggest thing cracking Nigeria at the moment. The boys are
blowing up oil installations and cutting off energy sources. There is also the
anger and campaign against the nature of oil well allocation which is said to
have more northern business men having oils than the southerners. Sir, do you
think the Niger-Delta boys are fighting a right course?
I think they
are doing the wrong thing because you cannot throw away the child with the
bath-water. I mean, if they now ground the whole economy, is that the way out
of it all? We earn 90% of our income from oil; now, we are having problem with
our balance of payment. We don’t have dollars to buy anything and where do we
get dollars? It is from oil, we are not producing anything for export;
agricultural products are no more there. The palm kernels, the Cooca, the
groundnut, all those things that we used to send abroad are no more there. So,
what do we do? And the only commodity, oil that we hope to have, they are
blowing it up. I think it is wrong. The best thing they should have done if
they have any grievances is to dialogue. There is no section in this country
where there are no grievances. If they have any grievances, they should sit
down and talk to government to say ‘ok,
this is our problem’
. This people (South-South People) have much to
themselves, the country gave them NDDC, they have Ministry of Niger-Delta,
and they used to have OMPADDEC and several other
interventionist agencies. Upon all that, they were given 13% derivation fund
from the federation account but the effect of all this interventionist funds is
not shown and you ask, ‘what does their
politician do with all
they only share it among themselves and move on with life. My
suggestion is that we have to go fundamental.

Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika….’Nigeria has a lot to learn from India or else our children might suffer’

Nigeria must be re-structured…

What do you mean by going fundamental?
is that first, this country has to be re-structured. I think this is the most opportune
time to do it because everybody is now facing it. When the pipelines are being
vandalized, everything is being vandalized and the country is getting to its
kneels then everybody will see the reason for re-structuring. Now, the other
point is that the cost of governance is too expensive.  774 Local Government areas, 36
states with a Federal Capital Territory, everywhere you have an over bloated
number of people doing nothing. In fact, you go to some states and you just see
a lot of people who are just milling around, they have nothing, do nothing and
add nothing. I believe that we have to really re-organize ourselves if we have
to be sincere. I am surprised people are still asking for states to be created
and you will find out that many of the states are not viable. They cannot even
pay their civil servants. What they do is to wait for the end of the month to
get money from federation account and share and because of their complacent nature;
most of them can’t even pay their staff again.


So, my suggestion would have
been, first of all, we have to re-structure the country. The system we are running
now is not the ideal one. We don’t need two houses in Abuja, House of Rep and House of Senate, no. I believe if we can remove House of Reps and leave only the Senate and the Senators must be on part-time not full time. That will cut down a
lot of expenses. Then, for the states we should take the bold steps to
restructure. Instead of having 36
states, we should have just 6
regions; that are South-West, South-South, South-East, North-West, North-Central and North-East as Geographical areas now. Each of them should develop
with their mineral resources. The issue of Niger-Delta will die down. They are
talking about oil, let them keep the oil. Let every other region discover and
develop her own natural resources and let’s pay royalties to the Federal
Government. Let them keep their oil as we pay royalties to the Federal
Government. Let the regions be powerful and let the Central be less attractive.
The Federal Government should mainly deal with security, not the police per se;
I mean internal affairs and external affairs.

Fatoye to Asabeafrika….’In the time of Muritala-Obasanjo, civil
servants were sacked without gratitude and that is the bane of our
National Corruption today’

So, how did we get to this stage
where we are frantically asking for re-structuring?

It all
started because of the military interventions. When the military came in, they
took everything and took all the powers to themselves. And the chain of
commands comes from the Supreme Headquarters. And from there
they appointed the various state administrators. That was how they established
military government when we were saying we have federal, we don’t have federal
government as it is today. And I don’t know whether all these things have been discussed
in the last National Conference because I learnt we have a report from that

Fatoye to Asabeafrika….’It is amazing that people who received stolen
monies from us to develop their economies will turn up to say we are

Yes, the report is there but
President Buhari recently said he is not interested in the report and that he
will rather want the report to end up in the archives. Do you think this is a
right step by Mr. President

Well, I
think what we should do is to fine-tune that report, I don’t think the report
should just be thrown away into the national dustbin because we spent a lot of
money to make that report and the report is made by Nigerians. Let’s forget
that it was under an opposition government but the report was made by
Nigerians. We should look at it and probably get some people to look at it and
come out with a new structure that will help this country because if you take
about three or four states in Nigeria, you will discover that the others are
not viable at all. Majority of the states are not viable, that is the fact. And
when you look at what happened in the past when we had regions, we had western
region, eastern and northern region, you will notice that each region was
developing according to their knowledge application. For instance, the West
introduced free education, the east tried it but they couldn’t do it. They
stopped. In the north, it was a different kettle of fish. Education was more or
less free; if you enter a school in the north, it is more or less free. So, if
you can develop at your phase, you can now concentrate on your resources.

President Buhari

your resources belong to you, you can harmonize it and pay royalty to the
Federal Government and that money you to pay to Federal Government can be used
to pay ambassadors and do other national assignments. With that, you will find
out that the issue of resource control they are shouting about in the Niger-Delta
will just seize. It will just stop because now, if you want to build and make
that Niger-Delta
as beautiful as Dubai, you have all the monies in this world to do it.
Unfortunately, oil is going down and it will continue to go down until nobody
will be interested in it because every great nation is looking for alternative
source of power. Nations are doing several researches and at the end of the
day, you will discover that oil is not a sustainable resource. We have to look
for other resources; we have forgotten all the other resources we have. Even
though they might not be as precious as the black gold but they will be able to
help us. There are many countries in the world with no natural resources and
yet they survived. Take for instance, Switzerland, they have nothing, no
cash crop, no oil, nothing. But Switzerland is one of the best
countries in terms of human dignity. So, there is no reason why Nigeria cannot be great. But we have to
go back and re-organize ourselves. It is a very serious determination. The
are asking for a state, Eastern
is asking for additional states, South
is asking for additional states. Before, each of these states we are
talking about was like a province in those days. For instance, Oyo Province contained Osun
and Oyo
states. Ondo Province contained Ekiti
and Ondo
States. So, it was on provincial bases but everything is now cut into bits and
pieces. I think we just have to restructure. It is more than important.

Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika….’Nigeria must be re-structured now because we have been pushed to the wall’

Why we have bad roads, dead hospitals
& dark nights…

Is there a difference between
restructuring and going apart?
I think
going apart is different from re-structuring. I believe the more we are
together, the stronger we are. The more we are united the better. America
is so big with about 19 states or thereabout. Why are they big today? It is
because they are able to hold themselves as United States. India,
we are not one tenth of India, we are not one tenth of China
yet they are not talking of going apart. Whatever our grievances are, let us
look at them. If we can restructure, it will solve our agitations. If we can
restructure and say okay, all the 5 states in the eastern region are one
region, all the 6 states in the west are one region, and all the 6 states in
the south-south are one region. If we do that, what do we want to fight for?
All we just need to provide are few commissioners to manage these regions
instead of the over bloated team of governors in the entire 36 states and the
cost of governance will just drop. The cost of governance will become one third
or less than one third of what we have today. And we will then have enough
money to do capital projects. Today we are struggling to make do with 30% for
capital development and that is why things seems not to go  successfully. People will complain ‘oh, our roads are bad, there is no water, there is no electricity’, so, how are
we to have electricity? It is because we don’t have money to develop that
sector. So, these are the urgencies now. Unless you really develop what you
have, unless you have enough export to earn foreign exchange. And our quest for
foreign imported items is another major problem we have. In fact, it is a major

Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika….’The Niger-Delta boys are fighting a wrong war’

What Nigeria can learn from the
Indian Economy?

 I remember I was in India many years ago; in India
you can hardly see an India man with a Mercedes
or any car that is not made
in India
. It is compulsory you must patronize local trade, you cannot buy
or import a foreign made car and if you are to import it, the cost of custom
and exercise is quite expensive. Even if you see a Mercedez Benz or a
Japanese car in India, they could only be used by diplomats but their own
people ride this three-wheeler car, what we call Keke NAPEP and they drive
small Maruti cars. Maruti is just a compact car, very
small and you will see a Managing Director of a big company ride in Small Maruti.

General Olusegun Obasanjo

(Cuts in) Not Range Rover or G-Wagon?

Before you
see a G-Wagon in the city of India, the person must be a
diplomat; and every consumable food items you see, everything you buy on the
street is made by Indians. So, you
find out that as large as they are, they manage their resources so well. You
know they are a third world country but they are able to successfully live
without any foreign infiltration.

Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika….’We have too much people doing nothing around our over bloated politicians’

I remember you once told me some
couple of years ago during an encounter with you at MULTI-LINKS that in India,
every home has something produced at the back yard?

Yes, I found
out that backyard industry is the commonest thing in India. People turn their
backyard into factory to produce small-small things. Small scale industries are
so common. In fact, that is the commonest thing in India; very common,
very, very common. In fact, it is the standard thing you get in India.
Imagine even tooth-pick, that we use, we import it in Nigeria. Is that not a
shame? And we have carpenters all over the place but no one could produce or
create a tooth-pick economy. We wear foreign made clothes, we don’t encourage
our local industry and that is why I say we have to suffer first before we know
the truth. Maybe our children will be the ones to start the entrepreneurial drive.
But dividing Nigeria into pieces will not solve the problem. In fact, it will
make us worse than Togo, Cotonou and all those small-small
African countries. The pride of Africa is Nigeria, even in the
whole world, we are respected and the reason is that we are many. We are large.
For instance, I remember when I was in NITEL, to get five hundred thousand
telephone lines in the country was a nightmare. It was almost impossible to get
five hundred thousand lines in the country.

Murtala Muhammed

hen (General) Murthala first came to
power, that time, we had about fifty-something thousand telephone lines
in the country and Murthala said ‘Ah, ah,
for a country of forty-five million people
(As at then) how can you have just fifty-something
thousand lines?’
How can we generate money with this kind of lean telephone
economy? The next thing was that ‘Ok, in
the next fifteen months I want to increase the lines to one million. How do we
do it?’
We had to tell all the contractors ‘Oya, submit proposals to make one million lines’ and that was the
beginning of the telephone revolution in Nigeria. In fact that is what brought ITT
to the telephony business industry of Nigeria. Everybody is blaming ITT
for all the long and short time challenge of telephone business in Nigeria but ITT
was the only company that could surmount the challenges of huge telephone
connection across the nation. So, they were given the bulk of the deal. Ericson
and all the other companies were given small-small portions. But even then, the
whole exercise was done in a hurry, there was no planning to it and the whole
thing failed and at the end of the day when NITEL came in, we were
not able to get one million lines.

Why sir?
Because the
planning was poor; Initially, Nigeria had so much money, especially when Murthala
was there, Nigeria had so much money, even before he came on board (Under
General Yakubu Gowon) we had so much money and we didn’t even know what to do
with the money. We were confused on what to do with the money. But instead of
investing it, we wasted it. If I tell you how much was lost at the inception of
the communication problem, if we have that kind of money today we will be
better than MTN which is the largest network in Nigeria. So, we have a problem.

Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika….’We need to break down Nigeria into 6 regions with commissioners to run them’

Nigeria’s biggest problem is….

Can you say our major problem is lack
of foresight or the ability to plan ahead?
We have
foresight but no planning, no experience, the experience is limited and when we
get consultants to help us, we don’t even evaluate the consultants very well.
Sometimes those consultants underplay us because of our lack of what I call ‘evaluative
intelligence’. Let me give you a recent example, the NITEL deal with Pentascope,
they were not experienced and they were billed to run NITEL before they were
exposed and ran away.

The GDA meets Chief Ezekiel Olasunmoye Fatoye

(Laughter) A one day company
registered within few hours coming to take up a behemoth like NITEL?

That is what
I am saying, if we had evaluated them properly, there is no way such people
would have overtaken us by surprise. So, we lack experience and the ability to
plan ahead and we don’t normally take ourselves serious. That is the major
problem with us.
(Watch Out
for Part 2 of the Fatoye Exclusive
titled “Why I established Spectranet
after we sold
Chief Survived Stroke
on this blog shortly).


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