How Murthala & Obasanjo instituted Corruption in Public Sector – Multilinks Founder, Ezekiel Fatoye | Says “I am yet to find best Nigerian President since Independence”

The GDA meets Telecoms Guru, Chief Ezekiel Olasunmoye Fatoye

Chief Ezekiel
Olasunmoye Fatoye
can be described as the “Grand Master”
when it comes to private telecommunications business in Nigeria. When the
history of public and private telecommunications business is being documented
in further history, the name Ezekiel
Olasunmoye Fatoye
will take a special page.

As a former Executive Director
of Nigerian Telecommunications Limited
(NITEL) and the only black founder/partner of one of Nigeria’s leading private
telecommunications  net work, Multi-Links, this Gbongan, Osun state born telecoms guru has seen it all. In the last
50 years, he played prominently in the evolution of the Nigerian private
telecommunications industry, especially in the CDMA sector. After he was forced
out of NITEL under the regime of
late General Sani Abacha, the very
intelligent and innovative telecommunications engineer who started his career
in the old P&T, joined hands with some investors to establish Starcomms a private CDMA technology
company. He didn’t stay long with the management as he later left to establish MULTI-LINKS with some Indian
expatriates and investors in 1996. Since then, his name has become very
synonymous with private telecommunications business in Nigeria and he has also
become a voice of wisdom in top issues concerning telecommunication business in
Nigeria. In 2004, at the peak of the GSM revolution in Nigeria, being a man of
vision and foresight, the Telecoms Chief led his management to sell off the
CDMA company, MULTI-LINKS to TELKOM of South Africa at an undisclosed amount of money and many industry
observers who heard of the deal never saw what Chief Fatoye was seeing. 
They thought he and his team were fools. But today he has been justified
for his discretion.

Chief Fatoye who is 77 years and presently chairman of Spectranet hosted your Africa’s number 1 Celebrity encounter blog Asabeafrika inside his VGC, Lekki Peninsular home sometimes
before the last Presidential election where he told us few things about the
evolution of Nigeria as a political entity and how the short-lived Murthala/Obasanjo regime of 1975-1976
brought massive corruption into the Civil Service due to bad government policy.
This is the first in a series of memoir-like encounter with the biggest
telecoms chief in the history of Nigerian telecommunications. Enjoy!
Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika…’Nigerians are orderly at British Airports but they step into Nigeria they become disorderly’

Sir, at your age (75) would you say
there is anything disturbing you about Nigeria?


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I thank God
for being able to see this day; I think God is the only one to be thanked.
Because I never thought I could reach this age and the reason is simple;
because of the falling quality of life in Nigeria, one will say it is very
difficult to get to this age. The life span count in Nigeria is very low; the
average life span of an adult in Nigeria is forty-something. So, anybody that
could live above forty in this country should thank God. There are lots of
problems which I believe can be solved with good leadership. Nigeria is one of
the best countries in the world with all what God has given us; God has given
this country a lot of things that poverty shouldn’t have been an issue. We have
sea ports, we have virile lands, we have gold, we have diamonds, there is
nothing we don’t have in this country, yet we are one of the poorest in the
world. It shouldn’t be so. There are some European countries where they don’t
have anything yet if you visit their country, you see a different outlook. Nigeria
today, you go and see slums all over the place, bad roads, everywhere is
flooded yet we are so lucky in this country, we don’t have natural earth disaster
like many other countries. We don’t have earth quakes, we don’t have tsunamis,
and we don’t have typhoon or abnormal downpour. So, we have every course to
thank God. But we are still in trouble. I am so worried; I don’t know what we
will bequeath our children because if things continue to go like this, then we
are in trouble. I look at what life was before independence and now, things
were even better before independence than now. Things were better under the
colonial masters than now. I grew with them and I know exactly what happened
then and the benefits we enjoyed in those days. Today, life is so brutish.
People are getting poorer, there is nothing like the average man or the poor
man any more. That gap has been decimated. We only have the very rich and the
very poor; and society seems not to take this into cognizance.

“When you are in London, you see
everybody on queue. There is no big man, there is no small man. Everybody is
the same, you take your queue. You pay your ticket and you board the plane. But
the same group of people, on landing at Nigeria airport, they are disorderly”.
Sir, you just said something about
life being fair to all during the colonial times than now. At what point
exactly did you think Nigeria started breaking leadership wise?  
I think the
problem started with the exuberant attitude of the people who took over from
the colonial powers. When you look at the beginning, Nigeria was made of people
who are in a hurry; people who are in hurry to be rich, who are in a hurry to
be successful and at all cost. When I look at the first republic, the time of Tafawa Balewa, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi
Awolowo
and the rest, things were better in their time because they
inherited a system that was working. I can’t remember in those days when they
will say NEPA took light or there is power cut off. Of course we knew few
villages where there was no light but on a large scale, you can’t be treated
with the psychological shock of say “light is off”. Never, If I want to travel
from here to Kano, I will go and book train and it will be straight to Kano.
Today, there is no train anymore. Nigeria
Airways
in those days you will book your ticket and travel to any part of
the world but today there is nothing like Nigerian
Airways
anymore. And the worst of it all is a national parastatal like the National Shipping Line, in my younger
days, I travelled from London to Nigeria in National Shipping Line and it was comfortable but  today, there is nothing like that anymore, a
company like NITEL is dead
completely. So, why should we have these sad episodes in a great nation like
ours? And when you look at it all, it is the same people that supposed to lead
us that are killing these organizations. You set up an organization and you
kill it. It is unthinkable.

“The life span count in Nigeria is
very low; the average life span of an adult in Nigeria is forty-something. So,
anybody that could live above forty in this country should thank God”.
Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika…’I am yet to find a corrupt free Nigerian President since independence’

Do you think the problem is related
to attitude of the black man or it is pure witchcraft?

I think we
have one of the best set of people in the world. Let me tell you, if you are
travelling from London to Nigeria, direct or via other routes. When you are in
London, you see everybody on queue. There is no big man, there is no small man.
Everybody is the same, you take your queue. You pay your ticket and you board
the plane. But the same group of people, on landing at Nigeria airport, they
are disorderly. They are disorganized; everybody wants to go before the other.
You will struggle to go and clear yourself from immigration but you don’t
realize that when you get out of the immigration shed, you have to wait for
another hour to get your boxes and luggage. 
But that is what we are; when we are over there, if somebody is behind
you, you will just stay cool there. But here, they will struggle and cause
trouble. Our major problem is indiscipline. Indiscipline is the number one
problem we have in this country. And indiscipline has created corruption; it
has created lot of other bad things that has set us back.
High Chief Ezekiel Olasunmoye Fatoye speaks with the GDA

The opinion is high that our political
class has failed us woefully. Do you agree with this opinion?

The
political class believes that to rule a country is like a war. I remember Jomo Kenyata said once, that there is
no African language for opposition. That the word opposition means enemy and
what you do is to fight your enemy. You see the reflection of that philosophy
in our political life here. When there is an election, it is all cutlasses,
guns and all sorts of ammunition. You get all the area boys and thugs and give
them all sort of weapons to fight and kill your own brothers.  That is our own definition of opposition; in
Yoruba you call them “Alatako”.
If somebody
is your “Alatako”, it simply means
that person can’t be your friend but a foe, an enemy and you treat him like
one. So, you can say that is the attitudinal problem that is killing our
political leadership. My fear is that our generation might not witness the
political reform we diligently desire.  Maybe the next generation after ours will
have a better life because we have been going through the same thing for
decades over. 

“Today, life is so brutish. People
are getting poorer, there is nothing like the average man or the poor man any
more. That gap has been decimated. We only have the very rich and the very
poor; and society seems not to take this into cognizance”.

Yesterday I was listening to some interviews of past leaders like
Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, Obafemi Awolowo,
Ladoke Akintola, Chief Okpara, Nnamdi Azikiwe and the
rest,  I was going through their archives
on the internet and I was listening to some of the issues they were raising in
those days, and quite funny, the same issues are still the ones we talk about till
this moment I am with you which is rather unfortunate because we are talking of
issues of fifty years apart. We are
just moving in the same circle of viciousness, we take two steps forward and
take three steps backward. Perambulating! We are always on one stop, no
movement, nothing.  It is a sad thing.
And I am very disturbed with what is happening to us now.

 How Murthala/Obasanjo Brought Corruption to Nigeria
I recently asked General Sam Momah, a
former Minister of Science and technology who is also in the septuagenarian
club like yourself in  Abuja to tell me
his best leader of all times and he mentioned General Buhari. Sir, in your
years of seeing Nigeria grow, who do you think was the man that was close to it
in terms of leadership?  
You mean in
Nigeria?
Yes, sir.
I would have
loved to say the late General Murthala
Mohamed
but I am very reluctant to say so.

“You steal one million, it is still
not enough, you steal one billion and now they are stealing trillions. I mean
It is so ridiculous; and all these monies, you don’t know how to spend them.
You put money abroad, your children can not access it and you die. That money
automatically becomes their economic bounty”
Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika..’Murthala and Obasanjo started instituted corruption gale in Public Sector

Why are you reluctant?

He actually
started very well; he was a bold leader, quick in action, a man who takes quick
decision and all that, which was very good. But if Nigeria had allowed him to
stay for another five years, people would have seen his weaknesses. We didn’t
have the opportunity to see him through, but I can say he started well. Like I
used to say, the problem in this country, especially when it comes to
corruption started around that time. What happened then was that the civil
servants were happy with the job they had and believed that when they retire,
they will retire with their gratuity and pension and they were comfortable with
that. Thereafter, you can build a house; maybe a four apartment building; you
live in one apartment and rent the remaining three apartments out. The rent you
collect from the three apartments and your gratuity is enough for you to live
the rest of your life. You live and you die thereafter. That was the
consolation of an average civil servant. But one terrible thing happened then,
they started this retirement without notice thing. That people will work and
serve their nation conscientiously and one day, they were asked to leave
without notice. A lot of people left service because of this problem.

Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika…’If you are lucky to live above 40 in Nigeria, you must thank God’

And those
who were left in the service, then said well, if people who were so hardworking
and doing very well can be asked to leave just like that, suddenly, and he had
nothing to fall back upon, why should I be there, why should I be like that?.
So, the tendency was to start looting money, accumulation of wealth to the
extent that we don’t know when and where to stop. You steal one million, it is
still not enough, you steal one billion and now they are stealing trillions. I
mean It is so ridiculous; and all these monies, you don’t know how to spend
them. You put money abroad, your children can not access it and you die. That
money automatically becomes their economic bounty. If you buy buildings abroad,
you can not carry those buildings to Nigeria, you can renovate them but that
building is still going to be in that country. And the money you spend has gone
like that, to help furnish other people’s economy. If you steal and you use
that money to invest and you employ people and multiply success in the economy,
it is even better than people stealing billions of naira and taking it off to
Europe to develop other people’s economy while your own is depreciating. It is
an unfortunate thing. It is an African problem.

Are you saying, sir, that the
corruption in the civil service started with the sudden retirement of people
without compensation?
That is part
of it, because I know in those days in 1975, a lot of people were retired. They
were retired suddenly and some people died because they didn’t plan their
retirement. They collapsed and had heart attack and so many cardiovascular
accidents.
Under General Murthala’s regime?
Yes, that is
under Murthala/Obasanjo regime. It
was a big mess then and I can tell you that was the beginning of the attitude
of corruption in the public service which has now become a national
embarrassment to us.
Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika…’Nigeria of today has no Middle Class. What we have is the Poor and The Very Poor’

But you have still not told me your
best leader of all times? Are you saying you can’t lay your opinion on one?

That is a
tall order. If I have my way, I would have loved the first republic to continue
and then we develop from there. But it was cut off on tribal and ethnic basis.
It shouldn’t have been like that; we should have allowed them to continue. At
least they were the ones who fought for the independence of this country. We
got the independence, if we had allowed them to continue to pilot the affairs
of the country, gradually; maybe life would not be the same for us, today. But
we now had aggressive young men who wanted power at all cost, imagine a young
man of thirty something years buying a house of four billion naira? Throwing
party all over the place? And all you hear about him is that the father is a
farmer somewhere; the father is poor man somewhere. Why should it be so? You
see that his intelligence is still very low to what he is controlling. That was
what happened with those people who strangled our flow of leadership in the
first republic.
The 75 years old Telecoms Chief receives a copy of CITY PEOPLE Magazine that carried his story from Asabeafrika’s GDA

In a nutshell, you can’t pick on any
particular person after the first republic?

All of them
are the same; it reminds me of my days as a student in the United Kingdom, when
we have a union executive in a year, you give all sort of allegation on that
person, claiming that they stole money, they are corrupt and all that. I am
talking of the Student Union o. Then you now vote those people who are very
vocal into power, and what do you see? You discover that they are even worst
than those you voted out. Then you start criticizing and before dawn they are
out, you have new ones and they become even worse, a vicious circle. And you
find out that these are the people who come into this country to become
political leaders over the years. As soon as people see money, they want to
steal. That is the saddest eventuality because they now think of their
background. Maybe his parents are living in vey poor area, somewhere, and
because he wants to change everything so suddenly, he would have to steal
commonwealth of the people. We used to have ten percenteers in those days, now it is a different thing entirely.
The difference is infinite.  They will
even award the contract and steal at a go without execution.
Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika…’Politicians steall millions and billions before but now they steal trillions’

If you are to advise political
leaders in a leadership event, what will you tell them to do differently?

In one word,
they should stop this greed of get rich quick. People should plan for the
future. Plan ahead for the future and monitor your plan on yearly basis. See
weather you are approaching it sufficiently or you are not approaching it sufficiently.
What you have done wrong and how you can right it; what you should do next and
gradually you grow and grow like that and not to think of how to get money at
all cost, how to steal or loot public money, how to go for yahoo-yahoo on the
net and make cheap money and enjoy life. We had such problems in this estate
(VGC) some years back where virtually all the rich young boys in the estate
were Yahoo-yahoo
boys. People must know that success stolen will never last. It is what you earn
legitimately that stays with you for long.

Chief Fatoye to Asabeafrika…’I am very disturb with the present situation in the country’
(Read Chief Ezekiel Fatoye on “How Abacha ruined
NITEL because of David Mark”
on this blog after
this time out)

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