Corruption has eroded gains of independence struggle, says former aviation minister, Amechi

Mbazulike Amaechi

Foremost nationalist and first minister of Aviation, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi yesterday decried the country’s journey to nationhood declaring that it would be impossible for young people to rule without a change in the system. Mbazulike Amaechi said corruption and quest for money has eroded the gains and ideals behind the struggle for independence by the founding fathers, stressing that celebration of independence anniversary in the last 20 years evokes sorrow in him.

In an exclusive interview with The Guardian at his Ukpor country home in Nnewi, Anambra State, the nonagenarian stated that Nigeria as presently constituted was not the same as envisioned by the fore-fathers who laid down their lives.

Explaining that the ugly situation of the country had been compounded by vicious leadership, he said there was need to urgently review the system and remove it from the jaws of a few elements if the country must continue to survive.He said: “In the last 20 years or so, every October 1 has been a day of sorrow for me.  Sorrow because the house I helped to build has been pulled down or is being pulled down all these years… we made sacrifices and so on October 1,1960, we had the glory of seeing our country freed from Colonial Imperialism and freed from foreign rule by Great Britain. We were happy that the country was free.

“Six months after independence, an unpatriotic military conducted a coup-de-tat and overthrew a democratic government, imprisoned, scattered and sent away the nationalists, the founding fathers and the great heroes that brought Nigeria’s independence and founded Nigeria as a republic. The military could not manage the country because they are not trained. The military is trained to fight, to destroy, to conquer to loot and to steal. They are not trained to rule and govern.

“So within a few years, the military led the country into an avoidable civil war that lasted for three years. The Biafran side lost the war; but since then, Nigeria has not been the same again”.He continued: “Since then, the country has not enjoyed true freedom and unity because the military took up the country, dissolved the existing institutions and instead of a true federation that the founding fathers established, they introduced a quasi system of government, whereby the states they created by military fiat, given a segment of the country. The military ruled the country for 39 years, doing what they know best. They introduced into the system massive looting, massive corruption and massive disorganization. Some of the things the founding fathers set up like the Ajaokuta Steel Company that should have produced iron for this country to boost economy of the country, they destroyed it. They stole everything in the Nigeria air wars; they sold the aircraft hanger that was established for the maintenance of the aircraft in Nigeria and for many other West African countries.

“Only Nigeria had aircraft hanger but the military sold everything. These things were going on, every year.“There is now the wealth of oil, the wealth of gas and everything was booming and so the groundnut pyramids, the Palm Produce Board of the East disappeared, the Cocoa Marketing board of the West disappeared because oil and gas were producing money.

Military shared the wealth of the country among retiring generals and so you find a retired Army general becoming a millionaire overnight and on full salary for life. So with the disappearance of the marketing boards and the arrival of money wealth, the generals shared the whole money and went back and handed government to civilians of surrogates and puppets. They nominated their surrogates to contest elections to occupy offices so that they will continue to plunder the country. Things degenerated to a level where the citizens of the country are suffering in abject poverty in the midst of plenty. There is wealth in the country; there are facilities, there is the manpower but nothing is functioning”.

He said there was no political future for the upcoming generation of Nigerian youths going by the amount of money that now goes into politics.“The way it is, it is very impossible for young people to rule this country, unless this young person is sponsored by a money-bag, otherwise it will continue to be a dream. I pity them because I do not see them making any headway the manner the politics is structured for the rich. It does not matter which political party that has offered their platform or waved aside certain fees. Election proper is money.”

“I succeeded as a young man, I was elected as a young man, I was given opportunity as a young man and I served the country as a young man.“Therefore I believe that young men, who can do it, should indeed be given opportunity to test their capacities and abilities”, he said. He recalleded that he served as a Member of Parliament at the age of 29, through the sponsorship of his party at the election, adding that nomination was based on merit, ideology and principle.

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Mbazulike Amaechi
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