Greed of people in power impoverished Nigeria – Elder Oloruntegbe

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For Elder Banji Oloruntegbe, a former Executive Secretary, National Committee Against Apartheid during the military administrations of General Ibrahim Babangida and late General Sanni Abacha, the fight for the eradication of apartheid in South Africa was a laudable achievement for Nigeria.

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Oloruntegbe was one of the motivators behind the campaign for the freedom of South Africa, which became a reality in April 1994, eight years after the struggle began.

The octogenarian, while recounting his experience during the antiapartheid fight in South Africa, told The Point that both the government and the people of Nigeria were delighted and passionate about the campaign.

He is, however, saddened that the relationship between the countries’ citizens today appears to be sour, following the irresponsible attitude of some young South Africans, who were not born during the crisis,.

He blamed the series of xenophobic attacks in South Africa on the youths. He said, “It was not the government of South Africa that unleashed the attack on other African countries’ citizens resident in South Africa, but the youth, who made empty threats that all other African countries should leave their country, because they were taking their jobs.

Where were their fathers when we were fighting for their freedom? “They are jealous because Nigerians are very enterprising, as they are making so much money in the country, while they lazy around. South Africans are also not as educated as Nigerians.”

Oloruntegbe noted that the bottom line is that the government of South Africa and their investors know the value of Nigeria to the country. He said that what Nigeria did then was documented in their files, which explains why any government that comes to power knows that Nigeria is a big brother to them.

He argued that the attacks on Nigerians in South Africa would not affect bi-lateral trade relationship between the countries. “There are so many South African companies like MTN and Shoprite, to mention a few.

There can still be cordial relationship between the two countries, we can still normalise our relationship with South Africa. What it means is that we need to have a body to monitor business relationship between the two countries. Our embassies should be very effective too,” he said.

According to him, the Nigerian government also gave relief funds and scholarships to some South African and Namibian students.“We provided relief materials such as money, food, drugs, clothing and all sorts of things to them.

Apart from that, we trained South African students in Nigeria. That is to show you the extent at which Nigeria helped other African countries. I can say that apart from football, there were really no other programmes or institute that Nigeria supported like the anti-apartheid policy.

The youths calling for our extradiction should confirm from their parents or grandparents if Nigeria truly deserve such inhuman treatment,” he added.

On the other hand, the former federal civil servant also blamed some unpatriotic Nigerians for the development. “Some of our boys in South Africa are not behaving well. Some of them traffic drugs, thereby going against the rules and regulations of the country.

This is also part of the problems,” he reasoned. Again, he recalled that Nigeria established a liberation committee, South West African People’s Organisation, to assist some African countries like Namibia.

During our time, people obeyed rules and regulations. Corruption was not as massive as what we have today. Disobedience was minimal. Government agencies were not fighting themselves openly like we have now. Workers’ salaries were paid on time

Oloruntegbe said, “We financed and housed victims of draught and civil war here. It was liberation for hundreds of Namibians as they lived here like ambassadors. I was among the top executives of the organisation, so I know what I am saying.”

Reliving his active years in service and rating the current civil service, he said his youthful years were very interesting. “During our time, people obeyed rules and regulations. Corruption was not as massive as what we are seeing now.

Disobedience was minimal. Government agencies were not fighting themselves openly like we have now. Workers’ salaries were paid on time; we never struggled to get our salaries and there were no problem about pension payment, no problem with budgeting, and things were in other.

There was good foundation for civil service and foreign policy then,” the elder statesman added. To him, the greed of people in power, which led to corruption, is responsible for the present state of the country, adding, “The annoying thing is that the corrupt people are not poor, they are very rich.

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Another thing is ethnic problem. Citizens are now selfish and the unfortunate thing is that the same values are being passed to the generation unborn. All these are more pronounced now than before.”