A former Minister of External Affairs, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, on Saturday said it was not possible for any Nigerian to be a billionaire without being corrupt. Akinyemi stated this in Akure, the Ondo State capital while delivering the second term inauguration lecture of Governor Olusegun Mimiko.
The professor of International Relations and Diplomacy spoke on the topic, ‘Leadership, Democracy, and Development.’ He said at the event chaired by a former Nigerian High Commissioner to United Kingdom, Dr. Christopher Kolade, that “being a billionaire in Nigeria today without corruption is impossible.”
Akinyemi said, “No one can be a billionaire in Nigeria today without being corrupt. If you are a businessman, you would have evaded tax or other levies like import duties with the active connivance of those in charge.
“Your entire income as a political office holder, either elected or appointed, cannot make you a billionaire without indulging in corrupt practices. It is also not possible for you to work and retire as a civil servant in whatever capacity and become a billionaire without being corrupt.
“I know I am stepping on sensitive toes but I can handle that. Unless our leaders tackle the issue of corruption and offer selfless service to the people, our democracy may not produce the desired development we are all expecting.”
Akinyemi lamented that Nigerians had sacrificed value systems on the altar of greed, indiscipline, selfishness and insatiable craze for material wealth acquisition.
He said, “There are no more values to hold on to. Parents not only encourage their children to cheat in order to beat the system but also aid and abet them in their nefarious activities. No one believes anymore in the concept of society.
“Nigerians have created their own God in their own image. In my youth, to be accused of theft or any other criminal offence was tantamount to being banished from the society while to be convicted was tantamount to suicide.
“However, today, no one asks for the source of wealth. People in jail, accused of murder run for, and win elections.
“More than a score of members of the Senate have EFCC court cases hanging against them. Only in Nigeria do you steal billions and escape with less than a million naira fine.”
Akinyemi noted that Nigeria problem, which invariably led to its backwardness in all ramifications, started after the military coup which displaced the first civilian generation of Nigerian leaders.
“Only three years after independence, whatever system existed was shattered by the thoughtless overthrow of the western regional government and from then on, politics of development was replaced by politics of looting,” he stated.
He also blamed the judiciary both at the bar and bench, for the upsurge in corrupt practices in the country by granting frivoulous bails to those indicted for corruption.
He suggested that for the country to move forward, “the political elite must make a conscious effort to arrive at a consensus that will be outcome of negotiation, give and take and compromises.”
The occasion was attended by seasoned diplomats, senior citizens, politicians, former governors, traditional rulers and religious leaders from within and outside the country.