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Peter Obi, the Vice Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 general election, says Nigeria is not the only corrupt country in the world, hence the government should pay less attention to the fight against corruption.
Speaking in an interview with The Sun newspaper, the former Governor said Nigeria’s economy is deteriorating because the present government chose to focus on “yesterday instead of focusing on tomorrow”.
He said: “Nigeria is not the only ‘corrupt’ country in the world and it is not the most corrupt. Big nations, such as China and India were, at a time, far more corrupt than we are now. It is not possible to have a nation of saints. Such a nation does not exist and we cannot claim to be saints. In trying to rid the society of corruption, we have to pursue the vision of building a nation.
“The future of the nation is far more important. You must draw a line between yesterday and today. What is more important is to secure today, while gradually trying to recover what you lost in the past. If you are focused on the past, you will miss tomorrow. Our economy is getting worse because we are focused on yesterday instead of focusing on tomorrow.
“I have been a governor for eight years where I inherited schools that were not working. As you know, schools in Anambra were shut down in 2001. We were backward in education and health and the state owed several years of gratuity. My predecessor started some work on the roads, which was very good and I commend him for it. But in the eight years of my administration, we became number one in education. We won the Bill Gates award for health. We had the best road network and we became the best in financial management. If we were focused on the past when schools were shut, we would not have achieved all that.”
He opined that the best way to fight corruption is to ensure that funds are used exactly for what they are meant for.
Obi further stated that unemployment is the most important challenge that should be given utmost attention.
He said: “Unemployment is the number one problem the country is facing and must be dealt with immediately. Unemployment is a far bigger threat than corruption and I will tell you why. The most productive asset of a country is the human being. We now have 21 million unemployed youths in their productive age; that is why this country is suffering from low production because our tax to GDP is too low. Taxation and employment are related. The more productive people are, the more tax you can get from them as revenue. You can’t tax people who have no job or savings. I have been at a place where a man brought a huge bale of used underwear and lots of people were rushing to buy from him.
“So, for people to go and do that, it means they cannot afford to buy a new one. All I am saying is that we need to do something drastic about unemployment. Employment is what is going to turn our economy around and it is not rocket science. This has been done in countries, like India and China. Less than 10 years ago, Nigeria was number four in the total number of people living in poverty; India was number one and China was number two.
“Today, Nigeria is not just number one, but there are more poor people living in Nigeria than India and China combined. India and China’s population is almost three billion, so we are not even up to 10 per cent of both and we have more poor people living in our country than both of them combined. Between 2000 and 2015, China pulled out 439 million people out of poverty.
“Corruption has nothing to do with unemployment. Economies are driven by the private sector. In India, they brought a First Class professor from Oxford to be their Prime Minister and he contributed his quota, but the revolution in India today is being led by somebody who came from the system. They saw what he was able to do in his region and brought him to the centre. In our own case, somebody comes from the moon and starts promising heaven. Everybody believes him, but when you put him there, he is confused.
“So, we need to change our leadership recruitment process and recruit people who have ideas and can also have the political will to take decisions and follow them through. We should also recruit leaders who have record of past performance that is verifiable. It is not about someone that speaks grammar in conferences. I do not think any country holds more conferences and prayer warriors than Nigeria, but see our situation.”