The General Overseer of Holy Spirit Mission, Bishop Charles Ighele, is a proud Nigerian cleric who doesn’t mince words whenever he is called upon for his views on the state of the nation. In this interview with TAI ANYANWU he takes a look at the stunted development strides and quality of the leadership class in our nation
Where will you place Nigeria now in terms of development when compared to other nations that got independence same period?
First of all, I’m proud to be a Nigerian. Secondly; are we developing? In our political Science class at the then University of Ife in 1977 or 78, our lecturer asked us this question and the whole class discussed it.
He asked are we developing politically? For example, looking at 1960 to 1977 and we analysed the problem. We looked at what is development and what we were doing to develop the country. We were ahead of Singapore. One of the best books I keep reading is that of the father of Singapore. Look at the one written by Emir of Dubai. In fact we need nation builders not just people who erect one university here and two hospitals there. That is another matter entirely. We need nation builders; that is my cry for Nigeria.
How do assess the current leadership in relation to nation building?
The President, governors, clergies should think of nation building more than what they can get from the nation; not those who want to possess the nation. Those who will key to nation building and have the mentality of this is our home, like the state.
The political class seems divided about where the next president should come from in 2023. What is your take?
Let us analyse what the problem is to see how we can fix it and see how we can stop quarrelling. Let us have the Golden Rule as our guide. It says you should do unto others as you will have them do unto you. Let us publicise it and start the campaign all over, from primary to secondary school; university, the market among others.
This is the height of human civilisation. Anything outside that is evil is uncivilised and not okay.
Considering every indices of measuring development, would you say that Nigeria is developing?
The Malthusian theory of those days talked about population growth as arithmetic progression. So, economically we are not developing, in fact educationally it is a pity. I asked someone that which generation speaks better English between mine and his and he answered that it is mine. Is it not so? It is so. Look at the universities and everywhere so educationally we are not developing.
We have built some bridges like third mainland; we have built Abuja as the Federal Capital Territory and other infrastructures, but know that infrastructure without human development and proper management means noth- ing at all. It is just a waste of time. This is why places like Ajaokuta plant, Delta Steel, refineries and other infrastructures could not work. You see, the necessary human capital and discipline needed is not there, because human beings are not being taken care of. You see infrastructural decay because human beings are decayed. In all areas we are not developing.
When you go to sports, an American wondered some time ago where Nigerians were. We were known among the top sprinters in the world.
Like the Kenyans, Jamaicans and the United States are naturally long race people. By now we should be winning a lot of gold medals in that direction. I used to go to stadium in those days to watch league matches – Shooting Stars, Enugu Rangers Bendel Insurance etc.
The stadium would be full but right now there is nothing at all. In Kenya they pay their players, at least I know about one earning about $5,000 to $6,000 in a month. But in Nigeria they were trying to make it a law to make it N120,000. How many dollars is that?
What about religiosity?
In terms of religion, you see what is going on; things are worst. I can say there has been no development except that we built some bridges, built some roads and planted flowers.
We have built hospitals and schools which the political class and the rich cannot patronise. If it is real development then the rich and the political class will be patronising them because they ought to be of the same quality like the ones abroad.
With all that you have said, do we have reasons to celebrate and where do we go from here if truly Nigeria is to be the giant of Africa?
When you say celebrate, we do not really have any reason to be happy. If you have six children and they are supposed to be in the university but they are still in JSS 1 when all their mates have graduated from the university, when it comes to their birthdays how much will you celebrate?
The celebration will be ‘Okay, thank God they are alive.’ In Nigeria, thank God that we are still one nation, if not there is nothing to celebrate at all. Look at Singapore, South Korea and other nations that Nigeria was ahead of those days. If you were a leader, you ask yourself in what kind of prison will you want to be jailed? This will make you put things in place that will make the people there not to be treated like animals.
You also ask yourself, in case I am part of the minority, how will I want to be treated? Answering this will help us use power in a civilised way, with love, with care and not arrogantly both at state and federal levels. Let us start a new civilisation campaign applying the Golden Rule, let there be radio jingles, let flyers and posters be printed.
You will be surprised by what Nigeria will become. I recall the campaign that was out in place during General Muhammadu Buhari’s military rule where people were leaving the country. The campaign changed the mindset of people to have them stay back.
Finally, going back to the 2023 general election, what kind of President do you hope to see?
I want a more refined presidency that is strong and extremely kind to every section of the country; where everyone feels involved. The most civilised person on earth is one that will not use his power to crush the weak.