Leadership (Abuja)

24 November 2012

Nigeria: Col. Sani Bello Goes Down Memory Lane - Stealing Was Taboo in Govt

A former military governor of the old Kano State, Col. Sani Bello (rtd), has bemoaned the state of corruption in the country, saying that the ongoing stealing of public funds was unheard of during his time.

Bello, who ruled the old Kano between 1975 and 1978, was the former aide de camp (ADC) to Nigeria's first military head of state, the late Major-General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi .

The ex-governor bared his mind during an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP WEEKEND on the present state of affairs in the country, ahead of his 70th birthday celebration in Kontagora next Wednesday.

According to Bello, there is the need to instil discipline in the polity as that would enthrone sanity and put an end to the culture of impunity across the country.

When asked to differentiate between the Nigeria of his time and the Nigeria he finds himself in today, Bello said: "When we were growing up, the laws were very clear. Don't do this - you did it, you were punished. People were not stealing public funds like that. Everybody was doing his job well.

"Let me also give you an example. In my time, when I was growing up, you could not ride a bicycle after 6pm without headlights or torchlight. A local policeman would arrest you and you would pay fines. Now you can even ride a car without headlights. You could not ride a motorcycle unless you had a licence and you must get a number plate. But now, most okadas don't have number plates."

Decrying the laissez -faire attitude of Nigerians which now pervades the country, the ex-governor said, " If you ask me the greatest problem with Nigeria today, the number one problem is indiscipline. If only we were disciplined, almost every other thing would fall into place."

He further decried the country's style of selective sanctions and stated that it was regrettable that there are no sanctions in the country. "It depends on who commits the offence. That is why Nigeria is the way it is today," he said.

Bello, however, backed the Lagos State government over its recent restriction of motorcycle operators. He said: "The introduction of okada is the most serious problem politics or politicians brought, because if you look at the number of accidents, patients, or the number of disabled people who have been maimed by okada ... and yet you are saying they are using it to make money. Every major hospital in every major Nigerian town has an okada ward."

The environmentalist and educationist also frowned at the indiscriminate felling of trees in the country, saying that "When I was growing up you cannot go and cut any kind of tree in the bush because there are forestry officers to make sure that you cut only trees that are allowed."

"Many countries look after their rivers well, but in our case, we kill our own, without any effort to look after them. I came to realise that the Minister of Environment is from Kaduna. When shall we start doing something other than crying?"

But the civil war veteran is grateful to God for his milestone birthday: "I thank God for his mercies, especially coming from the background I came from - seeing Nigeria both in war and in peace. I think it is glorifying."

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