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The Chinua Achebe Foundation Interview Series #14

A Meeting of the Minds
(Mrs. Tejumade Alakija in Conversation with Toluwanimi Olujimi)

The Chinua Achebe Foundation

Mrs. Tejumade Alakija,

Tejumade Alakija

Mrs. Tejumade Alakija


Chinua Achebe Foundation

Prof. Chinua Achebe

daughter of the late Sir
Adesoji Aderemi, the Ooni of Ife, was born on May 17, 1925, in Ile-Ife, into one of the most ancient and distinguished of royal families in Nigeria.  An “authentic princess,” Mrs. Alakija received her early education at Aiyetoro Primary and Central Schools, Ile-Ife, from 1933 — 1937; and also at Kudeti Girls’ School, a private boarding primary school in Molete, Ibadan. 


Alakija obtained her B.A Honours (History) at Westfield College, University of London, England, between 1946 and1950. She then proceeded to Oxford University, where she received a post - graduate Diploma in Education, 1950 – 1951. Alakija was a member of the G.D.H. Cole Group -- a body well reputed for its intellectual and international activities.


As a graduate teacher, she joined the Nigerian Civil Service, and was posted to Queen’s School, Ede - then a new government Girls’ Secondary Grammar School -  between 1951 and 1953. She was a foundation staff member, and one of only two Nigerian staff members at the time.


In 1953, Alakija founded a Girls’ Secondary Grammar School at the invitation of the Anglican Mission in Ijebu-Ode Diocese, Western Region of Nigeria. This school, which is now in Ogun State, is classified as category ‘A’, and several of its old girls are highly successful professionals in various walks of life.


Between 1956 and 1958, she taught at the Abeokuta Grammar

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, and assisted in establishing a five-year programme for the School Leaving Certificate to replace the existing six-year programme. She rejoined the Western Nigerian Public Service as an Assistant Secretary, and was later posted to the Western Nigerian office in London, England where she gave new direction to the students’ affairs department in England. Back in Nigeria, from 1960—1962, she became an Assistant Secretary (finance) at the Ministry of Works, and then training officer in charge of the Region’s Public Service Training Program.


From 1962 to 1964, she was the Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and industries in the Region. She was later appointed Secretary of important commissions — Committee on Development of Training in the Western Region Civil Service; and also Committee on Technical Education in Western Nigeria.


Mrs. Alakija became the Chief Investment Officer in the Ministry of Trade and industries in charge of Industrial Promotions, 1969 — 1972. During this period, she led the negotiation, promotion and establishment of many major industrial projects now flourishing in the four states of Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ogun, which made up the old Western State.


Mrs. Alakija has also served her nation as Deputy Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Health 1976 — 1978. As the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, 1978 to 1979, she helped streamline the central admission system. In the second republic, Mrs. Alakija served as Head of Service of the Old Oyo State.


After a period of long and exemplary service rendered to the society, Alakija voluntarily retired on 30th September 1983, with distinguished awards, appointments and honours for her services. Amongst them are the following honours:  Member of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (M.F.R.), 1980; Honorary Doctorate Degree in Administration by the University of Lagos, 1992; Pro-chancellor and chairman of council, University of Abuja, 1993 – 1997; Oyo State Merit Award for outstanding performance and other impressive contributions to the development of the public service in Western Region, and Oyo State of Nigeria.


Recently, Alakija was a member of the Political Reform Conference. A woman of distinct virtue, she reads widely, and enjoys gardening in her spare time.



I would like to begin by asking, Ma’am -- what are your thoughts on Leadership in Nigeria?


Every country has

Tejumade Alakija

Mrs. Tejumade Alakija

its peculiar issues to deal with; I think, however, that in
Nigeria it has become easier for us to blame our problems on the leadership. Even so, I would argue that those being led play a role, as well. Let us step back, if we may, into history for a moment… The first crop of leadership in this country was of great significance, emerging at a critical period in our nation when we had just won independence from Great Britain. This group of leaders took on their role very seriously, and so did the citizenry. Unfortunately, since then, we seemed to have lost something crucial in the nation building process that we have not since been able to regain.


Our leaders, in the past, were truly committed towards representing the people; they were prepared, also, to assume the mantle of leadership. There were the likes of the Sarduana of Sokoto -- a truly great leader. He spoke with one voice concerning the North, and was honest as well as diligent. Zik, representing the West, at the time, spoke with one voice, as did Awolowo in the East. But somewhere along the line, the chain snapped; the link between these three men of caliber shattered. A civil war was fought, and since then the unity of the country has seemed to be in question.


Those early leaders were virile, so our problem was not that of leadership; however, something snapped in our history, and into the fissure that was created, stepped in the military. Sadly, with military intervention came a widening of the gap between the different ethnic entities that make up this great country, and which brought out the worst in us. What felt important only served to keep our people apart; making the country unified again felt almost like enslavement, because, on the whole, we had become used to a regional government, which was working rather well for us.


For this reason, democratic governance seemed almost a super-imposition, a democratic setup that had a military feeling about it. The military attitude is greatly diminished now, but unfortunately we still retain the structures that the military left with us – for instance when the present government issues a blanket directive to the entire country. In the past, the federal government would suggest what it wanted to introduce -- for instance, certain measures in education. However, it was only if the individual regions saw any benefits for themselves in such an action that it was noted and complied with in the various regions.


Even so, I don’t see why we cannot evolve a true federal system of government. If we return to the regional system, why not; it is better for us. But most people, having enjoyed what they call ‘autonomy’ at the state level, are not now willing to give that up. And perhaps, we needn’t establish a regional government, so much as a regional development programme along zonal lines. Zones can thus become the basis for regional participation, and the development phase will become even more meaningful than it is now.


If we want to develop the agricultural sector for instance, there should be a resolution on what cash crops should be grown, and this should be capitalized upon in specific zones once an agreement is reached to begin exportation. And an important question has to be asked: which zone or area has the most experience with a particular crop? Such an area should be allowed to concentrate on what it does best! Areas that produce yams need not bother about cocoa plant production, because the land fit for growing yams may well not produce cocoa at all. Integrated planning in the various states can be embarked on at the zonal level.




There is a great deal of talk about corruption in Nigeria; people point to how pervasive the situation has become. Do you agree with this view?


I do, indeed! Corruption is a pervasive component of government in Nigeria. I can say that corruption has always been an issue, and has now

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approached an absolutely perplexing level. There has always been the persistent case of kickbacks on contracts. In the past, it was a matter of 5 percent, perhaps, 10 percent on a contract. Nowadays, kickbacks are 100 per cent! A contract is issued, the contractor pays to receive it, and, in the end, there is no project -- either begun or finished. In the past, one started and finished a project, and 10 per cent would be built into its execution cost for the government official who issued the contract for it. Now, however, projects that have been neither implemented nor completed, yet need to be executed are bid upon again, and in this way, one project is paid twice over, or even more. There are many such projects today in the country, either at state or federal level, and which appear in the budget over and over again.


So, if one examines every facet of the Nigerian nation, one will find the cankerworm of corruption. It is as widespread as it is overwhelming. But I believe we’ve already originated the war against corruption. If it is established that anyone has been fraudulent in his or her dealings, such a person should be brought to book; others will think twice before they attempt the same. Because, let’s face it, nobody really wants his name defamed in public. Nobody wants public ridicule. I believe the President has begun a step in the right direction, and if the tempo is kept up; if his aides – people in his cabinet, the legislature and the judiciary, give necessary cooperation, we will get somewhere with this crusade. It will yield results, and help stem the tide of pervasive corruption. I would like to advise the government to be watchful; don’t leave too many loopholes for people to be tempted. And if you smell a rat, chase it until you catch it.

…And the other, just as significant, bane of our country – tribalism?  


 I think the use of the word ‘tribalism’ constitutes a great misconception. What we refer to as tribes are, in fact, proud nations. Nigeria is an entity composed of various nations brought together by the British, and so, we should completely avoid use of the word, tribalism. Altogether, the south West is as big as, if not larger, than most countries in Europe. The North should be even larger, in terms of its geographical size, than many, many countries in Europe. So we should never call ourselves ‘tribalists.’ Ethnic rivalry is, perhaps, a better description.


In the past, nobody laid emphasis on the “tribal” sentiment, as it were. The founding fathers were more interested in developing their individual regions. The word, “tribalism” connotes under-development and its attendant evils; we are made up of proud nations, and we get on as one group. Like I said earlier, the leaders led their individual groups -- not to the detriment of others -- but making sure that each entity was successful, and had their demands and aspirations met by the federal government. In those days, we operated as independent regions, which were not subservient to the centre. Yet, it was not a weak federal government, and each region cooperated on relevant issues with one another.


The only reason we seem to have persistent issues around ethnicity in Nigeria is because an outsider brought us together; we did not come together as a people of our own volition. In America, the peoples came together as a united nation and cooperated to develop their disadvantaged states. Atlanta, Georgia was raised almost to the same level as New York, Los Angeles or Washington, deliberately to satisfy an ethnic group. This was to enable people of Black and African ancestry to focus on establishing an identity that was unique to the group, and to make their state a regional development centre. The same was done in every state a new group of immigrants had decided to settle in. Each state was developed to satisfy the new immigrants.


Now, if we do that in this country, people who live at the Nigerian borders would not feel the necessity to allow goods from say Togo, for instance, into the country, as a way of making money, because they know that the centre will cater for everyone. But in a situation where the centre does what it feels like, disregarding certain geographical areas and privileging others, the neglected areas will attempt to cater for their own needs, and people will not be patriotic to things that have to do with the country.


However, I might add that in a situation where each region is independent, and able to care for itself, there will be very little push for candidates to go to the centre, because everything they need will be in the regions. That is why we continue to advocate for a ‘weak’ centre; by that, I mean one that is limited in terms of resources, though not necessarily power. The government at the centre must control, to a certain extent, the states or regions, the economy, and home affairs for fiscal determination, and so on. However, the federal government should not have any major preoccupation with education. It may suggest that each state should give substantial attention to education, but that should be the extent of it. It becomes the responsibility of each region or zone to provide its citizens with the best education possible. The interest of the federal government, in that case, should be that of an overseer.


In your view, what went wrong with the Nigerian educational system?


We spread things too thin without the necessary, required planning. When Awolowo introduced free education, he did it at the primary school level, and carefully monitored its progress. After the first three years, he introduced Grade III level teachers, and later on, Grade II level teachers. He then made sure that Grade III level teachers were absorbed into the Grade II teaching level, because he wanted improved teaching standards. He knew that with time, the country would need people with experience and impeccable education as headmasters and high school teachers. He began early to monitor the level and the strength of the teaching population.


He continued to balance the growth of the school population with a plan to provide increased information for the teachers. But in 1966, everything collapsed. When the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) came on board with a plan for free secondary education for everyone, it seemed we were not prepared for that. We failed to see that there was the need to pay close attention to students who were very capable, and provide them with the appropriate secondary school education. For those who were not as capable, Awolowo had an alternative plan that he called “Modern III.”


Clearly, in failing to appreciate and employ this plan of Awolowo’s, we missed something very significant. Students were now invited to a secondary education without the benefit of the physical accommodation required for the programme, effectively in place. So there were not enough facilities or resources to go around, and things could not work efficiently as had been hoped; even the numbers of trained teaching staff could not meet up with the enormous demand. We began to have classes of 40 or 50 students; but, that’s no longer a class! The appropriate class should not exceed 30 pupils so that teachers are able to control and efficiently disseminate information to each, individual student. Of course, this failure of planning affected the teaching profession, and gradually, its standards declined. These days, education is in a terrible, terrible, shape.


The quality of education and level of examination malpractice to be found now in the country, I find very disgraceful. I cannot believe what I hear happens now in national examinations. In the last School Certificate Examinations, several subjects were cancelled, because of examination fraud. In the last JAMB examination, thousands of results were, as well, cancelled. Something rather unfortunate seems to have come over this nation. The society at large should hold teachers or examinations’ body staff responsible if they sell question papers prior to examinations, and also the parents or students who feed this malpractice by buying them. These question papers would not be sold if there was nobody to buy them. How is it possible that a parent will shell out so many thousands of naira so that his or her ward may purchase question papers; is there no concern that these children will merely end up incompetent and undisciplined?  No right-thinking person, in my mind, would allow that, and it tells you the level of degeneration in the society as a whole when people do.


These days, everything appears to be negotiable. And honestly, reading about all these developments means that our education has no value, whatsoever, because you never can tell how a person obtained his certificate, or, indeed, how competent a professional is. Today, not many graduates can defend the certificates they parade, if called upon to do so.  Thus, a magistrate may well be a stark illiterate; I shudder to think about the true qualifications of doctors who obtained their Certificates fraudulently. Society should be concerned about supporting such a generation of fraudsters!


Something must be seriously done to correct this scenario; it cannot continue like this, for then, the complete and utter destruction of society is set in motion. Imagine that you are in need of an operation and the surgeon (not all, by any means…) attending to you obtained his degree by fraudulent means. Not everyone can escape to America or South Africa for medical attention. One might as well seek help from a roadside mechanic! Or a butcher...and should we even be thinking in terms of going abroad to seek medical intervention when Nigeria should boast the capable medical personnel? This goes for every single profession.  What if the judge presiding over your case had someone else write his legal exams for him or her? So we must deal with this anomaly completely, beginning with our children and ourselves.


We must be able to identify among ourselves, the reasons for this ill, and judge how we can work to solve the problem. And this must be handled critically. Teachers must be cautioned, and far reaching punitive measures put in place so that anybody caught and proved to be involved in examination malpractices is decisively dealt with. There should be no pardon for anybody culpable.


Most importantly, I think that the staff of examination bodies – JAMB, WAEC, especially – require special cautioning. There is no doubt that the school curricula needs to be reviewed and updated to meet current global standards, particularly as presently obtains in public schools. Definitely, there are subjects that should be introduced like computer instruction — the world of information technology -- sex education too, is passing us by. Civics used to be a school subject that incorporated moral education. Whatever happened to it? The world is leaving us behind!!!  Look at what is happening in Bangalore, India, where a silicon valley has been established, and China, which has emerged a global economic power. Combined as an economic force, does Africa stand a chance with these Asian nations? We should be thinking about things like this, concerned for our future, instead of destroying the only country we own.


It should be ensured that only qualified teachers are engaged to teach our students, and their preparation must be rigorous.  This is how India has excelled; by maintaining strict standards of excellence in education. Their educational institutions can, at times, rival even those in the West! Teachers must constantly update their lessons to remain abreast of global standards, and somebody will have to see to it that this is being done. One cannot teach a subject unless one is far ahead of the student. If, as seems to be the practice, one has cheated and plotted to gain one’s teaching certificate, it is not surprising that students these days appear to be much more informed than their teachers. The only way one can teach with any confidence is to regularly update one’s knowledge. New pieces of information can be gleaned from the Internet virtually every second; not to be abreast of these is a fatal mistake.


When I founded my school in 1954, under the Ijebu-Ode District Church Council, I made sure that my teachers prepared their lesson notes, updated them and submitted them to me. I wasn’t merely looking at the content; I was also interested in the format. This is because, if a teacher is not organized, she or he is not going to know how to present a subject; he or she will not be able to transfer knowledge to a student, or anyone for that matter. But if one has a properly planned out format, one is then able to transfer almost 90 per cent of that to the one who receives it. If 90 percent of knowledge is transferred, and students are able to take in 50 per cent and above, that is fair in my estimate. And teachers should earn competitive salaries, although, on the whole, they are doing much better than in the past. I believe some are being paid on the same level as civil servants now?


How would you rate the treatment of women in Nigeria?


The way women are treated in Nigeria is appalling, and appears to be an example of ‘man’s inhumanity to man.’ One man treats the other offensively, simply because of differences in color, religion and gender. It seems to be a natural phenomenon of man’s desire to “lord it over” someone else. Nigeria for instance, has not dealt fairly with women and the issues regarding them, to a certain extent, but I think it’s now up to women to fight for what they want, improve on what they already have. And I believe that women are ready to take up this challenge. Women in Nigeria are involved in a great many things. At the confab, there were only 30 women invited to the 400-strong representation. But each time a woman got up to speak, she eloquently articulated the issues that concerned her, and people listened.


The Nigerian woman is making impressive strides and contributions contrary to what might have been imagined. She is opening up new arenas, bringing to the table new and different meanings to problems that she has researched and fully understands; therefore, she cannot be silenced. There was, at the confab, a young woman who introduced one of the more controversial issues at the gathering; a crucial question concerning the appropriate duration of the Nigerian Presidential term of office. This woman gathered research on the call from the regions desiring one term of five or six years, and not two terms, then cited the examples of Argentina, Mexico -- the South American countries -- as well as the Caribbean and Africa. There was no denying that she knew her facts. She made an intelligent, cogent case for a one term presidential rule -- that in a modern democracy, one term in office is appropriate for the president.


After she had addressed the confab, a second woman stood up to speak, this time, a young Moslem woman who pleaded a case for child protection, even in the family home. She argued very strongly that women were failing to protect their children, because they, as well, were being denied protection in our society. And she gave several key instances within the Nigerian context. These two young women, one Moslem -- a Northerner, and the other, a Christian from the South West, were women, still very young, who spoke convincingly in the seven minutes allowed them. And the men gave them a loud ovation saying (only half jokingly); ‘the women are taking over the confab from the men!’ They stood up, and clapped loudly, the men did. The two women’s presentations took place on the same day.


In politics, I would say that the few women out there are doing well, indeed. And we must not forget that they face serious constraints -- from their families, the society, and even those male politicians who still do not want to give women an opportunity to prove their worth. All the women in the confab spoke out; all 30 of us; and of the 30 women, about 25 of them were politicians.


But I would like to add that Nigerian women, in general, are going to make far greater impact. In the past, the fearless, outspoken Nigerian woman stood alone – the likes of Mrs. Ransome Kuti and Mrs. Margaret Ekpo, for instance. Today, however, the politically and socially aware Nigerian woman asserts herself in greater numbers to make significant suggestions, and all women need to join the chorus so that their demands are met and implemented. And, of course, when more women are in regional or state governments, they will be in a better position to enforce the decisions that most concern them


The Rural Woman


There was one woman at the last confab who referred to herself as a rural woman. Representing rural women, she thoroughly and articulately provided awareness through necessary information, enabling the rural woman’s empowerment. Unfortunately, financial empowerment, which is important in the political dispensation of Nigeria, has been generally difficult for women. Even in the urban areas, the woman is not always financially empowered, not to mention the rural woman. However, women in Nigeria are becoming much more focused in their desired goals. There are stories of women implementing programmes of ‘Esu’ within the community -- where women come together to give financial aid (Esu) to one another. In this way, at community level, hard working women of integrity are able to make an impact on the economy. And this happens both in the Northern, as well as Southern part of the country.


 So, although women might desire this, we really do not need to ask men to support our endeavors; we can render support, ourselves, to whosoever needs it. Women will give support to women organisations, whether their husbands want it or not; by the time we are finished, few men will wish to remain passive or appear resistant observers to such a grand movement.


What strategies would you recommend for rejuvenating the agricultural sector?


A number of states and the federal government are doing this at the moment -- there is a programme to revive cocoa, another to revive cassava, groundnuts and, of course, palm oil, on an appreciable scale. Still, few people have remained on or maintained farms and it is a bit difficult to ask workers in the cities to go back to their farms in the villages. In the North, I must say, it is not so difficult, because people, in general, have not traveled too far from the villages, and so have not entirely abandoned the idea of farming. However, a man from Ikare who has gone to live and work in Lagos; it becomes difficult to ask him to return to Ikare to work on the farm. Chances are that he won’t do it.


What must be done to restructure the Nigerian economy?


There is a bank that is set up to attend to Small Scale/Medium Scale industries at the moment. But whether or not people have been able to access the funds made available for this purpose is another issue entirely; perhaps, members of the public don’t know where to go, or how to get there. The fact that an industry can be doing so well and then gradually gets crushed out of existence is a great problem for us in this country. Today, the industrial sector is in a dismal way. At the confab, we stressed the necessity for a body to look into abandoned projects, and the many state owned and private industries that have folded up – for example, car assembly plants are quietly folding up, and we are heavily importing cars! We also have to rely on importation for virtually all our industrial needs. Some motorcycle plants have simply folded up; yet just imagine the number of motorcycles – Okada -- being used for transportation in the country today.


The level of infrastructure decay carries negative consequences for the country’s economic viability. One of the decisions at the confab was to look into the disintegration of our industrial infrastructures; what was imperative to our economy would be given urgent attention.


I tell you – the situation simply stupefies. How can one use paper on a daily basis -- journalists use paper, schools use paper, offices use paper; if you store materials on a diskette, you will still have to print out its information on paper -- yet there is no company manufacturing paper in the whole of Nigeria. Mind you, there was a consortium company, the paper mill company, Iwopin, which was established in 1974.  But we've continued to sink money into the company; you can imagine how many billions of naira. Yet not an ounce of paper has been produced in that place. This has simply got to be looked into.


Most of our manufacturing companies are producing at a loss, because of poor infrastructure; bad roads, lack of adequate power supply, no water for industrial purpose; all these lead to high overhead costs. Locally produced goods cannot compete with the imported varieties in the country, and this is a tragedy for the manufacturing sector. It’s about 31 years since the Iwopin Paper Mill Company was built, and I still cannot believe that nothing ever came out of that endeavor. There are machines, personnel, the infrastructure; but the company never really took off. And it has simply got to be revived. We have wood, we planted Melina trees from here to the Mid-west; all those trees you see on the road, they are called Melina trees, planted for making paper, though people have been cutting them down for years for domestic use.


In 1974, I was the officer in charge of reviving such industrial operations, and the Western Regional government, at the time, financed it. But then, there were complaints that the project was too enormous for a regional government to own and run alone; the Federal government later took it up, and offered shares to the regional governments and began to expand the base. It turned into this gigantic venture, and they still have not turned out any product!


We have the same problem with the Ajaokuta and Delta steel companies. Why invest so much on a project only to abandon it; I don’t know how many people actually invest their own, personal, money in a project, only to let it go down the drains? Successive governments have wasted so much of the nation's resources through abandoned projects, and I think it extremely unfortunate that people can be so irresponsible and non-enterprising.


I am very much worried by this, by now, familiar trend. I was nicknamed 'Madam Industries' at the Confab, because I spent eight years in the industrial sector, and was responsible for initiating the Iwopin Mill, NIROWI, now scrapped, and the Cocoa Industries limited (CIL), and I kept expressing disappointment at the way things had turned out. I suggested that the government should put a board in place to look into these abandoned projects, and revive as many as can be viable again. Certainly, the battery, petrochemical industries, paper and steel mills should be revived! Paper is the cheapest thing one may buy in America. Iwopin mill never started production; I still don’t know the reason for this up until I left the place in the 70’s.

Would you mind sharing some of your thoughts on restructuring the nation?


I am truly optimistic that things will change for the better in the country. We just have to be optimistic, and then we can’t fail; we must never, never give up! Take the confab for example; I think we accomplished quite a bit there, though some might assume that the discussions were disrupted, because the Niger Delta and South-South raised the issue of resource control almost from the beginning. And, it is my belief that this matter should have been explored directly, or a separate committee appointed to deal with it. Rather, its treatment was joined to another committee -- one on cocoa yam production, I believe. The issue of resource control should have been addressed on its own merit, and representatives from oil producing areas invited to reach a consensus, which would then be presented to the confab. That would have been the best option. But at the stage that we finally began reviewing all that had been raised, everything just broke loose.


It is my belief that things were alright in the country when we were operating three regions; things were easier to manage then. And what is presently left for the resource areas in terms of remuneration is not as much as when there were only three regions. Let’s examine the broad argument for a moment; oil is buried in the ground, and someone owns that ground. When oil is produced, the federal government makes a claim on it. But who drills for the oil? At present, the country is not involved in the actual drilling of oil; the Federal government has absolutely nothing to do with this process.


However, the federal government leases land to multinationals so that

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they can drill the crude oil found in it. It is this “rent” money that foreigners, the multinationals pay to the federal government that we are all fighting over in the name of resource remuneration. We are not even fighting to decide how to begin to own the entire oil production business in our own country…, which was part of the issue before the confab! The federal government does not even control the production of crude oil in
Nigeria!!!! It controls only the oil that is still in the earth; the real owners are the multinationals that control the entire process of bringing the oil out of the ground to the barreled product! It is only when the federal government is involved in the actual production of oil, and owns the end product that we can begin to talk of full resource control.


However, I must reiterate that we are not doing too badly as a people; we tend to judge ourselves on a way of life that is really not ours, and which, in truth, has been worked on and perfected, to some degree, by its people (Britain) for three or more centuries. As Nigerians, we have been together for only a century, and only truly came together less than 50 years ago. And even before that, our lives were severely disrupted by the Slave trade. So we are not doing badly as a nation; even so, we would like to do better, and I pray that we do so by ignoring whatever negative things might be said to, and about us, and concentrate on learning more about who we really are; our true and proud histories and accomplishments.


For young people, I will advise that they discard negative values learned from abroad, imbibe good ones (which direction they will receive from the home), and steadfastly hold unto our tried and tested values, like respect for elders and others in general; obedience to authority; kindness to everyone. There should be no place in our society for rape, killings, armed robbery; thuggery, in general like is happening in certain places today. Such behavior shows dysfunction in the family, a degeneration of values that has spilled out into society, and reduces us to a state of ignominy. A great many young people are into crime today, because they indulge in drugs and fall victim to chemical abuse. Our youth should work and study hard, instead of buying exam question papers, or even the examiners, themselves. They should understand that this practice is not only ruining the institutions of learning, but devastating their tomorrow!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the interview are not necessarily those of the Chinua Achebe Foundation. The Chinua Achebe Foundation, an intellectual and cultural organization, believes in the right of every Nigerian to express their opinion.

Chinua Achebe Foundation Interview Series: Mrs. Tejumade Alakija in Conversation with Toluwanimi Olujimi