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Nigeria is too rich for Nigerians to be so poor; I’ll make sure – Ben Murray Bruce

Ben Murray-Bruce’s anti-corruption tweets have come under serious attack by youths on Twitter. He was even accused of complicity in some N8 billion equipment scandal that rocked the Nigerian Television Authority in his time as Director General. Unperturbed, he tweeted right back: “When I see anger in youths on Twitter, I’m inspired to make a change at the Senate. Don’t stop being angry until you see (the) results you want!.”

Murray-Bruce is Chairman, Silverbird Group and now Senator-elect in Bayelsa State. On Sunday May 3, 2015 at the Silverbird Man of the Year Awards in Lagos, he gave the following speech and HAMILTONSTYLE is making it a document for public records. He may have spoken extempore. But now, hungry and angry Nigerians can hold him accountable to his outpouring against corruption and overbearing opulence in governance, in case he joins the fray.

“First of all, let me thank all the recipients of the various categories of our awards tonight; those of you who have done great things for this great nation. All my life, I have always been attracted to public office. When I decided to run for public office, I was concerned about the poverty level in the land and the inability of the federal, state and local governments to function at the level they ought to. In seeking public office, I looked at the national, state and local governments’ budgets. I tried to understand why Nigeria was not as developed as it ought to be. And what I saw was shocking and very alarming. Those of us in the private sector understand how we should run a company, and things we should do and the ones we shouldn’t do.

“In the federal budget, a couple of things shook me. For instance, one percent of the federal budget is spent on pilgrimages for both Muslims and Christians; three percent of the national budget is spent on the National Assembly for 469 people; 30 percent is spent on 1.2 million civil servants, (In all) 88 percent is spent on recurrent expenditure while only 12 percent is spent on capital expenditure.

“State governments have no money. Most states in this country today, if they were to be companies, they would have closed shop. And no (bank) will lend them money. The federal government inclusive. To say that we are broke is an understatement. A few things must happen to enable us grow the economy, and we must shrink the way we spend money in this country. The problem facing this country is not about the North versus the South, neither is it about Christianity versus Islam or APC versus PDP. Rather, the problem is Right versus Wrong. I was interviewed recently was asked about the problem of the North-east and South-south. I replied that the issue with the North-east is not about religion and that of the South-South is underdevelopment. It is very simple; we are a small minority of people (in the South-south) and the leadership of Nigeria is consuming all the resources of my people and leaving the rest of us in abject poverty.

“That will not work. We must learn to be humble, learn to preserve what we have and learn also to be kind for the rest of us to have what to eat, and our children to go to school; to provide health care facilities for everyone; job creation and infrastructure development for our people. You don’t understand why young men of today have access to an AK-47 to kill us because we do not provide for them. We pay no attention to the least of us.

“In our responses, we want to be living large, have more advisers, buy bullet-proof cars and have more body guards. That will not work. We must come together and understand that we must all grow and develop together as a people. Anyone you leave behind, you have created a problem for the rest of us. It’s not enough to send your children to study in Switzerland, and buy houses in Dubai, live a life of extreme wealth and you expect those you left behind to clap for you.

“They don’t know what I call the MTV generation. Past presidents could not shut down Fela Anikulapo Kuti, and you think they can shut down over 100 million people? You think, you are smart and your lifestyle is not being watched by those you govern? When you seek public office, you seek it to lead by example. You don’t seek public office to play lord over the people who voted you into office. The world has changed, and we must change too. It is not just talking about change, we must have real change. And for us to change, we must understand what drives our people. There is too much hunger in the land.

“So, let’s make a deal. Let’s say for instance, to reduce expenditure, only the President and the Vice President will fly first class, while governors and ministers fly business class. When you travel abroad you don’t need to lodge in a $4000 hotel paid with the tax payers money. I have never stayed in a hotel that is more than $300 in my life, not because I cannot afford it but when I think that at the end of the month, I must pay my workers and pay taxes, how do I justify staying in a $4000 hotel room? It doesn’t make any sense to me.

“I have never flown first class in my life. As a young man, I flew business class and I still do so on purpose. I have a choice but I choose to fly business class, which is the right thing to do. You sit here and talk about nationalism and patriotism, (but when) the lights are turned off, you spend over N1.5 million traveling to London. That amount of money will feed a whole family for a whole year. It makes no sense. The problem in Nigeria is the rich versus the poor. The crisis we have in this country is a class warfare.

“In the next 35 years, if we do not control our consumption behavour, the emerging generation will rise against us. The world has changed but we have not changed. When we go abroad to look for aid in Britain, the men we speak to, my counterparts in the British parliament go to work by train and taxi.

“Nigeria is too poor for our leaders to act like multi-billionaires, and Nigeria is too rich for the people to be so poor. I don’t like what is happening in the power sector as well as the energy sector. I do not wish to buy petrol and I do not wish to go to any gas station ever again. I want to drive a car powered by the sun. I asked Kia Motors to bring electrically powered cars into this country. The reason I asked them to bring in the electrical car is because we need to be free.

“In the Senate, I’m going to sponsor a bill that will help every poor home in this country so that they can survive. I need your support. If my colleagues say no, you say yes. I want you people to tell my colleagues to create a billion dollar fund to have solar power installed in every home in Nigeria, so that every child can watch television and listen to the radio. Every Nigerian has a choice as a Nigerian and as a politician. You are either a producer or you are a consumer.” (Cut)

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