Mr. Mac Oruche, Chairman of Strickland Services Limited, is known for his philanthropic work to the Catholic Church and humanity. In this interview with TONY JOHN in Port Harcourt, he talked about the Papal Knight award that would be conferred on him on January 30; Nigeria at 60, insecurity, restructuring and other issues.
On January 30, you will receive the Papal Knight award. Could you tell us about this and what it means for you?
January 30 is the investiture date. As a recipient, I have already been confirmed with the honour. What this is all about is simple. I won’t say I am alone doing the work because this is just a recognition towards members, who they think had done so much for the church and humanity too. The most important thing is that, you are not the only one doing the work. But, why were you being singled? I have always seen it as the work of God because you are not the only one doing humanity gestures; you are not the only one working for the church. For me, I think I am elated, happy. And I must recognise that is for the church. I won’t say it was as a result of what I have done, because I don’t know what I have done. But, to recognise me, yes, I am elated. But, to say this is my achievement, I don’t know what I have achieved.
The dream of every Catholic is to shake the hands of the Pope. Have you had that privilege? If yes, tell us about the experience.
Have I shook the hand of a Pope before? I have done that two times; one, as a young man, that is as a young boy in primary school. I have done that again during Abacha tenure. I was happy about it, because, normally, what it means is for you to kiss the ring he is carrying. It is like 10, 000 of people wanting to kiss it. And when I reflect back, I say to myself, does it pay to do all those things because, today, I would be afraid of kissing ring so many lips are kissing without minding what the other person is having in terms of health. But, I was excited anyway, as a young man. I would still be excited because, when you look at Pope, he is one man in the world. He is just like a president of all countries. So, when you see that kind of person, and you shake hand with him or kiss his ring, you should be very happy.
The Pope (Pope John Paul) visited Nigeria once. Is it possible Nigeria could have the privilege of hosting the Pope again?
Pope visitation is at his discretion. Sometimes, it might be a pressure of some groups of people. But, most times, it is his discretion to decide where (country) to go. But, we pray he does, especially the current Pope that is known for his humility and the way he touches blacks. So, I would be happy he visits Nigeria.
You have done much in philanthropy towards the Catholic Church and community. We hear you are currently tarring a road in your community. What is your motivation?
I don’t know how I am doing much for the church and my community. I am not the only one doing the work. I am not. When it comes to touching lives, I think it is something every human being should get involved with. You don’t need to touch life because you have millions. You can touch lives with N5,000. The most important thing is it is coming from the heart to assist. Whenever you want to do something, you are not it for the purpose of benefiting back. When you give, you give to those you know that are not going to pay you back. Especially, when I give to church or community, I can’t even want anybody to know what I have done, so that I wouldn’t know how I feel for about what I have done. For me, it is a normal thing to give.
Could you spare some minutes to tell us about your growing up years?
I had a very strict father, who did not believe in this idea of spoiling the rod was spoiling the child. That was the way I was brought up. I never had it easy. I was not born with golden spoon in mouth. I so much had ardent Catholic father who was ready to work, very disciplined parents. So, it wasn’t easy for us to wear his shoes because, I tell the truth, when I look back at what my father I did with the church, I can’t even do one tenth of the work he did. I really cannot measure up. It humbled me when he died to see that Catholic Church kept his body in the church; had a vigil for him all night. It was real. I haven’t seen it before. I have not seen it any where. It was in his case I saw it and I was shocked. That was on December 3, 1996. His body was laid and they kept on from one society to the other praying hourly till the following morning. Whatever I can do for the church, I can’t look back.
What makes you happy and what makes you sad?
All my happiness is when I see that I put smile on faces of the “common” person. You see, when I do favour to you and I see you laughing, I am laughing for than you. But, you won’t know. That’s what makes me happy, to see the next neighbour is happy, laughing. That is my happiness. On the other hand, what makes me sad is what I am seeing in recent days because I had grown up so much a happy child. But, today, I can’t see that in more than 90 percent of children in the country today. I can’t understand why a human being, instead of creating something that would make other people happy, he is creating things that would humanity. I wish we would have been all happy.
What advice would you give Nigerians regarding COVID-19 pandemic?
You see, COVID-19 is something that has come to stay, whether we like it or not. There have been guidelines to it. And I would advise strictly that people obey NCDC instructions, especially when it comes to mask wearing; because, when I went to Dubai in December, from the market to the airport, everywhere, people were wearing nose mask. We need to obey all the COVID-19 protocols. And, people of my age bracket, should know that, one way or another, we have one ailment or the other; either we are hypertensive, diabetic or another. So, if we don’t have business, we should as much as possible stay at home. If you don’t have a business that would take you outside, please, stay at home.
The country is faced with serious insecurity. What solution would you proffer?
I think we need to be honest to ourselves. A lot of Nigerians a benefitting from this insecurity business. This is because the amount of money Nigeria is wasting fighting insecurity is getting very alarming because of greed. The truth is this, if we do our little bit, this thing (insecurity) could be curbed. What is security? Security is not when you carry gun or sword. Security is you and I. You cannot secure a place, a community when the inhabitants of the area do not know what you are really doing. I give you an instance, look at the way we policing Nigeria; a policeman from Bauchi State is in Abia State. He cannot speak the language there. So, why is he there? You cannot talk of security without knowing your environment, or the language where you are securing. You are carrying a gun and standing here. Supposing somebody says in vernacular that this man we are going to kill, the man with go would not understand what they have said. So, the day we start being honest to ourselves, insecurity would come to be a thing of the past. So, let us be honest to ourselves. So, let the leadership purge themselves. It is important because, it is like a dead body, when they are carrying a corpse around, you don’t know what it is until it affects you. That is the only time you will feel the pains the other person has felt. I don’t understand what is going on in this country. What are the check points on our roads for. If government wants effective security, it should be patrol vehicles, so that the man you are looking for, may not know when you are going to arrive. People are picked up between two check-points. People are robbed, kidnapped between two check-points. If you drive from Port Harcourt to Owerri, you know how many check-points you will meet. Is that security? We need to purge ourselves. We need to sit down and talk to ourselves. Insecurity in Nigeria is man-made. Unless we stop being greed, we would not come out of insecurity.
Nigeria was 60 last year, about four months ago. Are you satisfied with the state of the country, especially with regards to projections about the nation at independence?
If you look at projections, you ask yourself a question. If a man is 60 years, and he is still where he is, is he doing well, bearing in mind that we are sixth largest petroleum export producing country? We can’t even refine a pint of oil in our place. We still import finished product. How are you going to account for that? Sixty years! We still see tankers , big trucks on highways. What is wrong with our waterways being kept in order, so that all heavy loads and trucks will not damage our roads. The truth is that greed has taken over our country. I don’t care where you are coming from. The issue of greed is running this country. And until it runs the country dry, we won’t realise ourselves. But, I think if we put our waterways and railways in order, the number of accidents on our roads will reduce. The haulage vehicles are causing more danger on our roads and shortening the road span. Look at the number of property being abandoned because of greed. If a governor comes to power, he abandons things (projects) his predecessor started. Today, we are running a government that nobody asks question. Even if you ask, nobody gives you an answer. So, what is it to show at 60? People used to say, a fool at 40, is a fool for ever. So, if you are 60, and there is nothing to show for it, you have not done well at all. Let’s tell ourselves the truth, we have not done well as a country.
Many people have made suggestions on how to make Nigeria better. Some talked about restructuring. Others talked about return to parliamentary system of government. What do you think?
The country is running a from reality. We will still come back. If you look at Holland, for instance, they don’t have oil. But, they are one of the biggest economy in the world. They don’t have as much land as we have. Yet, they are doing very well. So, if we do not restructure, we would be dancing around. If we restructure, everybody will go back to the village, to his house and start cleaning the house. So many countries are surviving without oil. So, why this over dependence on oil? There is something in your place you have not discovered because you are sharing money from the centre. The day we stop sharing money at the centre, everybody will sit up. No matter how we run away from restructuring, we will surely come back to it. If you like, be 60 or not, you must look back and know where you are. We must face the reality.
What would you want to be remembered for?
As I said earlier, when I see you laugh as my neighbour, I laugh more than you. I think if God gives me what it takes, in terms of wealth, wisdom, I would like to share it with every man I see. I want to make sure I share with my neighbour in terms of wisdom, in terns of wealth, in terms of everything good. I want the poor section in this country being lifted