By Tony John, Port Harcourt
Mr. Mac Oruche Managing Director of Strickland Services Limited will be conferred with a Papal Knight on January 30. In this interview, he talked about his passions, insecurity, how to move Nigeria forward and other issues. Excerpts.
You will be conferred with a Papal Knight on January 30, what does that mean to you?
I have already been confirmed with the Papal Knighthood, January 30 is merely the investiture date. The conferment is in recognition of what I have done for the Church and humanity. I have always seen what I did to be the work of God and the Church, so, I am elated and happy to be awarded the Knighthood.
Devout Catholic hope that one day he will meet and shake hands with the Pope. Have you had that privilege, what was the experience like?
I have met His Holiness the Pope twice. I first met Pope John Paul II as a young boy in primary school and again during the regime of Gen Sani Abacha. I was happy about it because it means you have the privilege to kiss his ring. There were about 10, 000 people wanting to kiss his ring. However, when I reflect back on that, I say to myself, does it pay to do all those things? If it were today, I would be afraid to kiss his ring because so many people you don’t know their health condition would have kissed his ring too. Nevertheless, I was excited and still excited because when you look at the 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 have the privilege to shake hand with him or kiss his ring, you should be very happy.
Pope John Paul II visited Nigeria during the administration of Gen Abacha. Is it possible for Nigeria to host Pope Francis too?
The Pope’s visit to any country is entirely at his discretion though sometimes, it may be as a result of the pressure of some groups of people. But, we pray that Pope Francis who is known for his humility will visit Nigeria.
What do you think the Federal Government should do regarding the spate of insecurity in the country?
We need to be honest with ourselves. A lot of Nigerians are benefiting from this insecurity. The amount of money Nigeria spends fighting insecurity is alarming. The truth is that if we all do our little bit, insecurity would be curbed. Security involves everybody, it is not just about the security agencies. You cannot secure a place or community when you do not know what the inhabitants of the area or community are doing. You cannot talk about security without knowing the environment you are securing. Look at the scenario we have in Nigeria, a policeman from Bauchi State is deployed to Abia State where he does not speak the language. Look at all the checkpoints around the country, do we really need them? People are robbed and kidnapped between these checkpoints. If the government is serious about security, what it should do is to introduce patrol vehicles. We need to sit down and talk to ourselves. Insecurity in Nigeria is man-made. Unless we stop being greedy, we would not come out of insecurity.
Are you satisfied with the state of Nigeria in its 60 years of independence?
I will ask you if a 60-year-old man that has not made any progress is doing well? We are the sixth-largest petroleum-producing country in the world and we still import finished petroleum products. How are you going to account for that? In 60 years, we still have tankers and big trucks on our highways. Why are our waterways and rail system not in order? If we get the waterways and railways to work, the number of accidents on the roads will reduce because the haulage vehicles causing most of the accidents and damaging the roads will be taken off the roads.
COVID-19 is ravaging Nigeria and the rest of the world. What advise would you give the government on how to deal with the pandemic
COVID-19 is something that has come to stay. The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has issued guidelines on how to tackle it and it is best we all follow those guidelines strictly especially when it comes to mask-wearing. I visited Dubai in December and I observed that people wore their nose mask everywhere they went. We need to obey all the COVID-19 protocols and if you don’t have any business outside you should as much as possible stay at home.
What is your position on how to move the country forward, some people suggest restructuring and reversion to the Parliamentary system of government. What do you think?
We are only trying to run away from the reality of restructuring the country. Look at Holland, for instance, they don’t have oil, but, they are one of the biggest economies in the world. They don’t have as much land as we have, yet, they are doing very well in agriculture. So, if we do not restructure, we would only be dancing around. I don’t understand why we are so over-dependent on crude oil, many countries are doing well without crude oil. The day we stop this sharing money from the centre, everybody will sit up. No matter how we run away from restructuring, we will surely come back to it.
What was life like in your growing up years?
I had a very strict father who believes in the idea that when you spare the rod, you will spoil the child. I was not born with a golden spoon in my mouth. My father was a very devout Catholic and a disciplinarian so, it wasn’t easy for us to wear his shoes. When I look back at what my father did for the church, I can’t even do one-tenth of that. It humbled me when he died to see that the Catholic Church had a wake for him all night in the Church on December 3, 1996.
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 to be lifted.