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Chief Olu Falae was Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, before serving as Finance Minister under the military regime.
He later joined the presidential race first under the Babangida regime transition and later under the Abdulsalami Abubakar programme to return Nigeria to civil rule.
In this interview, Chief Falae reacts to some claims made by a former governor of Osun State, Chief Bisi Akande, in his recently launched autobiography titled, ‘My Participations’. He also speaks on issues in the polity including insecurity and the downturn in the economy. Excerpts:
Let us start with your assessment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s seven years in the saddle and your expectations for 2022?
All Nigerians know all that it has been living under the Buhari’s regime. I don’t need to tell you. It has been a very difficult time. Security has never been as bad as this in our entire history. Nigerians have never been this divided. In fact, we should look for another term to describe the near-war situation we are going through. When people were voting for him, the expectation from him as a General was that of an uncompromising man of discipline, that, within months, he ill finish off Boko Haram and ill all live in peace but the opposite has been the case.
And everything else depends on security. You have to be alive and well to know that there is something called education; that before you can even eat and wear clothes, you have to be alive and well, and that depends on security.
Security has been in complete shambles. If a saint becomes President tomorrow, how and where is he going to start from? Is it with Boko Haram, with bandits or herdsmen? Where is he going to start from? I saw on social media that before Fulani herdsmen left the Ekiti area, some boys had understudied them and they have now become graduate kidnappers. So, this is the legacy of this administration.
It has been a complete crisis. People of my age and status cannot live in their homes in any part of the North. Most of them now are hiding in Abuja, including traditional rulers. It is terrible. I know Buhari would want it to be otherwise but it is not otherwise, it is the way it is. I want to take this opportunity to thank our own governor in Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, in the area of security, he has been fantastic; he is a true son of the land. Soon after he became governor, we had a meeting and we discussed the issue of security. I used my kidnap to illustrate the very serious situation. I didn’t know it was going to get much worse.
I pleaded with him to talk to his colleagues in the South-West to do something about the security situation, that security is fundamental to any other thing. I’m not claiming that it is because of that advice that he did what he did. But it is a historical fact that he played a leading role in the creation of Amotekun. There was a time some of the governors appeared to be wavering and hesitant but Akeredolu was firm all the way.
And because of my appreciation of what he was doing, when the House of Assembly was having a hearing on the Amotekun law, I went there to give them political and moral support and to strengthen
Their backbone by saying to them that they do not need to go to Abuja to seek permission on or before they could give Amotekun police powers because it is inherent in anything called government elected by the people, whether at the local level, State-level, or national level or regional level; any organization elected by the people and called government has an inherent power invested by the votes of the people to make laws that will be valid and to implement them.
In the colonial period and post-independence period, the regional government has forestry laws that enabled forestry officers to arrest anybody felling logs illegally and also enabled them to prosecute those people either directly by themselves or by sending them to the Ministry of Justice.
In other words, in that law was evidence that the regional government, the State government has always had the power of arrest through the forestry officers and prosecution through the State Ministry of Justice. So, it is the same State government. Whether you want to use that power now for Amotekun, just create it and pass it. It is already being used from the colonial period. I told them this and I believed that helped to clarify the situation.
Akeredolu was also the first to commission the first batch of Amotekun trainees. Again, to show my support for his effort, I was present at the passing out parade. And then again, when they were going to pass the Anti-Open Grazing Law, they sent the draft to me, they passed it. Although Miyetti Allah and herdsmen boasted that they will not obey the law, that they are Nigerians and Ondo State is part of Nigeria, that they have every right to do what they like. Since the law was passed, I have not seen a single cattle or Fulani from here to my farm. They have disappeared. Let them come back and break the law and enforcement agents will arrest them, take them to court, and send them to prison. S, I think Governor Akeredolu has done very good work. And the security he is enforcing in the State capital right now encourages people to relax during this New Year period.
Political gladiators are rolling up their sleeves ahead of the 2023 general elections. What’s your advice to these players?
My advice is that no election should be conducted until and unless some fundamental amendments are made. I’m not saying that they should do the full restructuring that I have been advocating but a few fundamental amendments, particularly in the area of security and how elections are conducted and results transmitted.
My take is that whatever election is conducted, the way things are if they are allowed to continue till 2023, cannot be credible, may not even be possible physically. You remember when they were going to conduct the Anambra governorship election, how many troops and policemen were posted there? Can you send that level of policemen and soldiers to all the 36 States, voting on the same date? The answer is no.
In any case, an election is held under such a military situation, is that credible? Is that free? Is that democratic? In my view, no credible election or transparent election can be held the way things are in Nigeria as of today. If you go to Zamfara, people are being kidnapped every day. 120 people were slaughtered in Sokoto State.
People coming from Abuja to Kaduna are not safe. Someone told me that no credible election can be conducted in at least 23c States as of today. If the present trend continues, it may be in 30 States. I’m hoping that elections will be peaceful in the South-West which has always been the most peaceful part of Nigeria.
All types of historic, cultural, and spiritual reasons are for that, but that is the fact. If there is a problem in the North, they come here, problem in the East, they come here. So, if elections are not possible in 30 States out of 36, what are they gladiators after?
With about 17 months to the exit of the Buhari administration, you think the President is capable of changing the fortune of the Country?
With God, all things are possible. If God decides to take over President Buhari and his administration and use him and others to revive and revamp Nigeria, God can still do so. Nothing is impossible.
Are you then saying that Nigerians shouldn’t be concerned about power shift come 2023?
We would be concerned about where power should go as an objective person, whether it should be through the election in an unstructured Nigeria. But that is my own perception. It may well happen; God is in charge of the whole universe. I believe that all the changes and restructuring people have been advocating these many years, I have always believed that it will not happen until and unless and except there is a crisis when the question will be where do we go from here? A crisis can come in the next 12 to 15 months if things happen.
One of them is sure to happen; the second one is what we don’t know. But if the second one happens, then we will have a crisis that will force us to rethink Nigeria. What are the two things? First, if and when the tenure of the current President comes to an end, we know the date. It is not a prayer or wish. May 29, 2023, that, by God’s grace, will happen. That is the first condition.
The second condition is that if the first situation does not permit the election of a replacement President, then, the old President is gone, a new one cannot be elected, a first-class crisis, solution to the Nigerian problem. At that point, every section of Nigeria will be free to say there is no more Federal Government. That is my view. What is the probability of that happening? One of the two conditions will happen.
I have not heard that Buhari wants a third term. I hope there is no attempt to impose a third term on us. So, the first condition will happen, it is more likely to happen. The second one is not unlikely, it will happen. Then if the two happen together, that is when restructuring is automatic. If there is no government in Abuja and there is a government in Ondo State, Kano State, and other States, that is the government.
Let’s talk about the many agitations across the country especially in the South-West and South-East. Do they portend danger for the 2023 general elections?
Self-determination is a movement that force cannot stop. In my book, I addressed it and I gave copies to the Federal Government but they won’t read it. I said in that book that since the collapse of international communism, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, a new thing has become a dominant force in international relations and that is ethnic self-determination.
Exemplify for example in Europe by Bosnia/Herzegovina war in the very heart of Europe. That area of Europe is called the Balkans. That was the centre point of the Roman Empire. But in the course of history, they broke into smaller pieces.
The 19th century was a period that brought smaller entities to create larger entities in Europe because of the competition for colonialism and access to raw materials in the colonies. That was how Germany evolved under Bismarck. It was Bismarck and others who brought various German principalities together in Germany. It was the age of aggregation.
Smaller entities were coming together to be able to compete for colonies and raw materials because the industrial revolution was taking place in Europe. But since then, with the collapse of communism, those smaller entities have been agitating for self-identity especially in the Balkans