Chief Olu Falae is a former secretary to the government of the federation (SGF) and former minister of Finance. In this interview with TOPE FAYEHUN, he speaks on the level of insecurity in the country and other national issues.
We have not heard you contributing to the national discourse for some time now. What is the reason for this silence?
Two and half years ago, when I had reached the age of 80 years, I said I have retired from partisan politics. People told me that nobody ever retired from politics. But I told them that maybe I will be the first person who will formally retire from partisan politics. At age of 80, I felt that I have had enough of the politics. I had paid my dues. And I felt that it is time for me to quit the stage and allow younger individuals to go in and provide leadership. That is the reason why I don’t normally talk as often as I used to do before. But I still grant interviews and make statements from time to time. But I cannot be making statements on all trivial issues. But I had made statements, address issues, written articles on so many issues in the country before now and I don’t want to be like a broken record, doing the same thing over and over again.
The insecurity situation in Nigeria today is frightening. Killings are going on unabated, kidnapping, banditry and other forms of crime and criminality. How did we get here?
You know that I was one of the first victims of this violent crime in our country. Six years ago, I was kidnapped on my farm here in Akure, taken to the bush for four days and four nights and I was cut with a machete. Then, some people felt that that was Falae, not us. Now, it has spread to everybody. We saw it coming. A long time ago, we gave a lecture that it was time for Nigerians to meet and rearranged matters or restructure the polity to make it acceptable to most Nigerians. We said then that the present arrangement has become unacceptable to Nigerians. I also warned about 20 years ago that if we didn’t do what I said on time, a time will come that we will not be able to sit together again and deliberate on the future of this country because the security situation would have deteriorated to the extent that you will need to take your battalion army along with you to be able to go and attend a meeting in Abuja. We are approaching that point. I am not happy to say I told you.
But I am afraid that matters have almost reached that point. If anybody invites me now to go to any conference in Abuja, I don’t think that I will be ready to go. Things have gotten deteriorated, not only in terms of insecurity, even in terms of discipline, corruption, nepotism and accountability. It is now clear to everybody to see. Even the natural indices prepared by international bodies make it clear that Nigeria has become the corruption, unemployment and underdevelopment capital of the world. This is a very sad development that instead of things getting better, it is getting worse, because the political architecture mandate corruption. When you put the resources in a few hands, you create a temptation for corruption. That is why we are saying that we must restructure, diversify and decentralise the economy of the country. It is perhaps, the most potent solution against corruption.
One of the cardinal points in the manifesto of the present administration is fighting against corruption. Don’t you think they have done well in that area?
Preaching sermons against corruption is not the answer. If you decentralise powers, it makes it difficult for people to be corrupt. Then, the leadership must show examples. You deceive nobody if you are corrupt and preaching against it. Because you cannot steal alone. As you are stealing people are looking at you and they will not listen to your sermon. It is to change the political architecture and have leadership that demonstrate integrity through personal example, then, we will be able to end corruption in the country.
In terms of security, is President Mohammadu Buhari’s administration not doing enough?
If the government is doing enough, banditry would have ended in the country. When this government came. The major thing we are fighting is Boko Haram. The new platforms in violence in the country now came into being in the last four-five years after the deception of this government. Is it banditry is shooting down the fighter jets? That is not bandits. Those who went into the military academy to kidnap military officials show that they are not bandits. They are terrorists. All these came into being to join Boko Haram in the last four, five years. That is what makes it frightening. That rather than things getting better, it is getting worse and then you can begin asking questions that why is it so? First, the economic situation in the country, more or less mandate increasing violence. When people are unemployed and desperate and they can see no future for themselves, they will take to crime. And because of ineffective security
arrangements in the country, they attempted to go and drag people, kidnapped them, sure that nobody is going to get them, the ransom would be paid. In other countries, people would not pay the ransom. But here, kidnapping has become a lucrative business in the country because people would pay the ransom. Some people even kidnapped themselves and ask for ransom. This shows how terrible things have become in the country and the country you will want to ask is that, where do we go from here? We simply have to find a way to end this crisis and this must be political. Now there is no hope in the country and when hope dies, violence erupts. They must rekindle hope in Nigeria. But I don’t think this government is on that path of rekindling hope.
If people you are calling bandits can shut down military jets, it is more or less civil war. They probably have anti-tank missiles. Any group that has that capacity, is an army, not even a terrorist. Very soon they will ask for negotiation.
I don’t know why is so difficult for this government to tackle all these menaces. When I was in the government, we tackled all the problems headlong. Our government showed courage in tackling the situation that arises then. We tool on most difficult decisions to address issues then and we survived it then. But I don’t see such courage now and I don’t think this government recognises the challenges is facing now. They are currently talking about the cattle route or cattle ranching and other things that I can’t understand when we are faced with almost a civil war situation. People shouting down aircraft, attacking the military academy and we are almost on the verge of civil war and yet the government is talking about the route that cattle will take from one place to another and how to settle a cattle colony as if cattle is the only business of Nigeria.
Don’t you think that the insecurity issues if not urgently check, may disrupt the 2023 general election?
I don’t know whether an election can take place in this crisis. There is insecurity everywhere. People are afraid to move from one town to another, nobody can go and do electioneering in such a place? The bandits are having a free day, the terrorists are also there. How can you have a free and fair election in such a chaotic environment? Any election this time will be a fraudulent election. People will just write figures and announce any result.