…Gives reasons Yoruba are demanding Oduduwa Republic
Elder statesman, Chief Olu Falae is a respected political leader. Chief Falae, who was a finance minister, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and national chairman of Social Democratic Party (SDP), has seen it all at over 80 years.
In this encounter with Sunday Sun, he spoke on the state of the nation, the problem and the way forward, among other issues. Excerpt:
Nigeria celebrated 60 on Thursday, how would assess the country?
The country is in a chaotic condition, we are in an economic depression, social instability and insecurity, and massive unemployment. So, all in all, the situation is very discouraging and what is happening is not good for the country. One of the most fundamental issues in society is the security of life and property, that is number one. The citizens must be secured and safe before any other thing can follow; education, health, etc that is because you are alive, but if there is no security then the very fundamental issue in society is compromised. That is why we are in terrible condition and the situation is not improving. It was Boko Haram, they said they have down-graded or defeated Boko Haram, but they continue to kill our soldiers, kill innocent citizens, and waylay even governors, then bandits have joined them, then cattle herdsmen, kidnappers who kidnapped me are also in the increase and have joined them the more and then the COVID-19 pandemic that crept in to compound a very bad situation, so, all in all, we are in a very frightening condition. And, of course, as you know, the unity of Nigeria has never been as tested and challenged, as questioned as it is today. Various groups are not comfortable in the present situation, even those who are ruling, they are not secured, they are not happy themselves, so this is not making anybody happy, which means that we must come together and address the situation. This constitution is not delivering for anybody, even for those who are in government. Somebody asked me the other day whether I have a preference on where the president should come from in 2023, that is the political zone that I prefer the president to come from in the next presidential election in 2023. I told the person that, that is irrelevant, that it is not the issue because if that was to be an issue the people in Katsina State should feel more secured than the people in my state, Ondo, but they don’t. So, leaders and traditional rulers in those places are now seeking refuge and protection in Abuja, but most of us still live in our town here in Akure. So, if where the president comes from is the issue then the problem in Katsina, the president’s state, should not be so, that tells us the issue is different, the issue is how to assure all the nationalities in Nigeria that this country is for all of us and to convince us that the government is for all of us and the resources should be developed and distributed fairly among all of us and that there will be justice, fairness, level playing ground, etc that is all that needs to be done and there will be peace, then we can develop our resources and we will be a force that will no longer be ignored. That is the issue and not where the president comes from because looking at the present situation, it is irrelevant.
You said Nigerians should come together to address the Nigerian issue, but we have had different conferences where Nigerians have come together to articulate the way forward?
Don’t let anybody confuse you, you said we have been holding conferences, which type of conferences have we been having? Is it the conferences that the military government will invite the people or the one some people must put the third term there otherwise they won’t accept it. The only conference, which I consider to be genuine and built on consensus was the 2014 conference at which I had the privilege to have led the Yoruba delegation. I was elected when we got to Abuja by all the delegates of the Yoruba states, all the six South western states, the Yoruba from Kwara and Kogi, we all came together and they elected me to led them and I had the privilege of doing that, so I was at the very heart of that conference and the unique thing about that conference is that all our decisions were by consensus, we did not take any vote, we did not divide over any issue, all other conferences, none of them has ever been as representative as that or neither have they reached conclusions by consensus and consensus is the only basis on which Nigeria can move forward. Consensus was the basis of the independence constitution negotiated in London between 1958 and 1959, the leaders had to agree, Awolowo, Sardauna, Zik, etc they had to agree to the basic provisions of the constitution that it will be a true federation where the regions will have their constitution, their government, their power and they are supreme within their region given the power that the constitution gives to them. No prime minister could summon Awolowo or summon Zik to come and answer any unwarranted question, provided he is acting according to the constitutional provisions, that is the kind of government we negotiated, but the military came and scrapped it and we now have a unitary government, so that is what has happened, they have destroyed the unity that was built on consensus, imposed Abacha thing, but in the 2014 conference we went back to consensus, I am ready to confront anybody who says there was any other way by which we reached agreement except by consensus. There was a ballot box put in front of us throughout the conference and the Chairman said anybody who disagreed strongly on any matter should raise his hand and we take a vote, not once did anybody raise his hand over any matter and when we finished, we were all invited to sign the report and we all signed the report, you can’t get a better deal.
So, what you are pointing out is that the report (2014 confab) should be implemented?
It is the only way forward for Nigeria if Nigeria has a future because it contains consensus, the essence of that report is consensus, your interest has been taken care of, mine has been taken care of, everybody’s interest has been taken care of, that is the only way we can move forward, this partial thing that we are having, you impose a partial constitution, some states in the North will set up police force they call the Hisba, Sharia police, but in the South, we cannot set up a state police, is that the way it should be? Each state has the same power under the same constitution, how can one set of state set up police called Hisba and others cannot? And Hisba police have all the powers that all police forces have: to arrest, to detain, to prosecute, Hisba forces in the North have all these powers, but I cannot have state police in Ondo State? This is unacceptable, so anything which is based on that kind of “Wayo arrangement”, based on injustice cannot stand, we must go back to consensus and equality. Look, let me repeat it that the 2014 confab report as far as I am concerned is the only consensus-based document that can provide a basis for the continuation of Nigeria as a united country.
The cracks seem to be getting wider that many nationalities, including your people, the Yoruba, want the Oduduwa Republic?
The Yoruba feel that this constitution, they did not participate in making it, Abacha made it and it is not helping matters as things stand today. The one (constitution) we got at independence, Awolowo was there, Zik was there, Sardauna was there, they were all there and they agreed to it, but this one, we did not participate. That is the simple issue and anybody can only ignore it to his peril.
So you are saying that we need a people’s constitution?
We need a consensus-based constitution, we need a constitution based on consensus, yes; people are the consensus. Every segment of Nigeria was represented at that conference (2014 conference), the youngest was I think, a-23-year young lady who was a farmer from Borno State, there were teachers, nurses, retired police, traditional leaders, all kinds of people and ages represented and we all agreed by consensus, you depart from that you are wasting your time. There is no other way. These people try to impose their constitution on the rest of us, it will work for a while, it’s no longer acceptable, we all love Nigeria, but there must be a fair deal to everybody.