By Dan Kanu
Chief Olu Falae, respected elder statesman, consummate politician-cum-technocrat, former finance minister, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and former national chairman of Social Democratic Party (SDP), before his retirement from active politics has at different fora articulated the problems facing Nigeria and proffered solutions.
Despite that he is currently down with COVID-19, but recovering very fast, he still for the love of the country agreed to express his views on some sensitive issues bedeviling the nation, when Sunday Sun sought his views.
His submission was that without restructuring, the country would continue to walk in circles without peace in sight.
He said that all that is needed to address the problems of Nigeria is already properly documented in the 2014 document produced at the National Confab. Excerpt:
Many have observed that the country is sliding while bandits are still riding rough with impunity, and negotiations going on…?
(Cuts in) I am not in the best condition to talk now; you know I was recently down with COVID. I am improving, I am not fully well yet, but I am improving, I am out of danger, it’s just that I am not strong enough yet, but look; bandits should be fought and eliminated from society, there is no room for negotiation, then after negotiation, it means they will continue to co-exist with the rest of us in society. That’s my view of the issue. There should be no negotiation with bandits if you have the capacity to take them out. Negotiating with them is a sign of weakness on your part and that should not be the case. You cannot allow bandits to be riding it rough over innocent citizens. You simply ensure you fight and eliminate them. There should be no breathing space for bandits.
Some critics believe that when they are offered amnesty as it was done to the Niger Delta militants, their activities will naturally fade away over time. Do you think they deserve amnesty to stem the tide of their dangerous activities?
So, every anti-society organisation, we must accommodate them. That is what it means. Every case must get treated on its own merit and it will be wrong to compare the issue of the Niger Delta with that of bandits. They are not the same. The Niger Delta people were fighting a political battle, they were saying that oil is found in their area, but they were getting little of it in terms of benefit. They are crying out that the area is polluted, coupled with the neglect they have suffered. So, there is something to negotiate there, they have a political agenda. The bandits what is their agenda? It is different situations and it is wrong comparing the two if you want to be sincere. They are not comparable at all.
What is your take on present regional agitation from different groups in the country, some even threatening for secession?
Look, I have written books, I have given several interviews for the past 25 years. And I said and will still repeat that: the only solution to Nigeria’s problem is to restructure Nigeria and re-establish the political covenant which our leaders went to London to negotiate before independence. And that covenant was that there will be regional government, regional autonomy, one federal government, but there will be regional government and the residual powers in the constitution, that is those powers not allocated to the centre will remain with the state. When the military came, they threw away the constitution along with the political covenant foundation and that is why we will never see stability and peace until and unless we go back to the spirit and foundation of the Independence Constitution and that is embedded in the report of the 2014 National Confab, during the Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency. I was the leader of the Yoruba race at that meeting. For months months, we re-established the spirit of the Independence Constitution. For example, we agreed that each state can have its own constitution, can have its own police, its own judiciary, there should be an Appeal Court in the region. We agreed that any group of states that are contiguous and so wish, can by a vote of their Assemblies merge and become one region and that if they no longer like the arrangement after some time, they can vote again and demerge. We have all this in the report which is quite comprehensive. If Nigeria wants peace they should take that report and use it to define the new Nigeria. As long as they don’t do it, we are just wasting our time. All the issues confronting us today were addressed in that report and the report was done by consensus, in other words, there was no voting on any matter and there was a big ballot box put in front of the conference throughout, and the chairman, Justice Kutugi, who is now late and of blessed memory, said during the exercise that if you disagree with any issue and you don’t want consensus that you should raise your hand and we will have a vote on that issue. Not one person raised his or her hand throughout the conference. Every issue, every decision taken on any issue was done by consensus, in other words, by broad agreement of all Nigerians. That is the document that is the future of Nigeria. If we apply the recommendations of 2014 Confab, all the storms, agitations, heating up of the country, name it will gradually subside and you will witness healthy development in all the regions because there will be healthy competition. I have always said that all kinds of people and ages represented the country during the Confab and we all agreed by consensus, you depart from that you are wasting your time. We had teachers, nurses, traditional rulers, retired security officers, people across professions, name them. There is no other way. They simply try to impose their constitution on the rest of us, it will work for a while, it’s no longer fashionable, no longer acceptable, we all love this country, but there must be a fair deal to everybody. We need a consensus-based constitution. Simple. I have said this and will repeat it again: The Yoruba, for instance, feel that this present constitution, they did not participate in its making, Abacha made this constitution and it is not helping matters and you can see the way things stand today. The constitution we got at independence, you will notice that our founding fathers were there and they agreed on it. Awolowo was there, all that represented the people, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sardauna, name them, all were there, they were all there and they agreed to it. We did not participate in the making of the present one. That is the simple issue and anybody can only ignore it to his peril. The country is sliding and we must do the needful to salvage it. The onus is on leadership to lead the way. You can see that Nigeria’s situation is frightening, I made this observation before and nothing seems to have changed if we want to tell ourselves the truth.