Thursday, 21st September 2023

Olu Falae, a quintessential leader

On Friday last week, Samuel Oluyemisi Falae, head chief and leader, was 80 years. A two-day programme was drawn up to celebrate the great day, beginning with, predictably, a colloquium on the 21st, and on the 22nd Holy Communion which was followed immediately by a reception. I say predictably because Chief Falae has devoted a…

National Chairman of Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Oluyemisi Samuel Falae

On Friday last week, Samuel Oluyemisi Falae, head chief and leader, was 80 years.

A two-day programme was drawn up to celebrate the great day, beginning with, predictably, a colloquium on the 21st, and on the 22nd Holy Communion which was followed immediately by a reception.

I say predictably because Chief Falae has devoted a great deal of his life, his time and resources to worrying about the problems of this country and how to wake the sleeping giant on its feet to lead the world.

This is borne out by the theme of the colloquium: “Nigeria, Work in Progress.”

As a product of Yale after Ibadan where he obtained his master’s degree, he had witnessed development, growth and orderliness in some other parts of the world.

He is in pains that with all the resources at Nigeria’s disposal—human and material— the country is not counted among the leading developed countries of the world.

As far as he is concerned, Nigeria has no excuse for being an underling!

From his pedigree, education and preparation through public service experiences, and love of continuing education, he shone readily and brightly and became a marked star, even from afar, by no less a legendary star himself, and who was gifted with spotting talents, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

It could not have come as a surprise to his watchers when the South West leaders, capable, strong and renowned as they were themselves asked him to lead them to the 2014 National Conference organised by President Goodluck Jonathan.

He was Federal Permanent Secretary, Secretary to the Federal Government of the Federation from 1985 to 1990 and Minister of Finance from 1990 to 1991 before going to vie for the country’s presidential slot, waving the flag of Social Democratic Party, SDP.

He ran for the President again in 1999 on the platform of the then Alliance for Democracy (AD) collaborating with APP of Umaru Shinkaffi.

He is sharp, he is deep and robust in thinking; he has a disarming grasp of national issues; he is never non-plussed.

Above all, he is polished, a delight to listen to and keep company. At the moment, he is busy espousing the position of Southern Nigeria on restructuring.

Listen to his thoughts: “You know I am a leader in the South West and at the National Conference, I was made leader of the Yoruba delegation.

So, I am central to the Yoruba position. The Yoruba position is my position and it is the same position I canvassed in my book, The way forward for Nigeria, which I launched since 2005 in Lagos.

What we mean by restructuring is going back to Indepence Constitution which our leaders negotiated with the British between 1957 and 1959.

It was a negotiated constitution. This is because, if the three regions had not been able to agree, there would not have been one united independent Nigeria.

But because the three regions at that time negotiated and agreed to package a constitution, that is why they agreed to go to independence together.

When the military came in 1966 and threw away the constitution, they threw away the negotiated agreement among the three regions, which was the foundation of a united Nigeria.

“So, the military did not only throw away the constitution but political consensus negotiated and agreed by our leaders of the three regions of those days.

When we say restructuring now, we are saying let’s go back substantially to that constitution which gave considerable autonomy to the regions.

For example, each region at that time collected its revenue and contributed the agreed proportion to the centre.

But when the military came, they turned it round and took everything to the centre.

This could not have been accepted by Ahmadu Bello, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo.

“The constitution we are using was made by the late Gen. Sani Abacha and the military, and Abacha came from only one part of Nigeria, so he wrote a constitution that favoured his own part of Nigeria.

That is why I am saying, let us restructure and go back to what all of us agreed before.

That is the meaning of restructuring. The regions used to be the federating units, but in today’s Nigeria, they would now be called federating regions because states have been created in the regions.

So in the West, you now have federating Yoruba states which would belong to the Nigerian union at the centre.

So, it is not like the regions of old with all the powers. No. It is now going to be a co-coordinator of the states in the zone.

That is what we mean by restructuring. And the regions would have considerable autonomy as they used to have.

For example, for the younger people, they may not know that every region had its own constitution.

“There were four constitutions at independence—the Federal Constitution, Western constitution, Eastern constitution and Northern constitution.

That was how independent they were and every region had an ambassador in London.

The ambassadors for the regions were called Agents General so that you do not confuse them with that of Nigeria then called High Commissioner.

So, Nigeria had four ambassadors in London. The ambassador for Nigeria then called High Commissioner was M.T. Mbu.

The ambassador for Eastern Nigeria then was Jonah Chinyere Achara; western Nigeria was Mr. Omolodun and for Northern Nigeria, it was Alhaji Abdulmalik. There were four of them.

That was the kind of arrangement we agreed to, and the military threw it away and gave us this over-centralised unitary constitution.

So, we said this is not acceptable any more; we must go back to the negotiated constitution which gave considerable autonomy to the regions, so that they can compete in a healthy manner.

For example, Chief Obafemi Awolowo wanted to introduce free education in the West and other regions said they could not afford it, but he went ahead to introduce it in the Western Region.

He said he wanted to pay a minimum of five shillings a day, while others were paying two and three shillings.

He went ahead and passed the law, making five shillings the minimum wage in Western Nigeria. There was no problem with that.

“In western Nigeria, the constitution provided for a House of Chiefs.

In Eastern Nigeria there was no House of Chiefs because they did not think they needed one.

There was no problem with that and that is the kind of Nigeria we negotiated in London, but that is different from what we have today.

So, we are saying let us go back to that arrangement which all of us agreed at independence and not what Abacha imposed on us, which is very partial, unfair and one-sided.

That is the meaning of restructuring; it is to restructure unfairness and give semi-autonomy to the federating units.”

Those who were in Akure to give Falae loving support were Prof. Jerry Gana; Ambassador Felix Johnson Osakwe; Mr. John Dara; Mr. Donald Duke; the state governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN; his immediate predecessor Dr. Olusegun Mimiko and former Education Minister, Prof. Tunde Adeniran. Afenifere was powerfully represented by their leaders, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; Bashorun Arogbofa, Chief Supo Shonibare, Chief Femi Aluko and Mr. Yinka Odumakin.

Also in attendance were Dr. Goke Adegoroye and Mr. Dayo Awude.

The gathering of prominent traditional rulers was led by the Deji of Akure, Oba Ogunlade Aladetoyinbo Aladelusi and the Osamawe of Ondo, Oba Victor Kiladejo at the thanks giving at St. David’s Cathedral, Ijomu Akure which was filled to overflowing.

Akeredolu said proudly of Falae: “He no doubt bestrode the political landscape of this country like a colossus which climaxed with his being a presidential candidate of the AD/APP in 1999.

As a consummate farmer, an urbane and a quintessential politician and author whose contributions to his community, the state and the country in general, remain legendary, he has continued to keep pace with and faith in the development issues in Ondo State and Nigeria.”

Bishop Simon Borokini in his homily said everyone should look back and give praise to the Lord for the benefit of life and that it should not be taken for granted.

It is a measure of the Chief Olu Falae’s greatness and the esteem in which he is held across the nation that multitude thronged Akure despite the crucial election in neighbouring Osun State which concentrated the minds of a great many, but for which the size of the crowd could only have been better imagined than witnessed.

The whole town would have been totally shut down on these his milestone and unique days.