Chief Olu Falae, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and presidential candidate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in 1999, who retired from active politics last February, as the National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) is piqued at the security challenges, as well as the economic situation in the country.
He is also sad at the type of politics played in the country, submitting that what is obtainable at the moment is monetics, and not politics due to the abuses on the ground.
He barred his mind on other critical national issues in a chat. Excerpt:
How do you feel about the security challenge in the country?
Nobody is satisfied with the situation in Nigeria, there is so much insecurity in the land, you know what has happened to me personally, I have been a victim of kidnapping myself, you know my farm has been burnt a number of times, so what we have is a very bad situation. Of course, people say that the first responsibility of government is the security of the people, but what we have on the ground is nothing to be desired, it is not acceptable, at all.
What exactly do you think is the cause or causes and what the government is supposed to do and not doing?
Well, there are many things that should have been done. Look, first of all, many young people don’t know what to do, they are unemployed so there is desperation across the country. You must take care of the needs of ordinary people. If you are not sure of how to survive then there may be a threat to the security situation. The economic situation is very bad, there is no power, there is no employment, infrastructure is poor among other failures, so all these added together create a very unacceptable security situation.
How would you react to the recent debt rise to N24.4 trillion released by the Debt Management Board?
Well, we are just mortgaging the future because what you owe today, you pay tomorrow, therefore, our debt burden is excessive because the proportion of debt to our national income should be within an acceptable range, but ours has gone beyond what would be accepted as acceptable, so we are mortgaging the future, that is the truth of the matter, and to the extent that this debt is substantially foreign debt you must earn the foreign exchange to be able to service the debt and to repay it eventually, so if you don’t do that, as I said, you are just mortgaging the future. It means you are making the future more difficult than the present.
Are you really satisfied with the just concluded 2019 election?
That was not an election. In fact, there was no election in the true sense of the word. What we had was what I call a charade because where I live here in Akure, Ondo State, it was a political supermarket, and I mean what I am saying, political supermarket, it was a show of shame, seeing those who call themselves politicians openly buying votes and I felt ashamed.
We will never have a democracy if we continue this way. Now, the question is once you have over monetized politics what will be the basis of choice of leaders: the more money you have and given out the brighter your chances. So, it’s no longer politics of service. What we have is what I call monetics, this is what we are playing now, not politics. Do you hear about any manifestoes anymore? In the past, every political party will tell you what they will do for the country or for their people in education, health, culture, infrastructure, etc, if you vote for them. Not anymore.
Many of them that are contesting ask them of the manifesto, they won’t understand what you are talking about. All that matter is money. Of course, money is always important for everything that is important. In anything good, some money is required, for food, housing, education, etc., we know, but the way they are going about it now is disgusting, its sickening. Of course, you know that I ran for the presidency. When I ran for the office of the president in 1999, I spent money, I raised almost N600 million in Eko Le-meridian Hotel in Lagos in public and we spent that money on logistics, advertisement on radio and television, we printed posters, went on political rallies, funded people going to canvass and all that.
You need money for logistics, but not money for buying voters, there is a big difference, not billions for bribing INEC officials, police people, and security officials. That is where the money goes now and the political leaders, they simply take the money and pocket it. So, as I said what we have now is no longer politics but monetics, for the higher bidder rather than for those with the passion to serve.
How do you think we can improve on our elections?
It is not the election that is the issue, it is we, Nigerians. I was in this thing called politics for about 30 years before I decided to retire, a few months ago. It is the Nigerian who feels that he cannot afford not to win the election, that he simply has to win the election either in the senatorial, governorship or in any political position, that he is running for, no matter what, by all means, fair or foul.
They want to win by all means, so it is the desperation not to lose the election that is driving them to do the unimaginable, the unthinkable things that we are witnessing today. So, the question is: why are we so desperate? Why are they so desperate as if, when you don’t win the election the world will come to an end? The issue is the desperation in Nigeria politics and I suspect that the desperation is due to the fact that it (politics) is now viewed solely as a business venture. It is a situation like: I am investing my money and I cannot afford to lose. They are ready to borrow and borrow more or even print more money where they can and spend it and win the election and recoup the money after.
Perhaps, because it is no longer for service?
Which service? It is now a business venture where they run to for investment purpose. Simple.
Was that part of the reasons you quit politics?
I think I have giving the reason I retired. Of course, I am no longer young. I am over 80 years and you can’t expect me to be that active again. My health challenge is one of the reasons, coupled with irresolvable differences in the Social Democratic Party, SDP, which I did not like.