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I feel like hiding my face in shame at how Obasanjo left Nigeria – Falae

Posted by By TUNDE RAHEEM, Akure on 2008/04/06 | Views: 1802 |

I feel like hiding my face in shame at how Obasanjo left Nigeria – Falae


Erstwhile Finance Minister and Secretary to Federal Government, Chief Olu Falae, has lashed out at the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, accusing him of enthroning corruption and treasury looting in the country.

Erstwhile Finance Minister and Secretary to Federal Government, Chief Olu Falae, has lashed out at the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, accusing him of enthroning corruption and treasury looting in the country.

Falae said all the talk about fighting corruption was nothing but a grand attempt to hoodwink and deceive unsuspecting Nigerians. In fact, he said that the shocking revelation from House of Representatives power sector probe is just a tip of the iceberg of the massive looting that went on under Obasanjo.

In an exclusive interview with Daily Sun at his country home in Akure, Ondo State, the former presidential candidate of the Alliance for Democracy/All People’s Party in 1999, said graft under Gen. Sani Abacha dictatorship was a child’s play when compared to the cesspool of corruption that was perpetrated under the eight-year administration of the immediate-past Federal Government.

“Treasury looting under Abacha is a joke compared to what obtained under Obasanjo. Under Abacha, there was some semblance of discipline and those who were stealing were not as many as in Obasanjo’s regime. There were very few of them who looted our economy during Abacha’s regime. The stealing and looting was not as democratised and liberalised as you had under Obasanjo who allowed everybody to steal with impunity. So much money went down the drain during Obasanjo’s regime than under Abacha,” Falae said in reaction to a question.

The elder statesman said President Umar Yar’Adua must summon enough political will to ensure that those found guilty in the on-going probe and subsequent ones are sanctioned, noting that failure to do so would earn him a place in the hall of infamy.

He also spoke on the need to restructure the country, among other things. Excerpts:

Large scale fraud perpetrated in major sectors during ex-president Olusegun regime are now uncovered and people are saying that a probe panel should be put in place. What is your view?
In the first place, Obasanjo stole the mandate. He never won an election. His regime was based on fraud and so what did you expect? You cannot lay a foundation on fraud and have righteousness coming out of it. Obasanjo might have had good intention for Nigeria but he didn’t have the competence to govern the country. First of all, if you want to be kind to him, you will say he was ignorant of what went on in the eight years of his rule. He spent too much time in aeroplanes flying all over the place. He didn’t have time to sit down to govern Nigeria. He was only chasing an elusive Nobel Prize for Peace to boost his bloated ego. So, he spent a lot of Nigeria’s time and money chasing that mirage. All in all, he made a mess of the mandate he stole.

So, where we are now, we don’t need any special probe to be set up. The House of Representatives is carrying out its normal oversight responsibility. It is beaming its searchlight on the power sector and we are amazed, surprised, shattered to hear some of the revelations. Don’t you think it is amusing that a government that was preaching due process could award billions of Naira worth of contract to a company that was not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC)? And to think that this was happening under a regime in which people were being arrested and locked up for committing petty frauds.

Then, consider the way the contracts were awarded and payments were made for work not executed. I feel ashamed. I feel like hiding my face in shame that Nigeria that is supposed to provide leadership, not just in Africa, but also among the black race in terms of civilised elections and development in every sector, is tottering. We have been having elections since 1916. After almost a century of election experience, we are still not allowed to exercise our franchise for peoples of our choice. If you take the performance of the tribunal so far, it is clear that there was no election. Many people didn’t have enough money to go to the tribunals. So, what the House of Representatives is doing must continue. When they finish with the power sector, if there are individuals, officials, corporate entities that have committed any crime against the nation, the law should take its normal course. There should be no special panel being set up to probe anybody.

That will look like witch-hunting. When the House finishes on power sector, it should go into petroleum. Whatever result they come out with, the law should take its course. By the time we finish probing half a dozen sectors, I am sure that a good number of people who served in the last regime will be behind bars. I am almost certain about that.

Do you think Yar’Adua will be able to probe Obasanjo who installed him as President?
I will be highly disappointed if Yar’Adua failed to be faithful to the oath he took to defend the Constitution and the integrity and the resources of the people of Nigeria. The mismanagement of billions of naira has denied the masses education, water, electricity, jobs, good roads and good houses. So, I will be surprised if Yar’Adua fails to carry out his duty in relation to the people of Nigeria. If his own blood brother is involved, he should not hesitate to do what is necessary. If he fails, I believe there would be consequences at all levels, including in the legislature, state houses of assembly and in the civil societies.

Yar’Adua should not fail to take action and punish the offenders. If he fails, I believe the people of Nigeria will mobilise themselves to right the wrongs and fight for justice themselves because the money that is being toyed with is our money. So, I hope Yar’Adua’s action will not make it necessary for the masses of Nigeria to ask for justice. I said recently in a lecture, which was given on my behalf in Kaduna that ultimately, the people themselves must be ready to stand up and say no to fraud. I cited the example of Ukraine in the former Soviet Union where the sitting president rigged the election and people at the height of winter, mobilized to the centre of the city in the state capital, remained there until the government collapsed, and a new election was held and a man that was supposed to have lost the election then won the election. That was how the people of Ukraine brought back democracy.

In Nigeria, if we’re not ready to do that, for a very long time charlatans will continue to govern us. Tribunals are set up on the assumption that election has taken place. The law guiding the tribunal was drafted on the basis that there would be no election at all. And where there was no election, the law of evidence becomes completely irrelevant. It is counter-productive to apply such kind of law.
If in Akure here, there was no voting, boxes were burnt, people were just doing what they liked, what do I tender as evidence at the tribunal that I won the election that will be acceptable as law of evidence? So, we have to draft a new law of evidence. If we must rely on the application of the existing law of evidence, you cannot prove anything.

For example, we have seen a situation where a tribunal dismissed a petition because somebody did not state that he was a candidate in the election in which he won more than one million votes. Because he didn’t say so on the form, they threw out the petition. In other words, the mandate of the people is being toyed with by the tribunal on the basis of frivolities. They are relying on practice direction from the president of the Court of Appeal. One man will now give them directive that will make nonsense of the people’s mandate. Now, we are in a very big crisis. As I said in another interview, if most of the candidates have the money, we have to have six times as many cases as we have in the tribunal today. And at that level, all the judges will do nothing but handle tribunal cases for the next five years. At that level, the judiciary will collapse. So, the tribunal is not set up for that kind of wholesale fraud, which we had, in last year’s April election.

Just of recent, Professor Humphrey Nwosu said what the country needed is a two-party system. In your view, do you think this will put an end to rigging and manipulation that have continued to attend our elections?
No single measure will put an end to rigging in Nigeria. A two-party state, if that is what we are going to become, must not be imposed. We should allow it to evolve. We had NRC, SDP that helped a great deal to create two formidable political parties but they were manipulated. You remember that they were formed by the government. The national secretaries of the two parties at the beginning were civil servants before they handed over to the so-called elected officers. That was an artificial creation. Yes, you cannot decree it. You cannot legislate it.

In a democracy, individuals should be free to make independent choices for themselves. If you have parties A, B, C and l belong to party A and for whatever reason, l don’t want to belong to party A anymore, that decision should be taken by me. Thereafter, I should be able to say okay, who do I support now? I must have a choice in making my second decision. So I must have B and C to select from. But if you have just only two parties, the choice becomes restricted. If I say okay, I am not supporting Party A any longer, it then automatically means I am stuck with party B regardless of the merits and demerits of B. In a true democracy, there should be, at least, three political parties, so that voters and party members can make independent decisions as to which to support and which not to support. But this should not be legislated. Government can encourage this if it can, but it should not be legislated. If you have two parties, that does not stop rigging. What has brought rigging to this high peak is money. Politics has been over-monetised.

Until you take money out of politics, people will become more and more desperate. So, my suggestion is that we have tried the presidential system, we have also tried the parliamentary system. We have tried the two, so we are wiser now than we were before. We should now be able to say the parliamentary system is more suitable to our condition.
Why? I believe if you bring back the parliamentary system, and members of the legislature only get sitting allowances, 90% of those who sit around today will disappear. Sitting allowance can never fuel their cars. They are after money and when money is not available, they will run away. They will go and form companies and be looking for contracts, maybe that is better. They will leave politics to those who genuinely and sincerely want to see an improvement in the society. It is like a missionary work. But as long as money is the primary objective, you will never have free and fair election. Money must get out of politics.

Also, my view is that Nigeria should be restructured towards parliamentary system of government. The centre should be made weak. We should only leave those things that can be better done at the central level, namely defence, currency and central banking, foreign policy, citizenship, security, military. That is all. But there should be regional and state police because as a little boy, I grew up in this town to know about Akure LA Police, Owo LA Police. This was the same for other cities. We also have Nigeria Police. So, we used to have three levels of policing because we have three levels of governments. What distinguishes and separates a government from other group in the society is that it is the only body that has authority and power to make laws and enforce them. If you can make law and you cannot enforce them, you are not a government. So, we must restructure Nigeria, decentralize authority, bring back regional government.

Sir, if you are asked to compare and contrast the eight years of Obasanjo and Abacha, what will be your take?
You have to do it sector by sector. In terms of freedom of expression, civil liberty, Abacha government was a terrorist government. Abacha’s agents were all over the place and under the regime, people lived in fear. So, in terms of civil liberty, there is no basis for comparison between Abacha and Obasanjo. But in terms of treasury looting, Abacha’s looting is a joke compared to what obtained under Obasanjo. Under Abacha, there was some a semblance of discipline and those who were stealing were not as many as in Obasanjo’s regime. There were very few of them who looted our economy during Abacha’s regime.

The stealing and looting was not as democratised and liberalised as you had under Obasanjo who allowed everybody to steal with impunity. So much money went down the drain during Obasanjo’s regime than under of Abacha. But stealing is stealing. Under Abacha, the economy was better managed. The exchange rate was never higher than N108 or N98 to the dollar. Obasanjo came into office and inherited N108 to a dollar, then it went as high as N142. In the area of power generation, Obasanjo inherited 4,800 megawatts, he spent $16 billion and brought it down to 2,600 megawatts, After $16 billion, power generation went down by 5 percent. This is very laudable achievement under Obasanjo, isn’t it? Unemployment under Obasanjo also nose-dived.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.