Rem­i­nis­cences with Olu Falae

One thing Chief Oluyemi Falae will never for­get in his life­time is how he was not de­clared the win­ner of the 1999 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. The renowned econ­o­mist con­tested on the plat­form of the Al­liance for Democ­racy (AD) against Chief Oluse­gun Obasanjo of

Sunday Trust - - REMINISCENCES - From Kay­ode Ekun­dayo, La­gos

How would you de­scribe your child­hood?

I was born on Septem­ber 21, 1938. I was able to know my date of birth be­cause my fa­ther at­tended school for a cou­ple of years, so he could read and write, es­pe­cially in Yoruba lan­guage. He wrote down my birth­day and the birth­days of his first set of chil­dren, in­clud­ing my older sis­ters and oth­ers.

I started school on Jan­uary 1944 when I was five years and three months old. That was very strange and un­usual be­cause in those days, chil­dren didn’t start school un­til their right hands could go over the tops of their heads and touch their left ears, and that’s be­tween six and seven years of age.

When my fa­ther took me to school, the teach­ers were not pre­pared to ac­cept me be­cause I failed my first test. That is to say that my right hand was un­able to go over the top of my head and touch my left ear. So, my fa­ther was ad­vised to take me home and bring me back the fol­low­ing year. But he re­fused, in­sist­ing that I should be ad­mit­ted be­cause he didn’t want his son to suf­fer the same fate with him. He ar­gued that his class­mates who pro­ceeded to Saint An­drew Col­lege, Oyo avoided him be­cause he dropped out of school. He felt he was be­ing in­ti­mated; hence he wanted his child to start school as early as pos­si­ble. He ar­gued with the teach­ers for four days, af­ter which the head­mas­ter, Mr. Ode­sanmi, who later be­came a Rev­erend in the Christ Apos­tolic Church (CAC) but was teach­ing in St. Stephens Angli­can Pri­mary School in Akure, took us to the vicarage to see the school man­ager, Rev­erend Ote­naike, the Angli­can cler­gy­man in charge of Saint David Church, Akure. The head­mas­ter and my fa­ther went into the school man­ager’s of­fice while I stayed in the pas­sage­way watch­ing. My fa­ther pro­duced all the re­ceipts of his church fees since 1923 and ar­gued that his child was en­ti­tled to be in that school. He added that his pa­ter­nal un­cle was the first Baba-Ijo of the school and he was one of those who bought the or­gan and har­mo­nium, which they car­ried from Oshogbo to Akure. To him, there­fore, there was no rea­son the school should refuse to ad­mit me.

The head­mas­ter ex­plained that it was not a ques­tion of pedi­gree, but I was not old enough to start school. My fa­ther re­fused, say­ing al­though I looked small, he had con­fi­dence that I would cope. To get rid of the pres­sure from my fa­ther, Rev­erend Ote­naike ap­pealed to the head­mas­ter to find a place for me. So, con­trary to their nor­mal prac­tice, they ad­mit­ted me into Pri­mary One in 1944. I was ad­mit­ted into in­fant 1B. The class teacher was one Mr. Shuku­lubi, who later changed his name to Mr. Longe and joined the po­lice force. He played foot­ball for the Nige­rian Po­lice Force. That was how I started school.

Be­fore I pro­ceeded to sec­ondary school, I lost my mother in Oc­to­ber 1946. And I was just eight years old. It was trau­matic for me. In fact, I thought I was go­ing to die, I didn’t know I could sur­vive be­cause I cried all the time. Peo­ple would shout at me and ad­mon­ish me to stop cry­ing. I would keep quiet dur­ing the day and pray for the night to come so that I could hide in dark­ness and weep my soul out. For­tu­nately for me, I didn’t die, and con­trary to ex­pec­ta­tions, I was do­ing well in school. The demise of my mother did not weigh me down even­tu­ally. My teacher was the late Mr. Al­fred Shiyan­bola Ajew­unmi Ashe­biomo from Ig­bara-odo. He loved me and took it upon him­self to coach me and nine other class­mates of mine in 1954 for the en­trance ex­am­i­na­tion into sec­ondary school. He did it en­tirely on his vo­li­tion, free of charge. When the en­trance ex­am­i­na­tions came, for me, they were a walkover. I re­mem­ber that the day I took the en­trance exam to Ig­bobi Col­lege, the prin­ci­pal, The Rev­erend Arabi Parka, a white man, came from La­gos to su­per­vise us in my school, St. David School in Akure. That was the first time a white man moved very close to me, and I was ner­vous.

When peo­ple were be­ing called into the ex­am­i­na­tion hall, I was the last to be called be­cause my ap­pli­ca­tion form got to Ig­bobi late as a re­sult of poor postal ser­vices we had. By the time my ap­pli­ca­tion got to Ig­bobi, they had ex­hausted their num­bers, but I was given 440A. There was one boy from Idanre who had num­ber 440. He got his own form be­fore me, so they just tagged my own 440A. When they gave us the ex­am­i­na­tion pa­pers, the ques­tions looked like men­tal storms. I thought it would be a dis­grace if I didn’t an­swer all the ques­tions, so I dis­obeyed the in­struc­tions. I was too ex­cited that I an­swered all the ques­tions and turned my pa­per up­side down and put my head on the desk, try­ing to sleep.

At Ig­bobi Col­lege, life was nor­mal for five years. I left Ig­bobi with Grade One. At Ig­bobi, The Rev. Parka would say that any­one good enough to be ad­mit­ted into Ig­bobi Col­lege was good enough to make Grade Two. He said the real chal­lenge was not ex­am­i­na­tion but how to grow up as a good Chris­tian. That gave us a lot of self-con­fi­dence.

At Ig­bobi, we were taught how to care for other peo­ple. Right from Form One, every boy was made to con­trib­ute a penny from his pocket-money every Friday for the up­keep of a lit­tle boy in Izuakoli, a lep­ers’ set­tle­ment in east­ern Nige­ria. The school was jointly founded by the Angli­can and Methodist mis­sions.

I also re­mem­ber one of our se­nior boys who came from a very poor home. He had no shoes, ex­cept a pair of san­dals. Some of us who had black and brown shoes would make a lot of noise when we en­tered the chapel. He was mis­er­able, and be­cause of him, The Rev Parka, said none of us should wear our shoes again; ev­ery­body must wear black san­dals. We learnt very im­por­tant life lessons at

Ig­bobi Col­lege. Some of the friend­ships that sprang up at Ig­bobi are still there. I met my best friend, Dr Kale­jaye, who died 18 months ago, at Ig­bobi. He was my class­mate.

I wanted to con­tinue my ed­u­ca­tion there, but they hadn’t started the Higher School Cer­tifi­cate (HSC). That was in 1957. Only few schools like Kings Col­lege in La­gos and Govern­ment Col­lege, Ibadan had started. We went to Kings Col­lege to have the ex­am­i­na­tions with no chal­lenge at all. I was told that af­ter school cer­tifi­cate, I would go to Kings Col­lege, but a week be­fore we were to leave school at the end of our school cer­tifi­cate ex­am­i­na­tion, a ter­ri­ble news broke, that the en­trance ex­ams we took at Kings col­lege had leaked and had been can­celled. One day, we got an in­vi­ta­tion to re­port at Queens Col­lege. We were in two sets: those who wanted to read sci­ence and those for arts. There were two ex­am­i­na­tions, one for art stu­dents and the other for sci­ence and math­e­mat­ics. Un­for­tu­nately, it was one pa­per for ev­ery­body, so we be­gan to smell a rat.

Al­though I wanted to read Eco­nomics, I was given a pa­per with three quar­ters of Math­e­mat­ics, Physics and Chem­istry. I did the best I could, but I knew it was not enough. That was the only ex­am­i­na­tion I did not pass. I knew I would not pass the exam, so I left the hall mis­er­able.

But I didn’t leave La­gos af­ter the exam. I stayed with my un­cle, Papa Adedipe at the Is­land. He was the head­mas­ter of Bap­tist Aca­demics Pri­mary School. I stayed with him wait­ing for the out­come of the so-called exam. When the re­sult came out few days later, my friend, Femi Olu­mide, who later joined the Navy, came knock­ing one fate­ful morn­ing. He told me that he had just got­ten the re­sult from Queen’s Col­lege, and that out of the 10 boys from Ig­bobi Col­lege, only one was ad­mit­ted, and that per­son was his cousin, Bayo Olu­mide, who was the head-boy. Bayo was the foot­ball cap­tain by con­sen­sus among his class­mates, and he was the best boy among us. We ap­pointed him head-boy by our­selves. He was a very ex­cep­tional per­son. So, for the first time in my life, I was thrown into dark­ness. I was in­deed trou­bled. But Mr Parka came to our house one day and said if I would go to Govern­ment Col­lege, Ibadan for the HSC. I said I would go and he said I should see him at Ig­bobi Col­lege for a note to the prin­ci­pal of the school, Mr. Longue. I couldn’t de­scribe my feel­ings at that mo­ment. It was from de­pres­sion to ec­stasy. That was how I got to Govern­ment Col­lege, Ibadan. I have been a very for­tu­nate per­son all my life.

Af­ter my HSE, I was ad­mit­ted to read Po­lit­i­cal Eco­nomics at the Univer­sity Col­lege, Ibadan, as it was called then and I spent the nor­mal four years.

Did you start work­ing im­me­di­ately af­ter grad­u­a­tion?

Yes. I worked in the Na­tional Man­power Board as as­sis­tant sec­re­tary un­der Pro­fes­sor T.M Ye­sufu. The Board was es­tab­lished as a re­sult of a re­port on higher ed­u­ca­tion in Nige­ria, which rec­om­mended that higher ed­u­ca­tion should be de­vel­oped in con­so­nance with the na­tional man­power needs of the na­tion. Our work was to con­duct sur­vey - labour force, am­ple sur­vey, un­em­ploy­ment. It was part of the Min­istry of Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment. Af­ter few years, I was trans­ferred to the Cen­tral Eco­nomic Plan­ning of the same min­istry un­der Mr Allison Ayida.

In 1971, I won a Ford Foun­da­tion Fel­low­ship and got ad­mit­ted into both Har­vard and Yale uni­ver­si­ties in the US for a post­grad­u­ate de­gree as an in-ser­vice train­ing. The govern­ment wanted to up­grade mem­bers of staff by giv­ing them the op­por­tu­nity to go for Mas­ters or PhD, es­pe­cially in the area of eco­nomic plan­ning where I was en­gaged. At that time, you were

The Rev Parka, said none of us should wear our shoes again; ev­ery­body must wear black san­dals. We learnt very im­por­tant life lessons at Ig­bobi Col­lege. Some of the friend­ships that sprang up at Ig­bobi are still there. I met my best friend, Dr Kale­jaye, who died 18 months ago, at Ig­bobi. He was my class­mate

free to ap­ply for the univer­sity of your choice be­cause Ford Foun­da­tion sent pro­fes­sors from Amer­ica to in­ter­view the can­di­dates nom­i­nated by the govern­ment, both the fed­eral and states. We were all in­ter­viewed; and thank God I was awarded the Fel­low­ship and was ad­mit­ted to for mas­ters in Har­vard and Yale. As you know, these are the two top­most uni­ver­si­ties. Be­cause my boss had gone to Yale, he en­cour­aged me to go to there. I wanted to go to Har­vard, but he said my wife and chil­dren would pre­fer Yale. So I took my wife and two chil­dren and moved to Yale. Then, I had worked for eight years in the civil ser­vice, rep­re­sent­ing Nige­ria in the United Na­tions, so I was not just a young grad­u­ate go­ing for his mas­ters.

Two weeks af­ter I got there, Har­vard sent their ad­mis­sion of­fi­cer, Miss Ganoski, a Pol­ish to come and see me in Yale. I was sur­prised when they said one lady from Har­vard wanted to see me in my house. I met her and she said she was sent by Har­vard to bring me be­cause they of­fered me ad­mis­sion. She said I should pack my things and go with her, adding that as an in­cen­tive, Har­vard would in­crease my Ford grant. I called my wife and in­formed her of the chal­lenge we were fac­ing. But deep down in me, I had set­tled down here and I didn’t want to go any­where else. At that time, I had just en­rolled my two kids in nurs­ery school. The lady fought very hard to get me go­ing to Har­vard. It was a very un­usual thing for the two top­most uni­ver­si­ties in the world to give me ad­mis­sion at the same time. It was a com­ple­ment to Nige­ria’s ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem then.

So I spent my year in Har­vard and came back with mas­ters in Eco­nomic Growth/ Plan­ning on Au­gust, 1973. Be­fore my so­journ to the US, my progress in the civil ser­vice was not out­stand­ing. I would say a lit­tle less than nor­mal be­cause, for the first four years, I had no pro­mo­tion, whereas, there were oth­ers who came in at least a year af­ter me who were at least given act­ing ap­point­ments. I had to pe­ti­tion to demon­strate that 18 peo­ple who were ju­nior to me had su­per­seded me in act­ing ap­point­ments be­fore I was con­sid­ered to act in the higher ca­pac­ity. For the first time in my life, I was treated in a man­ner that made me un­happy. At what ba­sics were those guys made to act in act­ing ca­pac­ity and I was not? I won­dered. I didn’t have a poor re­sult, and my bosses gave out­stand­ing re­ports about me. And with all hu­mil­ity, I know that from my own track record, I am not a medi­ocre. From pri­mary school to the univer­sity, I was nearer the top, so the treat­ment meted to me was to­tally un­ac­cept­able.

When I came back from Har­vard few months later, I got a pro­mo­tion the fol­low­ing year. I got an­other pro­mo­tion few years later and over­took those who had gone ahead of me. I be­came the per­ma­nent sec­re­tary at age 38 plus. Again, it was fairly un­usual in the fed­eral civil ser­vice in those days when per­ma­nent sec­re­tary ap­point­ments were al­ways po­lit­i­cal.

Tafawa Balewa was the prime min­is­ter, and it was be­lieved that all of us from the West had sym­pa­thy for Obafemi Awolowo; which we did. I had no apol­ogy for that, but as a civil ser­vant, I did not make it a song. I kept my po­lit­i­cal sen­ti­ments to my­self, and I felt I had every le­gal right to do that.

Those who came be­fore us, like Allison Ayida, Phillips Asiodu, Ahmed Joda, Ime Ebong etc, got to the po­si­tion of per­ma­nent sec­re­tary at the same time. There were lots of va­can­cies. Peo­ple like Ayida got a rapid pro­mo­tion, but in our time it was a bit un­usual. I was pro­moted per­ma­nent sec­re­tary from the post of di­rec­tor of Eco­nomic Plan­ning. In that po­si­tion, I had the priv­i­lege to pre­pare and put to­gether all the devel­op­ment plans of var­i­ous gov­ern­ments at the fed­eral and state lev­els. This gave me an op­por­tu­nity to know the econ­omy of this na­tion, may be bet­ter than most peo­ple.

Obasanjo was the mil­i­tary head of state when I was made per­ma­nent sec­re­tary. When he made me per­ma­nent sec­re­tary, ac­tu­ally he was go­ing to sack me. I was to be sacked, then, I was el­e­vated.

When Mur­tala Muhammed died, Obasanjo be­came the head of state while I was the di­rec­tor of eco­nomic plan­ning. Af­ter about a year, he ac­cused peo­ple of not be­ing as com­mit­ted to his govern­ment as they were to the govern­ment of Mur­tala Muhammed. He al­leged that things were mov­ing very fast un­der Muhammed, but since he took over, things slowed down. In his opinion, civil ser­vants were not loyal to his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The then Head of Ser­vice, Allison Ayida replied that we were ca­reer men who were ready to serve every govern­ment that came our way. He told the head of state to let us know his pri­or­i­ties so we would know where to ap­ply our en­ergy to serve. Sec­ondly, when he and Mur­tala came, they de­cided to dec­i­mate the civil ser­vice, sack­ing thou­sands of peo­ple ar­bi­trar­ily, both se­nior and ju­nior, with­out go­ing through the nor­mal pro­ce­dure.

At the end of the di­a­logue in the cab­i­net, a de­ci­sion was taken to set up a com­mit­tee to in­ves­ti­gate the al­le­ga­tions. The head of ser­vice (my im­me­di­ate boss) and the head of state had an ar­gu­ment over who was wrong or right. Due to no fault of mine, I was thrown into that sit­u­a­tion. A com­mit­tee was set up. We met and I told them that it could be my last as­sign­ment in the pub­lic ser­vice be­cause there was no way I would sur­vive that as­sign­ment. But we were de­ter­mined to do the best we could so that it would be a

me­mo­rial for our chil­dren in the fu­ture. So we in­vited mem­o­randa from across the civil ser­vice, we ad­min­is­tered ques­tion­naires to one per cent of civil ser­vants, from clean­ers to Supreme Court judges. We col­lected op­er­a­tional data of var­i­ous or­gan­i­sa­tions.

We wrote our re­port, sub­mit­ted it to the Head of Ser­vice and I for­got about it and con­tin­ued to do my nor­mal work. It took me about four weeks to do it, and there were about 10 peo­ple work­ing with me, in­clud­ing the prin­ci­pal of Queens Col­lege, Mr. Cole of Rail­way Cor­po­ra­tion, Gambo Gu­bio, who was the sec­re­tary of the Fed­eral Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (FEDECO), and oth­ers.

Few weeks later, I re­ceived a phone call from Obasanjo. He screamed, “You wrote that re­port crit­i­cis­ing the govern­ment. You said we should not have sacked the use­less, dead woods in the civil ser­vice!’’

I main­tained my cool and tried to ex­plain what we did, how me­thod­i­cal, ob­jec­tive and fair we were. He started shout­ing and I got an­gry, but our train­ing was that as a se­nior civil of­fi­cer, you don’t lose your tem­per, don’t be in­tim­i­dated and be po­lite but firm.

I said, “Sir, I’m sorry you don’t like the re­port, but what is in the re­port does not rep­re­sent my wish or opinion but the wish and opinion of mem­bers of the com­mit­tee. It rep­re­sents the fact as elicited from the re­ceived 133 mem­o­randa. We in­ter­viewed peo­ple, from clean­ers to Supreme Court judges. We ad­min­is­tered ques­tion­naires to one per cent of the pub­lic ser­vice, we col­lected op­er­a­tional data from about 20 pub­lic agen­cies. Our con­clu­sion was based on these ob­jec­tive pieces of in­for­ma­tion.

“If you wish, you can set up an­other panel, if they are hon­est peo­ple, we will turn over all the data to them, and I am sure they will come to the same con­clu­sion.” At this point, he banged the phone on me. And I knew that was the end. Those were the days when peo­ple were dis­missed with im­me­di­ate ef­fect. For the head of state to lose his anger and bang his phone on you meant that some­thing was wrong.

I got home and told my wife what hap­pened. I said she should start pack­ing our things be­cause we were go­ing back to Akure. That was in 1976. By then I had roofed my house, but there was no win­dow, no door. I said we would quickly get some win­dows on one of the flats be­cause I was cer­tain that Obasanjo was go­ing to sack me.

But one Saturday af­ter­noon, I got a phone call from my friend, Dr. Ebun Kale­jaye of blessed mem­ory, who was a con­sul­tant in the Univer­sity Col­lege Hos­pi­tal (UCH), Ibadan. He said, “Yemi, con­grat­u­la­tions.’’ And I asked, ‘For what?’ He said they had pro­moted me to the po­si­tion of a per­ma­nent sec­re­tary. He said that when he first heard the news, he thought it was a sack, but when he lis­tened to the next bul­letin, it was pro­mo­tion.

When I lis­tened to the next news bul­letin, I heard that four of us - Ebun Omoyele, Mr. Fa­toye, Frank Odua and Olu Falae - were made per­ma­nent sec­re­taries on the same day. That was in 1977, 40 years ago.

When I got to the of­fice on Monday morn­ing, the Sec­re­tary to the Govern­ment of the Fed­er­a­tion, Lima Chi­roma, called me and con­grat­u­lated me. He said the head of state told him to bring me to Do­dan Bar­racks. So we got into Mr. Chi­roma’s car and drove to Obasanjo’s of­fice.

On get­ting to the of­fice, Mr. Chi­roma said to Obasanjo: “I have brought Mr. Falae here.’’ Obasanjo replied, “Oh, that’s the man who wrote that ter­ri­ble re­port. I am go­ing to fire you now. He asked why I wrote that ter­ri­ble re­port. At the end of the day, he said he agreed to pro­mote me on the con­di­tion that I would work with him in his of­fice.

I thanked him for the pro­mo­tion and promised to give my very best for the govern­ment and the coun­try. He said: “We shall see.” That was how I went through war with Obasanjo on a daily ba­sis for three years.

In 1999, you con­tested the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion with Obasanjo. You claimed you won the elec­tion; why were you not de­clared win­ner?

That has al­ways hap­pened in Nige­rian pol­i­tics. Re­mem­ber that dur­ing his trial, Gen­eral Ba­mayi gave ev­i­dence that he was vic­timised be­cause he backed a civil­ian for pres­i­dent. Ac­cord­ing to him, he told them that, “We have a com­pe­tent civil­ian, Chief Falae. As the sec­re­tary to our govern­ment, we know him to be com­pe­tent, why do we have to go and bring an­other mil­i­tary per­son? It wasn’t in the pub­lic do­main.’’ That was what got him into trou­ble.

But you didn’t score enough votes from other parts of the coun­try?

Who said so? Our lawyer, the late G.O.K Ajayi held a press con­fer­ence, where he pre­sented the re­sults. He said I won by over 1mil­lion votes. What hap­pened was that the mil­i­tary had made up their mind that an­other mil­i­tary man would suc­ceed them, so no amount of vot­ing would change their de­ci­sion.

I have a lot of votes locked up here. For ex­am­ple, in Imo State I won by a wide mar­gin. I got 8,000 and Obasanjo got 122. Six­teen out of 22 lo­cal gov­ern­ments were al­ready de­clared be­fore I went to bed.

When I woke up the fol­low­ing morn­ing, he had won Imo State. And of course, his votes in Imo State were more than the to­tal num­ber of reg­is­tered vot­ers. That was how he won in many lo­cal govern­ment areas in many states. Obasanjo won more votes than the to­tal num­ber of reg­is­tered vot­ers. I didn’t score zero, so the elec­tion was care­lessly, shame­lessly rigged. They just changed the fig­ures. Look, many of the re­sults GOK ten­dered had the record of where Olu Falae scored 17,522 in words, but in fig­ure they said 7,200. It hap­pened like that in many states. Of course, that’s not ac­cept­able.

In Bayelsa, there was no vot­ing be­cause ri­ots were go­ing on, but he said he got 3mil­lion votes. How many peo­ple are in Bayelsa State? So, if we dis­re­gard such votes, I won by a very wide mar­gin.

Soon af­ter the elec­tion, I was in Hil­ton Ho­tel in Abuja when the for­mer US Pres­i­dent Carter and Gen­eral Pow­ell, who were ob­servers, came to my suite and said, “Chief, you have been cheated.’’ He said the re­sult that was an­nounced was not the true re­sult. I said, ‘Thank you Mr Pres­i­dent, but would you please tell Nige­ri­ans be­fore leav­ing for Amer­ica what you just told me?’ He said he would do so.

At the air­port in La­gos, Carter an­nounced that and all the pa­pers car­ried it. He said the true re­sult of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion as ob­served by his team was dif­fer­ent from the one the govern­ment an­nounced. You can’t get a more au­then­tic tes­ti­mony than that of Carter.

Does that mean you may never be­friend Obasanjo over what hap­pened?

We were not friends be­fore the elec­tion. He was my boss and he ap­pre­ci­ated my per­for­mance. I be­came the Sec­re­tary to the Govern­ment of the Fed­er­a­tion un­der Gen­eral Ba­bangida, but I was not close to him at all. I didn’t know why he said I must be the one. It took me up to two to three months be­fore I agreed to work with him.

It was af­ter I left of­fice that the late Pro­fes­sor Aboy­ade said it was Obasanjo who told Ba­bangida to get me be­cause I worked with him and I was tough, but hon­est and hard­work­ing. That con­firmed that he ap­pre­ci­ated what I did. So, there was a re­la­tion­ship be­tween us.

Of course he stole my man­date, but I have since taken it as the will

That has al­ways hap­pened in Nige­rian pol­i­tics. Re­mem­ber that dur­ing his trial, Gen­eral Ba­mayi gave ev­i­dence that he was vic­timised be­cause he backed a civil­ian for pres­i­dent

of God. He him­self knows that he didn’t win that elec­tion. Look, in front of his house in Abeokuta, where he and his rel­a­tives voted, I beat him. I beat him in every polling booth in Yoruba land; I beat him ev­ery­where, com­pre­hen­sively.

The late Am­bas­sador De­hinde Fanedez, who was one of those who tried to dis­suade me from go­ing to the elec­toral tri­bunal af­ter the elec­tion, later told me in Lon­don, “I have seen the true re­sults from the Amer­i­cans and you won by a very wide mar­gin. It was not close at all.

I know that some­day, Nige­ria will get the true elec­tion re­sults.

Are you still in­ter­ested in that seat?

Do you know how old am I now? When last did you see a 79-year-old man con­test­ing for pres­i­den­tial elec­tion?

Robert Mu­gabe of Zimbabwe still stands for elec­tion

Mu­gabe is a joke. He doesn’t know what he is do­ing. I have no in­ten­tion of con­test­ing for any­thing again. I have done enough to show that I mean well for this coun­try. I was not con­test­ing be­cause I was am­bi­tious. I wanted to set a stan­dard in Nige­ria, but the op­por­tu­nity never came.

When you were the min­is­ter of fi­nance, you strongly sup­ported the struc­tural ad­just­ment pro­gramme, what were the ob­jec­tives of that pro­gramme?

What brought about struc­tural ad­just­ment was mis­man­age­ment of the econ­omy by the Sha­gari govern­ment. That govern­ment came in Oc­to­ber 1979 dur­ing the days of im­port li­cence. The Min­istry of Com­merce was just is­su­ing im­port li­cences to all and sundry. The min­is­ter in charge of im­port li­cence was leav­ing two houses away from mine in Victoria Is­land, La­gos. Every evening, there was al­ways crowd in front of his house (im­port li­cence seek­ers).

In no time at all, he is­sued im­port li­cences that were more than the to­tal for­eign ex­change we were go­ing to have for the whole year. So, we au­tho­rised the peo­ple to use dol­lars. The con­se­quence was that im­porters paid the naira equiv­a­lent to their banks, and their banks paid the naira to the Cen­tral Bank of Nige­ria (CBN) to re­lease dol­lars to those who shipped goods to Nige­ria. The CBN didn’t have the dol­lars to pay. That was how the debt started ac­cu­mu­lat­ing (for­eign ex­change debt) against Nige­ria.

You were kid­napped in 2016. A week be­fore that in­ci­dent you raised the alarm over some herds­men in­vad­ing your farm. What went wrong?

First of all, dur­ing that pe­riod, the Angli­can Church of Nige­ria, where I be­long, was go­ing to hold a na­tional meet­ing in Akure. About 180 bish­ops and 800 el­ders all over Nige­ria were ex­pected at that meet­ing. I was made the chair­man of the com­mit­tee, han­dling all the ar­range­ments, in terms of se­cu­rity, ac­com­mo­da­tion and oth­ers. It was a huge task, and some­how, the spirit min­is­tered to me and I said to my com­mit­tee that we had to set up a se­cu­rity com­mit­tee. I told them that we must take ex­tra care about se­cu­rity be­cause bish­ops are prime tar­gets for kid­nap­pers. The com­mit­tee agreed and we made those ar­range­ments. We thank God that through­out the meet­ing, there was no mishap.

How­ever, I was kid­napped the af­ter­noon the meet­ing was to start. Be­fore then, I was shout­ing about kid­nap­ping for about three months. The meet­ing was sup­posed to start by 4pm and I was kid­napped about 1pm.

I had gone to the farm to make some ar­range­ments be­fore the meet­ing. I was about to start eat­ing when I heard some­thing like crack­ing of thun­der. Usu­ally, I would take my first meal of the day along with me. In the morn­ing, I would take snacks, but I would take my first meal about mid-day. I heard it the sec­ond time and opened the door and I saw peo­ple with cov­ered faces and guns in their hands com­ing to us. I thought they were sol­diers who used to come and hunt on the farm. From time to time, some sol­diers would come to hunt in the farm.

About two mem­bers of my staff were be­ing taken along. When I asked who they were, they said I should shut up. Be­fore I knew what was hap­pen­ing, they started at­tack­ing me. They forced me to lie down, tore my dress and dragged me along. It was like a movie. I was bleed­ing. I asked them who they were, but they said I should shut up. They were six drag­ging me along, and of course my shoes were off me un­til they dragged me into the bush. Af­ter about an hour, they flagged some canopies and we all sat down there. When we were there, af­ter more than an hour, one of them took a leaf, squeezed it and used it to cover my wounds. Of course, they had seized my phone.

They gave me a phone and told me to talk to my wife. It hap­pened to be the num­ber of my farm man­ager, which they seized from him when they en­tered the farm. I got the phone and called my wife, telling her that I had been kid­napped and I didn’t know where we were. They col­lected the phone from me and we started trekking all night. Re­mem­ber, I hadn’t had my first meal of the day. We trekked and we even­tu­ally climbed on top of a rock, where we stayed till about 8pm. That was when they said I should talk to their boss from Minna, Niger State. He said, “Chief, you must give us N100mil­lion or I will kill you.” I told him that as a re­tired civil ser­vant I didn’t have N100 mil­lion. He asked about my chil­dren and I said they were ap­pli­cants.

He asked about my friends who had money and I said I had few friends who had money. He asked who they were and I men­tioned Muham­madu Buhari. He said not that one. I said Ibrahim Ba­bangida and he said no. I said Aliko Dan­gote and he said those were not the ones they were ask­ing about. I told him that those were the ones I knew; the oth­ers were poor peo­ple like me. That was how I started my jour­ney for the next four days. We were al­ways on the move. At one point, they said my peo­ple were in­sult­ing their boss. They said they would give N2 mil­lion to Boko Haram.

On the third day, they called me and said the fol­low­ing day was Sal­lah and they would be go­ing away, adding that the po­lice who gave them guns were call­ing to col­lect them back. They threat­ened to shoot me be­fore re­turn­ing the guns. They said their leader in­structed them to kill me at 3pm that day. The time was about 20 min­utes to 12noon. And I had not eaten for the fourth day.

Fi­nally, they brought bread, but I re­fused to eat. They asked if I would like to eat rice, and I said no. I said they should give me Coke. That was pro­vided. So I would take a bot­tle of Coke in the morn­ing. I prob­a­bly took two or three bot­tles.

Af­ter two days, I was very weak, I could hardly stand up, but I re­fused to eat any­thing from them. That third day, they said they were go­ing to kill me at 3 o’clock. I told them to let me talk to my wife. They got my wife for me and I told her that these peo­ple said they would kill me, please what­ever they ask for, agree. I promised to sell some as­sets and pay who­ever lent us the money. I think my life is worth more than what they were ask­ing for.

I also told my daugh­ter to raise some money be­cause I didn’t want to die wretched. I promised to re­fund any amount they spent for my free­dom. I told Ye­wande that her daddy was worth more than what they were ask­ing for. That was all I could say and I slumped again. I was al­ways on the floor. They had started sharp­en­ing their knives, clean­ing their guns and pre­par­ing for 3 o’clock to shoot me. About a quar­ter to 3pm, one of them said, “The money is com­plete.’’

Ac­tu­ally, when things like this hap­pened, the gov­er­nor would move the anti-ter­ror unit into the house. It was the po­lice that were tak­ing their calls. The car we were us­ing was sold for N350, 000 as part of the money they raised. Even­tu­ally, they agreed to col­lect N5mil­lion. They said the money should be taken to Lokoja. Those ne­go­ti­at­ing were not the boys with me; they were in Minna and those who were to take the money were in Abuja or Lokoja. They were in three groups. They told me that if they sent the po­lice with the money, they would kill me. I told my fam­ily not to play with any­thing. So, two peo­ple from Akure and my wife’s nephew took the money to them. That was how I was re­leased.

Chief Olu Falae

Chief Olu Falae

Chief Olu Falae

Chief Olu Falae

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