Falae’s stew­ard­ship and vi­sion for Nige­ria

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - OPINION - By Bukar Us­man

WHEN the 9th Sec­re­tary to the Gov­ern­ment of the Fed­er­a­tion, Chief Olu Falae, marked his 80th birth­day-an­niver­sary re­cently, friends and as­so­ci­ates gath­ered at Akure, the Ondo State cap­i­tal, to cel­e­brate his life and ac­com­plish­ments in and out of pub­lic ser­vice. So out­stand­ing are his con­tri­bu­tions to the coun­try and his brood­ings over its af­fairs that a col­lo­quium tagged “Nige­ria: Work in Progress” was or­gan­ised to kick off the cel­e­bra­tion the first day. Two other events – a thanks­giv­ing ser­vice held at St. David Angli­can Cathe­dral, and a re­cep­tion at the hall of the cathe­dral took place the fol­low­ing day. This ar­ti­cle is based on my par­tic­i­pa­tion in these events.

I would like to be­gin by mak­ing a few com­ments about the life­style and eth­i­cal ori­en­ta­tion of the cel­e­brant, Chief Falae. I served un­der him in the Cab­i­net Of­fice/the Pres­i­dency. And, for many years, I have known him as some­one who likes a mod­est life­style. Found in his sit­ting rooms in La­gos and Akure are com­mon fur­ni­ture. Noth­ing around him is flam­boy­ant. Even the clothes he wore to the col­lo­quium, thanks­giv­ing and re­cep­tion were sim­ple and or­di­nary; his spouse, Mrs. Rachael O. Falae (née Fa­so­ranti) was also mod­estly dressed.

The na­ture of the re­cep­tion, the cli­max of the birth­day cel­e­bra­tion, spoke vol­umes about the per­son of Chief Falae. The hall was filled by happy guests and his towns peo­ple, both young and old. The event ac­corded the crowd the op­por­tu­nity to re­joice with him. They trouped to the high ta­ble in droves, bowed, knelt and pros­trated, in rev­er­ence to him. Many wanted to take pho­tos with him. Be­ing a man of the peo­ple, he obliged ev­ery­one.

The at­mos­phere was lib­eral and not many speeches were made. Only the Chair­man of the oc­ca­sion, Hon. Jus­tice E.A. Ojuo­lape made brief re­marks af­ter which His Im­pe­rial Majesty, the Deji of Akure King­dom, seized the op­por­tu­nity to con­grat­u­late and shower en­comi­ums on Falae. His Impe- rial Majesty ad­dressed the gath­er­ing and danced to re­joice with the cel­e­brant and his spouse. Falae and his spouse pa­tiently waited till the large re­cep­tion hall was vir­tu­ally emp­tied be­fore they grace­fully danced their way to their ve­hi­cle. Fur­ther de­tails about Falae’s per­sonal life can be gleaned from his bi­og­ra­phy,

His bi­og­ra­pher, Dayo Awude, said what he wrote in the 211page book about the cel­e­brant was not ex­haus­tive as he only weaved to­gether enough data to en­able him un­der­stand Falae and what he stood for. He said Falae au­tho­rised the bi­og­ra­phy be­cause “the eye does not see it­self ex­cept through a re­flec­tion.”

The col­lo­quium, which took place at Amaz­ing Grace Event Cen­tre, Oda Road, Akure, on Septem­ber 21, 2018, was moder­ated by Chief Seinde Arog­bofa. Mem­bers of the panel in­cluded Chief John Nnia Nwodo, Prof. Tunde Adeni­ran, Prof. Kole Omo­toso and I. We were to speak in that or­der, but the se­quence was slightly al­tered be­cause of the late ar­rival of Chief Nwodo, who spoke last. The pan­el­lists were given 10 to 15 min­utes each to make their con­tri­bu­tions af­ter which the au­di­ence also con­trib­uted.

The col­lo­quium was graced by many dig­ni­taries. Among them were the Deputy Gov­er­nor of Ondo State, Ag­boola Ajayi; the Gov­er­nor of Sokoto State, Aminu Waziri Tam­buwal; the for­mer Gov­er­nor of Ondo State, Oluse­gun Mimiko; the Deji of Akure King­dom, His Im­pe­rial Majesty Oba Aladetoy­inbo Ogun­lade Aledelusi Odun­dun II; and Hon. Ife­dayo Abe­gunde, Sec­re­tary to the State Gov­ern­ment, Ondo State. Oth­ers were the Elemo of Akure King­dom, Chief Oluse­gun Adedipe; vet­eran politi­cian and el­der states­man, Chief Ayo Ade­banjo; Chief Supo Soni­bare, SDP party leader; Pro­fes­sor Jerry Gana, a pres­i­den­tial as­pi­rant; John Dara, an­other pres­i­den­tial as­pi­rant, and So­cial Demo­cratic Party (SDP) ex­ec­u­tive mem­bers. Al­though the ar­rival of the politi­cians, marked by showy dis­plays by their sup­port­ers and en­tourage, in­ter­rupted the col­lo­quium’s pro­ceed­ings, it en­livened the oc­ca­sion.

A com­mon thread in the dis­cus­sion of the col­lo­quium theme was gen­eral lamen­ta­tion over the low level of progress made by Nige­ria, in re­la­tion to its peers, since in­de­pen­dence. As a way for­ward, em­pha­sis was placed on the ur­gency and ne­ces­sity of “re­struc­tur­ing” the polity. In his vote of thanks to wrap up the col­lo­quium’s pro­ceed­ings, Chief Falae re­sponded to the views ex­pressed at the col­lo­quium and re­solved to reded­i­cate him­self to his con­vic­tions for as long as his feet and fac­ul­ties could carry him.

Re­struc­tur­ing the coun­try is a pet idea of Falae, the Olu of Ilu Abo. He and his as­so­ci­ates have, for a long time, been vig­or­ously prop­a­gat­ing it. Two books,

writ­ten by Falae and pub­lished in 2004, and Dayo Awude’s

pub­lished in 2008, pro­vide de­tails of what Falae and his as­so­ci­ates think about “re­struc­tur­ing” as a panacea for Nige­ria’s so­cio-eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal prob­lems. Both books were avail­able about a decade ago, when the cel­e­brant turned 70. They were also sold at the col­lo­quium at a give­away price of N1000 per copy. I read them with in­ter­est af­ter the event.

In those books, Falae called for the for­ma­tion of a group of so­cial democrats who would be com­mit­ted to the pur­suance of “lib­eral and wel­fare” pro­grammes with the aim of mak­ing im­me­di­ate, sus­tain­able and max­i­mum im­pact for the ben­e­fit of the peo­ple (Falae: 127-133).

The ve­hi­cle for the at­tain­ment of Falae’s dream for Nige­ria re­mains a Sov­er­eign Na­tional Con­fer­ence com­pris­ing all the 275eth­nic na­tion­al­i­ties (Awude:53) fairly and di­rectly rep­re­sented as del­e­gates and whose out­come should re­turn the coun­try to the “spirit” if not the “let­ter” of the In­de­pen­dence Con­sti­tu­tion of 1960. He said that was the au­then­tic fed­eral sys­tem ne­go­ti­ated by the na­tion­al­ists but was un­for­tu­nately set aside by the mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion of 1966.

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