AL-MUSTAPHA LIED - FALAE

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Falae
Former Secretary to Government of the Federation and Minister of Finance, Chief Olu Falae, has faulted the foundation on which Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, former chief security officer to former Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, laid his accusation of bribery against Yoruba leaders.

Al-Mustapha told a Lagos High Court on Wednessday, August 3: 'After the death of (Chief MKO) Abiola and during one of the visits of Yoruba leaders to Aso Rock led by Chief Abraham Adesanya, when they got to the Villa, they were visibly angry, annoyed, and mad; they refused to speak to the press within the villa.

'But when they were leaving, their countenances were a total reversal of what it was when they came. They granted interview down-playing the June 12 issue and Chief Abiola's death.'

But in an exclusive interview at his country home, in Akure, Falae said that a careful look at the accusation would reveal that Al-Mustapha does not make sense. He argued that Abiola was the symbol of June 12 and with his death, it does not make sense for the Federal Government to bribe Yoruba leaders to scuttle June 12 election. He said that since Abiola is the symbol of June 12, the struggle for its revalidation died with Abiola. 'How could anybody bribe Yoruba leaders to scuttle something that was dead?' he queried.

Falae, who is a leader of Afenifere, revealed how he could have made money when he negotiated Nigeria's debt at the Paris Club but refused to soil his hands. He spoke on these and other things.

A controversy is currently rocking the nation over the plan by President Goodluck Jonathan to propose a constitution amendment to ensure a six-year single term for the president and governors. This is not the first time a single term is becoming an issue. As an active participant in the 1998 elections, what do you know about the origin of six-year single term?

That concept has been bandied around for quite some time. As far as I am concerned, it is a proposal that should be given very careful consideration. This is because I observe that the urge to have a second term has always been the undoing of many office holders. In a bid to pave way for second term, some office holders would start stealing public funds and avoid decisions that they should take because they don't want to offend people, even though such decisions are in the interest of the state. In my view, a single term of an extended duration, conceptually, is to be preferred, in our situation, to two terms. But given the circumstances in which this proposal has been made, it is suspect. It's suspect because we have somebody who just became president on his own terms.

He has just won his own election. He spent part of the tenure of somebody and people said he did not perform. So, we have been waiting eagerly to see what he has in store for us.

Now, the first thing he comes up with is this question of one term of six years for president and governors. My question is: Why is this his number one priority? Is this the priority of Nigerians? Is this the hunger that we are battling with? Is this the massive unemployment that the youths face? Is this the impassable roads that we struggle with every day? Is this the Boko Haram threat to national security? There are so many problems confronting the nation. Our president is not tackling any of them. His first initiative is six-year tenure of one term for president and governors. I am disappointed that he is coming forward with this proposal at this time. I would have thought that he would announce his priorities and programmes for dealing with those problems, in order to bring relief and succour to suffering Nigerians. If he had done that and in a few years he comes up with such matter, of course, we would discuss it. As it is now, I don't want to look at it at all. Most Nigerians don't want to hear about it.

The whole thing presents the president as if he doesn't know what he is doing, or he is confused or he thinks that his own self-perpetuation in office is much more important than all the problems Nigeria faces. It is unfortunate that our president is coming up with this proposal at this time. Coming at the beginning of his tenure, it is suspect and it gives the impression that the president does not know what he is doing or this is an unserious presidency.

What's your position on the thinking in some quarters that the single term plan is equivalent of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo's botched third term move?

Well, it is possible to be so viewed. When you see a Nigerian being enthusiastic about something, it is because he has personal interest in the matter. That the president can bring this forward as his priority suggests to others and me that he has a personal agenda involved in this matter. I hope it is not so. If all he is trying to do is to extend his tenure, even before he starts the present one, it would be a very provocative thing to do. He must know that there will be nationwide resistance and opposition to such an idea. I hope he is not trying to pave way for tenure elongation because it is conceivable. He has been elected on the basis of the provisions of the present constitution. If he gets the constitution amended, to insert one term of six years for president and governors, then it can be argued, at the end of the four years, that we now have a new constitution and therefore, every Nigerian is free to contest on the basis of the new provision of the amended constitution. Then, he would be having six years, plus four years and plus one. That will be a total of 11 years in office. It is possible.

The president promised Nigerians that he would not be a beneficiary of the proposal. Many people interpreted that to mean that the president would not contest the 2015 presidential election. Do you think so?

The best thing for Jonathan is to drop this idea completely now and get busy with tackling the nation's problems. Really, if he is doing well, who really cares how long he stays there? So, he is putting the cart before the horse. He should drop this idea and start dealing with the nation's problems. What he is dealing with is of no interest to most Nigerians. That is the truth of the matter.

What do you say to the argument that two terms is too costly?

I agree that, conceptually, a single term of five or six years is to be preferred to two terms of four years each in our own situation. I agree with that. But I am saying that reducing the cost of electioneering by reducing two terms to one is not the most important problem Nigeria is facing today. That is what I am saying that it's frivolous to bring it at this stage.

What do you think about the plan to amend the constitution?

The constitution can't be amended in secret? Who has spoken to Nigerians that they want to amend the constitution? I think that I am one of the political stakeholders in Nigeria. Nobody has told me that there are plans to amend the constitution. Even when the former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida wanted to take a decision on IMF issue, there was debate on television for weeks. When did our own debate start on the amendment of the constitution? Do you amend it in the night or in secret? Whose idea is it? Who wants constitution amendment at this time? People are hungry and they are afraid of Boko Haram. The roads are bad. Who is interested in constitution amendment?

Talking about single term, Jonathan said some political parties were involved in the process leading to the proposal…

This is news to me. Neither the DPA or SDMP or Afenifere that I belong was ever a party to this idea in the recent past. In any case, if some political parties met and agreed with the PDP, it need not be done now. There are more problems that should be attended to now. It is almost irresponsible and frivolous to be attending to these problems at a time people are being killed every day and 80 per cent of graduates are unemployed. This is a time many industries are leaving the country for Ghana. These are more pressing problems than amending the constitution. It is one of the least problems facing Nigerians today.

What do you think is fuelling the Bokom Haram resurgence?

Honestly, I don't know. I don't know who they are and I don't know what their problem is. I can only guess as it happens in other societies where people take up arms; it is often as a result of disenchantment with the established order. Disenchantment can come from economic disaffection, political alienation or religious disagreement. But it is a sign that something is wrong fundamentally with the society. But since the name they gave themselves means western education is evil, it has given the impression that it is a religious movement. There is a Muslim sect that is opposed to western education. That is the impression that one got. That is the impression. But I don't quite buy that. Those paraded, as leaders of Boko Haram are people like you and I that benefited from western education. How can the same people now turn around and say western education is not good? Certainly Boko Haram is just a nomenclature being used to really hide the motive of the group doing the damage.

My position is this: if there are groups that want to fight the Nigerian state, Nigeria should be ready to fight and defeat such groups. If such groups are willing to discuss peace and negotiate for peace, Nigeria should be willing to go the extra mile to negotiate and achieve peace; if they want to fight, Nigeria should be ready to fight and defeat them. If violence is what they want, face them and defeat them. The other day, there was a suggestion that the president should withdraw troops from Borno State. My answer was, absolutely no. What if the president were to withdraw troops from Borno and a week later, Boko Haram slaughter 10, 000, 00 people? The president would have abandoned his responsibility. Under no circumstance should the president of Nigeria be prepared to withdraw the safety shield of the military because some opposing groups said he should remove it. He should stay there and be ready to fight and defeat all enemies of Nigeria.

Boko Haram became more violent after the elections and some people want to read political meaning to it…

Yes, indeed, they are right to read political meaning to it. Before the elections, I saw Boko Haram as a group of rural hoodlums in and around the plateau, who will go to a village in the night, set fire to the thatched roofs of villagers, stand by the entrance as the villagers ran out of their homes and machete them or gun them down. But since the elections, the operation has undergone a huge qualitative change. Now, they don't use daggers in the night; they don't burn thatched roofs in the night, but prepare time bombs that require a lot of education and sophistication and expense to produce and transport and locate and detonate.

So, clearly, it is not the same group that is operating Boko Haram. Those who operated it before the elections are a set of semi illiterates and hoodlums in the rural areas. Now, these are urban-based educated and sophisticated and wealthy people. That is my reading of the transformation, which has taken place in the activities of Boko Haram. Therefore, people would be right to say this transformation could only have taken place if wealthy politicians have a hand in the operation of Boko Haram. They probably borrowed the name to carry out their own campaign. I don't think it is the same people operating Boko Haram. The question is: what do we do with it in spite of the reality of Nigeria today? As I said earlier, if they want to be violent, government should go out and fight them.

You had a different view when I asked you about amnesty for Niger Delta militants last year. Your position then is different from what you have said about Boko Haram. Why the difference?

I said any group that want to attack Nigeria, Nigeria should defeat such a group. But also, if there is indication that the group wants peace, we should negotiate and ensure peace. Military action, by itself, can never end any crisis. Throughout history, violence has never ended any founder mental problem. The First World War was a fight over the colonies by the major powers. It ended in 1918 with a treaty, where the allies - British, French, and Americans - defeated Germany and imposed a very one-sided, onerous treaty on Germany, including the payment of reparation by the defeated to the victorious. But the one sided nature of the treaty enabled Hitler to mobilise the German race and incite them to go into World War 11. He told the Germans that Germany has been enslaved. Not only did they lose a war, they are also being made to pay reparation to those who defeated them.

That is the hallmark of slavery and Germany must fight to free herself from slavery. The World War 11 came because of that. More than 70 million people died in that war. But despite that huge loss of live, it still ended at the negotiating table.

We still had Nuremberg to bring that terrible carnage to a close. The point I am making is that in any situation, there must be both the punch and the conference table. If any group is taking on the state, the state must not demonstrate weakness because weakness excites the bully. He will continue to be more violent, but demonstrate strength and willingness to negotiate. If I am President, that is what I will do. You will think twice before attacking Nigeria. It is a deterrent.

In the case of the Niger Delta, let me expatiate. There is a world of difference. It started as a political self-determination thing. It started as Calabar, Ogoja, and Rivers Movement. The minorities of the former Eastern Region wanted self-determination. They were encouraged and assisted by the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He took them on the delegation to the London Constitutional Conference, people like Wenikie Briggs, Eyo Ita and others. He took them with him because there were denials that there were no minorities in Nigeria. So, Awolowo took them to the Constitutional Conference to demonstrate to the British that there were minorities and that they wanted their own self-determination. So, self-determination is a principle with which rational human beings will sympathise.

Are you saying there is a difference between Boko Haram and Niger Delta?

Yes. Niger Delta started as a pure political thing partially achieved when General Gowon created Rivers and Cross Rivers states for the minorities of the East. But he did not go far enough. I believe that the struggle that came later was a design to carry the matter to its logical conclusion. It was political at the beginning. Of course, half way through, other elements crept into it. Like anything in Nigeria, if anybody shouts at the middle of a city today and say fire on the mountain, regardless of why he said so, within 15 minutes, hoodlums, armed robbers anarchist and all kinds of people would have entered the struggle.

That is what happened in the Niger Delta. People saw it as an opportunity to make money through illegal bunkering, money laundering, kidnapping and all sorts of influences went into it. But the main thing was political. They wanted to control their own government and later control of resources came into it. They say that God, in his infinite wisdom, had deposited hydrocarbon in their soil but they were not the ones controlling the exploitation of oil and that the Federal Government was licensing companies that were exploiting oil and gas in their area. They started fighting that there should be self-determination and resource control. They started fighting for it. They want to be part of the process to license people to exploit their resources.

The second phase started purely as apolitical movement in the 1950s. The last phase now called resource control is being invaded by all kinds of hoodlums and so on and so forth.

It is a different kind of thing from what is now presenting itself as a religious struggle. These are the differences.

What do you say to the N18, 000,00 minimum wage?
It is one of the most unfortunate thing this president has done. He signed this thing into law before elections to bribe workers. By so doing, he put the state governments in trouble. First of all, we need to remind ourselves that this is a federation. By being a federation, it is not just in name but also in substance. In any federation, the question of wage is of interest to the Federal Government, states, local governments and even private employers of labour. It is not an exclusive federal responsibility. It is a joint responsibility. How then could the Federal Government pass a law, sign it and impose it on the rest of Nigeria?

The National Assembly passed the law before the president signed it.

The National Assembly is a national institution and not a state assembly. It cannot legislate for the states in a proper federation. That is the point. The budget of each state is not passed by the National Assembly but passed by the states. The National Assembly has no power and no right to legislate for the states. They legislate for the Federal Government. The states are part of the federation, but the states have their own constitutional province where they are supreme. So, that was the first blunder by Jonathan. He made a law on minimum wage and imposed it on the states. Forget that the Federal Government has far better ability to pay than the states because they are getting far less than the Federal Government from revenue every month. He knows that.

He also should have known that even among the states, not all could pay the minimum of N18, 000. Some can pay much more and others should be allowed to pay much less. So, in a federation, if the thing does not come to an end today, it will still lead to a crisis tomorrow. This is because if you are a federation, every state government should be allowed to negotiate with its employees. The Federal Government is an interloper in this matter. It is not the business of the Federal Government to legislate for the states where wages are concerned. They give to each state what the constitution say they should give to the states and not what they want.

The governors are asking for a revisit of the revenue sharing formula if they must pay the minimum wage…

Again, the governors are asking for the wrong thing to be done. The right thing is to restructure the constitution and pass many more responsibilities from the Federal Government to the states. Subsequent to that, we now allocate far more revenue away from the Federal Government to the states and local governments where the new responsibilities are. That way, the money can be spent for the good of all. The money is for a purpose: it is to implement the responsibilities given to the various levels of government. For example, I don't see the business of the Federal Government to have a Federal Ministry of Agriculture. When I entered the civil service in 1963, there was no Ministry of Agriculture. It didn't exist. The British who were here for 100 years were no fools. All we had was a small department in my then ministry, Ministry of Economic Development. There was a small unit there, through which the Federal Government was sending grants to the Federal Research Institute. Latter, some wise fellows created Ministry of Agriculture.

Question: is there a square inch of Nigeria, which belongs to the Federal Government and does not belong to any state? On which territory is the Federal Government carrying out its own agricultural activities? If agriculture is a local thing, it is the state and the Federal Government that should handle agriculture as it used to be before independence. All the money they are wasting at Abuja should be given to the states and to the local governments. They are the ones close to farmers. What we need is a fundamental restructuring. To transfer many more function from the Federal Government to the states and local governments. Second stage should be revenue contribution and not revenue sharing. To ask for revenue sharing to be reviewed without asking for constitutional allocation of functions is putting the cart before the horse.

What about the revenue contribution you mentioned earlier?

It is another major error that needs to be expunged from the constitution. It is contrary to the federalist principles. You can't have a federally controlled institution determining the sharing on revenue between the Federal Government and the state governments. What we must have eventually is revenue contribution arrangement. What I mean is this: revenue that accrues in Nigeria is accruing in a particular territory. In a true federation, it is the government in control of that territory that should be the collecting agents of such revenues. There would be an agreement by law and constitution what proportion of each one would be sent to the federal coffers. Not the other way round.

In America, you go to the groceries and you buy something and you pay sales tax or VAT as they call it in the UK. The groceries company charges you and they have a programme in the computer, as the teller girl punches it. If it comes to about five pounds, the money is immediately distributed by the computer to the various tiers of government. As you are checking out, the computer is distributing the VAT charge. It is the people on whose territory the revenue accrues that should collect and distribute to all levels of government. In that case, there is no revenue sharing but revenue contribution, in accordance with the existing agreement. For example, in company taxation, you may agree that 50 per cent should go to the Federal Government and the state have its own percentage.

That is the way it is supposed to be and that is where we must go. But what you do is to first take the revenue that belongs to me, you first take it to Abuja and then I go there cap in hands and you dole out to me what you think I should have. There were times the Federal Government felt the money was too much and they were keeping it -they call it excess crude oil account. You feel I am too immature to have it because you are wiser than me and you dole it out to me when you think I can use it wisely. It is absolute nonsense. These are some of the anomalies in our system. We must return to true federalism. We can do so in a peaceful manner and we can refuse to recognise reality until tension builds up and there will be a national crisis and then we run around. It is bound to happen.

Look at the United Kingdom, our colonial masters. Their union was supposed to be a union in perpetuity. The act of Union of 1707 said that these kingdoms are united under God in perpetuity. What has happened since then? Scotland now has a Scottish parliament that passes its own laws. They run a different educational system; they collect their own revenue from oil companies operating in the North Sea. It is not the government in London that is collecting revenue from the North Sea. It is the Scottish parliament. The Welsh Assembly has its own government. They have their own ministers. There is parliament in Ireland. So, there are four governments in UK today. There is Ireland, the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish parliament. Of course, there is Westminster in London. So, what they have in the UK is a de facto federation. You know the British has no written constitution. They have three levels of government - local government, regional government and the 'federal government' in London. They don't call it federal, but that is what it is.

There was a Libyan who was supposed to have masterminded the crash of an aircraft in Scotland many years ago. He was arrested and was jailed in Scotland. A few years back, they said he was dying of cancer and the Scottish government released back to Libya to go and die. The Americans complained bitterly but the British said: 'we are not in charge. It is a Scottish matter.' That is to tell you that the Scottish autonomy is considerable and it is real. So, if Britain that is homogeneous, in terms of colour of their skin, language and history can now operate a de facto federation, where the decision of the Scottish parliament is respected internationally, why are we pretending here? We pretend that we can run a nation of 480 ethnic nationalities, like a military government. A day will come when there will be enough pressure for us to return to a true federation. I think it is better to do it peacefully than to wait until there is a crisis.

What do you think about the allegation made by Al- Mustapha against Yoruba leaders?

I got a phone call from one of my friends who live in Adamawa. He said that a friend of his called him and said his leader who he had always talked about had been exposed as corrupt and he asked who those leaders were, because Mustapha did not mention any name then. My friend said he told his informer that he was sure that his own leader, Olu Falae, can never be one of those such allegation can be made against. I thanked him for his loyalty. A few minutes later, some newspapers started to call me to say that Al-Mustapha said Abdusalami Abubakar government gave a lot of money to Yoruba leaders to settle them over the Abiola affair.

I told him he knows my position and me. I spent almost two years in detention. Would I have taken a bribe from them before going to detention? Or did I come out of detention and go to them to take bribe? In any case, none of the people in government will dare make such a proposal to me. It was news to me and if it is true it will not be leaders in our own group. This is because they are people that put their lives at stake. As far as I am concerned as a person, all the money in the Central Bank of Nigeria cannot bribe me. I don't need it.

Al-Mustapha mentioned Abraham Adesanya and Bola Ige, leader of Afenifere and his deputy respectively…

I was horrified momentarily before I recovered. I said, what the hell? How come the two people he mentioned are those who are dead? It is easy to lie against a dead man because he is not around to defend himself. However, knowing Papa Adesanya, as we all did, he lived a disciplined life. He was frugal and not ostentatious. It is impossible to think of Adesanya in terms of corruption. You don't take such a huge amount of money without it showing in your lifestyle. He was using his old wretched car and his office was in the slum at Simpson Street. His house is an ordinary house. He lived like that until he died. Al-Mustapha and his boss might have taken money from the Central Bank of Nigeria. They should tell the nation what they did with the money. I am sure the money did not go to Adesanya and Bola Ige.

Al-Mustapha had video clips of the visit of NADECO leaders to Gen Abdusalami Abubakar.

Did the video clip show evidence of Abdulsalami Abubakar giving money to Adesanya and Bola Ige? That Adesaya and Ige visited Abdusalami as head of state cannot be interpreted to money changing hands. Many leaders visited Abdulsalami when he was head of state. You could video them visiting him. So, what?

Al-Mustapha said they came looking angry but left smiling after the visit.

They might have come in feeling very sad. We don't know what transpired between them and Abubakar. If Abubakar had explained to them that Abiola was not murdered and that he died a natural death and promise them an autopsy to explain the cause of death beyond reasonable doubt and promise them that the Yoruba would not lose out and they would not be deprived of the mandate that Abiola won, all that could change their countenance. If you say all the money in the Central Bank of Nigeria should be given to me, it is a non-issue. Some of us are beyond that kind of nonsense. He must produce evidence of where money is being given to Adesanya and Bola Ige. In any case, you don't give 240 million dollars in cash. You will need two trailers to carry the money or you transfer it through a bank account. You must be able to establish that.

This fellow is a drowning man and he wants to drag as many people as he can along with him. But the truth will prevail. Adesanya was shot nine times and he did not run away from the struggle. Most Nigerians would stop fighting thereafter. Your children will call you and say, 'daddy, we thank God all nine bullets missed you and this is God's way of saying to you that enough is enough.' Not so for Adesanya. Money meant nothing to him. What will he do with 240 million dollars at 85? Even I at my age, such money is meaningless to me. Our reputation is made.

By the grace of God, no Al-Mustapha and blackmailer can damage Afenifere reputation. We were not born yesterday. I have been in the public service for almost 40 years. People like me had opportunity to have made money without anybody being the wiser for it. I went to renegotiate Nigeria's external debt- The London club debt. I was able to get the terms down from seven years repayment period to 30 years repayment period. Interest rate reduced from nine three-quarter per cent to seven and half per cent. That is about 155 million dollars reduction, in debt service as a result of that negotiation. I could have told them to add half a per cent to the seven and half and make it eight per cent. Nigerians would still consider me a hero. I will be making half a per cent for myself. That is about 70 million dollars a year.

We had all that opportunity. Would I forgo such an opportunity to go for pittance and pennies from some people? Look, as Secretary to the Government of the Federation, I was in charge of the security vote for four years. It is a vote that was never audited. If we wanted to steal, there was plenty of chance to steal without anybody being the wiser for it. But we didn't touch a penny.

What do you say to the claim that Yoruba leaders were responsible for the death of June 12?

Abiola was the symbol of the struggle for the realisation of June 12. It was a struggle that led to some of us going to detention for several years. I spent almost two years in detention. Papa Adesanya was detained with Ayo Adebanjo for about six months in police cell. Bola Tinubu, John Oyegun, General Alani Akinrinade, Bolaji Akinyemi and others were in exile for more than two years. We paid the entire price for June 12. But the day they murdered Abiola was the day they murdered June 12. It was the day they killed June 12. We could not actualise June 12 if Abiola was dead. So, they killed him.

It does not make sense, therefore, for the Federal Government to be bribing those of us supporting June 12 after Abiola was dead. So, the accusation is idiotic, to say they were bribing Yoruba leaders to abandon June 12, which they had murdered. It is nonsense to say Yoruba leaders mellowed down after the visit to Abdulsalami. Until last year, we still marked June 12. I was at the Airport Hotel, Lagos for a rally on June 12. Is that mellowing down? If Yoruba leaders visited Abdulsalami, there is nothing wrong with it. There is hardly any head of state that I have not visited. Even Obasanjo, with whom I contested an election, invited me on two occasions and I visited him. It does not mean that I went to take money from Obasanjo.