Bisi Akande Is A Reckless Person, Speaks Without Thinking —Falae
(Serialization of Interview of Chief Olu Falae, by Hakeem Gbadamosi in Tribune Online)
By HAKEEM GBADAMOSI On Jan 2, 2022
Chief Olu Falae, banker, administrator, politician, former Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF) and Finance Minister, speaks with HAKEEM GBADAMOSI on some national issues, including the claims made against him by Chief Bisi Akande in his autobiography, My Participation among others.
Sir, why have you kept mute and ignored former Osun State governor, Chief Bisi Akande, over the claim he made in his autobiography, My Participations that you went to the 2014 National Conference because of the allowance offered by former President Goodluck Jonathan?
I have decided not to say a word about the nonsense which Akande wrote. Akande himself will be surprised for me to comment on what he wrote. I don’t think it is worth my comment. In the first place, my career is an open book. I served Nigeria well with total commitment and integrity. So, I cannot because of allowance do what I will not otherwise do.
For five years, I was Secretary to the Federal Government of Nigeria and Minister of Finance under the regime of President Ibrahim Babangida and I chose not to earn one Naira salary from the government. Rather, before I agreed to leave my banking job to become Secretary to the Government, I told the government to negotiate with my bank to agree to a secondment, that I should be seconded from the bank to government as Secretary to the Government while I would remain Managing Director of the bank and be paid by the bank for my services to the Federal Government. And at the return of my tenure with the government, I would return to the bank. That was the agreement we reached and that was the agreement we implemented for five years. The letter confirming this is in my possession signed by Alhaji Umaru Mutallab who was the Managing Director of United Bank for Africa at the time. He signed the letter because he was vice chairman of the board of Nigerian Merchant Bank where I was Managing Director. He signed for, and on behalf of the board. He wrote that the bank was happy and privileged to be asked by the Federal Government to second their Managing Director, that is me, Olu Falae to come and be Secretary to the Government, and that I would remain their Managing Director throughout my tenure with the government; the bank would continue to pay me my salary and other entitlements and at the end of my tenure, I would be free to return to the bank. It is written down and I have the letter. I will publish it in my memoirs. That was the situation.
When I got into government about a year or so later, someone from the establishment section came and said they were aware of the arrangement of not paying my salary but I was entitled to what they called Responsibility Allowance. That the job I was holding as Secretary to Government was more complicated, higher and more important than MD of a small Merchant Bank, and that, therefore, I was entitled to what is known in the service as Responsibility Allowance. And I turned it down. He insisted that I was entitled to it, and I said yes, but if I were to take the Responsibility Allowance, it will be described as another salary in future and so, it was.
After I left government, I went into politics. Somebody wrote a petition to the Egbe Ilosiwaju Yoruba headed by the late General [Adeyinka] Adebayo, that Olu Falae whom they were supporting for president was a thief, that when I was Secretary to the Government, I was earning two salaries. Thank God for His guidance. If I had taken the allowance, that fellow would have said that was the evidence. But all he saw was the documents prepared by the bank for paying me my monthly salary. I’m sure he had access to those documents, so he was sure the bank was paying me when I was Secretary to the Government. So, he assumed wrongly that I was being paid also by the government whereas I chose not to earn one extra naira.
If I could turn down Responsibility Allowance to which I was entitled to, to avoid being misunderstood as a second salary, how can I therefore go to a conference because they are going to pay me an allowance? We went to the conference because it was a patriotic thing to do. We have been asking for Sovereign National Conference. I wrote a book, “The Way Forward for Nigeria”. I don’t think Akande has read it which I launched in Lagos in 2005 and in which I advocated the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference as a means of resolving the Nigerian crises.
So, when a conference was convoked by former President Jonathan, similar to what I have been advocating, should I refuse to go there because they will pay me an allowance? I went because I have been a passionate advocate of a sovereign conference to resolve the Nigerian crises. When an opportunity came, it was my duty and responsibility to go there and contribute my own quota to the remaking of Nigeria. That is why I went there and not because of any allowance. I went to the CONFAB as a nominee of the Federal Government in the category of national elder statesmen. The delegates of Afenifere were chosen by Afenifere at the Yoruba level. I did not got to the conference as a nominee of Afenifere. I was an Afenifere leader, but I was nominated under the category of elder statesmen.
Now, elder statesmen are by definition old people. So, no young person under 50 would qualify for that position. So, the position which I occupied was not available to anybody who is not an old man. So, by the foregoing, I did not deny any young person any position.
In any case, the like(s) of Akande refused to go to the conference; they are now throwing stones at the conference. If he cares to look at all the delegates from the South-West from whichever category, you will find that there were lots of young people, trade unionists, teachers who were in the conference. Not just Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Sir Olaniwun Ajayi, Olu Falae and Sehinde Arogbofa. There were over 90 delegates from the South-West. The others were from various age categories. As for me, I was not a nominee of Afenifere. I was and I’m an Aferenifere leader but nominated by the federal government among the six national elder statesmen and no young person can be nominated as an elder. So I did not deny any young person any slot at the conference. Let Akande read that.
In any case, Akande should know that some of us by the grace of God didn’t need those allowances. Without stealing public funds, God has given some of us contentment and taken care of us. Talking for myself, I have never begged for food; I have never felt the need to take money that did not belong to me.
I said it when I was campaigning for president and I want to say it now that I have never taken a bribe from anybody at any stage of my career, either when I was in the civil service as a Permanent Secretary or Secretary to the Government or in the bank as Managing Director or as Minister of Finance. Offers were made but the answer was indefinite no because my total upbringing is against that.
Let me tell you a little story. When I was in primary school, Saint Stephen’s, Ijomu, Akure, in the late 40s. One day I was returning home after school and I found a small eraser along Ijomu Street. As a child, I was happy and I picked it. When I got home I told my paternal grandmother who I was living with because my mother was dead. I said mama, I was lucky today, I found this eraser on the ground and she said who asked you to pick it? I said no one and she immediately called me a thief. I said, no mama and she said you stole it because the owner did not give it to you, although, the owner was not there, so nobody transferred the ownership to you. For taking it without the consent of the owner, you stole it. Mama took a whip and followed me back to the very spot where I picked the eraser. I dropped it there and mama took me back home. I can never forget that day. If a pastor today finds $1m along the road, he won’t think it is theft. He will go and pay tithe and thank God for it. But by my grandmother’s standards, the ethical standard, that is theft.
So, the like of Akande can never understand where we are coming from. So, my background, my Christian commitment and the contentment God has given me has enabled me to negotiate my career without taking one Naira that does not belong me. I will not do anything for money if I’m not persuaded it is the right thing to do. So that is that about what Akande said about the National Conference.
(………………………………to be continued)