By Chioma Gabriel, Deputy Editor
Chief Olu Falae, ex-Minister of Finance, former Secretary to the Federal Government and the former Presidential candidate of the AD/ANPP Alliance, in this encounter advises Goodluck Jonathan to disregard all manner of lobbies and threats and concentrate on his duties of running the country and ensuring a credible general elections in 2011. Excerpts:

Since Jonathan took over, he has been under pressure. The governors seem to be the ones trying to tell him what to do or imposing their will on him. Is that normal?

Chief Olu Falae
Well, when it comes to choosing his cabinet as acting President, it is his prerogative to choose. It is his choice to decide who he thinks will help him to realise the dreams he has for Nigeria. You’d recall that for three months, Yar’Adua ruled without ministers. If he wasn’t comfortable working with Yar’Adua’s men, he had the option to fire some of them which is what he has done. He could fire some and retain some if he wishes. He is free to hire or to fire.

There is no constitutional provision mandating him to keep any minister if he doesn’t want him. The governors have no locus standi in the choice of ministers and they cannot tell him what to do in the choice of his cabinet. They meet him in the FEC meetings to discuss issues pertaining to their states and that is okay. They have their own duties in their states, not with telling the Acting President how to choose members of his cabinet.

There are issues on the electoral reforms and 2011 general elections. INEC has mapped out its deadline of either January or April but the question remains, will elections hold without the reforms?

First of all, the INEC official that is talking about alternative days for election this year will no longer be there by the time elections are holding because the tenure of the present officials will terminate June this year. So, it should clear from this that INEC, as it is constituted today does not have competence to speak on the forthcoming elections because a new INEC chairman will be in charge then, unless they are presuming that automatically, they will all be re-appointed. That is number one.

Secondly, it is the electoral reforms that will provide the legal frame work for the election and electoral reforms have not even commenced. So, as it is, there is no legal framework for the election and yet, they are talking about time-table for election. In my view, that is putting the time-table cart before the horse of electoral law and reforms.

And besides, no election can take place without a voters register. As at now, there is no such register or any credible register anywhere and yet, they are fixing dates for an election where there is no electoral register. That time-table in my view is very frivolous.

That means we could have problems because some people want the acting President to hurry things and get out.

There is still time to commence action on electoral reforms and get the voters register in place. These are the two crucial things that must be done. And these can be done within the next six to nine months. But if these are not done and the year rolls by, then we will have crisis in our hands.

But that could be avoided because the ruling party, the PDP has a zoning formula that….

The PDP is not Nigeria. Whatever PDP does is for members of their party. All Nigerians are not members of the PDP. I am not. I don’t recognise their constitution or zoning formula. The acting President is not PDP’s President. He is Nigeria’s President and it is for him to really disregard all kinds of intimidations. His duty is to Nigerians and not to few individuals.

It is his duty to carry out a credible electoral reforms and put a fresh voters register in place. If he does those two things, Nigerians will be happy. God is in control. And God is on the side of the righteous. If he does those two things, we will have a free and fair election and all will be well.

He should be man enough not to let anybody intimidate him. He should fear nobody. General Abacha was a dictator and some of us had the guts to confront him. Jonathan should remain focused on what he is doing and forget about people lobbying him or trying to intimidate or threaten him into doing what they want him to do. Once one is president, he should forget about such things and focus on his job.

If I’m President, I should forget distractions. By the time one makes up his mind to become President, he should have gone beyond fearing anybody and carry on. If death comes, it’s just too bad. When I was running for President, I was ready and I was not afraid of anybody. I did not fear death and that was that. I’d gone beyond fear of anybody threatening to kill me. You know, some of those things are distractions and if you bother about them, you might not achieve much. So, let him just be committed to his duty.

On the ministerial lists recently submitted, it was perceived that some old ministers came back and all kinds of comments have been on since the lists came out.

If I’m in Jonathan’s shoes, I would appoint those people who I think are honestly patriotic and committed to national interest of Nigeria whether they were former appointees of Yar’Adua or not. Of course, it is proper to have some members of the old cabinet in the new one and others.

What I had also expected to see are people from other political parties, provided they have the qualifications and they are men of integrity who are committed and courageous enough to push this nation forward to the right direction, who has all it takes to make Nigeria a greater nation. He should not worry about special lobbies. He should give appointments on the basis of merit and in complete disregard of ethnic or religious orientation.

But what if Yar’Adua comes back and doesn’t like that set up?

If Yar’Adua comes back and doesn’t like the new arrangement, let him change things again and choose the people to work with him. Jonathan is doing his job. When Yar’Adua comes back, let him do his own job. We shouldn’t worry ourselves now about what could happen if Yar’Adua returns. When he does, let him choose the people to work with him. Now, Jonathan needs to work and he needs people he could trust with responsibilities, whether they are of old cabinet or fresh faces. He needs the courage to do things right.

Sir, from your world of experience, what do you foresee from the way things are going because people are talking and even outsiders think this nation is failing?

We are already in crisis. How can you have a country who has a President that has not been seen or heard for four months? Nobody has seen or heard him and he is still President. How can you have a country where people are challenging right now in court, the legitimacy of the acting President? How can you have a country where people are taking on the acting President without regard to constitution or law and no regard for order. That means we are heading towards anarchy. That’s what it means. We are already in crisis but what we are trying to do is to manage it so that it does not go beyond what it is already happening now.

What do you think of the Presidential Advisory Council?

Every President or governor is free to set up any group of people to guide him. It’s one of the options they have. It’s only the acting President who knows the assignment he has for them and can answer the question of whether they are doing that assignment or not.


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