By Dayo Johnson, Akure
Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation and serial presidential hopeful, Chief Olu Falae, speaks, in this interview, on his social democracy philosophy. The incumbent National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) also speaks on the chances of his party in the forthcoming Ondo State governorship election.
What does your party Social Democratic Party stand for?
Social democracy is the philosophy of labour movement worldwide. Social Democratic Party of Germany, which ruled the country for a long time, was responsible for those policies that led to the reunification of East and West Germany. Social philosophy is a progressive philosophy which focuses on the welfare of ordinary persons from the cradle to the grave. So, to me,that is the political philosophy that most rationale nations should embrace.
Even, the Buhari regime may have one or two things to borrow from this philosophy to move Nigeria forward.
It accepts free enterprise as the main driving force in economic affairs but recognises that you cannot surrender the affairs of men entirely to blind market forces. It emphasisis the fact that man must stand ready with God-given intelligence to intervene and make adjustments and correction so that the failings of the market will not destroy the society. That is why you find in America that certain companies are too big to fail. All these big companies like Chrysler, Ford are too big to fail.Obama moved in and saved the auto industry. But if there was no social democracy, that is, the philosophy that justifies man’s interventions in the market, those companies would have been allowed to die and the consequences would have been catastrophic, because each of those motor companies employs millions of people directly and indirectly.
So, in my view, social democracy is the philosophy that can save mankind from the failing of free market enterprise.
It’s a very fundamental philosophy. That was why when the military annulled the late Chief MKO Abiola election in 1993 and again decided to annul the party that produced him as matter of vengeance, we felt a very great sense of loss. But later in this present dispensation, some political leaders went to court to challenge the prohibition order on the SDP and the Supreme Court ruled that the only law recognised is the Constitution of Nigeria and the Electoral Act as amended . Any other law is extraneous and so SDP could legitimately exist and that was why we went back to INEC to apply for the revival of the SDP because it is the only bearer of social democracy in Nigeria. It is a fundamental and useful philosophy that we should have to make man survived in the world that is becoming progressively difficult to live in.
The governorship election in Ondo is barely seven months away. Is your party still going to siddon and look? Are you prepared to make an impact?
We are as prepared as parties can be. What do I mean? This party was allowed to resume our name just about three years ago and the moment we were granted the permission to use the name, election came, and we didn’t have much time to establish that name and get it down to the grassroots.
So, participating in election at that time was pretty difficult. But since that last election, we have been working hard to get the party down to the grassroot. I can say to you that in this state today, we have the party at the state level, at every local government level and every ward level. So if we are in the ward in Ondo State at that level, surely we are on the ground. But as part of our enhance preparation for the coming election, we are now at the process of getting the party down to the unit level, the voting unit, our ambition is to have minimum of 25 members of the party active and functioning around every voting unit. We have over 3,000 voting units in Ondo State and, if you have 25 members who are active around each poling units, that is around over, 50,000 people. The last governorship election was won by about 250,000 votes,so if we have 50,000 members of our party, you can know that we have very good chances.
You see it is the structure that matter most. Our problem is that we had no structure before we did not have time to establish an electoral structure, so if you are spending money and shouting on radio and television and you don’t have structure, on election day, there will be nobody to rally people for you, to defend your votes. That’s what happened to us in the last election. We have corrected that and we are still correcting it and I’m sure before the election by the grace of God, we will be really on the ground on every voting unit.
Many political observers see the SDP as where many governorship aspirants from both the ruling and opposition parties will want to invade after failing to get their parties tickets. Would this not be too difficult to manage?
That would be very interesting. But let’s leave the possibility of their coming for now. Let’s recognise and remember that 80 percent of politicians active in Ondo today used to be members of SDP. So I am the leader of most of them. Who is in PDP today that will say I am not his leader? From the governor down, they accepted me as their leader, not that we are in the same political party but I am their political leader. Who in the APC that would say I am not his leader? Those are the people who worked for me when I was running for the president. So having been in the same political platform before, it should not be difficult for them to join SDP. If where they went to is not producing the kind of the result they want, it should be easy for them to come back home; coming back to SDP is coming back home. We will be glad to receive them back.
Are you saying that SDP is the positive change we need in Ondo State? Is this not a tall dream?
Absolutely, we have better programmes that will bring about change and transform the lives of our people positively. The people of Ondo should give us the opportunity to show to them that we are that positive change that the state needs now. It is definitetly not a tall dream. Nothing is impossible for God to do. Our party will spring surprises; just wait and see.
It is said that your relationship with Governor Olusegun Mimiko might be strained if your party presents a governorship party to slug it out with his party’s candidate
I told you something earlier. I am a leader to all the politicians in the state.
Many of them including Mimiko still regard me as their leader. If you are in another party and we still talk, I am your leader. That is the relationship. Ours is not politics of bitterness whether you are in party A,B or C, we maintained this civilised relationship. The reasons we didn’t present any candidate in the past is that we had no candidate who had the money to contest. We tried so hard to persuade people, I don’t want to mention names. Why should my party present a candidate and I will still be working against such candidate, why don’t they see them as working against me, are they more entitled than me? I don’t think so. On this occasion, I want to tell you that my party already has aspirants and many more may come later .
In order words, from a situation of no aspirant, we may have too many aspirants. Why then should we not present a candidate? Dr. Mimiko himself , if he finds that his own candidate cannot win, he will wish us well. Wherever I am, he cannot wish us evil, he will wish us well, . He knows I would not support a candidate who would not perform or spend his time witch-hunting people, we are not for that, we are for the welfare of the good people of the state. We will field a candidate and we will win the election and we will take care of the people of state with our creative programmes, create jobs and making the payment of salary regular.
How do you intend to finance the activities of the party especially the coming election since the party is just finding its feet
We will get our finances from the people . I ran for President before and my own personal money that I spent was not more than N10 million, because that was all I have. I have to sell some of my investment to demonstrate to the people that I was serious and committed . Then, one single night in the full glazed of the public, I raised N585 million because people know that I was credible and they saw that I had put my own contribution. So this party is a credible party and the programme we are going to be talking about will be so unique, refreshing and credible. People will support this party because they want new lease of life and want something different. I am sure we will raise enough money to deliver our message.
INEC just released the time table for the governorship election in the state and only one aspirant is visible in your party, how do you want to sell him to the electorate.
When my aspirant becomes candidate, we will sell him. You know I was an aspirant not once but twice . I am in a familiar territory . I was a presidential aspirant under SDP in 1991 . We know how to sell ourselves. Our aspirants would sell themselves to the party and in the process, we will also expose them to the public but primarily our focus is the party because it is the party that will convert the aspirant to candidate . Once he becomes the candidate, he becomes the party property and we will present it to the public Our aspirant or aspirants are already trying to sell themselves to the party and the public is also taking notice that so and so person are available. When they become candidate, we will go out and sell them to the public with the creative programmes of the party. It will not be difficult to sell our candidate especially when the candidate is credible.