Chief Olu Falae, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, under the military regime, has slammed Chief Bisi Akande, a former governor of Osun State over the latter’s recently released autobiography, titled, ‘My Participations’, describing the contents in the much-publicized book as ‘nonsense’.
Akande, in his book, had accused Falae and several other Yoruba leaders of attending the 2014 Confab because of the allowances promised by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Reacting to the allegation during a recent interview with the Vanguard newspaper, Falae said he had decided not to say a word about the nonsense that Akande wrote adding that the former Osun governor himself will be surprised that he was commenting on the book.
“Honestly, l have decided not to say a word about the nonsense that Akande wrote. Akande himself will be surprised that I am commenting on what he wrote. I don’t think it is not 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 an 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 N1 salary from the government,” Falae disclosed.
He explained further that, “Rather, before I agreed to leave my banking job to come and be 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 and was signed by Alhaji Umaru Mutallab who was the Managing Director of UBA 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, I 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 my salary and other entitlements and, at the end of my tenure, I would be free to return to the bank. I have the letter. I will publish it in my memoirs.
“That was the situation. About one year after I got into government, 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 we know 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.”
Falae, who also slammed the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration over the state of the nation particularly the protracted insecurity that has enveloped the country, also revealed how he journeyed into politics
“After I left government, I went into politics and somebody wrote a petition to the ‘Egbe Ilosiwaju Yoruba’, headed by the late General Adebayo, that Olu Falae whom they were supporting for President was a thief, that when I was Secretary to 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 were the documents prepared by the bank for paying me a 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 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 the Responsibility Allowance to which I was entitled, 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?”
Speaking on his and other Yoruba leaders’ decision to attend the 2014 National Cofab, Falae said, “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 the book which I launched in Lagos in 2005 and I advocate 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 the Sovereign Conference to resolve the Nigerian crises.
“When an opportunity came, it was my duty and responsibility to go there and contribute my 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 go 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 for anybody who was not an old man.
“So, by going, I did not deny any position to any young person. In any case, the likes 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, Lanihun Ajayi, Olu Falae and Sehinde Arogbofa.
“There were over 90 delegates from the South-West. The others were from various age categories. In any case, Akande should know that some of us, by the grace of God, didn’t need that allowance. 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 Permanent Secretary or Secretary to Government or in the bank as Managing Director or as Minister of Finance.
“Offers were made but the answer was definitely 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 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 standard, ethical standard, that is theft. So, the likes of Akande can never understand where we are coming from. So, my background, my Christian commitment and the contentment God has given me have enabled me to negotiate my career without taking N1 that does not belong to me. I will not do anything for money if I’m not persuaded of the right thing to do.”