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Friday, February 26, 1999 Published at 15:38 GMT

World: Africa

Profile: Olu Falae

Flying the flag for the Alliance of Democracy: Olu Falae is standing as the party's joint candidate

By Lagos Correspondent Barnaby Philips

He's being described as a technocrat and a moderate, and that's precisely why he's been chosen.

Olu Falae: "General Obasanjo represents a continuation of military rule in civilian clothes"
The AD and APP hope that Olu Falae, a 60 year old economist, is the man to pull off a near impossible feat: deliver a solid vote from his native Yoruba south-west, yet, at the same time, appear attractive enough to voters elsewhere to stop the Obasanjo band-wagon. The retired general and chicken-farmer is definitely the front-runner, but Falae does have a lot going for him.

Nigeria elections
Whereas Obasanjo's attitude to the June 12 annulment of 1993 - Nigeria's litmus test of democratic credibility- has always been ambivalent, Falae's position was unequivocal.

When the generals blocked Moshood Abiola's victory, Falae threw his weight behind the pro-democracy group, NADECO.

Eventually, General Sani Abacha had him locked up for his alleged role in a series of bombings. It was an unlikely charge to make against the urbane Falae, whose manner is best described as that of an old-fashioned British civil servant, more interested in discussing economic theory than in blowing people up.

He is an undemonstrative man; he lives on the exclusive Victoria Island on Lagos, but his house is quite modest.

Sparkling academic credentials

Olu Falae's academic qualifications are not in doubt; infact, General Obasanjo's pale in comparison.

Falae is a product of the now faded academic excellence of south-western Nigeria. Primary school in his hometown, Akure, secondary school in Lagos, and then the University of Ibadan.

In the early 70s, he studied at Yale; but it wasn't until the mid-80s that he came to national attention, as the civil service brains behind General Babingida's attempts to introduce economic reform.

He became known as Mr SAP, after structural adjustment programme; not a popular tag to take into an election, but Falae argues that there was nothing wrong with the idea; only the implementation was wrong.

Now his renowned organisational skills will be tested again: to take on the PDP, and cope with the disarray in the AD/APP alliance. It may prove a challenge too far for this most competent of men.

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