Former Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose speaks on the circumstances of his exit from office in October 2006, his plans to return to the Ado-Ekiti Government House in next year’s governorship election in the state, and the limits of the opposition in the country, in this interview with Vincent Obia. Excerpts
Considering the controversial manner you exited the political stage in 2006, following your impeachment, what makes you confident that you can still return to the Ekiti State governorship seat?
There is nothing wrong with a man falling because the journey of life is about ups and downs. But there is a lot wrong with the man that falls and remains in a fallen state. A man must rise and continue to struggle. I fell, I don’t care what led to it and who were behind what happened, but what is important is that I have to rise and I will continue to struggle until I get to my destination. Whatever happened during the last seven years is instructive; it’s an experience that I cannot forget. For some people, Fayose did this and that, it’s okay.
To other people, Fayose was oppressed. Whether I was oppressed or it was my fault, that is in the past.
Why do you think the same Ekiti people who removed you as governor on October 16, 2006 would accept you in next year’s election?
May I say that the people of Ekiti State had no hand in my departure from Government House. That was why my impeachment was based on falsehood. And up till today, my name in Ekiti State has remained an issue nobody can pretend does not exist. Like one of the presidents of America who fought and fought at different stages of his ambition until the 13th time that he became the president of America, I will rise again and be restored. If Nebuchadnezzar can be restored from becoming an animal, from a kingly position, mine will not be an exception. I will be restored to my position. I will come back with a bang, with a surprise. Nobody gave me a chance in 2003, but it happened. Then I didn’t have a godfather, I didn’t have all the big names behind me. God made a way where there was no way, and He will make a way again.
Don’t you see your case with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission as a drawback?
May I explain that a man is adjudged innocent until otherwise proven by a competent court of law. Ladoja was in an EFCC case when he contested under Accord Party in Oyo State. The Action Congress of Nigeria candidate, Abubakar Audu, was in an EFCC case in 2010 when he contested against the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, Idris, in Kogi State. As I speak, so many people are facing trial. On the international scene, the president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, was facing charges at the Internal Criminal Court when he contested the presidency and won. That is to prove that it was an allegation by his enemies, not by his own people.
So, these ones are propaganda that cannot stand the test of time. I have been out of government for seven years. Some people say I have a murder case, but I have not appeared before any court for murder. It is only a political tool in the hands of my enemies. Why they are saying all these is that they know I am a strong character. I’m a force, so they would be looking for everything to stop me, blackmail me or pervert the possibility of my return. I can’t be bothered by that.
But considering the tide of progressivism in the South-west currently, do you think your party, PDP, has a strong chance?
Most of the opposition parties are made up of hypocrites. What they preach is not what they do. How can ACN come back to say somebody is in EFCC court when Abubakar Audu was in EFCC and they presented him in 2010? And when you are in court facing a charge, does it mean you cannot be absolved? Have they judged me? They are afraid of me, pure and simple. What God will do He will do. If you look at the case of the South African President Jacob Zuma, he was in court, accused of abuse office as party leader, when he won election. Those looking for ways to stop me are wasting their time. They are not God.
How would you react to media reports alleging that you have a hand in the recent upsurge of violence in Ekiti State?
They cannot say that. I was the one that accused ACN over the killing in Erijiyan-Ekiti. They are blackmailers. Everybody knows they operate by propaganda. Some people want to come to PDP, how can we go and unleash terror on them?
You see, when you dig a pit for your enemy, you must be careful so that you don’t fall into it. Since ACN came to power, the opposition has had no respite. If you are popular, you are the one in government, you have money, you have resources, how would you go and start shooting. People want to come to PDP and the next thing is to go and shoot them. They shy away from reality. So the police investigation must show the truth. We want to see how the police want to avert the truth here.
What is the update on this murder?
I heard that they referred the matter to the federal DPP (Director of Public Prosecution). To do what? It is the court that has the right to remand anybody accused of murder and at the end of the day, the DPP will take the file and take a position. Let me summarise by saying that I have never being in violence, I will never be in violence.
You said there was an incident at your office in Ado-Ekiti today (April 23)?
Up till this morning (April 23), the ACN is operating as if they are a
military regime. They went to my office this morning and pulled down all the pictures on the wall, because they said they didn’t want anybody to see the picture of the opposition parties because of the burial of the deputy governor. How long can they sustain that? There was no symbol of any party. This kind of thing is strange for a party that managed to get to government the way they got there. You must be magnanimous when you are leading; the era of violence is gone. Even if you say Fayose is violent, must you toe my path? Besides, nobody can say I got involved in violence apart from them.
What were some of the major policy goals you would say you were poised to achieve in office in 2006 that your sudden exit from power prevented you from attaining?
Nigerians would tell you that of all the South-west governors in my time I performed. I opened up Ekiti. I was popularly known as the architect of modern Ekiti. The reality is that the journey was ongoing. A lot of things that were supposed to be consolidated were not consolidated. Besides, I am entitled to two terms by the constitution of Nigeria. There is a lot to do in Ekiti and I’m convinced I have what it takes to complete the assignment. I used to pay salaries on the 22nd of the month. I left over N10.4 billion in the coffers of Ekiti State, aside all I did. And the infrastructural development is what all of them are repairing. Up till today, Fayemi has not built a new road. He is only repairing all that I have done, at every exorbitant prices. Recently, they went to review a road project by about N4 billion. It’s amazing. You would do less than one kilometre of road for N1 billion. We are not in Niger Delta.
But were you really frugal as a governor?
When I was governor, when Oni was governor, none of us borrowed money. I spent three and a half years, Oni spent three and a half years, that is seven years. Fayemi has spent about two and a half years now, Adebayo spent four years, the two of them borrowed money. The financial situation of the state now is very serious. Fayemi is not in terms with the teachers, civil servants, local government workers. I want to see how he will come back, the magic that will bring him back.
The issue of money distribution at the polling booth will not happen.
That is going to be an isolated election. The whole world will be in Ekiti, like Ondo State. So let me say clearly that I have a constitutional right to contest. I will exercise it. They should be patient. All the stumbling blocks they want to put on the way, they should continue. But they will meet God in front.
What are the things you would do differently from the current government in the state if elected?
I cannot come to the newspaper and begin to talk about them. What if my opponents begin to implement them? I can’t come to the newspaper and be giving them ideas to run government. It’s obvious that Fayemi was not prepared for this job. If you were prepared for the job, you would not have unrest with the teachers, local government workers, etc. I have told the local government workers, teachers, civil servants, anybody removed from office illegally will be restored by my administration, the PDP administration that will come after Fayemi.
There seems to be a mysterious convergence of Important political dates in Ekiti State since you left.
Let me give you an insight into the historic dates that have shown indication of my return to office. I left office – I ran away – October 15, 2006. I was removed by the House of Assembly against laid down regulations on October 16, 2006. Oni was removed October 15, 2010 – exactly four years after, despite all the interregnums. It was exactly four years when Salami salamalised Oni. Fayemi took over October 15, 2010, which means the day I ran away will bring to an end every government in Ekiti, because it was the day I ran away that exactly four years after Oni left. The date I was forcefully removed in 2006, October 15, was the day Fayemi was sworn in, in 2010. So my exit and the coming of the new government will continue to be historic in Ekiti State.
On October 15, 2014, Fayemi would depart. October 16, 2014, I would form a new government in Ekiti State, by the grace of God. I want to say clearly that these things don’t happen by accident. They are historic values nobody can deny.
How would you describe your relationship with the grassroots in Ekiti State?
These things are not about policy statements, they are about your relationship with the grassroots. Even when you do a good road, for instance, if you don’t have a good relationship with the grassroots, they won’t appreciate it. They will tell you they cannot eat coal tar.
It is when they love you that they would regard for what you are doing. Most of these governors, especially Fayemi, are governors in heaven, Ekiti people are on earth. They have no relationship with the people. These are God-given values in me. I am osokomole, I am the man loved by the common people of Ekiti State. That was why when they accused Uhuru Kenyatta of all the crimes under heaven, the people of his country spoke to the world, this is our man. Ekiti will speak again eight years after and say, Fayose is our man.
At a time, you seemed to be close to ACN and you were even alleged to have campaigned for them during the last rerun governorship election. At what point did your relationship with the party strain?
I didn’t work for ACN, I want to say it again. Like every other people that were aggrieved in PDP. I was aggrieved the way I was treated. I went to Vincent Ogbulafor (then PDP national chairman) several times, when I came back, to correct all these imbalances. When all my vehicles were seized by Segun Oni. I fought PDP, that is a statement of fact, I’m not denying it. It is public knowledge. And I’m saying it again, PDP has been saying repeatedly they would do a transparent primary. If they don’t do a transparent primary, they would be in crisis. I want to be quoted. Anybody asking for justice and fairness is asking for the obvious. I am asking that PDP must do a transparent primary, if I lose, I take it. If they lose, they must take it. But anything shut of transparent primary in Ekiti State, they should forget the whole exercise.
So you believe you have a good chance, despite the dazzling array of personalities that seem set to throw their hats into the ring.
A man that must come to equity must have clean hands. There must be internal democracy. Anyone who would give the ticket to one man would have to go to Julius Berger to hire trucks to carry the people that would vote for them. I don’t want to be their consensus candidate; I want to be elected by the Ekiti people in the primary. If I drag all these aspirants to the primary, they would know they have an uphill task. I am saying expressly that I will defeat all of them. There are about 16 aspirants at the moment. I am working with the anticipation that all the other 15 would coalesce against me. I am not being funny here. I am saying the only means through which PDP can come back in Ekiti and the South-west is transparent primary without interference from anybody. All these peace meetings we are holding around would be unnecessary when we are transparent. The moment you don’t want to be transparent, I will not agree, I, Ayo Fayose, will not agree. I beg PDP, they should refrain from tampering with due process. The panel they would send to Ekiti must not only be transparent, but must be seen to be transparent. I am not asking for favour, I am not saying they should impose me. I want a transparent primary. I want to bring these small people contesting against me and defeat them in public.
Do you trust the current reconciliation effort by PDP in the South-west to calm most aggrieved persons in the zone down?
For Ekiti, there is nothing to reconcile. The issue here is that a gubernatorial interest has entered our case. Our election is one year away. Some people are looking for peace but they are not on ground.
They are weekend politicians. They live in Abuja and Lagos; they would come now and say the party is not being run well. They are wasting their time. I am not against a peaceful resolution of the issues but that does not mean I will go and call cow Mr. Cow because we want peace with cow. We must all go and earn the confidence of the people and demonstrate it in an open election. Any semblance of imposition will be resisted. You cannot ask for peace when you hide justice.
Nobody is going to stay in Abuja and tell us who would be our governor.
How is your relationship with your former deputy, Biodun Olujinmi, and former President Olusegun Obasanjo?
Obasanjo is our father; I’ve gone to visit him. I wrote to him, he replied me and I went to visit him. Nobody would wish us to be fighting forever. Obasanjo is a father-figure. We had our differences, there is no denying that. The reality is that if we all love this party, we must set aside our differences. The journey to the restoration of PDP lies in our hands. I don’t see Obasanjo as a man who does not want PDP to survive. He might be aggrieved in some areas, but he is our father. I’m sure Baba would not want to be part of any imposition in Ekiti State. Even if that had happened in the past, I’m sure he wouldn’t want that now.
As for my former deputy, Olujinmi, I’m her boss. I remain her boss. If Olujinmi considers me as her benefactor, all well and good, if she doesn’t see me as such, God will reward me. I know that for every journey in life, we have to work together to achieve our common goal. I have nothing against her.
What is your assessment of the opposition merger arrangement?
It is a waste of time. But INEC must delete their identity now. These are strange bedfellows. I know with time some of the characters there would want to be overbearing and at the end of the day, we shall see.
Nobody is going to stop Buhari from contesting, he will insist on contesting. Let us see how they would solve all that. Even if they don’t fight, the three merging parties have altogether 10 states, plus one of APGA’s two states, that is 11. Take away 11 from 36, you have 25.
Even those governors threatening they want to defect, let them defect. We defected before and we came back. It is difficult to take PDP out of governance at the federal level. The only figure in the north that makes a difference is Buhari. Besides, if you leave PDP today, it would not be easy for you to take all your supporters away. So their calculation will never work. To me, it doesn’t matter the issues with PDP today, they are still better. If PDP presents anybody it will still win.
Why do you think Nigeria does not have opposition parties strong enough to defeat the ruling party?
It is not about strong opposition. Nigerians have an attitude problem. People are blaming government, they are blaming leaders, but it is the kind of leadership the followers want that they get. The average Nigerian believes in being settled. You say a governor is corrupt, the same governor if you request money and he doesn’t give you, you will be abusing him. If the press write and you don’t give them money, there is problem. They will destroy you. Even the National Assembly, when the president wants to do well, they will hold him to ransom because of selfish interests. How many politicians are buying off judges to get favourable judgement? Is it Jonathan that is telling big men to misbehave? Don’t blame Jonathan for anything. No Nigerian president can do any magic. The institutions are so corrupt that they must be settled financially for the president to move forward his policies.
But is it not the responsibility of the leader to correct the anomalies in the institutions?
Even if a president in Nigeria wants to correct, the other institutions will hold him to ransom. Will he kill himself?