By WILLY EYA (email@example.com)
Former governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose is one man who is not afraid of a fight provided it is in the political arena. He tells anybody who cares to listen that he is ever ready for such political engagements. Fayose who describes himself as a political warlord, was recently readmitted into the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a party which he once dumped under controversial circumstances. In this interview, he speaks on reasons for his readmission and other national issues.
As a politician, how do you feel about the state of the nation today?
Nigeria is a very diverse and complicated society for obvious reasons like our ethnic and religious circumstances. That has not helped matters over time. Sometimes it looks as if it could be a strength but it is more of a dividing factor and our military past too has not helped matters.
It has culminated in what we are today-the drifting, unguarded utterances and attitude of our leaders no matter whatever ethnic region they come from. The extravagant life we live also is a factor. At the moment, nothing seems to be looking up for Nigeria in terms of so many things.
With the global recession, Nigeria is not an island that would not be affected by it. But sometimes, we live life as if all is well. A small percentage enjoy while a larger percentage is suffering. Secondly, the deteriorating security situation doesn’t help matters. This has equally set us apart than ever before. I believe that if leaders would change their attitudes, if we all believe in Nigeria and look at the nation as a country and that we do not have an alternative, may be we would have a better tomorrow. But as it is now, the situation calls for attention.
With the level of insecurity of lives and property in the northern part of the country, what do you think of the future of Nigeria?
With all due respect, the agitation of the North is not healthy. This is because at some point, the Niger Delta was a problem to Nigeria just because they wanted power. But I would not attribute the situation totally to the issue of politics. I see it as the interest of a few trying to create an environment make it look like if power does not go to the North, then they would pull the roof. But the North should appreciate that they have ruled Nigeria more than the time by the South combined.
Nobody prayed that the former president, Umaru Yar’Adua should die. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo genuinely even in the face of all possibility of not handing over to the North, handed over to them. That means it was not a deliberate attempt to sideline the North and I want everybody to put himself in the shoes of President Goodluck Jonathan who came to power by providence. There was no way Jonathan would not have exercise his own right to succeed Yar’Adua after his death. And Nigeria has not come to an end.
There must be patience on the part of the North. But the method being applied now would not get the North or Nigeria anywhere. I want to say it clearly that such violence cannot come to the South. It’s only consuming the North and it’s the North that can check the situation. The leadership in that region is the only body that can check the excesses in the North. Nobody would come to the South West, Lagos or Ekiti and detonate bombs. If you throw bomb, it would consume so many things. So the war in the North is against their leadership principally. That’s why they cannot come here and throw bomb because if you throw bombs here, you are inviting anarchy. So, the problem in the North must be solved there.
How does it feel like coming back to the PDP?
I labored for PDP. I came to PDP at a time when nobody could dare to identify with the party. I was the first elected governor in the party. The circumstances that I went through made me leave the party, and the way I was treated. I was treated like a man who fell in Mecca.
Instead of people helping me to rise, they were marching on me within the PDP. And I want to say today that my status as a former governor calls for respect for me, even from my critics. In the military, when you are once an administrator, other people would care and look after you. But politicians are not like that. The moment you fall, that is your end. They forget that falling is normal but failure to rise is the problem. I thank God that He is giving me the grace to fight on. I am always in the political trenches. I am not afraid of anything and I cannot leave Ekiti for anybody. If you face me I will face you. If you harass me I will harass you. And we are not the only ones watching.
The public is watching us. Today, not many people would have left office for over six years and still have relevance. Not many people would go to Ekiti today and the city would go agog. Forget about what politicians say and their noise and their blackmail. A man who they say was killing at that time is still being loved today. They tried to rubbish all my achievements but it has become a yardstick for measurement of governments that have come after me. To me I have become mature enough not to condemn any governor but let the people judge by our past, our today and our tomorrow.
So, the reason for my coming to PDP is that I have a living structure in the party that has not died. The people that make up that structure are still yearning that their boss would come back one day. They have come to my house in Lagos and Ibadan severally to appeal to me to come back. And in line with what is fair and reasonable, I chose to go back. I believe that when you fall, you can rise again.
There are insinuations that some power brokers in PDP are not comfortable with your readmission to the party. How true is that?
That is a made up story. The story was carried by only one paper and you know such can come from any political party. They might want to give the impression that all is not well with the PDP in Ekiti State. To me, I would not see that story as authentic. What does Obasanjo want to lose by my coming back to PDP? Even if we have a difference, I cannot be in PDP without being his friend anyway.
And every young person too would have offended his leader but it behooves on his leader to equally one day rally his people to come back. I have been an Obasanjo boy to the letter. I have been a staunch follower of Obasanjo. Nobody can deny that. So, that story is concocted by some people. What should Obasanjo lose by my coming? Rather, my coming back adds value to the party. And I am sure that anywhere Obasanjo is, He is happy that I came back. I have exchanged correspondence with Obasanjo.
I wrote to him and indeed apologized for the way I spoke to him in the past. He replied me and said all is well. So, the same person that sent that letter and confirmed that all is well cannot equally be saying things to the contrary. But it is the work of people who are afraid to imagine that if these kinds of things are happening in PDP, it portends danger to our own political future. And there is no due process other than that I have to go to my ward and obtain a card. I have been given a card.
The constitution in Ekiti said the party should write to the national through the zone to confirm that they have accepted the returnee and the national now has the power to wave or confirm that you are back. And that is exactly what they have done. It was backdated to the time that I came. So, may be the fear of the backdating is why they are worried. All I am saying is that all is well and we have to ignore some stories.
Before you went back to PDP, many thought that you were on the same page politically with the governor of your state, Kayode Fayemi. The impression is that you contributed a lot to his election. Is it that you did not get your due under him that you decided to leave the ACN?
I did not at any time join the ACN. I said it expressly clear when I was fighting PDP that I would never join ACN. That does not mean I hate ACN but I have a different ideology and belief. In some cases, you cannot grow more than your pastor. I have a lot of respect for Asiwaju but we were governors at the same time.
So, I cannot go to ACN. But because I was upset with the PDP considering the way I was treated that time, I supported Dr Kayode Fayemi. And I must equally tell you clearly that I have nothing against him. He is a governor after me; though I am not happy with a few things but that is not to say that I have to put my political life in line with his own. I am entitled to my own political future irrespective of the differences. But he is our governor. I am mature to know that I would not even criticize him openly.
If I have issues to tell him, I would write him. Regrettably, we have not spoken for almost a year. But it does not matter. A governor is a governor and should be respected. We should cooperate to the extent that our state must grow but the politics have not started. When we get to the political terrain, we would be talking about politics that time. But it is time for governance and I am not ready to criticize him for one reason. If I criticize Fayemi now and he is correcting himself, how would PDP come back there? Secondly, I am only one person though I have a lot of followers. Let Ekiti people criticize Kayode Fayemi and not me.
The moment I talk, my own statement can be misinterpreted. So, as a governor, I wish him well. I want him to record achievements for Ekiti people as far as he can go. He should also remember that anything that has a beginning must come to an end. So, I am a member of the PDP and not the ACN. And I have nothing personal against Fayemi. He is the governor of my state and we must make sure that Ekiti moves forward irrespective of party affiliation.
Is it true that you came back to PDP to allow you contest the next governorship election in Ekiti State?
That is if I want to contest. Let me put it this way. If I want to contest, I am entitled to contest. Some people have put it to me that they believe I would contest. But the issue here is that this government is only two years old. For me, I want the PDP to grow. I want to hold the ace in any party that I am.
If I want to contest I will and if I am not contesting, I will determine who would contest and be the flag bearer by holding the people to myself. I am a mobilizer and political warlord. I play politics everyday. I live there. I walk around to hold more people to myself to be able to challenge anybody who want to challenge me in the party. So, when I have so many people, you must stop in my house if you want to look for anything in the party.
If you do not stop in my house, we will give support to somebody else. I have been out of the party for six years and I came back within four months and you saw the result of the congresses. May I say there is no winner, no vanquished? But we are on ground and we play politics with zeal and belief. We believe that when we are part of it, we would be able to assist the people. I want to hold the ace. Holding the people to take decisions when the time comes. But if people suspect I want to contest election, if the PDP finds me fit and if the people of Ekiti want me, I would not deny them that opportunity. However, for now I want to keep my fingers crossed.
Do you see the PDP reclaiming Ekiti considering that the South West geopolitical zone has a culture of being in the opposition? Don’t you think that it would be difficult for the PDP to dislodge the ACN in Ekiti?
If the ACN ever dreamt that they would come back, everybody would tell you that such a dream cannot come true at the time we took over in the South West. What it means is that nothing is permanent. The very moment you start governance, you either start failing or achieving. I will not tell you that because a party is in power today, they can always be there and hold power indefinitely. In the North, CPC came and swept so many people off their feet. Who gave them the chance? One man. At the same time, the court judgment sent signals to the whole of the South West. Such is life. So, telling anybody that because you are in power today, you will be there indefinitely, is daydreaming. We will continue to work and trusting God that it is possible to turn the table in the South West.
You sound so religious. How close are you to God?
Fayose is not an enemy of God. I do not like to be religious. This is because being religious is nothing. Some people would say I am God’s person. It is only God that would say whether you are his person or not. But to me life is not livable without God and I do not preach sermon in politics. Politicians should play politics with the fear of God and not preaching sermon inside politics. To me, I play politics remembering that everything that has a beginning must have an end. There are two things to it. If age does not take you away, death would take it one day. We should be careful of whatever we do.
Some people compare Bola Tinubu to late Obafemi Awolowo? How do you feel when such comparisons are made in terms of their political ideals?
It is not deniable that Asiwaju is a leader. He is a rallying point no doubt to members of his party and people who believe in him. I have respect for him even though I am not a member of his party. But I do not believe in his ideology and if I do, I would be in his party. I have a lot of respect for him because he is a good fighter. But I cannot compare him with Awolowo and I would not compare anybody with Awolowo. Every individual is unique in his own way and would make his marks.
If you compare Asiwaju to Awolowo, you would compare Awolowo to Jesus Christ. We are then being excessive. Every politician is unique for a period, purpose and time. At the same time, we must be very careful not to turn men into God. You must equally be able to appreciate men but not to equate them with God. For the age Awolowo existed, he gave his best. Asiwaju also to his numerous supporters and people that believe in him, he is a rallying point. This is because anybody who can stay in the gap for others is a good leader but that does not say that he has answers to all questions.
Before your readmission, what was the experience outside the PDP like?
A politician is a politician. What is important is that your uniqueness would always manifest anywhere you find yourself. I was sharing something with somebody who was talking about political parties and their manifestos. But I was clear that these manifestos are only meaningful when they are being executed by the right man. The performance of a governor or a leader is sometimes related to his innate ability to do good. A lot of people cannot enjoy their own money. They find it difficult to drink coke out of their money. Not so many governors would do well even at the abundant resources at their disposal. This is because they have no ideas.
They are lifted to such positions by certain powers that be and some people are even over-packaged. It is when they now get there that you realize that what the people want is not what they are doing and they would be hyping it in the media. So, let me say that I believe in men’s innate ability to deliver. A lot of people today claim to love the common people but they love their purse. Some people would say it is the people that said they should go and contest but it is a lie. It is you that wants to be governor and by extension helping the people.
Your party, the PDP, has been in charge at the centre for barely 13 years now. Do you think it has lived up to the peoples’ expectation in terms of delivery of democracy dividends?
Nigeria is not about PDP alone. This is because the federal government gets half of the money and the states get half also. So if you are talking about the federal government, you must also talk about the states. But the problem is that we set aside the constitution and we begin to worship one person. That is the bane of our democracy. Institutions are not developed. When we come before a governor, we are falling over one another to get his attention. By so doing, the man would now realize that he has the ultimate powers and he would likely abuse it. If you know that people can check the excesses of leaders even if it is through the courts, you would see that the excesses of such leaders would be cut to size.
We always blame the federal government but how many governors are abusing the powers they have? And that is why I would not join those asking for state police. Most governors are excessively abusing the state police. As much as there must be devolution of powers from the federal to the state, can we ask the state too how effective they have used the money that they have? So, when we are saying our party has been in government, what about other states that PDP is not controlling and they are still backward.
These things graduate from ground to up and not vice versa. What do you say to an Okada man who is breaking the law and is blaming the federal government? What do you say of a man who is not paying tax and he is blaming the federal government? What do you say of a man who is pouring refuse into the gutter and he is blaming the federal government? May I say that the way Nigeria is structured has made it impossible for any president to over-perform.
The National Assembly today gags the president if they do not get their dues. If the money is not forthcoming the way it should come, they would tell you that the president is not doing well. They would begin to fight and they would bring impeachment. So, the whole system is sick and the blame cannot be shifted to anybody. This siren we are using started in the military era and it is a bad culture that promotes individualism and not institutions.