How did you receive the news of the adoption of the Ekiti State deputy governor by Governor Ayo Fayose? It is not the first time a governor would do that. Why the intense criticism now? Or is it because it affected you and others?
My party has yet to adopt any candidate, only the incumbent governor did. It is the governor who claimed to have adopted somebody and I believe that, it was a stage-managed show. It was a joke, a theatre of the absurd in display. As far as I’m concerned, it was a meaningless exercise.
But this has happened before in other states where sitting governors adopt candidates of their choice?
I don’t know what is happening or has happened in other states. But what I know is that it is wrong. Even if it has been happening, that does not make it right. In any case, I have never seen it where a governor would adopt a candidate six months to the primaries anywhere. I think it is very absurd and is very unbecoming of any person to do that. It is a very wrong thing to do. It is capable of destroying the party and putting the party in disarray. Already, it has caused monumental divisions among the rank and file of the party in the state. We need everybody on board to win the next election. We need all hands on the deck for that. Don’t forget that we don’t have the kind of resources we used to have before. So, what we have and need is our unity and our strength. If anybody does anything that will take away our unity or destroy it, that person is doing a major disservice to the party. That is what has happened in Ekiti State. The impunity which put us where we are today must come to an end.
But governors in the Peoples Democratic Party are always powerful…
If you are a governor, you are not God. That must sink into the minds of everybody. You are not God and should not put yourself in the position of God. You can’t be doing things as if you are alpha and omega in the state. You shouldn’t forget that you have only one vote and that majority of the people are watching you and will show you on Election Day.
But there will still be primaries to pick the candidate of the party in your state. So, what is the complaint about?
What he did was to call some people – local government executives – together and forced them to sign. Of course, I know that 80 per cent of the people are not for it.
What makes you so sure?
I found out from my interactions with the people and from the investigations I made. They are not happy with what happened, but they went along with it. But the point I’m making is that Fayose should stop dividing the party, not that I believe that he will succeed, because he won’t succeed. He is already putting the unity of the party in jeopardy. We don’t need that. What we need in Ekiti PDP is total unity and cohesion.
It appears that you have been really threatened by the adoption of the deputy governor by Fayose.
No, I’m not at all threatened. Fayose knew what the result of the governorship primary could have been in 2014 if we have had free and fair primaries. Nothing has been taken away from my structure. I think we are stronger today than we were in 2014; that’s the reality. When the primary election comes this time around, we will see what will happen. We are looking for somebody credible that will rescue the party.
What would have happened in 2014?
We don’t need to go back to that now. We need someone now that can defeat the APC. Forget the idea of someone arrogating power to himself that he will be the one to fund the election. It is not money alone that wins elections.
But the PDP is in government in the state and therefore, has an advantage of incumbency.
Was the PDP in government when we won the state before? Was the PDP in government when we were winning? Incumbency may even be a problem for us in the state now. What we are looking for is somebody who is credible and has performed before, and who is acceptable to the majority of the people. Our people are enlightened and know what is right. They are very politically conscious.
But Fayose can be the political godfather in the state?
For anybody to think he can become a political godfather in the state is a day dream. The person must be hallucinating. Nobody can install a stooge in Ekiti State; it is not possible. It is not going to happen in the state.
If you were the one adopted, wouldn’t you have celebrated it?
I would not want it because I know that in my capacity as the national publicity secretary of the party, it is capable of putting the unity of the party in jeopardy. If you say you want to adopt me, I will say don’t do it, there is no need for it. There are ways you can work for me, which is not by adopting me (as the preferred candidate).
Was your anger responsible for your hurried resignation as the Chairman of the Ekiti State University Governing Board?
I had to resign because I didn’t want to be entangled in anything when I face the battle ahead. I’m not someone that will run away from battle anyway. So, I had to free myself, untie my hands and legs so that I could face the battle ahead for the primaries and the election. I have made selfless service to the university and I’m happy for that. I thank Fayose for the appointment, but I think I have had enough and I want to move ahead.
Or did you hurriedly resign, thinking that you could be sacked by the governor?
No, there was no such threat. But I thought it was reasonable to resign, especially with the way things were going politically in the state.
What’s the position of the Ekiti State PDP on this matter? Are the officials of the state’s PDP chapter behind the governor?
I have nothing against them. These people were scheduled to go for a seminar at the Government House; they got there and were railroaded into signing (that they were in support of the adoption). It was like a film show; they didn’t know what was going on. Everybody was baffled. It was never the plan. So, I’m not going to blame anyone for what happened. But I believe that any right-thinking member of the party should be concerned. In fact, majority of them are now worried. That action is putting the unity of the party in jeopardy.
So, they just signed without asking questions?
Just six people signed after all. The trick he (Fayose) used was that one person would sign on behalf of the councillors, one person would sign on behalf of all the chairmen of local governments and another person to sign for all the ward chairmen. So, in the gathering of about 300 people, only six people or so, signed. That number is easy to get.
You and the governor were on the side and in the same faction of the PDP when the party had a serious internal crisis for 14 months. At what point did you fall out?
You see, I played my part and the Nigerian people would bear me witness. The governor would tell how he also played his own part as well. But one day, the history would be told and the roles of all individuals would be known. I made up my mind from the outset to collaborate with Fayose because of the interest of the party in order to ensure that we remained in power in the state. I made up my mind that in spite of provocations, I would not allow any disunity to come in. I did this for many months, but when I realised that he was not ready to build the party….
The governor has no right to force his way into the party. Everybody will bear me witness that I have collaborated with Fayose from the beginning. But I think that no governor, especially the chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, should impose a candidate on the party. What interest will that serve?
Despite the collaboration, are you now disappointed with what the governor did?
I’m not disappointed on the personal level. I’m only disappointed that someone of his calibre should know that his action is capable of destroying the party. If he can’t see that, then it is unfortunate. He should be matured enough to know that his action is not in the best interest of the party in any way. So, the disappointment is not on the personal level. In spite of what he did, I remain focused and will continue to work for the party in the state. I will not relent.
Did you inform him about your decision to contest?
Yes, I did. That was last year, on the day he had his anniversary (second anniversary in office). I informed him that I would be running for governorship, so he was aware.
What was his response after you informed him?
What I expected was what he said. He said, “Let’s wait and see.” That was what he said. He is the governor of the state and courtesy demands that I should let him know about my ambition.
Were you satisfied with his response?
Since he said, ‘let’s wait and see’, that was okay by me. All I want is a level playing field. I’m not the only aspirant. There was a time that some aspirants signed a document to say that they were not going to run and that they were going to withdraw for him (Fayose). I was not part of it.
Did he say he was going to contest again?
Yes, and everybody said they were withdrawing for him. Imagine? I don’t think that was right. Now, he’s still contesting through a surrogate. That’s third term. He has not relented. I cannot be a supporter of a third term agenda.
But why do you want to be governor of Ekiti State?
I have wanted to be governor for some time. It is because of my passion for the state. I don’t think there is anybody who has a bigger stake in the state than I. I have lived there all my life. Some people moved out of the place and later came back after remembering that their father and mother are from that state. I’m an Ekiti person to the core and I always believe in the capacity of an Ekiti person to excel and to be in the forefront of the development of the state. History will bear me out. Education reached the state several years before the Egbas and the Ijebus had it.
We were producing graduates before others. We have the capacity to move ahead. Though we are lacking behind now, but with good leadership, we can catch up. I want to provide that leadership to galvanise our people to move ahead of others. Many of our professors and lawyers today never saw the walls of secondary schools. The likes of Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) and others, they never saw the walls of secondary schools. Yet, they got law degrees and all. They did all their exams at home and they excelled. Let’s go back to history. Do you remember that when Ibadan warriors were overrunning Yorubaland and attempted to overrun Ekiti, it led to a war that went on for 16 years? So, Ekiti people are strong and determined. We need a purposeful leader to lead the people now. In the Ekiti of today, we have people with master’s degree riding okada (commercial motorcycles). When you get to Ekiti and see an okada rider, know that he is a graduate.
But despite the level of education you claim your people have, they still queue to collect rice and sell their conscience during elections?
That is what a succession of bad leadership has led Ekiti people to. When I was growing up, Ekiti people had their pride. They didn’t beg for anything from anybody. If you came from Lagos then and wanted to give them money, they would politely tell you to keep your money. They were hard-working as well. They farmed to produce cocoa that financed the building of Cocoa House in Ibadan, Oyo State. So, Ekiti people are hard-working people.
Why then is Ekiti in this sorry state?
It is because of a succession of bad leadership. It destroys our values when someone asks people to queue up to collect one kilogram of rice or salt. We need to reorientate our people. There is no single industry in the state. People are looking at ephemeral things and this is sad.
Fayose once said he would leave the Government House with his deputy, saying he had picked a deputy that would not succeed him. How do you feel about him changing his mind now?
He made that statement in my campaign office. He said he was going with his deputy, that the deputy was not a politician. He said it openly. He went further to say that the deputy must never involve himself in any politics. He even told people from his (deputy’s) hometown never to come to him for anything because the deputy was not a politician. Why did he change his mind? A good leader must be able to stand by his word.
Could it be that the governor has seen qualities which he did not see in his deputy at the time?
The adoption of his deputy is not even my concern really, but the timing and the impact it will have on the party. Ekiti people will decide at the end of the day who will be their governor.
With what is happening in the state, do you think that the party can conduct a free, fair and credible primary election?
We will be on our guard, and if the primaries are manipulated in any way, there would be consequences. That’s all.
What kind of consequences are you talking about?
There would be consequences. I won’t say more than that. But we believe that the party will do the right thing. The party and the whole country know what Fayose is up to and what he can do. Everybody should be on their guard. We also know that Fayose has nothing to lose in this battle.
This is because he’s not contesting personally. And we don’t know if he’s actually working for another party. We can’t say that (he is not working for another party). It is not beyond him. Those of us that have the interest of the party at heart should watch out.
But the governor has said that he has never lost any battle and that he is the biblical Joshua of Ekiti State?
He can claim to be anything; he can even say that he has never lost any battle. But I think he has lost many battles. He has once suffered disgrace. If God redeems you, you should be eternally grateful and not be too arrogant or proud because of it. He was once disgraced out of office in Ekiti State. He should be very, very careful. A person in his capacity should be the epitome of humility and not the arrogance and pomposity that we have now. He should have learnt from his past. He has learnt nothing.
If he goes ahead with his plan, do you see the party losing the election?
The party will not lose, and by the grace of God, I will be the governor. It is the Lord’s battle; I will hold my peace.
It seems that it is only you and Senator Abiodun Olujimi that are angry over the governor’s action. Why is this so?
Everybody is complaining. A former commissioner for justice issued a statement, condemning what the governor did. (Ambassador Dare) Bejide did the same thing. Maybe we are the two prominent ones, but everybody is complaining. Some people have even written petitions to the national headquarters of the party. We are not complaining really. What we are complaining about is the effect it will have on the party. Even if I were not contesting, I would still have condemned it because of the effect it would have on the party.
An unthinking pugilist will believe in his raw power. Or, an unartistic pugilist will think that his raw power is enough for him, but when he enters the ring, it is his technical ability that will win the battle. That was why Muhammad Ali was able to subdue his opponents. That was how Floyd Mayweather, during his last fight, was able to subdue someone bigger than him. But an unthinking pugilist will not think like that. He will rely on his power alone.
What’s the National Working Committee doing about the petition?
It has not been looked into, but everybody is amused and considered what the governor did as a joke and a nullity that should be discarded. Every party member in Ekiti State is now free to take sides with any aspirant of their choice. Any attempt to discipline anybody will be met with very strong resistance.Punch