The Governor-elect of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, in this interview with NIYI ODEBODE and ADELANI ADEPEGBA, comments on the controversy over his victory and politics in the South-West
Many people were shocked by the result of the Ekiti governorship election. Were you also shocked?
No, we know the facts on ground. We live by realities, not propaganda. There are no Nigerian politicians, serious politicians, irrespective of their political parties, that do not know that Fayose is on the ground and that Fayose’s name is a household name in Ekiti. Despite the fact that I have left office for eight years, I remain with the people. I have fought several elections, for and in support of even the All Progressives Congress. I supported Kayode Fayemi in the rerun. I was the beautiful bride then. It is their way when the going is good with them; when you are fighting on their side, you are the best in the world. Then, you will not be a criminal; then you will not be 419er; then you have integrity, then you will be celebrated. When you are against them; when you humble them, they call you all sorts of names. They look for theories that do not go with reality.
How would you respond to Governor Fashola’s comment that Governor Fayemi accepted defeat because he did not want bloodshed in Ekiti?
I really don’t want to join issues with them, particularly, Governor Fashola because I like him so much. I like his person and I have a lot of respect for him. But Governor Fashola is talking from two sides of his mouth. They say Fayose is not educated, according to them, but he is educated. He is learned but Fashola is not a product of internal democracy. Governor Fashola is a product of imposition, of god-fatherism. I remember when Fashola and Asiwaju Tinubu had issues, there were trumped-up charges against him through the House of Assembly. I remember vividly that he had to go to the court to clip their wings, otherwise they would have messed him up. And even at that, they still kept a tab on him. How would you be a governor, not elected in a transparent primary, but selected by one leader and you would still be surprised if an election was won through due process?
Fashola knows that when he accused Asiwaju of not allowing due process or internal process in the party, Bola Tinubu told him, ‘Have you forgotten that if I followed due process, you would not be governor?’ So he cannot appreciate due process politically. When they were nominating commissioners, he didn’t have one commissioner. He cannot equally say this is my deputy. You know I chose my deputy myself, against all the odds. They gave him a deputy governor, probably, the only person I think he owns now is his wife. I am sure Fashola has forgotten that he is a lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, and that the constitution of Nigeria says a man is adjudged innocent until otherwise proved by a court of competent jurisdiction.
I don’t want to say anything negative about him. I would have asked a special adviser or somebody working under me to reply him, but because he is a governor, I have to reply him myself. Let me remind him very quickly, I was governor before him. He was an ordinary chief of staff at that time. I am his senior politically. If at all he knows anything about politics, I am his senior. We know the intrigues more than him. It is true he is sitting on a prime state like Lagos under the watch of his godfather, but he should not run his mouth. It is unfortunate that a man at his level is talking like that. I am an institution like his godfather in Ekiti. When I started, I didn’t have a godfather. I didn’t have anybody like the Saraki of Ilorin who put Bukola Saraki there. They should learn to allow democracy to run. I want to tell them, if care is not taken, they would lose Lagos. The tide, the movement is against them. One thing with the APC is that they would lure you to defect, the moment you defect, they would go and put you on the reserve bench.
That is why they don’t have support continuously. When you work for them, as soon as you are used, they dump you. You can imagine a governor who is supposed to pay salaries and he refused to pay for two, three months, and election is coming, he is now rushing, borrowing money. The civil servants are now telling him, thank God for Ekiti election, if not for Ekiti election, this man would not pay us. Who is fooling who? Look at the heavy tax burden in Lagos, in all their states. The Tsunami is going to consume them and I am telling you the truth, it is not personal. I am not boasting, I am an institution in Ekiti. What is the business of Fashola in Ekiti? The problem is that they have all put their resources in Ekiti election and they lost. The bookmakers failed.
Despite the fact that Fayemi conceded defeat, you described it as political gimmick. Why?
Governor Fayemi does not have a choice than to concede. It is only honourable for him and I will continue to respect him even when it’s obvious he had no choice but to concede, that is the truth. In my village, people say if everybody doesn’t know the truth, you that is affected by an incident knows the truth; a sick man knows he is having pain in his tummy. Governor Fayemi knows the situation is bad.
But some people have argued that your victory was achieved through inducement of voters with rice and money?
Unfortunately, they (APC members) are the ones sharing money. I complained about them sharing money, check the records. In 2011, they brought money to every polling booth. Those people that were arrested during elections were caught with money. Which party did they belong to? The issue here is that they all know it. They are the ones that engaged in money politics. They buy all the buy-ables. I have been out of office for eight years, where will I get that kind of money to buy votes? The issue remains that somebody that eats your food must be convinced before he can vote for you. Can a meal of rice induce somebody to vote for you? Fayemi gave cooked rice, I gave uncooked rice. This is politics and you need everything to entice voters and rice was shared by me, almost two weeks before election.
Did you have to do that?
Yes. Why was Governor Fayemi buying buses and inscribing Iyaloja, Igbo community on them close to the election period? Why was Governor Fayemi’s wife donating garri to the farmsteads? Why was he giving money to aged citizens and giving gifts including recharge cards to the people? Why did his wife do that? These are petty antics of politicians to draw voters and that does not change anything. A container of rice would not change the mind of anybody because the rice cannot last you till the election day. When you attend ward meetings, you give your people money because some of them may have come to meet you from various villages. You see, when you fail, you must accept and Fayemi lives in Ekiti and we are there together. Are they now holier than the Pope? Most of the hotels in Ekiti were booked by Governor Fayemi six months before the election and they gave rooms to all the policemen that came for the election. We knew what transpired. Fayemi has been honourable.
Their fear is not about Ekiti anymore. They are saying all these because of Osun election. When something is consuming you, you will hold on to anything and all things. If you look at them very well, they were in shock for the first three days after the Ekiti election, they had to summon a NEC meeting to take a decision. They had to look for words, which they coined to describe what happened because they were caught by the reality of the international accreditation of that election which was adjudged free and fair. The court is the highway for them, but they will meet us there. Are they the owners of the court? They are not. They always think they know it all.
There is a belief that federal might played a role in your victory…?
I don’t know what is called federal might. In those days, they used to snatch ballot boxes, you can’t do that again. There used to be multiple thumb printing, but the ballot papers are now customised to the polling booth and the ward. Even if you want to help somebody rig the election, it is not easy anymore. They should stop lying. Some of them said they militarised Ekiti and brought so many security personnel. The question is that the law is not made for the godly, but for the ungodly. The military personnel were not for those that wanted to vote peacefully, they were for those that wanted to create problems. Some of them came to Ekiti with voter’s cards that did not belong to them, stayed in various hotels and had charms on them, they were caught. Who were the people that were arrested in Anambra? Were they not APC members? The same APC members and it is their method to always want to change the story. Thank God, Fayemi was honourable enough. I remember Governor Adebayo did the same thing. Na today them dey lie? It is not today.
Is it true that Ekiti voters did not sack Governor Fayemi for non-performance?
Governor Fayemi did not perform, that is the truth. I stand to be corrected, but he did not perform. Let me ask him one question: Governor Fayemi should tell Ekiti and the public one road project initiated and completed by his administration-from bush clearing, earth removal, sand filling, compacting, surface dressing, drainage works, culvert, asphalt overlay, none. I stand to be corrected. Governor Fayemi only laid asphalt on all the roads that I did. The people of Ekiti State till today have not got a replacement for me. They were not part of the events that took me out of office. Historically, they still remain with Ayo Fayose in their hearts. Let me go to another sector: in education, when I left government, Ekiti was number 35 out of 36 states in the country when I took over from Governor Adebayo, I brought education with credit in five subjects in the external examination as a yardstick, I brought Ekiti in 2004 to 18th position. In 2005, I brought it to 13th, in 2006, it came to the 8th position.
Today, we are back in number 34 under Governor Fayemi. So, tell me the performance, the hype in the media, is that performance? I stand to be corrected again, Governor Fayemi should point at one project started by his administration and completed; none. The governor’s lodge that he is building in Ayaba hill, is Ekiti the Federal Government that he is building Aso Rock? Of what economic value are those projects to the average man on the street? The pavilion was commissioned uncompleted. I don’t like to take on Governor Fayemi, but we have to treat these issues. These projects, of what economic benefits are they and at what cost? Again, let me say this, when I was governor, I did not borrow a dime to run my administration and I still left N10.4bn in the coffers of the state government at my departure.
It is not about your professorship or doctorate degrees, or your being a SAN. They love me. It is not about education. It is about native intelligence and your ability to humble yourself and live with the people. Most of the people that are local politicians, I know their names, I know their houses, I know their farms. I know what they need. I helped them. I have their phone numbers. I announced my phone numbers on the radio, they call me, I picked calls, how many of the opposition politicians can put their numbers in the public domain for people to call them? How many of them can spend two days in their local government areas?
I have gone to look for ward leaders sometimes during party primaries, they would be in their farms and I would meet them in their farms and still help some of them to make heaps. Sometimes, it is not about money. There is no ward in Ekiti that I don’t know people by names, at least 10 people per ward. If I don’t know your name, I have an idea of who you are. You know most politicians give their T-shirts free to supporters, I sold mine. My T-shirt is N300 because I am like the football star. My T-shirt is not free. When others give supporters their T-shirt, they leave it and buy my own. If you don’t buy my T-shirt, you would look like a leper. My hand band which has the inscription of my name is N100, my baseball cap is N200. I am as golden as that. There is a membership of the PDP that is general, but the membership of Ayo Fayose group costs N500. I have at least over 90,000 registered members; they beg to register. With all due respect to my supporters, I love them. I go to the remotest part of Ekiti, wherever you are. If you are having a naming ceremony, you will find me there. It doesn’t matter how poor you are.
If I cannot give you a cow, I give you a ram. If you are drinking Agbo jedi (herbal concoction), I would join you. Women selling boli (roasted plantain) know me and I know them and I phone them from time to time. This is not a question of money. How many of our governors can go to roadside eateries and eat there? They said I am a jankara governor and I have used this to beat them. Every Sunday, I go to eat ‘iyan kolobe’ (pounded yam without soup) and I’d be there for one hour, but during the election period, my opponents started doing the same thing. They started buying maggi that costs N1000 for N5000, so the people knew that they wanted their votes.
How do you react to the belief that President Jonathan wants to ride on your victory to penetrate the South-West in a desperate attempt to win the 2015 election?
There is nothing like desperation. What you don’t have, you have to work to have it. My election is now a reference point in Nigeria that big names don’t win election. Your coat and babaringa don’t win elections. Go and cultivate the people. They are in shock because just for one day, we changed the tide. The tides are changing, the only thing that is constant is change and like I told you, in another two, three elections, it would be difficult to rig. Before, there was this belief that anybody could go to government and take money, but you can’t do it again because things are changing. These leaders should change with realities. Even in the PDP, in the South-West, no leader will disparage the party. We would suspend you. It doesn’t matter whether you are a former president or former governor, if you disparage the party again, we will take you out. I am telling you expressly. By no small means, posterity has put me in this position, if anybody wants to join the APC, let him go there.
If former President Olusegun Obasanjo wants to join the APC, let him go to APC. Segun Oni has gone, we don’t beg for membership. We want loyal members of our party. Obasanjo should stop making uncomplimentary statements about the party, if he continues, we will suspend him; nobody is bigger than this party. When I fought the PDP, I wrote a letter of resignation and I left. You cannot be in a glass house and throw stones; so whosoever, no matter how big you are, you must be careful. You see, they said Segun Oni left, did he win his polling booth? Segun Oni was imposed, his allegiance was to the people that imposed him. We are not bothered about that, but some people have names, they have no ground supporters. Those who hired people like Segun Oni and gave him deputy chairman, South-West, they have hired what Yoruba call korofo, empty carton.
After you won the election, the EFCC said you still have a case to answer. What’s your reaction?
EFCC did not say that. There is an ongoing case with the EFCC. It is an ongoing case since 2007 and so there is no issue. I am not the only one going through it and I remain an innocent man until otherwise proven. So with all the EFCC case and the blackmail, I still won an election. They should borrow a leaf from there; there is something fundamental about me. They would all be living in this country when I would be at the top. They will be criticising me as I go to the top; that is their way. I am still going higher.
You mean you want to contest for the Presidency?
Well, maybe one day, after Jonathan. I will give Jonathan unalloyed loyalty and support. After Jonathan, if anybody wants to use me for anything higher, I will be glad to do it; it’s service.
What gives you the assurance that PDP’s victory in Ekiti will be replicated in Osun?
The PDP will win everywhere. What do you want me to say? You want me to tell you the PDP would not win? We will win everywhere, it’s normal because we have bruised their ego. We have taken the meat away from them. We have shown the whole world practical demonstration, if you are not on the ground, you can’t win this election. The APC will time out after Osun election.
What is the basis of your conviction?
I just said it to you. In the papers, they put all the hype, they put Governor Fayemi’s photo, they showed rallies. I’m a realist. I am on the ground. I am in the PDP. But I have a lot of respect for Aregbesola, anybody who is a governor should be respected because it’s a respectable office, but that does not take away the fact that I am a PDP man and I will work in the overall interest of the party.
There are fears that you may dismantle Fayemi’s programmes and policies….?
I will rather consolidate on his achievements. He has done his bit, he has tried his best; nobody can finish governance, so why would I dismantle his programmes? Even if there are mistakes by his administration, I will draw his attention to them, we will talk about them. I want former governors to be like the military. They still respect one another. Like I told you, there is no reason to fight anybody. No fight, what I am interested in is to do my own bit. Four years is a short time. I just want to do my own bit and go. Unborn children of Ekiti will still be governors after me, so why would I fight Fayemi? I will equally draw Governor Fayemi to myself, draw Adebayo, draw Oni. I have defeated the three of them put together, but that doesn’t matter. That is politics.
The APC has said it will contest your electoral victory in court. Are you worried?
Good luck to them. I will meet them there. Are they the owners of the court? They always think they can buy people.
What specific programmes do you have for Ekiti people?
I have done it before. I did something in the past that made them appreciate me and brought me back. I will do more than that. If I enumerate my agenda, we would be here forever. But in infrastructure, my priority is to tar all the untarred roads in the state capital within 18 months. I am going to construct a fly-over in two strategic places in Ado-Ekiti to ease traffic. There are lots of things I will do to enhance the welfare of my people. If I were Governor Fayemi, I would not have built that governor’s house. I will build roads and other infrastructure that can impact the life of the common man. Things that can add value to the lives of the people are more important than things that would add value to the governor.
Some people have argued that your own kind of development programme is about stomachstructure and not infrastructure, how do you react to this?
Are we saying that people should remain in hunger perpetually because we are providing infrastructure?
An hungry man is an angry man. For four years people did not feel the direct impact of government, is that governance? The truth of the matter is every contract in Ekiti was a payback time for some people. Well, the consequence of not doing stomachstructure is for them to go back home.
You once said that your wife predicted your return to government house. Is she a prophetess?
It is a gift. A lot of people have the gift of God. She is a woman after God’s heart, I keep saying that. People say I should not put her in public domain, I should not talk about her. The fact remains that the hand of God is with her and remains upon her. When my wife said Fayose would come back, Fayemi’s wife kicked, she said what did he forget in Government House? Now, they know and they know better.