Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, in this interview with Punch Newspaper, bares his mind on many issues
You made some predictions about Nigeria. Have they come to pass?
The predictions were published in December last year. After the publication, so many people attacked me and said I predicted doom for Nigeria. But today, I won’t say I’m happy. Ninety per cent of the predictions I made have come to pass not because I wished so. I have always said I’m ‘Peter, the Rock.’ When you look at my life, I have overcome a lot of challenges. This is divine grace. I am an anointed man of God. So going by the predictions, they were out of God’s inspiration and they have all come to pass by 90 per cent. The only prediction that did not come to pass is the Kogi governorship poll and God knows best. I want to say it expressly that I predicted that an attempt to take the South-South states of Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and others by force would lead to unprecedented deaths and it happened like that. In Bayelsa so many people died. Today, a lot of issues are coming up in Rivers because of the election. I remember I said Senate President Bukola Saraki would face fresh trials and I went to him to tell him. He had not been charged to court at that time. Today, he is facing trials; recently they (Federal Government) withdrew a case against him. I tell you the case is not over. I predicted that oil price will go below $30; it happened like that. At that time the price of oil was around $50, but it went below $30. I predicted the free fall of the naira; people castigated me. It is about N500 to $1 now. I predicted that Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa would win the supplementary election and he won. I also predicted that Taraba governor would win his election and he won. We were together in Jerusalem when I told him that the court would give him victory. I can’t remember other ones for now. I want to assure you that in December we will tell God to guide us to tell Nigerians about what is happening.
You have always tagged President Muhammadu Buhari as a sectional leader. Why?
Let me put it this way: I have said so many things in the past and I have no apology (to make). There are two things in life that a man could worry about. A man could be worried about death; a man could be worried about incarceration and harassment; but, I’m not afraid of any (of those). I have gone through many (of those things) in my life except death. Everything I have said, people can attest to it that the President has proved to be for northerners rather than for Nigeria. His body language, activities, appointments are all in favour of the North and not Nigeria. The president is interested in a certain group of people. Unfortunately, they are majorly from the North. My position is that as the president, the whole country is his constituency and not a section, and he must not be sectional in his decision. He has acted more like a sectional leader.
Without justice there won’t be peace. We don’t have peace now because there is no justice. It is obvious that Yorubas played a major role in the ascension of the president. He became the president because of the commitment of many Yoruba leaders, not necessarily in the Peoples Democratic Party. You are first a Yoruba man before you can join any political party. The president enjoyed total support; financially and morally to be where he is today. There was a lot of undercurrent, we have the intelligence. But it is undeniable that the likes of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and a host of others played a role in his emergence – even in the (presidential) primary that produced the president. We leave everything in the hands of God: the fate of those people. We will keep our fingers crossed as events unfold. But remember I said it is only prayers that can save those people from the government of President Buhari and the signals are becoming clear. For me, Yorubas are currently short-changed.
Could this be the reason you recently canvassed for regional integration among Yoruba states?
Regional integration can only work if we remember our basis. We are first Yoruba before we are Nigerian. Our leaders must come together. You know my position on Asiwaju (Tinubu) and I’m not in the All Progressives Congress and will never be. When we were campaigning for the election of former Governor Kayode Fayemi, Asiwaju invited me to join the party and I said no. Regional integration is wonderful and desirable because in our unity lies our strength. But when it is politicised, it will take us nowhere. We should come together irrespective of political affiliations. Americans will always say, ‘God bless America’ even when they lose an election. This is the attitude we must inculcate. The leaders must rally round to strengthen ties. We are contributing so much to the values of Nigeria than for our leaders to be rubbished cheaply by people who got greedy because of the opportunity given to them. We can’t begin to celebrate because of political gains. These same leaders brought them from obscurity. It will not be in our interest to watch these ingrates because of our political differences.
How could some of them have got to positions of relevance if not for God? And the same leaders, they are conspiring with his (Tinubu) enemies to rubbish him. The people that betrayed Pa (Obafemi) Awolowo died mysteriously. The greatest thing a man can offer his leader is loyalty except if the leader is wicked. Most of the people Asiwaju Tinubu and I brought up betrayed us. They are only bringing curses upon their lives. If you wine and dine with enemies of people that brought you up, you are a betrayer. I support regional integration based on issues not politics; based on truth, not politics; and based on development, not politics. For me, anything that can promote this region and enhance the life of the common man, that is what I will support.
What is your relationship with Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola?
Governor (Rauf) Aregbesola and I are close. We have been close since the days of former Governor Fayemi’s election. That is the truth. He knows the role I played during Fayemi’s election and he acknowledges it. Let me give you a typical example. When I became the governor, the house I built (women centre); I built it in the name of the late Deputy Governor Adunni Olayinka who served under Fayemi. No APC governor in this state can do that to me. They cannot do it. My wife is building blocks of classrooms in Erelu Angela Adebayo children’s home. If it were another governor’s wife, she would go and set up her own. But that is not her (my wife’s) style. My wife said if our mission is the development of the state, we don’t need to let our ego and interest supersede the interest of Ekiti. She is going to promote that centre named after the wife of the first civilian governor, who is (now) an APC leader. It doesn’t matter. What I’m saying is that we must look beyond politics.
What do you think of some ex-APC governors’ loyalty to President Buhari against Tinubu?
I don’t want to take issues anyhow with anybody. There is a Yoruba proverb that says, ‘It is the calabash that will show you where to tie the rope on its body.’ A Judas is a Judas. If a family is peaceful, it is because the bastard in that house has not grown to the age of maturity. The day he attains maturity he will brew troubles in the family and eventually scatter it. I don’t want to start mentioning names or attacking individuals. But, it must be noted that conscience is an open wound, only truth can heal it. If there is anybody that Asiwaju has brought up and made and they want to turn around and pull him down, they too will pay dearly for it. They know themselves. Judas knew himself. This is not the beginning; they have been doing it before now. The thing is just coming into the open. A betrayer will always be a betrayer. I’m not an APC man and I’m not holding brief for Asiwaju Tinubu. But, I believe in the Yoruba nation and I believe in our leaders. As much as I believe in Asiwaju, I believe in our PDP leaders too. Don’t forget, even in the North there are leaders that when they were being maltreated I condemned it. I don’t hide because the truth is what I stand to represent. And anything that will take away the honour and dignity of our leader like Asiwaju Tinubu, we will rise up against it and expose those behind it. It is common in Yoruba land for people who are supposed to watch your back to collude with external aggressors and destroy their leaders to take such (leadership) position. It will never work.
You spoke glowingly of Tinubu. What informed your decision to defend him in spite of your political differences?
Like I said, for every nation and region, there are leaders. Even, if I don’t like Asiwaju, he has attained an enviable height in his political endeavours. He has done so well economically. He has led his people to wherever they are today. I can’t stand here and be denying the obvious. But if by tomorrow we have political issues, I will still say my own. I will tell him the truth; that is politics. But when we get back home, he is a leader. Chief Bode George is a leader. A number of them are leaders of the South. We can’t say because they are in other political parties they should be rubbished and we will be clapping. No, I can’t clap. It is true I’m not a member of the APC and I will never be. The fact remains that honour should be given to whom honour is due. There is nobody – mother, brother and sister – that will wish, with the efforts Asiwaju has put into Nigeria and his party, that he should be disgraced. It will be unfortunate for the Yoruba nation if they short-change Asiwaju in APC. When they bring anything to the South-West, they won’t give me. They won’t give PDP but they will give a Yoruba man. And one of the leading lights that can bring such opportunity is Asiwaju Tinubu. When PDP was appointing ministers, they came from the party and not from APC. But should we say we should cut them down? No. When a man is in a position of authority in the North everybody says, ‘Ranka dede.’ But here we begin to pull him down. That is not good. A lot of people can misunderstand this and say Fayose is going to APC. They are daydreamers. APC is not doing well now. It is only a mad man that will say he is going to APC. It is only a mad man that will say he is going into a house that is collapsing every day. It is a matter of time; if PDP lost power after 16 years, APC will lose it in four years. There is no way they can cross that line. There is an implosion in that party. The only thing holding them together is government and power.
You campaigned for former Governor Kayode Fayemi in the rerun. Do you have any regret?
Even if I had any regret, God has granted me victory over any regret. I did everything humanly possible to support Fayemi to get to that position. Throughout his tenure, it was as if I was going through a civil war. But that is no longer important. If a man took advantage of you and God restored your pride to you, what else do you want? The people that conspired against me to remove me from office in 2006 and those plotting (against me) now, I don’t want them to die – including our lawyer-friend that sits in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission coordinating evil against me. They will wait in vain. I want to refer them to Psalm 23: ‘Though I walk through the valley of shadow of death, I shall fear no evil for thou are with me. Thou set a table before me in the presence of my enemies.’ God will still set another table before me after this one. They will wait in vain. I have not lost any battle. I will always escape their evil plans. They wanted me to be in jail so that I won’t be here; I escaped. They wanted me to go to prison for murder; I escaped. I’m here today not by their grace. The more they call people to come and falsify statements against me, the more I become favoured.
Why did you decide to contest against Fayemi whom you once campaigned for?
If Fayemi had done well and had been fair to people like me, at the age of 55, there won’t be a reason for me to say I want to be a governor again. Naturally, this governorship is for young people because you need a lot of energy to run around. The failure of one is the promotion of the other. Because if Fayemi had treated me well as agreed (I would not have contested against him). They denied that I had an agreement with them to go to the Senate. When I contested for the Senate, they manipulated the election. They said I collected money from Asiwaju, that they had paid me off. I kept quiet and persevered. I kept praying. There was a time I went to Fayemi’s office; I was walked out – an office that I built. Well, that is history now because even if I had issues with him, God has rewarded me. He is a diligent rewarder of those that put faith in him. I’m satisfied. I have no issues again with him. He is one-time governor of this state and I will be an ex-governor at some point. I appreciate God for giving me a second chance to be able to put in my best and have my name written in history positively.
You mentioned Asiwaju Tinubu and Chief Bode George as leaders of South-West. What efforts are you making to support Tinubu for him to be recognised as a true leader of the Yoruba nation?
I want to tell you again there are many leaders in Yoruba land. But there is no gainsaying that Asiwaju Tinubu is the foremost leader in the Yoruba nation today. Somebody will take the lead to let us know that leadership goes beyond party. That is exactly why I took the lead to establish the fact that the Yoruba nation will be losing if Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu is humiliated. We must promote our leaders. When we get to party matters we can struggle for anything but not to destroy (our leaders). There is a saying that when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. Anything that will bring development and benefits to the Yoruba nation – any person that can do this – must be supported. You will recall when Fayemi was to be appointed as a minister, I directed all the senators from my state to support him because he needed the endorsement of two senators. I didn’t do it for politics. I did it for the overall interest and development of Ekiti. Most of these things I talked about, they (APC) can’t do it. They can’t celebrate you for one day. Even when you do something good they will call it bad. That is not a good spirit. A lot of debts were incurred by the state under Fayemi but I don’t celebrate it every day because when you want to celebrate a leader negatively sometimes you will be winning him sympathy. I don’t want to win them sympathy. I want to do the right things I was elected for and not to start complaining about yesterday like Buhari’s administration is doing.
Ahead of 2019 general elections, there will be a lot of realignment. Are you willing to work with Tinubu?
Well, politics is dynamic. Nobody knows tomorrow. Who knew Asiwaju could work together with Buhari? They had gone separate ways in the past. But they (Tinubu and associates) are the same people that packaged him (Buhari), which is good. They ate from the same plate afterward. You can never know what tomorrow holds; only God knows. We don’t know if there will be new parties. But I’m sure there will be alignment. I’m telling you whatever that will represent the Yoruba nation – Nigeria as a whole – I will be part of it.
You spoke fondly of Governor Aregbesola and recently he was a guest speaker at a public lecture held as part of activities marking the 20th anniversary of Ekiti State. What endeared you to him?
I also visited him. We have identical traits. We operate the same way and our actions are sometimes the same. You can’t lit a candle and keep it under the table. We are rising leaders. For us to move our nation forward, we must have relationships beyond political interests. I have great respect for him and I will continue to keep the respect.
A few days ago, the Department of State Services raided houses of some judges and arrested some of them. What is your view about the development?
I have always accused Buhari’s administration of being dictatorial. I knew all these would happen. In my prediction, I said the president would not provide a solution to the economy. I said the president would not have respect for the rule of law. I said the president would not respect court orders. I said he would be a dictator. All these are coming to pass. My prayer for Nigeria is that God will make a way for us to overcome these challenges. In our history, I have not seen where the judiciary was cowed like we witnessed recently. The consequence is that the common man will suffer. Nobody says we should condone corruption but the fact remains that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man. It should not be intimidated.
Your relationship with former President Olusegun Obasanjo was a father-son relationship. Will you be willing to make up with him?
That is if he is ready to make up with me. I’m not ready to take issues with Obasanjo because if you are talking about corruption today, Obasanjo is the cause. (What about) the N50m Obasanjo (allegedly) gave each lawmaker for his failed third term agenda? I was an Obasanjo boy. Obasanjo can’t be celebrated as a saint in Nigeria. When he talks, I just shake my head. Sometimes, when he goes to the (Presidential) Villa, I wonder if he has shame at all. When he was (the president), Buhari was not visiting him regularly. Obasanjo is behaving like somebody who wants to cover (up) something at all cost. I want a former president that will know this nation does not belong to one man. Most of the problems in this country were caused by Obasanjo. The impeachment of a governor by four lawmakers was done during Obasanjo’s tenure as a president. Tell me where the moral is. We should not deceive ourselves. The fact that he is supporting the government of the day tactically is to protect himself. Sometimes, I ask if he is looking for a political appointment. Have you seen Ernest Shonekan and other former presidents visit Buhari like he does? He is becoming a laughing stock. That is the way I see it.
You will be two years in office this week. Has running Ekiti State been easy?
Nothing good comes easy, especially with the financial situation of the country. Ekiti is not different. We have financial challenges. The debt profile is so huge and will be like this till 2036. But despite this, we have not done badly at all. We have so many things to show for the two years. I’m the most accessible governor in Nigeria. If they conduct an election here 10 times, I will defeat them. I won in all the 16 local government areas of Ekiti State. If an election is conducted today, I will still win in all the 16 local governments. I will defeat Dr. Kayode Fayemi and Segun Oni in their hometowns. There are two wards in former Governor Adeniyi Adebayo’s town; Adebayo will win one, I will win one.
Do you have any intention to intervene in the Ekiti State House of Assembly crisis, especially concerning two lawmakers who are at loggerheads?
I’m going to invite them. I’m aware of all that is going on. I have asked questions and in due course, I will invite the leadership of the party to see how we can wade in. In life, discipline is part of the journey. For whatever it is, everybody has a lesson to learn. Betrayal is not a thing you should pray for in life. But whatever it is, as a father, we will find a way to intervene.
Do you see APC stage a comeback in Ekiti State in 2018?
No way. I’m street-wise. When we start the game, the Independent National Electoral Commission that is trying to manipulate elections will know there is a street boy in Ekiti State. Somebody approached me and told me that if I wanted to win an election, he knew how to do it in INEC. When he finished talking, he asked me to help his children. I told him no. That is why you see people dying mysteriously because they have perverted the journey for some people. They cause pains and sorrow for people. INEC should allow Nigerians to make their choice. Candidates and political parties should contest an election against one another – not against INEC.