A former Ekiti State governor and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, shares his thoughts with ABIODUN NEJO about the party’s recent governorship primary in Ekiti, the chances of his anointed candidate in the upcoming governorship poll and the 2023 general elections
How has life been as a former governor?
I should say I am used to that. I have been in and out of office twice. The first one was a very interesting experience that made me to go on exile. So, for me, being out of office is not a big deal. I have continued to live my life and that must be an example for everybody that has held a political office. Everything that has a beginning must have an end and you must have to do well to adjust back to society and the society too will accept you back because if the office gets into your head, to get reunited with society will be difficult. You will still be pretending to be what you are not. I have adjusted well; I have continued to live my life.
I recall that when I was here, freely, I rode on okada, and when I left office, there was an incident in Lagos when I was almost missing my flight, I had to look for an okada (motorcycle) to take me. I am who I am and I have chosen to be natural all my life.
You boasted that your candidate would win the Ekiti Peoples Democratic Party governorship primary and he won. Where did that confidence come from?
It is not an issue of confidence; it is not an issue for boasting. It is the product of hard work and the fact that none of the aspirants in Ekiti will deny that I am their leader. It is a statement of fact that everybody ordinarily should be Fayose’s person except that issues arise when people decide to choose or create a path for themselves. We have always been working together. Majority of the people that have gone to the National Assembly, who are ex-this or ex-that, are products of leadership and followership, which we built over time. I am a two-term governor of the state. I have led the people. In PDP and in Ekiti, I am the only leader that has won election, defeating two incumbents. I am the only one that has the record of winning in all the 16 local governments in a state election. Forget about the bickering, when a fowl goes out in the morning, it returns to the house of the owner. They all know that I am their leader. That is what is popularly known as ‘Gba fun oga e’ (surrender to your superior). They can’t deny it. We can have differences, but to the glory of God, I am their leader and they cannot deny it.
Are you trying to say it is difficult to defeat you in any election in the state?
Looking at my performance, it may not be good for me to judge myself, but my achievement is public knowledge and there is no way Ekiti people will leave that and go to vote for someone else. If I want to enumerate what I have done for the state, we will sleep here. I did not only work for this state, I have quality, indelible achievements that will speak for themselves in many decades to come. In the history of Ekiti, there were no two flyovers before the flyover I built, which is the longest in South-West. That is a legacy that nobody can contest. If you do an asphalt overlay on any road, it is different from when you build a bridge. Beyond that, the high court that I built is one of the best in Nigeria and it has made Ekiti proud within the judicial system. The two existing Governors Office were built by me and the new one is one of the best in Nigeria. If you enter Ekiti from Ikere Ekiti, all the things you will see until you get to Ado Ekiti and within the state capital are things that Fayose built. The whole roads from Ekiti bordered by Ikere to Ado Ekiti were built, dualised by me. In the state capital, the entire roads were done by me. The popular Fayose Market and the erosion control drainage system by the market were built by me. The Oja Market, the facelift of the Ewi Palace were all done by me. All the interlinks, Ado-Afao, Afao-Ire, the dual carriage linking NTA Road, all these are some of the major projects that you cannot forget Fayose for.
When the ad hoc delegates’ election was nullified, you were not afraid your candidate for the primary election could lose – what was the secret?
I was not happy that that election was annulled. We never knew the party was going to annul that election, the party made all of us to sign and to accept that whatever decision they took there should be binding on all of us. At that point, I never knew that they were going to say that the delegates were not going to be part of the final election; I was actually in good spirits, believing that everything went well. So we all agreed, we submitted to the will of the party. The party asked us to go and that we would hear of their decision. And the next day, there was a communiqué issued by the party that those ad hoc delegates would not participate in the election. If you wanted to be angry or protest, it was only 24 hours to the election; what could you have done? There was a huge conspiracy, but it is normal, it is a struggle for the soul of the party. It is not a one-man business. Nobody alone can win election in this state, we are all important. Jesus Christ left 99 of his lambs to look for one that was missing. I am going to look for everybody, including Engineer Segun Oni. I have tried to call him, he didn’t pick, but we will still try. I’ve tried to call Senator Biodun Olujimi, I’ve tried to call Yinka Akerele. The thing is that I’m not contesting anything; I’m not looking for anything. The constitution does not allow me to be a governor again and I don’t even want to be again, because it is a very tedious job. I’m not ready to go to any of these other offices; I am not ready. Even if we win the federal and I am given ministerial, I will give it to any of them. Let them go to the field and work and bring goodies to their leader; that is the position.
But among you, Olujimi and Oni, several reconciliatory meetings were held. In reality, was there any reconciliation at all?
We held a lot of meetings. The first meeting, we both said that we could not work with Segun Oni, he left us in 2013 and came back in 2019. The fact remains that we can’t work for him. It is a will thing. Olujimi wants to be governor, I have a candidate, I can’t submit my own will to Engineer Oni; Olujimi too cannot submit, Akerele is with Olujimi, all of them cannot agree. If we cannot agree, then we will all end up on the field. Lateef Ajijola too cannot agree, everybody feels he is important and wants to win, but I told them I would accept the result of the primary. If I had lost that day, where will I go? Will I go and meet Fayemi and become Fayemi’s boy? Which position will they give me in the APC? At what age do I want to decamp? To go and meet who? And I can’t found a party – if I float a party now, will I just form new ward chairmen, etc? How will I manage it? Who will I take there? These PDP people will not leave the party and follow me. For me, it’s too late to jump boat.
In the course of the primary, Senator Olujimi pulled out. How did you feel, especially against the backdrop that all of you promised to accept the outcome?
That is Mrs Olujimi’s style. In 2018, when we chose Prof Kolapo Olusola (Eleka), it was the same style. In the morning of the election, she said she stepped down, that is her style. Nobody will blame anybody for her style. She stepped down that day because she said she was disenfranchised by the two local governments. Funny enough, they (Olujimi and others) were the ones calling for cancellation of the three ad hoc delegates and the two local governments which they were supposed to do after that. That election by itself has satisfied more than 80 to 90 per cent of the total number of voters and the party. By the Supreme Court’s judgment, the party has finality in party affairs. It is an internal matter of the party to decide how they want to run their party. They are the ones who stand to lose if they do the wrong thing. That makes it impossible.
But Senator Olujimi claimed that the process was already compromised. Did your team actually compromise the electoral committee?
I am not in position to answer such question. You know when we get angry, we say certain things that we will or may regret later. Anger destroys; anger is like a fire, you don’t know where or who it will burn and the extent to which it will burn or the damage that could be done. I read where some people insulted me, the PDP national chairman and the committee – that is unnecessary. The National Working Committee was heroic when it annulled the three-man-ad hoc delegates, which could have given me a very strong edge. Mrs Olujimi and others were busy celebrating the NWC then, saying it was just; it was not like Secondus’. But when you looked at the number and realised that you could not win, to rest your failure on the party is not right. Anyway, anybody is to their own style. I don’t want to judge anybody, but I want to say that the committee we met was a committee of seven governors, seven Board of Trustee members and seven NWC members. The same set of strategy of seven BOT, seven NWC, seven governors was designed for Ekiti and Osun. So, for anybody to be saying that is unfortunate. I am sure the party is an arbiter for everybody; it will take it in good faith.
And how did you feel when Oni rejected the outcome of the election?
Chief Oni did not reject the outcome of the election initially. He said he was satisfied with the process in the hall there and told Bisi Kolawole that as soon as he finished counting, that he would congratulate him. Let me say this without amplifying anger: Chief Segun Oni, during the contest with Dr Kayode Fayemi in the APC in 2018, said exactly the same thing. He insulted former APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun. Chief Oni said the process was manipulated for Fayemi – the same thing that he is saying now that the process was manipulated for me and my candidate. You must be honourable losers. In any contest, there must be a winner. During the PDP Zonal Congress in Osogbo, I had a lot of issues with Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde, I never knew they would defeat us, but we were defeated. Whether we say they muzzled us or the accreditation was not okay, the result came out to be 320 to 333 – A margin of 13 votes, which meant if we had extra seven, we would have defeated them by one. But that is history, and I told Chief Eddy Olafeso, who was our candidate, that he should concede since we could not be at war forever. It is our party; we cannot destroy it because we did not win today. We will win some other day. All the people that won in Osogbo were not from my side and I took it in good faith and I am working with them now. Taofeek Arapaja has now gone from the zone; the new man, Soji Adagunodo, is my personal friend. The people from Ekiti on the zone are on the side of Mrs Olujimi and her Repositioning Group. We have to work with them. Even if you are cheated, everything works together for good. Today, you are a loser, tomorrow you will be a winner. President Muhammadu Buhari contested so many times; we have seen people even in America who contested seven times, (before) they won. Sometimes, we must concede loss as victory because everything works together for good.
Some said you never forgive Oni for siding with Fayemi during the 2018 governorship election to defeat your candidate. How true is that?
No, Segun Oni never worked with Fayemi to defeat my candidate. The Federal Government muzzled us and had us defeated. Segun Oni did not have any power at the time. Fayemi was supported by the federal might and that was part of the game at the time. I am not a complainant, if things happen, I move on. The issue of forgiving Segun Oni or not, even if you forget, history will still state the fact. You may want to talk about what happened in 2007 when Segun Oni came, how I was treated, how his Attorney General manipulated the Judiciary and prison authority to bring me to Ekiti to try me for murder. When I went into exile, I left all our (my family) property in the Governnment House, our vehicles, our clothings, we did not pick anything from there. They were there throughout his tenure, all my followers were not paid, apart from that, the local government chairmen, everybody was put in jail throughout his tenure. Those were the issues at the time. The party had called the two of us together, but the story must still be told. For me, I have conscience, if I do not forgive him, how do I get to God? God has been kind to me, being Ekiti State governor before and after him. It is enough for me, so I will never begrudge him. Not even Fayemi. Me and Fayemi are not enemies and we are not supposed to be. Even myself and Oni are not enemies. Life goes on.
Looking at all these, it seems you and Oni cannot work together…
For me, and I want Segun Oni to deny this: When I was governor, he was in the APC; every last Sunday, myself and my Chief of Staff, who was his friend, took money to go and take care of Segun Oni. We are talking about what transpired not because we want to celebrate such. Secondly, the portraits of people who had been governors are always on the wall, but because there was a judgment which said Engineer Segun Oni was never a governor, his portrait was dropped. My first assignment when I returned as governor in 2014, despite all he did to me, was to hang the portrait back. That shows that I have nothing against him. I visited him so many times when I was in office. There was a time he visited me. I was not happy about the car he brought, I went to buy another car for him, but rather than accept the car, because he was contesting, he said I should go and pay salaries of workers and that I should not bring a Greek gift to him. I was a PDP governor; he was an aspirant in the APC then.
But how come that it’s Fayemi that has been benefitting from the rancour between you and Oni?
I don’t know anything about that. That does not add up because Fayemi and Oni’s election in 2010 was as a result of the fact that Oni did not want me. I made every possible effort. The party made efforts for us to work together, he did not want it. If you want to put me in prison, should I continue to work for you? I have to protect myself. In the 2018 governorship election, Engineer Oni was inconsequential in that election, with due respect to him. In fact, I did not hear his name throughout; he was contesting against Fayemi. Fayemi was supported by federal might, that was public knowledge.
Is Fayemi still your friend?
Fayemi is not my enemy. Oni is not my enemy, former Governor Adeniyi Adebayo is not my enemy. There is no permanent champion. We all have uncommon privilege of God to serve in this state at different times. That does not make us permanent enemies. Even if we were enemies contesting, at one time, we get old, what is dividing us will no longer be there. So, for what purpose will I now become Adebayo’s enemy, become Oni’s enemy and become Fayemi’s enemy? Nobody is my enemy.
So, why do you think some are saying you are likely going to compromise the June 18 governorship election for APC candidate, who is also Fayemi’s friend because of friendship?
You know we are politicians; we like to say things to destroy one another. I have served this state twice, if anybody should concede to anybody, it should be Fayemi conceding to me. It would not be a healthy election! What does Fayemi want to offer me? Even when I was supposed to be cowed as a sitting governor in the face of the federal might, I was never cowed; I faced the whole of them. Against the present APC government in Nigeria, I was and I am a major voice; nobody can take that away from me. What is in Ekiti that I will want to compromise? Is it the resources or what? What will Fayemi buy my conscience with or what will I buy Fayemi’s conscience with? If you are saying somebody is popular, there is no denying that they all know that I am on the ground.
Let me give you an instance; the Governor of Akwa Ibom came to conduct the PDP election, he stayed in the Government House. The Deputy Governor of Taraba State came to conduct election, he stayed in the Government House, courtesy of the deputy governor, though in the APC. When the Akwa Ibom State Governor was leaving, his helicopter landed at the Government House’s helipad, and courtesy demands that as a former governor I should go and say goodbye. So, I went to the Government House, met Jigawa State Governor Abubakar Badaru, who came to conduct the APC governorship election. The four of us took pictures and I was the one who posted that picture – clear conscience fears no foes. If I had hidden agenda, why did I have to post the picture? I posted the picture and I stated before the fifth columnists start their wagging, I am in the Government House of Ekiti to see off Governor Udom and I saw Governor of Jigawa there and Fayemi and we took these pictures. That shows that I know them. They are cheap blackmailers.
But the meaning people out there read into the visit to the Government House the morning after PDP primary was that….
I don’t care. You can say whatever you like. If you don’t attack people like me, you will not be known. If you don’t attack people like me, nobody will read your write-up. I am a newsmaker, you have to tell tales about me, I am the headache of so many politicians in Ekiti, within and without; they can’t deny that.
There is the saying around that the PDP candidate is not popular and that he would lose the election because you imposed him on the party…
What is happening in APC now? It is common sense. It is public knowledge; they are the ones accusing Fayemi of imposing the candidate. They all say that they are going to court. I read one who said they would not leave the APC but teach them a lesson in the APC. So, juxtapose those statements and see where the problem is. Every political party has their own problem, but the one in APC is more. Don’t take them serious.
But is the PDP candidate popular?
More than popular. Let me give you the CV of the PDP candidate. Our candidate is a personal friend of Engineer Oni. He is a personal friend of Prince Dayo Adeyeye. He was a member of House of Assembly under Oni and Fayemi. I heard Governor Oni described Kolawole as a stabilising factor that time. Beyond that, when you want to campaign, one of the first set of the people you will choose for your campaign is the Director General of the campaign; the DG of a campaign must be a man of means, of knowledge, known and who has what it takes. Our candidate was the DG of Adeyeye Campaign even against me in 2014. Back to back, he became the DG of my candidate too in 2018. Why is everybody choosing him? Why are they not choosing somebody else within the space of two elections? My candidate became the chairman of PDP in an election which produced the same delegates that produced the governorship candidate. You must ignore these cheap blackmails. They are wagging for nothing. Bisi Kolawole, by the grace of God, was a member of the highest body of the party in Nigeria as a BOT member. So, what other CV do you want? He has functioned in virtually all sectors. Politics, to some, it is if you cannot beat them, you join them, to some, if you cannot join them, you start destroying them. So, they are only trying to destroy him.
Remember in 2014, the PDP aspirants said, “Fayose cannot win an election; he has too many baggage.” They must tag you with something. With all they said, I won election in all the 16 local government areas. Don’t let us use theirs as a yardstick.
But do you have an alternative candidate apart from him for the position of the governor?
I don’t know what that means! Do you invest in things you have interest in? If they do that, I don’t do that. I have gone too far, I have my neck deep into water, I don’t need a cup to drink anymore. For me, it is either Bisi Kolawole or nothing. Even my candidate has won the ticket of PDP; the best thing is to support him. If you were there at the welcoming rally on Wednesday, you would see he is popular. I am totally solidly behind Kolawole.
Some are surprised that you abandoned Prof Kolapo Olusola (Eleka) this time around. At what point did you realise he is not fit for the position now?
Well, it is not as if Prof Eleka is not fit to be governor; all of them that contested are quite fit, sound, cerebral and wonderful guys. There is nothing wrong with them. To every man, all women are good, but one would be your choice. Eleka was my choice that time, Kolawole is my choice now. It is a matter of choice. I have spoken with Eleka, I have spoken to all of them, Eleka will always say, ‘Oga is my benefactor’. I remain his benefactor, his brother, his political leader, nothing will separate us. It could be painful sometimes when you don’t get the support of somebody like me, I agree. But sometimes, life, to me, is ‘everything works together for good.’ For me, the choice of Eleka, I had no regret at the time. They fought me when I chose Eleka. The same way, the same set of people. I am used to it. If you look back, those who fought me, some people fought me when I picked them too. Some people fought me when I supported Mrs Olujimi. There was a sitting senator when I supported Mrs Olujimi, Senator Ayo Arise was there when I supported Senator Duro Faseyi. Today, Arise is a political adversary, he wasn’t happy because I supported Faseyi. Faseyi too is not my friend. This is politics.
But for Prof. Eleka, some say it is because he is close to the Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, who worked against your interest during the zonal election at Osogbo?
Why did Governor Makinde not support him if it was because of that? Governor Makinde supported me. You don’t know the meaning of a governor. A governor is an institution, dogs don’t eat dogs; we have our strategy. As a former governor and a sitting governor, we are all together.
You always boast and claim to be Peter the Rock of Ekiti politics, yet you and your party were defeated during the last governorship election. Has your rock turned to rubble?
I am Peter the Rock of Nigeria. Anybody can be defeated. Losses are part of the journeys of life. You win some, you lose some. Even Jesus Christ wept. It was not easy for him that time, did he not have powers? The Bible recorded, ‘And Jesus wept’. Even Buhari cried when he lost. Sometimes, when we are in pains, we learn more lessons. I can always tell you everything works together for good. Maybe Eleka could have won and something bad would have happened to anybody. In all these things, you give thanks to God. You can’t win all the times. When you say you are Peter the Rock, even the apostles in the Bible, even Christ had down moments. Jesus said, ‘Father, it is not my will, but may your will be done’. That means he lost something, but believed something greater was coming.
If your candidate fails to win the coming election, would you still be boasting of being the rock?
For me, APC is a letdown in our state. Everybody knows that. I’m not going to dwell on the APC; I will dwell on what we should do to win the election. We are all human beings. As a journalist, you are looking for news, as a politician, I am looking for votes, I will get the votes and we win.
How will you get the votes?
As I said, we will do the needful. The needful is for us to lead the good people of Ekiti State to see what we have done. There is no way you will see a party that has done so much in Ado Ekiti and you will say Ado Ekiti people will vote for another person. I have never lost Ado Ekiti since I came into politics; I have never lost Ikere since I came into politics because of the goodwill God has given me. As I said, the fact that we lost the last election does the close the door of victory against us. There is a time to win; there is a time to lose. In Ekiti, it is now PDP’s turn. Our turn has come.
You were close to Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike and the former PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus. How come you were unable to settle the rift between them?
I was not in a position to do that. It was not my duty. They are both from River State. They understand each other better than I do. I am not somebody who exhibits power that I don’t have.
But don’t you think their crisis will affect the chances of the party in the general elections in 2023?
I don’t know how it can affect the chances of the party. Is Rivers State same as Niger State? Is it Sokoto State? The event has taken its turn and the party has moved on. Prince Uche Secondus, by the grace of God, has moved on; Wike has moved on. There is no permanent situation in anybody’s life. The party is bigger than all of us. It is a common interest and common home is the PDP. So, I don’t think anybody wants to destroy the PDP for any reason.
Which part of the country should produce the presidential candidate of the PDP in 2023?
My thoughts, as good as they could be, would remain my opinion, but the bigger PDP will decide in due course. My position is to respect the decision of the party. If I sit here and give you judgment, I would be disappointing Nigerians. Let’s wait, the party must come together and zone that position.
You were quoted to have claimed that you would work for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in 2023 against your party. Did you ever say that?
I have never seen the quote. It is impossible. How do I claim to be the husband of a woman in another man’s house? It is all heresies. Loose talks! Listen, PDP government is far better than APC government in Nigeria. Would he leave the APC people and come to give me appointments or will he make me vice president, such that I work for the APC? It is not possible. Tinubu is for APC, I am for PDP. All these insinuations are just to call the dog a bad name and hang it.
What is the true position of things between you and the APC national leader?
I have said it over and over, Asiwaju remains a Yoruba leader; I remain a Yoruba leader. We are in different levels of leadership. But if I am being misquoted for the fact that I said Asiwaju is a Yoruba leader, I am saying I am a Yoruba leader, but the Asiwaju in his own Yoruba leadership is in the APC; Ayo Fayose in his own leadership is in PDP. Who has told you that I don’t want to be President? Who has told you that if the PDP picks me that I will not defeat Asiwaju? Who has told you, you don’t know maybe I will still contest? If I come out and they zone it to South-West and they say it’s Fayose, if they pick Asiwaju, I will defeat him!”
But you said earlier that you would not contest again.
In Ekiti, I am not contesting any position like governorship, senate or the like.
So, are you interested in the Presidency?
It is not impossible. But for now, I am more engrossed in the Ekiti election. Because to me, if you want to be president of Nigeria, you must win (election in) your home state.
As things stand, do you think the PDP can win the 2023 presidential election?
If PDP does not win the 2023 election, then Nigerians are doomed. From what I have seen since 2015, Nigerians are doomed. The kind of leadership that Nigeria has witnessed – insecurity, the economy – don’t forget that the impact of these things is more felt by the masses. It is the people that are at the receiving end. The cost of diesel today is about N400 per litre; during President Goodluck Jonathan’s (PDP) time, it was N140, N145. Whatever we are saying, it is either Nigerians want to remain in perpetual poverty or they save themselves. It is about Nigerians themselves.
Who among the presidential aspirants in PDP do you think has the capacity to win the election for the party?
I don’t think, because I don’t know whether I’m going to contest. So, if I say somebody has capacity and I come out to say I want to contest, how do I redeem that statement? Tomorrow I may wake up and say I want to be president of Nigeria. Remember I declared intention to contest the last time. I cannot talk about anybody now. I want to see if I am contesting, then I will propagate myself more than any other person.