Governor Ayodele Peter Fayose is not your regular state governor. Many know him for his many interventions in various national political and policy related issues.
Whether it’s Biafra, Fulani herdsmen’s menace or President Buhari's health status, Governor Fayose doesn’t ever shy from making his views known, even when his fellow governors would rather keep mum.
He unveils it all in this encounter with The Interview.
It’s quintessential Fayose…enjoy!
Against all permutations, you recently declared interest in the 2019 presidential contest. Is that a joke? Since you are barely three years in office as Ekiti Governor, one would have thought you have your eyes fixed on a second term. What do you really want? Second term, higher office, political survival, revenge, or what?
Let me make it very clear to you. (Former Vice President Abubakar) Atiku was a gubernatorial candidate and governor-elect of Adamawa State in 1999 when he emerged the vice president of Nigeria. Namadi Sambo was the governor of Kaduna State when he became vice president in 2010. So was Goodluck Jonathan who was Governor of Bayelsa State before becoming vice president and later president of Nigeria. So what I am trying to say is that we are all committed to serving this country, and that no level you find yourself is too small or too high to serve. For me and for posterity, it has become imperative to set the record straight about the injustice done to me in 2006. That is why I am going to court for a pronouncement on my right to seek second term in Ekiti because my tenure was illegally truncated as governor in 2006; state of emergency was wrongly declared. Remember that I was not even allowed to resume as governor of Ekiti when the National Assembly ruled against the continuation of the emergency rule. I believe that with the court pronouncement on the matter, the overzealousness of the presidency to intimidate governors with the threat of emergency rule or inducement of the house of assembly to unjustly remove an innocent governor at all costs as out of political vendetta will be laid to rest. When that is sorted, or is being sorted, that does not mean I cannot aspire to be president or vice president of Nigeria come 2019. By God's grace, I believe I can be the president of Nigeria.
Lately, there seems to be a growing romance between you and the Igbo. A community in Igboland recently gave you a chieftaincy title. Is this part of your permutations for 2019? Is the political romance borne out of infatuation over 2019?
Let me make something public today which many Nigerians may not know. I have five sons. My last two sons were given non-Yoruba names. My last son was given Chukwuemeka. He was named after two popular Igbo boys at Ojoo in Ibadan where I used to have a motor spare parts shop. Because I was fond of these two Igbo boys named Chukwu and Emeka, I told myself myself if God blesses me with with more boys, I would name them after these two chaps. When I had my boy, I was wondering whether to name him Chukwu or Emeka. Then, someone told me the two names can be joined to be Chukwuemeka. That was how I ended up naming my last boy Chukwuemeka. So, I can tell you that my relationship or fondness for Igbo did not start today. Igbo people are very resourceful; they take risk. They suffered a lot of setbacks during the civil war, but they were able to rise to their feet again before too long. I named my last but one son Garuba. I named him after my personal friend from Malumfasi. Because I loved Ali Garuba so much, I named my son after him. In my first coming as governor, my friend, Ali Garuba, was a lecturer at Bayero University. I invited him to be my special adviser on Strategy. This is just to tell you that this is the kind of person I am. For me, I speak for everybody. I am not from where El Zakzaky comes from, yet I defend him. I am not from where (Sambo) Dasuki comes from, yet I defend him all the time. I am friends with the governor of Sokoto even though we belong to different parties. I am friends to many governors across the country, across party lines, across ethnic lines, across religious lines. So, for me, the issue is about the truth and justice. Why I attack the present government is not because a northerner is the president. If you look around today, there is agitation everywhere. It is because the country is not being managed well. You will agree with me that no one is happy with the level of nepotism in the country today: the way appointments are lopsided; the way a section of the country appears to be lording it over others. This should not be if you have a leader who is very fair to every section of the country. If you look carefully, you will see that they have unknowingly or carelessly made Nnamdi Kanu very popular as a result of bad governance and sectional leadership style. This is Kanu that was nobody a few years ago, but because of the injustice in the land and the fact that Kanu has been speaking up for his people, he has become very popular. If a Yoruba man becomes president tomorrow and he starts misbehaving, we must tell him to his face. The amalgamation of Nigeria is over 100 years now. It is no longer time to be sectional in our leadership style. We must provide leadership for all our people and give everyone a sense of belonging.
Still on the Igbo people, in a conversation with us at The Interview last year, former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu told us that the Igbo are their own worst enemy; do you share this view?
You see, I have a lot of respect for Kalu. He is my former colleague. Well, I did not read the interview in question. So, it is impossible for me to know the context in which he spoke. But if he spoke in the context of the present plight of Igbo people in Nigerian politics, then I will disagree with him. But you see, when people are making political statements, I am unable to align myself with them. If you have to sell your brother cheap because of politics, trying to buy him back later, it may be more expensive if not impossible. Saying that you fellow brother should be oppressed, should be incarcerated over issues that border on that brother of yours fighting injustice, I don't think I will support that. My position is that much as we will not support division in Nigeria, we must not also support oppression. This administration is oppressing Nigerians. Not only the Igbo are unhappy; the Yoruba are also unhappy with what is going on. Even in the north, they are not happy with the bad governance of the present administration. Poverty in the north has not changed since the coming of the Buhari administration. If you go to the north today, sometimes their own comments against President Buhari are even worse than what we say here in the south.
Talking about President Buhari, not a few believe you are too harsh and, in fact, too personal in your attack, and this dates back to the run-up to the 2015 elections. Many top members of your party, PDP, believe that your harsh and often extremely offensive personal attacks on Buhari during the campaign backfired and may have cost your party vital votes, especially in the north. Is it because you want his job that you have been unsparing in your attack?
You will recall that my criticism of Buhari was before he got elected in 2015. Recall that I made that advertorial which some considered very controversial then. But today, consider where we are, would you say I was wrong in my commentaries? You see, the truth is bitter. It is as if I wish him dead. But I said it then that it was obvious that the president was not well; that the north should bring a vibrant young man. You cannot take ten steps forward and thirty steps backward. The reason why the north was opposed to Goodluck Jonathan was because they felt it was their turn to be in power after the death of Umaru Yar'Adua. Today, are we not back to the kind of situation we found ourselves in 2010? You see, many people know the truth but they don't want to tell the truth. They believe in patching it, patching the truth. But the truth must be said. You see, cowards die many times before their death. I said that Buhari was not fit to rule this country. Today, if you do the calculation, you will find that Buhari has spent more time in hospital bed than his office since he took over. This year alone, he has spent more than four months out of six months outside the country on medical vacation. Now, a cabal not elected by the people has seized power through the back door. When the president tells them from his hospital bed to go and do this, they will add their own at the expense of the nation. Are you telling me that a nation of 180 million cannot find a young man with energy and fresh ideas to rule this country? Is that fair to the Nigerian nation or people? Even the job, it is not for weaklings. It is not for somebody who is not fit in body or mind. These are the issues. If you look at (President Barack) Obama, he became American president when he was under 50. By the time he was leaving in January this year, he was already looking frail, old, with grey hair everywhere. It is because of the demand, the pressure of office. The presidency of Nigeria is not for someone whose health is suspect. The president is holding a public office. He owes us a daily account of his day-to-day life.
But the point is that you went too personal in the said advertorial by showing then candidate Buhari in diapers, likening him to your aged mother. Don't you consider that too extreme yourself?
I have no apologies. I did not wish him dead. I was only telling the truth. Recall that, recently, I told the president to be honourable enough and throw in the towel because of his worsening ill-health. For me, if truly you are the honest, honourable person they say you are, then the most honourable thing to do at this point is to resign when it has become too clear he can no longer continue. When a president is sick, it means the country itself is sick.
You have been in office for three years now and President Buhari has been in office for two years. Within this period, have had any direct physical interaction with him as Ekiti governor?
Well, we met twice or so during national council meetings.
You did not greet him?
Well, there is nothing personal: I represent Ekiti State; he represents Nigeria. That is the basis of our interaction. Nothing personal.
You mean you did not as much as say hello to each other?
No. For me, during our meeting, whenever any issue arose and I felt I should make a contribution, I raised my hand and spoke. That is it.
So, you are saying that, in your capacity as Ekiti governor, you have not spoken directly with him in the last two years?
Well, I remember I tried to call him several times before he took ill. Then, there was this day I called again and the switchboard told me that any call from me must be diverted to President Buhari's chief security officer (CSO). And I felt that was very insulting. The CSO to the president is an ordinary policeman who, I assume, is just a little over and above my own CSO. I am a governor, a governor of a state; I felt that, that was an insult to the people of Ekiti State I represent.
You mean you were stopped from speaking directly with the president?
Yes, my calls to him were diverted twice to the CSO. I refused to talk to the CSO because I consider it insulting.
Let us return to the past. Before you entered the black books of President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2006, many saw you as one of his favourite political sons, so much that that sometime in 2006, you were made the head of a national committee set up by PDP to shop for an acceptable candidate for PDP in the 2007 presidential contest. The story out there is that your committee favoured someone, but President Obasanjo had a different agenda. For the sake of posterity, can you share with us what really happened?
Yes it is true. The people I am going to mention here, two of the key players are now dead. That position of Presidential Selection Committee that I headed was set up by all PDP governors. Initially, they wanted Dr Olusegun Agagu. Then, the majority insisted that they wanted Fayose. So, since the majority wanted me, Baba (Olusegun Obasanjo) invited me to Ota and encouraged me to go ahead. I remember the committee was made up of Governors Danjuma Goje, Ahmed Markafi, Bukola Saraki, James Ibori, me and one other person who I cannot remember now. I want to tell you that, at some point, the majority of the committee was more disposed to having Markafi as the presidential nominee. I and one other person were the only dissenters. So, as a loyal Obasanjo boy then, I went to Obasanjo then and told that this committee that was set up, everybody seemed to prefer Markafi except me and one other person and we were in the minority. Five out of seven governors wanted Makarfi. Then Obasanjo pointedly told me that Markafi was too smart and would not be easily controlled by him and, therefore, I must ensure that Markafi did not emerge the presidential candidate. He mandated me to be briefing him often about the way things were going. He confided in me that whether it was Markafi or anybody that he was not prepared to leave. At that time, the Third Term agenda had begun to unfold in Abuja. I can tell you that I was co-opted into the secret committee that was behind it. In that body, we had had this senator from Plateau, Ibrahim Mantu, Senator Andy Uba and many others. We were the key players. Let me tell you the truth: at that time, I did not have a choice. I was just a young man without experience. I just wanted to be left to continue to be governor of Ekiti. I still feared Obasanjo. In playing along with his schemes, most of the things I was afraid could be done to me if I refused eventually happened to me. I did not want Obasanjo to crush me like he once threatened. He is so vindictive. There was a time we held a secret meeting in el-Rufai's house which was for (Vice President Abubakar) Atiku to be president. I was there. (Olagunsoye) Oyinlola of Osun State was there. There were three other South West governors there, and other people under the PDM were there. It was my first time at the meeting. The meeting was at Life Camp in Abuja. We deliberated on how Atiku could win the PDP primaries. The meeting started at about 11pm and ended around 1am. Just before I got to my lodge, I got a call from Obasanjo who asked me, ‘Where are you coming from?’ I started stammering because I did not know what to tell him. Then, he said, ‘You are coming from a meeting with Atiku.’ I said, ‘Yes sir.’ He said, ‘See me at the Villa in the morning’. I knew something was wrong. I knew the battle line had been drawn. In the morning, I was still confused. On my way to the Villa, I decided to stop over at Atiku's house to tell him about the surprise call from Obasanjo. But I soon left Atiku's house because he was still not out of bed that morning. But no sooner did I enter Obasanjo's office than he barked, ‘So, you went to Atiku's house again this morning. If you go again, I will crush you! If you go again, I will remove you as governor! If you go again, I will finish you!’ He kept choosing his words as if we were in a battle. I was terrified, I must confess. The only phone calls I picked whenever I was in bed in Ekiti were from Obasanjo. The phone set was placed by my bed and it was only for Obasanjo. Obasanjo would tell me to go and issue a statement on his behalf, I would obey him. He would ask me to go and abuse someone on his behalf, and I would obey. I was a young man, only looking for a way to complete my tenure successfully. The late Segun Agagu (then Ondo governor), Oyinlola were Baba's ‘yes men’. Me, I was a nobody. There was nothing I could do than play along. So, I had to fall in line. Obasanjo warned me that morning that if I ever stepped into Atiku's house again and had anything to do with him, I would be in trouble. You will recall that Obasanjo lost his third term plot when Ken Nnamani was Senate president. After leaving Obasanjo around 8am, I was to go and pick my luggage and go back to Ekiti, but my mind told me to still go back to Atiku and narrate to him what Obasanjo had told me. You would not believe it that as I was just leaving Atiku's place, my CSO told me that Obasanjo had called my phone again. It was then we realized that the SSS men stationed at Atiku's house were the ones briefing Obasanjo about every movement and visit to Atiku's house. At that point, my fear went wild. From that point, I could no longer relate closely with Atiku again; because I remember Obasanjo had told me that Atiku was treacherous and that he did not want him (Obasanjo) to do second term. I remember Obasanjo told me that when you capture a general and you don't kill that general, that general will come back and kill you; that since Atiku tried to stop him and failed, then he must pay for it. I believe that is what Atiku is paying for today.
Would you say that is why Obasanjo orchestrated your impeachment?
You see, there are too many plots in the conspiracy. I will still come to that. We went through a lot in the panel and I had to play a good boy to Obasanjo to have peace, because I wanted peace. I was young man without experience pitted against Obasanjo who loomed larger than life then. You see, one thing I later realized was that Obasanjo only fears and respects anyone who confronts him. He is nothing but a bully. Giving yourself cheaply means you are dead. It is only people like Orji Kalu and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who confronted Obasanjo head-on that escaped his crushing; because each time Kalu was in US and on CNN abusing Obasanjo, Obasanjo would call me and say, ‘Ayo, look at Kalu abusing me; tomorrow, you must help me reply him.’ I remember one instance I was featuring on a live programme called One On One on NTA Channel 10 in Lagos in 2005. Before long, someone made a signal to the anchor man who then announced they were going on a commercial break. One of Obasanjo's wives was the station manager at NTA then. Then they brought the phone to me and said that Mrs. Remi Oyo (now late) who was Obasanjo's special adviser on media and publicity was on the line. I took the handset, he handed over to Obasanjo who directed me to use the next segment of the interview to abuse Atiku for him. He said, ‘Ayo, you must help me abuse Atiku and say he is a very disloyal person and undeserving of the presidency.’
When the programme resumed, I decided to use my native intelligence to handle the situation. When the anchor man asked the question, I tactfully replied that in politics, loyalty was important. I then said a deputy governor or vice president who is not loyal to his principal, who is treacherous, is not fit to succeed his boss. (General laughter). That was the sort of manipulations that one had to endure under Obasanjo those days. Obasanjo is a very wicked man. He has no conscience. If you say no to him, then he would want to have your head. Unfortunately, democracy at that time was not yet deep. He was looming large like an emperor over the country. He came to office looking like an angry lion which could not be tamed, seeking vengeance. That is why I believe Nigerians must be wary of generals who have tasted blood. They would never make good civilian leaders. I believe Obasanjo brought us to the situation we are in today because he wanted a weakling in office, someone he could manipulate. If you are observant, you will notice that beginning from Yar'Adua, he never wanted someone with sound body or mind, someone who could add value. That way, he believes he will continue to be relevant in Nigeria forever.
It is same reason Obasanjo did not do anything to recognize June 12 because he did not want any fame for MKO Abiola even in death. He compelled us then, I mean PDP governors in the South West, not to celebrate June 12. I think it was only Lagos under Bola Tinubu that continued June 12 as holiday between 2003 and 2007 when PDP was in total control of South West except Lagos. That was why we celebrated May 29 as holiday and did not do the same thing on June 12. It is the reason why, this year, I thought we needed to align ourselves with the truth by declaring June 12 a public holiday in Ekiti; because it is the truth that Abiola won the presidential election that was annulled. For me, June 12 symbolizes the unity of Nigeria.
Please let us go back to how the original recommendation of your committee was rubbished by Obasanjo to favour his own agenda.
Obasanjo told me expressly earlier that there was actually no vacancy in Aso Rock. That was even before the committee was set up. After the committee was set up, I had a soft spot for Dr Peter Odili of Rivers State and was working for his emergence as candidate. This is because, at some point, Obasanjo assured Odili that he would be the candidate. You will recall that Odili was the only governor in Nigeria at that time that celebrated Obasanjo's wife, Stella, after she died during an operation in Spain and showed Obasanjo’s family love beyond measure. But later when Obasanjo told me Odili was going nowhere, I contacted Odili and warned him to be wary of Obasanjo. I went to Port Harcourt and told him, ‘Our leader, you have to be careful. This is Baba's body language behind you.’ Then Odili would tell me, ‘No, that cannot be true. Baba cannot do that’. But I told him, ‘I see Baba every day and can tell you everything happening behind closed doors.’ I did all this because I saw Odili as a very upright man, a complete gentleman. This was because Baba was still scheming for Third Term. But Odili thought Baba loved him and would do everything to help him out. But Baba never knew where I was with Odili, so he was freely discussed Odili matter with me. But because I saw Odili as an upright, straightforward man, I tried to pass information to him that Baba was after him. But he still did not believe me, until one day when Obasanjo told me in the presence of two other persons: ‘Odili for president? No! He is rather going to prison.’ He also told me Bode George, too, would end up in prison when speculations began that Bode George might be considered for the BOT chairmanship of PDP. You know, Obasanjo did a lot of manipulations in his desperation to become PDP BOT chairman after Third Term failed. He manipulated the PDP executives to change the constitution in a manner that would make only him qualify to be BOT chairman. He manipulated the constitution of the PDP to give so much power to the BOT office when Third Term failed.
So, when it was obvious that Third Term was dead, Obasanjo mandated me to go and talk to Governor Umaru Yar'Adua of Katsina State with a view to making him the PDP candidate. I will tell you certain things before I go into full details of the Yar'Adua issue. Baba was to come to Ekiti State between June 18 and 19, 2006, to commission projects I had embarked on. They had given and confirmed the date to me. Obasanjo was in America on June 15, 16 and 17 wanting to see President George Bush and get his support for the Third Term project. He was meant to spend two days, but on arrival in America, Obasanjo was prevented from seeing President Bush because the Americans already knew his mission. So, what the Americans did was to exploit Obasanjo's desperation and gullibility to get what they wanted from him before they finally shut the door against him in Washington. One of those things they wanted was for Obasanjo to concede Bakassi to Cameroon. So, Obasanjo called from America and directed then inspector-general of police, Sunday Ehindero, and others to go and lower Nigeria's flag hoisted on Bakassi Peninsula immediately - because he was desperate to see Bush to buy into his Third Term agenda. After that, the Americans still prevented him from seeing Bush. Next they asked him: ‘Where is Charles Taylor?’ Remember Obasanjo was the one that led a group of African leaders to lead Charles Taylor out of Monrovia at the height of the Liberian political crisis. Before entering the plane with Charles Taylor, he boasted that no Jupiter could make him surrender Taylor to anyone once he settled down in Nigeria. Actually, Ekiti and Cross River states were the two places Obasanjo was considering to resettle Charles Taylor before Baba now decided that it was better he stayed in Cross Rivers State with Governor Donald Duke. You know, Obasanjo had visited and stayed in the presidential lodge which I built in Ado Ekiti and he loved it, and he was of the view that Charles Taylor would like the place because he had many wives. Before he now decided he should stay in Calabar.
So, now, the Americans were asking him to turn in Charles Taylor before they could allow him to see President Bush. Because of his desperation for Third Term, Obasanjo went back on his earlier promise and agreement with Charles Taylor and betrayed him by arresting him and handing him over to the International Criminal Court through the pressure from the Americans. The same Obasanjo who had asked Charles Taylor to start running away when the pressure from the Americans became too much and provided him full security to enable him easy passage on the highway from Calabar was the same person who ordered the security agents to arrest Charles Taylor and hand him over to ICC on Nigerian soil. He traded Charles Taylor in. That is Obasanjo for you. I was an Obasanjo insider then. I was his boy. I knew everything that happened. You see, up until the time Obasanjo also betrayed me, I served him like a fool. I was trying to avoid trouble or anything that would put me at odds with Obasanjo. I was a young man without experience, without any godfather who could fight or defend me. Even what was not right, I kept saying ‘Okay sir’ just for me to have peace. After releasing Taylor, the Americans still did not allow Obasanjo to see President Bush. He was duped. That is Obasanjo for you. He is not honourable. He will sell you for anything just to protect his own interest. That was exactly the same thing I suffered at the hands of Obasanjo when an illegal impeachment was orchestrated to remove me from office few months later. You either have a mind of your own to deal with such heartless generals or you are done for. I remember when Obasanjo returned to Nigeria. By then, Third Term had been defeated on the floor of the Senate under the leadership of Senator Ken Nnamani. The senators started at about 11am in the morning and by 1pm each senator was asked to stand up and say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ before live television coverage whether they supported Third Term or not, and the majority had their way. So, Obasanjo’s dream of Third Term was shut down. Thereafter, he called a national meeting of PDP, termed reconciliation meeting, and denied that he asked or worked for Third Term. Meanwhile, before that time, N50 million was given to every federal lawmaker to support Third Term. The majority collected the money and still voted against Third Term. Principal officers got N100 million each. Where did that huge sum of money come from?
What I am saying in effect is that on the morning of June 19, Obasanjo called a national meeting of PDP for reconciliation of PDP members over the matter. From that meeting, Obasanjo flew straight to Akure airport. He slept from Akure airport until we got to Ikere-Ekiti when he woke up from snoring and suddenly muttered: ‘Ah, Nnamani will not leave in one piece.’ He woke from slumber and uttered those words. He was very embittered about how Third Term was shot down on Nnamani's watch. He spent the whole of June 19 with me in Ado Ekiti and left Ekiti on June 20, 2006.
While he was here, he sang one song in Yoruba: ‘Omo ole jo Baba, ka ma binu omo, Fayose jo Baba e Obasanjo, Omo ole jo baba ka ma binu omo’ (You don't begrudge a child simply because he bears a striking semblance to his father. Fayose is Obasanjo's look-alike. Don't begrudge him). He said to all traditional rulers, all political leaders of Ekiti, ‘I've been in Ekiti commissioning and commissioning projects. I am tired of commissioning projects. Fayose has really done well. Whatever misgivings you may have against him, please forgive and forget. He must do second term. If there is anyone Ayo has offended, you should let go. There is no way I can stop him from getting second term.’ But Obasanjo reneged on his words and did the evil that he did by orchestrating the illegal impeachment against me shortly afterward.
Let me now come to the Yar'Adua issue. Obasanjo now called me and said, ‘Now that Third Term has failed, you should go ahead with the PDP committee. And in order for me to check those rooting for Markafi, I should go and sound Yar'Adua out on the ticket. He told me, ‘Don't tell him I asked you to come. You just psyche him up’. So, I met Yar'Adua in his lodge in Katsina. I met Yar'Adua in the company of Yakubu Tanimu (who became his influential chief economic adviser) and his police orderly. I remember that while our interaction lasted, the orderly knelt down close to Yar'Adua. I acted as directed by Obasanjo, but the man told me expressly that he was not well enough to aspire to be Nigerian president; that the job would be too rigorous for him. After much persuasion, he then told me the only condition under which he might consider running was if all stakeholders would sign up and reach an agreement to pick him as the consensus candidate because he did not want any hassle. I remember, before then, Yar'Adua was hardly attending Council of State meetings because of his health. So, I went to tell Baba what Yar'Adua told me. On the issue of Yar'Adua's ill-health, I remember Obasanjo told me, ‘Don't worry about his sickness; government money dey to manage his ill-health.’ Baba told me to go and put the outcome of my interaction with Yar'Adua in writing. Then Masari became the first loser; because, until then, Bello Masari as the Speaker of House of Reps was very loyal to Baba and did all the dirty jobs Baba wanted him to do, with the promise that he would be made the next Katsina governor after Yar'Adua. But once Yar'Adua became anointed as PDP candidate, he preferred Shema to be his successor. That was one of the conditions he listed. That was how a wedge came between Yar'Adua and Masari. That was the genesis of the rift between Shema and Masari up until today. Shema was then the deputy national chairman of PDP. That was how Masari defected to CPC. What I am trying to say is that Obasanjo engineered all the bitterness that exists in Katsina politics today. All the confusion in Nigeria today was caused by Obasanjo in his scheming to install a stooge, a weakling in power so that he would continue to be relevant.
You blame Obasanjo for your impeachment in 2006. But the allegations levelled against you publicly then was that you ...
(Cuts in) It is against the law for you to still say I was impeached. The court has nullified that as illegal. I can sue you for that.
OK, let us clarify that as your ‘purported impeachment in 2006
If you say that as a journalist, I can press charges against you because there was never an impeachment as declared by the Supreme Court.
OK. I take that back and now say that for your purported impeachment in 2006, the charges levelled against you included the looting of Ekiti funds, especially the Ekiti Poultry project. How do we reconcile that with your claim that Obasanjo caused it?
It was all lies. You see, Baba Afe Babalola is alive today. He was very close to Obasanjo. All the elite who ganged up against me did was to create a false impression to Baba Afe Babalola about a side of me that did not exist. They felt the only way they they could get Obasanjo to buy into the project to remove me at all costs was to poison the mind of Baba Afe Babalola against me so that he could impress it on Obasanjo that I had to go. They went to print campaign poster of Afe Babalola showing that he was interested in contesting Ekiti governorship election in 2007 and pasted all over Ibadan and the street where he has his house in Ibadan. Around that time, Baba Afe Babalola was already in his 70s. If I am not mistaken, I think he should be around 76 years then. Then they told Baba Afe Babalola that I was the one behind the printing of the campaign posters to publicly ridicule him. Rather than paste those posters in Ekiti, they went to paste them around his house, his office in Ibadan and the adjoining streets in Ibadan, just to poison his mind against me and enlist his support to work against me.
I think it was about two years ago that Baba Afe Babalola realized the truth, that it was a make-believe by those who wanted me out at all costs. They said I wanted to kill him; that I was after his life. You see, Afe Babalola was like a younger brother to my own father. I have always held him in high esteem and will continue to do so. He had great respect for my father. When the cabal said I did not graduate from Ibadan Polytechnic, he was the one who advised my dad and I to go to Ibadan Polytechnic and obtain the certified true copy of my result. That’s the kind of relationship we had. But they now wanted to set me against Baba Afe Babalola to get me out of office, knowing full well he was very close to Obasanjo. It explained why Obasanjo who came to Ekiti in June and was singing my praises publicly suddenly joined forces with the cabal that wanted me out at all costs. They went to Obasanjo and made him see reason why I must go. To tell you how desperate they were, they wrote a letter of resignation bearing the letterhead of Ekiti State Government and gave it to Obasanjo for me to come and sign. Then Obasanjo summoned me to the Villa. When I got to the Villa, Bode George and Ahmadu Ali (then PDP national chairman) were there. Obasanjo wanted me to sign the letter that I had resigned as Ekiti governor, just like that. He started by sweet-talking me by saying that he would offer me protection if I voluntarily resigned; that he would give me soft landing. But, thankfully, I had received a tip-off before I arrived at the Villa about the game that was coming up. Ahmadu Ali's wife called somebody (I don't want to mention his name here). You see, Ahmadu Ali so loved his wife that he confided in her that Obasanjo had made up his mind to remove me and that I had been summoned from Ekiti to come and sign a letter. It happened that Ahmadu Ali's wife was very close to me and Bukola Saraki. So, she told this to our mutual friend to warn me never to sign any document at the Villa if asked to. So, you can imagine my shock when the letter was handed over to me by Obasanjo with Ekiti letterhead. But I remained calm and told Obasanjo to allow me to return to Ekiti to tidy things up before I would resign. Later, I gathered that while I was in Obasanjo's office, EFCC operatives were already laying ambush for me around the car park to arrest me immediately I left Obasanjo's office, because then I would have lost my immunity. By that time, they had taken my lady deputy to Abuja. They planned to bring her back to Ado Ekiti and swear her in as the new governor while I would be put in handcuffs and taken straight to EFCC cell. But I asked that I be allowed to return to Ekiti to tidy things up. I said he should give me three weeks. Obasanjo agreed. He kept reassuring me that I should not worry, that he would give me protection, having been a good boy to him over the years. That is the kind of person Obasanjo is. But once I arrived in Ekiti, I decided to call Obasanjo's bluff. When he called me three weeks later and asked when the resignation letter was coming, I told him off. I told him, ‘Don't tell me that nonsense again!’ The next thing they did was to garnishee Ekiti State’s accounts to cripple my administration. At that point, they now called the contractor that handled the Ekiti State Poultry project who was then in EFCC detention and made a deal with him. That was Mr Gbenga James. They told him to make a fresh statement reversing himself on what he said before, to implicate me and say he gave me all the money meant for the project. They told him if he did that, they would restore all the property they had seized from him because by then EFCC had secured a temporary forfeiture order on his property. He agreed. They brought Gbenga James to come and make the new claims before the kangaroo panel sitting then at the Ekiti House of Assembly. Despite the fact that the panel set up originally by the assembly absolved me, they made him read the new statement before the kangaroo panel before Justice Aladejana. Recall that I had appointed another person as the chief judge of Ekiti then. Aladejana struggled and lobbied for the job, so once he was recruited to be part of the kangaroo panel, Aladejana saw it as an opportunity to get back at me. Recall that Justice Belgore whose was the Chief Justice of Nigeria and chairman of the National Judicial Council had warned Justice Aladejana not to usurp the powers of Ekiti chief judge, but Justice Aladejana stuck to his gun to carry out the dirty job. They promised him that he would be made chief judge of Ekiti after getting rid of me, but as God would have it, he ended up being sacked in disgrace by the NJC. It was on that basis that they arrived at the illegal impeachment. So, the conspiracy was very clear. They brought Gbenga James and the Speaker who was seriously desperate to be made acting governor to arrive at a predetermined conclusion that I was guilty as charged. They arrested all the members of the state House of Assembly and made them sign the impeachment proceedings in detention. You know, they hired a soothsayer to go and tell the Speaker then that he saw a crown on his head. He interpreted that to mean he would soon be the governor of Ekiti and decided to carry out the dirty job assigned to him. They brought the assembly members like sheep in a coaster bus from EFCC cell and made them sit in the council chamber, with EFCC and heavily armed security officials standing outside, to pronounce the illegal impeachment. Everything was done in just one day! They sat on a Saturday - just to tell you how desperate they were. You can now see that this injustice, these excesses of EFCC, did not just start today. Don't forget I was not the only one impeached under that kind of circumstances. They also removed Rasheed Ladoja of Oyo State illegally, same thing with Joshua Dariye of Plateau State, Peter Obi of Anambra State and DSP Alamieseigha of Bayelsa State. You can see that Obasanjo started the culture of illegality and impunity in this country. Don't forget, all the allegations were put through trial at the Supreme Court and I won. The Supreme Court additionally reversed the impeachment. I won the case against EFCC. Money was awarded to me. Today, I am in court trying to garnishee the account of EFCC to get them pay what they owe me.
Well, allegations against you were not just about looting. There were also allegations of murder; you were fingered in the deaths of Tunde Omojola, Ayo Adaramola and Tunde Fasuba. Do you feel responsible?
That is unfortunate, my brother. You see, the politics at that time, and even up until now, has not been right. They are all part of the conspiracy against me, to paint me black to the outside world as a bad person. But the story of my life is enough for everyone to learn from. My comeback is enough testimony that God has vindicated me over all the wicked lies said about me. How can anyone ever imagine or say a whole governor was part of the killing of Ayo Daramola. I was in Ibadan on the said day. Obasanjo was even the one that called me while I was still in bed to announce the killing of Ayo Daramola. I was already governor, so of what benefit would the killing of Ayo Daramola be to me politically or otherwise?
You said it was Obasanjo who broke the news of Daramola's killing to you; how come?
Yes. On the morning of the killing of Ayo Daramola, I was in my house in Ibadan. You know, we have to call a dog a bad name in order to hang it. All these allegations were all aimed at removing me from office at all costs. I liken it to the strategy that APC used to remove Goodluck Jonathan from office in 2015. It was high stake conspiracy. After they got me out in 2006, they never knew peace. They could not get anything right until God restored me to office in 2014. You can see how APC has been fumbling in power since 2015, because anything got through deception will never be stable, will never know peace.
Still on Obasanjo, the word out there is that after Buhari’s election in March 2015, you went to Abeokuta to ask Obasanjo to forgive you and put in a word for you with Buhari; is that correct?
That is not correct. I never met Obasanjo privately since I was removed from office in 2006. I think the only time I met him was around 2010...
You see, when I was to return to PDP, Segun Oni was already the PDP governor of Ekiti. And the advice I got was that since Obasanjo had said not in his life time would I ever be readmitted to PDP, it was better for me to see him to resolve the issues between us. When I got there, Obasanjo said one thing I would never forget. He said, ‘One thousand Obasanjos cannot stop you if God says you would be Ekiti governor again. So, let the past be the past.’ And we cracked jokes. I went there with my wife in 2009. The next time I saw Obasanjo was in Osogbo when there was a thanksgiving service for Olagunsoye Oyinlola. I got there and met General Ibrahim Babangida, Alao Akala and a host of sitting governors. I remember Kenny Martins was also there. As I entered, Obasanjo sat at the extreme right and Babangida sat at the extreme left. Then I started greeting people from the centre towards the direction of Obasanjo. Then Governor Alao Akala of Oyo State told me, ‘Can't you see Baba sitting at the other side?’ And I said, ‘Which Baba? Which one?’ He said, ‘Obasanjo’. Before I could say anything, Obasanjo, said ‘Ah, he cannot see me. You know he is a bastard.’ Then I got really angry and faced Obasanjo and told him, ‘Baba, you are the bastard! You are the bastard and the father of all the bastards’. I said in Yorubaland and in Nigeria, tell me another family that is called Obasanjo. I told him, ‘You would find a Fayose in Ekiti; you will find a Fayose in Akure, in Ilesa, in Kogi. Where is another Obasanjo in Nigeria? I challenge you to show me where there is another, which shows you are a real bastard.’
You said all of this publicly?
Yes! To his face, right there in Osogbo. General Babangida was shocked. If you had dropped cotton ball at that moment, you would have heard a sound. There was pin-drop silence. I was really angry and I told him he was not going to leave where he sat. Oyinlola came and started begging me. I told him that Obasanjo was a former president and I was a former governor, that it would end up in ‘two fighting’. People had to plead with me to allow Obasanjo leave the venue peacefully. I remember very well that, afterwards, IBB came to me and shook my hands and said, ‘Young man, I have not met a brave man like you.’ You know the likes of IBB, they still see Obasanjo as a senior colleague in terms of espirit de corps. They view Obasanjo larger than life, not knowing that he is just a local man that we can tame at home. You know, Obasanjo lies a lot. He likes to present himself as the only leading light in Yorubaland. He does not see any good in any other person apart from himself. That is why it was so difficult for him to give Awolowo his due and also acknowledge Abiola for the hero he was while he was in power between 1999 and 2007.
Apart from third term that failed, we understand you were also part of a failed secret foreign mission as Ekiti governor to garner support for the extension of Obasanjo's reign as chairman of African Union; what really happened?
Yes I remember vividly that incident. Baba Obasanjo asked that I should join him to Libya. When we got to Libya, we stayed in a hotel and we were told we would be going to see the president of Libya, Muamar Gadaffi. They picked us at about 11 o'clock Libyan time. We were asked to board a bus, including Obasanjo himself. They drove us through so many villas within the Villa. The moment we settled in one villa, twenty minutes later, they will tell us we have to move to another one, apparently for security reasons. Finally, we got to the fourth one where Muamar Gadaffi was already seated. He sat on a throne-like platform made of diamond. And he had his body covered in a nice apparel of chiffon. Before we entered, we were searched thoroughly, including Obasanjo. We went through cameras. I was surprised that Obasanjo, a whole president of Nigeria, could have his body thoroughly searched like the rest of us. As a governor in Nigeria who used to see Obasanjo as a demigod, I was shocked by this. We were searched at each of the villas we had stopped. I was looking at the face of Obasanjo each time to see if he would show any sign of embarrassment, but he never did. This was the time Obasanjo was lobbying to be made AU chairman for the third time. He needed Gadaffi's support. Finally, Gadaffi was ready for us. He spoke Arabic softly and there was an interpreter to interpret what he was saying to us. He asked why we came. Obasanjo took over the stage and he said we were there because Gadaffi was the supreme leader of Africa; that Gadaffi was everything; that he Obasanjo and others in Africa were all following Gadaffi for direction; that Gadaffi was the best thing that ever happened to Africa. He praised Gadaffi to high heavens. I was thoroughly ashamed at the sycophantic way Obasanjo was speaking to Gadaffi. I never had the opportunity to see Obasanjo in that light before. Obasanjo spoke for almost an hour. Meanwhile, Gadaffi was calm throughout. He was telling Gadaffi that the AU meeting that was coming, he wanted Gadaffi to be there, that he was the leader, that he was number one. I think the meeting was to hold in Addis Ababa. When Obasanjo finished, Gadaffi asked through the interpreter three times if Obasanjo was done. Three times he asked. Obasanjo said he had concluded. Then Obasanjo introduced us. I remember, the attorney-general of the country at that time was with us at that meeting with Gadaffi. Gadaffi greeted us well and said he was glad we came. Then he said he had one question for Obasanjo to start with. He said, ‘Obasanjo, you want me to come to that meeting and you are very passionate about it’. Obasanjo said ‘Yes, the leader!’ Then he cut Obasanjo short. He said Obasanjo should keep quiet while he was talking because he had asked him three times if he was done talking; that now he should just listen. Then Obasanjo became very calm, behaving like a school kid. I was again embarrassed at the manner Obasanjo quickly kept quiet. I now remember the day Obasanjo had boasted to me in Abuja that he would crush me. So, I told myself, so there are people Obasanjo himself is afraid of. There were two issues that made Obasanjo humble. He was desperate to have third term as AU chairman and Gadaffi at that time controlled three quarters of African presidents because he was supporting them with a lot of grants. And it was obvious that Gadaffi was going to direct those presidents he controlled to vote against Obasanjo. So, some African leaders who were Gadaffi’s cronies told Obasanjo that the only condition they could support his aspiration was if Gadaffi directed them. Then, Gadaffi continued by saying, ‘I want you ask you one question Obasanjo: If America calls you now and asks you where you are, where would you tell them you are?’
Suddenly, Obasanjo jumped on his feet and replied Gadaffi, ‘I would tell them I am in Libya.’ He asked him again the second time and the third time. And Obasanjo replied, ‘I would say I am in Libya.’ Then Gadaffi said, ‘If Americans ask you what have you gone to do in Libya, what would you tell them?’ Obasanjo said, ‘I would say I have gone to meet our leader, our leader, the leader of Africa, Mouma Gadaffi.’ The man asked him again three times. Obasanjo said the same thing three times. Finally, Gadaffi said, ‘Obasanjo, you are not an upright man. You are not a straightforward man. It is what you want to eat that is pushing you to come here. If Americans ask you now, I am sure you would say you mistakenly landed in Libya. And if they ask you when you saw Gadaffi, what did you say to him, I am sure you would tell them you came to warm Gadaffi that he should stop embarrassing Africa and that he should cooperate with America. You are one of the leaders that are the enemies of Africa. You are a stooge of the west.’ Then, Obasanjo started arguing. To my biggest shock, Obasanjo at this point knelt down with one leg, begging Gadaffi, telling him he would never say that of Gadaffi, all in his desperation to have third term as AU chairman. He raised his two hands and was arguing and was saying, ‘It is not true. America, my foot! What is the meaning of America! We must build our continent. You are the leader! We must follow you! That is why I am here! That is what I would tell the Americans.’ It was such a pathetic scenario, so shameful. Obasanjo was speaking rapidly like a parrot. I was shocked beyond words. I never knew Obasanjo would be that humble. He was on one knee till the end of the conversation. Gadaffi kept quiet and was just watching Obasanjo. When Obasanjo stopped rambling, Gadaffi said, ‘Have you finished? Just know that I will not attend that meeting. I have other engagements.’ That was the end of the meeting. Americans have a way of dealing with us. When they wanted Jonathan out, they never allowed him to see President Barack Obama. They were the ones working from behind, telling one governor or the other to join APC. All I’m saying is that Obasanjo that some people have been worshipping is nothing but a coward. Quote me.
We live in a dangerous time when cattle rearers appear the new terrorists. But Ekiti is seen today to be free of the herdsmen's clashes with farmers in the South West, unlike the situation in neighbouring Ondo State. How has the Ekiti law on herdsmen helped to stem the tide of clashes?
Get this point right: those of us who are governors today have a choice - we are either leaders of our people or enemies of our people. How can you come to my state to oppress me? The intention of the amalgamation that brought all of us together in 1914 was for us to respect one another. For me, the security of my people comes first. I carry my people along every day. For me, an injury to one Ekiti man is an injury to all Ekiti people. I made the point very clear. If you kill an Ekiti man, we’ll kill you. That is the truth. In this instance, I believe in the principle of an eye for an eye. For me, the life of an Ekiti man if far more precious than the life of a cow. With all due respect, the people rearing these cows are actually nobodies, nonentities without education. Those cows are owned by a set of people who are powerful, who hide behind the scene, who give arms to these illiterate rearers to kill at will. Apparently, they tell them to carry weapons to defend themselves when they face attack, assuring them they would provide defence for them when trouble comes. For me, I would rather resign from office than allow my people to be massacred unjustly over a cow. That is why we made that law, because they say that in a town where there is no law, there is no sin. That is why when they killed two persons in Ekiti, we told them it’s either you come and kill the rest of us or we kill you. I would not stay alive while you are killing my daughter or raping my wife or my children. We made them realize that long before they purchased AK 47, Ekiti people had always defended themselves in big wars. Remember the Kiriji war in the ancient times? We can never become slaves in our own land. Imagine the distance between here and Sokoto. So, how can you leave you own land and come to our own land thousands of miles away to come and attack our farmers because you want your cows to eat our grass and destroy our farms. We made that point clear to them.
When you unjustly kill an Ekiti man, we are unable to accept that it is an act of God. We believe God's wish for us is to prosper on our land, not to get killed because of a cow.
By the way, how many cows do we eat in Ekiti? By our own statistics, Ekiti cannot eat more than 26 cows per day. So, is the life of an Ekiti man not worth more 26 cows put together. You see, a poultry farmer gets his own poultry stuff together and creates his own boundary for his chickens; same thing for a fish farmer who has to get his pond and all that. Why can't the cattle farmer also do the same since he keeps his profit to himself. You have to take count before you start the business. What is in a cow? Cow is not the best of meat. You have fish meat; you have snails; you have goats and the rest. Why must it be make to look as if cow is more important than human life? How come cows are now sacking pupils from the classrooms and we stand by and do nothing?
They say they are Boko Haram. If they are Boko Haram, then let us kill them all since Boko Haram are our collective enemies. How did they enter our country? Who gave them weapons? How come they kill hundreds of people and sack an entire town and no one ever gets arrested and charged to court to pay for the crime? When they bomb pipelines in the South South, soldiers quickly arrest them, but how come when herdsmen kill and maim hundreds of people no one is made to face trial?
Each time I visit Abuja today, I get embarrassed at the way cows take over some of the major highways within Abuja city. And we say we are a civilized country. That is the point we are making in Ekiti. I am happy that since we made that law, sanity has returned in Ekiti. In fact, members of the cattle rearers’ association are part of the enforcement unit of our grazing law. A Hausa-Fulani man is the chairman of the grazing team. That is to tell you we have nothing against Hausa-Fulani people. My attitude is that if it is a Yoruba man you find wanting, let him also face the consequences. I don't condone nonsense done under the guile of ethnic or religious solidarity.
It is only in Nigeria that you find that when a Yoruba man becomes president, everybody will start wearing Yoruba caps. When an Ijaw man becomes president, everyone will start to wear bowler hats. When a northerner becomes president, everyone starts wearing Hausa caps. What a country!
Before I became governor, if you committed a criminal offence and police arrested you and your people came and begged me to help them to bail you simply because they think I was a Yoruba man like you, I would be the first to chase you away from my house. I don't condone nonsense.
We are only after the miscreants who are trying to create problems in our communities. Already, we have jailed two people for breaching the law. There are many others presently awaiting trial for similar offenses. Overall, I think we have been enjoying relative peace and harmony in our communities since the law came on board.
I recall that the last time the General Overseer of Redeemed Church, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, visited Ekiti, he praised you as a governor who defends his people. Many were wont to see this as a veiled reference to your policy against the herdsmen menace. But the opposition APC went further to allege that you bribed Pastor Enoch Adeboye to support your position on the herdsmen? Is it true?
Anybody who says Pastor Adeboye was bribed is dead already. That is blasphemy! Adeboye is not God but he carries the spirit of God. I am not a member of Redeemed, but I fear God and fear men of God. We must draw a line while playing politics. There are some men of God that are highly revered because of their holiness and so we must be guided about the things we say about them. Baba Adeboye only expressed his observations. We all cannot be speaking and seeing things only in the way of APC. So, let these people be very careful about what they say.
So, what is your relationship with Pastor Adeboye?
None. The truth is, when they start their annual crusade in Ekiti, that is when he comes around. They only pay courtesy visit to the governor. I have only been to Redeemed Camp twice in my life. But I have never met with him privately. So, I don't know what they are talking about. But we will continue to give honour to whom honour is due. Adeboye symbolizes a lot in the country today. In fact, I regard him as one of the pillars keeping Nigeria together today through prayers, like Pastor Kumuyi, like Bishop Oyedepo. These are respected Christian leaders who have large followers who respect their voices on any public issues. Unless APC wants to deny, are they going to say Pastor Adeboye did not play a significant role in the ascension of President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo? So, let APC stop playing with fire.
Now, let us go to the issue of your predecessor, Dr Kayode Fayemi. It is public knowledge that you worked tirelessly for him in the bye-elections to displace Segun Oni as governor in 2010. But somehow, both of you don't see eye to eye anymore. Whatever happened? How did the cookie crumble?
You see, time sorts out a lot of things. I thank God for what he did. I recall very well that in the beginning, Kayode Fayemi was not a known person in Nigeria. He had no record in politics. If not for the likes of Asiwaju (Bola Tinubu), Niyi Adebayo, who was Kayode Fayemi? Had he contested to be chairman, councillor or what? We must commend Asiwaju for standing up for him; to Niyi Adebayo for standing up for him. But a betrayer will always be a betrayer. As I speak today, Fayemi has betrayed Asiwaju. You realize that you don't see him at Asiwaju's function anymore. At ‘Eko @ 50’ celebration, I was there, he was not there. At Asiwaju's birthday, where was he? I am not an APC man and would never be. All I am saying is that Kayemi is very treacherous. A man laid down his life for you, now you are saying Asiwaju is not our leader. Who is Kayode Fayemi? Go and mark my words, in due course, Fayemi would be nobody politically. I was invited in 2009 to Eko Hotel in Lagos by then Governor Olusegun Mimiko, Chief Wole Olanipekun and a lot of prominent people, including those from Ekiti who felt Segun Oni was not treating me well and so wanted me to support Kayode Fayemi's battle to claim his mandate through the court. Segun Oni was an Obasanjo stooge at that time. Because I felt I deserved better treatment, I honoured that invitation. Omoyeni was also at that meeting. At the meeting, I was persuaded to work for Fayemi. I made some demands from Fayemi. I asked him to ask Niyi Adebayo, who is from the same local government as me, if he would like to go to the Senate. Adebayo said he did not want to go to the Senate. I said I would love to go to the Senate. Number two, I told him I wanted respect as a former governor whose tenure was unjustly truncated. I wanted to be treated with dignity. I remember very well that I told them that I cannot come to then Action Congress (AC); that, rather, it was better for us to be collaborating; that they would hold 11 local governments in Ekiti and I would hold five, so that my own followers would not see me as selfish by abandoning ship to join AC, so that they too could equally contest in our area of influence for positions like chairmanship and councillorship. They agreed.
We left the meeting at 2am and went to Bourdillon to meet Asiwaju. We met Chief Osoba there. We met Ngige there. I was warmly embraced. They were sure of victory because I worked hard for them. In fact, the burial of my dad was used to celebrate Fayemi's electoral victory in advance. But when Fayemi became governor, he never picked my call again. Then one day, he decided to pick my call and asked me to link up with his secretary to book an appointment. And I went to his office. It was the day he dissolved the local councils and I stood by him while he was making the pronouncement. But shortly after that ceremony, I was walked out of his office, practically. One of Fayemi's security men came and said I had to excuse them. I was practically walked out of the office.
Thereafter, every day I passed the front of the Government House, I fervently prayed, ‘Lord of Heaven, I know you have the capacity; you have demonstrated it in the case of Nebuchadnezzar - you restored Nebuchadnezzar, you have to restore me to this office. I would forever be grateful if you restore me to this throne.’ That was my silent prayer each time I drove past the Governor's Office. You know, I built that Governor’s Office. Each time I visited Abuja, I went to the Ekiti Lodge, too, and said that prayer each time. And the good Lord answered my prayers by restoring me as governor because He knew a great injustice was done to me. I was badly treated. They said I took N3 billion from Asiwaju, that I had been paid off. That was the kind of funny argument they were making behind me. I was daily attacked everywhere. But today, I am the governor of Ekiti State. To God be the glory. But it is also a lesson to everyone to be just in whatever they do.
So, is the Kayode Fayemi probe a witch-hunt or do you feel threatened by his rumoured interest to come back?
Can I remind you of something? Rauf Aregbesola started as the governor of Osun State on the AC platform. Aregbesola set up a panel to look into the activities of Olagunsoye Oyinlola when he took over in 2010. Did anyone call it a witch-hunt? I remember very well that Rotimi Amaechi set up the Esho Panel to probe the administration of Peter Odili. Did anyone say it was a witch-hunt? In 2015, the Bello Masari administration set up a panel to look at the activities of Ibrahim Shema. Did anyone call it witch-hunt? When it is their turn, they now say it is a witch-hunt. Fayemi plunged Ekiti into heavy debt. Security and Exchange Commission brought a paper for us to sign to justify Fayemi's debt. I said no, let us set up a panel; let Fayemi come and tell Ekiti people how he spent their money. He took N25 billion bonds, and these bonds would not be paid up until Year 2022. Before I leave this place, I must set the records straight and put Ekiti finances in proper perspective. When I was leaving Ekiti in 2006, I let N10.4 billion cash in the system, but when I assumed office in 2014, I inherited over N67 billion debt. Every month, they deduct over N1 billion from our allocation to pay up what Fayemi owed. And this would remain until Year 2036 as restructured by the federal government for us. Life had been rough. Hardship has come upon our people by the recklessness of this man. Sometimes you celebrating a thief without knowing you are celebrating a thief. It is important for us to set the records straight. If we are lying, let him come and set the records straight.
Lately, you seem to have found another political lover across the border. We are talking of Rauf Aregbesola. He recently helped broker a truce between you and the Labour union. There are whispers in town that it is a prelude to a larger political collaboration in future. How true is that?
Rauf Aregbesola and I have been together since Fayemi won election in 2010. We were in the same hotel in Akure, and when he saw my activities all night trying to coordinate things for Fayemi's victory then, he fell in love with me. He was aware of the gentleman’s agreement with Fayemi before his victory. And when Fayemi started fumbling, I went to him in Osogbo to complain. Even when they went to him in Osogbo wanting to use his place as the base to manipulate the APC house of assembly that I inherited in Ado Ekiti, as an upright man who is very principled and Godfearing, he refused to allow them to use Osun to destabilize me. The same people that wanted to recruit him into the destabilization plot against are the same people who have betrayed his political master, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, now. They are dishonourable. They have no honour. They betrayed Asiwaju. My relationship with Aregbesola goes beyond politics. He saw me as a dependable ally and friend. It has nothing to do with politics. I am not from Osun; he is not from Ekiti.
What is your own relationship with Asiwaju today?
Asiwaju to me is a Yoruba leader. To me, there is no point in politics of division. I do not belong to Asiwaju's party. But having said that, can one really say today that Asiwaju has not really tried his best as a leader in the Yoruba nation in the last 18 years of democracy? Do we say if Asiwaju has the opportunity to raise and defend the interest of the Yoruba nation, he will not do it? You see, most of the people Asiwaju made and raised from nothing into something are now his enemies; they cannot no longer speak up for him because of what they want to eat. If not because of Asiwaju, Buhari, I swear, would not have been president of Nigeria in 2015. I hate to swear; but that is the truth. Shortly after Buhari became president, they started maltreating Asiwaju. Look at what they wrote in Buhari's book: that Asiwaju did not play any major role; is that correct? Is that right? Is that fair? And while that was going on, all of them who he made kept their mouths shut. For me, politics goes beyond party. It is about truth and justice fairness. A leader remains a leader. Asiwaju has paid his dues. He is our leader. Bode George is also our leader. They are both from the Yoruba nation. Politicians look out for their interest alone; real leaders look out for the tomorrow of the society. Asiwaju is a leader that we must show respect for.
Now, let us talk about your bid to challenge your purported impeachment in 2006. The Supreme Court had vindicated you in 2014; why go to court again?
The impeachment had been reversed, but then,when you say something is wrong, then there should be a remedy. My removal was a coup. Even when the state of emergency was not extended after six months, I was not allowed to resume my office. So, we are seeking Supreme Court interpretation if that was a tenure or a coup. If the Supreme Court agrees that my tenure was unjustly truncated, then I believe I am entitled to have another tenure as a remedy. So, for the sake of justice and posterity, that is why I am in court.
Your party right now is bedevilled by crisis of factionalism. Do you really think that your party, PDP, can survive the present crisis?
There is nothing that has a beginning that will not have an end. I believe there will be an end to the current crisis. I am the first to admit that mistakes were made. I admit that I am one of those who made mistakes, but these were mistakes in good faith. I believe that, at the end, PDP will come out stronger. But you must realize that the crisis in the PDP is being funded heavily by the APC. They are the ones using all the machinery of the federal government to make sure that PDP remains down. But I believe everything would work together for good at the end. It is only a matter of time.
Rotimi Amaechi was recently quoted as saying that Buhari would win in 2019; do you agree?
I don't want to join issues with Rotimi Amaechi. Right now, Buhari is fighting for his life; he is not fighting for office. Someone who is incapacitated cannot be talking of re-election. Can he even vote for himself now? So, let Amaechi continue to deceive himself. We heard that kind of a thing before when they said Yar'Adua was jogging when the man was actually on a life-support machine; that he was waving to people from his car. Well, I believe time will tell. I can only pray that the president recovers from his present condition. That is all I will say for now. We all cannot be fooled at the same time. We all are not on Buhari's payroll. To the best of my knowledge, the president is presently incapacitated and he should resign.
We understand your wife was not very comfortable with your return to politics after all you went through in 2006; is that true?
That cannot be true. I cannot think of another person that is more dedicated to my survival, believes in me, assists me and guides me spiritually, than my wife. But for my wife's strong support, I would not be here today. I tell you, my wife is a very spiritual person. There is nothing she tells me that will not eventually come to pass. My wife had prophesied my return, announced the month and the date, announced how it would happen, and everything happened to the letter. My wife is a woman of God. I don't fear her but I respect her. Her words are carefully chosen. When she tells me not to fight Mr A, I leave Mr A. When she tells me to fight Mr B, I pursue Mr B to the gutter with all my energy. Like David of the Bible who said, ‘Lord, should I pursue the enemies of Israel? Should I take their spoils? Should I kill them? Should I destroy them?’ And the Lord said, ‘Pursue the enemies of Israel, take the spoils and destroy them.’ David obeyed. My wife is the pillar that God has given to me. She is a woman I would be grateful to till eternity. In another life, if I have an opportunity to marry again, I marry this woman.
In Ekiti, they call you ‘Oshokomole’. Outside this environment, they call you the ‘King of stomach infrastructure politics’. Do you see that as a compliment or an insult?
I see that as a compliment. When I defeated Fayemi in 2014, they said it was militarization and so on. When they saw that I defeated them again massively during Buhari's election in 2015, they now said I defeated through stomach infrastructure. They meant it derogatorily. I picked it and used it to my advantage. How can you say it is bad for a leader to care for the welfare of his people? What is the essence of politics if not to alleviate people's suffering? I have sustained that till today. They are not wise people. They are dealing with a man who has sense and knows how to connect and handle his people. Stomach infrastructure can be described in diverse ways. It can be described as caring for the health of your people, the needy. Some are not looking for more than N10,000 to solve their personal problems. When you dole out N10,000 to such a person, you have solved all his problems. I personally pick calls from our people, ordinary people, who want to tell me about the challenges they are facing. They need someone to talk to in the moment of pain, a shoulder to lean on. We provide that. To me, that is the essence of politics and leadership. I return all calls and reply all text messages. That is why people love us and we are different from those who use power to oppress people and look down on people as illiterate or nothing. Let me tell you something, most of them are now copying me. But, of course, the people know the counterfeit and the original. Shameless people! What they were condemning me for is what they are now doing. People abuse them on the social media. They now buy corn by the roadside, but the people know the copycats.
The controversy continues to linger over the funding of your elections in 2014. You said Zenith Bank sponsored your election; the bank denied. The most widely accepted version is that former President Jonathan gave you $37 million through Obanikoro to fund your election. Is that correct?
You see, when a matter is already before the court, you should not over-flog it. We should be careful so that we are not accused of subjudice. At the appropriate time, I believe the truth will become known. But let me say that those who are after me for reasons of vendetta will be put to shame at the end. They will not be around when I am finishing my tenure. These charlatans who have made vendetta the sole policy of governance do not mean well for this country. Are you going to tell me that Buhari's election in 2015 was funded solely from the sale of cow and cow meat? Are you telling me his campaign was funded with a chain of mud houses? We have mentioned names of those who gave them money for that election, but because they are in government today, they pretend to be deaf - that they did not hear us. They are now using power to oppress the opposition.
Lastly, how do you want to be remembered when your tenure ends in Ekiti?
Already, I am being remembered. One, my return to Government House is not by accident. It’s the people's appreciation of my efforts between 2003 and 2006 that brought me back. If you come to Ekiti today - and I am not saying this for politics - what you will see, I mean concrete things you will see, are things I did in my first coming or things I have achieved between 2014 and now dotting the whole landmass of Ekiti. They fought me because they did not want me to be the first person to be governor twice in Ekiti. The Lord made it possible. I am the first Ekiti son to defeat two incumbent governors. I am the first Ekiti son to be governor twice. I am the first Nigerian politician to defeat two incumbents in a democratic contest. I tell you, these are no ordinary occurrences. To make it spiritually established, I left office on October 16, 2006, and I came back to office on October 16, 2014. That is divine. My name is Peter, the Rock. Jesus Christ said, ‘On this rock, I will found my church’. The gate of hell, the wickedness of the wicked, will not be able to prevail over it. My name is Peter. If you fall on me, you will break and be destroyed. If I fall on you, you will be shattered. I am the man sent by God for this time. I want to tell you one thing: I woke from my bed about a month ago and the Lord told me, ‘Do you know I have 17 of you in this country?’ I said, ‘How?’ He said, ‘You are created specially among 10 million in this country’. He said, ‘What is your population in this country?’ I said 170 million people. He said, ‘17 of you are in this country’. I am uniquely made. No one can overcome me. If you throw me into flowing water, it will become still. If you put me in the fire, it will become a fridge. If you throw me into the bush, I will come back. No human machination can succeed against me, except that which has been decreed by the Lord. Again, my name is Peter Ayo Fayose.