Ekiti State governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, met with some media men in Ado-Ekiti recently, where he spoke on a range of issues. BOLA BADMUS, presents some excerpts:
HOW do you react to the belief that you were among those who brought Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as the national chairman of the PDP and, therefore, should be held responsible for the leadership crisis in the party?
When you are travelling in a vehicle and it has an accident and has broken windows and tyres, if you want to drive that car again, it won’t gain momentum at the same time. You need time to get spare parts to put the car back in shape. That was exactly what happened to the PDP and gradually, the party is picking up. Let me tell you, if the party does not get to this level, rebuilding it will be very difficult.
A party that has been in government for 16 years suddenly had accident like that; it is not going to be easy to pick the pieces. Direction has not been an issue for the PDP because we had the president, good leadership, but we lost direction and leadership and everybody has become a lord. How can somebody say that a governor is not the leader of the party in the state but when they need money, they run to the governor? That is part of the fallout when you lose power. But it is not a bad situation because when you are alive, you can still get it right. A lot of people were members of the PDP because of the benefits they derived at the time the party was in power. They are political jobbers, people who want to be relevant and remain in control of the party.
On the issue of Sheriff, I did what I did in good faith. When you ask me to go and look for somebody, I can only look for someone who is right in my opinion. I am neither a perfect person nor someone who can see beyond my eyes. There are physical parameters; Ali Modu Sheriff is a former two-term governor, a former senator, so I feel that did the right thing. When you recommend me and I fumble, it is not your fault.
I had to confront Sheriff when the issue of Sheriff/Fayose ticket came up. I had to ask how Sheriff and Fayose presidential speculation came about when Sheriff wanted to be party chairman. I never knew such a thing was going on until it got to a point that people started saying that he told them that he would contest the position of president and make me vice president. Everybody realised it at the same time. That meant that the same way we were then trying to help him move from the temporary three months in office to substantive chairman, if we were not careful, he would become our presidential candidate in 2019 and we would become helpless. So, this problem is even better now. If you look at his antecedents and all he has been doing, you will ask: is this a life and death issue?
Have you tried to reach out to him since the crisis started?
No! I can’t because I am a very straightforward man. When I realise the facts in an issue, I step back. You cannot talk to somebody who doesn’t want to see reasons.
Don’t you want to become the vice president?
That is a different issue. Even the governorship position that I am occupying now, it is God’s will for me. I have never seen a man come back after eight years. So, who knows what will happen tomorrow? If you want me to become vice president, it is only God that will make such happen. And you should realise that nobody vies for the office of the vice president. It is only providence that can put you there. They started talking about vice president when I was just barely a year in office. How can you be eating and still be looking into the pot? I want to tell you that even after this position, I am not contesting for anything. I am not going to the Senate like most of my colleagues.
Some people believe that you are always at the centre of controversies when it comes to Nigerian politics and as a result, it affects your ability to govern. How do you react to that?
Nobody follows a politician without knowing that he or she is able to deliver. For me to come back as governor eight years after I left office shows that I have virtues others don’t have. For me to defeat an incumbent in an election shows that I have virtues that others don’t have. Delivery of democratic dividends is the simplest thing one can do when one has the support of the people.
Most leaders today cannot come to the level of the common people but because I come to that level, I am loved by the people. You would be amazed by the level of support I get when I walk on the streets. Can the people continue to support a man who is not performing? If the All Progressives Congress has people in Ekiti State, it should put its house in order and be ready to defeat me in the 2018 governorship election.
I have a track record. When Fayemi contested against Segun Oni, I supported him and he won. That shows that I am the issue in Ekiti. All the landmark projects in the state were done by me. Where I left Ikere-Ado Ekiti dual carriage way was where I came to pick it from. All the dual carriageways in the state were done by me. I opened up Ekiti. There was no carriage way when I became the governor in 2003. The state didn’t have a fire service office until I became governor, but I did one on coming to power. Seventy per cent of constructions in Ekiti Government House were done by me. So, people can’t love you for the fun of it. Despite the fact that there is no money in the state, I am sure my people appreciate the job that I am doing. The noise that is aimed at turning the people against me is not working because it is like pouring water on an egg. Politics is not speculative or imaginative. It is like sitting in the front of a mirror.
Are you not troubled about what would be your fate after your tenure given the troubles that you are going through at the moment?
Forget about that because nobody knows tomorrow. I will support somebody because it is my right to do so, and I will consult widely. I am going to present three or four personalities before the people to make a choice. There is no one who is part of the process of the emergence of a candidate who will not vote for him in the governorship election. My identity is the common man’s identity and that is why the elite don’t like me. They feel insulted that Fayose is leading them despite all their grammar. It is not their fault and I don’t blame them for that but to whom God has chosen, He has anointed and to whom He has anointed, He has chosen.
At what point are you likely to stop castigating the President?
We are not talking about castigating the president. I talk about Nigeria. It is not personal. You will recall that there have been times I commended him for some of his actions. There are fundamental things that connect us a people. We can be angry with each other but we must eat, pay our bills and fuel our vehicles. When Dr Goodluck Jonathan was president, as bad as you may want to paint him, the exchange rate was at N220 to the dollar, look at what it is today. Even if you want to buy newsprint for your newspapers, how do you do that? How do you pay your children’s school fees?
What I am saying about Buhari is not personal because he did not take my wife. During Jonathan’s time, some of our leaders insulted him, but heavens did not fall and he didn’t muscle them. It is the same presidency and the same power. So, we must all fight for a Nigeria that all of us would be proud of. If you are looking at my issue with the president on a personal note, tomorrow, most of you will be proud that I stood up to be counted.