Fayose: President Buhari has put Nigeria under siege
For Ekiti State Governor and Chairman of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Governors’ Forum, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, Nigeria is under siege, with what he described as the dictatorial tendencies of President Muhammadu Buhari and his rejection of decision of the Senate on some issues of national importance. He said the process of uniting the PDP and repositioning it to reclaim power from the ruling APC has begun. In this interview with The Guardian, Fayose described PDP as a sleeping lion, just as he said he bears no grudges against former President Olusegun Obasanjo, whom he described “as a bad man that can sleep in your house tonight and cut your head tomorrow morning.” He also gave reasons he decided not to attack PDP Senator, Prince Buruji Kashamu and his relationship with Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, among other issues.
• If You Want To Sleep With Obasanjo, You Must Keep Two Eyes Open
• PDP Is A Sleeping Lion
As Chairman of PDP’s Governors’ Forum, what will be your major preoccupations and things you will do differently from your predecessors?
Let me appreciate my other colleagues for trusting me and giving me opportunity to lead them and to serve as the chairman of the Forum. I want to appreciate Governor Olusegun Mimiko for his contributions to the development of the party, as the immediate past chairman of the Forum. I want to assure the Forum that we shall put in our best. We will represent them well and we shall deliver.
My preoccupation is to ensure that the PDP, as a party, conquers the challenges that came after losing the general election in 2015. We have to ensure that the party is un-cowed. As it is now, most party members do not know how to face tomorrow. They need all the encouragement and assurances. We need to lead them by example, and show them that losing the election is not the end of the world or the end of life. There are two ways an election could be won. An election could be won with the people. It is purely the business of the party, but what the incumbent ruling party fails to do is affecting people’s lives positively. Today, the APC is not representing the interests of Nigerians very well. As a result, the people can rise up to take the right given to the ruling party and give it to another party.
Our politics has suffered a major set back, since the advent of Buhari administration. Power can be retrieved from the ruling party, if Nigerians stand their ground and confront the ruling party, as we have seen in some African countries that rejected dictatorship and leaders perpetuating themselves in power. The small political parties came together to take the power. It is not only the political parties that have what it takes to take power.
Largely, my assignment is to put the party together, stand up for the party, and give hope to those that have lost hope in the party. I am going to work very hard, and provide good leadership. People fail not because they fell, but because they failed to rise after falling. Today, some members of our party are defecting to other parties, because they are cowards. They are fair weather politicians. They are not principled. A lot of people that were in the vanguard in the PDP before, and who are supposed to be the leaders to follow, have now become like chaff in the wind. They have lost their voice, and have become so weakened they cannot stand up for anything again.
In Nigeria, we have seen so many leaders come and go. Buhari came into power in 1984. We were here, when Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and Gen Sani Abacha took over power. We cannot forget in a hurry the Obasanjo regime and his atrocities, the Halliburton scandal and the third term agenda. But they were all defeated, because the only thing that is constant in life is change, and above all, power does not come from man.
So, I will do all within my power to serve along with others. Where we are supposed to blow hot, we shall not hesitate to do so, and where we are supposed to expose the ruling party’s hypocrisy, we will. Our duty is to expose their recklessness. However, wherever we need to praise them, we shall do so, though we are yet to see anything commendable. This government has failed Nigerians and we shall not hesitate to let the whole world know the administration’s cluelessness.
Some people have been asking why it’s only me talking. But it is only Daniel that refused to compromise, just as it was only Shederach, Messach and Abedenego that dared to oppose the bad policies of the King and survived the burning fire. It was only Joseph during his time, and the Bible recorded their names for their bravery to fight for their people. Moses stood up for the children of Israel in captivity. Against all odds, and the paramount ruler of terror, he stood his ground. Why didn’t Pharaoh grant Israelites their freedom, until he perished with his army? He who the gods want to destroy, they first make mad.
PDP was in government for 16 years. How does feel to play in opposition?
The issue is not whether I enjoy the role of opposition. I am a straightforward person. I was a governor before; I fell and rose again. Some cannot live like an ordinary man. They cannot identify with the ordinary man on the street again. When some people leave office, they cannot survive without the paraphernalia of office. Personally, I am ready to ride on okada and can sleep with my friends in any house. I can ride on a commercial bus. I don’t consider myself above anybody, just because of office. This is my lifestyle.
Leaders were human beings before assuming power. The arrogant ones did not become so overnight. Those that are not accommodating were like that before assuming office. I am not one to look for relevance or praises from men. After leaving office, I lived among my people in Ekiti for eight years. I am not condemning anybody for living anywhere they choose to, I am only telling you my story.
My children were attending Olashore Private School, but after becoming Governor, I withdrew them from Olashore and enrolled them in a public school in Ekiti. There is nothing new to me and there is nothing new that I am looking for. The abundance of man is not in the material things he possesses. I must thank God for giving a second opportunity to consolidate on what I could not finish the first time.
What was the deal the party had with Senator Ali Modu Sheriff that made the crisis look unresolvable?
In every situation we find ourselves, we must thank God. My initial support for Ali Modu Sheriff was done in good faith, just as my backing out was also done in good faith. Yes, we might have raised his hope, but when we saw what we didn’t see before, we had to reappraise our stand. It is better to take a decision than to crash together. I never denied the fact that we were the ones that encouraged him, but with due respect to him as a former governor, there was no deal.
What can you give me as a governor? They said I wanted to be Vice President. How can, when I am yet to fully serve the mandate my people gave me? That is cheap blackmail. I have never seen a man that contested for the office of Vice President. It is God that puts a man in office. I want to say that despite all these challenges, the PDP is still a sleeping lion. We still have our structures everywhere. The harassment going on cannot last, the blackmail called anti-corruption war is losing its face, and people do not take them serious anymore.
Nigerians have seen through their hypocrisy. So, what is sweet today might not be sweet tomorrow, what appears oppressive today might become freedom tomorrow. Nigeria is a very dynamic country. The mountain you see today might not be a mountain tomorrow, after all. People should stop bothering themselves about what cannot endure. Let us watch how things will play out in our country.
As an elder statesman and professed man of God, why do you find it difficult to forgive former President Olusegun Obasanjo?
Honestly, I don’t like talking about OBJ. It is not a matter of whether I forgive OBJ or not. He is one man God gave another chance like me, and for that, I respect him. But he does not have permanent followers. Obasanjo can sleep on your bed today and cut your head tomorrow. If you want to sleep with Obasanjo, you must keep your two eyes opened, and not just one.
If you study his comments, you will see that he wants to be the only man to be heard and noticed in this country. If not that he knows the enormous power Buhari wields, he would have been running his mouth against him. But he knows the meaning of power and that Buhari and his men will deal with him. They will open his books and you know what that means.
Is it still possible for two of you to work together?
Working together as what? If at all we are in the same party, God forbids, he will be in his state and I will be in Ekiti State. Politics is played at local level and if you look at the likes of Obasanjo, they only have the voice, but they don’t have followers. Who are Obasanjo’s followers? If the man ruled Nigeria for eight years, out of 16 years of PDP in government, after all his atrocities, the Halliburton scandal, the library he built and he is still bent on destroying the party, what kind of a man is he? We should fear God. Obasanjo is a man who uses peculiar method to cover his tracks. He is not a good man.
A PDP Senator, Prince Buruji Kashamu sings Buhari’s praises more than APC members, and he is always attacking you in the media. What is the matter between the two of you?
Senator Buruji is my friend. I won’t join issues with him for one simple reason. I prefer to show maturity and leadership. That he is praising Buhari as a PDP Senator should be seen as his choice.
Is that good for the PDP?
That is not the issue. He has a choice. If he says he wants to dump PDP tomorrow, can you force him to remain in the party? If he chooses to praise Buhari today or even OBJ, I see it as his choice. Personally, I don’t care whether you praise or abuse me. I am very consistent, and I don’t run away from battle. If you challenge me to a fight, I will come and meet you wherever you are. We have signed the date of our death right from the day we were born, so nobody should be afraid at all. People are afraid because they think they will live forever, but who knows tomorrow? Events have shown us that we are mere mortals. The singer and the dancer, the praiser and the man they are praising, will all die one day.
There is rumour making the rounds that you, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu are in a political deal yet to be made known to the public. Is this true?
Rauf Aregbesola is my friend and we are very close. I make bold to say this. We may be in different parties today, but that does not affect our relationship. At our level, we must think above party lines for the good of our people. If Aregbesola is coming to Ekiti tomorrow, I will roll out a red carpet. We might not agree on some issues, but we are not enemies. When they needed me to fight for Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Rauf Aregbesola was part of the negotiation in 2009. History will not be kind to those that forget or pervert history. Aregbesola and I were often referred to as Irin tutu (raw iron).
I don’t want to talk about Tinubu. My references to him are very clear and I am glad that his position in the Yoruba nation is that we must not forget our leaders. Who knows what would happen to Nigeria after Tinubu? Or what would happen, if he were not allowed to play his roles, how many generations will suffer? I speak beyond party lines, and I will continue to respect him as a Yoruba leader. There is nothing he can do for me. I don’t need anything from anybody. However, the little Chief Obafemi Awolowo did is what we call Oduduwa Group of companies today. Yoruba men and women in both APC and PDP are beneficiaries of Awolowo’s vision and legacy.
Are you looking forward to working with Tinubu politically?
I explained to you that when Fayemi needed my support, I made it very clear that we would collaborate, but I wouldn’t join their party. I was in the Labour Party then. What I am saying in essence is that everything is not about party; rather, it is the good man in you.
You mentioned Fayemi now, but why is your approach to political economy diametrically opposite? Is there any personal issue?
There will be many governors after me. If I had issues with Fayemi, how would I have built a Women Centre and named it after Fayemi’s late deputy? A lot of things I did were for posterity. Fayemi removed Engr. Segun Oni’s picture from the Government House and said the court did not recognise him as a governor of this state. When I came, I restored Oni’s picture. That is statesmanship, which goes beyond politics. Posterity will judge me. Even if I say my enemy should die, but God does not kill him, what will I do?
Yes, our economic ideas may be different. I didn’t commit this state to a burden of financial debt in my first tenure and I won’t do so now. I live within my means. God knows I am doing a good job.
How would you explain PDP losing in Ondo State?
They should know better in Ondo. We have major crises, some of which started long before the election. It had to do with the outgoing governor going to the PDP, which split the party. The crisis forced some Senators and big wigs to leave the party. Houses are built on pillars, and when the pillars are challenged, there is a possibility of the house crumbling. Since the candidate and the governor have conceded, what is my own?
What implication will losing Ondo have on Ekiti State in 2018?
Whether they lose or win, we know APC will still come here with their thuggery and rigging strategy, but God will defeat them.
Don’t you see the same crisis manifesting in Ekiti PDP, with the Federal High court judgment, which sacked your party Exco and recognised Sheriff’s faction as the authentic Exco?
Don’t worry yourself about that. A thousand years is like a minute before God. We only see today, tomorrow will take care of itself. People assumed that Governor Wike would be thrown out of the Government House, the same with the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, but God restored them. The G-19 thought I should have been impeached by now, but we do not see by sight. Be assured that I am destined and nobody can stand on my way.
How would you put into context the fact that whenever a Pastor visits Ekiti State, controversy ensues? You personally foiled an attempt by the DSS to arrest Apostle Sulaiman Johnson on Wednesday morning, Pastor Adeboye’s visit also turned political. What is happening?
Nigeria is under siege. We are as good as a people in police state. I said it earlier that the press will be gagged, and is it not happening now? They will graduate from harassing politicians to the press and the church, to the judiciary. Even lawyers will not be spared. A dictator is like a scavenger, and until God defeats a dictator, everybody must be praying. We are being governed by a dictator. Let me narrate the story of a rich man, who went to buy a lion and kept it in his house. Some cautioned him against it, but he promised to tame it. ‘We will domesticate it, we will not allow it to taste blood,’ he said. But his neighbours were not comfortable. Eventually, the lion grew and developed claws. Before the rich man returned home one day, the lion had eaten his children. But the lion did not stop there; it jumped out of the fence, took over the street and also attacked all the neighbours.
The neighbours suffered because they were not courageous enough to challenge the rich man and say, ‘no, you cannot rear a lion in the midst of people. That is the story of Nigeria now.
As a strong opposition voice in Nigeria, if you meet President Buhari, how would you advise him?
I won’t advise him, because he does not listen. Let me tell you why. In a space of three months, the Senate rejected President Buhari’s Magu; The Senate has APC as majority members. The Senate also rejected the use of Kaduna Airport for international flights. This is the Senate that is largely constituted by members of Buhari’s party, rejecting many things from him, including financial policies, such as MTEF. The Senators represent different constituencies, which means that Nigerians are the ones rejecting what Buhari is doing.
Senate said some people are thieves, but the President said they are saints, flawless. If Ekiti Assembly rejects somebody as Commissioner, and they give reasons and damning reports, since they represent the people from the grassroots, what capacity do I have to go ahead? The President has made up his mind and has proved that he would do anything he wanted to do, whether National Assembly supports or not. So, why bother wasting your time advising him? I won’t cry in front of a person that will stop me and ask why I am crying.
Would you say the implementation of the Ekiti anti-grazing law has finally put a stop to the perennial farmers/herdsmen clash in the state?
The law has shown that we have the will and capacity to face our challenges. You cannot take any major step without having a legal framework, which we put in place. And that is why it is easy to arrest and detain offenders. Where there is no law, there is no offence. Our success did not come only from the implementation of the law, but from a sustained dialogue. We formed various committees comprising representatives of the herdsmen, farmers, government and traditional rulers. We came together to discuss and ensure nobody is oppressed. Laws are not enough. The implementation, orientation, discussions and collaboration to ensure the law is respected and enforced also matter a lot.
How are you coping with criticisms from the opposition APC in Ekiti State?
The APC in Ekiti State is too weak to give me any headache. They are small fries, what can they say? APC in the state would have had the courage to talk, had Buhari been performing or doing something tangible. People are hungry and angry with the Federal Government. Besides, APC members here are hungry, they are like orphans. If they see the yam peels, they will rush to eat them. They are scavengers. Who is their leader? Their situation is so bad. But they have to defend their party, and that is why they are there. There is nothing for them. Where are they holding meetings?
They cannot do anything to me, because I am careful in everything I do. The last time they lied that I diverted the bailout money, but the NLC told them that they were being economical with the truth. I bring everything to the table. Have you ever seen where recession affects Government House? Why should I worry myself? If hunger is everywhere, there will be food in the Government House. What do I need? The truth is that APC in this state cannot pull strings. They are nothing to me.
Ekiti governorship election will hold next year, what is your succession plan?
I can assure you that the Lord will choose for Ekiti people. On my own part, I am considering three or four people for the office, though the party has not decided on whether we are going to zone it or not. Naturally, we are already looking for the best candidate. But let me tell assure you that I will successfully succeed myself.
What does that mean?
I mean somebody from my side will take over from me.