Former governor of Ekiti state, Chief Ayodele Fayose in this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, speaks on the crisis rocking the South-West chapter of the party, zoning controversy for the 2023 presidential election and political developments in Ekiti state. Excerpts:
Are you satisfied with the handling of the crisis in the South- West chapter of the PDP by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party?
Crisis resolution has multi-dimensional approach. Nobody will resolve your own for you except you resolve it by yourself. Everybody in the National Working Committee largely by 70 percent are from other zones. So, what can they do? If there is no reconciliation from home, it’s a waste of time. That is the sincerity and I’m not prepared to blame anybody in the National for this reconciliation issue. Reconciliation of crisis are offshoot of so many things. They could be offshoot of interest that was denied, offshoot of betrayal, offshoot of struggle for power and so many things. So, the first thing we want to identify is that when you are sick, is it a sickness that has been diagnosed well to know the root cause? If you don’t know the root cause, you can’t achieve reconciliation. But if you are involved in an issue and you are on a side, when they tell you they want to reconcile, you will say no, this does not work. You will be equally perceived as a person who does not want peace. But when people go into the matter, they will see that it is more complicated than they imagined. Ambition is one of the dangerous things I’ve seen in politics and if care is not taken, people fester, they enjoy crisis because some people are benefiting from it. Those benefiting from the crisis will not allow any peace process up there to work; that is the truth. So, let me say that I have nobody to blame in Abuja. The interest that is on the ground has taken over the national working committee. Some people working for one group while another is working for another, all representing various interests. That is the challenge. For me, I lay no blame to reasons why my family is not doing well. The issue is that my family must find a way to resolve the matter.
Why is your group opposed to the date and venue fixed by the Uche Secondus-led NWC?
I just told you that all these things boil down to the division that has widened. Some side wants them to disobey a court order while we are saying it is inordinate to disobey a court order. Anybody is at liberty to disobey but one very good thing is that when a matter is before the court, I am not supposed to comment on it. A similar matter happened in Ekiti when the court did not even issue an injunction whether to uphold it in our favour, the same party told us that because the matter is still before the court, they can’t do it. We waited till the end of the court session and a judgment was properly passed. So, if the party who said it is not right for us to go into an election in matters for instance in Ekiti where there was not even an injunction, says let us wait for the outcome since the matter is before the court. When the matter is before the court, what can anybody do? Then you will foster a fait accompli in a court. What is the essence of going to court if we do anything to the contrary? It is just telling us that we don’t have a system. If we go ahead and the rest in the matter, which is the actual dispute, is being sat upon by the court and we have taken laws into our hands, what then do we speak about in the judiciary? It has ended.
One day, it could affect our national election, like the presidential election. Somebody can just say ‘let’s go ahead because a particular person in the NWC or in the zonal or state committee has interests. When America ran into issues that have to do with the claims of Trump, they went into the whole process until the end. They allow Trump to go through the judiciary and ventilate his anger before they took any step. So, it is not whether our side is the one in court, it is about the obedience to the rule of law for which is an opposition party. Whatever they do today, will await them. Let us say they have issues with the injunction as they have claimed, but this matter is before the court. The court was supposed to sit on the 29th of March; the party appointed a lawyer and he has appeared. The national chairman is a party in the matter; the national legal adviser is also a party in the matter. They have all joined issues and they are before a court. The court in their presence gave a date but because of the vacation for the Federal High Court, it was shifted to the 16th of April. What is the hurry within this space? Even the party itself had waited. Even the national reconciliation committee asked them to wait and they waited. So, when the court is in a matter, what is their hurry about? What agenda do they have? As for me, I’m not going to speak for the court or the party. There is a process. The other group does not have the number that we have but that does not give us the audacity to go and disobey the court.
Lastly, the reason why we don’t want Oyo state is very simple. It is because of violence. There is no other reason other than violence. By the antecedent of Oyo state, it is violence and violence and violence. You can be doing the congress and they will come and create violence there. That is not the kind of democracy that we want to be part of anymore. That is in the past.
Do you think anyone in the NWC is taking sides in this matter?
For me, whosoever is in Abuja helping anybody, good luck to them. But for me, I have been governor long ago and it is a process we have gone through. If it is shacking somebody, it is not shacking me. Beyond all this, I want to believe they will not take laws into their hands. If anybody does, the party chairman was almost sentenced in Lagos for contempt. If he wants to face another contempt, good luck to him. Even if you want to say an order of court has expired or has not, it is the court you go to. You will not go to your bedroom and say we are reviewing the court; you can’t review the court inside your room or party. So, anybody who wants to take the laws into their hands should be ready to face the consequences.
I know of two people between Lagos and Ogun states, when the late Buruji Kashamu got contempt against them; they went to hide until they went to beg Buruji. I know of all this. So, anybody who wants to go to jail, who wants to risk anything, I am not the court. But I know precedents. So my advice is that nobody should try to disobey the court because of the desperation of politicians.
Chief Bode George said you are responsible for the crisis as you had your way when you were the only PDP governor in the South-West but now you are making things hard for Governor Seyi Makinde. Do you think he is right in some way ?
Let me say that Chief Bode George is our leader; I don’t want to fight him. Sincerely, I don’t want to fight him. He imagined that I was the one that didn’t allow him to become PDP national chairman; that is his grouse. I want to say to him, if God has destined him to be national chairman, he would have been. Fayose is not God that can stop anybody. He keeps saying I stopped him and I keep saying to him too that when I wanted to become governor in 2014, he did not support me. He worked against me. He worked with the likes of Jumoke Akinjide to work against me. He worked with Dayo Adeyeye at a time. But let us be very honest, politics is all about interests. So, I don’t want to blame him. He said he gave me N250, 000. I can’t remember him doing that but even if he has given me money, I have given a lot of people contesting elections money. I have done favours to Chief Bode George when I was sitting governor. Do I come to the streets and start saying I bought Chief Bode George this and that. That is not equally matured. Any politician saying I give this person money is a man of little mind. I don’t want to say oga is a little mind but I don’t expect oga to be saying I gave Fayose N250,000. What is N250,000? When he was in prison, I went to see him. He will recall that when Baba (Olusegun Obasanjo) said he will go to prison, I was the one who went to him to come and tell him. Then I was a sitting governor. I left Ota and came to Lagos to meet him that Baba Obasanjo said he will send you to prison; that arrangement has been made for you to go to prison. He can’t deny that. I was in Obasanjo’s bedroom in Ota when he told me ‘that Bode, he will pay for it dearly. He will end up in prison. He wants to be national chairman, let’s see how he will do it’. When I heard from Obasanjo, I ran to Chief Bode George to inform him that Baba Obasanjo had insisted that Nuhu Ribadu, the then EFCC chairman should file your paper quickly, saying ‘what Bode will be facing, he will not have time for national chairman’.
It was in Transcorp Hilton that that crisis happened where Obasanjo and Anenih had issues. It was because Obasanjo wants to be BoT chairman and Bode George wants to be National Chairman. It was on the issue of this national chairman that sent Chief Bode George to prison. Chief Bode George wants to be national chairman; Obasanjo wants to be BoT chairman. The late Tony Anenih eventually became the BoT chairman. Obasanjo believe that Chief Bode George was going to disturb his bid, that was why Chief Bode George was charged to court. You will see that he was exonerated at the end of the day. Most of the people out there don’t have these facts. So, if God has not given you the national chairmanship position that time and he has not given you this time, just know that it is not the will of God for you. I am not going to count the favours that I have done for him because it is morally wrong. I will not come out to mention how much I was giving Chief Bode George while I was in office. There was a time Baba was accusing him of collecting N10 million monthly from me; Baba was also equally accusing Audu Ogbeh but I can’t be coming out to say whether it is true or not.
If Chief Bode George says that I am a greatly disturbed child, I take it as a compliment because we learned from the master. Oga Bode George trained us, we followed him in politics. So, if we are behaving like disturbed children, he will be more like a disturbed great grandfather. If you look at his age, he ought to have retired now and that is not disrespect to him. When I get to his age, I will stay away. I have children.
I think Oga Bode George is close to 80 years now; that means he is about the age of my mum. Should he and I be struggling? He should be older than me by 18 years and I am older than Makinde by nine years. So, when you compare the difference, you will know that mine is excusable, but his is not. But as a matter of principle, he is our leader and we will still consider him as that. But when you eat on the dining table and you don’t know when to retreat, stupid flies will drive you away from that dining table. Chief Bode George is supposed to be the right arbiter to resolve this matter. If those languages are coming from him, then it is unfortunate. When an elder is found where they are supposed to be, there will be less crisis. If I join issues with him, I will be going out of the real issues. So, I don’t want to join issues with him. If Chief Bode George is getting some benefits from Oyo state now, let him enjoy it. Let him enjoy the booty while it lasts. He is a leader and he is entitled to it. I will only beg him not to bring my matter into it again. He is free to support Makinde if he likes but he should please not interfere in my matter. That is all.
If the PDP decides to zone the presidential ticket to the North in 2023, will you still support them?
Let me tell you that it is still too early for me to make comments about this. It is too fundamental a situation. My character is that when I say something, that is the side that I will be. I cannot make a statement on what is the prerogative of the party itself. We should not preempt this party because there is a major storm ahead both for APC and PDP but because APC has Mr. President and they have national structures backed by government. So, it may be easy for them to resolve their own, it might not be easy to resolve our own. So, we have to be careful of comments along this line. This party is bigger than all of us. I want to refrain and take extra caution in making statements about the zoning issue.
But are you comfortable with the Bala Mohammed committee which said they are throwing the presidential ticket open?
The committee is not the party; it is only an instrument of the party. Not until the party talks, we cannot say anything. You don’t pick words inside a person except when the person voices it out, and then you hold him accountable to his words. Right now, there is nothing to hold the party accountable to. The party’s instrument has set up a committee, the committee has concluded its assignment and returned it to the party and the party has received it. This one is even more than the powers of the National Working Committee. This is still going to be debated by the whole party organ; they are still going to bring it to NEC. They are still going to take it to Caucus. It is not something that a Fayose or any sitting governor can say ‘this is what is going to happen’. We wait for God’s time in all these circumstance and take all issues as they come.
What is your impression about governance in Ekiti under Governor Kayode Fayemi?
Again, I am no more the governor. And if you watched me very carefully, I have not criticised that government since they came to power. I am just one of the 2.2 million people in Ekiti state. They were busy criticising me while I was governor; that is their style. The fact that they do something that is not good does not mean that I should do it. Since Joe Biden became President of the United States, as loud as Donald Trump could be, you don’t hear him talking and criticising. It is their government and it is the people that will decide who they want next. So, I have decided to keep mum on governance in Ekiti because I don’t want them to say it was Fayose that didn’t let them perform. Let them showcase themselves for the good people of Ekiti to judge them. So, I am not going to comment about Fayemi’s administration. I wish him well.
How are you handling the issue of your endorsement of Bisi Kolawole as Ekiti PDP governorship candidate which some of your supporters are not comfortable with?
I am entitled to make a decision. Yes, I am their leader in the PDP but I am equally entitled to my right to support anyone that I choose to support. I have chosen Bisi Kolawole based on my own careful consideration; by that I mean anybody that defers to me and say ‘this is my leader’. Anybody who says you are his father and looks up to you, you should be able to advise them that you wait, let this one do it. Tomorrow, it may be your turn. I have sat back and looked at everybody. Bisi Kolawole was in House of Assembly in Ekiti under Segun Oni. He was my own Commissioner for Environment. He was appointed again as BoT member of the party and lately, he became the state chairman of the party. He has an impressive CV. Above all; he is an ally of Segun Oni. He is friends with the likes of Duro Faseyi and others. I just looked at somebody who could be acceptable to everybody. If I want to be selfish or go by my own interest, I will not take Bisikay. But it is important that some people who doesn’t like Fayose or who has reservations about Fayose behind the scene may be comfortable with a Bisikay who has the face of other people that may not agree with me. That is what I have done. For me, the door is not shut against anybody. Everybody is entitled to contest if you meet the laid down requirements. The ones under my watch who defers to me, some have stepped down, some say they are going to continue. Hon. Adekola was in the race, he stepped down; Hon. Oladimeji was in the race, he stepped down; Deji Ogunsakin was in the race, he stepped down among others. Kayode Osho was in the race and many more. For those of them who said they won’t step down but continue in the race, it is their right. I am not enforcing anyone on anybody but where my words are will be my action. So, I am supporting Bisi Kolawole with the totality of my person. Let me add that there will still be a primary and if Bisi Kolawole does not win the primary, I will support whosoever that wins the primary. I don’t have a choice as their leader. The fact that I support you and God says it is not you, then I hands off. I am not going to force it or bring down the roof on account of that.
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