The temptation to believe that Ayodele Fayose was now also among the prophets of God was a serious temptation last Friday at the rally ground at the centre of Ado Ekiti. On the rostrum was Fayose attired in a flowery T-shirt upon a pair of jeans trousers reeling out bible verses or the Word of God as his defence against the goliaths he claimed were ranged against him. His fight of faith which was intermittently laced with political histrionics was enthusiastically lapped up by the audience that consisted mostly of the working class. His audience bussed in from various parts of the town to Ojumose Roundabout in the centre of town hung on to every word of the prophet who shouted and railed as a prayer warrior in combat against a host of darkness set to entrap him into hell. Fayose fought with the word which has lately become his sword in the increasingly trenchant political warfare directed against him from various quarters.
The day before, his antagonists mainly from the local opposition in the All Progressives Congress, APC and some elements of civil society had organised a rally to demand the governor’s resignation on account of what they claimed as his involvement in the arms gate scandal. The response from Fayose, a governor who has proved himself above any other governor in Nigeria history, to be a street organiser, was swift the following day. His supporters mainly the lower cadre of society and artisans in their thousands descended on the streets and converged at Ojumose Roundabout at the centre of the town to hear their prophet’s response.
He was unsparing of his enemies last Friday on the rostrum even as he painted himself and his two advents in 2003 and 2014 with messianic connotations. It was not easy to puncture his claims especially given the extraordinary coincidence in his return to power eight years to the date of his forced exit from power in 2006.
As the rally dovetailed into a walkabout town, with Fayose in the company of tailors, commercial drivers, road transport workers, commercial motorcyclists and different categories of artisans moved round Ado-Ekiti, the state capital in seeming demonstration of peoples’ power.
Following the walkabout, Fayose sat down later in the night for an interview in which he opened up. He spoke on every issue raised by the journalists with the notable exception of on his one time political partner, Senator Buruji Kashamu on who he insisted he would not utter a word. Excerpts:
What informed your position against President Buhari?
Incidentally, this year I will be 56. I am a grown Nigerian when President Buhari was president of this country. I was well grown enough to know what he represented. The people that voted largely for President Buhari were under 40 years old because they dominated the social media and Bible says “My people die because of lack of knowledge. He became president 1984, and you will want to recall that anybody that would say I am 40 years at the time President Buhari contested was only nine years (when he first ruled).
Nine years doesn’t know what Nigeria represents and that was why they voted for him because you must know who you are giving your life to – who you are giving your future to.
You must know you are not taking your life to Golgotha. So, as a man who knew President Buhari – then I was in Ibadan. I knew the total misrule of 1984 to 1985 – how the military suffered Nigerians, how a lot of leaders were clamped in chains using decree 2.
So, President Buhari is living true to type. If you look at the way he is governing Nigeria today, it is the same way he did before; by his appointments, by is taking away the right of the people, by doing things without recourse to due process.
Fighting corruption is a great thing. It is good, but anything that does not represent the truth is simply corruption. You’re oppressing some people now either because they are not from your region or because you had issues with them before; it is a mission for vengeance.
So, let me round it up, there is nothing personal between President Buhari and myself. Let us look at the APC, most of the people they were bashing in those days, but when they get to APC they become saints.
I have told the people who brought Buhari that they will end up inside his stomach. The story is like the story of a rich man who brought a lion home.
They asked him “where did you get lion from”, he said “they gave me, and they know that I have what it takes to keep it in the house” and people were telling the man, because they were afraid to tell him the truth because he is a rich man; they said this thing is usually not domesticated at home, it lives in the bush. He said no, it has to be at home. Gradually, the lion became a man-lion.
First, it chopped the man’s children, got out of the gate, went to the surroundings, those who kept quiet and chopped them too. This is one chance government that we have entered under this man. Nepotism is another story; lying upon lying.
In fact, opposition is the strength of democracy. It is where the average man can get value for money. You are trying to silence Femi Fani-Kayode; you are trying to silence Metuh and others. My brothers, where in Nigeria have people contested election, vied for office and not spent money? All the aircraft carrying President Buhari during campaigns, is it cows that were carrying him around?
I want to make it clear that there is nothing personal between myself and President Buhari, but I want to make it expressly clear again to you that what they are doing is not in the interest of Nigeria to cow the people once opinion differs from yours. After all, this state was run by APC when Jonathan was president. They had peace to run their government. Today, if you want to call the police, they are afraid.
When you want to use the FRCN, they will say no. The president will not allow. They will go and report us to APC in Abuja. So, what kind of life is that? The FRCN here they don’t carry PDP news. It is that bad! So, what nation are we building? A nation built on sectional and political interests? As much as you can call Jonathan’s name, the man never took a political prisoner.
That takes me to the issue of salary. I have said it several times. The money owed in this state was not owed by me. I was governor between the year 2003 and 2006; I left N10. 4bn in the coffers of this government when I was leaving; I left hurriedly. Part of the N10.4bn was what I used in the recapitalisation of Wema Bank through Oodua. I came back, and I met this state in debt. Don’t forget I left on October 16, 2006, and I came back again October 16, 2014. That is divine!
But you don’t attend the Council of States meeting to tell the president the reality, why?
Each time they call meeting, my deputy goes there. You remember I was in Abuja, and I said expressly there that they were calling it economic summit; they brought all of us there, but when I saw the list of the people that will lecture us; I couldn’t allow a sick man to be treating me – people I knew ran the economy of their states aground were to be the lecturers in the summit. And when you see the figures they brandished for arrangements and feeding running into over N250m; that is not economic summit. That is economic stealing. So, I send my deputy regularly.
I wrote three letters to the president, none of them was replied. Initially, when he became president, I didn’t start like this. About two – three times I called the villa they would divert my call to the CSO, saying I cannot talk to the president. I should say whatever I want to say to him; a sitting governor? That is not Nigeria. So, at that point, I had to stay clear because they were on a vendetta mission.
The fact that I criticise you; I don’t have to be in your party! The APC, every day they come here to do rallies, they say that Fayose should resign, they say Fayose is fraudulent, did you see me slapping anybody? I will just look at you. There is freedom of expression. Even in the face of intimidation and even in the face of misbehaving, as a leader, you should accommodate all.
Let me give you one instance, which the APC can never do to anybody. Throughout the tenure Fayemi was here, I never used a word that is unclean on him. I tell him he is our leader because anybody God has put there is our leader truly!
When you go out of the Government House, before you hit the road, you will see a building called Women Centre, I named it after Fayemi’s late deputy. That is statesmanship! When Fayemi was to be cleared as a minister, I enjoined all senators from Ekiti to cooperate with him. That is statesmanship! That is leadership! It’s different from politics.
The problem they have is that I am an Israel nation in the midst of its enemies, and as you look at me, nobody can overcome me. That is why if you look at my leaving and my coming back, even when I defeated them, I defeated them in all the 16 local government areas. In Nigeria, I am the first governor to defeat two incumbents. Each time you have an election, it is taken that it is the incumbent that defeats the challenger, but I have always defeated them.
But Aluko is saying a different thing now.
Who is Aluko?
He is saying the elections were manipulated
Goodluck to him sir; they will continue to say something until I finish my government. Your enemies will continue to say something until you get to where you are going. My enemies always take me to the next level. Somebody was saying something when they took me out of office, when I came back they were still talking. When I was to be sworn-in, Aluko was talking because I didn’t make him my Chief of Staff. He said it himself, but I don’t want to join issues with Aluko; Aluko is a small boy.
I am used to all these things. They are petty people. I am the issue in Ekiti politics. I am the first Ekiti man to be governor two times. I spent three and half years the first time, and I have spent over one and half years now, so, apparently, I have served over five years.
I am the longest serving Ekiti governor. These things are not man-made; they are God’s purposes and plans for me! I am their problem, even in Nigeria today. You said you found money in my account. Yes, it is my money! If you give me money to do marriage, when I finish the marriage, am I supposed to return the money to you?
But you know, they are looking for just anything to log on to the National Security Adviser. They just want to paint me black like they did in 2006. It will not work!
Why are you so confident that this money issue you will get out of it?
I have told you that it is a familiar terrain. The money in contention runs into billions, can you tell us exactly how much is involved? They said Obanikoro brought N1. 2bn. And I am telling you; I had no encounter with Obanikoro financially. No money was transferred to me from the office of the former NSA. Money laundering or whatever you are trying to establish is a chain; you must be able to trace the chain of money.
You are faulted for bringing Ali Modu Sheriff to be chairman of the PDP?
I did what I did in good faith. 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 I did the right thing.
Narrating his dream:
When you recommend me, and I fumble, it is not your fault. Do we blame Jesus Christ for not seeing that Judas Iscariot will betray him? Do we blame Joseph for narrating his dream to his brothers?
A man will do what he would do because we are limited, we may not be able to see through or perceive. I had to confront Sheriff when the issue of Sheriff/Fayose ticket came up. I had to ask how Sheriff and Fayose can contest the presidential election when Sheriff wants to be party chairman. I never knew that the thing was going on until it got to a point that people started saying that he told them that he would make them vice president, including myself.
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 antecedent 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 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 posterity that can put you there.
Do all these controversies not disturb your ability to govern?
Nobody follows a politician without knowing that he or she is able to deliver. For me to come back as governor after years that 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. Delivering of democratic dividends is the simplest thing one can do when one has the support of the people.
Are you not troubled about what would be your fate after your tenure?
Forget about that because nobody knows tomorrow.
Do you have a succession plan?
I will support somebody because it’s 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 elites 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 who God has chosen, He has anointed and to who He has anointed He has chosen.
Your speeches are always laced with Bible quotations, are you born again?
I cannot tell you that I am a perfect man, but I believe in God. I am one man that counts my blessings; name them one by one and thank God for what he has done in my life. When everybody leaves in the night, I read the Bible and look for words that will carry me the next hour. I had the privilege of being raised in a Christian home and my understanding of the Bible is deep. And as God will have it I have a praying mother and a giant in Christ as wife. If my wife tells me that this will happen, it will happen. If she tells me not to fight any battle, I don’t, and if she tells to go on, I do. She told me that nothing would come out of the present battle they are waging against me, and I strongly believe that because it is all about envy.