This is the concluding part of PREMIUM TIMES’ interview with Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State.
Here, he speaks about his relationship with former Presidents Goodluck Jonathan and Olusegun Obasanjo; the Halliburton bribery scandal, and other issues.
PT: You seem to have some disdain for former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Is it because of his hand in your impeachment in 2006?
Fayose: No sir. I say it as it is. The military in Nigeria should subject themselves to democratic rules. When Obasanjo was there he was behaving the same way Buhari is behaving today. It was under Obasanjo that the EFCC would lock people up because the president has power to order arrest, because the president appoints the IGP, the DG of SSS and others. He has power of coercion. The fact remains that the constitution allows me the right even in the face of accusation to enjoy my liberty. Obasanjo is not a democrat. Today, former Governor (Bola) Tinubu of Lagos would recall what Obasanjo did. It doesn’t matter what our political alignments are today, history cannot be taken away. So my position has not changed and it will never change.
PT: So you mean you don’t have any personal problem with Obasanjo?
Fayose: No, but let me ask you a question. When Obasanjo was there for eight years, Buhari didn’t go there? Everyday Obasanjo goes to kiss the ground in Aso Rock. Everyday Obasanjo has something to go and tell him there. There are some places elders would have a bit of shame. They would know that sometimes we should not go to this place. Even if you look at the pictures taken of his visit you see him bending down. When he was in government he was busy abusing this Buhari. Obasanjo was busy insulting Awolowo. One of the things Obasanjo wants to lay claim to in life is that he is the longest serving Nigerian president. When you add his military rule to his civilian regime, you understand. So, Obasanjo doesn’t like anybody to excel or exceed his record. That’s the truth. Obasanjo, who now seems to be the father of gangsterism or whatever he seems to be today, is the same man that we used to talk about every other day. Today he is there. The most painful aspect of it is for Obasanjo to be coming out and be claiming he is a very honest man. Where did he get the money that was given to the National Assembly that time? Where did he get the money? Each senator and member of the House of Representatives collected N50 million each. How about that $2billion Halliburton money? They jailed some people in America because of Halliburton. Obasanjo knows everything about Halliburton. Let us put Halliburton to trial and see what happens. That is why I told you that this fight must not be selective. If truly we want to fight corruption, let us fight corruption head on. And the fact remains that men will judge, God will judge again.
PT: Are you suggesting that the president should look back and probe past presidents?
Fayose: I am not suggesting, I am saying it. What is the meaning of suggesting? Excuse me sir, let Obasanjo declare his assets. Let us go to Obasanjo’s declaration when he came in 1999 and his declaration in 2007. Who is fooling who? Buhari now declared mud house and herds of cattle. When he is going now he will go and build one house in Daura with salary. That time the mud house will now become ancient mud houses. The cattle will now become limo Mercedes bullet proof. I beg my brother! Those people who are stealing cow, should stop fighting people stealing rats.
PT: PDP appears to be in disarray. It seems unprepared. Do you see the party remaining intact to fight the 2019 elections?
Fayose: Let me explain something to you. When you have an accident, God forbid, you don’t gather momentum immediately. Life is physical, it is normal. What the PDP is going through now is a deliberate effort to destabilize the opposition by the APC and we know that. These are issues for time. Not even more of what the opposition is doing, but the implosion of the party that is the problem. The PDP is a situation that calls for major repairs and correction, but the fact remains that it is just about seven months ago and from all indications the federal government-led APC is muzzling the PDP. I want to tell you that it is not enough; time will tell. If you told somebody that APC would come and take power in Nigeria so soon, you would say it is a lie. So let us keep our fingers crossed and watch Nigeria.
PT: The PDP is likely to pick its national chairman and other members of the executive this year. What is your thinking on this? Where should the party zone the office to considering the 2019 elections?
Fayose: You see, the South-west deserves to produce the chairman of the party. But it is not the South-west per se that matters. But the character that will be the chairman must be a man that is reasonably blameless and courageous and realizes he would lead us out of the present predicament we have found ourselves. You cannot say a man cannot fall, but the failure of a man to rise is the issue. The PDP has fallen, and we believe by the grace of God that it will rise again.
PT: Do you agree with the Ekweremadu Committee that the party should zone the presidency to the North?
Fayose: You see, time will take care of that. In the first place, we lost the election because we did not pick our candidate from the north, not because Jonathan as a person was bad. It was just a political miscalculation. The fact is that my former president, I chose my word, my former president, Goodluck Jonathan, tried his best. But if I were him, I would not have contested at all, you understand. Because it is two ways: if he did not contest and the PDP lost out, he will still be an honourable man, and if he had given that opportunity to the north, those who defected from the PDP would not have defected. But that is story. Jonathan did his best and I will still continue to support him. You know I was not there when they took the decision about him becoming the flag-bearer, but it doesn’t matter. We can’t all put our mouth inside the soil. Somebody must remain with somebody. I will remain with Jonathan even if I am the only man standing. A man is not measured by the amount of food you have and the amount of properties you own. Sometimes sickness is good, it reshapes your life. Sometimes poverty is good, it helps your life. Sometimes failure makes you to reorder your life. It is not the end of your life.
PT: Politicians are known to have their eyes on the apex of their political career. Do you have a presidential ambition come 2019?
Fayose: For which country? Nigeria. Well, I don’t have such an ambition but I know I am going higher. Mark my words, I have said 20 things that will happen in Nigeria and more than seven have come to pass. Check the records.
PT: Let’s talk about the stomach infrastructure. Isn’t it taking a toll on the provision of real infrastructure such as road, power, etc? Because it appears that monies are just doled out to people in the name of stomach infrastructure?
Fayose: So all those things that governors are enjoying, what is it, is it not “doled”? All those things wives of governors are enjoying what do you call them? All those things political office holders are enjoying…when the president travels out and spends $1million a day, what is he doling? Paper? When doling out money to the people, mint is for the benefit of the people. Let me tell you something, one thing you must appreciate – no matter what number of promises you make, the stomach has to be filled. For me, stomach infrastructure is welfare. If somebody comes to me and says my father had an accident, he is in the hospital and he had fracture and he doesn’t have enough money that is what we are talking about. Somebody wants blood and they need to buy blood that is what we are calling stomach infrastructure, body infrastructure, health infrastructure etc.
You see, when your enemies want to talk about your good works, they will go and take the negative end of it and start fanning the ember. My own concept about stomach infrastructure goes beyond food and water. We are talking about paying school fees. Somebody comes to say sir, my fee is N50, 000 but I have N20, 000, can you help me with N30, 000? That is infrastructure. The father of that person who cannot raise that money, who is under pressure or whatever, would now find a relief. It might be temporary. You may tar all the roads but people are dying. What is the essence? A man has been ill and somebody drew my attention to it. I went to pick him and took him to the hospital. When we got to the hospital, the man had all sorts of problems but he needed four pints of blood urgently. We later realized he had ulcer, diabetes, and all that. I spent about N600, 000. I am telling you now the man is recovering. The doctor says if not for my intervention, the man would have become history 48 hours after. But you have tarred the road in front of the house of that man now. My opponents should wait for their time. If they have the best answer, why were they rejected by the people? See Buhari now, they say they are going to be paying N5000 each to the people. Why would they not channel that money to another thing? Most of the people talking now have no answer to governance issues. They ran their states aground.
PT: Comment on the allegations by the APC that you stashed money away in Dubai and paid yourself N720m arrears during your unfinished first term?
Fayose: I will not comment. I cannot be talking to fools. When you say Fayose took N720million you must be able to say to which account. If it is by Ghana must go bag, you must show the picture of how that Ghana must go bag is being carried. If you say I am building a house in Dubai, you must show papers of ownership. Ekiti earns about the least in Nigeria, there is no money to steal here. If you tell me that I am enjoying, yes I enjoy o, I eat correct pepper soup, sometimes, once in a while, I need to drink cold Gulder, I drink Gulder. I cannot tell you lies, all those small, small enjoyment, you cannot take it from me. Because when you are feeding others, you have to feed yourself.
PT: Your explanation is vital because the allegations are there and people believe you actually took the money?
Fayose: Goodluck to them! I say Goodluck to them! They believed it but I came back and defeated them. What else do you want? They say Fayose is a thief, Fayose is a thief, Fayose is fighting, Fayose is mad but each time I come I defeat them. You see, an allegation is meaningless. You must prove. Every allegation I raised against president Buhari, I raised them with facts and figures. When I was talking about fuel regulation, you cannot take the subsidy and be regulating again. Those are issues. When I say you are infringing on human rights, I give instances of people who are incarcerated and people who are involved against our constitution. When you accuse me you must bring the proofs. As I am today, they will be monitoring me. They will be checking all my accounts. If they had found something now they will put it on the table. Me too, I know that they are watching me. I know that they are very wicked people. I know the kind of character they are made of. Today I am their headache. I am careful. The wealth I don’t need I don’t ask for it. What a man has does not necessarily translate to a good end for him.
PT: You had issues with the bailout especially from NLNG funds, what were you trying to achieve?
Fayose: What I told them was that, when they first of all gave us this NLNG tax money that is not bailout. They claimed it was bailout, I told them it is not bailout. Even the bailout they gave us, I told them it was only a Pyrrhic victory for us. Because our problem is not even the payment, our problem is our financial base and debts. We can’t service our debts and our earnings are diminished. So we have to get all these things right. When you say bailout now, we are owing until 2036 as a state. But if you don’t take it they will say you are fighting.
PT: How much did you get and would you say have judiciously spent the bailout funds you got?
Fayose: They have not even paid enough, because what we asked for, they are yet to pay the local governments. For me, I am not an accountant. The books are there. There is Freedom of Information Act. Anybody who needs information should go to the office of the Accountant General. You can’t hide the books any more. The system is very transparent. If after looking through the books and if you are not satisfied, they are the owners of EFCC, they should approach them.
PT: When you came into office you complained about what your predecessor spent on the Government House and furniture, especially the beds …
Fayose: (Cuts in) …I don’t want to dwell on that. Nigerians want to hear something new, things that would impact immediately on their lives. That has come and gone. If we are not careful, you will look like someone is just ranting. Fayemi is gone, I cannot be celebrating him on the pages of newspapers, I cannot be talking about him anymore, he has done what he had to do, thank God for him. He has done his best. Now when Buhari starts talking about Jonathan, persistently, Nigerians will ask “we have heard, now what have you for us, you promised that you are going to change our lives”.
PT: What have you to say about the report of the military inquest into the role of soldiers in the Ekiti and Osun elections…?
Fayose: (Cuts in again) Let me explain to you. My own is that I have gone through an election. I have won an election. There is a place the law says you can ventilate your displeasure. They have gone to the lower court, the appeal court and the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has given judgment in my favour. They have become functus officio. They cannot approbate and reprobate on the matter anymore. The election matters are Suris Generics. They operate within the ambit of time. The military was represented by a lawyer and the police was represented by a lawyer. This one is an afterthought. They said during my election the military…during Jonathan’s election, how did I win? During the National Assembly election, how did I win all the seats?
Two weeks after house of assembly election, I won everything, 26-26. Is it the military again? When the concubine of your mother is more powerful than your father, you call him daddy. You welcome him and take his bag. Let them take my bag and accept this Ekiti matter. This Bayelsa election we just finished, 14 people died, how many people died in Ekiti? If you see my prediction about Nigeria under Buhari, I said every effort to forcefully take the south-south states will result to a huge loss of lives. My brother, they should leave me alone. They should face governance. God has given me this place. No amount of powers that will take this place from me because the gift of God is without repentance. How can only me defeat three governors, Segun Oni, Adebayo and Fayemi. I defeated them and they are still complaining.
PT: What about the recommendations of the report of the committee?
Fayose: I have commented. It goes to no issue. And all the hidden agenda, we will keep our fingers crossed. We are watching. You see, since I became governor, I have not lost any battle. When God is with you, no man can be against you. They are only fooling themselves. During the last election, they said military was supporting Jonathan by asking for Buhari’s certificate. The same thing they did that time is what they are doing now. He who pays the piper dictates the tune. I am not surprised. I am not among those people who are afraid of death. All those whom the Lord has not delivered us into their hands will never overcome us.
PT: What is your suggested way out for states of the present economic hardship and inability to pay salaries?
Fayose: Let us be realistic, over time this economy ought to have been diversified over 20-30 years ago. The economy was not diversified. There is no miracle but we need prayers, even in 2016. Even the president says it’s going to be tough. In my state for instance, if you don’t pay salaries as you ought to pay, where will you get taxes that you want to raise? And when people don’t make money, you cannot squeeze water out of a dry cloth. You can only try your best while it lasts. It is a time of recession. I am not going to sit here and paint the picture that everything will be fine, but everything will be fine in the long run.
PT: Some have suggested a cut in the workforce?
Fayose: I can’t cut anybody’s job. Me, Ayo Fayose, I can’t sack any worker. Immediately they started the story of retrenchment, I told them count me out. You see, when you are owing me as a worker, it is different from taking my means of livelihood. When you are owing the worker at the bad times, he will have the hope that when money comes he would be paid. But if you had sacked him, you have killed him, you have taken away his life.
PT: If the economy continues this way and can’t cope anymore, won’t you eventually sack workers?
Fayose: I will continue to dialogue with them.
PT: Are you contemplating cutting salaries?
Fayose: I won’t cut anything. I will continue to dialogue with them. You see, you can’t make decisions for the people alone. This governance we are talking about, government is not the only factor. There are other variables. When things are not going the way you expect, you must engage the people.
PT: What is your relationship with Ondo State governor, Olusegun Mimiko, who is chairman of PDP Governors Forum?
Fayose: We are brothers. He is a leader in our party and by the grace of God, he is governor in Ondo, I am governor in Ekiti. Every member of the Governor’s Forum remains our brother.
PT: What about reports about a frosty relationship over the leadership of the PDP Governors’ forum?
Fayose: If I know your source, I will be able to answer you but I am not aware of any frosty relationship with Governor Mimiko. The fact remains that if Governor Mimiko wants to become the chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, how does that affect my voice? In this country today, everybody knows that I am talking, whether I am chairman of PDP Governors Forum or not. So, when God has appointed somebody you take him as God’s appointed.
PT: Are you saying that your relationship with him is cordial?
Fayose: It is explicit. Mimiko remains the chairman of PDP Governors Forum and I remain a member of that forum.
PT: Thank you for your time
Fayose: Thank God.