Mr. Bamidele Opeyemi
Bamidele Opeyemi who hails from Irepodun Ifelodun local government, is the house representative member representing Ekiti Central Constituency II in the federal house of representatives on the platform of the now rested ACN which along side ANPP and CPC metamorphosed into APC. He recently decamped to Labour Party to pursue his dream of running for the governorship position after APC leadership showed him A red card by openly endorsing the incumbent Governor, Kayode Fayemi for another term. He blames the lack of internal democracy in his party for his exit. He spoke with SHAKA MOMODU
Tell Nigerians your grouse with your former party the APC?
Let me begin by clarifying for the record that my former party was the Action Congress of Nigeria-ACN and I never really registered as a member of the APC. And as we speak today Monday 9th December 2013 no one as of yet in the South West zone can claim to have registered as a member of the APC. I understand that registration of members will commence soon. So the reason I have said all of this is just for me to be able to make this point that I did not as a matter of fact defect or cross carpet. I was a member of the ACN committed without any doubt in soul, body and spirit to the party and by God’s grace I also made my own little contribution to the party even right from its commencement as the Alliance for Democracy-AD to its metamorphosis via AC to ACN. I also served not just as a member but as the National Director of Publicity of the party for almost three years. So, I have contributed my own little quota to the development of the party. Also to the glory of God I also contributed my own quota to the sustenance and development of the party in Ekiti State especially during the seven and a half year period when the party was not the ruling party in Ekiti and the party stood the risk of going into extinction because it was abandoned by those who had been in government in Ekiti and those who were in government at the time. I am talking of the period between May 29, 2003 up until October 16 , 2010 when Dr. Kayode Fayemi assumed office as governor and the party came back as a ruling party in the state. Thanks to our leaders in ACN who in their wisdom felt the need to discontinue the party as it were in anticipation of merging into a new party now known as the APC, ultimately surrendered their certificate to INEC. I was elected into parliament under the platform of the ACN and as of today there is no ACN. So all I have simply done along with my associates is not to register as a member of the newly registered APC. Rather we have chosen to proceed to join the Labour Party (LP).
It was essentially automatic for all members of the ACN, CPC and ANPP to become members of the newly formed APC. How is your story different from the rest because your earlier reponse doesn’t exactly tell the reasons you took the decision to exit
To begin with every politics is local. You have mentioned CPC and ANPP. Time will tell as to the numbers of CPC and ANPP members in Ekiti that are actually going to be joining the APC, even though at the national level that is the theory and the consensus. I know that there are many of them heading to the Labour Party like I am doing. The truth is that anyone who knows me well will know that I am not given to frivolities and when it comes to loyalty, I can be as loyal as loyalty gets. However my loyalty is always to a cause and I would remain consistent in that regard. If I am loyal to a cause and in the course of me being loyal to a cause, certain people discover me to be a reliable ally and draw me close then that is another thing. This has been the underlying factor in my relationship with several notable people in this country right from my earliest days and foundation years as a student activist and leader in this country. These are individuals who would not hang out with just anyone and these people didn’t just pick me up from the streets to say ‘Opeyemi come and be their junior friend’. It was my commitment and loyalty to that cause that defined our relationship. It is in that light that I would talk of people like Chief Gani Fawehinmi-of blessed memory, Alao Aka-Bashorun-of blessed memory, Kanmbi Shola Osobu-of blessed memory, Mokugu Okoye and many more people like Dr Edwin Madunagu, Dr Festus Iyayi-of blessed memory, Prof Olorode, many other people. So the reason I mentioned so many of these names is to say that my commitment, to certain ideals have always been a defining factor, same for members of the younger generation with whom I had also organised at the level of student movement. When I also went into conventional politics I can also cite examples of people like Dr, Fredrick Fasheun, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Prof. Babalola Borishade and many more too many to mention. Again to make the point it was not because I was found on the streets. For example Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu discovered me as an aspirant for the House of Reps when he was running for the Senate in 1991. Since then he decided to draw me close to himself as a young man who was committed to certain ideals and loyal to a cause which he found promising and I would forever celebrate him as a mentor and a benefactor. As far as I am concerned if my commitment to a certain cause or set of ideals is to be consistent, it then means that there must be a point that I might have to disagree with certain individuals.
At what point did you decide not to proceed with the new party; was it after the endorsement of Kayode Fayemi by the ACN leader then Bola Ahmed Tinubu?
It was at the point that it became obvious to me that the party was not going to allow internal democracy within the context of allowing a free and fair primary election which was all I asked for. And I don’t think I was asking for too much. You know it was a struggle that had been on for over a year. It started since October of 2012 and I made my position very clear and while the national leadership of the party was still trying to resolve the issue the governor quickly moved to dissolve all the ward and local government executives of the party in the state. Then all the members of the ward and the local government excos. And I said ‘wait a minute. We were in the trenches together. We were elected as party officials at a validly constituted ward congress and local government congress in each of our constituencies. And it did not only take place in Ekiti it took place throughout the country under the supervision of the national leadership of the party. And we were elected for four years. So if our mandate has been renewed for four years, you cannot-two years down the line, come and arbitrarily dissolve us’. He did not only dissolve them he also handpicked his own cronies to take over as ward excos and local government excos. People now said again, ‘wait a minute’; in every civilized democracy around the world it is the party that will put people in government. It is not the government that will come and start distributing party positions just because the governor felt that the party structure as it were was loyal to me and more supportive of the fact that there must be primaries. And even if there were primaries anyway the people that will vote will be the members of the ward exco and the local government exco. This wasn’t just an affront to me because it wasn’t just a personal thing but the sense of indignation that I naturally have towards such practices and behaviour also caused me to react in protest. It is not just about me. I mean part of the implications of what he did was that in the past one year if you call a ward meeting of the party in Ekiti, there would be two meetings at every point that a ward meeting is called. There would be a meeting by those handpicked as the governor’s excos, while there would be another meeting with majority of the party members presided by those who were elected by a every card carrying member of the party as ward exco or local government but dissolved by the governor who were unfortunately no longer recognized. So it was the governor himself that factionalized the party. Most of the time when people started talking about Fayemi faction and Opeyemi faction, it was the governor himself that balkanised the party. Where did the national leadership come in? Of course we protested this issue and those who were affected wrote petitions and the national leadership of the party said we should maintain status quo ante that they would resolve the issue but in the mean time the governor should re-instate all local government and ward excos that had been dissolved arbitrarily because he had no right to do that in the first place as the constitution of the party clearly states that it will take another ward and local government congress throughout the country to actually change ward exco. Now this went on for eleven months and the governor did not do anything and three times we were told that he was invited to Lagos and was told.
Then I called Asiwaju and he made it clear to me that the instruction that the national leadership of the party gave was that they should go and re-instate the ward exco and that in any case they were coming back to address the issue of whether or not we would hold our primaries; and that was disobeyed flagrantly.
If Tinubu did not actually endorse the governor for a second term don’t you think he would have come out to deny it?
As far as I am concerned party affairs are not managed on the pages of newspapers. If Asiwaju was in a meeting that was held in an auditorium -Jibowu Hall- with at least 200 party stalwarts in attendance and the press reported something the next day and many of the people who were seated in the hall themselves called Asiwaju to say ‘this is what we are saying about Governor Fayemi. Go and read the papers today and see the way he and his aides twisted the family discussion we had yesterday. This is rubbish’. Not less than half of the people in that hall called Asiwaju that day. I spoke with many of the party leaders. Governor Fayemi was smart enough because he encouraged his aides to do that but he didn’t actually open his mouth to say yes Asiwaju endorsed him.
For the record, having spoken to Tinubu did he deny endorsing Fayemi?
Let me make it very clear. I spoke with Asiwaju and didn’t have to deny anything. He simply told me what he said. Chief Bisi Akande simply told me what he said. The point at which I actually began to have issues wasn’t about when they came to Ekiti. It was when both Governor Fayemi and Otunba Niyi Adebayo kept addressing rallies. The governor addressed five different rallies within five weeks at the stadium. After that he embarked on a tour, purportedly a budget tour which he says is a November ritual for him. Now Governor Fashola presented his own budget over a month ago in Lagos State. Some other states have presented their budget. A governor that has been in office for three years will want us to believe that he needed to take one month off and do a tour everyday to be able to know what to put in the budget. You can tell that to the marines. Obviously it was a campaign rally and this was coming at a time after I had gone to do a major declaration and to launch our own political platform the Ektit Bibere Coalition. The governor through his aides now exhibited what I would call leadership complex by not even pretending to be democratic enough to allow us hold our program. From 5am in the morning they had put hoodlums on the streets to block all the roads leading to Ado Ekiti to prevent us from going in to hold this program. Eventually they used the police. It became apparent to the national hierarchy of police that what the Ekiti State Police Command did was a lot of embarrassment to the Nigerian Police Force. The way the Ekiti people reacted to this including the members of the Nigerian public and the international community was part of what motivated the governor to take a month off going round Ekiti to defend himself. But as far as I am concerned he has not achieved anything in that regard.
Don’t You that the purported endorsement of Governor Fayemi by Tinubu actually tallies with the trend and culture of the ACN which many people have been critical of and in fact may even be true based on that and his lack of denial?
Well. I would put it this way. The leadership of the party did not pretend that they were not going to allow primaries to hold and I am saying this to set the record straight. Asiwaju never told me he endorsed anybody. There is a different between saying that I have endorsed and there would be no primaries. If you say that there would be no primaries I take that more seriously because it means that even if you have not endorsed it means that you will eventually endorse. What I quarrelled with was the lie that Fayemi had been endorsed for a second term by the national leadership of the party not only Asiwaju. I knew it was a lie. Otunba Niyi Adebayo who is like the state leader of the party in Ekiti or one of the state leaders anyway because we also have Evangelist Bamidele Olumilu who also is a former governor and one of the most senior member of the party and without doubt should actually be referred to as the leader of the party in Ekiti State. But Otunba Niyi Adebayo had invited people to his house on Sunday December 30th 2012 for what he described as end of the year party. People came and while the party was rounding off and he was seeing the governor to his car there were journalists waiting at the door and of course they interviewed both the governor and Adebayo. Otunba said to everyone that today the governor has been endorsed for a second term. So Adebayo didn’t pretend about where he stood. To me what he said could not be taken that the national leadership of the party had spoken. More so when practically everyone at that gathering expressed surprise at what he said because he invited us to his house to come and eat and drink for an end of year party. It wasn’t a congress or anything so how could he end up telling the journalist and everyone there that the governor had been endorsed. So it was obvious to everybody there that Otunba Niyi Adebayo was on his own, even though they were not going to say anything because most of them there were all government appointees. That was what intensified this crisis. I had to react the next day to say what Otunba said was a mere expression of his opinion to which he was entitled. Of course the governor followed up with purported and organized endorsements by government appointees in each of the local governments. What this mean is that he will get the commissioner who is from a particular local government along with the chairman of the caretaker committee who he appointed to also announce that he had been endorsed by that local government. In doing this they kept infuriating the Ekiti people, because we are talking about December 2012, which was two years two months into this administration. And this so called campaign for re-election started from the day we held the one year anniversary of the governor in office.
If you were in Governor Fayemi’s shoes would you not have been interested in a second term from the go?
I would have been realistically interested and what that means is that I would not just assume in theory that it is an automatic thing. I would think of two things. One, for me to get a second term it should be performance driven. So I would want a situation where my achievements would speak for me in the true sense of it not by way of propaganda. Secondly I would also be realistically interested to the extent that I would think that it is not a right to be bestowed on me without any challenger. In that wise I would know that being interested that there is the other possibility of other people being interested and if I have done well enough as a governor being in office for four years and if I have related well enough with the hierarchy of the party and members I should have no reason to fear that I would come out tops in the event of any primaries.
Realistically do you think if you were to run in a primary election against the incumbent do you think you could defeat him?
My answer is yes.
What gives you that confidence?
Well to begin with I was a party man. What I mean by this? I ran for a senatorial position in 2010 for the primaries of the party. To the glory of God and appreciation of people of Ekiti State I won the primaries. These primaries were held less than three months after governor Fayemi came into office. He was sworn in on October 16 2010 and our primaries were held on January 10 2011. It was beyond disputation and at the end of the day what did I get? They gave that ticket to Babafemi Ojodu. Everyone in the party spoke with me to compromise on what was rightfully mine and that we cannot afford to rock this boat. I made it very clear to them that it was not the right thing to do and they should not assume that I will always be the good boy of the party. I knew that if they had done the same thing to Ojodu he would not even stay in the party for one second longer he would have gone. But he came and picked up the membership of the party to run for senate and collected the ticket.
But you your later benefitted from what you now complain about…….
They now offered me the ticket for House of Representatives candidacy of the party which I rejected from the beginning not because I was looking down on any democratic institution but because I never ran for House of Reps. I ran for the Senate and I won. For the ticket that was been offered to me there were four other people that contested the primaries for that ticket and those people see me as a leader and everyone in the party tried to put pressure and appeal to me. The governor at the time even said that each of the four of them would be given appointments and they were going to ensure that they recouped whatever they spent on their campaign. The truth of the matter is that till today none of those four people were given anything and the four of them are with me in this whole crisis. It put me in a serious dilemma. On one side here was the party saying that if I refuse that obviously Ojodu will lose as senatorial candidate of the party because people were angry and they needed me to appeal to everybody. The question for me was to what extent did I want to go and it was also partly out of commitment to Fayemi. I said to myself then that this is someone I see as a friend and a brother and to what extent would I say I would allow this boat to be rocked and his first election in charge of the state he would lose by not being able to deliver the senatorial seat to the party.
In accepting this, I made it clear to everybody that they were putting me in a moral crisis which I still suffer from as I sit here with you. That I ended up in the House of Representatives where I did not contest for any primary election. In any case I also saw myself as a campaign manager and the records are there. The two months I spent wasn’t campaigning for House of Reps election for myself I didn’t need it. I was there begging the people not to vote against Ojodu. I was more of Ojodu’s campaign manager. Ask anyone including your correspondent in Ekiti at the time. He would tell you that I put Babafemi Ojodu in my jeep opened the sun roof and the two of us were there with the broom in our hands and we went through the senatorial district. The same Ojodu will grant interviews today and has never conceded that he got such help from me and that he won the primaries which I find even more annoying.
If anyone is in doubt whether or not I was acceptable to the people of Ekiti, let him go into the INEC records they will find out that I did not lose elections in any of the polling units. So it wasn’t just about wining it was that to the glory of God people demonstrated their appreciation and their love for me. Where Ojodu was losing and Fayose was wining, I won convincingly including in Femi Ojodu’s ward, where Ojodu himself lost in four polling units. I had 47, 000 votes in only two local governments. The senatorial election of Babafemi Ojodu was in five local governments and he had 52, 000 votes and I had 47, 000 from only 2 local governments and these are facts. The reason I am saying all this is that if anybody thinks that I am losing my head today or that I am mad people can see from my point of view for once and see that there is logic in the so called madness and I have reason to say that I am tired of this. And rather than stay in the same boat with Fayemi and Ojodu in the APC and end up fighting and quarreling all through which is not in my character, I feel it is better for me to be elsewhere. So it is not about the national leadership of the party. Yes APC might be a progressive party but the truth about it is that the leadership of the party in Ekiti state has been hijacked by pseudo democrats and reactionary elements and I cannot stay in the same boat with them so it is better for me to move on. I decided to move to the Labour Party.
There are those who say that you have committed political suicide by moving away from the APC and into. What is your reaction to this?
To begin with I want to say that people are entitled to their opinions. There are as many opinions as there are people. It will delimit my own democratic potentials if I say I take personal offence. What I just think is tragic about the whole thing is the context in which many of these people are writing and expressing their opinions. I have read a good number of them and it is obvious to me that most of them don’t even understand our issues in Ekiti State. Some of the people who have written on the issue as columnists are known media consultants to Governor Fayemi. Also the truth about it is Otunba Niyi Adebayo knows better than he has said. Otunba cannot say I am desperate because he knows that I am not desperate. If he says I am desperate then good luck to him. Otunba Niyi Adebayo has his own reason for fighting me politically and it is nothing personal. There is no personal acrimony between Otunba Adeniyi and I. He is also a very ambitious person and I give it to him. How you would know that I am not desperate or speaking out of the blues about his political ambition and rope anything around him is that I would declare to you today that Otunba Adeniyi has the ambition to be Vice President of Nigeria. He believes whatever arrangement may come out this may favour him to that extent. He was going around Ekiti state in 2010-2011 campaigning against Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and telling everybody Asiwaju was interested in being vice presidential candidate to General Buhari and he felt that they were not going to allow a Muslim-Muslim ticket and he felt being the Christian and a former governor that he was the most suitable person for that position. I was one of the people trying as much as possible to reverse the damaging campaign that he was running against Asiwaju and the leadership of the party. So Otunba particularly sees me as a threat because we are from the same town. So he feels if I get elected as governor in 2014 that would be detrimental to his own ambition. So a lot the things that Otunba is doing is not out of love for Fayemi or APC but out his political calculations to achieve his own ends which is understandable and I would not quarrel with him for that. I also must make it very clear that I found Otunba’s statement that I made the greatest mistake of political career by defecting to Labour Party as an unfair statement and it was made in bad faith. Again for all those who are writing and trying to give me names. Some of them have said that I am an Akintola. Some of them have said that I am trying to be an Omoboriowo but the same writers Sam Omatseye, Dapo Thomas are the same people who are celebrating the admission of the likes of Ibrahim Tofa into APC.
Are you still on speaking terms with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu?
I know you want a yes or no answer. But my own answer is that I always draw a demarcation between personal relationship and my political affiliations. There are two different things and there is no reason why one should affect the other.
In reacting to the issue of support, governor Fayemi mentioned the need of psychiatric evaluation for making such claims. how would you react to that?
Let me put it this way. I don’t know if that statement is deserving of a reaction from me. But if I have to say something, I would just say that came to me as a surprise because when I first saw the promo in the media on Friday saying that there was an explosive interview coming out and they put the headline of what governor Fayemi was supposed to have said about me. I kept telling my friends that I didn’t believe governor Fayemi would say that and maybe it was just a caption that editor chose and my friends said why would any editor choose such a caption? So we waited to see the article on Saturday. I got a copy and read through the body of the article to see the context in which he made that remark and I found out that yes he actually said it. To my mind that shows who Governor Fayemi really is. Even as an individual he would not mind using any language, I expect as a sitting governor he would not use such street language. Secondly the issue for me is that do I want to react or respond in the same manner? For three reasons I would not. One is that he is a governor and to the extent that I respect the position that he occupies I would not use any word to denigrate his office or his person. The second reason I would not also respond in his parlance is the fact that I also believe in relationships and I don’t lose my head when it comes to keeping relationships.