FEW DAYS BEFORE HE WAS ARRAIGNED IN COURT BY THE EFCC FOR FRAUD, AYO FAYOSE PLAYED HOST TO ROLAND OGBONNAYA AND LANRE ODUKOYA IN HIS HOUSE IN LAGOS. THE FORMER GOVERNOR OF EKITI STATE SAID THOUGH HE’S DOWN, BUT NOT OUT AS HE IS PLANNING TO RETURN TO THE GOVERNMENT HOUSE IN EKITI COME 2015 TO FINISH THE PROJECTS HE STARTED THAT HAVE BEEN ABANDONED. HE’S SO SURE THAT HE WILL RETURN BECAUSE THE POLITICAL STRUCTURE THAT WILL DELIVER HIM IS STILL INTACT. HE DISMISSED THE PRESENT GOVERNMENT IN EKITI AS HE SPOKE ON HIS PLANS AND OTHER ISSUES. EXERPTS…
How’s life six years outside the office?
I have adjusted fully, I would say. One good thing that has helped is that when I was coming into the office, I wasn’t coming without the end in view. And I’ve been that kind of person who believes in the ordinariness of men. It is why I’m very close to the grassroots till today. I’ve moved on with my life after office and I believe that at some point in life, if age doesn’t take away that which we enjoy and value most, death will take it.
You enjoyed so much admiration from the Ekiti people in your days as a governor; all of a sudden there was a bubble burst, what explains this?
Well, that is politics and I really want to dwell more on the future than the past. What happened to me was unfortunate and we’ve learnt all what we need to learn from it. And I know that it was quite undeserving for the level of service that I gave to Ekiti people. Up till today, the people have made my government a benchmark for all other governments that have come to govern Ekiti.
I see that as an unfortunate situation that caused me to fall. And I see it in another sense that there’s nothing wrong in falling, a man can fall and there will be a lot wrong with a man not rising. Since I left office, I’ve always put in my best to ensure that I rise again and achieve what God wanted me to achieve, but was cut short there and then by circumstances. But I bear no grudge against anyone.
What were the important legacies you left when you governed the Ekiti State?
Away from propaganda and blackmails, I still remain the governor closest to his people in the history of our state. There was no road in Ekiti that was called a dual carriageway; my government from one community to the other initiated it. I indeed opened up the whole state. In the history of Oodua, Ekiti has not hosted a trade fair. I hosted it and built a trade fair complex, which housed the Fountain Hotel and the Adetiloye Multipurpose Hall among other things. The opening up of Ekiti State will be credited to my name and that’s why people call me the architect of modern Ekiti.
So, if I take you through the journey, it would be forever because there are too numerous things to mention. The Governor’s Office that I built is one of its kinds in Nigeria. Well, you might have Rivers State better off and one or two states in South-South, but the Ekiti Governor’s Office was built to the range between first to third best in Nigeria, there’s no denying that fact. That is why you have the problem in the education sector in Ekiti State today. And the government is at loggerheads with the principal players of the sector. So, in my time, there was no local government strike, no teachers’ strike, sometimes I even called the NLC to ask them if there’s any other thing they need me to address. I paid the pensioners the 126 per cent wage increase, which I backdated it. History is on my side today for what I did for the Ekiti people.
How do you feel when you see some of the projects put in place by your government now in disrepair or abandoned?
When I see the ones like the poultry project and others that are left in the rains today, it’s unfortunate, but you can only do your best. I feel bad sometimes when I see some of these laudable projects destroyed by propaganda and politics. It is history that will judge all of us and it’s judging us now. I’ve been vindicated from what happened to me in and out of office. Despite all the good works that I did, I didn’t borrow. I didn’t even know where the Capital Market was. I paid all the outstanding debts that I met on ground and left a cash sum of N10.4 billion and that’s nothing less than about 45 percent of what the government is borrowing today and looking for desperately.
I recovered the documents of Ekiti State as a result of debt of over N1 billion from Omega Bank then, which caused them to seize the Oju-Olobun property and the document of Ekiti House in Abuja as collateral. I paid outstanding arrears of salaries in some local governments in nine months. It doesn’t matter who is in the government today or who will be there tomorrow, and who will be there in hundred years to come, I stand to be corrected. Awolowo’s enemies might criticise him then, but over time, his enemies too went into history as people who made no sense in governance. I still want to be the governor of Ekiti State again; I still want to do it because I didn’t complete my assignment.
How optimistic are you that your party, PDP will give you the ticket?
I’m an experienced politician. To be a governor for six years, especially in a state like Ekiti, you must have the necessary prerequisites to go about your business and achieve. If you do well when you’re in office, it’s easy. Today, I have shown interest in the governorship election, but I am not boasting. By the grace of God, I am a major player, not ignorable. I am very hopeful that I will win the PDP primaries because the party itself wants due process. The party wants to show that it can achieve internal democracy properly. I think they’ve learnt from the past challenges of nominating candidates out of pity and sentiments. If they do it properly, appealing to people who lose will be easier. If I lose the primaries, I will work with anybody that wins the election. That is the truth.
Was it then a misadventure to have contested your Senate seat through the Labour Party?
No, it was no misadventure. Everything in life works together for good. Losses in Nigerian elections could either be as a result of manipulations or any other thing that worked in favor or against you. But to me, if God wanted me to get there, those things won’t work. And being unable to go to the Senate, I still have cause to thank God. Abraham Lincoln wanted to be a councilor, a House of Representative member and a senator, he couldn’t win elections but eventually he became the president of America. There are certain things that happen to man in life, it might look like a loss to that man, but in God’s purpose, it’s a perfect victory. So, Kwankwaso was deprived of winning the second term and he came back eight years later. Mine was not a misadventure; it’s part of my journey of life to get to my destination.
You tried a race in LP, but it was not successful. Is it not the same grassroots people that couldn’t deliver you that will support you in your new bid?
Politics is so dynamic; the equation at that time is different from the equation now. And I really don’t want to dwell on certain things. Like I said to you before, everything works together for good. The best man may not necessarily be the best material for a particular position. Maybe God’s purpose for me was not for the Senate. At the appointed time, I’ll be where God wants me to be. I’m not someone who will, as a result of failing in one possible opportunity retreat to his house. You only need to readdress yourself, re-strategise, put yourself together, revisit what went wrong at a particular time reorder and re-fix it. I am very hopeful this time that all will be well.
What’s your assessment of the present government in Ekiti State?
This is an area where I’ve always avoided. To some people, they say it’s because Gov. Fayemi will drag me to court, I laugh at them. The people who tried to charge me to court before now lost direction of their government. I’m not bothered about that. But I’ve learnt certain lessons in my life and one of them is that a leader must be reserved in his utterances. I am not the only person in Ekiti, as a result, I give room to the other over two million people in Ekiti to assess the government.
If I say anything, it will sound like malice because my party is not in government. They’ll think it’s because Fayemi and I don’t talk. To me as a person, the PDP is still the best for Ekiti State. I’m saying this because it is the PDP that ruled for the past eight years in Ekiti before the ACN took over. People can now weigh the two parties to see which one is better off. During my own government, we never experienced a strike action and it was a PDP government. During my period, I did not borrow money and left Ekiti in debt. That will still go to the credit of a PDP government. During my government, the main projects in Ekiti are still the major things you see on ground today.
Without disrespect to the Fayemi Administration, he has not started one project initiated by him; rather he has been repairing all existing roads, which is equally good. They will term him a road repairer if he’s not careful. When I became a governor, my government started all the projects in Ekiti. My government initiated ado-Ekiti to Afao road; they’re all ordinary grounds. We completed all the tarring phases of the road construction. If you look at Oke Ako Irele from Oke Ayedun, it was a virgin ground. Same with Ikere to Igbara, Aramoko to Ikogosi, from Ikogosi to Efon just to mention a few were all initiated by my government.
With facts and figures, Fayemi has not initiated a single road construction project from bush clearing. And the unfortunate thing is that the road maintenance is over-inflated and hardly will you find the indigenes of Ekiti benefitting from the works. Indigenous contractors in Ekiti are crying. Every job going on in Ekiti are contracted to people outside the state, I stand to be corrected. All school renovations because that is what I can call, is merely about changing of old roofs to modern aluminum sheets and changing their windows. Fayemi’s administration has not built one new classroom. If you must have a legacy, it must be one initiated and completed by you. I want to say clearly that a new PDP government will do better than things done by ACN in Ekiti State.
What I did to avert strike by the teachers during my tenure was to show them love. I brought them closer to me. I did a lot of exchange programmes where teachers were sent to Kenya, Malaysia, South Africa, England and brought the teachers back to come and retrain their colleagues. We did not ask them to come and write examinations.
What exam can an almost 60-year-old man do? If you look at Fayemi’s age, he’ll be about 46 and his teachers will just be retiring now or some of them would just be about two years from retirement. What can they do again? It is the new ones coming and the generation after them that you’d have to train not examination because when you start to suspect that if I do this examination, government will sack me (because some people have been sacked already), then they’ll believe that the answers must have been leaked to some of the government cronies. In my own case, I expect the government to do trainings not examinations they’ve been calling for.
When we were campaigning for Fayemi, he said in his manifesto that the then N19,000 that was not approved by his predecessors was only 120 dollars and that he would pay it. How will the same 120 dollars become an issue today? I supported him at that time, whatever we say as leaders, we must stand by it. Capital flight is what is taking the money from Ekiti. I paid salaries on 22nd of every month, I stand to be corrected. For me to leave government and still leave N10.4 billion in the state treasury means I’m an economist. That is why I say that whether you are a doctor, professor or a midwife doesn’t matter, it is the innate ability of a man that counts. The education you get in school is bookwork, but the transfer of that knowledge and its application makes you a better man than an illiterate. You don’t need education to give water, roads, security and so on.
Are you already regretting ever working for him?
No regrets at all. Mine is to do my part and God to do his part in our lives and the way we direct that part is our own business. I took the decision to support him at that time in good faith. You can find job for a person, but you cannot do the job for him. See the irony of life, if I supported Fayemi at that time and it was in public knowledge and the same ACN is now attacking me, it’s amazing how politics get funny sometimes.
So you are disappointed?
I am not disappointed. There are two people involved for a man and woman to make babies. Everybody has a role to play and I have played mine. My wife being unable to conceive and have a child is her role. I cannot be disappointed that I played my role. Probably, my role was what the Ekiti people wanted at that time. You must be on the side of the people and I have no regrets, it is Fayemi’s choice to play his own role judiciously. My understanding is that the people are wiser, if you don’t serve them, they will look for another person to serve them and that’s the truth.
You once had it rough and tough with former president Olusegun Obasanjo, who is a key player in the PDP. How do you hope to sail through without him?
That was in the past, I’m a more matured politician now. When there are certain things, as a young man, you could react, but event has overtaken the attack on Obasanjo. If I want to remain in PDP, I have to be Obasanjo’s friend and that is the truth. That doesn’t imply that without Obasanjo PDP cannot move forward, but he’s still a major factor in the party. When I was fighting Obasanjo, I wasn’t in the PDP. So, if I want to remain in PDP, is it right for me to be fighting Present Goodluck Jonathan? Is it right for me to fight Oyinlola? No, because these are leaders of the party.
So, if I’m coming back to PDP, I have to come to obey leadership and the norms in the party. I’m not above the laws of the party. I have written a letter to Obasanjo, we have reconciled, he has replied, and the party has also cleared me. The party even backdated my return and it has put me on the track to contest elections if I want to. And that’s the more reason all these attacks are coming. Originally, they thought that Fayose can not be cleared to contest in an election. Now that they see that the coast seems clear and seeing my leg on the turtle, fear grips everybody. They say I’m not popular, if a man is not popular, why are you attacking him everywhere.
They said I lost senate election, I agree. Since I lost the senate election and you believe I cannot make any other impact, go and sleep and leave me. You are not bothered about a man who cannot do any harm to you politically. It means that there’s certain thing in me that is their headache.
You reportedly had fierce issues with some major traditional rulers during your tenure. How do you hope to calm these frayed nerves?
Propaganda is different from reality. I didn’t have issues with any monarch, but you always know that if there are differences, no matter how little, the opposition will take advantage of it. Our friends know propaganda and they can tell what never happened and continue to hammer on it. Today, I am in good relationship with our traditional rulers. But beyond this, I am not a perfect man. Anybody can make mistakes, but that does not mean that I said I attacked any traditional ruler. Even if I did, I became a governor ten years ago and I’m a better person now. I’m more matured.
David the King said, “when I was young, I was behaving like a young man, but now that I’m of age, I must behave like an elderly man”. I’m more of an elderly man now, more of an elder statesman. So, nobody will sit in that position and will not offend people. It’s a decision taking seat, so whoever we have offended will equally remember that the human beings that we are is not infallible and whatever we have done wrongly, we apologise, and will do better if we are given a second chance. Lessons have been learnt at different stages of our lives and I want to implore everyone not to entertain any fear. It’s a new Ayo Fayose who has a better listening ability and understanding.
Are there certain things if given a second chance, you’d handle differently?
Yes, I will say. Ten years in our live is not a short time at all. Today, maybe some people need to be ignored, while we waste time responding, we would ignore him. Some probably need to have their ego massaged, we would do that. Some people probably just want recognition; we’ll go there and appreciate them. We have a better understanding of life, not governance alone. A lot of things would be better done this time. That doesn’t mean that we concede all the propaganda hurled against us. We’re more matured at handling matters now.
Are you coming to be Ekiti governor with innovations or is it an attempt to consolidate on the legacies you left six years ago?
The rate at which I was doing things in Ekiti, I would have gone far by now. The issue here is that I’ve got a lot more experience than you can imagine. I want to come back to complete that assignment that they didn’t allow me to complete. I want to build institutions that will be functional even when governments come and go. I want teachers that are productive, not helplessly suffering ones. Everything that ought to be done, but left unfinished are the things I want to come back to fix. Like I told you, my government has remained a benchmark, whether they believe it or not.
What’s your assessment of President Jonathan’s Administration?
If they bring me to that office of Mr. President, people will criticise me even if I criticise anybody now. Let’s leave Jonathan now. Everybody is talking about federating units, federalism and it means that if we look at it, every state is like the Nigerian nation by the way it is structured. Is every state getting it right? If you start from each of this unit, then you’ll realise that this decay and attack on Jonathan should be visited on the states first, and on the local governments too.
State governments withholding local governments funds, is that also Jonathan’s making? Is it Jonathan that is sponsoring Boko Haram to kill themselves? Nigerians should leave Jonathan alone. Our problem is not the head, even if the head sends a signal and the leg doesn’t receive it, what can anybody do? How can one man solve the problem of the whole Nigeria, he can only try his best and he’s trying. But the reality is that it is easier to criticise than to fix.