The Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, tells ABIODUN NEJO that Ekiti State’s Governor Kayode Fayemi should be grateful to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for making him governor and how bad leadership has hampered development in Ekiti State
People have always talked about Ekiti Project – what does it mean to you?
Ekiti Project is a desire to build a just and equitable society. A society where our people will live a good life. A society devoid of injustice, poverty and squalour. A society where our youths can live and realise their dreams. This, for me, is not a mirage. It is possible. It is realisable. Our state is small and compact. We are homogeneous and same, no ethnic division. We have the human resources to achieve our goals if we put our mind to it and dedicate our energy to achieving it. All that is needed is a sincerity of purpose by our leaders.
What do you think is hampering the achievement of the Ekiti State project?
The Ekiti of my dream has yet to be realised. When I shout, oppose bad governance, expose corruption and lampoon lazy and dishonest leadership, it is not about me, but about my passion for a better society. The Ekiti of my dream is a place where every inch of the land available is cultivated, where the processing of agricultural produce dots the landscape, where the entire population are not only educated but given productive education; where the youth is fully engaged and made to contribute their quota to the development of the society. Our fathers invested a lot in education. We thank them for that. It now behoves on us to use that education for the betterment of our society. Any society with a huge bank of human resources should not be underdeveloped. Where it is, the blame should go to the leadership which has failed to harness it. We should harness our human resources and make giant strides in agriculture and the food chain, Information and Communication Technology, education, cultural enterprise, and medical enterprise, among others.
You have always been at war with successive governors of the state including Segun Oni, Ayodele Fayose and Kayode Fayemi– why is it so?
I agree with you if that is the way you see it. It is not personal. I am one person who could not keep silent in the face of injustice, oppression, and looting of the people’s resources. I don’t think I have any apology for that. If you commit the murder of a citizen of my state, I will shout. If you steal the resources with reckless abandonment, I will expose you. If you harass and humiliate our Obas, I will call you out. If the people vote for you to lead them and rather than doing that, you commit yourself to other ephemeral things, I will expose you. God has given me the knowledge and exposure, as well as the capacity and courage to do these things and no blackmail, will stop me from doing so. Having said this, let me also say that I have not just been a critic. I have led efforts to mobilise resources to bring about change in the Ekiti space. When there is bad governance, we organise to change such and bring in someone else, but you see, you can only try. Sometimes, the person you thought could do it may turn out worse than the person you chased away. That is the reality of our society. No sooner do they get to power than they turn monster. I have done quite a lot in educating people, mentoring the young and in general showing a good example of what Ekiti could make of a good society.
What no one could say about me in this place is that I have done things for my personal aggrandisement. I have never asked for or be given a Naira contract in Ekiti State. All my actions have been altruistic and I will never stop until I see the Ekiti of my pride.
But what have been the fruits of the battles?
The fact that people are being told and asked not to see their rulers as god; that free-born citizens must ask questions from those governing them. That there are alternatives to the shenanigans going on now. That when you are voted to power, you must dedicate that opportunity to serving the people and not yourself and members of your family. That you cannot continue to deceive our people while the majority watch, that someone out there or a group of people will come out to expose you.
There are insinuations that the present standoff between you and governor Kayode Fayemi is based on the forthcoming 2022 governorship. How true is this?
That is not true. The reasons behind my quarrel with him is encapsulated in all I have said above. When I disagreed with former governor Ayo Fayose and we succeeded in impeaching him, people said it could be because I wanted to become governor. When it was time to pick governor, I didn’t put myself forward; I picked Kayode Fayemi who knew little or nothing about our struggle. When we were to pick a deputy, I didn’t say use my wife, I went for another woman, a banker who was a woman of substance. So, all of that talk is just blackmail. Let’s talk about issues and not all these things about 2018 or 2022. Only small minds reduce serious issues to small talks. We talk about our people, we are talking about poverty, mindlessness, crass impunity, corruption and its consequences of underdevelopment.
Then what exactly led to the standoff?
Again, I think I have addressed that issue sufficiently earlier. Get serious, stay home and govern our people. Stop gallivanting and spending stupendous resources on chartering private jets. Use the resources available judiciously. Don’t personalise government. Respect our traditional institutions. Don’t insult our obas. Don’t make our party a one-man affair. Do not divide the party into two – the minority who are your minions and called themselves ‘Tokan Tokan’; and the majority who are left abandoned. Institute democratic institutions and respect them. Be passionate about our people and do the things that will uplift them. If you do this, then there will be no standoff.
Did you envisage the present situation when you withdrew from the APC governorship primaries in 2018?
Yes. I saw that some elements in the government who do not wish our state well were bent on installing him as our governor. They used some rogue elements in the security to disrupt the primary when they saw he was not winning so that they could go back to the drawing board. That disruption took place in broad daylight. Yet no one was arrested and prosecuted. With the information available to me, I concluded it was a needless effort. So why further waste my resources and energy? Why expose the lives of innocent Ekiti people to danger? I called my supporters, made information available to be known to them and we all agreed we should pull out. Very soon you will find out the details of that conspiracy against the Ekiti people in my memoir. Our brother was sent on assignment by outsiders and he has been executing the assignment.
What assignment are you talking about?
An assignment to divide our South-West caucus and bring our party on its knees. You perhaps must have read the interview in the Daily Trust where someone said: “there may be no APC after Buhari”. The assignment is to destroy the APC from within.
Have you at any time drawn the attention of the governor to these accusations?
Our governor has the persona of demi-god now. He is not just a governor, but the chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum which he (perhaps) interprets to mean alternate President. He is beyond engaging in dialogue with. You cannot see him or talk to him. You can only make supplications as you do to God Almighty. Moreover, when I tried to do so during his first term, I suffered greatly for it including the invasion of my house by armed men. I have approached the court of public opinion rather than being the king’s courtier!
Considering the fact that Fayemi has just two years to spend in office, some people feel that why can’t you (and your group) wait for the 2022 election to right the alleged wrong?
We waited the last time and our party was humiliated for it. You must have heard of 16-0. We lost to PDP in all the 16 local governments when he went for a second term. It was very bad for our party. We are shouting now and calling attention so that our party will not be made to go through that drubbing and humiliation again. How will it feel that our Ekiti man who wants to be President in APC or Vice President in PDP is unable to win an election convincingly in his state?
Do you have fears for APC in Ekiti in 2022?
I am worried. I am troubled. We still have time to repair in order to amend if our leaders could call our governor to order. If we could see the people a little more, if we could unite our party and stop being arrogant.
On what basis are you and some other APC leaders in the state pressing for dissolution of the party executives since the party claimed it conducted valid ward congresses?
There was no congress. What happened was a selection process in a private home. We have the evidence and we have put it before a court of law to adjudicate. If they are right and we are wrong why are they jittery and attempting to suspend us so that the case will not continue? Let me, however, note that we are not against those selected. All we are saying is that this is a democracy. Things must be done according to the dictate of the party’s constitution. You can propose these individuals to the congress and we shall vote or not vote for them, but you must do the right thing.
But now that the APC national leadership appeared to have recognised the Paul Omotoso-led APC SWC/SEC, will you continue with your matter in court against the SWC/SEC?
They didn’t listen to us before saying that. They also were not informed about the situation of things in our state prior to now. They are better informed now that the Committee for Reconciliation set up Fayemi has issued its report and that they confirmed all that we have been saying. The national body is now having a rethink and we shall see what its position is going forward, more so as they too have set up a reconciliation committee. I will advise you to get a copy of the Chief Jide Awe report and see for yourself. This was a committee set up by Fayemi himself. Moreover, it is only prudent they back a state exco until a court says otherwise or the NEC overrules them before they change their mind. We are glad they reprimanded the caricature of a state Exco when it attempted to expel party leaders. Such is how low our governor has sunk in the national circle. It is a shame!
But the party has said that the suspension slammed on you and others last month still subsists and that the national body’s nullification affected only your group’s suspension of the governor and APC state exco.
The national body, in its intervention, nullified all suspensions from both sides and inaugurated a reconciliation committee. We await the outcome of that. The State Exco is an aberration. They may be acting PDP’s script to destroy our party.
What makes you think so?
Of course, there was a recent confession by one of the dramatis personae that he (Fayemi) didn’t support our party’s candidate, but backed PDP’s candidate in the recently conducted Edo State governorship election.
What is your view about the El-Rufai-led National Reconciliation Committee for Ekiti crisis?
I am in support of any process that will bring unity to our party. We want to win elections, we want unity in our party. We want development in our state. These are our goals. Whatever could be done to achieve this, we shall cooperate with.
Some people are saying Fayemi helped you to become a senator and that you ought to be forever grateful – how do you react to this?
Laughable! I won’t dignify this with much response. I think those involved know the story and as I said, you will soon read that in my memoir. You will be shocked by reading what I went through in the hand of the one I helped made governor. That is by the way. Meanwhile, I will like to thank Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Chief Bisi Akande for coming to my support when I was about to be traded away.
Traded away – how?
It is complex. Efforts were made not to allow me to run, but for the intervention of Tinubu, Chief Akande and Chief Pius Akinyelure. Even after winning at the polls and winning massively, the party in collaboration with the authority in the state raised up an aspirant within our party to challenge me from the lower court to the Supreme Court. He was well funded and armed with forged results of the primary. But thankfully, the courts saw through them and I emerged victoriously.
What of the notion that your criticism of the Fayemi government is a plan aimed at setting the tone for 2023, going by the much rumoured aspiration of Tinubu and Fayemi?
Balderdash! Tinubu is capable of taking care of himself. This same Tinubu provided all the necessary support that made Fayemi a governor. Why should he need me now to save him from Fayemi or to set the tone? If it is true that Tinubu wants to run for President, Fayemi should be carrying his banner considering what he did for him in life. Again, you will read my memoir when it is out. I have so much to tell.