Former Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, is known for being candid. In this exclusive interview with Franktalknow.com, the former governor talks about the state of Nigeria’s education sector, the All Progressives Congress, its National leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, President Muhammadu Buhari, and his relationship with Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde among others.
Your days as governor were very eventful; you were always in the news. What have you been doing since you left office?
I have been in my house, I have taken time off to rest, I do largely now the little things I find my hands to do, that is personal to me, I do them. And I also reach out to my people in Ekiti to make myself very happy and ensure that the structure that needs to be built is well built.
Don’t you feel bored?
Well, naturally it won’t be the same. The event is quite different from when I was in the office which was buzzing with life. But averagely, my very intimate good friends are still with me, they come, they stand by me and give me an opportunity for a new beginning, a new life to go forward. So far, so good.
Nigerians appear to be very angry with their leaders, especially some of you that are past governors, particularly in the areas of Jumbo package, that Houses of Assembly legislate for former governors. What is your take on this?
I can only speak for myself, I am in my house, and I have not gotten anything from Ekiti. I don’t know of any Jumbo. All the entitlements that were calculated for me when I left Ekiti -inclusive of my allowances, drivers, cooks, and all that was calculated, and due to me was N63m and I was not paid in full, neither have I received a dime since I left office. And also during my first tenure, I never got a dime, I don’t know what they are talking about, either jumbo, small or big, I am not aware of it. And anybody who has a counter claim to what I am saying can publish it. So if you tell me some people are taking jumbo pay or allowance, let me tell you, I don’t know.
May I equally say that a former governor has gone through so much in service to the state and country, unfortunately, the way public service, the life of politicians are structured caused the public to be against the public officer. I believe that there should still be a reasonable level of care for us, because the moment you say, you are a governor either former or present, you will still go through lots of challenges, people still look up to us. A lot is still there to maintain. Eight years or four years as a governor, the stress is bigger than any public officer. Either in the national assembly, civil service, or board chairman, what the governor goes through especially in the state whose economy is so bad, is not an easy experience. To me, I believe I deserve to get support from the government after service.
But you are not getting anything?
I am not getting anything. I pay my workers and do every other thing at my own expense.
Are you saying that there is no law like that in Ekiti?
Nothing has come to me since I left office, I got no dime from no government. I stand to be corrected. So when they are talking about jumbo, I don’t know what it means. The resources of Ekiti are not what you can even get jumbo from.
Nigerian students have been home for a while due to ASUU Strike, and one of the reasons why people think those in government don’t care much about the Nigerian education system is that they think our leaders send their children abroad. Did your children also school in Nigeria?
Let me say this, a house or a building is supposed to be built on a foundation. The Nigerian political system and the kind of political leaders that are ruling our country is resting on a platform with no foundation. We are talking about education, but our problem is deeper than that. Before you can be educated, you need life; the security itself is a big issue. Again the economy doesn’t equally empower even if they resume today, so many parents cannot pay. It’s a multi-headed challenge when you talk about people not being in school or schools are closed or as a result of the strikes.
There is a natural strike before the main strike between the government and lectures. It is a decay occasioned by mismanagement by past leaders which has now become compounded under Buhari’s administration. When you equally look at the minister of education, when you put primary 6 or somebody who has no relevance to education as education minister and you put a junior minister who is a professor under that person, what can you make out of that sub-structure?
So a lot is wrong. I told Nigerians times without number, that this government cannot offer them anything. But I was the blackleg at the time. I was the one saying too much truth at that time. They don’t want to hear Fayose speak. Today, many of them have called me to say they are sorry for criticizing me, for not wanting to give Buhari a chance, but now they know what I said then was the truth. He has no capacity. The will is in the leader, the will to do, to conquer, to achieve is in the leader. Whatever the leader makes up for is what we will have. What Buhari has made of Nigeria is what we are getting. A country that is ready to silence every opposition figure, every dissenting view. When you see a wicked man, or when a wicked man is on the throne, he will have thousands of wicked people working under him taking advantage of his wickedness because he cannot see properly, he is a wicked man. When he says go and kill two people, they will add their own eight. When they come back, they will say, we have done the job but won’t say they added an extra eight.
Education is just one out of another 100 challenges. Is it the issue of saying service chiefs must remain? Is it the activities of the security agencies, abuse of their office and brief of engagement? We are talking about a rudderless nation, with no direction. No matter what you say about PDP Government, forget if I am a PDP or APC member, how can you have this deterioration, this terrible deterioration within a short space of time? Today in Nigeria, nothing is sustaining anything. It is a free fall. When President Buhari was the head of state, it was a period of recession too, the country was in crisis. If you look at the government at that time, somebody took charge. And they came to lie to the public that they are fighting for the North. Because the North needs education, the North is also suffering. They are the most educationally backward region in the country. What I am trying to say is that most leaders come and use divisive sentiments to come and tell us they are fighting for the North. It is our region, now what has happened to the North under them. We have records; it was Jonathan that established the Alimajiri schools. Are those schools still functioning? So it’s unfortunate when you say most leaders send their children abroad. Even civil servants send their children abroad. Everybody wants the best education for their children and education is not cheap anyway. When you see a mother saying, even if she doesn’t eat, let her children have an education. So it is not about leaders sending their children abroad, but in my instance case, I am not a saint but none of my children were trained abroad. My children attended schools in Nigeria and every time I go to the convocation of my children, they ask me that question. I don’t condemn anybody sending their children abroad.
And I recall very well that some of my children went to school in Ekiti when I was the governor of the state, the first time-in a SUBEB School that was my creation at that time. They were students in SUBEB School; my children were in public schools when I was in government. I am not saying I’m a Saint.
I am just letting you know that the system needs leaders who are selfless and have the love of their people. Today, the current APC government in Nigeria are the masses. The government is supposed to be answerable to the people but the people now are answerable to the government. And whatever they say to the people, they must do.
So right now, we believe God for intervention because the system is in a free fall and they are lying every day. If a situation is bad and you are not lying, it is better. But they are lying every day, every second. They lie to the people telling them things are getting better.
How do you explain the inflation rate? How do you explain that Nigeria has borrowed out its spirit, soul, and body? Nigeria is now in carcass and it is scattered. They are deceiving the public. Look at the dollar because everything we do in this country is measured in dollars. Looting under APC is second to none in the world.
There are insinuations that you may soon defect to APC especially with your recent comments on Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, when should Nigerians expect your next move?
You see it is only a low mind that will be thinking like that, I was the voice of my party, a clear voice between 2014 and 2018. Nobody could link me with APC, I was the only one speaking when Buhari went abroad and refused to come home. I was the one speaking and talking about the economy. I was the one talking about how Nigeria was badly governed under Buhari. You see, I am a very principled man and everybody knows me. It’s only cheap people that can think like that. But one thing I detest again is that I can’t say because I am in PDP, I will be destroying people physically in APC. These are two different things. Some said I talked about Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; well I stand by what I say. There is no doubt that Tinubu helped enthrone APC in Nigeria. No one can deny that he helped enthrone Buhari. Buhari has tried over four to five times, did he become the President? What I am trying to say is that he has reasonable influence, when they call a meeting of Yoruba leaders, is it at the back that Asiwaju will sit? So if anybody in Lagos has a personal issue with Asiwaju that is their problem. I am not a member of APC but I don’t want to be a part of people that will say it is APC doing the naming, let’s not greet them or PDP doing chieftaincy, we should not greet them. I don’t have that kind of character. If I want to greet Asiwaju, I will drive to his house, if he is afraid, I am not. I won’t go at night; I will go during the day. Why do they come to greet each other when people die? Why did Buhari greet me when my sister died? Why did Vice President greet me? Why did governors of APC greet me? It is because we are first of all brothers, leaders before talking about the party we belong to? These political parties are vehicles to achieve your goals. What Yoruba call Omoluabi, wherever you find yourself, Omoluabi will reflect. When they want to call leaders of the West today, no matter what they have said about me, I will be called, either in APC or PDP. When they call the former governors in Nigeria, they will call me. Decisions cannot be taken until they call stakeholders. You might not like my face. That is what I am saying about Tinubu, he has helped some people, I have also helped some people, Wike has helped some people, Bode George has helped some people at different times. So if by saying Asiwaju is a leader in Yoruba land and cannot be wished away, well that is the fact. If some people are shying away from the truth and they are terming that as I want to go to APC, well good luck to them. In the first place, I didn’t come to politics because of their consent, I am in politics because I can make decisions and it is my choice. But remember when people are in distress, they could do certain things. But even when I was in distress, I still stood my ground. Some people came to me that, if I could denounce PDP, I won’t go to EFCC, I went to EFCC myself, wore a shirt and say EFCC I am here. Courage is a key gift of God that one needs to exhibit to lead people, country, state, local government, family. I won’t do politics where Asiwaju will be somewhere and I can’t greet him, or where Fasola or Fayemi will be somewhere and I can’t greet them. We should not descend to that arena.
Yes, the #EndSars incident happens, they will naturally be targets. But there are more civil servants that are chopping the economy more than the politicians. And they don’t have names in the public domain. They are in charge of the economy. They are the people working out ways for politicians to come to eat. A lot of big names, people who claim to be billionaires, millionaires in this country, they are not politicians but harbour the interest of politicians. If Asiwaju chooses not to greet me, well it’s his choice. I have not seen him in more than two years. So I am not going to be his voice but I will state the obvious.
Somebody said they gave me land in Lagos, well they didn’t give me land, they gave the former governor of Ekiti State like every other governor in the West. They gave us land to build our house. They gave the former governor while I was the officeholder. They gave us land and what is the big deal about land? If they need land in Ekiti, I would have given them. Our land doesn’t carry the value as theirs. If I build a house in Magodo, Ikeja GRA, will that be too much for a former governor? So the people talking about such are dirty, they can’t be leaders at all. We saw Shagari and Awolowo were together, we saw Jonathan and Buhari were together, so when I see Asiwaju I will greet him. I am not an APC member and I will never be, but when they do what is not right, I will still say it publicly. This Asiwaju is no longer in government, if they say anything about him, and there is a credible reason to speak and defend the voice of average Nigerian, I will say it. I am not a member of his party or his household but I will remain a man of principle for the rest of my life.
There was a time the Oyo State Governor Makinde was talking about reconciliation of PDP in the South West, but it seems you are not for that peace move.
Well, the issue of South-West PDP is not a thing I want to lose sleep over. The fact is very clear. Any zone where you have a governor or governors, the governors are supposed to be leaders of those zones. For instance, in the South West, there is only one governor so the leader of the zone is that person. It shows that you are the rallying point nothing more. It does not turn you around to be the governor of Ekiti, Osun, Oyo, Lagos. You are needed financially; they coin that, so when there is a need physically, they can run to you. You are not running a regional government. It is just about nomenclature and respect. Every state is independent; every state should mind its own business. I was once the only governor in the West, I stand to be corrected. The issue between me and Governor Makinde is very clear. Stay in Oyo-State, I will stay in Ekiti. The moment you put yourself in my state, we will have issues.
If Governor Makinde is governor, I was once governor, I was twice governor. I was also Chairman of the PDP governors’ forum which gives me a life time membership of NEC. So I don’t have issues with him, I can advise, if he likes, he should take. So for me as we speak, if he says he wants things from this side, we might say we don’t want it from that side, that is our opinion. There is no governor outside or within our region that can force anything on Ekiti. Neither should we force anything on them. The party could seek help from them to see if they can mediate. There is no governor that is a party. And there is no election done in the zone other than the 12- man committee of the zone and if they want Chairman from here and we say we want it from the other side, we will disagree to agree. If it works fine, if not, we divide by-election. That is all. Governor Makinde is a leader, by reason of his office as a governor. I was once a leader because of my office as a governor at that time. So there is no issue. Nobody is going to be bothered contesting office. He is the one to spend the money. If we call him leader, we are calling him leader because he’s the one spending the money. I am not in any competition with him but I must say that I am not a pushover. If we can work together in terms of agreeing on certain positions, we would be glad to do that, but if we can’t agree, we would divide by-election. Because there will be a winner and a loser.
You gave a warning about this government before Buhari became President. You gave lots of predictions and interestingly, most of your predictions have come to pass
So many people have called me to apologise to me. Then, they said I should leave Buhari alone. One of them is Dele Momodu, he openly apologised that they never saw what Fayose saw. So many individuals are now suffering and smiling inside. They never got what they bargained for. They are suffering and cannot talk so that the system does not deal with them. I have seen people who have told me: my brother, you are a man, you have done well. We never saw that side of the story. Buhari never won that election in the second tenure. Everybody was against Buhari’s administration and you can tell by the fact that he lost in Abuja. So look at the current challenges in the country, the insecurity, education, health, commerce, all points to the economy. If there is no economy, we’ll be in the midst of nowhere. So we currently have no president who can move our country forward. People started saying it is not the president that is in office; and this is an indication of how disappointed people are. When you are saying it is not Buhari that is in the villa, you know it is a wrong thing to say. When you listen to the way people are analyzing it, almost everybody today, about 70% have come to believe that, whereas even me I don’t think it is true. But it is simply because they are disenchanted, there is no direction. No one is there for them anymore. They cannot see leaders in the 21st century. They are confused and looking at what is happening. When Trump was saying you have a lifeless president in Nigeria, it has gotten to that stage of decay.
When you were governor, you cut the activities of herdsmen but interestingly, it seems people can no longer move freely in the day not to talk of evening time. How do you feel about this?
It is not about Ekiti alone, I have said that everything boils down to leadership. When the head is right, the signal will be right. The problem is leadership. When you see people coming out to say we are protesting in favour of the military, have you seen that in any part of the world? But here in Nigeria, they will carry placards and say Buratai is very good, he is trying. That is the level of decay in this country and shamelessly our TV stations too will be projecting such a story all in the name of presenting two sides. It is shameful. It is all about leadership. When the leader is up and doing, look at when the issue of herdsmen occurred in Ghana, without sentiment, they quenched it.
What you are seeing in America today is all about the leadership of Trump. That is very unlike America. That is an insult and destroying the democratic principle for which America is known for a very long time. It’s telling the African president, you can take an open cheque of sit- tight in his conduct. I don’t want to talk about Trump, because even if it is one day, he has messed up big time. I was once his supporter in my little way before but don’t let me go there.
What do you think about agitation for state police and restructuring?
Restructuring is inevitable but what we need is more than restructuring because the actual problem of Nigeria is the attitude of our leaders. When the system is not allowed to function, then every other creation is not going to work. Today a wrong leader is in place, which is why we are having everyone taking laws into their hands.
I was coming from Ibadan two days ago, and I was in traffic for long, so we took Remo, and within a short time, some small boys blocked the road and started robbing people, out of fear, people started giving them money, and immediately I just came out of my car and shouted, hey stop there. They took to their heels. It clearly shows that they have studied the system, that if they too can take laws into their hands, they will get away with murder and everything. It is the attitude.
Are you now saying that we don’t need state police and restructuring?
I just said to you that they all need to overhaul the system. But more of it is the attitude because even if you say, North, South, south-south, southwest go your way and others, in every state, there will still be all characters coming to sit in the centre stage telling you, nepotism is not bad, they have done it before somewhere.
Some people think your party is not giving the kind of opposition that APC gave while in opposition
APC is a blackmailer. There is a difference between blackmailing and constructive opposition. Our party did not muster anybody; our party didn’t take over with the blood of Nigerians. We did not oppress anybody, it is not about what the opposition party did not do but what the party in government fails to do. What power does an opposition party have other than to point at the errors in government? What does PDP need to point out now-that rice is N40.000? For those paying for electricity at the rate of fuel price, do you need PDD to tell you that? That kidnappers are killing every day? That the President is not performing? Do you need PDP to tell you that? We should not talk about PDP and all that.
Do you hear the revelation of some people when they say certain things? That Lekki experience, do you need PDP to tell you it was the army that shot?
Now what do you think about #ENDSARS?
Only God can save us. Look at what they did to Sowore, I don’t like him too because he is a blackmailer. Look at how they chopped his head. Everybody thought there would be reasons for them to be reasonable. Now, to the case of #EndSars. Everybody literarily said, can this happen in our country but that is the new Nigeria. That is the restructured Nigeria too.
Recently things that we see worry the heart. Nigeria needs God, prayer, help. They will come up with the idea that it is a Northern, southern that is there, it is all lies.
A good leader will provide leadership for everybody that is the oath of office we took. You do good and what is right. Hunger does not know Hausa or Yoruba man. All we are asking is to help us to survive in our own country.
Nigerians think there is a disconnect between their leaders and the people. You have been in government and now out of office, what is it in our leaders that don’t make them accountable.
People are not accountable because over time, the laws are not made for some people, so the system cannot work. If the law is implemented without the sentiment of political interest, it will be a brand new Nigeria. We will be fair in the implementation of the law and give fairness and justice to all manners of men. When you go to America, you will hear justice for this, for that, because they know their justice system works. When I say the justice system, the executive does not intimidate the judiciary.
So it has to do with the attitude of our leaders?
The moment you know you can get away with anything as a leader, then the average man will suffer from the law. When the governor acts with impurity and gets away with it, the people will suffer for it. They will say ignore him, he is only ranting, even when he is facing undue oppression. Look at the judicial panel they set up in the state, the judicial panel will represent the interest of the governor, the policemen they want to protect. Is it not the same people that are setting up judicial panels that are also freezing the accounts of protesters and sanctioning TV stations that aired the protests? They know what they are doing.
What should we be expecting from the Fayose brand politically?
Time will tell, God has allowed us to stand for the truth, we will continue to stand for the truth, but I have always said God can make me the president of this country. With God nothing is impossible. I will not fight to be president. God says time and chance happens to all men.