Jide Awe, Chairman, All Progressives Congress in Ekiti State, in this interview with FISAYO FALODI and KAMORUDEEN OGUNDELE, says the governorship election won by Ayo Fayose in Ekiti State was far from free and fair
After the June 21 election, there was insinuation that Governor Kayode Fayemi lost the election because he was far from the grass roots. Do you agree?
You have called it insinuation. Insinuation may be an opinion expressed, which is not a fact. The fact of the matter is that we have served the Ekiti people within the last three and half years to the best of our knowledge. And service is multi-dimensional. We believe sincerely that we have done our bit. I want to believe that our best may not be good enough. We don’t want army siege to continue in Ekiti, that was one of the reasons the governor went on air to congratulate the so-called winner. Again, if what the people are saying is that people should be eating corn and boli and epa on the street, I think some of us are cultured and have a background which is not synonymous with Ayo Fayose’s brand of hooliganism. The governorship seat has its own etiquette and it is not good to throw norms and ethics to the winds because you want to gain position. As I have said, to the best of our knowledge, we have served the people.
So, why did Fayemi concede defeat?
Fayose challenged Fayemi that he did not construct any road from the start to the finish, is it true?
You can see for yourself.
But Fayose said that all the roads Fayemi rehabilitated were built by him.
That was Fayose’s opinion, which is different from the fact. That was why I said opinions are free. According to Kayode Fayemi, opinions are free; facts are sacred.
Do you mean Fayose is lying?
Facts are sacred. You are journalists. Go and start from the boundaries between Ondo and Ekiti states; and Igbara-Ode down to Ado-Ekiti and from Ikere end of the road to Ado-Ekiti or you go from Ikole to Iluomoba down to Ijan or you move from Erijinyan to Ilawe, then from Ilawe to Ado-Ekiti and you go farther to the township roads in Ado-Ekiti, if these are constructed from start to the finish, then you can judge. Whatever pleases anybody, he can open his mouth and say it. We knew what the roads were when we came in and we know what they are now.
One of the claims by the incoming governor was that Fayemi did not start the construction of any road and that he only built on the existing roads.
I know that the road that comes from Lagos to Ibadan was constructed in 1977, I don’t know of any other road if you want to reach Lagos from Ibadan. It has been constructed by succeeding governments. The road from Abuja to Kaduna is still the road.
Fayose said Ekiti was eighth position in public examinations before he left office, having brought it from 34th position. Is it true that the standard of education fell under Fayemi’s administration?
The Ministry of Education will answer that question. But we knew when we came on board that the educational standard of Ekiti was at the lowest ebb. The conduct of West African Examination Council’s Senior Secondary Certificate Examination became terrible when people would come from neighbouring states and hibernate in Ekiti for two weeks and at the end of the day got results. We knew when groundnut vendors would be selling WAEC question papers, that was the situation we met in Ekiti State. So, the Ministry of Education is in a position to give data. What we know is that we have upgraded the standard from 22 per cent to 75 per cent. It is not a joke. Ordinary eyes cannot see some of these things we are talking about unless through serious research. And you cannot give what you don’t have. What is the educational pedigree of the person talking? So, that is rostrum talk; when somebody mounts the rostrum and starts talking, he may be expressing his opinion because some of the statements may not be factual, that is what we are saying.
Is it not strange that someone who claimed to have performed well was rejected by the people at the poll?
It is not his claim. Performance is in the court of the people. It is not Fayemi’s claim that he had performed well. It is what the people are saying. If you have been coming to Ekiti State in the last seven years, you would be able to see the difference between what existed and what now exists. So, it is not Fayemi’s claim that he had performed well.
So why was he rejected by the people through their voting?
That is election; it is politics. What is sauce for the geese may not be sauce for the gander. So, that is why we have choice to make.
Shortly after the election, some people accused Fayose of inducing voters with rice, but Fayose said later that APC, your party, also shared cooked rice to seek voters’ support. What is your reaction to this?
The issue of rice or no rice, I believe, should have been forgotten by now. We are looking at the substance. You are looking at the surface rather, you don’t look at the depth. So, if you are now making rice an issue in an election period, it stands logic on its head. And to me, it is very debasing that 21st century Ekiti man queues up for rice and it becomes an issue in an election. It gives me concern as an Ekiti man and at the same time calls for questioning. If you are talking of pounded yam, then we believe that it is Ekiti’s favourite.
If Governor Fayemi has conceded defeat to Fayose, why is APC still going to court?
It is very noble in this part of the world that somebody will concede defeat. The APC is saying that there are some things it wants to unravel. And I made a statement in an advertorial that parts of the landmines that had been planted for 2015 general elections were detonated in Ekiti, which I called a very bad experiment. In a situation where you put the whole state under siege two weeks before the election, you militarised the whole place, even with dogs and horses. Election cannot be a war more than what we experienced in Ekiti State in the name of election. So, I believe some of these things, other than the result of the election, need to be questioned not because of now but for the future. In a situation where you mobilised soldiers from their barracks to intimidate, to hijack, to suppress and to arrest innocent citizens 72 hours before the election, that is an aberration and strange to democracy. You cannot continue to use soldiers to suppress democracy and expect democracy to grow. These are some of the things the leadership of APC said they are going to examine. Two weeks earlier or a week before the election, we cried out that ballot papers were brought to Ekiti and were being thumbprinted in the compound of the Director-General of Fayose’s Campaign Group, Chief Anisulowo, and two people were arrested in the process and taken to Abuja, we have not heard anything about them. Three weeks to the election, a lorry load of materials was seized at Efon-Alaaye and brought back to Ado-Ekiti, but INEC said they were used materials meant for disposal. At the end of the day, 3,000 ink pads meant for the 2014 Ekiti State election were found in the lorry. That is under investigation and at the same time, the type of ink brought for the election was vanishing ink, because the real ink meant for the election had been removed from the INEC store under the guise of taking away disposable materials. When you put all these together, they are meant to be questioned. The Yoruba will say that a hunter who sacrifices a big game to Ogun is doing so because of the future.
There are allegations that contracts awarded by Fayemi were paybacks to his godfathers, is it true?
Well, I am not in a position to know which contracts were awarded. I am the party chairman, I am not a part of the contract awarding committee but to the best of my knowledge, all the works we have done; the construction of roads, the renovation of schools, various vehicles bought for traditional rulers and Iya-loja and some other projects are ongoing, must be executed by human beings. So, whoever the contracts were awarded to must have fixed addresses because there is a Bureau of Public Procurement and due process in Ekiti State and if contracts were awarded without due process, they could be subjected to investigation, even while the governor is in office or immediately after he leaves office.
Fayose described former Governor Segun Oni as korofo (empty shell) because he could not deliver his local government. Do you agree with this?
What Fayose has seen to have increased his ego will soon be opened to the public by calling a former occupant of governorship seat all sorts of names. What has inflated his ego will soon be blown open, I won’t say more than that.
What is your reaction to a claim that Fayemi’s Chief of Staff, Yemi Adaramodu, wielded much power and that the development contributed to the governor’s defeat?
Why are they just saying it now? A Chief of Staff serves his master and the master has the right to hire and fire. I think he is in the best position to complain, as the man who hired him. That is why I said that people are free to express their opinions.
Do you agree that federal might contributed to Fayose’s victory in the election?
Federal might? Didn’t you see it displayed overtly. The might that could not be used at Chibok; at Sambisa forest, was now brought to Ekiti and by the time they were unleashing terror on our people here, Boko Haram insurgents too were at work, doing what they know how to do best. If the level of force used in Ekiti was taken to Chibok, by now the over 200 Nigerian girls abducted by the Boko Haram insurgents would have been rescued. The Yoruba people will say ofi ete sile, onpa lapalapa (misplacing priority). If such level of force was used in the nation’s borders, we would have detected where those girls were kept for more than 85 days. So, I believe that the federal might was overtly used as if Ekiti State does not belong to the federation called Nigeria, when a President can decide to unleash terror on his people in the name of election; Nigeria we hail thee.
Shortly before the election, as part of the strategies to win support from the grass roots, APC distributed vehicles to some groups. Now that the party lost the election, will it retrieve them from the beneficiaries?
Are you talking of the government or the party?
Are the party and government not the same?
No, they cannot be the same; there is a thin line of demarcation. We cannot distribute vehicles to the people, but the government can do so. The beneficiaries of the vehicles are citizens of Ekiti State. If what the government has done was not proper, there are ways it could be redressed and not all what the government did could be termed as inducement. So, the government has the duty to satisfy the yearnings and aspirations of the people.
EFCC says Fayose has a case to answer, is that kind of hope for APC?
He has always been having cases to answer.
What is your comment on a claim that Fayemi’s plan to create local governments towards the end of his administration was meant to cause problem for the incoming government?
Creating local government development areas is a process. The question you should have asked is, when did this process start? The process started almost three months before the election. People were asked to submit memoranda and they were submitted and a committee was set up to receive the memoranda and after that, a tour was organised by the committee to visit all parts of the state where interests were expressed. Later, towns and villages that want to work together were interviewed and the committee now sent its report to the governor.
According to Fayose, the ongoing construction of the governor’s lodge is to make the governor comfortable and not in the interest of the masses. What is your reaction to that?
There was no protest when Fayemi started the project. Some of these things you said Fayose said stand logic on its head. Is it proper for a state created 18 years ago not to have a governor’s lodge? That edifice being constructed is Ekiti State’s property, a child yet unborn will still be governor in Ekiti and he will live in the Government House. A great idea starts like a joke, but some people cannot see beyond now, they see the immediate and strive to satisfy the immediate needs and the environment. A governor of Ekiti State cannot continue to stay in undignified apartment, 18 years after the creation of the state. Whatever anybody may say about some of the legacy projects, (that was why we termed them legacy) does not bother us. The projects will outlive us. The pavilion that will take 10,000 seats at a time and 2,000 standing will appeal to many of us. Some people don’t see any reason in constructing a pavilion too; they believe we have a stadium, which is meant for sporting activities. Religious activities will take place at the pavilion and other social engagements such as marriage ceremony and burial. That was why we termed this legacy project, but some people who want immediate gain may not see it. We have the intention of building Ekiti now and in future.
PDP won in all the 16 local governments, were you embarrassed by the result?
Naturally one will feel embarrassed. I told you earlier that at the outset of our campaign, we were going to run the election with records of achievements. There are 133 or 135 towns and villages in Ekiti State. Visit any of them, for the first time in the history of governance in Ekiti, you see a government touching nearly all the nooks and crannies of the state. For the first time in the history of governance in Ekiti State, we touched all the nooks and crannies of the 135 towns and villages in the state. But the people said that was not what they wanted. They said they wanted rice.
Will your party accept the offer to be a part of an inclusive government of the incoming governor?
It is easier said than done. Mind you, our party has philosophy. We have historical antecedents. We are not a party of bread and butter. Our party has a solid legacy which is to create opportunities for people to work and not to make them beggars or scavengers as you now see on the streets. Some of the things you see on the streets are anathema to our philosophy and beliefs. We believe in free compulsory education and we are trying as much as possible to give education, sound and qualitative health care to our people. Some of these policies are not finished products like rice packaged from one corner of the street and given to the people. We would have allowed our people to go and plant rice, and harvest it before consuming. There is a proverb in Chinese which says ‘it is better to teach people how to fish instead of giving them fish.’ Anyway, people get the kind of government they deserve. As a political party, we will continue to educate our people. According to Chief Obafemi Awolowo, ‘a man’s greatness is in his ability to rise each time he falls.’ If we had lost an election which is controversial and doubtful, and which we have promised to investigate, that shouldn’t make us to go and wine and dine with the devil. We would not do it.
Fayose boasted to chase APC out of South West; with the loss in Ekiti, does that suggest the end of the party in the state?
As a party that has historical pattern, this is not the first time the progressives will lose an election. We have gone back to the drawing board, if we had made mistakes, we will correct them. Somebody could say whatever he likes, God is the ultimate. Politicians could say whatever they want to say, the ultimate powers belong to the people.
Some APC members were arrested on the election day for allegedly trying to induce voters …
Yes, lots of our people were arrested even a day to the election and taken to unknown places only to be released on Sunday morning. Kupolati from Iyin, Sunday Ibitoye in Ado, Chief Bisi Egbeyemi, Mrs. Fajuyi, all these people were arrested. The house of the Director General of our campaign, Hon. Bimbo Daramola, was visited and he was driven from his home. But saying that people were arrested with money, please, tell me which ventures they don’t do with money. Up till now, they said soldiers collected money from politicians, did they tell you the amount? It means they actually came to loot. They said they arrested people with money but nobody was paraded. It is not a crime to put some money in your pocket in Nigeria.
What about the rumour that your members in the House of Assembly are planning to defect to the PDP?
I have told you that APC is not a party that you can toy with. APC sprang from an origin that is well cultured. Whoever that contested on the platform of APC and that has the belief of the party starting from the Action Group down to Unity Party of Nigeria, the Alliance for Democracy, to Action Congress, Action Congress of Nigeria and now APC, will know that it is a party that believes in a developmental programme. Some of what we have done may not be visible to our people, particularly those who want finished product may not know now. But in due course, they will know. Even when Otunba Niyi Adebayo was there, he made a lot of sacrifices and constructed some projects in Lagos and Abuja that today form the bulk of our internally generated revenue, but nobody will go to the street to say this. We cannot all be consuming maize and groundnuts on the street. A member of the House of Assembly who believes in these ideals will not because of Pyrrhic victory of another party defect. I have not heard of it. We have 25 members there, so why would they defect? What type of inducement will make them do that? They have onerous duty to serve the people of the state. Agreed, this is a critical period in the life of the party, it had been like this before even in the old Western Region, but at the end, truth will surface.
Fayose said he has a reputation of defeating sitting governors having defeated Otunba Adebayo in the past. He also supported the ACN in the rerun to defeat Segun Oni who is now a member of your party. Don’t you think there are things that APC doesn’t do right?
I want to tell you that Fayose was doing his business when he claimed to be supporting us during the rerun. That was the only straw he was holding to come back to Ekiti. Secondly, we have no pact with him as a party. That was why he was not welcomed by our party in any of our fora. We had no pact with him. You can ask him. I have been the chairman of this party since 2006, we have no pact with Fayose. If he has a proof, let him come out with it.
But during the campaign, he was always with Fayemi.
Fayemi is not the party. If he (Fayemi) has visitors, will I say he should not receive visitors? Fayose was in this office and I told him he could not join a political party from the headquarters; that he shoud go to his ward in Afao to join. If he has that luck of defeating a sitting governor, I say good luck to him.
Opeyemi Bamidele was groomed in progressive politics, will you welcome back him into your fold?
If he had the upbringing of a progressive, he wouldn’t behave the way he did. If a child is well brought up in ideas and ideals of a community and he misbehaves, what do you call such a child? But you see, a political party is a combination of so many people, the good, the bad and the ugly. If somebody had strayed and he wants to come back, why not? Biblically, it is stated that somebody like that went away before, he came back and he was accepted. Politics is a game of number. The more we are, the merrier. But at the end of the day, everybody will know his right from his wrong. If anybody wants to come back to the progressives fold, no problem. Some big names in this country are already doing that. What is consistent in this game is the philosophy. People could move here and there.
Was the election free and fair?
With 36,000 soldiers? And 72 hours to the election, people were being driven away. I must tell you ballot boxes were not snatched but people were not allowed to vote. Is that not worse than ballot boxes being snatched? Our strong and dependable members were dislodged and disallowed from going to polling booths. It is when you have filled the ballot boxes that you could snatch them. That was the system in the past. But this time around, people were not even allowed to put the ballot papers in the ballot boxes. I am saying it in totality, the election was no election judging by the vices, evils, the intimidation, the arrest of our people, the siege laid to Ekiti before and during the election. That was what made the governor to go on air. So the statement by the governor was made out of genuine love for the people of the state.
How prepared is your party for 2015?
The landmines constructed for 2015, part of that had been detonated in Ekiti State in 2014, but I call it a bad experiment and we are going to unravel the secret behind it. If they go ahead again in Osun to exhibit that, well that will be very unfortunate. What happened in Ekiti portends danger for 2015.