As Ekiti State prepares for another governorship election, the governor, Dr John Kayode Fayemi, says his achievements in the last three years will do the campaign for him. He also discusses issues that will determine the election, and cautions who would contemplate rigging the election. He spoke with IYOBOSA UWUGIAREN.
This year is an election year in Ekiti State and there is strong opposition and people believe Ekiti is one state that will test the popularity of the PDP and the APC in preparation for 2015 general election; how prepared are you for the seemingly imminent battle?
Yes, we are prepared. We know that 2014 will be a year of decision but we also know that it is not purely an Ekiti election, we know it will be a litmus test for some other agenda that are not directly related to what happens here, but in politics, in governance, people’s satisfaction is determined, as I believe it should, by delivering on the promises made to our people.
There is really nothing to worry about; nobody wants to change a winning team; nobody wants to see a reversal of fortunes because this election – with the greatest respect to those who are hoping that some federal subterranean effort could be mounted against the wishes of the people of Ekiti – will be purely and simply about where we have come from, where we are now and what the future holds for our people, whether we want to experience a reversal and whether we want to make progress. That is what the election is going to be all about and that is what we are going to make the agenda of the election.
It is not the 2015 election; it is not about the presidency of Nigeria. As far as the people of Ekiti are concerned, it is about whether we make progress in Ekiti or suffer a reversal of fortunes and, on all grounds, by all accounts – independent, verifiable, evidence-based account, the government that is in the saddle in this state today, headed by my humble self, has done well for our people.
Let us go back to the 2007 and 2011 general elections, you contested the governorship election and twice there were attempts to deny you that mandate; what lessons have you learnt from that experience and how will they come to bear in the forthcoming election?
A lot of lessons: Ekiti people always show fidelity to their history. We have a long history of resisting oppression and a long history of rejecting federal imposition, and this history dates back to the Kiriji War, the Ekiti Parapo War that ended in 1886 because forces against the rampaging onslaught of a bigger behemoth known as the Ibadan warriors, Ekiti people came together, it was a David and Goliath story and they triumphed through sheer determination, belief in the sanctity of their communitarian spirit and our federalist principles. We fought the Ibadan to standstill until the colonialists, the British, came to resolve that war for us.
Let us go to recent history, in the 1960’s, we were more Awolowo than the Ijebu people in the sense that we really demonstrated commitment to Awolowo here. We had people who deserted Awolowo and joined the reactionary conservative forces in the country, one or two from Ekiti, prominent ones, but they never succeeded in overwhelming the sheer determination of the Ekiti people to stand by the truth. In 1983, Ekiti people loved their son Omoboriowo, they wanted him to be governor without a question because of the age-long rivalry between Ekiti and Ondo people, but they wanted him to be governor within the context of a progressive tradition of the UPN.
Chief Omoboriowo (God rest his soul) was Chief Awolowo’s darling protégé but he stepped out of line in thinking that he could use the reactionary forces to regain a victory that he didn’t win on the field and he was shocked that Ekiti people stood with the Awo tradition. Even though they loved him (Omoboriowo), once he joined the reactionary elements, they stayed with Ajasin. That was the history of 1983.
The history of the 1960’s led to the crisis that resulted in the exit of civilian rule, the Wild Wild West crisis. The Ondo-Ekiti crisis of 1983 also provided the trigger for what led to the collapse of the Second Republic.
Let us come to even more recent history, my history, an underdog. The big behemoth from Abuja did everything to make sure I didn’t get into this office but Ekiti people were resolute; they were determined; they insisted that they would stand by their votes and they did. I wasn’t the strongest, I wasn’t the richest or the most well endowed Ekiti contestant but they stood by me until that mandate was realised, and I dare say they’ve been justified with the selfless commitment that this government has demonstrated in office.
So, this is an Ekiti election and it should be determined by Ekiti people, not even by Ondo next door that are not Ekiti. Ekiti people, small though we are, we have fought to resist oppression. We are not going to, at this point of our history, go back to slavery under Ondo State. It’s not going to happen and this is not about Kayode Fayemi, let me be very clear about that.
So, whoever wants to use Ondo as their entry point to what they consider to be the defence realm of Yoruba land, directly from Abuja, indirectly via Ondo, we’ve got news for them, and they will meet their waterloo in Ekiti. It’s going to be a David vs Goliath battle again in June 2014.
In other words, you do not consider the candidates of the Labour Party and the PDP threats in the coming election?
If the election is about Ekiti, Labour Party frankly does not exist in Ekiti -let’s not dignify what is really newspaper saber-rattling. I see a lot of drama, of course, newspapers like drama and people who want to fight concrete battles on the pages of newspapers are welcome, there’s nothing wrong with that.
The issue is the question that will be put in this election, where were we in October 2010 and where are we now? Has the lot of our state improved or has it retrogressed? It’s going to come down to that simple, clear, indisputable question. It’s not going to be about who becomes president of Nigeria in 2015. What is the business of Ekiti people with that? We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
This election is about Ekiti’s past, its present and what Ekiti people want for their future and we’ll pose it in that very clear and contrasting perspective. We aren’t going to allow anybody to distract them from the fact that this is an Ekiti election and not Nigeria’s election and who becomes president in 2015.
Ekiti is a legitimate component of Nigeria. Ekiti is very proud to be a Nigerian state but let’s not confuse issues. The election that is going to happen in June 2014 according to INEC is an election about the future of Ekiti State. The PDP that you mentioned clearly has ruled this state for seven and a half years before I came into office and the record is there for all to see, not just a record of one week one trouble, it was a record of disaster across the board. Education was a disaster, health care was a laughing stock, agriculture that we’ve just been talking about was nothing to write home about under them and, above all, the people could not sleep with their eyes closed – security was absent. We were living in a state of fear under the seven and a half years of the PDP.
So, what record are they going to bring to the people of Ekiti that would now be their performance index? Is a record of thuggery, a record of brigandage, a record of criminality?
Some of them still have cases with the EFCC as I speak, years after they left office.
One of the things we’ve restored, which is much more important than all of the infrastructural and human development that we’ve talked about, is the integrity of the Ekiti person, the values of honour, character, compassion and commitment to people that were totally thrown overboard in the years of the locust in which PDP was in power in this state. Is that what they are coming to sell to the people?
Because I see many of them going all over the place, saying Fayemi is this or that, of course in our context of election, anyone can say anything but facts are sacred, opinion they say is free, that’s what journalists and media people tell us. This is an election that will be fought on the grounds of facts: we won’t let anyone befuddle or manipulate the people; we will not let anyone confuse the people; we will lay the records clearly before Ekiti people and we will ask them to challenge our record.
Looking at what happened recently in Anambra State election, do you trust the INEC to conduct a free and fair election?
I answer that question in two ways. First, it’s not about trust because even if I trust, I’ve learnt over the years that I must verify always. Nigeria is replete with people who trusted INEC and they landed with eggs on their faces.
I also trusted INEC, but see where I landed. And how many people even have the opportunity to recount their story the way I could, by so retrieving my stolen mandate? How many? So, I’m a product of a struggle against the deceit of INEC. But I’ll like to think INEC has also learnt lessons. Anambracadabra by all stretch of imagination was a disaster and INEC cannot at all wash itself clean of that disaster.
But I also will like to think that INEC must have read one or two things about Ekiti, they must have read a few things about Madam Ayoka and her experience in Ekiti, and they must have read about the Omoboriowo saga in this part.
Ekiti people are going to be super-charged and ready for this election. We’ll put in all our efforts because it’s about maintaining our freedom. We have a state anthem here and the core of that state anthem is about our freedom as a people; we cherish our freedom more than anything else.
We are not going to become slaves in our own environment and, to a large extent, many of those parading themselves here as new kids on the block have a history, they have records here. We know that they are agents of the oppressors of the same Ekiti people over the years and we’ll lay that records bare before our people.
So, INEC, either in terms of voter registration or in terms of doctoring of ballot papers or in terms of intimidation and security and all of the shenanigans that they have used against us in the past, our people always say in the local parlance that internal vigilance is the price to pay for our liberty, and in this election, we are not going to be apologetic about it because I hear a lot of things.
I’m a governor, I get intelligence reports, I know all sorts of meetings that are taking place in all the dark recesses of Abuja about Ekiti election. Even some taking place outside the country on how they are going to move federal forces into Ekiti to come and take over the state; how they are going to lock up the governor in a prison somewhere and not allow him to do anything with his people; how they are going to look for the homes of all APC leaders – they are collecting addresses all over the place, but they should also know what I said earlier: Ekiti, if you deal us a blow of injustice, it’s most likely we will become your enemies. That is what history teaches about our state and our people, from the 1880’s.
As the state prepares for the election, what is your message to the people?
My message is that peace must reign, vigilance is important, and resistance to oppression and fraud must be taken seriously. We are peaceful people and I have always preached in churches, mosques, community meetings and indeed everywhere that we must let peace reign.
If I’m defeated freely and fairly and credibly in an election, those who know my antecedents know that I’m not going to stay one minute longer in office than necessary and I’m not going to fight over something I haven’t genuinely won. I have an alternative address; I’m not one of those who see politics as a meal ticket. God has been kind to me and I’m in politics for service because I believe it’s the highest form of duty I can render to my people and that’s why I preach peace all the time.
But I also know that our people need our leading light to be protective of the cause of Ekiti and the only way to do that is to always stand on the side of the truth. So, I urge my brothers, even on the other side, PDP, Labour and whatever other parties they come from in the election of 2014 that once we all give peace a chance, the rest will go well.
This article was first published in The Leadership on Monday, January 20, 2014.
Last modified: January 20, 2014