.It’s unfortunate that we have Fayose as Ekiti governor
Otunba Niyi Adebayo is a former governor of Ekiti state and a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. In this interview with CHARLES ADEGBITE, he has some harsh words for former President Goodluck Jonathan and incumbent governor of Ekiti state, Ayodele Fayose. Excerpts:
IN the history of Nigeria, you are the first among the sons of former governors to become a governor, and the only one among all sons of regional governors, how do you feel with this status?
I think that must have been changed now because I believe Colonel Sani Bello (rtd.) was once a military governor in the North and his son is a governor now in Niger State.
Col. Sani Bello (retd) was the military governor of Kano State between 1975 and 1978 whereas, your father was the military governor of Western Region between 1966 and 1971. You also became the governor of Ekiti State between 1999 and 2003 whereas Bello’s son just became the governor of Niger State last year?
Okay. I agree with you, because I am the first among all the sons of former governors. I found myself in a unique position for emerging as a governor after my father had served as a governor. To a large extent, that ambition was spurred out of the fact that my father had been a governor previously. I mean, I was growing up at the time my father was governor in the West. And that made me feel that I had to put myself in the position to provide services to my people. That, to a large extent led to my interest in politics. I went for it. and to God be the glory, I emerged as the first civilian governor of Ekiti State.
Some people said they expected you to be very arrogant or not as cool-headed and gentle as you are, because you are the son of a retired Major General and lawyer. What actually is the secret behind your calm nature?
To a large extent, you know that in traditional Yoruba households, it is the mother that brings up the children. My mother was, very active in bringing us up. She had four boys and she was very, very tough on us. We had a tough mother and a tough father. And they trained us well. The fact that we were privileged did not mean that we were special. It only meant that we were lucky. We were brought up not to believe that there was anything special about us. And we grew up in the household whereby we couldn’t call the staff who were older than us by their names. We were asked to always add the prefix like Mr. this and Mr. that or Sergeant this and Sergeant that. We never called them by their first name because we were brought up to respect those who are older than us; and to have feelings for those who are younger than us. So, to a large extent the way I am is as a result of my upbringing.
You were 8 years old at the time your father became the governor of old Western Region in 1966, what was life like in Government House at the time. Can you recall your experience during the Nigerian civil war?
I didn’t actually live in Government House. I used to spend my holidays in Government House because I lived in Lagos with my mother. I used to spend my holidays in Government House in Ibadan. As a result of the war situation at the time, what my father did was that he had a separate quarters, just outside of the Government House, for us ‑‑which we used as children quarters; so that it will be isolated from the main government house. This was because there was always a fear, especially when there was incursion to Ore (in present Ondo State).
So there was a fear that there may be an invasion of Government House. And it had to do with the Agbekoya crisis. So there was that fear. For that reason, we were kept in the quarters just outside the Government House. But we spent all our days in Government House and all that. But it was a normal upbringing. The advantage that we had was that because government had all sorts of sporting facilities, tennis court, and all sorts of things, we were able to enjoy ourselves.
Did you have the fear that history could repeat itself looking at the way Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi was assassinated along with Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi in 1966, especially when the Nigeria civil war started few months after your father succeeded Fajuyi as governor?
You have to remember that we were very young then. We didn’t have such strong political sentiment at the time.
But what was your experience like as a young…?
(Cuts in) It was exciting period. It was an exciting period. It was something different from what we were used to. You know, we grew up in barracks. So we had privileged upbringing; because we grew up in the barracks. The barracks we lived in when we were growing up were the army barracks in Yaba. And the Europeans, the British officers were still there. So we mixed with the children of the British officers, with all sorts of facilities there. So it was a privileged upbringing.
And transiting from there to the Government House was just a mere extension of privilege we were used to.
What actually happened that led to your not being given ministerial appointment by Buhari; was it that you were not interested or the whole thing was a kind of political game?
You know the position of the minister is at the discretion of the president. The president told Dr. Kayode Fayemi to be a minister and he has my full support in that wise.
But what actually happened, looking at the roles you’ve played during the election?
I can assure you that the president has a role that he will like me to play and I will be playing that role.
You are a chieftain of the APC, what roles are you playing in the party currently?
You know that I am a leading member of the party. I’m one of the national leaders of the party. and I remain one of the national leaders of the party. I’m opportune to propagate the politics and principles of the party. And in Ekiti, I play a leading role in making sure that the party does well. And I’m playing a leading role to ensure that we get the party together so that whenever we have election in the state, we will be able to wrest power from the PDP; which we believe has cheated us out of power in the state.
Being the first executive governor of the state, how do you feel that the man occupying the governor’s seat was able to drive your party out of power in all elections in the state, thus making PDP to take full charge of Ekiti today?
You see, ordinarily, I try as much as possible not to talk about Governor Fayose. However, he is a young man that I do not understand at all. The first time he was governor, he left office under circumstances that were not so good. Under the umbrella of the PDP then, he was impeached and driven away. .
He found his way back into office. When he came back, he swore heaven and earth that he was a changed person and that he was going to do well this time. He said that he was going to do all manner of things. And when some people approached me and told me that was what the man said; I said I do not think it is in his character to behave the way he claimed he would behave. The way he is behaving now has proved me right.
I think it is his greatest problem. I really do not understand. I think when he wakes up in the morning I don’t know what gets into his head and makes him make such statements and behaves the way he does. It is unfortunate that we have somebody like him at the helm of affairs. But I believe that when God is ready, the right thing will be done.
Nigeria is facing a turbulent period, looking at the state of the economy. What or who would you say is responsible for this?
Without a doubt it was as a result of the mis-governance by the PDP. I mean, all the revelations that are coming out have shown that so,e people misgoverned Nigeria. The way they were taking money and spending it on frivolities, sharing the national wealth among themselves show the irresponsibility of that government.
You mean, it is the outbome of many years of mismanagement of Nigeria?
Yes! By the PDP especially in the last six years. During the tenure of President Jonathan oil was selling at over $100 per barrel; but we have nothing to show for that money. It is always difficult to justify the fund. I mean by now our foreign exchange reserves should be in hundreds in billions of dollars. But today, we cannot speak of having that kind of money in our reserves.
You know our refineries are not working, nothing is working. We have bad roads; the roads are not in good shape. I mean, it’s unfortunate; very unfortunate.
But luckily for Nigeria; I always say to the people, God knows what He was doing when people turned against Jonathan and voted for Buhari.
And Jonathan too was smart to concede defeat because if Jonathan had remained at the helm of affairs, by now people would have started stoning him on the street.
The only reasons people are patient now is because they have realised that there is a major problem. They also realized that we have a president who is committed to correcting the problems of Nigeria. That is why people are being patient. And I’m using this opportunity to urge people to continue to exercise patience because we have a president who has the love of Nigeria at heart. Somebody who abhors corruption, and is prepared and determined to make sure that Nigeria is well governed.
Looking at the revelations that came out when the anti corruption war by Buhari began late last year, what do you think would have happened if the PDP had not been voted out of power?
If he (Buhari) had not won, they would have tried to cover it up. The problem we have now is that the country is broke. They have run this country aground.. If they had won election, where would they get the money to run the country? By now, the problem would have persisted and people would have realized what is going on and they would have kicked against the government.
So, we should thank God for the people of Nigeria who voted for Buhari. The people actually realized what was going on and decided that enough is enough.
We gathered that there are underground moves by some APC and PDP members in the Senate to present the Senate President, Saraki and former Akwa Ibom governor, Senator Akpabio as PDP presidential and vice presidential candidates respectively in 2019. What do you have to say on this?
I think in the first place people who make such allegation are trying to create problems within the APC. I think it is wrong for people to believe that those who came from PDP to join us in forming the APC were people who came just to get rid of Jonathan. I think that is very wrong from my experience and my interaction with these people I believe strongly that they believed strongly in the party we have built together. They are strong members of the APC. They believe strongly in APC.They believe in what we were able to build and they want us to continue to make the building stronger.
So, I think all these allegations of 2019 and the likes; in politics every person is looking for his own advantage and opposition parties are looking for ways to create problems to the ruling party and I think this is one of these attempts.
Yes, there were issues at the beginning of the administration on the leadership of National Assembly but in a normal party, there is crisis resolution within the party to enable us to resolve these issues and to have peace
Looking at the whole situation in the country, what do you have to say and what is your impression and what is your advice to Nigerians?
Well, my advice is that we should all be patient, Nigeria is definitely going to improve. I have no doubt in my mind about that.
Yes, we have economic problem at the moment but Mr. President is working day and night to fit things back.
People should be patient and we can continue to pray to God to give our president good health, so that he can carry out his valuable objectives.