Aidoghie Paulinus, who was in Niamey
The immediate past Minority Leader of the Senate, Senator Biodun Olujimi, has opened up on her political battles with the immediate past governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose, disclosing that unknown to many; she was instrumental to Fayose becoming governor of Ekiti State for the second time.Olujimi, who spoke exclusively with Sunday Sun on the side lines of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliamentary Sensitization Forum on Migration in West Africa in Niamey, Republic of Niger, said that when people want to present the scenario, they present it as if Fayose brought her back to contest for the Senate. She also spoke on why the PDP failed in Ekiti State, the status of the party in the state, the problem of migration in West Africa, Nigeria’s status in ECOWAS, amongst others. Excerpts:
What actually happened before, during, after the Ekiti elections?
Which of the elections? The governorship?
All the elections?
As you know, everything was going well until the governorship election and at that point, the sitting governor, Governor Fayose, asked that no one should contest, that he was going to install his deputy governor. Some of us were of the opinion that that was not right. And that was not proper.
Was that why he lost that election?
Well, I do not think so.
Or was it as a result of federal might?
Definitely, there was serious federal might because in the end, we all came together to work towards the same goal. But then, there was serious federal might. Imagine cancelling 21,000 votes and winning with 19.
Did his imposition of a governorship candidate on the party affect other elections?
It affected that election and other elections. What happened was that we were fragmented and we were mutually suspicious of one another. Even when we came back together, it was difficult for anyone to say this person is not working against me. And so, it became a problem during the elections because elections are fought and won at the local level. If you go, you are not sure the other person trusts you. If anything, people can get swayed. People who are not strong enough can get swayed by that. That was how we got into trouble.
Imposition is a common thing in Nigeria as we have seen at different occasions. So, why couldn’t a government in power produce a successor for Fayose?
Look, imposition is all over. Whether you like it or not, at one point or the other, people imposed us too. But they didn’t impose us by brashly saying this is the person, you all cannot contest. There are ways by which you can do it and give it a human face where everybody will feel oh, I did my best, if this is not good enough, let me go and join whoever has gotten it. But the minute when you say you, you, you, cannot and I am saying it because I am the one, I am the one that wins the election, you have already caused a division and that was what happened. It could have been that oh, everybody, go, whatever you come back with, you are all mine.
What is the state of the party in Ekiti?
The party is in doldrums, the reason being that we have not been able to take the bull by the horns. Some of us are pushed all the time. They believe we want to take over the party.
So, who is the leader of the party at the moment?
Right now, there is nobody.
So, the leadership of the party is lying on the street?
It is very fluid. Don’t forget that we have an exco. We have an exco that is there, they are just there bidding their time, trying to at least pick up the threads, but other than that, the place is in limbo. But I know that the party at the national level has constituted a team to go in to go and refocus the party, to go and revamp the party and ensure that we toe the proper line. What is important in all of this is collegiate leadership. The minute one person wants to take it all, there will just be crisis.
There were PDP members who actively worked for the APC in Ekiti. Has the state chapter identified them? Any sanctions meted out to them?
I just told you that the party is in doldrums. That will happen only when the national is able to finalise what they have started. And then, we can now say you, you and you, you have not left the party, but you did this and that and then we can…. In this situation, you need more people. Elections are also not too far away.
Since the party is in doldrums also shows that the PDP is not playing its opposition role in the state. Is it true?
Right now, we are not. I am not one of those who will lie.
Is that not dangerous?
It is dangerous. It is very dangerous. But then, there are certain people that have ganged up to always be brutal with anyone that they feel wants to lead the party. I am not willing to be so brutalised. I am willing to work for the party because the party has been good to me. But at the same time, the party at the national level must come and caution them and then, we can now go in together and work as one.
At the time you went against the decision of Fayose to impose his deputy as governor, did you suffer any damage?
Ah! If you know what he did to me! But you see, in politics, I have been in it longer than most of them and I know that these things do come around. It is 360 degrees now.
But at what point did both of you have a point departure?
There was no point of departure really. What happened was…
Because you were once his deputy
Yes. And we were working together.
And people believed he brought you back again to contest for the Senate?
No. I helped him back into the party. I assisted him back into the party.
To become governor?
Oh yes! To become governor the second time. That was what happened.
So, you made Fayose governor second time?
And you know these things are symbiotic. These things are symbiotic. But when people want to present it, they present it as if he brought you back to contest, no! I was going to contest the governorship before he came. When he came, he could not come into the party, the party said no way; you can’t come, let the people who will contest…. He came to me and said please, help, let’s work together. Let me come back into the party, if we win and then, you will determine what you want.
Was there any agreement that you were going to take over from him?
No. I am not one of those who will ever go into such an agreement. The agreement is between me and God. All I said I wanted was to try my hands on the Senate. And I did and I worked hard at it. That is all!
Why didn’t you think of returning to the Senate initially rather than giving the governorship a thought?
Look at it this way: I was a sitting senator; I had already scaled all hurdles. If I won the primaries, I would have gone on to contest the governorship. If I didn’t win the primaries, I would have gone back into my Senate. How does it damage whatever I was doing?
Do you bear Fayose any ill will?
Not at all! As far as I am concerned, he was doing what he thought was right. What he thought was right was extremely wrong.
Are you in touch with Fayose?
No, because they will read meaning into it. The next thing, you will see it on social media. She has been…
Any hope for reconciliation?
Ah! Is it not politics? Are we going to fight to die? Did we not quarrel before when he said I was the one that removed him? Has he not found out that I wasn’t the one? So, it doesn’t matter. All these things will come and go.
It seems PDP as a party will be in the wilderness in the next four years. What do you think about this?
It is already one year, or almost a year. We are just going to be in it for another year and then, there is a rat race again to contest for governorship. So, we have been able to weather almost a year. It will be one year in October. This is September, in another month, it will be one year. So, we will have one more year quiet governance and then, there will be rabble rousing because people will come out, they want to contest. So, four years is such a short time.
How do you assess the government in the state?
I have not even bothered to try. The truth is, I have been engrossed in putting my businesses together, in getting myself off the ground because with politics, you need to have something that brings you money. If not, the people will keep asking. The minute you can’t give them, you run into trouble. So, I have been engrossed. I have not been able to look into it. It would have been easy to do if the party was together. We would have left them and just giving them ideas on what to do. But for me, I believe in constructive criticism. I do not believe in criticising just for the sake of it or destroying just for the sake of it because when the chips are down, Ekiti is our state. Bringing it down will not bring us any good. But if we criticise properly and we assist the government to do well, we can always fight them for the next elections.
Is it true you are planning to join the APC?
I will never. I am a very contented person.
Under no circumstances?
No, no, no,. If I would, I would have done that long ago.
Having been here for some days, what do you make of this forum on migration?
I think it is about the major problem plaguing West Africa, indeed, Africa, but most especially West Africa because this is ECOWAS. It is about immigration and immigration is a very, very special topic for those of us in West Africa. The truth is, it is not all negative because it brings economic progress to the region and there are some other elements. It brings skilled workers also all around. However, the most painful one is about illegal migration of young people going through the desert, leaving ECOWAS completely, and going into Libya and unto the Mediterranean Sea. The number of bodies of Africans and West Africans that float on that river and the amount of blood is not what we should sit down and ruminate about. It is something that we should get up and take action. And what we found out, the reasons are very, very simple. One, governance; two, lack of commitment to laws; and three, inability of government to create jobs and to give people reason to stay. Those are the simple issues.
What is the way out?
ECOWAS needs to work harder. Article 27 must be enforced which says that data must be available of people who are moving in and out and that the issue of monitoring locations should be established. I don’t know why we have not been able to effectively use Information and Communications Technology (ICT) because with ICT, we can monitor a lot of things. We can do so much and it would only remain those who leave the shores of ECOWAS for other territories. And by then, if we have enough people who are sensitizing them, who are encouraging them to go back and work within the system, we probably won’t have so many deaths. And again, time has come for us to start thinking positively about migration so that we can do something positive too.
Why does Nigeria finance ECOWAS so much, yet get very little say in its affairs?
Well, you know all this big brother syndrome which has affected us over time. The time has come for us to be diligent and follow through with whatever we support with funds.
So, where do we start from?
We will start from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The ministry must constitute a small committee to look into…,it is not only ECOWAS. Everywhere Nigeria puts money, they put it carelessly and they look away. It is like well, I have given you, do what you will with it. We need to monitor what we put in so that they are commensurate with what we get out of it. ECOWAS is funded majorly by Nigeria and I hate to say it because the Anglophones are not much. The Francophones tend to dominate and lord it over all the Anglophone countries.
When is the ECO single currency going to be implemented?
I saw on television that it will be next year, 2020. But I believe that there are still issues.
But is it really of benefit to us?
I have attended a few of the meetings. For me, and I am talking as an individual, I don’t think it will really make any difference to us in Nigeria.
Specifically, what is the implication for Nigeria?
The implication is that we will be like the EU whereby there is one currency. But then, it does not preclude us using our own naira like in Denmark. And so, I ask myself, what does it portend for my country? Not much. But maybe when I am travelling across West Africa, I can now put a value to what I am going to spend because I can now spend my euro without thinking of exchange rate that oh, this man is cheating me. I could eliminate that. And business could be a lot better.
Although you are not an economist, don’t you think it will also affect or devalue the naira in a way?
If we handle the naira well, it might strengthen it because right now, you can see the fluctuation in the naira. It is not good for the naira. But with another currency coming in, maybe we will be able to put our acts together and strengthen the naira. And if the value of the naira is better to the dollar than that of the ECO, you find out that people will prefer the naira to the ECO.