Some people have said that your fingers and those of some other PDP governors got burnt after bringing in Alhaji Ali Modu Sheriff to head the party and how things turned out. Such people believe you are one of those responsible for decapitating the PDP. How would you react to that?
People are entitled to their views. I’m one Nigerian that is blunt and will tell you things the way they are. Even, if I made a mistake, I will admit. There is nobody in Rome today that is holier than the Pope. And there is nobody who can tell you the Pope is a Muslim. There is nobody who would call me Ayo Fayose a mole or an agent of destabilisation in the Peoples Democratic Party. There is no way I could be linked to any political party apart from the PDP. I have demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that I’m a committed party member. I’m consistent and have not been found wanting. It is true I was part of those who brought Ali Modu Sheriff as the PDP National Chairman. But like I told Nigerians, I did it in good faith. In our opinion, we wanted somebody from the North and settled for him because we felt he would be a good material after considering certain parameters that we judged to be right. But I retreated when I realised he would not be able to fulfil the purposes and I’m entitled to my views. It is good for a man to admit when he made a mistake and take steps to correct it. When I realised that he would not be able to serve the purpose we chose him for, I announced publicly that I was turning my back and withdrawing my support for him, for facts best known to me which I have addressed several times. As you know, I’m now the chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, I would rather say things that would unite members rather than divide us. Even after the court cases, it is still the best for the leaders to be reconciliatory. Bringing Sheriff to be the chairman was done in good faith and I have no apology. It was not done to bring down the party. We learn at every stage in life. There are lessons to learn in this one: Don’t stand as a guarantor for people you don’t know too well. Well, everything works for good. This could still end as a blessing in disguise for the party.
Senator Buruji Kashamu faulted your emergence as the Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum. Do you think he was right?
I don’t want to take issues with Buruji Kashamu. I can’t say somebody is my friend and later say he is no longer my friend. No matter the statement he is making, I will restrain myself from saying things that would further cause troubles within the party. I want to show maturity. In this circumstance, I want to be tolerant. Secondly, he is not in a position to criticise my emergence. He is not a governor and if he wants to criticise me, he should wait for his time and contest. I don’t know what is going on in the National Assembly. I don’t want to go to the senate, so when they are talking in the senate, Buruji Kashamu should pay attention to it and not issues of governors. It is in the wisdom of governors. Governors are leaders of the party but they can’t take decision for the National Assembly. We can’t even criticise their decisions. It is part of leadership traits to know you don’t overstep your bounds. For me, I didn’t beg for the leadership of the forum but my colleagues found me competent and worthy of that position. I didn’t struggle for it. They realised that I fit the position and they unanimously took the decision. There was no dissenting voice. Everybody said it must be me. I won’t take issues with anybody over that and if Senator Buruji Kashamu has anything against that, he should go to court. He knows how to go to court. If he is not too comfortable, I can’t stop him. He has his style. So it is up to him.
Some people say that you have been very careful not to openly criticise Senator Kashamu because of the financial support he has given to you in the past. Is it not a case of being careful not to bite the finger that once fed you?
He has come out several times in the public to say he did not give me money for my election. And if at all you supported people for elections, it does not warrant you to talk to them anyhow. If you are going to support anyone for election, that person must be popular enough. I was governor before I met Kashamu. I was governor in 2003. At that time, Kashamu was not in politics. I was governor for close to four years. Would it be right to say I didn’t have goodwill at that period that it was when he came that he now bankrolled me? It is silly and petty. For whatever I do for people in life, I do it for God. I’m not criticising Kashamu, not for anything, I’m demonstrating my maturity over and above him. For Kashamu to be praising opposition figures and denigrating members of his party, it shows the character that he represents. For me, I’m not ready to take him on because if you must take anyone on, it must worth it. I want to say clearly there is no basis to take him on. We are not vying for the same position. I’m not from his state, so why do I have to take issues with him? Of what benefit would that be? If Kashamu wants to be president of Nigeria, he would need me. I didn’t say I want to be president of Nigeria. I don’t need him for that. After this mandate, whatever mandate God has for me is in his wisdom, not in my wisdom. So, to put it succinctly, Kashamu and I are two parallel lines politically. I’m the governor, he is in the senate. We are from two different states. So, clearly, taking issues with him is making him important for no reason.
There were allegations that you once sent spies to monitor President Buhari in London, did you send your spies this time around too?
I never sent spies to monitor anybody, not even the president. Of what benefit would that be for me? Even if you don’t want Buhari to be president, he is already president. I have been criticising President Buhari objectively and sincerely for what I know him to be and represents. I did not start criticising him when he became the president. Everything I have said has come to pass. Initially, Nigerians were seeing me as somebody who didn’t see anything good in President Buhari, but today the economy has been run aground. I have said it several times that you cannot give what you don’t have. The economic situation of the country at present is as a result of the body language of the president. If you recall what happened during the first administration of Buhari, you will discover it is not different from the situation at present. An orange will not fall far away from its tree. With utmost respect to his office, President Buhari does not have what it takes to run this country. We need a dynamic leader who is exposed. Governance is about carrot and stick. When you look at the activities of a man, you can tell who a man is. By the appointment of Buhari, you will see nepotism, sectionalism, etc. The president is the father of the nation. When a president, as the father, goes out of the country to say my people are thieves, who will relate with them? When you go to the port now, nothing is happening there. When a government does not make the people the cornerstone of its policies, there would be trouble. When the president takes a decision and the National Assembly dominated by his people says otherwise, it shows that person is a dictator. We are in crisis. During the President Jonathan era, the price of petroleum was N86.50 per litre which was the maximum. But during this government, the price has been increased beyond the reach of the common man. This is the worst ever increase and they would still increase more. Prices of commodities would go up because they are trading in dollars. The president does not have an economic team and does not listen to advice. Whatever they decide in his clique, they foist it on the nation. At present, there is nothing sustaining the economy; the economy is sick because the managers of this economy are under the palpable fear to do what the President wants and not what is right. So there is no need spying on the president. That is why I have been very careful since people have been carrying the rumour of his death. I have not made any comment lest people say Fayose has said this. My prayer is that he should return hail and hearty. My prayer is with him. Yoruba would say even if we are fighting, it is not to wish ourselves dead. I pray he returns to the country hail and hearty.
Some Nigerians say you have been busier criticising the Federal Government than focusing on governance in your state. What would you say to that?
They must say something about me because I have refused to eat fat on the riches of the king. When you don’t align yourselves with the power that be; they would look for a way to blackmail you. Many have been silent now for the fear of the unknown. I’m the longest serving governor; I served under former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo; Goodluck Jonathan and Buhari. So I’m an experienced governor. This is why when I say things, they happen like that. Most of the things I say happen. I have advised the president to take members of the opposition into his advisory team. My criticising Buhari is for the good of the nation. The killings in Kaduna by the herdsmen and the extra judicial killing over the country are worrisome. More people have died within 18 months of President Buhari than at any other time since independence. If the bombing of the IDPs camp had occurred under the PDP, they would have killed the president with criticism. It is unfortunate that those in APC are hypocrites. When you join their party today, you become a saint. Any leader that wants to rule this country must be equitable. They have made a mess of the anti-corruption crusade. Look at the case of the EFCC Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu; some judges are being prosecuted based on the report by the Department of State Services. The same DSS wrote a report indicting Magu but the president jettisoned it and cleared him.
What good can you see in the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari? Or is everything about him bad?
Let me put it this way, there is no man that is entirely bad. But when you consider the leadership style of Buhari, his administration is not good. When you look at his appointment, it would tell you who the president is. When you see someone trying to justify the killing of human beings or who pretends nothing is happening; when you see a nation that is in total hunger, do we continue to praise the president? Do we continue to praise the president for exchange rate of the dollar that has gone from N200 to N500? Do we praise him for the killing of Agatu people in Benue? Do we praise him for the killings in Kaduna? Do we praise him for disobedience of court order and human rights abuses? Where are the three million jobs they promised to create yearly? Where is the promise they made that food will be everywhere? Where is their promise that Naira will appreciate against the dollar? They are still running a government based on propaganda. Are we saying if they organised an election today, President Buhari would win? We are fooling ourselves. People are tired. They are not happy. I have not seen anything good in this government. They claimed success in the fight against Boko Haram; if they say they have recorded victory today, the next day, worse attack would take place. There would be multiple bombings. If they tell us something, the next day, worse scenario happens. For me as a person, I have not seen anything tangible. What is the state of our roads? Workers can hardly get their salaries. They have not kept their promises at all.
Some people believe that this government is eagerly waiting for your tenure to end to arrest you for some of the offences you have been accused of. Are you going to sneak out of the country before the date you would be due to leave office?
May I tell you that anybody that waits for me negatively to complete my tenure would not be in the office at the time. Anybody waiting for my downfall would be swimming in more troubles that time. My name is Peter ‘The Rock’. The man God promised he would build Ekiti and Nigeria on his shoulder. Watch the turn of events. Some people say it is because I enjoy immunity. Don’t other governors enjoy immunity? It is dependent on who you are. They plotted to manipulate the judiciary against me, it didn’t work. The House of Assembly dominated by the All Progressives Congress members attempted to remove me, it didn’t work. The God that put me here does not sleep nor slumber. The God would not allow me to fall into the traps of my enemies. Many things would happen in this country that would amaze Nigerians.
Some of your critics say you have been talking too much as an opposition member and sitting governor of a state. They say that a state governor is supposed to comport himself better. How would you react to that?
That is their funeral. Sometimes they call me Amala governor, what is their business? Those who voted for me know who I am. The Ekiti people love me for who I am and they are happy with me. They (APC) must be worried about me because I am a man of myself. Where in the constitution are they referring to as their type of governor? Who wants to be their type of governor? Those they are using as their standard only exist on the pages of newspapers. They only rely on rigging to win elections. I’m not their mate when it comes to politics: I’m a professor of politics. I’m an authority. They are worried about me because what they call big man does not exist here. Every state is unique. Every one in their own right understand sthe kind of leader they want. What difference has their leadership made? I have no apologies about what they say about me inasmuch as I satisfy my conscience and make my people happy. Look at President Donald Trump of the United States, you may not like him but he is the president today. You may not like the way he talks but the real Americans like him. Where were those people during elections that they did not go to vote? They are crying over spilled milk. By the grace of God. I will defeat APC again. Let them come with every machinery that they have, they will go back in disgrace.
For instance, you also recently indicated interest in joining a protest against the Federal Government initiated by Tuface Idibia. You are a governor, why should you be interested in joining a protest instead of governing your state?
I never said I would join the protest. I only said I support the protest. The planned protest is not against any political party; it is an advocacy for good governance. They only want to talk about things that have affected every facet of our economy. I have never met Tuface (Innocent Idibia) in my life. I read online and I took to my twitter handle to tweet that I support it. How is it their headache that I’m supporting it? Why are they not supporting the call for good governance? In 2011 when they called for Operation Occupy Nigeria, they all occupied. Now that I’m saying we should support the rally, why are they worried? They should go and sit down and allow me to lead my life. I have said what I wanted to say, so I have no apologies. Anybody who is not happy can go and do whatever he likes. I have never seen a place where the police will say you can’t organise a rally. The Court of Appeal has said it expressly. Look at the way they are protesting against Trump, did he use the police to clamp down on them? For you to organise a rally, you don’t need a police permit. You only notify the police to secure the environment if you want them around. Anybody that commits crime during the rally should be arrested. When they are holding pro-government rally, nobody stops them. It is unbecoming of government agencies to become partisan. We should grow; they should stop dragging us back. We have gone beyond ballot snatching but what we are witnessing now is unpleasant.
You are sometimes seen buying beans on the streets, but some Nigerians have been saying that only a state governor that is not busy will be engaging in such. How would you react to that?
Let them go and contest and become governors too. It is amazing when you see people who cannot win elections in their household criticising a sitting governor. If there is equal opportunity, they can’t get there. If they get there, they can’t perform. That is why it is easy for them to blow grammar and they can’t win elections. I’m not in the calibre of those persons, I don’t listen to them and I don’t want to join them. When you see the likes of former US President Barrack Obama in Mcdonalds and we would be here fooling ourselves; when the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, came to Nigeria in a T-shirt, people were praising him that he is a simple man. People like us when we wear T-Shirts, they say we are touts. That is double standard; they should keep quiet.
Last week, you shielded operatives of the Department of State Services from arresting Apostle Johnson Suleman in Ado-Ekiti. Some people described your action as an act of hooliganism…
Apostle Suleman is frequent in Abuja, he lives in Abuja. If you want to invite him, why not come in day time? They are beginning to violate the rights of Nigerians. That is an overzealousness of the executive and an oppression of the people. There are so many things I have gone through in life. At this point in time, you need a man of courage. At the end of the day, they invited him. Is that not decent enough? Our country is becoming a police state. I’m not sorry about my action. I have no apologies for going to rescue a man of God. When you rescue a man of God, you have blessings. Saving that man of God has earned me respect. It has represented me as a fighter for the voiceless. Whatever they like, they should say. Why should they visit the man of God at 1am? What kind of wickedness is that? Do they want to kill him? Let them come if they want to invade the Ekiti State Government House. They should come and take away their police and DSS if they want to. I don’t care.
Some people say you are as guilty of some of the sins you accuse Buhari of like oppression and bullying opposition, how do you react to this?
No reaction. Whatever they say I do, they should wait for me to finish my tenure. But let me point out this, nobody can point to any politically motivated violence, killing or harassment since I came into office. Nobody is deliberately put in jail. Some of these people in jail were charged to court during the former administration. The chairman of APC now on the run was charged by the police from Abuja in 2013. I have not charged anybody in the opposition to court and I have not ordered their arrest. Even when they come into town, I tell my supporters to allow them to enjoy because they have right to life. I have not asked any security agency for favour to arrest anybody. You can learn from the opposition and correct yourselves. Intolerance of the opposition cannot help anybody.
Some people believe that you portray yourself as a ‘vibrant’ opposition to the APC-led government but that you are not always being constructive in your criticisms. Would you like to change your style?
No. Everybody is unique in his own way. What I’m doing is in good faith. I’m saying it the way it is. The question is: are Nigerians hungry? Are people being oppressed? Are court orders disobeyed? Are people not being killed? Are the appointments fair to all geopolitical zones? Is the APC not shielding its members from trial? If the answers are yes, then criticising them is the right thing to do. Somebody must be representing the masses and the poor people. Some people in the APC are praising me for saying the truth always. They can’t talk. Courage is a virtue from God. Fearlessness is a virtue from God. If you don’t want to die, why are you a governor? People only want the benefits of the office, not the pains of office. I have nothing personal against anybody: I speak my mind and let the devil be ashamed. I have been criticising Buhari even when I didn’t know he would become the president. Nigerians have now seen they made a mistake in electing him. They voted for massive killing, nepotism and disobedience of court order. Look at what happened in the Rivers rerun elections where they used state power to oppress the people. What goes round comes around. People who are oppressing today could be oppressed tomorrow.
The other time, you said you were praying so as to select the next governor of the state. Has God shown you the person?
Not yet. When it is revealed, I will let the people know.
Several of your colleagues who used to speak out have since kept quiet. Some people say the reason why you are still able to criticise the government is because of the immunity you enjoy as governor. Is that the case?
There are other governors enjoying immunity, why are they not talking? It is about being courageous and speaking for the masses. There are good examples of courageous people in the bible. God commanded Joshua to be courageous and fearless. I’m simply obeying the command of God. Daniel was courageous to weather the storms of life. Joseph was courageous even when they lied against him that he slept with the wife of his principal. So was Moses when he confronted Pharaoh. Despite signs and wonders, Pharaoh wanted Moses dead but God said no. As Pharaoh and his soldiers perished in the Red Sea, so my enemies would perish in the Red Sea.
If you were offered an opportunity to work for President Buhari, would you stop attacking him?
I will never work with him; there is no basis for that. If this assignment is based on principles, we are opposites. Those working with him are strange bed fellows.