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. Continue Reading