July 21, 2014
Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi has countered the widespread belief that he conceded defeat to his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) challenger, Mr. Ayodele Fayose who was declared winner of the June 21 governorship poll in the state.
In his first interview published after the election on Daily Sun, Fayemi asked anyone who thought he accepted the outcome to read the transcript of his post-election broadcast again. “Anyone who understands the English language well would know that that speech was not the concession speech that many people are talking about. Yes, I have said I won’t challenge the election in court and congratulated Mr Fayose, but that’s not tantamount to accepting the result. That’s about saving Ekiti.”
The governor fielded questions on what went wrong in Ekiti; whether he had regrets for his policies and actions; his relationship with the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and other compelling issues.
When asked if he was disturbed by the outcome of the June 21 election, he said, “very disturbed indeed and worried for the future of elections in our country. Nobody goes into an election to lose especially when you have put a lot into it. “When you have worked hard and earned the trust of the people, you should have every reason to feel confident you are going to be rewarded for the hard work and performance.
I said in the course of the campaigns that this election, in my own view, would be decided on the basis of character and performance. On those two grounds, majority agree that we were heads and shoulders above every other candidate in the race. “Leaving that aside, no candidate campaigned the way we did – touching every nook and corner of the state, towns and farmsteads alike.
Most of the time we were on the field campaigning, PDP was nowhere to be found. We actually didn’t campaign like an incumbent. We campaigned as if we were the challenger, the underdog. “But I must also say we were not unaware of the desperation of the PDP hierarchy to ‘win’ Ekiti by every means possible. We saw the federal forces at play in the election and they were undisguised in their desperation.
Election is a process. An election is not just rigged when you snatch ballot box or when you change result at the collation centre. Election could be rigged by the processes leading to that election itself. When security agents that are supposed to be neutral for example go round picking party leaders the night before an election and party anchors on the day of election in a coordinated and choreographed manner with no charge levelled against them, clearly you had a pre-determined end that you are seeking.
“ It is not time to go into any great detail about what we found to be unacceptable about the process which is why I was reluctant to give this interview in the first place. But we have also promised that the infractions will be documented and exposed because we owe Nigerians that.”
On whether he accepted the fact that something went wrong with the APC in the Ekiti election, he said, “The election was not about Ekiti, it was turned to federal forces against APC in the state. If it was performance, head and shoulders we won the election and in terms of mobilization, in terms of campaign, in terms of issues. “As a matter of fact, the PDP candidate had no issues. He was reactive throughout. No issues, no agenda, no manifesto. The only manifesto was I am opposed to any policy issue Governor Fayemi has raised or is implementing.
“I even give some credit to the Labour Party candidate who, even though at the last minute, still came out with a manifesto of what he would like to do in office. That clearly did not happen in the case of the PDP so we were really the only ones with a tested programme that had been implemented across the state.
“I have heard and read all sorts of “pepper soup joint” analysis about stomach infrastructure and people voting for rice and all that. Attractive as the analysis may be to some people, I don’t think it fully does credit to the Ekiti people.
Really, yes there are tendencies of instant gratification that crept into Ekiti politics – particularly in the early days of PDP government in the state-but those tendencies are not so deeply ingrained as to imagine that our people depend on what they can eat here and now in order to determine what happens to their future. “It just offers these elements a convenient explanation for the abracadabra that they inflicted on Ekiti State.
But again, as I said, time will tell. We may find the opportunity now that the party has gone to court, we would find out from their own side. But I think it is important, as I said in my broadcast, to document all these extraneous elements; the siege on Ekiti by the military and other security agencies, the role they played in instilling fear in the state.
There are of course a lot of arm-chair pundits who have argued that the security siege was insufficient to explain the loss of APC. “Many of these pundits were not even in Ekiti during the election and had no idea what actually transpired. Two days to election, my colleagues who were coming for my final rally were stopped from taking off in some cases, mid-air in other cases and actually at the boundaries coming into Ekiti state. Ten days before then, my party people were attacked on account of the traditional sweep after the PDP rally. “I was tear-gassed and ordered to be attacked on the instruction of the Vice President who was in Ekiti on the fateful day, the same Vice President who had boasted that Ekiti and Osun elections will be war front.
Even after I lodged a complaint with the National Security Adviser and the Inspector-General, it was my own people who were charged with terrorism. “So, this was a very carefully orchestrated agenda driven by the forces, federal forces who have been saying to everybody’s hearing that they must take Ekiti because Ekiti, for them, was the gateway to taking the South-west. So there is nothing that happened that cannot be explained.”
He was challenged about conceding defeat, but he said, “Did I really? We were left with two obvious choices following the announcement by INEC on the morning of the 22nd of June. One was to reject outright what we considered was clearly a blatant manipulation or to accept it. “There were a lot of grey areas in between those outright choices. It is convenient to many who want to re-write history to say Fayemi accepted the result. But all you need do is read the transcript of my broadcast and you would come to a very different conclusion.
“With over 30,000 security agents in the state with clear instructions from the Presidency to do everything to place Ekiti in the president’s corner, it was a critical moment for the state and I believe it was more important to rescue Ekiti from bloodbath than to plunge it into one. I believe it was important to turn a new leaf and fight our cause without resorting to violence. “That’s what the Federal government and the PDP had planned for. That’s the verifiable intelligence I received.
And as the Chief Security Officer of the state, I had to decide whether to allow Ekiti to be turned into a killing field by trigger-happy security agents already on instruction to mow them down for protesting the abracadabra inflicted on them. “Under the circumstance, my decision was clear: peace now, justice later.
And really, do we want bloodbath in Ekiti? Do we want our people to be slaughtered? Do we want Ekiti to become the trigger for truncating Nigeria’s fledgling democracy? We felt we have a role to play in protecting this democracy no matter how flawed it is and that’s why I did what I did.
“Anyone who understands the English language well would know that that speech was not the concession speech that many people are talking about. Yes, I have said I won’t challenge the election in court and congratulated Mr Fayose, but that’s not tantamount to accepting the result. That’s about saving Ekiti. Anyone who heard me throughout the campaign would recall my consistent remarks that I won’t go to court for any reason, genuine or otherwise over the election.
“I was only ensuring that my word remains my bond. When Chief Obafemi Awolowo decided he was not going to court over the ‘moonslide’ victory of the NPN in 1983, was that acceptance of the election? In any case, now that my party has gone to court to challenge the election, the various infractions in the election would be subjected to scrutiny.”
He was asked if his decision was not too hasty and if he had any regrets, he said “I don’t know what you mean by “too hasty”. I have always argued that for me, my politics is without bitterness. It is politics of principles and politics of service. “No sacrifice is too much to make for Ekiti people and I have always said it, from 2006 that I became active in Ekiti politics, I have always said that I would not govern over dead people and I would not allow the blood of Ekiti people to be spilled on the altar of politics. “The choice was simple, I could have done otherwise and my supporters were ready. I could simply say to them, you can see the manipulation because everybody was shocked that this was not our vote.
Don’t forget, we have 226,000 registered APC members in Ekiti State. “We completed our party registration barely two months before the collection of INEC permanent voters’ cards and the continuous voters’ registration exercise was done. We used the same INEC polling units for our party registration. “The simple argument that is being made which defies logic is that at least 100,000 of APC members did not vote for their own candidate. If as INEC says, we have 120,000 votes in the election and we have 226,000 members in APC, I am not talking of sympathizers, “I am not talking of outsiders who love Fayemi, who are not card carrying members of the party, I am talking of party members who registered in Ekiti State, 226,000. So, you are either saying that out of those 226,000 members, 100,000 among them did not collect permanent voters cards or they collected but they did not vote for their candidate. “That is simplistic analysis of what you are saying and these people when they got to the field, when they got accredited, they knew one another, they knew who was APC, who was PDP, we were getting feedback on how many of our members were in each polling unit and yet the results in most cases were at complete variance with the evidence before us. So, it’s not enough to take the result declared at face value. “We need to dig deeper into what happened and those alleging ballot fraud and so called Zimbabwean option are probably talking about that. However, on the basis of the declared result, it would simply have amounted to sour grapes and being seen as a bad-loser if we didn’t take the initial step we took to calm frayed nerves but with sufficient caveat that the last has not been heard on the election.
“Here is the simple answer to your question. If I had triggered a crisis by rejecting the result, if I had made a different broadcast, a broadcast that simply says Ifaki people, they said you voted against Segun Oni and me; Oye local government, they said you did not vote for your son, are you going to let this daylight robbery go? It might have been the beginning of the end of Nigeria’s fledgling democracy and a lot of Ekiti people on both sides PDP, APC, non-partisan people, innocent souls would have been lost, what would be my gain in that? I am not hungry. “I didn’t come into politics as someone who doesn’t have alternative. I did what I did by making that speech to save my people. So there was nothing hasty about it.
I knew the plan that the military had, I knew the plan that the police had, don’t forget I am the chief security officer of the state and I get to hear from all these people. I knew the instructions they had given the soldiers because some of them were relating with me and they were not happy that they were being given instructions like the ones they got in Ekiti. “As one of them told me, if they keep bringing us into these matters that are not our business, then they cannot complain if something totally negative happens. One of the soldiers told me that and it is an elementary principle of civil-military relations that the more you drag the military into civilian matters, you never know how it’s going to end. So it wasn’t hasty and I don’t want you to see it as if it was an acceptance speech…it wasn’t an acceptance speech. Please read it, if you read it, you would know that it was very conditional in very many ways.” He was asked why he didn’t carry the party along, he said, “Who told you I did not carry the party along? You know there is a lot of myth and a lot of suppositions that people make.
I did not just make the broadcast, I sat with party leaders. Who is who in our party in Ekiti were all with me when I went to make the broadcast. “We all sat down and agreed on even the format it would take. This was not a broadcast I decided to make out of the blues. We knew we had not lost an election freely or fairly and we knew the agenda was to annihilate and maul down our people. We love our people more, and our interest is to secure them, to protect them than to just protect our office. It was a carefully calibrated speech.”
When asked about his reaction to defeat in his ward and local government which was very disturbing, and a writer saying his defeat was because people were angry he built an “imposing structure in his home town, Isan Ekiti in the midst of poor people he never took care of, he said, “I think whoever wrote that was ill-informed. One, I don’t believe anyone would say that I was defeated in my unit and my ward. “The result is there they should go to INEC and check. As far as I am aware, in my unit, I think PDP had one vote, Labour had 0 and I believe of the 168 people that voted there, I had 167 that voted for me in my unit. In my ward, I had 2022 votes to PDP’s 261 much less for Labour. How anyone would describe this as a defeat is a way of calling a dog a bad name in order to hang it. “And to now talk about imposing structure, it is so disingenuous, I don’t even want to comment on it. The building that I have in my community, I mean my house, was built long before I became governor.
It was declared in the assets that I declared on October 16, 2010. This can be googled, I am one governor who is proud to say I have led an accountable, transparent life as governor. “Anyone who can come out and say I have added one block to any part of my house around the world since I became governor, I challenge the person to come out with evidence. I live a very modest life and there is no need for me not to. I have a small family and I have only one child. My politics is not politics of materialism but in Nigerian politics everybody opens their mouth and say whatever they like about you because that is the way Nigerian politics is. “You must malign others in order to try and get some kind of foothold. I wonder what is massive about my house. So when I hear about this imposing mansion, I ask myself is he writing about me or writing about someone else and here was a journalist who said he had never been to Ekiti, because I read the piece. So, you then ask yourself, you write this and you have never been to Ekiti, where is your credibility? So this is where hatred blinds credibility. “How would anyone take such a journalist who regards himself as a serious columnist serious when you write that. The same person you are talking about wrote that I have a university in Ghana and said that I have not denied that my wife has a university in Ghana. This is part of the misinformation that people spread even when they know it is a lie. A university is not what you put in your pocket.
I have denied this at every opportunity I get and challenged the peddlers of the rumour to provide evidence, the university authorities in Ghana have denied this. “They have come out to say that give us the evidence of this university. We know the universities that are in Ghana, we know those they belong to, yet you keep this Goebbelsian lie hoping that if you keep repeating it, it would stick. With time, somebody would now say oh, I read it somewhere and when somebody read it somewhere, what is the name of the university, who is the Vice Chancellor or president of this university, how many students are there, who exactly gave you this information, where is it written. “But you know why they would go for a university, it is Fayemi now, he is an intellectual, an academic, you can’t say he has an oil rig or an oil refinery. That may not be believable, you can’t say he has a power plant. But if you say he has a university, they would say you know he is one of these elitist academics so that is the kind of thing that he would like. Quite frankly, for me there is nothing wrong in having a university, but I do not have a university anywhere in the world.
But you then ask yourself, why do people lie? What does it advance? It diminishes them more. Like that columnist, he is greatly diminished now, at least in my eyes, and in the eyes of many others. Those who used to take him seriously before would think twice about anything he writes from now on because they know that his writing is not based on any objectivity. It is personal, hate-mongering, disingenuous lies that define him and it is unfortunate because we don’t need that for the growth of this democracy. “There are some people that you take serious. This is not something you are reading in a junk publication, if you are reading it in one of those funny rags that they call soft sell, it is understandable but not in a mainstream newspaper in which this person is a respected columnist, it is not just done.” When asked if he regretted any of his actions and utterances considering the outcome of the election, he said, “There is nothing we have done that we don’t think it’s the right thing to do.
I have always said that governance is different from politics. When election ends, governance starts and you must be able to, yes, mix both, but at the same time you have a duty as a leader to take firm decisions when necessary in the best interest of the people. “Governance is not a popularity contest, election may be a popularity contest but governance is about delivering the greatest good for the greatest number of the people and to that extent there is nothing that we did that we cannot defend in terms of their impact on the people. Whether it is our free education programme, we know what has changed now, we know what our hospitals used to look like, people can go there and see what they look like now. We also know what the infrastructure in the state used to be like and we know the quality of infrastructure we have since put in place. In Education, in healthcare, in agriculture, in rural development and community empowerment, in social security and women empowerment as well as provision of jobs, there are indelible marks of our administration.
However, there were a number of policies that many deemed controversial and as I said, you hear so many pepper soup analysts who go around saying, ‘Oh, it’s because Fayemi was doing test for teachers and was looking for ghost workers in local governments and putting biometrics integrated pay roll system for the civil servants and all that.’ You know vision is always 20/20 after the fact. In all the steps I took, my primary interest was to better the lot of my people. Though there are aspects of some of our reforms that might have been handled differently, there is none we would have jettisoned. “There are also aspects of our reforms that might have been communicated differently to the people particularly those affected because change is always difficult to swallow. People don’t like change. Sometimes, the price to pay for leadership is to be firm in your approach to change particularly when you know that that change would be in the ultimate best interest of the majority of the population.
“So, sequencing you can argue about and say timing, sequencing of the reform, players, path, processes are issues that we deal with when we are talking about effective and efficient governance. But the reality is that some of what we had to do we did and there is no need to regret anything we did because it was in the best interest of our people and I believe that posterity would judge us right on those policies.” He was also asked why he created LCDAs when he only had few more days in office, he said, “That is a distortion. The process leading to the creation of the LCDAs has been on for one year. I set up a committee that took memoranda from various communities and I also invited them to come and defend their memoranda. This is a process and we are just getting to the end of the process.
And what do you mean by few more days in office? I still have three months left in government. So there is nothing that says we should not do something that our people are very desirous of and that is why I am creating the LCDAs.” He was asked what was the next point of call for him after office, he said, “I am a politician, I have to continue to tend my sheep and Ekiti remains my theatre of operation. First, I am still the governor of Ekiti State and I have a lot of work to do to complete the agenda that I set for myself and that I set for Ekiti people. So that is what next. And I would always remain in the service of my people, my country and humanity at large.”
By Cherry Oyetoro
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