Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi
In this interview with OLUSOLA FABIYI, Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, speaks on the controversy surrounding the recently concluded Nigeria Governors’ Forum chairmanship election and other issues. Excerpts.
Some of you have refused to associate with the Governor Jonah Jang-led faction of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum. Why?
To the best of my knowledge, we have only one authentic and legitimate Nigeria Governors’ Forum, which is led by Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, who won the election. Nigerians can see that he was the one who won the election and its not only the governors who voted for him that could see that. Clearly, it is obvious that what you are witnessing on Governor Jang’s side is an attempt to keep up appearances. I hope good reason would prevail and I know that discussions are ongoing between elements on both sides and ultimately, it is my humble opinion that we would stop ridiculing ourselves before Nigerians.
That was why Jang did not have more than 15 governors when he opened his secretariat. If 16 governors voted for him and 15 came to the opening of his so-called secretariat, I don’t think that that is the secretariat of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum anyway. I happen to be in the building committee of the NGF and we are still in the process of building. The tradition is that it is the governor who sits in the chair that hosts the meeting of the NGF in his lodge not in any so-called ‘manufactured’ secretariat.
The flag of your party and others, including the pictures of all the governors are at where you called “the so-called secretariat”.
Well, I don’t want to go as far as saying that that amounts to impersonation because I have not given anyone the authority apart from the secretariat of the NGF, headed by Mr. A.B. Okauru, to display anything that has to do with me. I also speak for the governors of my party as well as governors from the larger progressive forum that none of them is involved and would want to associate with this. What we want is healing of the process but not to the detriment of the truth.
What is the truth?
The truth is what we have shown Nigerians. The person who won the election is known to Nigerians and the process that brought him was clean and transparent. There are those who have tried to confuse Nigerians by talking about having endorsements. I think even a child, who has just left elementary school, knows that there is a difference between an endorsement and an actual election. I also know that the idea that somebody sits in the chair and did not vacate the chair could not fly with a reasonable Nigerian. Nobody vacates the seat in an election in Nigeria. We are governors and Nigerians know what goes on. This is a democratic body. It may be a club of governors, but it is still a democratic body.
What about the idea of consensus because that has always been the practice?
That would not fly because with growth comes competition. When you have competition and you cannot agree, the only way to resolve it is via election and that is what we did. They put on all those arguments. We used the bulk of the three hours we spent on these arguments and they lost the arguments to superior arguments and they agreed. They stayed, they voted, they produced the agent. They heard the results when it was announced. They want to abort the pregnancy after the baby has been delivered safely because they don’t like the gender of the baby? That is not done anywhere. It is just an abuse of the opportunity that Nigerians have given us and I think we are disgracing ourselves.
Nigerians are worried that 35 governors were unable to elect their leader and that this could portend a danger for 2015.
I think you should put the blame where it belongs. It is not fair to tar all of us with the same brush. Nigerians can clearly apportion blame. They put us in our offices. It is also clear from all that had happened since we had the election that the guilty party is known. Nigeria governors did not have problem in electing a leader, they did and it was transparent. It was won by 19 to 16. We were only 35, all of us voted and a winner emerged from there. The people you should blame are those who have refused to accept the result of an election they lost and in the manner of June 12, they want to annul it. We won’t allow anyone to annul this election. But we hope that good reason will prevail and they will find their way back to the ranks of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and begin to act responsibly.
What is your reaction to the Supreme Court verdict, which threw away the petition against your election?
I think the Supreme Court acted in a manner any Supreme Court would have acted in a matter that ought not to have come before the court. The justices in unison struck out the case for lack of merit, for lack of jurisdiction and for abuse of the court process. I’m very pleased that the court has affirmed our position on this.
There are those who say that since Justice Ayo Salami, who delivered the judgment is under investigation by the NJC, the judgment ought not to have been allowed to stand?
What is the connection of Justice Salami’s suspension with Ekiti? In any case, let’s get the fact right. Justice Salami’s matter was in connection with the Sokoto Court of Appeal. It has nothing to do with Ekiti State. And even when they brought the petition to the Sokoto matter in the so-called closeness of relationship between Justice Salami and some chiefs of our party, that was investigated by the National Judicial Council and found to be absolutely lacking in merit.
There was no evidence of bias against Justice Salami. Equally, it was even a five-member panel; two of Justice Salami’s colleagues on the panel have since been elevated to the Supreme Court much after they gave the judgment in Ekiti governorship electoral petition. If they have been found wanting, I know that there are stringent conditions by the Federal Judicial Service Commission before nominating one for elevation. On top of that nomination, you will have to go through the Senate to be cleared. And Justice Kayode Ariwola and Justice Clara Ogunbiyi went through this process and now sit in the Supreme Court. I don’t see any connection.
It is just a case of people clutching to straws to stop them from drowning. These are drowning people and now they met their waterloo. It is unfortunate and now they have to live with this.
You have been in and out of court for almost two and half years since you became governor. Did this not have a negative effect on the running of your government?
Well, not to me personally because I have always been confident that I won the election in Ekiti State and there is no question in the minds of the majority of Ekiti people that I won the election. Since I became governor, I have focused on my delivery of promises to Ekiti people in what I called my eight-point agenda and there is evidence unlike what we used to have before I became the governor. I was not distracted but clearly there were moments when my supporters get agitated and even the process of calming them down or reassuring them take away from my time to focus on government. I think that is unfortunate. I now argue that we need electoral offenses commission to ensure that those who are beneficiaries of fraud, beneficiaries of rigging are brought to book through the electoral offenses commission.
This is because if Mr. (Segun) Oni has paid the price of being a beneficiary of rigging as far back as October 2010 when he was kicked out of Ekiti Government House, he would not have the temerity, he would not have the confidence to say he was approaching the court to reverse a process that clearly was unanimous, was not a split decision and was a definitive statement that I won both the 2007 and the 2009 rerun election in Ekiti State.
What do you think should be the punishment for those who benefit from rigging?
I believe that all what I would call the benefits of the office itself in terms of the salaries and emoluments that must have accrued to the person when he stayed in office definitely ought to have been retrieved from the person. But beyond that, such individuals, as it is done in our constitution, ought to be banned from running or being in public office either by election or by appointment for a specified period. You know that if you check the Nigerian Constitution, there are certain provisions like if you are found guilty or you have been convicted, you cannot run for office in Nigeria. If you have been impeached, it is the same thing. This should be added to the list of offences that would be deemed punishable by removal from public office.
Source: The Punch
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