The first civilian Governor of Ekiti State, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, rarely grants interviews as he commits much of his time to his law practice.
When he agreed to speak to Vanguard’s HUGO ODIOGOR on the politics of his state, the resurgence of the ACN in South West and the hurdles before President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 elections, it was in few direct and articulate words, that sums up his background as man born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Read Excerpts.
SINCE you left office as the governor of Ekiti State in 2003, you seem to have alienated yourself from politics at both state and national levels, are you disillusioned with the state of affairs in the country?
It is not absolutely correct to say that I insulated myself from politics because I have been heavily involved in politics at the state and national level but I have played more of a background role. I believe that when you put somebody forward to contest for an office, that person becomes the face and voice of that effort, all you do is to rally round him.
Otunba Niyi Adebayo...not prepared to compromise
That is exactly what I have done at the state level. I stayed in the background allowing Dr. Fayemi to be the face of the party in the state and today, with the victory in the election, he is now the leader of the party in the state, while I will now fade into the background as one of his faithful followers.
Victory in Ilorin
At the national level, I have been involved in the various aspect of the party activities especially, in the negotiations that led to the merger between AC and Democratic People’s Party and the other parties with a view to seeing that we that we perform better in the next general election.
How did you feel when the Court in Ilorin declared Dr. Kayode Fayemi the winner of the Ekiti state re-run election?
My first reaction was that of happiness and joy because I feel from the onset that Fayemi won the election on both occasions but he was cheated out of the victory. With the pronouncement of victory in Illorin we have a situation where we have been vindicated and he will finally have the opportunity to put into practice those things which he promised the people of Ekiti State
What challenges are likely to confront the new governor as he tries to put in place a new cabinet?
Well, in the first place he has been around for three and half years to know who to listen to and who not to listen to. Unfortunately for him in terms of development he will have to start from where I left off. Since I left office, I have been round Ekiti State on several occasions.
I was the first civilian governor and we tried to lay the foundation for the governments that will come after us to build on.
Unfortunately, those who came after us have not performed effectively. They have not built on that foundation. If you go round the state you will find that the subsequent administrations have done all sorts of things, built roads but look at the state of the roads, that they built today, you will be amazed that all the roads have virtually disappeared.
In fact the only existing road is the Oye-Ayede road which was the one I built. All the other roads are in a state of disrepair. So, Fayemi is going to start from where I stopped but he has an opportunity to build on what was there, he has started well and he fully understands the problems of the state and I have no doubt that he will succeed.
What about the interest groups?
That is normal in a democracy, but the good thing is that he had three and half years since his election to study the situation. That has put him in a good stead to know who he should listen to and who he should not.
What are those factors that could either advance or stymie the progress of the new administration?
Well in the first place he has identified the people who would work with him and I have no doubt that the time the cabinet is announced, people will realise that it is composed of people who are prepared to work.
Would you say that with the victory of Dr. Fayemi in Ekiti State the ACN is on ascendency and political resurgence in the South west and beyond?
If you see the out pouring of happiness and joy in the whole of Ekiti State and the South west, when Dr. Fayemi was pronounced the winner by the Appeal Court in Illorin, you will realise that our people have been suffering under a government that was forced upon them by the apostles of “do or die” politics.
We have been in opposition since 2003, we have evolved from different name and we are intent on being in the opposition until the people decide that we are the ones who should be given the mandate to rule.
We are not the type that is prepared to compromise just because we want power. We believe in integrity and we believe that this country can be taken forward. We are trying to show example of the quality of leadership can offer with the examples of Edo, Lagos and now Ekiti is coming into the fold.
If anybody is talking about states where there is development and governors that are performing he will definitely mention Lagos and Edo States. We believe that very soon the people will see the idea of what government can do.
The PDP has never won election in the South West, they have always manipulated their way and managed to stay there, but we have gotten to the point where even they themselves would realise that it will be difficult for them to get into power in the South West through manipulation.
We have no doubt that with the present chairman of INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, who looks to me like an upright person, it will be difficult for anybody to manipulate election. Once we have free and fair election, there is no way that PDP can win in the South West.
You seem to have placed so much confidence on Prof. Jega and his INEC but we still have people like Mr. Ayoka Adebayo as REC in Ondo State?
It is difficult to rig election where the umpire is upright and determined to see that rigging does not occur. We had rigging under Professor Maurice Iwu because he condoned it despite his public pronouncements.
What he did was despicable. We all saw what happened in the Ekiti re-run. It was obvious that there was rigging and they forced Madam Ayoka to Abuja and forced her to play along with them. But we have a situation where the Chairman of INEC who knows that his job is to be unbiased, definitely I am sure he can do his best to make sure that he keeps his integrity intact.
National security remains a worrisome issue with the interception of 13 container load of arms at the Apapa Ports in Lagos last week. What is the implication of this in an election year?
Frankly speaking my initial reaction was, ‘this is madness.’ Of course, when I saw the content of the container, I doubted if anybody in his right mind could be importing those kinds of ammunition for election purposes but when it was reported that the arms were meant for Hamas and that Nigeria was being used as a transhipment point, I heaved a sigh of relief.
The arms we are talking about if they were meant for elections could blow off a whole village, what for?
Weapons of war
I will want to believe the Israeli people on this because the arms we are talking about are not the type that are usually associated with election activities, these are heavy ammunition, not guns and bullets. These are weapons of war.
From the incident of the bomb blasts to kidnappings and now transit point for movement of drugs and weapons, people are worried about the state of our security, what do you think?
Well, the fact that they intercepted this means that they have done well, It does not matter whether they were tipped off, the global network of security today depends on trans-border flow of information, what you do with the information is another thing. We have to commend the security agencies because where ever the arms were destined to would never have known peace.
How would you adjudge the Presidency of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan? Would you say he is in control of situations in terms of performance and security of the country?
Honestly, I feel sorry for Dr. Jonathan because he has given himself a big burden. If when he came to power he decided that he was going to conduct the elections and handover power, he would not be under tremendous pressure. One year is not enough time for ruling a country. It is not enough to assess a man. He has been there since May 6, 2010 and he has put himself on a pedestal that is difficult for people to assess before the election next year. Unfortunately for him he has not done anything people will use to assess him.
He has not had enough time to do any meaningful thing for people to adjudge him, people are going to judge him by lack of impact.