Former All Progressives Congress governorship aspirant in Ekiti State, Kayode Ojo, tells GODFREY GEORGE about his suit against the emergence of Governor Biodun Oyebanji as the party’s candidate, the state Assembly crisis and other issues
The Supreme Court has dismissed the case you instituted challenging the validity of Governor Biodun Oyebanji’s emergence as the governorship candidate of the party on the grounds of some technicalities. How did you receive the news?
To be honest with you, the news was so pathetic. Indeed, there was a country. The Supreme Court we have now is not the one of Justice Kayode Esho, Justice Aloma Mukhtar and others. I believe, in their days, they would have sat down and looked at righting the wrongs of both the Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal not to look into the substantive matter in this case. It is disgraceful that someone will file a suit, going through the Federal High Court to the Appeal Court up to the Supreme Court and the merit of the case is not determined. What then is the essence of us having a court? Why do we have justices or judges? This, more or less, was still allowed by the Supreme Court. It is not only dangerous; it is bad for democracy. It will drive other people to seek self-help, believing that the court is no longer the last hope for the common man to seek redress. It is judicial rascality.
The Supreme Court said there were some technical issues owing to the number of days with which your case was filed. Don’t you think this was fair?
It cannot be fair. Section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic guarantees me a fair hearing. If we look at the matter from the High Court to the Supreme Court, have I been fairly heard? They should answer that question. I have not been fairly heard. I followed the constitution and the rules of the letter. One of the judges who sat on the bench refused to follow the law. This can only happen in Nigeria. Even if we go to neighbouring Togo or Ghana, before we talk of modern democracies like the United States and the United Kingdom, there is no way this would have happened to me.
If one files a lawsuit, the merits of the case should be looked at. If the court looks into it and says my case has no merit, it is fine. It won’t have been an issue. That is the decision of the court. But the judge said my lawyer signed two different signatures. If he were trying an armed robber or serial killer, would he say the Director of Public Prosecution signed two different signatures; would he have freed the criminal?
Governor Oyebanji, in his reaction to the ruling of the apex court, described it as a welcome development and a triumph of truth and justice, asking you to come and join hands with him to build Ekiti State. What is your response to his call?
The call to come and work with him does not absolve him of all of the blame. He is a beneficiary of illegality. I appreciate his comment that we should work together. I never left the party; so, that is wrong. I have always been an All Progressives Congress member. That is why I went to court to challenge the illegality and fraudulent results that were given against me.
What exactly were the grounds that necessitated you taking Oyebanji and the APC to court?
We ought to have a governorship primary on January 27, 2022. On the eve of the primary, the results had already been written. They then carried all the materials and result sheets and gave them to only members of Oyebanji’s campaign council who are mostly appointees of the former governor. They just sat down and wrote the result on the dining table of the Government House. They just called them the next day to come and endorse the result. We have the facts and I can conveniently tell you that some of the people that wrote the result had apologised to me. Even Governor Mohammed Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State, who was given the paper to announce on TV – because they didn’t collate any results – actually saw me at the airport two weeks later and subtly apologised to me. I met him with Senator Ali Modu Sheriff. We met at the private jet terminal of the airport. He said, ‘Now that I understand that you have some kind of relationship with former Governor Fayemi, then what they did to you was wicked.’ These were his exact words. I didn’t lie.
Are you saying that the current Governor of Ekiti State was imposed on the people?
Of course, he was imposed on the party. The primary results were fake. People came out to vote for me. That is the truth. Find out from anyone in Ekiti State. After writing the result a day before they went to stage-manage party members to say they came to vote for him and all that. Initially, they claimed they had clear evidence that they were going to bring to the court, but they couldn’t bring it in because they know it will destroy all their lies. I was in court and I gave evidence. The only witness they brought was one man that claimed to work with the Independent National Electoral Commission who didn’t know how many senatorial districts we had in Ekiti State. He said he supervised the North Senatorial District but didn’t know how many wards were there. They had no defence because there was nothing to defend. It is apparent. We were very prepared for the primaries.
I worked very hard for over two or three years. I did a lot of groundwork. I went everywhere, visited every ward, mobilised the party people and they were all ready for the change because they knew what I brought to the table. I wasn’t coming to take anything from Ekiti State. I wanted to bring development to Ekiti State and private companies to help the people of the state. The people were eager and looking forward to bringing us to the office but all the people that were the beneficiaries of the commonwealth were afraid of people like us because they felt we were too independent. They know they cannot tell me that they made me. They want someone that they can blackmail with the ‘I made you’ line. That is what has also manifested in the state House of Assembly because they know that they cannot do that with me. It will never happen.
When you mention issues of ‘irregularities’ in your suit, did it have anything to do with financial inducements?
It has nothing to do with money but it was a blatant falsification of the result. They wrote the result a night before inside the Government House. That was why they wrote 101,000 for Oyebanji and gave me 767 as someone who came in second place. Meanwhile, I have five canvassers in each ward. We have 177 wards. If you multiply five by 177, is that not over 1000 already? So, what are they saying? This does not include people that are following me. Prior to this, we had done a lot of humanitarian and philanthropic work in the state. Is it not a joke to allocate 767 votes to me? It is unreal. Just take a look at the numbers. Anybody knows that whoever is given second place in Nigerian politics is always the actual winner if well looked into. Once you are not their ‘boy’ or not a stooge, they will look for a way to kick you out. It is outright falsification.
Before approaching the court, did you try to seek an audience with the party chiefs as well as Oyebanji and his men to air your grievances?
No, they never called me. Oyebanji didn’t call me. Fayemi didn’t call me. This is because while we were campaigning, I was having constant conversations with Governor Kayode Fayemi. We were not enemies. I was not fighting him. I respected him. I supported his government even though in 2018, he rigged me out. I still supported him because I knew the progress of Ekiti State was not his personal progress but that of the whole state. As I was campaigning, I was briefing him on how it was going. I never kept anything in the dark for him. Seven days before that primary, he called me to tell me that he enjoyed the way I was campaigning and told me to keep it up and avoid attacking people even though they attacked me. Days later, he wrote a result against me. That is why I will continue to call him a coward. Only a coward does that to a man that has shown you respect and support, then you turn around and show the person wickedness. I am not his enemy. I have shown him respect everywhere, and I was focused on how we could turn Ekiti State into a destination. If you go there now, Ekiti State, all these years, has witnessed arrested development. We have not even achieved two per cent of our potential. Unfortunately, that is the way it is.
What is your relationship like currently with the ex-governor?
I have no relationship with him. I don’t deal with people that are extremely dishonest and cowardly, people that cannot be true to their words. Former governor, Fayemi, throughout his time in Ekiti State never conducted any democratically free and fair election in the state. It is not his style. He does not believe in democracy and has never practiced democracy. Unfortunately, it is a shame for him. This is a man that God bestowed grace to become a governor but he has abused that grace. God Almighty is a God of justice.
You spoke about your outing in 2018. What exactly happened at that time and how were you ‘rigged’ out of the process?
At that time, I was fairly new to politics. I had come in a year before then and we moved the state and the party and they all fell in love with us. What happened then was the use of indirect primaries. Though the majority of the people voted for me, the people that counted the votes said otherwise. That is why I say the people that vote are not as important as the people who count the vote. The former governor of Nasarawa State, Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, who came to conduct that primary, knows how they rigged me out then. But at that time, with all honesty, the next day after the primaries, Fayemi came to me and asked me to work with him. I looked at it and accepted since he had only four more years to go. I supported him in the interest of the party and not to have any acrimony with him.
The incumbent party at that time was the Peoples Democratic Party and I didn’t want us to fight and push the APC away. I kept quiet, hoping that he will be grateful. I never asked him to impose on me or give me absolute support. I only said he should give me a level-playing field for everybody. He should have let the electorate determine the people they wanted. We were eight people who came out from the APC to run; we were not many. All he needed to do was superintend over a free and fair primary. Whoever won would have bestowed him the highest honour of the land. But now, what has he achieved today? People see him as a nobody in Ekiti State today. Forget all the stories.
If he had not interfered in this primary, it would not have been so. His very good friend, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, approached him on this matter. He said, ‘In 2018, you (Fayemi) came first. Segun Oni came second; Ojo came third. Segun Oni is no longer in the party; you (Fayemi) are leaving. Why not work with Ojo since he never gave you any trouble?’ His answer to Akeredolu was, ‘You are saying all these because Ojo is your in-law’. Akeredolu answered and said, ‘Yes, he is my in-law. But, in this state, if they vote 10 times, Ojo will win. I just don’t want you to manipulate the elections’.
We all know that the APC as a party handed over the structures of the state to the governors and being the chairman of the Governors’ Forum at the time, they will most likely do his bidding, so it won’t look like he lost. Akeredolu spoke to him but he was just dancing around. So, he was sufficiently engaged to make sure that we had a level-playing field. So, anybody who lost or won would know that indeed, they lost or won. If I lost to Oyebanji, I would have been the one to go to him to ask to be the Director-General of his campaign. But, I know that they couldn’t defeat me because of how much work I had put in and how much love the people of Ekiti State had for me. That was why they did what they did.
Was there any agreement between you and the ex-governor at any time?
No, there was nothing like that.
It seems that people who came into politics from the corporate world find it difficult to navigate the terrains of the game or dismantle previous structures and strong grounds by the powers that be. Why do you think this is so?
I will give you the proper analysis of that because I have pondered over this for a long while. The advantage that these so-called politicians have gained over time is the fact that they do not have any other job other than politics. When General Abdulsami Abubakar (retd.) said he would return the country to civilian rule in months, most corporate people didn’t believe him because we thought another dribbler like General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (retd.) had come. The corporate executive and civil servants didn’t believe him. So, about 90 per cent of people who joined politics at that time were jobless persons, petty thieves, gamblers, or layabouts and were nothing to write home about. To them, it didn’t matter if the democracy would stay or not because they had nothing to lose. Serious people that were busy doing something were not involved. That was the mistake that many of the good people made at that time.
Now, these people then took over politics and fortunately or unfortunately, money came and we had the oil windfall. With that money and the power, they have now built a firewall for good people. When the good people then became interested, it was almost too late. Democracy has been steady but our economy and development have gone down. This means the handlers of our commonwealth are incompetent. Apart from that, most of them steal money meant for all. Even when they really want to do something for the people, they don’t even know how to do it. So, they end up not doing it right or not doing it at all. I saw it happen in Rivers State many years ago. So, for the good people to come in, it is hard. They expect you to come to one grandmaster’s house every Monday to Friday and sit down day and night, doing nothing. But if you are a serious person, you cannot leave your job to go and do that before they say you are loyal. That is the problem.
I remember when Prof Pat Utomi wanted to contest governorship election in 2015 or so, they told him the primaries will hold in a particular location but went to another location and did it without him knowing. How can anyone behave like that? This is why we have stunted or no economic growth at all.
Ekiti State is one blessed with natural and human resources. Looking back over the years, will you say the state has maximised its full potential in terms of development?
It is very simple. Ekiti and Ebonyi states were created on the same day. Visit both states and you can tell the difference. I need not say much. Ekiti State is lagging behind because we have had accidental governors, ill-equipped people who have taken the leadership of the state; people who have other motives other than taking care of the needs of the state. The danger that we face is that when you bring someone that is ill-prepared to the office, he will first want to take care of him/herself. They will want to own an apartment in the choicest locations at home and abroad.
These are going to be at the expense of the state. Before Fayemi became Governor of Ekiti State, how many property did he have? How many does he have today that he left the government after eight years and four years as a minister? Where did the money come from? Does he have an investment somewhere? Does he have a law firm or factory? It is important for us to have someone who has established himself already to lead the state. As we speak today, the purchasing power of our people is almost on the floor. Even if we bring something nice to Ekiti State, who is going to buy it? There is no money in the pocket of the people. We must find a way to put money in the pocket of the people so they can buy so our economy can be lifted.
Recently, the former Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, Gboyega Aribisogan, was said to have been impeached and suspended indefinitely for gross misconduct amongst other issues and a new Speaker has been elected. What can you make out of this?
It was a terrorist attack on the state House of Assembly. It was a terror. Terror was visited on Ekiti House of Assembly. They freely elected their speaker and the next day, Fayemi ordered the police to go and seal the House. They used the RRS commander, one Mr Marcus, in connivance with the state Commissioner of Police. They went there and locked the place up. For me, it is not about the capacity of Aribisogan or that of the new person, Madam Olubunmi Adelugba. I am not close to either of them. They all teamed up with Fayemi and they are the same people. The only thing I stood for and will keep standing for is democracy – the right for people to choose. Allow people to choose whoever they so want as their leader.
This is an internal crisis within their group and they cannot ridicule us who are from Ekiti State. What happened with bringing Adelugba is illegal and it is something that all Ekiti State people in the Diaspora should rise up and make sure that this does not stand. Things must be done following laid down rules and regulations and the constitution. I understood that they went there at 4am in the morning and the House does not sit on Monday.
They went there to do a ruse impeachment by 4am in the morning on a day that the Assembly does not sit? That is ridiculous. A few days later, Fayemi now issued a statement that he was not involved. I can tell you that he personally called the Assembly members to go there on that Monday morning to conduct the impeachment. What do you call that kind of person? He is a coward of the highest order.
This is the same way I see him following Bola Tinubu around. This was the same person abusing Tinubu up and down the place. Before the APC presidential primaries, if you mentioned Tinubu’s name in Ekiti State, they could even lock you up. I don’t understand people like that. The process that saw Adelugba’s election was marred in illegality and that is why I will not recognise her as the speaker of the House. I won’t do that because she was not democratically elected except if I get a piece of different information that clarifies that.
Do you think these crises in the state will affect the chances of the APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, in the forthcoming polls?
If you go to Ekiti State today, a lot of people are aggrieved because of our own matter, but they won’t want to speak out. So, the issue with Ekiti State APC is that we don’t have any leader. We lack the type of leadership that former governor, Olusegun Osoba, had in Ogun State. I was in Ogun State yesterday (Saturday, December 10, 2022) for Governor Dapo Abiodun’s re-election flag-off and Osoba reconciled Gbenga Daniels and Abiodun. We don’t have that figure in Ekiti. Most of the older politicians in Ekiti are still looking for appointments and trying to get something from the government. We don’t have anyone that will tell the governor that he is wrong.
How about the likes of Prof Afe Babalola and some others?
They are not politicians; they are our elders and they can give advice but we still need political fathers who understand the nitty-gritty of the politics in the state. There is no real political class in Ekiti State in both political parties. That is the biggest problem. On the issue of delivering votes for Asiwaju that Oyebanji has bragged about, we have about 950,000 registered voters in Ekiti now. If we look at the statistics in the last governorship election, adding the number of voters of the three political parties, is it up to 400,000? If everybody votes for Tinubu there, how will that be more than the votes in Oyo and Ogun states much less Lagos State? So, we have a lot of work to do to get Tinubu elected. I have told the people close to Tinubu that if he must win this election, the South-West must do more that they did in the previous years.