Senator Babafemi Ojudu, the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, tells ‘YOMI AYELESO, in this interview, governance in the country, politics of Ekiti State and other issues.
Sometime ago, you and some leaders of the party in Ekiti State went to court challenging the 2018 congress of the party with the development already generating reactions from party members in the state. What is actually the issue?
Let me say this that I am one of the people who went to court. I am one of those but not the one. Therefore, I will not want it to be personalised as if it is a battle between me and Governor Kayode Fayemi. Rather it is a battle between Fayemi, his circle of aides and the conscience of the party. Many stakeholders in the party do not like the way things are going here. Take for example, when it was time to appoint executive members for the party at state, local government and ward levels, a handful of them were taken to Iyin-Ekiti at a private residence without recourse to the constitution of the party. Those of us who could not be bought with promise of appointments are not happy with this. Since this illegality was committed, we have been calling on them to retrace their steps, be inclusive and let their action be guided by law but they said we should go to hell. We wrote to the national headquarters of the party, complained loudly, got lawyers to write to the party. We exhausted all the avenues to resolve the matter but we were ignored. We had no option than going to court.
It is a collective thing and those of us, stakeholders, who are involved in the case, are many but few of us were listed as appellants in the suit. It is not about Ojudu and Fayemi, it is about those who believe APC should not be a one-term government in the state; that we don’t want to go the election come 2022 and be damaged and be crippled and then carry guilt of a government that has not performed here. We want to go to that election proud that we have a president in Abuja who has done well and that the governor here might not have done well but we are not in cahoot with the government. Many of our people are disgruntled with this government in the state, to say the truth. Many of our party members are not happy; they hardly know what is going on and are tired of defending the indefensible. There are people who are commissioners in the government; who are also holding board appointments at the national level. There are those who are lawmakers, House of Representatives’ members, who were appointed to boards at the federal level. How can you give one person three appointments when we have our educated party members roaming the streets without one single appointment? One individual will be a commissioner, he will be in the board of two other agencies or departments in Abuja. Somebody will be elected to the House of Representatives; he will also be on a board of a major parastatal in Abuja. Tt is illegal, and it is not done anywhere. You have the state party chairman, who is also a special adviser to the governor, a state executive position. This is illegal, our constitution does not allow it. What stops you from putting someone as chairman and put somebody else as special adviser.
Some of us outraged have taken a step different from ours and left the party but someone like me and a few other patriots can’t do that because we can’t abandon the house we built. We shall stay in the party and fight to salvage it. Nobody can chase us away from the APC or from the progressives’ community. Rather it is we who will chase those among us whose temperament are not progressive to where they belong. I will remain a member of the progressive’s party till I die. So, whatever it is I did not like, I will fight within and that is what we are trying to do now. Those with us today, governing over us and riding roughshod over our party members and our people, will soon find their way out of our party. Mark my words ,they will soon be on their way out. They are already working at it.
Why the court case now after almost two years of the congress because some people have argued that your group went to court purposely because of the governorship election in 2022.
Let me correct that. There was no congress. What happened was arranged as I pointed out earlier. It took us this long to go to court because the constitution of our party prescribed some steps that should be taken before a matter affecting the party could be taken to court. We took our time to go through all the steps and this took a lot of time. Taking this action is also not about the governorship election. It is a wakeup call to him (Fayemi) and to the party and to our leaders, both at the local and national levels that things are not going well. If he comes up in 2022 and brings a candidate, will it be the only one who will campaign for him then? If what is happening now continues, will you call me to come and campaign for a candidate brought up by him in 2022? If as a leader, you did not call me for a meeting for three years, is it the year of election you will call me? Will I come for such a meeting? If I show up in that meeting, will I tell you the truth? All we are doing is a wakeup call for the party and for himself and those outside Ekiti who thought he has conquered us and the people of Ekiti to know that this is not so , that we have kept quiet over this period watching to see if he will change and turn a new leave. What we have had is the quietness of the grave yard. Since we went to court, we have been receiving several messages and calls with people expressing their joy and happiness. What they have been waiting for is for some people to lead them; for some to bell the cat. There are leaders in Ekiti; how many of them have been called to a meeting? Many said they will call, nobody picks their calls. Things were a bit different during his first term that if you can’t see him, you will see the then Chief of Staff. A lot of people are not happy but they can’t talk but we want them to come out and say the truth, maybe he will call a meeting and listen to everybody. And if he does not, we will then tell Ekiti people that you might not have been served the way you ought to have been served but it is a sin committed by one man and not by all of us. Whoever then becomes the candidate in 2022 can at least have a chance.
But one will ask what efforts did you and other aggrieved members make in reaching out to the leaders of the party as regards some of these complains you have raised?
Before going to court, we have gone to see all the leaders in Abuja. We have written to the Chief Bisi Akande Reconciliation Committee. We have consulted everybody we needed to consult on this matter and they consented to our going to court. Interestingly, our members are excited because they have been depressed; they can no longer talk. They no longer have sense of belonging. We want to free them and we are in the process of freeing them.
Are you saying there is no inclusiveness in the government of Dr Fayemi in the almost two years of his administration?
They have not called any meeting of leaders of the party. No meeting, no caucus, I don’t know how one man can run a show of the party. He beats the drum and others just dance to it. Most of us have been observers; ex-senators, ex-House of Representatives members, ex-speaker of the state House of Assembly, ex-members of the House of Assembly, leaders of repute. Nobody has been asked to come for any meeting.
But there are arguments that the government was only concentrating in giving back to the people the real dividends of democracy rather than focusing on the politicians, especially in the early years of the administration.
Where is the focus on the people now? Is it roads the government is constructing? Is it providing employment? Is it providing foods? Where is the governance? I want you to do a search on Google and tell me where the projects are. Take the Borno State and also Ekiti State. Look at what Borno State governor, Professor Zulum, has done since he was sworn in till today and then take a look at what the Ekiti State governor has done since he was sworn in. Let us compare the two. When they tell you there is no money, is Zulum in charge of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) or he is receiving more than what Ekiti is being given ? What is the population of Borno and what is the population of Ekiti? You could take three Ekiti out of Borno. Compare the ratio of the population of Borno to what is going there and the ratio of our population and what is coming here.
As an aide to the President on political matters, are you not worried on happenings in the Edo and Ondo state chapters of the party ahead the forthcoming governorship election?
When election is coming, people will jostle for advantage, there will be conflict, the political temperature will rise and all of that but for those of you outside the political tent, you always think things are about to collapse but it is always not so. We will manage it. At the end of the day there will be give and take, it is conflict and there will be resolution of the conflict.
I can tell you, we are gradually resolving the crisis in these states. Governors will emerge in Edo and Ondo states without much problem. I could remember when the election was coming up in Kogi State last year, people were saying we were going to lose but at the end of the day, we won and tension has come down now. Same way Edo and Ondo will come down and APC will win in those states.
Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Executive Order 10, giving financial autonomy to the legislature and the Judiciary. How do you think it will further enhance our democracy?
That autonomy will, no doubt, entrench our democracy. A judge who is giving a judgment which is not in favour of a governor cannot be starved of funds. If the Chief Judge of a state is known to give brilliant judgments, is known to be very sound legally and does not care whose ox is gored when giving a judgment, when he is doing it according to the law, and his conscience. But if they are self-funded, they can do what goes with their conscience, what goes with the laws of the country. They can plan how they are going to put their surroundings in good shape, send judges on trainings , acquire equipment that will enable them dispense with justice in good time. This is how it is done all over the world. There is no democracy in other parts of the world where the executive has to fund the judiciary and the legislature. They are separate and independent arms of government. None is superior to another. Votes can be made for the three arms independently. The legislative arm can make a law Independent of the executives, a law that can even restrain the executive. They are supposed to have oversight on the executive. But when you put the financing of the legislature under the executive, you are hampering its work. I have heard some governors said they won’t allow it. This position is championed by my governor.
Why won’t they allow what the constitution support? The governors have to do the needful now that the president has signed the executive order. It is left also for the legislature to free itself from the shackles of the executive.
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