In what appears to be a final parting of ways between two friendly leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the South West, Senator Buruji Kashamu, representing Ogun East Senatorial District has lashed out at Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State accusing the governor of committing treason over his action against President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent trip to China. In an interview, Buruji, who until recently was Fayose’s ally in their bid to control the PDP in the South West also had hot words for his erstwhile compatriot over his numerous attacks on Buhari saying the energy dissipated on playing to the gallery and acting like a thug and tout that is obsessed with the bashing of the federal government and President Buhari as if it is an official policy of the state government will consequently retard the progress and prosperity of the good people of the state. Excerpts:
Is it true that you and some governors are promoting an Ali Modu Sheriff/Fayose ticket in 2019?
I laugh when people ascribe so much to me. Despite being my friend, it is common knowledge that Governor Fayose and I have divergent views on current political issues as well as the policies and programmes of the present government. I have often told him that the Federal Government, like other levels of government at the state and local governments, has its challenges and shortcomings. So, there is no need pontificating as if one is better than the other, when the oaths of office and allegiance taken when being sworn in makes every government official an inseparable part of the government of the Federation. I guess it is the essence of these oaths that guide the more temperate and methodological approach of other PDP governors to issues of the day. The most vocal is not necessarily the most courageous, effective or cleanest. Despite all that Governors Wike, Udom, Okowa, Ishaku and others have been through, they have since settled down to face the business of governance and delivering dividends of democracy to their people. They are calm, mature, balanced and yet effective.
How can I be said to be promoting a non-existent presidential ticket or ambition? In a recent interview on Channels Television, Governor Fayose denounced such an ambition or ticket. However, what I find objectionable is the impression that he can determine the political future or limit the political aspirations of others because of the position they presently occupy. How can he say he doesn’t want to see any old face in the party leadership? Is he not an old face too? He has been around since 2003. He is playing God. But, no man is God! During his return bid, he was accused of so many things and there was a lot of opposition against him, but God used some of us for him. Now, he has turned round to bite the fingers that fed him.
Nigerians have in recent times repeatedly demonstrated that power indeed belongs to the people. It is spurious for anyone to usurp the power of the people to choose their leaders. Power belongs to Allah and He decides through the people whom He will give it to. As of today, it has pleased the Almighty Allah Subhanawatala to give it to the respectable President Muhammadu Buhari. With the little that I know of African leaders, I do not know of a more upright and sincere leader who also loves his own country like President Buhari. He does what he preaches and preaches what he does. And so, it will be foolhardy for anyone to think and act like he could determine who will be the President of this country in 2019.
But some South West PDP leaders, including Chief Bode George, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe and Doyin Okupe have condemned your position describing you and others as ragamuffins and bastards. How would you react to this?
No amount of abuse will make me descend into the arena. I am focused on what I and other well-meaning leaders think is in the best interest of the good and highly regarded people of the South West and the party. They can call us any name they want to call us; it does not move me. I have done nothing wrong. At least, no one has accused me of stealing party or campaign funds and materials. Neither have I abused my office as a Senator. Of course, every practical politician knows that those they refer to as ragamuffins are prolific strikers and foot soldiers; they are the ones who can go out to get things done and then report back to our esteemed leaders who are naturally slowing down as they advance in years.
However, we need to combine the proven wisdom of the old with the astuteness, strength and agility of the younger ones to reposition the party. It is true that Chief George told me he wanted to be the National Chairman and I told him I will support him, provided he was able to consult widely and carry others along; contrary to Chief Babatope’s claim that Chief George was not interested in the position.
But, after a deep reflection on the situation of things and due consultations with other well-meaning leaders and members of the party in the South West, we felt there was the need to retain the position in the North. As for Chief Ogunlewe, we have collaborated politically in the recent past. I am surprised he is now saying that those who hold a view contrary to his are bastards. It is most unfortunate. And then I saw my friend and brother, Doyin Okupe, trying laboriously to justify their agenda. He too had told me that he wanted to be the National Chairman. But, the reality is that some of those scheming to be National Chairman just want the title; nothing more. What we need now is somebody who can rebuild the party. That is why many people are rooting for Senator Ali Modu Sheriff.
You are on record as having granted several interviews where you hailed the Federal Government’s anti-corruption fight. Why have you been supporting the anti-corruption fight of the Buhari-led Government?
As a Senator, I represent an arm of the government which is the legislature. And by virtue of my being a member of the National Assembly, I am part of the Federal Government. All elected and appointed officials are critical stakeholders in the Nigerian project. We are individually and collectively liable for the success and failure of our current democratic experience and government. Once a President, lawmaker, governor or local government chairman emerges, he is no longer a President, governor or chairman of the party that produced him or its members. He becomes the leader of all the people.
Irrespective of whatever anyone might say about President Buhari, he has a rich track record of honesty, truthfulness, proven love for this country and personal integrity as a leader. He is courageous and determined to do what needs to be done to make this country great again. He is a fighter for justice and whatever cause he believes is good. He is not one of those leaders who stash away public funds in Ghana and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
But Nigerians are complaining and frustrated with the myriad of challenges confronting them, from fuel scarcity to poor power supply, among others?
I know that Nigerians are crying that there is no money in circulation and that things are hard. But I think that the prevailing austerity measures put in place by the Federal Government are meant to block leakages, wastages and mop up excess funds in the system. No more free money or slush funds anywhere. Hopefully, the money being salvaged by these measures will be used to rebuild our socio-economic infrastructure. You would have noticed that more discoveries and startling revelations are being made almost on a daily basis. There are moments I ask myself: can all these be true? How can people be this heartless? No one is perfect. No assemblage of human beings can be perfect. But, I am saying that there are visible signs that things are now being done differently. The fake and flamboyant lifestyle that most Nigerians were used to is now giving way for a more realistic and moderate lifestyle. Furthermore, the demonstrable political will of the President inspires hope.
His personal integrity and uprightness is having a ripple effect on how government operates. People can at least strive and succeed on merit. The years of decadence that tainted our national psyche are being rolled away. Our common wealth that was stolen and hidden in other countries is being brought back as the war against corruption is being won. Anti-graft agencies, such as the EFCC and ICPC have found their rhythm. There is now a glaring difference in the posture and operations of the EFCC under Ibrahim Magu and his predecessor Ibrahim Lamorde.
It is only those who have things to hide that will be criticising the renewed anti-corruption fight in order to weaken it. I read the other day that contrary to what we had thought all along, the arms deal fund that was diverted is not $2.1bn but a whopping $15bn! Imagine how many roads could have been built with that! Imagine how many hospitals would have been better equipped and new ones built with that! Think of how much impact a share of that money would have had on our power supply!
I am ruminating on the need to propose and lobby my colleagues in the National Assembly to amend our laws to make corruption a capital offence or attract a life sentence. It is high time the immunity clause is revisited because I cannot understand why people who committed crime against humanity by looting arms funds and using them to fund their elections would hide under the immunity clause. I trust that sooner than later the level and details of their involvement in the arms fund scandal will soon be revealed.
I have even read posts condemning the President and his team for apologizing to Nigerians over certain things. If the President and his appointees are apologizing to Nigerians over certain actions and inactions; they should not be vilified. Such character is rare to come by among many African leaders. Therefore, it should not be used against them. It is not an admittance of failure. Rather, it shows the strength of their character, humility, and the level of their love and concern for the masses.
The past governments failed to heed the call to save, and depleted the resources that were saved in the Excess Crude Account (ECA). Investigations into the aged misappropriation of N23billion by the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison – Madueke is revealing very offensive details. The oil sector was vandalised and treated like a personal treasury by a select few but now the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is being repositioned for effective profitable operations. Crude oil is no longer being stolen like before – at least not at the scale it used to be in the recent past. It is true the effect of the fuel scarcity is biting hard on us, but the Federal Government is also addressing the issues pragmatically.
But your views are contrary to those of your fellow party man, Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State. He has been criticizing the current administration virtually on every-thing; one of the recent being his opposition to the President’s trip to China as well as the $2billion loan being sought from the Chinese Government. He has also said recent happenings have vindicated his stance that President Buhari is too old for the job?
Fayose is a part of the government and he knows that there are more reasonable channels to make his opinions known, contrary to the media frenzy that he kicks up each time he wants to make a point. As a member of the National Economic Council (NEC) and Council of State, he has extraordinary access to speak to those responsible for various aspects of government without necessarily making his views come through like a tantrum. To whom much is given, much is expected; respect is mutual and reciprocal. It is mandatory for us as leaders to treat each other with due respect. Democratic values and liberties should not erode our sense of decency. Dr. Kayode Fayemi was an opposition governor under the immediate past administration, yet he maintained a high level of decorum. He was a balanced character. He was not cantankerous. He represented and still represents the best of Ekiti people – suave, urbane and cool-headed. Governor Fayose should endeavour to be a good student of history and take his learning from what happened to him in 2006. He did claim he was a changed and matured person when he was seeking re-election. If the good and humane people of Ekiti State have shown him love and returned him to office, the least he can do is to reciprocate their kind gesture by giving them quality governance and effective representation; being confrontational will be detrimental to their fortunes at the end of the day.
The energy dissipated on playing to gallery and acting like a thug and tout that is obsessed with the bashing of the Federal Government and President Buhari as if it is an official policy of the State Government will consequently retard the progress and prosperity of the good people of the state. For, as it is said, when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. There are other PDP governors, who also hold strong views about developments in our polity, but they are not confrontation. They explore more appropriate and diplomatic ways of airing their views.
It is pertinent to note that Nigeria cannot be a pariah nation; we must be proactive members of the comity of nations. Such pro-activeness is imperative in the process of recovering stolen funds hidden in foreign countries as well as the task of building investors’ confidence and attracting foreign direct investments into a country that is stigmatized by corruption, impunity and bad governance. The President’s trips should not be politicized. It is not right to make it look as if the present government is not working. We have clearly seen that a lot of things went wrong under the past government. On his letter to the Chinese Government, I think that was extreme and totally condemnable. I cannot agree less with someone who described it as a treasonable act. It is an offence against the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the sovereignty of our beloved country. I do not agree with Fayose’s style of politics. You do not demolish the whole community because you want to build your own house. He advised that instead of borrowing, the Federal Government should make use of the recovered loot. But, I am sure that those who re-covered the loot are also patriotic citizens of Nigeria. The government is made up of seasoned technocrats and experts in various fields and they certainly do have plans for the recovered loot. Besides, the details of the facility will be sent to the National Assembly for scrutiny. If Governor Fayose says he has indeed been running his state without borrowing money, the questions are: what is the major source of funding; is it not the Federal Allocation?
What is the percentage of Ekiti State’s contribution to the Consolidated Revenue Account? Has Governor Fayose paid up all the debts he inherited from his predecessor? Is he not accessing new facilities from other sources? To what extent has he gone in meeting the basic needs of the good people of Ekiti State? We had a situation where the credit facility was mismanaged. It has almost become a bad loan. And since government is a continuum in which you inherit the assets and liabilities, the new government has to find a way to strike a balance between keeping the body polity afloat and managing the mismanaged facility or bad loan. Such is the situation we have found ourselves in and I think it is high time politicians stopped being selfishly divisive and playing to the gallery. That is certainly not how to be in opposition.
On the age issue, there is no verifiable fact on ground that supports his opinion that the President is too old for the job. It is outrageous for a pot to call a kettle black and growl from its little corner like a creature we call awawa in Yoruba land. I remember that before settling for the current Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, Governor Fayose had chosen an octogenarian as his running mate. Besides, Governor Fayose is also on record for having appointed a 72-year-old man as chairman of a local government in Ekiti State. In fact, the man was said to be an illiterate.
So, why fault the judgment of the over 15 million Nigerians who entrusted the country into the hands of President Buhari at the 2015 polls when you have also done same as Governor? For me, I do not think that performance or lack of it has anything to do with age as long as you are certified to be medically fit and sound. I think it is too simplistic and a worse form of politicking to seek to taunt a man – more so our President. That is unfair and he should desist from such.
But, if he wants to continue to ridicule the President and call him all manner of names in the name of politics, I will also not hesitate to join issues with him. This is not about President Muhammadu Buhari as a person but about the dignity and respect for the office of the President and by extension Nigerians who freely entrusted in him their mandate. I wish to say for the umpteenth time that some of those who are loudest in criticising the anti-corruption crusade are not doing so selflessly.
They may have been involved in some corrupt practices and think that the only way they can evade justice is to systematically pull the wool over our eyes. Some of them have been indicted and others including past and serving governors in the South West will still be indicted. They indulge in rabid criticisms so that when they are called to account for their misdeeds they would turn round to say they are being punished because of their criticisms of the government.