The Africa Confidential Interview
Africa Confidential interviewed Kayode Fayemi on 13 May 2009
In the wake of the election crisis in Ekiti State in south-west Nigeria, Africa Confidential's Oladipo Salimonu spoke to Kayode Fayemi,
the Action Congress's governorship candidate who is at the centre of
the crisis in the Ekiti elections. Amid widespread claims that
intimidation and electoral fraud has been used to secure victory in the
2007 governorship elections for Segun Oni of the People's
Democratic Party (PDP), the defeated candidate in 2007, Fayemi embarked
on a campaign appealing through the election tribunal and high courts
to overturn the declared election result.
The High Court ruled
in Fayemi's favour this year and ordered a limited rerun of the
governorship elections in Ekiti State. However, the rerun has proved as
controversial as the original vote in 2007 with Fayemi and his
supporters accusing Oni and the PDP of using intimidation, fraud and
collusion with corrupt officials in the Independent National Electoral
Commission to produce another victory for Oni. In this extended
interview Fayemi sets out his case.
Africa Confidential: What is your next move?
Kayode Fayemi: The next move is the
legal challenge. You go to an elections petitions tribunal to challenge
the result. Depending on the verdict of the tribunal, it will go to an
appeal court, and an appeal court is the final point in the battle to
retrieve the mandate.
AC: Is your appeal going to focus on
this one local government area, Ido-Osi, where election observers have
raised the most questions?
KF: That’s correct. The lawyers are
examining all the fields but it seems to be as if that is the one that
they are going to focus on, unlike our challenge in 2007 which the ten
local governments were nullified. Now we are just going to have one.
That’s the important one where all the results were manufactured.
AC: The difference in this one of 12,146 votes is the largest.
KF: If you look at it statistically it doesn’t rhyme with the pattern of voting in the other local governments.
AC: What was the distribution of votes in that local government in 2007?
KF: In 2007 they had a vote of
32,000 manufactured for the People's Democratic Party in that local
government area, which was why we challenged it.
AC: How exactly do you think the rigging occurred and what evidence do you have?
KF: It’s not what we think, it’s
what we know and that’s why what happened in Ido-Osi happened. They
prepared multiple thumb-printed ballots. In the last case, we brought
in forensic experts from the United Kingdom to verify this.
Prior to the vote, they had obtained from Independent National
Electoral Commission (INEC) the ballot papers used for the election and
they had thumb-printed them in advance. That’s what they were trying to
bring into the INEC collation centre: that led to the violence there.
Since they were in cahoots with INEC they managed to get it out of the
collation centre and took their ballots to a police station to count.
AC: Were there officials of the Action Congress at that count?
KF: There was no representative of
any party. No party signed the document that they produced. So that’s
where it came from. Everybody knew where it came from. And that’s why
the INEC official Olusola Adebayo resigned.
AC: Did she give any indication that that’s why she was resigning?
KF: She did. She said it publicly.
She said, ‘Look, they brought results that were not fine, that were not
signed by any of the parties to me. And they were not collated in a
designated INEC centre.’
AC: Why do you think that Adebayo changed her mind and came to announce other results?
KF: This is the Nigerian condition.
Everybody in Nigeria will tell you what happened to her. She was
intimidated. Some explanation must be given, as to why she disappeared
and was declared wanted by the PDP.
AC: What do you think this whole process suggests about support for the PDP in the South-West or nationally?
KF: The PDP has no support in this
country. All you need to do is hear public opinion and read newspapers.
PDP has zero support. Well, there may be places where they have
support. What you have is a Chomsky-ian version of 'manufactured
consent'. I'm talking about [Noam] Chomsky's book
‘Manufacturing Consent’ – that is what you are seeing in Nigeria,
support is being manufactured, being manipulated, it is being
organised. Even without any evidence in fact. Anybody who knows the
south-western part of Nigeria knows that it is a bastion of progressive
politics and that it would not be associated in any way with the PDP.
AC: Is it part of the Action Congress strategy to capture the south west?
KF: It is not a strategy of the
Action Congress to capture the south-west but the Action Congress has
the south-west in its kitty. The reason why Ekiti, which is one of the
smallest states in the country, has been catapulted onto the front
burner is the indication that the south-west is going back to its
roots. Once Edo was lost by the PDP they became desperate that Ekiti
was going to go. Everybody knows that Ekiti people are difficult to
cheat and that is why this has become the cause celebre. It’s not the
first rerun by the way. There have been six reruns before now but this
is the most embarrassing nationally. I had academic colleagues here, I
had the Financial Times here, I had the BBC here in Ado-Ekiti and they were shocked by what they saw.
AC: Ido-Osi results were the last to come in, correct?
KF: Of course, because they were working on it. They knew the real results so they needed to manufacture numbers.
AC: Because Ekiti was a flash point
of the violence that led to the downfall of the Second Republic, do you
have fears about the national repercussions of this?
KF: The PDP is a violent party. I
have spent the better part of the past week appealing to people not to
resort to retaliation. Understandably, they are angry and annoyed. I
know enough of Nigeria’s history to know that this could be a trigger
for the whole of the nation. Given the modest role that I played in
resisting military dictatorship I am not going to sit idly by and allow
myself to be manipulated into inviting the military back. Regardless of
my problems I think it would be irresponsible on my part.
AC: So you’ve been counselling restraint to your supporters?
KF: Don’t let’s forget that the
judiciary got us to this point. I wouldn’t have had a chance in hell
for a rerun if the judiciary had not nullified the fraudulent election
that produced Segun Oni as Governor in 2007. So I have to have faith
that the judiciary can do its work – once we are able to marshall our
evidence and our arguments.
AC: What about protests, sit-ins or demonstrations?
KF: There are protests, Ekiti people
are demonstrating daily. But the PDP are the ones visiting violence on
our people. That’s where the danger lies. The palace of my king has
been burnt down by these elements. They even attempted to burn down my
home last week.
AC: Who do you think tried to burn it down?
KF: It is not a question of thinking. People have been arrested. They are elements associated with the PDP.
AC: Have they disclosed an association with the PDP?
KF: They don’t even have to divulge,
it’s obvious. One of them was a PDP consultant. They are sufficiently
embarrassed nationally that the President [Umaru Musa Yar'Adua]
was forced to come out yesterday on the TV and say that he is
embarrassed and wants to set up a committee headed by the National
Security Advisor to investigate bribery and all that. We would have
preferred a judicial enquiry headed by a judge, not a party apparatchik
or someone serving in his government.
AC: What’s your relationship with the former PDP Governor of Ekiti, Ayodele Fayose?
KF: I don’t have any relationship
with Fayose. Fayose is a former Governor in the State, he is one of my
supporters, but all the former governors in Etiki support me so that is
a non-issue. I mean the vote of the ordinary people is more important
to me than that.
AC: Where does the Action Congress go from here – regionally and nationally?
KF: The Action Congress is bound to
wax stronger. What will enable us to stay in the minds of the people is
our performance in government. We have two Action Congress state
governments in the country today. One is too early to assess, that is
the Edo government, but the one government that is celebrated both by
opposition and national development specialists and ordinary citizens
is the Action Congress government in Lagos State. That tells you why
Action Congress is popular in the south-west. [The Action Congress
Governor in Lagos State Babatunde Raji.] Fashola is performing beyond expectation.
AC: Who will be the Action Congress candidate for the national presidency in 2011?
KF: We are not at that stage yet. We
are not even sure that there will be one party running then. It depends
on the alignment of forces. Action Congress is the most organised and
vociferous opposition in the country today. Many of the others have
collapsed into PDP either because they are part of the government of
unity or concerned about the crumbs they are eating from the table of
the masters. Action Congress is the only party that is outside of the
fold. What that calls for on our part is to organise with other parties
that are more determined to ensure that there is freedom for all and a
life more abundant.
AC: Have you identified any of those parties?
KF: It is an open secret that we are
very close to the Labour Party which is in power in Ondo state today.
It’s an open secret that we are close to Pat Utomi’s African
Democratic Congress. It is an open secret that we are close to a
majority of the progressive parties in the centre left in Nigeria.
That’s where we belong ideologically and we don’t make any bones about
AC: So are there plans for an alliance with more of those parties under a united front?
KF: There are serious discussions
going on. The PDP cannot be left alone to ride roughshod over
Nigerians. Everyone knows that this is not a popular party. This is
party of brigandage and criminality. We either make progress as a
nation or revert to our sordid past of corruption. The choice is clear.
We must make up our minds what we want to do in this country.
AC: Do you have any idea who Oni’s backers are within the People's Democratic Party?
KF: All the criminals in the south-west – [former Ogun State Governors Gbenga] Daniel and [Governor of Ogun State Olagunsoye] Oyinlola, [impeached Deputy Governor of Osun State Iyiola] Omisore – these are the people responsible with blood on their hands.
AC: There’s a perception that one of the leaders of your party, Bola Tinubu, is not trusted. What do you think of that?
KF: We should separate propaganda
from fact. The only political leader that I know in the south-west who
has managed to produce a successor that every Nigerian is proud of is
Senator Bola Tinubu. [Lagos State Governor] Fashola was an
unknown quantity as far as politics was concerned, he was a hard
worker, a brilliant mind but very few people knew him apart from those
of us who were in the centre of things. So for the senator to have gone
out of his way and backed someone who was not the most politically
suited for the position – it is about the statesmanship. So when people
tell you that Tinubu is not trusted I don’t know what they mean by
that. He has shown boldness, he has shown a greater interest in
developmental politics than many of those going around and saying that
he is not trusted. And you must ask
yourself, why are they so worried about this one person? What is
responsible for this fear?
AC: I think some of it derives from a disturbing
relationship that Tinubu has with the Chagoury brothers who worked a lot with [former military leader General Sani] Abacha
to take money out of Nigeria and a lot of people think that they [the
Chagourys] should be prosecuted.
KF: If the Chagourys are culpable, it is
the Nigerian state that should charge them.
AC: What about the reports that there is a strained relationship between Tinubu and Fashola?
KF: I am fairly close to both. They
have a relationship that is working: Fashola focuses on the state
government and Tinubu focuses on politics. Fashola is a continuation of
Tinubu, his developmental agenda, the same ten-point agenda that
Fashola is implementing. That is the agenda that Tinubu started; he
never denied that. Former Governor Tinubu has afforded Fashola the
opportunity to concentrate on government, which has been lacking in
Nigeria. It has been all politics and no governance. This is worth
studying for those who are interested in seeing what works in politics
and governance. I think that this relationship should be studied rather
than derided because it is a relationship that is based on mutual
respect, clear separation . If you go to Fashola’s house now, you will
not see anybody hanging around unless you have business with the
government. Tinubu knew what he suffered when he was Governor and that
is why he is helping out someone who he helped put in office so that he
can concentrate on his job.
AC: Is that healthy though? If a
governor is allowed to focus just on government and a surrogate on
politics on his behalf, that would mean that there is an umbilical cord
between the two, because government exists within the framework of
politics. If the cord is cut, isn’t the person in government at the
mercy of the person in politics? Isn’t it a dependency relationship?
KF: That is precisely the point. You
have said it. Why should the cord be cut? Provided that there is no
institutional framework for it. Let’s be clear. There’s a cord between
the Labour Party in government and the trades unions. Tony Blair
tried to reduce the relationship but he knew the challenges that he
faced in doing that. It is not to the detriment of the British state
that a similar relationship existed between business and the
AC: What about Atiku Abubakar? What is the relationship between Atiku and the Action Congress right now?
KF: Atiku is a leading figure in the
Action Congress. He was our presidential candidate in the last election
and he was my active backer: he gave me money, political support – he
did everything to make sure that I won my election.
AC: He gave you personal funds or party funds?
KF: He did so personally and the party also supported me.
AC: What about the fallout from his visit from [former President Olusegun] Obasanjo in January? Is that still a factor?
KF: Let’s not lose sight of the fact
that Atiku Abubakar is a full fledged member of the Action Congress as
I speak to you. He is not a member of the People's Democratic Party.
AC: Has former President Obasanjo come out on either side of the dispute?
KF: Of course, he put Segun Oni there illegally in 2007 and continues to work for him.
Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (Noam Chomsky with Edward Herman), New York: Pantheon Books, 1988.