You had a turbulent time during your first term as governor of Ekiti State and eight years after, you returned to the state to complete a second term. What would you ascribe your return to?
The record is that I was a governor of Ekiti State in 2003 and I left office on October 16, 2006. I was removed (as governor) at gunpoint by the then administration of (President) Olusegun Obasanjo for reasons best known to him, his government or to God because nothing is unknown to God. We thank God for the removal because the Bible says, “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?’’
To God be the glory, exactly on October 16, 2014, after my sojourn in exile and having gone through a lot, God vindicated me. I returned to office as an elected governor. I attribute this to the hand of God because no man can become anything without God. I give God all the glory. In a country where there are about 200 million people, less than 200 people have become governors at different times, of which I am one. I am not a one-term governor but a two-term governor. I defeated two incumbent governors at two different attempts at governorship. That alone shows that God is with me.
You comment on salient national issues anytime. Have you even been afraid for your life given the country’s murky nature of politics?
Sometimes we fear where there is no fear. If you are afraid or not, you will still die. As I said, there have not been 200 governors out of the 200 million Nigerians. This means we are in a privileged position. The reason they call us governors and leaders doesn’t mean standing up for the people only when you are in government. I don’t mince words in saying my mind because I am not a timid person. Everybody has their own nature. I am not somebody that wouldn’t talk when things aren’t rightly done.
Political office holders hold the offices in trust. We are supposed to be protecting the interest of our people. It’s like somebody asking me, “Why are you not contesting a seat in the Senate?” I don’t have to be in government at all times. I say my mind when there is oppression or when things are not well done. We are the privileged people who are supposed to be the voice for the under privileged. We are supposed to raise our voice when there is oppression. Nobody will say in this country that I have not raised my voice against the tyrannical rule of the President, (Major General) Muhammadu Buhari (retd). Even before he came to power, I didn’t hide it. We are in a democracy where there is freedom for people to express themselves. Everybody talks to the US President Donald Trump. But in Nigeria when you criticise a leader they will say you do not respect the leader. If you are seeking that level of respect, why are you keeping the people’s commonwealth? You are in power for our interest and we must be able to talk to you.
The social media offers people to ventilate their anger even when they don’t have access to the leaders. The leaders have families and friends who will read the opinions and brief them. I am 60 years old. What else do I want to become? What else do I want to turn life to if I become a lily-livered individual? Even when things were hotter than this, I spoke my mind. When men became women, I remained a man. I spoke. The abundance of a man doesn’t consist of physical possessions. I speak for the people. It is not what leaders do wrongly that matter but the failure of the righteous to point attention to what is being done wrongly. Otherwise, the wrong of the leaders would become the norm of the land. So, if people think states or the country is not well governed, they are at liberty to complain. I am a complainant where necessary and would remain as one. Everyone who has money and houses was taken out of the houses and another person occupied them. We should not make God out of men. It’s a privileged position if you are a leader. There’s nothing more to it. So, if you are abused, learn from it.
Your relationship with ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo is not cordial. Are you willing to make peace with him?
There is nothing personal between the two of us. What we are talking about is politics. Some people don’t like some of the things I say. Some people don’t like my style. Do they have to come and reconcile with me? Nobody human is God for God’s sake. I am not a perfect man; people criticise me. So criticising (ex-) President Obasanjo doesn’t make anything personal. When he says the right one, we say he spoke well. When he doesn’t speak the right one, we say he doesn’t.
To be honest with you, I am a people’s person. When I say I am a people’s person, it doesn’t have to be the high and mighty of society. In those days when I was a governor, I went to joints to make sure that Friday evening wasn’t dull in the town. I moved round. This is because without the people we are nobodies. That‘s the truth.
Some people will call my mobile and shout, “Where are you? We have not seen you in town o” Some will say, “I need money.’’ That’s life. I enjoy all that. What we call recreation differs. Some will say they like to play golf. I like to sit and play with people. That’s what I like. I don’t play golf. At 60, the only thing I can do is to get closer to God and begin to plan how life will end. It may be 20 or 30 years but life will not be the same in a way. The Bible admonishes us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. At 60, the graph has turned well and we thank God. In the gradient journey to aging, we begin to walk carefully.
As God has given us the opportunity to be 60, he has equally offered us the opportunity to give our lives to Him, check our excesses and whatever we are doing that is not in line with God’s will, we begin to look for a way to make peace with Him.
How do you create family bonding with your kid and wife?
Everybody in Nigeria knows my wife as a woman of God. She’s too peaceful. If not for a woman like that, enemies would have cut people like me. My wife is a lifeline for me and I will continue to thank her. She’s a woman of prayer. If I didn’t marry such a woman, life wouldn’t have any meaning. She stood in the gap and still standing in the gap. If anyone is fighting me my wife will not talk. She would engage the person spiritually. In fact, I have not seen a woman who turns prayer to a standing assignment and has a praying team. I sleep late at 4am and my wife will wake up by 6am to start praying for me. She will hold my leg to pray while I am in deep sleep. I stand on the rock like they call me, ‘Peter The Rock.’ I say that anybody who fights me is fighting God. Those who fall on me will scatter and those I fall on will shatter. Don’t mind my travails here and there, it’s natural. If you don’t have challenges you don’t have victories. I dedicate my 60th birthday to God and my wife.
Your administration’s ‘stomach infrastructure’ concept was viewed as anti-quality governance. What is your view about that?
The majority of politicians are hypocrites. What is stomach infrastructure? It is caring for the people by going the extra mile for them. It is allowing them to have contact with you and by giving them (the people) gifts. When you say stomach infrastructure, you are saying don’t tar roads alone, provide something for them. Support them medically when they need it. What are the palliatives they are giving to cushion the effects of COVID-19 on the people? Look at those sharing money during the election. They pretend and paint a picture of what they are not.
At 60, what are your regrets?
I will not say I have regrets. But if there are opportunities I would have done better. That is how I will put it but everyone has to go through life, make mistakes and correct them. Largely, God has helped me to lead a good life and given me a fair share of opportunities and I am grateful to him. He has given me five boys that are doing well. Above all, He has given me health, strength and a wonderful partner.
That Nigeria will see better days. As I still live, I will see better days. Anything to support my children to make my wife happy, I am for it. Above all, I want to get closer to God. I want to be an instrument in His hand. I still believe I can be Nigeria’s president. The how is not my business because nobody has ascended any position with their might. Things that look impossible are possible with God.
What were your feats when you served as governor of Ekiti State?
Whatever I say, because we are in a political space, people can have their opinions. But ask the people about the performances of governors that have governed our state. I can say that the only flyover in the Ondo-Ekiti axis was built by me. I built one of the best governor’s offices in Nigeria. I built one of the best high court complexes in Nigeria. I can say boldly that the physical infrastructure left in the state is second-to-none. I can proudly say that I built the modern Oja Oba market. I did so much for my people. But I will not be the one to blow my trumpet. It is best said by the people.
What dressing style appeals to you?
I am a simple person. I love T-shirts and shirts. Throughout my tenure, I dressed smartly. I am not saying when one wears babanriga (voluminous attire) is not smart.
What is your assessment of the regime of the President, Major General, Muhammadu Buhari (retd)?
I want to say that Nigerians can recall that I warned them not to expect anything from this government. The majority of those who criticised me that I talked about the government had called to apologise. Even those who brought the President are suffering in silence. They are regretting, even those in his government don’t know the way forward. Let’s leave that. God has a way of handling our affairs in Nigeria. Events have proved me right.
The South-West chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party is enmeshed in a crisis which has pitted you against Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State. What do you think is the way out of the political disagreement?
Time will take care of that. The fact remains that when I believe in a thing, I pursue it. I am not searching for a contract or money from anybody. Let me say that I will not shy away from doing the right thing. I am not in a contest with anybody. It’s a public knowledge that the leader of the zone by our party’s rules is the governor in the zone. Governor Seyi Makinde is our leader. But he is not the governor of the states. He is not the political leader of the states in the zone. So everybody should stay within the ambit of their states. That’s all. I have nothing against him. By his office, he’s the leader. That doesn’t mean he is the leader or governor of Ekiti State. I was once in that position and I deferred that to him.
Do you have any food preference?
I like bread and stew especially fluffy, hot bread. I also like puff puff.