Fayemi Interview Independent September 2005
December 28, 2006 | posted by Nigerian Muse (Archives)
I'm on a rescue mission in Ekiti -Fayemi
Dr. Kayode Fayemi is one of the few Nigerians in exile who made the
government of General Sani Abacha uncomfortable in the dark days of military
dictatorship. Living in exile, he was behind the pirate
radio station - Radio Kudirat -that exposed some of the atrocities of the
government. About six years after he returned to
Nigeria, Fayemi has documented his experience in exile in a book - Out
of the Shadows - to be presented to the public very soon. In this
interview with Sakibu Olokojobi, he gives an insight into the book.
He also speaks about his ambition to be the governor of Ekiti State
in 2007. According to him, Ekiti State had groped in the
dark for too long and there is a need for a change for the better.
Out of the Shadows
will be launched on September 22 this year. Can you give
an insight into the book? What is it all about?
Out of the Shadows
is a political memoir; it is the story of my own personal development,
particularly, it is a story about the exile movement and the struggle for
freedom and democracy in Nigeria in the last one decade.
It really developed from who I am as a person, how I grew up in Ekiti, the
values that I imbibed as a young person growing up in a political
environment and how that influenced what I did in the exile years.
It tells the story of my role in the opposition movement to military
rule, it tells the story of my activities as a shuttle diplomat for the
opposition movement. It tells the story of my role as
the driving force behind the management of Radio Kudirat.
And it really tells the story about how we got to this point in our
political development in Nigeria. It also reflects on
the future of democracy in Nigeria. So, it is a mixture
of a personal story and a political memoir.
What key issues or things would you say compelled you to writing the book?
couple of things. One, I believe it is right for those
involved in the struggle to speak for themselves. There
is no doubt that there have been a series of books that have been written
about the Nigerian struggle against the military - several.
But very few have been written about the exile years.
You can talk about Wale Oshun's
which detailed some aspects of the NADECO struggle abroad; you can talk
about Chief Cornelius Adebayo's book on his life in exile. But none has
really taken a comprehensive look on what actually transpired in exile.
As an observer-participant, who was involved in central roles in all
of those years, I felt I owe it a duty to Nigerians to tell the story as
much as I could on what actually happened, the processes we took, the
quarrels we had in the movement, the division we had in the movement, the
relationship between the exile movement and the internal democratic forces,
our relationship with the military itself, our relationship with foreign
powers that were interested in helping Nigeria; our relationship with
inter-governmental bodies - the Commonwealth, the United Nations, the
European Union, the African states caught in between relating to a
dictatorship that was quite powerful and influential in Africa and an
opposition movement that was on the side of the truth.
It was all those complexities that I felt it was time to really talk about
them, partly because some of the stories had been distorted by the media,
some of them had been distorted by those who played marginal roles in the
processes but now claim central roles in what actually transpired.
I felt I needed to set the records straight and speak for myself
Why informed the title
Out of the Shadows?
title is borne out of the fact that most of what I did in exile personally,
and most of what we did as a movement, the bulk of that story has never been
told, partly because the people involved were either few in terms of
planning and the strategic development of many of those activities.
For example, the setting up of
There have been many stories, anecdotal tales about
There are people who have claimed credit for setting up
who didn't even have an idea of how this thing was conceived and the
processes leading to its implementations. I felt it was
time to come out of the shadows and explain to Nigerians what we did, how we
did it, our intention behind doing it and the challenges we faced in doing
someone who had always operated in the shadows, I actually struggled with
writing this book because it would compromise my life in the shadows - it
would expose me in a way and manner that I would ordinarily will be
uncomfortable with. But having weighed it carefully and balanced the pros
and cons, I decided that it was time for me to come out of the shadows.
know one of the major accounts in the book is on the setting up of a pirate
radio station -
- and its activities. But why did you go into it
considering the risk you run in the hands of the draconian government of
General Abacha? Was it mere love for adventure or what?
wasn't an aimless boldness. The radio is a very powerful
tool, and anybody who knows Nigeria knows that the radio is one instrument
that Nigerians hold very dearly. If you go to the
Northern part of this country, you will see even the farmer, the village
head and others clutching to a radio. It is like a part
of the furniture in the house. In Southern Nigeria, it
is the same thing. We came to the conclusion that given the repression that
the print media was facing during the dark years of military dictatorship,
we needed an alternative voice of democracy; we needed a voice that will not
be harassed by dictatorship. We felt the only way we
could do that was to secure a radio that will broadcast and beam it live to
Nigeria. It was in that context that we settled for a
radio. That was within our own little group, the New
Nigeria Forum. But without us knowing, around the same
time other groups were reaching the same conclusion that a radio was needed.
It was just that when the task was to be done I was assigned the role
of finding the radio partly because I had been involved in community
activities in my part of London and pirate radios were operating in my part
of London and I had relationship with some of the people operating pirate
radios at the time. I was just a strategic planner of the activities.
You had several other people. You had Chief
(Anthony) Enahoro, you had Professor (Wole) Soyinka, you had General Alani
Akinrinade, you had Olaokun Soyinka. several of them, and I detailed the
roles that these people played.
Let us move to another terrain. How true is the news
making the rounds that you are planning to contest for the governorship post
of your state, Ekiti, in 2007?
Well, let me put it this way. One of the things many of
us are indicted for was the fact that we did all the work that we did in the
democratic struggle and we then left space for those who we arrived at this
point to occupy the position. Inevitably, they couldn't
appreciate, in a genuine manner, the work that went into creating this free
space, and they have not been able to deepen the process as a result of that
lack of knowledge and commitment to true democratic spirit.
And over the last six to seven years, I have played key roles, both
behind the scene and quite openly, in constitutional reform, in dealing with
questions of human rights violations that occurred in the military era, in
working with the security sectors on restoring their professionalism; in
working on poverty alleviation and eradication project with the Federal
Government; in key areas like NEPAD and I come to the conclusion that the
position that we took then that the transition of 1999 was a mere
reconfiguration of the state rather than a comprehensive deepening of the
democratic process, was not completely correct, and that we are not going to
get a perfect space in which genuine players could interact.
It has to be work in progress, incremental and gradual as long as it
is a deepening of the progress and not its reversal.
is in the context of the above that I reached the conclusion that I could
not stay on the fringe in order to influence the system.
I've done that enough. I've been quite active in policy
formulation, policy development, in advocacy, in training the officials in
the new democratic dispensation. But is that enough?
I believe I could contribute a lot more. And I
believe that the place to contribute that quota and the qualities that I
have imbibed in the struggle years and prior to the struggle years should
really be at the local stage. For me, all politics is
local. If I cannot influence what happens in my local community, in my
neighbourhood, I have no business influencing what goes on in Abuja, which
is the space in which I've operated.
been very concerned about the crudeness of political power usage in my
state. I come from Ekiti, Ekiti has a certain
traditional reputation in this country. We are known to
be forthright, we are known to be honest, we are known to be hardworking and
industrious. But that is not the image we have now.
We have the image of a state in breach of all those moral values.
We have an image of a political leadership that is beholden to
brigandage; we have an image of a state in crisis. I
believe that we have a responsibility too to begin to correct that.
So, throwing my hat into the gubernatorial ring in Ekiti State is for
me a service to my people. It is heeding a long-term
commitment to deepening democratic change and affecting the lives of the
people more positively. So, the news is not wrong. It is
true. I am seriously considering running for the
gubernatorial seat in Ekiti State, and I believe I have all that it takes.
Intellectually, politically, I can make a difference and that is
really why I'm in it.
How prepared are you for the challenges considering that there is a marked
difference between human rights activism and politics?
don't agree that there is a marked difference. I believe
that politics should be really driven by the commitment to make a difference
in the lives of the people. That's what human rights
activism is all about. It is about promoting core
values, it is about ensuring integrity and development; it is about ensuring
integrity and development; it is about affecting the life of the people
concretely. So, for someone like me who had played a
role in policy making and played a role in activism, I believe I will bring
a wealth of experience into the field. I believe that
integrity will put me in good stead because we need to change the language
of politics in Nigeria. We need to change the motive and
the motivation for getting into politics. We need to
ensure that our people have a different notion of what a politician is.
I believe it is possible. It was in this country
that we had the Ahmadu Bello, the Tafawa Balewa, the Obafemi Awolowo and the
Nnamdi Azikiwe. They had integrity, they had
intellectual depth, they had a commitment to their people and they were
respected. I believe it is time to return to the
politics of meaning and politics of accountability. That's why I'm there.
I don`t have any problem with what people say about politics.
I'm in the terrain. I go to my state.
In the last three months, I've visited 155 towns and villages in
Ekiti, and they really want a change; they are desperate for transformation.
They want all to come and be part of this rescue mission, and it is
the responsibility that I have to lead that process and I don't want to
shirk that responsibility.
There are so many aspirants coming out in Ekiti State for the governorship
position in 2007 with majority of them saying if Fayose can do it, then I
can do it better. How do you see yourself emerging the
choice candidate from the number of aspirants?
First, I think it is a good thing that a lot of our distinguished and not so
distinguished citizens are showing interests in the number one position in
the state. I think it is partly a reflection that what
we have there is not good enough. It is also a
reflection that they feel they can do a lot better than what correctly
exists. And when you combine both, there is only one
vacancy in this place. It is something that I believe
that all that have come out should campaign for in a non-violent manner; and
it is one that I believe all Ekiti should have the opportunity, both at the
party political level, and collectively, to decide on the qualities they
want from whoever emerges into that position. As long as
it is done freely and fairly, I don't see any reason why we shouldn't allow
a thousand flowers to bloom. We need all hands on deck -
we need people who believe they have what it takes to come out.
Ultimately, Ekiti people will decide - both at the party level and at
the state level. And I have no doubt that when they
eventually have the opportunity to decide at the party level and at the
state level, the distinction will be very clear as to what is wheat and what
is the chaff. But for me, it is not just about
Government House in 2007, it is about the collective transformation of our
state that should go beyond 2007. We need to have
minimum irreducible benchmark that all gubernatorial aspirants, including
the incumbent, must subscribe to. We need to subscribe
to a code of ethics on election; we need to subscribe to a code of ethics on
non-violence; we need to subscribe to a code of ethics in ensuring that we
have a win-win situation rather than a win-lose situation, in a way that
even those who lose in this contest can still see a role for themselves in
Ekiti. So, inclusion, accountability, accessibility,
legitimacy, transparency, and ultimately, openness, should be the core value
we will promote in the quest to getting to the Government House, and beyond.
And to me, that is how to restore the integrity of Ekiti people.
Some believe that elections are not won through election in Nigeria.
How are you going to overcome this problem?
think election should be treated as working progress.
I'm a student of politics and I know that in situations where transition has
emerged from prolonged authoritarian rule, you are not going to have a
change overnight. It's going to be gradual, it is going
to be incremental. It is true that both the 1999 and
2003 elections in Nigeria left a lot to be desired. We
at the Centre for Democracy and Development monitored those elections in all
the zones, and the reports that we wrote were very clear as to the
inadequacies of the election. But I also believe that those gaps have been
collectively noticed. Even the Vice President, the other
day, actually confessed that elections in this country have been less than
perfect, to put it mildly, and we all owe it a duty and responsibility to
watch our votes as citizens in this country. And I
thing, for me, I want us to work with the civil society.
I'm an active member of the civil society and I know the steps that the
civil society groups are intent on taking about the 2007 elections.
There is a process in place to form a national coalition on election.
We already have a transition monitoring group that monitors elections
before now. If we raise the level of consciousness in
our communities and constituencies and if we understand the electoral
geography of this country a lot more than we currently do, and we give our
people extensive voters education, it will be difficult for anybody to rig
an election in which I'm involved in. That much I can
let you know. If I become the candidate in my party, my
election cannot be rigged. It is not possible.
I will take every step necessary to ensure they don't rig me out.
If you win an election against me, fairly, legitimately, I will
congratulate you. But I can be quoted:
An election cannot be rigged against me.
when you ask how I'm going to survive in the stormy waters of Nigerian
politics, I should tell you that I'm a student of politics.
I'm not just a student of activism. I understand
the terrain in which I am operating. I keep learning
everyday the dynamics of that terrain. People are
already seeing it. Those who felt this is a green horn
coming into the terrain of politics are beginning to notice the change.
There are steps that have been taken by this campaign since I started
that is making it clear to people that this guy is not just an intellectual
afterall, who is used to undertaking gorilla activities in exile.
Whatever it takes, we shall give it. All that we
will not do is violence. I do not subscribe to violence
in winning election, and I hope that those who are in competition for this
position will also not see this as a murderous competition.
You're planning to contest on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy and
at the same time, you are close to the Presidency. Is
there not going to be a conflict?
is a question I've had to respond to repeatedly. Let me
just say that this in itself should the hallmark of the kind of politics
that we should be playing in Nigeria. It should not be a
do or die affair. First and foremost I see myself as a bridge builder.
I have very close friends in the government of President Olusegun
Obasanjo, and I have had cause to work for the government of President
Obasanjo. I serve in at least three presidential
committees set up by President Obasanjo. And whenever my advice or
assistance are required I do offer them willingly because for me, it is
about working for Nigeria and working for a president that I have a lot of
respect for. Yet, there are people that I was in the
struggle with: Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, we were in the
trenches together; Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi was my colleague and friend way
back from the university. There are several other
people. For me, I think what is important is, how do we
transform the Nigerian state to become the cynosure of all eyes?
It is not a party politics thing. Because really
if you ask me, the parties are not there yet. They are all inadequate in
their own ways. It is just that at this point in time,
the party that I am most ideologically comfortable with is the Alliance for
Democracy. Yes, it's a minority party. It's an
opposition party. But I believe that we need organic
growth in our political party development. And if we do
not take it as a central responsibility to grow these organisations
themselves, we are not going to have political parties that actually
represent a vision of where we want to be 10 or 20 years down the line, or
how we want to get there. This is partly the damage that
militarisation has done to our country. But it is
something that we can begin to rebuild.
Money politics has become a phenomenon in Nigeria. What
is your attitude to this?
Money is important, but money is not the most important thing.
At least, in the state where I come from. I am happy that there is a
high degree of awareness. And people have always seen
the impact that money politics can play. We have
somebody in office now who believes that it was his money that got him into
office. And the person is behaving true to type.
We will use money for the purposes of having an effective and
efficient campaign machinery. We will use money for the
purposes of ensuring that we do not get rigged out by having people in
places - paying polling agents, organising the party in a way that it is
strong enough to resist the onslaught of the opposing forces.
We will use money intelligently. But for me, it
is the policy that we come up with, it is the principles that we promote; it
is the commitment that we demonstrate to our people that we are genuinely
interested in their well being that will ultimately define the political
realm. This is going to be different.
The swan song of my campaign in Ekiti is
(this is different). I'm not saying that money is not
going to play a role. But money is not going to play a
role in the manner we have seen in other places. The
only godfather I have in this project is Almighty God.
must stress that Ekiti needs a change. The people of the
state are ashamed of what is going on in Ekiti State.
Two years ago, Ekiti State had a change, but we had a change for the worst.
There is no way we can compare what we are currently suffering in
Ekiti State with what the government of Otunba Niyi Adebayo did.
For one, Ekiti was peaceful when Otunba Niyi Adebayo was there.
People were not being assassinated, people were not being harassed by
the state. Even the current state governor was operating
freely in Ekiti State throughout the time Otunba Niyi Adebayo was in
government. Not to mention concrete things that that
administration did in spite of the inadequacies that people saw at the time
as well. But right now, Ekiti State is in crisis.
Everyday you read about Ekiti and it is mostly negative things that
you read about it. Beyond those are
the rent a page stories that you find in some newspapers.
The most important thing people want to see in Ekiti is peace; it is
progress; it is justice; it is concrete development. And
ultimately, it is who can provide these things that will carry the day. It
is not going to be a party driven thing; it is going to be a collective
rescue mission in which all Ekiti will have a critical role to play.
What should the people of Ekiti be expecting from you if you become the
me, I've always said that I still see key things that we need to overcome in
Ekiti - poverty; ignorance; disease. We cannot handle
them independently, we have to handle them in an integrated development
framework. I believe coming into office, I'm going to
tackle them in a comprehensive manner. I promise the
Ekiti people a state in which education has a pride of place so that we
tackle ignorance head on. I don't see why Ekiti cannot use the huge human
capital that we have in the state as a major outsourcing network for
Nigeria. I believe that we can have an Ekiti State in
which the 521 schools function in an adequate, well-resourced manner and
produce the best that we've always been in Nigeria.
believe that we can have an Ekiti State in which not just free health, but
qualitative medical agenda is available for the people, in which we can
tackle the major challenge in Ekiti State now, which is malaria.
Malaria is not a disease of the rich. We can deal
with that by tackling the poverty situation in Ekiti. When
you tackle the poverty situation, you enhance the self-esteem and
self-dignity of the citizens of Ekiti. For me, these
things are important, and Ekiti is well positioned both in terms of
education and rural development, to become a huge food basket.
It is not that people are not producing food, but what are we doing
about the storage facility? What are we doing in
promoting the co-operative of farmers in Ekiti?
you go around Ekiti, you will be shocked that all the things that we used to
have are disappearing in front of us. I'm not going to
be a governor that talks about tarring roads; I'm not going to be a governor
that talks about paying salaries. Quite frankly, for me,
that is not the job of the governor. It goes without
saying that I will pay salaries. People have worked, why
shouldn't I pay them? Why should I claim that as a
credit? If it is just to collect money from the federal
government and distribute among workers. that is not a job.
You don't need a governor to do that. Ditto road
number of places that I know around the world, local governments construct
roads. Feeder roads, rural roads are not the job of a
governor. A governor should be more interested in adding
value. You can see what Bukola Saraki is doing in the
agricultural sector in Kwara State; you can see what Donald Duke is doing in
the tourism and development sector in Cross River State, you can see what
the gentleman in Jigawa is doing in Information Technology.
That is adding value. Not tarring roads, not
paying salaries because those are not the job of a governor.
I want to add value in areas where my people have not seen governance
over the last eight or nine years of Ekiti State creation.
I believe that we can do it. We are lucky.
Ekiti is the only state in Nigeria without a minority.
We are all Ekiti. We speak the same language,
have the same disposition about life. It ought to be
easy to get a state like that working because you can get everybody onboard
the train of development.
We should be talking about a state that does not have to depend on
federal allocation. This business of going cap in hand at the end of every
month to Abuja is really disturbing the creativity of our people.
I think we need to restore the creativity of our people.
I don't have anything against federal allocation.
We can take it, but we should not be dependent on it. We
should be able to run our state without federal allocation.
I'm particularly in an advantage position. I have
the network internationally; I'm in touch with Ekiti in Diaspora, and other
groups. I'm talking to them, and they are coming up with
beautiful ideas. I want to take ideas from as many angles as possible and
synthesize them because I don't believe I have all the solutions. Let's get
the train moving!