*Says Osun people will decide his guber bid
Chief Femi Fani-Kayode was Minister of Aviation during the regime of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He recently paid a visit to the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, for consultationsÂ over his ambition to contest the governorship election in Osun State in 2011. He fielded questions from newsmen shortly after a closed door meeting with the monarch. Our correspondent was there.
By GBENGA OLARINOYE
WHY have you beenÂ keeping silent?
To me, there is a time to speak and there is a time not to speak. I thinkÂ this is a time to keep low profile and to be wise in all matters.
Why do you want to go low profile this time?
The point is that my life has always been a type of low profile. Iâ€™m not in government anymore, I may have an ambition for the future. So I have to revert to the private sector to achieve what I want to do, so I donâ€™t have to be talking anyhow but Iâ€™m focused about what I want to do and I donâ€™t want to make too much noise about it this time.Â I will come out in full force and do what I want.
Any ambition in 2011?
Anybody in politics must have an ambition and it is not a crime to have an ambition. It is a good thing to have an ambition.
But, subject to the will of God, subject to the support of my king, kabiyesi, the Ooni, and subject to the will of my party and Nigerians in Osun State, of course, I have an ambition to contest for the governorship of Osun State and this is what will be determined by my party members and the voters and not by me or you.
If you have such an ambition, you continue to pray about it and leave the rest to God. In fact, Iâ€™m fully prepared for it in every way.
How prepared are you for the job ahead?
Iâ€™m fully prepared. Having served in public office between 2003 and 2007 and, having served in executive capacity and seen what I have seen and having gained experience, I think the only thing left for me now is to offer myself in whatever way I can to help my people. I think Iâ€™m a Nigerian and Iâ€™m entitled to do that.
Donâ€™t you think the case preferred against you by the EFCC will be an impediment to that ambition?
No, it will not. Why will it? The law of the land protects me because it pronounces a person to be innocent until he is found guilty by a court of law. I remember that there is a person from this part of the country who won an election from the prison cell.
He was elected as a senator of this country by the people and he won the election by a wide margin of votes. He is a good friend of mine and he performed exceptionally well in that election.
Iâ€™m proud of him and Iâ€™m not in detention, I have experienced it and found it very interesting that a person should go through such thing but Iâ€™m focused and clear about my political ambition and I believe that we are addressing all relevant issues very well.
There is the issue of unrestÂ Â in the Niger Delta and theÂ president recently granted the militants amnesty. What is your opinion on the amnesty?
Let me not offer any opinion on that issue for now. I think it is very important to allow the Federal Government to take any action without complicating issues or sending a wrong signal.
I have served the government at the federal level, it is very important to allow them to do what they are doing and not for us who are no longer in government to distract them.
Otherwise, you may be misunderstood and be misrepresented that somebody has sent you. What Iâ€™m doing right now is to pursue my ambition for the future subject to the will of my party, the support of my kabiyesi and subject to the will of the people of Osun State.
What are you doing to realize the ambition?
What Iâ€™m doing is to work with the party because I donâ€™t want to do anything single handedly but the party is doing everything to better the lot of the people.
The PDP has been serving the people ofÂ the state for the past six years through the able leadership of my big brother, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, and he is not doing badly.
He has served the people of this state very well. I think we should be very cautious not to make too much noise about this ambition for now. That is why there are not many people here, otherwise, you should have seen crowd who would have come here today.
We are maintaining a low profile until Governor Oyinlola would have finished his tenure. We are praying for him, and we are supporting him so that he may succeed in all things that heâ€™s doing as the PDP governor in Osun State and that is our priority for now. After he might have succeeded, we will come out like fire.
What is your opinion on the reconciliation of Chief Obasanjo with his former deputy, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar?
I think that is the best thing to happen to this country. It is the best for the political class, the PDP and for the nation.
I think, it was an unfortunate rift and President Obasanjo had demonstrated his leadership quality by reconciling and stretched his hands of fellowship and Vice president Atiku has received that and has also stretched his own hand of fellowship to our collective leader and Iâ€™m happy about that. I have also visited the vice president myself and he gave me a wonderful reception. We are one big family and Iâ€™m happy about that.
Have you any regret about your action on the crisis?
What type of regret would I have? When you say on any of my actions, let me tell you, there were two groups within the same government and two groups within the same party.
I was a soldier and a soldier follows orders and I donâ€™t regret anything that I have done. But, in my own view, I do believe that it was an unfortunate series of events which had consequences and control beyond any of us and I think we have learnt some lessons from it. But, as for me, I follow the order of my general anytime and anyday.
What is your opinion on the state of the nation?
I donâ€™t have any comment for now because I donâ€™t want to make anybody to feel nervous or uncomfortable or fearful. As at now, I feel I have enough challenges and I donâ€™t want to compound those challenges. My focus now is on Osun State and the peopleÂ and the development of PDP in the state. Let nobody compound those challenges.
What are your contributions to the party in Osun State?
Go and ask the party. I donâ€™t need to tell you, Iâ€™m not going to blow my own trumpet before you. I knew what I did for the party when I was in government, the type of support and efforts we gave to the state during the regime of President Obasanjo. Go and ask the party. I think that would answer your question.
Politics in Ile-Ife isÂ known for violence. Do you have capacity for violence?
Well, Iâ€™m not a violent man and I donâ€™t believe in violence. I believe in the power of the supreme being and I also believe in the superiority of logic and Iâ€™m also an intellectual.
Iâ€™m not a violent man and I will never be a violent man. I have never shed blood before and I have never killed anybody before and I donâ€™t think violence is what any civilized person should do. I believe in using all civilized ways to do whatever I want to do.
Iâ€™m also somebody of tremendous courage and Iâ€™m the son of my father, Iâ€™m not easily intimidated by anything or anybody. I have never turned back whenever things turn sour. Iâ€™m exposed to a lot of things in my life and I can hold my own in any corner but violence is out it. All those that are with me are very clear of two things.
The first is that I abhor any form of violence and secondly I believe in the power of the living God and by the power of God you can do anything and you can be anywhere.
What advice do you have for the people of the state?
We should pray that Governor Oyinlola retains his seat and has a great victory at the tribunal, that is the first one. We should also pray for the state and kabiyesi, Ooni of Ife, as well as other traditional rulers in this great state and we should pray for great future in Osun and you know Iâ€™m from Ile-Ife.
We should pray for Ile-Ife which has contributed so much to Nigeria and Western Region since the time of independence, we should also pray that the governorship of the state should come to Ile-Ife because Ile-Ife deserves this.
Ambition for governorship
But, of course, my ambition for governorship will be determined by my father, the Ooni, and the entire people of Osun State and definitely by God.
What is the relationship between you and former President Obasanjo?
President Olusegun Obasanjo is my father and would always be my father. Heâ€™s the one that gave me the opportunity to serve my nation in 2003. He brought me from nowhere and he told me when he brought me that â€œIâ€™m not bringing you because I know your father but Iâ€™m bringing you because you know how to do the jobâ€.
He gave me that opportunity and for that I will remain eternally grateful to him. As far as Iâ€™m concerned, Obasanjo is a father of modern Nigeria, heâ€™s the greatest international figure we have known in this planet. We are very, very close.
Who is your godfather in politics?
You know that Iâ€™m a Christian, I donâ€™t believe in this issue of godfather in politics. What I believe is that there are leaders and mentors. Kabiyesi, the Ooni, is my father, President Obasanjo is my father and Governor Oyinlola is my big brother even before he became governor and I support him and everything he is doing.
He has a stake on what happens in this state and he has a stake in determining who succeeds him after he might have completed his tenure as the governor of Osun State.