Kayode Fayemi

*’We must crack PDP for Nigeria to survive’
* ‘Nigeria made false choices’

The first salvo was caustic:  “Nigeria is becoming a progressively worse country and we have gotten to a stage where the administration we just complained about yesterday or just got rid of is considered better than the new one.
“Just look at Goodluck Jonathan.  The court gave a judgment on the Bauchi State Deputy Governor who was wrongly impeached and yet, the state governor, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, refuses to obey the court judgment.  Even as bad as late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was, he would not just sit and watch the show of shame in Bauchi where you have two deputy governors.  That is the sad story of my country”.  Kayode Fayemi is of the Action Congress, AC, and was its governorship candidate in the Ekiti State governorship contest of 2007. His pedigree as an intellectual of global reckoning compelled  us to seek his views.  You will not be disappointed.


By Jide Ajani, Deputy Editor & Anthonia  Onwuka

Are things getting better in Nigeria?
Nigeria is becoming a progressively worse country and we have gotten to a stage where the administration we just complained about yesterday or just got rid of is considered better than the new one.

Just look at Goodluck Jonathan.  The court gave a judgment on the Bauchi State Deputy Governor who was wrongly impeached and yet, the state governor, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, refuses to obey the court judgment.  Even as bad as late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was, he would not just sit and watch the show of shame in Bauchi where you have two deputy governors.  That is the sad story of my country.

When you returned to the country after the pro-democracy struggle, you were full of ideas on  how to make Nigeria a greater country.  How far with those wonderful ideas?
Well, for some of us, the Nigeria project is a life-long struggle and everyone who is a product of this country should have a significant commitment to this nation.  However, I also recognize the limitations of nationhood in Nigeria.  I understand that Nigeria is not where we want it to be.  I came into the country 10 odd years ago, not oblivious of the challenges we face as a nation.  My mantra at the time was that this was a transition without transformation and that what we had was not political reconfiguration but neo-militarism because it was an extension of military rule of sorts.

The man whom they brought in was an ex-military general, many of the people who surfaced in the National Assembly at that time were those we called  Abacha politicians (or  the parties late Chief Bola Ige referred to as the five fingers of a leprous hand) – an extension of military rule; and those of us who were in the fore-front of anti-military rule and pro-democracy movement were really, either on our own part, or by the system, sidelined.

Some of us never believed that that was the way to go because we genuinely believed that we needed a peoples’ constitution, that would be wholly driven by the concerns of the people but what we got was different: We got a military constitution; we got an election that was by and large structured, organized. We got directed democracy of sorts which was in itself never really a bad thing.

Why was it not a bad idea?
You have to understand that there is never really a perfect time to join a system that was already rotten and that we were trying to clean up and compromises had to be made.

Take Apartheid, in its dying days. The likes of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki and the leadership of the African National Congress, ANC, had to do deals in order to get the country moving on.  Those deals were objected to by certain elements in the party but ultimately, it has  succeeded in putting South Africa on a sound footing and things are getting better for them.

Talking about compromises, Nigeria appears jinxed.  Compromises are made with a view to moving forward and removing bottlenecks in some instances. First, what compromises were made in 1998/1999?
Even the idea of having an Olusegun Obasanjo as the candidate of an election was the product of a compromise because the feeling was that the south west had been short-changed by virtue of the fact that somebody won an election and he was denied the opportunity to become president that is Chief M K O Abiola.  Though some of us did not even agree with that because Abiola was not a Yoruba president – he was voted for by Nigerians so I didn’t even agree with that type of arrangement.

Then the idea of even registering the Alliance for Democracy, AD, which did not quite meet the threshold set by INEC at the time, was a compromise to appease a very vibrant section of the pro-democracy movement and a vibrant section of the country by the powers that be.  That was done.

An Obasanjo and AD as compromises have even become major albatrosses Nigeria is carrying.  Obasanjo is seen by many as a failure and that he wasted Nigeria’s eight years; AD, which came with so much promise, is as good as dead.  So, whereas South Africa’s compromises succeeded in moving that country forward, Nigeria’s own have become unmitigated failure?  Negative outcomes!
That is what happens when you are left with false choices.
One, we did not get the kind of democracy that we wanted.  We are talking about a peoples’ democracy.  We were even prepared to have an interim government that would produce a people’s constitution that would lead to genuine democracy but the Nigerian state has always been a forged product – but that is also not unique to Nigeria.

In history, nations are firstly, imagined communities.  There is no nation that is automatically there for the taking; they are products of compromises, of wars, of banditry – that is how nation states have emerged in history. So there is nothing so fundamentally different here.


But when you say countries have emerged through certain processes and that there is nothing new in Nigeria’s instance, why, after 50 years have we been moving backwards?
Good! The problem with Nigeria is that we as a people have always resorted to shortcuts.  That is the problem of the 1999 transition: It was just a reconfiguration and not a transformation.  It was the same old elements those who dominated the terrain in 1999 were the elements in Grassroots Democratic Movement, GDM;  United Nigeria Congress Party, UNCP; National Centre Party of Nigeria, NCPN, and so on.

These were the people who all moved in to form the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.  That thing they call PDP is not a political party.  It’s been a business concern, an agglomeration, an election machine.  That is what that thing is for.

And once elections are over, they turn against themselves, against one another within the same party and they become the strongest opposition to themselves because for them it is about power that is what unites them and it is not power to do good or for the benefit of the people but power just for its sake.

We really need to crack PDP in order to have a Nigeria of our dreams.

When you say WE, who are those who would constitute this WE?
Those of us who genuinely believe that another Nigeria is possible, we are the WE I am referring to.  A Nigeria that would be interested in the progress of its people; a Nigeria that would be able to hold its head high in the comity of nations, a Nigeria that would live up to the promises.  Everybody talks about the potentials of Nigeria but potentials are just potentials if they are not realized.

There is something which amuses and amazes me when I sit with politicians.  Look, like King Solomon said in the Bible, “There is nothing new under the Sun”. All these preachments of effusive altruistic vituperations coming from you, I also hear the same from the self-same PDP people you are criticizing; they also talk about lofty ideals but then nothing has changed?
Because they know that the party they belong to is a fraud and in their private moments they will own up to you that no decent human being should be in that party.  But right now, that is where Nigeria is and that is why we are where we are.  I have a lot of friends in PDP, even some of my colleagues in the academia are in the PDP.  But I have always said to them that PDP is a virus much worse than HIV.  If you are decent, of reasonable competence, honest and ready to work and serve the people of Nigeria, once you become a member of the PDP, the virus afflicts and affronts you in a way that you begin to behave in the manner a typical PDP member behaves.

I’m not here really focusing on PDP alone because we have a political culture that has to be addressed.  Even that political culture affects those of us in the opposition parties.
There is nothing saintly about my own party, the Action Congress, AC, but there is something you can say about my party that you can not say about the PDP or other parties but if you want a party that approximates closeness to agenda setting or core-beliefs in terms of certain democratic tendencies, you are most likely to find it in AC, among the active parties that exist.  You have Democratic Alternative, DA, and Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, which also have shades of proper democracy as political parties but in AC we can also say we’ve tried to approximate that ideal.

I will disagree with you.  Even your party, the AC, is just like a football team whose coach is not different from any leader of the PDP but which is just lucky to have maybe two super stars and I’m talking about Lagos State and Edo State.  What makes AC different from PDP especially in terms of the overbearing disposition of its owner, founder, financier and I can continue with the adjectival…?  Look at what is happening in Lagos where the incumbent and the predecessor are at war; then you have Edo State where Adams Oshiomhole is merely on that AC platform but not in spirit?
(Cuts in)  I referred to that culture accepting that a lot more work needs to be done in the area of political party development in Nigeria but I also think, without meaning to sound pretentious in any way, people have a less than accurate understanding of what is happening in AC.  The culture  you alluded to that – and the fact that the two state governors, at least programmatically, are doing well, tells you something about the AC culture, that there is a baseline beyond which you can not go in AC in addressing the peoples yearnings and needs and I would want you to take that as the ideological position of a party that wants to change the lives of the people.

back to that culture you referred to, we are a robust party; there is full and frank debate in our party; there are disagreements among leaders but when we decide at the end of the day where we are going, it doesn’t change the position of everybody at the end of the day because the party has spoken.

Yes! The party speaks the mind of one man?
No.  Look at the Government of National Unity of Yar’Adua.  There were leaders of AC, who were gung-ho about it and they said in the interest of Nigeria we should join but the party decided other wise and insisted that we would not join – and I’m alluding to that same mind you talked about.  We agreed to play our role as an opposition and the strongest advocates of joining that government had to toe the position of the majority and even became advocates of that position.

When it came to questions of coming together during the Adams Oshiomhole one man one vote rally, in another party you would not find that type of thing.  Our leaders got to Benin and they discovered that elements they were not comfortable with were at that rally; they would have said, ‘well, this is our governor so we should not do what the media would celebrate against us but our leaders simply quietly and, without disrupting the event, left.  Even our governor was not comfortable that our leaders did that but certain positions have since been understood by all that ‘look, core values are critical for us and that even in politics, Nigerians would love to have people of decency’.

That is not to say that AC does not fall victim; in various states there is a varying degree of strength and weaknesses but one thing you will agree with is that on the issue of politics for development, accountability in government and respect for fundamental human rights, we are consistent.

During the Obasanjo years, you worked with the then president, putting your intellect at his disposal, am I right?  He attempted to or in fact co-opted you into his administration?

I don’t know whether you are right to say that he tried to co-opt me into his government; but I think Obasanjo in his nationalistic moments attracted a few of us that he felt had something to offer.

I could have said you worked for him?
Some of us felt that our expertise is for Nigeria so I don’t want to say that it was a one way traffic and don’t forget, it wasn’t always Obasanjo personally offering that platform because I had a lot of friends who worked for Obasanjo.

Some of my very close friends were his aides – many people know my relationship with Julius Ihonvbare, who was his policy adviser. Obi Ezekwesile, Nasir El-Rufai, these were people I had relationships with that predated Obasanjo’s administration, so, I had no reservations supporting the work that these people were doing in their own sphere and the area where I think I worked more closely with the president was on the international scene.

Primarily I worked on ECOWAS, I worked on NEPAD and I also worked on the security sector reforms and he put me on the presidential implementation committee.  For me I was serving Nigeria,  my country and not really serving Obasanjo and I thanked him for providing me with the opportunity to do that and I would do that for any Nigerian government.

The point I was driving at, having been there as an insider?
No, I wouldn’t consider myself an insider.

If you’re on an implementation committee, then you are an insider?
As a non-stipendiary adviser.

You mean it was free?  No salary?
I wasn’t getting any salary for what I was doing for his government.
It was free for Nigeria.

Okay at that level, with the type of access you had, what are those things you would point at as militating against good governance? Or better still, what are those challenges you would want us to look at?

Let me say there are qualities a Nigerian leader requires at that level and the same should percolate.  Leadership should be about empowerment.

President Obasanjo had certain qualities.  He was a very hard working and energetic leader.

Everybody keeps talking about hard work; hard work that has not produced progress?  Which hard work is that?  How can somebody work so hard in the wrong direction?
I have come close to him but in that hard work, he also became a micro manager which you didn’t need a president to be.

He would underline every thing you presented  to him like memos and monitor everything and at the end of the day I think he became ineffective in that micro management because he was focusing more on the small picture rather than focusing more on the bigger picture of the Nigerian state and people were still able to undermine that process.

I think he was actually suffering from his own hubris.
Obasanjo would pretend to be an intellectual but I think he was anti-intellectual.

He liked to have the professors around him but he always liked to humiliate them.
He would always project an image which suggested that no one has enough knowledge as he has on any issue and he always projected that image that, ‘look, I am a repository of all the information that you have and you need to listen to me’.

Give an example, please?
If you go into a meeting with President Obasanjo and a few times I had the opportunity to do that, Obasanjo would speak for 45 minutes of a 60 minute meeting or even speak for 50 minutes and the rest, 15 or 20 of you would probably share the remaining 15 or 10 minutes.  So you were listening to a lecture and not having an interaction and I think one of the greatest qualities a leader should possess is the ability to listen to all manner of things, including rubbish and then sifting out of that rubbish the important things you want to deliver to the people.

For me, Obasanjo was hard working but he was not a visionary.
In my own estimation, a leader does not need to do the hard work.

A leader needs to surround himself with smart people.  A leader actually needs smarter people but for an Obasanjo, to have smarter people around him would hurt him so much.

When you are a visionary with other smart people, you know what you want and you know the processes required to get you to where you want to be.

Our leaders over time have lacked that vision thing.

They’ve lacked the ability to surround themselves with smart people and even when they do surround themselves with smart people, they don’t necessarily listen to the experience of those smart people.

Our leaders pay lip service to generational development; they really do not believe in it.

Obasanjo is the closest example to that.

I can riddle you with conversations I had with Obasanjo when I informed him that I wanted to become governor of Ekiti State (laughter).

You attempted the governorship of Ekiti State in 2007 and this is 2010 and you people are still in court?
Our electoral system has quite a number of defects and it is unfair what is happening to the average voting public that almost four years, we still do not know who won the election.  It is a disservice to the Nigerian state and the person who is even occupying that office.

It is a disservice to the person who believes he won the election because the hopes of a lot of people are hanging on his assumption of office.  Some people can not move forward and they can not move backwards – they are in a state of suspended animation.

I have been spending personal money in the last four years and somebody is in office spending state funds to pursue the same matter.  It is also not fair on the state because the resources being used by the person in office could have gone into other sectors to develop the state.

It is also not fair on some of my leaders and supporters who also have to spend their own money on the litigation, monies which we could have also used to develop the state further.

Kayode Fayemi

How do you think people would believe you when you say your state government imported cows at seemingly very ridiculous prices?  People would see that as part of the AC propaganda against the legitimate government in Ekiti, at least according to the courts?

Anything that we have said about the state is the product of independently verifiable information.  Not only did we know how much the cows were purchased for, we also knew the vehicle through which this whole scam was organized.  It was an evangelical vehicle that was used to bring the cows into Nigeria.

How much did you say they bought the cows?

They bought each cow at just a little under N1 million (One million naira) per cow.  That’s what they did.

Which type of cows? Are the cows doing well now?
Which cows?  As I speak to you, the cows have not produced not an ounce of milk from the Ikunderi farm.  There is now some debate between supporters of government and some concerned citizens about whether 300 of the cows have disappeared.  Even the government in Ekiti has  taken some of the people handling the project to the police for fraudulent acts.  The project, as with many others in the state has become a white elephant initiative because here is a government that does not think through things before they do it.  It’s like the university project, the three universities project, a state that can not effectively run a university now wants to run three at the same time.  I even try not to dignify what they’re doing with my comments.  It’s just an unfortunate chain of events that the people of the state are being subjected to.

Dr ‘Kayode Fayemi is the Action Congress’ Gubernatorial Candidate in the yet to be resolved April 2007 election in Ekiti State , Nigeria . Prior to his active involvement in politics, he was the pioneer Director of the Centre for Democracy & Development, a research and training institution dedicated to the study and promotion of democratic development, peace-building and human security in Africa. Dr Fayemi received his first degree in History and Politics from the University of Lagos in 1985, a Masters’ degree in International Relations from theUniversity of Ife, Ile-Ife in 1987 in Nigeria and his doctorate in War Studies from King’s College, University of London, England in 1993 specialising in civil-military relations and defence planning.

Amongst his numerous academic and public policy engagements, Dr Fayemi was a Georgetown University Leadership Fellow in 2000 and a Senior Visiting Fellow in African Studies, Northwestern University , Evanston , USA in 2004. Dr Fayemi is also an Associate Fellow of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Ibadan and was on the Adjunct Faculty of the African Centre for Strategic Studies, National Defense University , USA between 2001 and 2005. He was a member of the Governing Board of the Open Society Justice Institute, New York and the African Security Sector Network and also served on the Advisory Board of the Global Network on Security Sector Reform and on the Management Review Board of the ECOWAS Secretariat.

Dr Fayemi has lectured in Africa, Europe, the Americas and Asia . He has also served as an adviser and consultant on transitional justice, security sector reform and civil-military relations issues to various governments, inter-governmental institutions and development agencies.  He was the technical adviser to Nigeria’s Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission (popularly known as the Oputa Panel), which investigated past abuses and also served on three Presidential Advisory Committees on Conflict Management and Security Sector Reform, NEPAD and the Millennium Development Goals under the Obasanjo administration.

other times, he was an Adviser to the President of the ECOWAS Commission, the NEPAD Secretariat, African Union and United Nations Economic Commission of Africa on Governance and Security issues. He was also a member of the Strategic Review Group of the African Union secretariat, the Management Culture Change Committee of ECOWAS and the Africa Policy Advisory Group of the UK ’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  Dr Fayemi has also served as a consultant to the UNDP and OECD-DAC on Security Sector Reform and chaired the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative’s Committee of Experts on developing guiding principles and mechanisms of constitution making in Commonwealth Africa.

Kayode Fayemi has written and lectured extensively on governance and democratisation, civil-military relations and security sector issues in Africa .  Amongst his recent publications are: Mercenaries: The African Security Dilemma (Pluto Press, 2000); Deepening the Culture of Constitutionalism: The Role of Regional Institutions in Constitutional Development in Africa (CDD, 2003); Security Sector Governance in Africa: A Handbook – edited with Nicole Ball, (CDD, 2004), Out of the Shadows: Exile and the Struggle for Democracy and Freedom in Nigeria (BookCraft & CDD, 2005) and Towards an Integrated Development of the Niger-Delta (CDD, 2006).

Dr Fayemi has been the recipient of awards, fellowships and grants including the Ford Foundation Grant on the Special Initiative on Africa and the Macarthur Foundation Research Grant. He currently heads the Consulting Group – Amandla Consulting in Nigeria.


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