In this interview, Chief Reuben Famuyibo, a legal practitioner, businessman and former presidential and governorship aspirant, speaks with Deputy Editor, ABIODUN AWOLAJA, on the recent invitation of President Muhammadu Buhari by the House of Representatives, economic recession, Ekiti State governorship and sundry issues. Excerpts:
Recently, there was some controversy in the polity because President Muhammadu Buhari initially told the House of Representatives that he was going to honour its summons, only for the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), to declare that the legislature had no powers to invite the president to address the pervasive insecurity in the country. How would you assess the situation?
Well, it is unfortunate given the abnormalities going on in Nigeria. I wouldn’t know where Malami is getting his powers from, to the extent that he thinks that the president cannot be summoned by the National Assembly.
When some allegations of misconduct were leveled against US President Donald Trump, the House of Representatives brought everything out. He was adequately represented—I was in the United States then. From what is going on in this country, it is as if members of the so-called Fulani clique working with Buhari do not respect anybody in Nigeria apart from themselves.
Everything in this country is now upside down: appointments, patronage of businesses. It is unfortunate that we are going through this kind of thing 60 years after independence because we put somebody who doesn’t know his right from left in power. It is unfortunate that the Buhari that we voted for is not the Buhari that is ruling now.
Why would you say that?
We saw Buhari as a symbol of anti-corruption in this country. I was one of his fans when he and Tunde Idiagbon took Nigeria to the highest glory in fighting corruption. I don’t even know what changed in this Buhari of ours.
In 2003 when I contested for the governorship in Ekiti State and he came to the state for the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) rally, some of us contributed money; he didn’t have anything. But look at what is going on today: the Buhari that I used to hero-worship is not the Buhari that I’m seeing now.
Could this be due to old age?
I don’t think old age matters. The question we should ask is this: does he have sincere advisers? How can you say that every vacancy in this country is to be filled up by northerners? If you try anything in this country and you don’t know any of those close to him, you are just wasting your time and energy.
Some people might say that you are saying this because you are Yoruba…
I am a detribalized Nigerian. My best of friends are from the North. When I was in politics, the likes of Abubakar Rimi and Atiku Abubakar, we were together. I have a lot of ministers that are my friends. How many of them know what is going on in this country? You go to them and they are even afraid to say that they want to employ people, whereas you see that there is a vacancy every day and before you know it, they (the cabal) have filled it up. Where are we going in this country?
The Federal Character Commission is there, established by the constitution, but are they following the federal character principle? Our so-called leaders, including senators and members of the House of Reps, are so daft that they do not know what to say or are afraid to speak up. They want people to come out and be begging a person that all of us voted for before he can do justice to the issue of employment and other things going on in the country. It is shameful. You have all the service chiefs failing and the president is afraid to change them.
Talking about service chiefs, the House of Representatives, in fact, wanted the president to address security issues, following the massacre of rice farmers in Borno, and even the Sultan of Sokoto recently deplored the security situation in the North. How do you think we can overcome the security crisis?
The situation is pathetic and I think it is intentional
It can’t be intentional… Hold on sir. An American was kidnapped and the government located where he was kept within a week, and our president is telling us that we cannot know who the Boko Haram members are.
I once went out of my way to talk with some security people outside the country and they said that if we were serious about Boko Haram, there were equipment in America with which they could locate where these people(Boko Haram) were, but because of the sovereignty of Nigeria coupled with the fact that they had not been invited, they did not want to do it.
Some people are profiting from this thing (insurgency). I even sold the idea to some of the military men I know that I learnt that there are drones that can comb the entire Boko Haram territory within an hour and locate everyone, including our Chibok girls that are still there.
But what did they do? Nothing. They said “unless you know people in the Villa, nothing can be done.” So these people know what to do but they are not doing it.
Let’s talk about the economy. The country just entered its worst recession since 1987 and people have said that reopening the borders would help in getting the country out of recession. Do you agree?
How can we get out of recession when we have a government that doesn’t even know even know the meaning of recession? How can you tell me that there is recession and the more they advise you, the more you go out borrowing? Where in the world do you close borders, then open it for particular businesses?
You say you have closed the borders but you are now constructing a rail line between Katsina and Niger Republic, then you are also saying that you are doing a road worth 30 billion that extends to other countries. A bag of rice is about N37,000 in the South but this is not so in the North where people walk in and walk out of the border. We don’t have any country. It is unfortunate. I am not an advocate of Nigeria’s break-up but let us discuss the terms of our marriage because it is a forced marriage.
In the Customs Service, the government spent over N600 bn to bring in scanners into the country, whereas some people were interested in bringing the same thing into Nigeria free of charge. But the people that advise our president think they know better: they brought in some Chinese people, so we are giving our security, our economy, even our health, to a particular country.
Let’s talk about Ekiti. Over the years, there has been agitation for an Ado Ekiti person to emerge as governor of the state. Is the Ado agenda still there and what is its relationship with the Ekiti agenda?
I can tell you authoritatively that we started the so-called Ekiti agenda. History will not forgive our leaders if they don’t tell the truth. It was the late Major-General Abdulkareem Adisa, Major-General John Inienger and Lt-General Sani Abacha (as he then was) that told me to go and call the Ewi of Ado Ekiti when they created Osun State, that there was hope for Ekiti State.
I was the person that personally took all the obas to Abacha at the Defence House in Lagos, with the notes and letters from Inienger, a GOC then; Air Vice Marshall Ernest Adeleye, and a couple of others. That was the journey that materialised in the present Ekiti State. I learn that Chief Afe Babalola came later to develop a paper for Arthur Mbanefo. It was never agreed that an indigene of Ado Ekiti would never be the governor of Ekiti State because Ado Ekiti happened to be the state capital. This was something that people ganged up and cooked up lies to do.
When I contested in 1999, several people appealed to me, including the late Chief Bola Ige, that there was an unwritten agreement that before they could make Ado Ekiti the capital, an Ado Ekiti son would not be the first executive governor. After that, I now called them and said: “If Ado Ekiti cannot produce the first governor, what happens after?” It is over 20 years now. Fortunately, Ado Ekiti has one-third of the total votes of Ekiti. Its votes are more than that of the whole Ekiti South Senatorial District.
So maybe the issue in Ado Ekiti is lack of unity?
I think so. But Ado people have woken up now, having realised they had made people from the villages governor, villages that do not even have more than one ward, but they are now saying that for this coming election, it is Ado Ekiti or nowhere else.
How far have you gone as an individual to reach out to other sections of the state?
We have held meetings but they kept saying that the problem of Ado Ekiti is the Ado Ekiti people. But who are the people of Ado Ekiti now? We are not talking of Ado Ekiti of 25 years ago.
Ado Ekiti is now saturated with people from all over Ekiti State who see Ado Ekiti as their London or New York. So when you even hear some voices that are against Ado Ekiti indigene becoming the next governor, they are not real Ado Ekiti indigenes.
It is only a bastard of Ado Ekiti that would not want a good thing to come to Ado Ekiti. Eighty-five of the people that created Ekiti State are from Ado Ekiti, including myself that gave the first Ekiti governor, Bawa, the key to my house. For the first Press Centre, I gave them vehicles and equipment to take off.