The former Aviation Minister has quit the APC for PDP.
In an exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES on Monday, prior to quitting the All Progressives Congress, APC, for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, branded the interim National Publicity Secretary of the APC a liar and insisted that he would not quit the party until he was ready to do so.
PT: Lai Mohammed says you are not a member of the APC, what’s your reaction to that?
Fani- Kayode: Lai Mohammed is a liar because he is the only one saying so. Frankly speaking, the APC will do well to get a better spokesperson. I registered with the APC on the February 7. I declared for the APC before the party was even registered in a place called Ado- Ekiti; with the Ekiti State governor after it was registered by INEC. I joined my own family in Ile- Ife on February 7, 2014. My interaction with the party for the last few months can be testified to by my own governor, (Rauf) Aregbesola, with all the Yoruba governors and a number of governors from the north. I don’t play games, unlike him, and I don’t mix my words. His problem is the fact that I spoke against the issue of Muslim-Muslim ticket (as APC presidential and vice-presidential candidates). And I have told them that if they are not happy with that they should expel me and I would not lose any sleep about it.
Mohammed does not hold the party. He only represents a faction of the party. He only represents one school of thought within the party. He is entitled to his opinion as I have mine and he is saying I never joined the APC; then he should do his homework better before he opens his mouth and talk.
PT: So are you saying categorically that you are a member of APC?
Fani- Kayode: I have just said exactly what I have said. I have just said he is liar. He should do his homework before he talks and I lose no sleep over the comment of someone that really does not know what he is talking about.
PT: Do you have an APC membership card?
Fani-Kayode: Yes, I have told you we registered on the day we registered and I told you when we registered. Go and check and ask the leadership of the APC in Ile- Ife if I registered or not. Go and ask the governor. Go and ask Rotimi Makinde. I have given the day. Now, Mohammed is playing out a script and he is representing certain forces and I have told them already the day I choose to leave the party I will let them know. So for him to be telling such lies, is unnecessary but I will not leave because Mohammed wants to tell lies and it does not help the party itself.
PT: Do you have plans of leaving the party considering the meeting with the President?
Fani-Kayode: I have not said so. That has got nothing to do with politics. Mohammed and other leaders of the party have met with the President on various occasions which does not mean they are leaving the party; why should I be singled out? Mohammed should not be the one to tell me what to do, and Mohammed does not own the party. This is APC and not any other party. There are all kinds of forces, elements from the PDP there; elements from the ACN (Action Congress of Nigeria), ANPP (All Nigeria Peoples Party), and they should not be continuously frowning on my opinion. My opinion is that I will not be in a party that has a Muslim-Muslim ticket. I stand by that. If Mohammed or anybody has a problem with that, if they insist that I must support a Muslim party then I will leave the party for them. I am still in APC.
PT: Why would you place religion ahead of competence in terms of choosing presidential candidates?
Fani-Kayode: I’m not going into all of that now. I have argued that over and over again in my essay. As far as I’m concerned I’m talking about other things. If you want to know what my reasons are, I refer you to that essay. I think it makes absolute sense to take into consideration the feelings of millions of Christians in the country when you are going to present a presidential ticket. But if I’m going to be persecuted for what I said, let them go ahead.
PT: Do you see yourself as a senior member of APC?
Fani-Kayode: I see myself as a leader and a foundation member of the party. I even declared for that before Lai Mohammed even did, so he should stop being petty and childish but rather face the serious issues of this country. I joined politics 24 years ago, long before he did. If he wants to get personal with me I’m capable of doing that and he should not think he represents everybody; he doesn’t.
PT: But he is the spokesperson of the party?
Fani-Kayode: It does not mean anything. He is an interim executive. He has about another one or two, three weeks there so if anybody wants to listen to him they can go ahead. I lose no sleep over it. For him to be talking like that, it does not make sense. This is a time to be gathering people together and to get as much support as possible. These sorts of things make the people have doubt about certain political leadership that people like Mohammed are providing. For me, politics is not a code. I will speak my mind whenever I feel like on any issue and it’s not for Mohammed to tell me who I will associate with. As matter of fact this matter has been on my mind for the last few weeks. Now is a good time as any to speak my mind. Out of respect for so many people within the APC, I have tried to keep my views to myself and I have been considering what my options are over the last few weeks and month, and the truth is as at today, I am leaving the APC.
I will give you my reasons. My reasons have nothing to do with what Lai Mohammed has said because Mohammed only speaks for a faction of that party. I know he is one of those hell-bent on ensuring a Muslim emerges for APC. What he said is inconsequential to me. Someone like that is nothing to me and he does not have the courage of his conviction. What is more important is that I cannot be in a party that has within it some elements that have consistently questioned the secularity of the Nigerian state. Now there are some very good people in the APC and some lifelong friends of mine within the APC. They will always remain my friends. I’m talking of the people of Ekiti. They will remain my friends. And some people that came from PDP; these are people that inspired me. But it does not mean I have to remain in the same party as some individual who consistently questions the secularity of the state.
PT: Who are these individuals you talking about?
Fani-Kayode: I will not name them. I’m sure before the next few weeks those names will be manifested to everybody. Do your homework and you will know who I’m talking about. As far as I’m concerned, I’m not comfortable with such people and this is why I said the idea of the Muslim-Muslim people is not something I will buy. I stated it in an essay without meaning to attack anybody and the consequence of that, the reactions I have had from people hell-bent on the Muslim-Muslim ticket is unacceptable to me. I cannot be anywhere where my faith is trampled or looked down on.
PT: Do you mean APC wants to enforce a particular religion on Nigerians?
Fani-Kayode: Of course. Some elements within the ranks of APC want to force one religion above the other in this country.
PT: What religion will that be?
Fani-Kayode: Work it out yourself. Now, I have always believed that we must work out on the basis of equality of ethnic’s nationalities, and equality of religion; that is our tradition in the south west and it works well for us. Anything less than that I will not accept.
PT: What have you seen that made you say some leading members want to enforce religion on Nigerians?
Fani-Kayode: The fact that mere suggestion has upset people to the point that they will begin to feel that you are anti-party because you want to have a Christian on the ticket. Look at the composition of the interim national executives of the party of which Lai Mohammed is a member. They are articulated by Muslims. This is something we complained about and they did nothing about it. Look at the way people like Adebayo and others have been treated by certain people within the party. I’m not just prepared to accept this. For me, I follow principle and not individuals. I cannot be in a party of certain individuals who I will not name who have a certain agenda to impose a northern religion in Nigeria. Lai Mohammed said it last year, before APC, that it was unconstitutional for the government to proscribe Boko Haram and he cannot deny it. Now how can I be in a party where the spokesperson of the party is defending Boko Haram. I’m questioning how Mohammed would have said such a thing given the fact that Boko Haram has killed over 15,000 of our citizens. I sincerely hope the party can clean itself up and be sure of the kind of people that will emerge are not people with religious agenda.
PT: What’s the second reason for your leaving?
Fani-Kayode: The other one is a lack of ability to tolerate.
PT: Where are you going to from here? Will you be joining another party?
Fani-Kayode: I have decided to go back to where I came from which is PDP. I have decided to ensure that I assist PDP to become the party that I have always believed it could be and also to move the country forward.
PT: But the things you complained about before leaving the PDP have not changed.
Fani-Kayode: We will go there and rectify it. We will go and make all the necessary changes that we can. The most important thing is that the former Chairman is no more there. We have a new chairman and secondly there are many people from within my state that have been asking me to come back. They are far more welcoming and accommodating and tolerant of incisive opinion than those in the APC.
PT: Did President Jonathan persuade you to come back? Does your returning to PDP have to do with the meeting with the president?
Fani-Kayode: I wrote the essay about Muslim-Muslim ticket long ago before I went to the Presidential Villa and I’m not going to discuss what I and the President discussed. All I will tell you is that this decision has nothing to do with any discussions I had with anybody inside the villa. I was in that party for many, many years. I thought it had gone astray. There is a new chairman now and they all understand my concern about this country. The government and I have decided to see if we can move the country forward and come again and address some of the issues that have given us problems in the last four years. Whatever those issues are, one thing I’m clear about is that PDP is a party that believes in the secularity of the state. As far as I’m concerned, I will not stay in a party of small group of people that have sympathy with Boko Haram and my evidence for that is Lai Mohammed’s speech last year.
PT: So you are saying the most powerful influence for going back to the PDP is the removal of Bamanga Tukur?
Fani-Kayode: You are very clever. Well, do not think I’m going back because Bamanga Tukur is no more there. Please, don’t frame it like that. It was one of the reasons why I left. Now he is no more chairman it is easy for me. Same way what the APC spokesperson said last year about Boko Haram as an organisation should not be proscribed by the Federal Government. I just managed to swallow it when he said it and I have criticised them publicly for that. At the same time they said Boko Haram should be treated the way Niger-Delta militants were treated, (Mohammed) Buhari said that last year. When the issue of Muslim-Muslim ticket came, I made my views very clear. They knew there was a small group in the party that wanted to do that and it was necessary to make it public that’s why I made it public. Their reaction to that proves to me that I cannot be with such people because these people have no fellowship within light. So, I’m going back to where I came from. Yes, there are issues with the government and we will try our best to make it a better place and a PDP that we want it to be.