New Focus, July 6th 2009
People warned me about my Association with Iyiola Omisore – Fani-Kayode
…Saying he will betray and hurt me
The immediate past Minister of Aviation in Nigeria, Chief Femi Fani Kayode has disclosed how several people in and outside Ile-Ife warned him seriously about his association with Senator Iyiola Omisore because of their believe that he will betray and hurt him very seriously in the long tun.
Chief Fani Kayode dropped this hint while exchanging views with our editorial crew at his Lagos residence recently. He said that he played a great and vital role to assist Senator Iyiola Omisore when he was been held for the Murder of Chief Bola Ige because at that time the whole of Ile-Ife was under siege and was being attacked by outsiders at any chance even within the presidency where he was serving as a special Assistant on Public Affairs to the President.
The Cambridge University trained lawyer however maintained that though he did not like the personalities of Iyiola Omisore at that time, because he always sees him as a person whose education is questionable and because he doesn’t like the way he, Omisore plays politics but he believed that as an Ife man, his problem has become his own problem too and he did everything to see that he is given a fair trial to prove his innocence because as far as he was concerned at at that time, Omisore knows nothings about the crime and was only been persecuted by powerful forces.
He stressed further that after the case was over both of them became good friends and did many things together while benefiting from one anther’s wealth of experience and that Senator Omisore assisted him during the ministerial screening at the Senate while as a minister of both culture and later at aviation, he assisted many Ifes to get jobs most of whom are Iyiola Omisore’s boys.
Chief Fani Kayode however, quoted from the Holy Bible that “a man’s enemy is a member of his household” and revealed that Senator Iyiola Omisore Suddenly cut off communications with him and he started hearing from people that Omisore is manipulating situations against him all because of clash of interest in the Osun State Governorship race.
He said further that initially he was not interested in becoming the governor of Osun State but right now, he is determined more than ever before to give Iyiola Omisore the fight of his life when it comes to who get what concerning the gubernatorial race in Osun State come 2011 because he thinks that he is more qualified than Omisore to become Osun State governor.
The former Aviation Minister, counting on the support of Kabiesi Ooni and the people of Ile-Ife said he will champion the course of Ife to become the next governor of Osun State, while maintaining that he will never be a part of any party or arrangement that did not give the ticket to run to an Ife man saying it will amount to shame and disgrace on the part of Ifes if the governorship is taken away from them this time around.
While maintaining that the governorship is a task he is considering very seriously.. He said he is not afraid of death should other contestants think that it is the only way to stop him and that he cannot be intimidated by threats of assassination or that anybody will do a Bola Ige on him. He said with the support of the Ooni, the people of Ife and his party, he believed the task is very achievable.
On the N19.5 billion saga, he claimed that he is innocent and when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Aviation of which Iyiola Omisore was a member, they could not find anything but claimed that his sin was to employ Ifes and Osun State people into the Ministry of Aviation an action which he told the committee he had no apology for and he did not regret them either because they people employed are very qualified to be appointed.
He further stressed that he is confident that he will be vindicated after the current court case against him because his team has prepared a very good defense to defend him. On the issue of distance from Ile-Ife, he opined that he will come to meet his people face to face when the time is right to flag off his campaign but he is cautioning himself so as not to cause embarrassment to the Ife people and the party by coming when the timing is very wrong.
I will give Iyiola Omisore a great fight for Osun Governorship race – Fani Kayode
Chief Femi Fani-Kayode is a Cambridge University, trained Lawyer and has been practicing for more that 27years. A former Special Assistant on Public Affairs, A former Minister of Culture and also Minister of Aviation, all under the presidency of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo from 1999-2007. In this exclusive interview with Newfocus Editorial Crew at his Lagos residence he speaks extensively on many issues among which are how he got into President Obasanjo’s government, his role during the trial of Iyiola Omisore for Bola Ige’s murder, how relationship between him and Iyiola Omisore went sour, his role in employing many Ifes into the Aviation Sector and lots more. Excerpts.
NF: Can we meet you Sir?
Fani-Kayode: I am Chief Femi Kayode.
NF: Can you tell the whole world a little about your background?
Fani-Kayode: Well, I am a lawyer. I was in President Obasanjo’s government as his Minister of Aviation and also a Minister of Culture and Tourism, before then, I was in the presidency as his Special Assistant on Public Affairs and his spokesman and I have been practicing Law since 1986. Am a partner in a law firm in Lagos and Abuja, I also have numbers of investment in various parts of the world. I am also in politics, I am a believer in democracy, and am a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and above all am a son of Ile-Ife.
NF: Sir, can you tell us how you got into the government of President Obasanjo?
Fani-Kayode: Well, I was initially very anti-Obasanjo and I don’t believe in the idea of having a Nigeria again after the issues of June 12 and because of what Abacha was doing to our people. So, I was a member of NADECO Abroad and did a lot because I have to leave the country when Abacha was after my life. I was then based in Ghana and we did a lot of funding, support and encouragement for NADECO operatives inside and outside Nigeria. So I was a NADECO man. But when uncle Bola Ige, our leader joined President Obasanjo’s government, he called us to his house and he told us why he joined the government and also told us to support President Obasanjo because he is a Yoruba man and that Nigeria cannot be divided anymore and that we should support Obasanjo. He said that it is better for us in Yorubaland to be controlling the centre abd joining other people from other parts of the country, outside Yorubaland in moving Nigeria forward. It took a lot of convincing for me but he convinced me and you know Uncle Bole is somebody that is very dear to me and although my father and him did not agree politically in the early 60s, but they later came together much later on and they became close, but I love Uncle Bola and because of him, I honoured the invitation to see President Obasanjo. When I met President Obasanjo, he told me his vision and plans and he accused me that I have attacked him so many times in the past. He asked what he did to me and I told him that it was because I believed honestly that he is not going to fight the cause of the Southwest and I felt strongly that the cause of the Southwest needed to be fought because of June 12 and in view of what Abacha did to our people, and he told me that he is a son of the southwest and he is in power now, so why would I so be against him. He said that we should do it together now, and he convinced me and I realized that I was wrong about him in many respect and it took courage to admit that. So that was how I started helping him, supporting him, I will go to Abuja every weekend to see him, myself and Akin Oshuntokun, my best friend, and that was how I got close to him and I never thought for once that I will be in his government. I was a member of the campaign office and I worked very hard for him. I worked very closely with him but I never though I will be in his government and he did not tell me anything. All of a sudden, after he won the election, the next thing was that he appointed me as a Special Assistant on Public Affairs and he called me and told me that I must defend him at all cost no matter what, and I said any job I do, I do it well and I will do it for him, but that he should allow me to do it my own way, and he allowed me and that was how I started working for him
NF: (Cut in) that was why you defended him on whatever he did?
Fani-Kayode: I believed in everything he was doing and I defended him very well because that was my job and I was proud of him and am still proud of him and I felts that it is very important that those that were telling lies about him and those that were trying to pull down his government by some of the lies that they were telling should be challenged squarely. Though this is democracy and they have the right to express themselves but we also have the right to tell the truth. I was brought up in the British tradition of politics Anyway, which is that you have to tell the truth and say it courageously and that was precisely what I did no matter what happened because that was my job and my job was to defend Mr. President, I am his armour bearer and I defended him with everything that’s I had.
NF: Now, coming down to Osun State, we have heard and seen signs that you are coming to run for the gubernatorial race of Osun State in 2011, how far is this true and if true, why?
Fani-Kayode: Firstly, don’t you think that after being a Federal Minister twice, a Special Assistant to the President and having practiced Law for more that 27 years don’t you think with my pedigree and background and what my father did for Ile-Ife and what my great grand father did for Ile-Ife by bringing Christianity to Ile-Ife, I meant Rev. Kayode who took Christianity to Ife, don’t you think I am qualified to be the governor of Osun State? Of course, I am very qualifies and yes! I have the interest to do so and I will do so subject to the approval of my party and subject to the approval and blessing of Kabiesi, the Ooni of Ife, who I considered to be the father of the whole South-West. As far as I am concerned he is our father and at the end of the day, he makes the decision for us and we don’t do anything outside of him. For once, if led by the spirit of God which I am, I will definitely run for the governorship of Osun State. If I get the blessings and support of the party, that is the PDP and Kabiesi, the Ooni and the people of Ile-Ife, I will do so because I will want to represent them at the highest level and do the very best that I can for them because my people deserve it. They deserve good and purposeful representation and I am making myself available to them this time around.
NF: When you were nominated as a Minister by President Obasanjo then, were you afraid when you were about to meet the Senate for screening?
Fani-Kayode: No! I did not fear, if you know me very well, you will know one thing about me, that I don’t fear easily. There is this saying in Nigeria now “I no send” (serious laugh) you know that saying “I no send (Laugh continues) let me tell you “ I no send ooo” you are looking at a man, wey no send ooo”. “I no dey fear” (still laughing). The only person I fear in this life is God Almighty. Am telling you. I was not scared at all because I know that I have done my home work and had nothing to hide, we had prayed and that is the most important thing, I knew God was with me, so what is there to fear. You know, no matter what the challenge is, if you know you’ve prayed and worked hard and that God is with you and it is your destiny to get somewhere, then you go for it, so I had no doubt in my mind that we would get through that. A lot of people were very supportive and helpful at that time and I also got a lot of encouragement and support from many Senators and of course, President Obasanjo was very wonderful because many people approached him to remove my nomination and he refused to do so. And I thank God that I scaled through at the first time and I remember him telling me that if they had rejected me ten times, he would have been sending back my name each time. That is a kind of father we had in President Olusegun Obasanjo and that is why we loved him so much so I was not scared at all, I knew it would be tough, and I knew I will make it. In fact, it was the toughest in the history of Nigeria, I was inside the Senate for two and forty-five minutes and they asked me about every aspect of my life and I gave the clear cogent answers and I thanked God for what he did in my life that Day.
NF: Sir, What is the relationship between you and your kinsman, Senator Iyiola Omisore because some people are insinuating, back home in Ile-Ife, that he knows about your present predicament, that is, your arrest by the EFCC and the subsequent court case? What is your reaction to this?
Fani-Kayode: You have to ask Iyiola his own role in the matter. You have to ask him based on all kinds of allegations flying around against him and all kinds of rumour. There is no doubt about that, but you know, the Bible says that “a man’s enemy is a member of his own household” and it also says that “he who repays good with evil, evil will never leave his household.” God knows who did what, but one thing I know is that God is not mocked and if God says somebody is going somewhere or somebody will be something, no man can stop it, so whether it is Iyiola or somebody else, that is entirely their own ‘wahala’ and their own problem, it is God that will judge them, I don’t know, I wont say more than that, but if it is him. It is God that will judge him, if it is not him whoever it is, God will judge that person, you understand me, enh! But I heard this allegations and rumours but I am not the person to ask, go and ask the man himself, not me what his role is, ask him.
NF: Sir, when you are in the government of President Obasanjo, can you tell us some of the things, if any, that you did for Ife and Osun in general?
Fani-Kayode: Well, that is a tough question and I can spend a lot of time on it, but first of all you have to understand my psychology, am an Ife to the core, I may not have spent much time there but I am proud of that’s heritage, am proud of my people and I love my people but I don’t just say it, I wear it and I carry it wherever I go, you understand me, before I even started politics, have been going to Ile-Ife since 1987, 88 and 89 during the politics of SDP and NRC and have been playing politics since that time but it was more at the National level, you understand, and I have loved Ife since then but I think the first input I made for Ife was when Iyiola Omisore was arrested and detained for the murder of Chief Bola Ie and I was held by the fact that people were not talking about Iyiola of being a murderer and a killer but people outside Ile-Ife and Osun State were talking about Ifes being murderer and killers and there was I from Ife and being the only Ife in corridor of power in the presidency, but they use to abuse us all the time, insult us, insult my people in my presence and that time I did not like Iyiola Omisore at all, I didn’t like his way of playing politics, I thought that this is a man whose education is questionable, I just didn’t like the guy, but I saw that he is an Ife being persecuted for something that I believe he did not know anything about and apart from that, I believed that he has suffered because Hon. Olagbaju (Misty) was one of his followers and has been killed and I felt that our people are being killed and persecuted and I felt that I needed to do something to help my kinsman at that time even though I did not personally like Iyiola at that time. But the first thing I did was to support the Olagbaju’s family, even though I never knew Misty personally, I supported the wife and children and not only that, I went to his father’s house to pay me respect even though I never met him before, I just joined government and did not know this man, but I went to him because he is an Ife, not only that I went to Iyiola Omisore’s father’s house to pray for him even though I didn’t like the guy at the time but because he is an Ife, then after that, I decided in my heart that whatever I have to do to help this boy and I called him a boy, am sorry to leave detention because everyman is innocent until proven guilty even if you have the evidence, prove it in court don’t just go and lock a man up at that time and I urged President Obasanjo to ensure that he has a fair trial, I kept urging the President and I kept getting in touch with Omisore. He would phone me from his cell or I will call him, I went to see his wife on member of occasions, I supported them, I encouraged them, I prayed for them, I fasted for them not because I liked him but because he’s an Ife and I realized that time that Ife is under siege, nobody like us at that time unless they wanted to lie to you everybody was abusing us that time but I stood up for Ife, everywhere that I was even within the Presidency, at meetings, at discussions everywhere they attacked us on the issue of Uncle Bola Ige, I will defend Ife even though Uncle Bola was like a father to me, I want you to understand, it was not easy for me because the whole of Bola Oge family were not happy with me knowing my relationship with Uncle Bola that how will I be doing this but because this fellow is an Ife and because Ifes were under attack, it was no longer Iyiola but the whole Ife issue then “Pe awon Ife pa Bola Ige” (meaning the Ifes killed Bola Ige) and at the end of the day, to your tents oh! Israel and it was painful for me because I also believed that these people are innocent and are being persecuted and I stood for him and he cannot deny that before God and man and I fought for him. We thanked God that the case was over, he thanked me profusely and he was very happy but I told him that I did not do it for him, that I did it for Ife. After that I continued my work and I was made a Minister. And when I was made a minister, the same Iyiola Omisore was very helpful to me at the ministerial nomination; I won’t hide that from you. He now said he would repay me back for the good I did to him and he helped me. And he was the only person that helped me from Osun during my ministerial nomination screening in the Senate because he was my Senator and my representative and secondly because he knew me and felt he owe me, he helped me immensely and we got past the screening and I became a Minister, while as a Minister, I worked with him closely both at Culture and Aviation because he was the chairman of Senate Committee on Culture and was also a member of the Aviation Committee so we worked closely together, I also benefited from his wealth of experience and he also benefited from mine, I have problem, he will help me, he has problem, I will help him and we were very close. You will remember in those days, we used to go to Ile-Ife together and I didn’t know he has problem at home at that time but he’s a friend and I never, never betray my friends and I always stand by them when they have problem. Everybody warned me that I cannot rely on this man, that he will betray me and hurt me and I said well, I leave to God if that will be the case and we became friends and we were friends for a very long time but all of a sudden this man cut off from me and after that I started hearing rumours that he was manipulating situations towards me, manipulating people against me all because in the name of wanting to stop me from being governor of Osun State. And I told people that I don’t have the intention of being the governor at that time and I told him also that I have no intention, so what is the big deal, eventually the EFCC thing came up and he was compelled by the Ifes to go and surety for me in the first time, he stood as surety for me and the case was thrown out and the charges withdrawn. For how many months did I stay in Abuja waiting for the EFCC and I did not want to travel before they brought the charges, so the just kept me in Abuja for several months and after that somebody told me that, I wont mention the person’s name now said well, let them just go and charge me and they charged me to court. From that time, Iyiola Omisore came to see me in Prison but I haven’t seen him since then and he hasn’t call me since also. Put 2 and 2 together you will get 5, if a man is your friend, you are now in prison, you don’t hear from him, nor receive a phone call from him, fine, they said he is very close to the Minister and the power that be and he is controlling the whole place, good luck to him, but he is not God, he is not God and I am telling you now that if it comes to a fight for the nomination of the governorship, I will give him a fight and we will fight it to the ground because it is not the size of the dog in the fight but rather it is the size of the fight in the dog and I don’t fear death, if anyone feels that he can kill me and stop me that way, I don’t fear death, you are dealing with a different person now, you cant kill a man that believes he is already dead, do you understand me, I don’t fear death, so am not intimidated by threat of being killed, that if I run, they will do what they did to Bola Ige on me, “I no dey fear, anything that tries that God will strike that person dead am telling you, not by my hands because I don’t kill people, I have never shed human blood but no man that has blood on his hands can overcome me, no matter what, even if he has all the money in the world, anybody, if you have blood on your hands, you cannot overcome me, no matter who or what you think you are, it is not possible. Let me tell you, my position about the governorship is that Ile-Ife deserves the governorship, whether through PDP or any other party, I wont be in any group or party that did not give the governorship to Ife this time around, just get that very clear because Ife is due for it. It will be a shame and disgrace if Ife did not get the governorship this time now, am not saying it has to be me and certainly don’t believe it should be Iyiola Omisore because I don’t think he is qualified and I don’t think it has to be me at all cost but what am telling you is that I am interested and am also telling you that it will be a shame and a disgrace if we don’t get it this time around, if PDP don’t offer it to Ife, other party will do so and I will also say this, one of the things that is also did for Ife is that I appointed a lot of people to positions within government when I was a Minister of Culture and Aviation from Ile-Ife not because they were Ifes alone, but because they were very qualified to do those jobs and I am very proud of their efforts, many of them were Iyiola Omisore’s boys, I did not know that time, but they were representing Ife slots and not Omisore, you know my heart is neither here nor there, at least they are Ifes even though if most of them don’t show gratitude for it right now, but they are Ifes and they got those jobs and I am very proud of the fact that we got them those jobs and we have more qualified people in Ife that are not given jobs at that time, now one of the things that the Senate Committee on Aviation wanted to use against me when they probed the N19.5 billion was the fact that I employed Ifes and people from Osun State and I gave them appointments in the various parastatals under the Ministry of Aviation and when I went to the Committee, I told them that I had no regret for that and I have no apology to anybody for that because these people are highly qualified for the jobs and they are doing excellently well and they all have rights for jobs, so why would I not put them in, that I have no regret about for that whatsoever and because of that, they wanted to ban me from politics for five years, a committee that Iyiola Omisore is a member of, and they wanted to ban me for five years because I put Ifes and Osun people into parastatals, of course the Senate in plenary threw it out saying they don’t have the power to ban anybody, they didn’t say I stole money, they didn’t say I did anything, others they said should be prosecuted but they didn’t say I should be prosecuted, my crime was to put Osun and Ife people in positions and I have no regret for it, if I am opportuned again, I will do it all over again because my people deserve to work.
NF: Sir, about this N19.5 billion issue, what can you say about your innocence or otherwise?
Fani-Kayode: I will not talk about the case itself because it will be a contempt of the court but what I will said is that I have the right to reiterate my innocence, am absolutely innocent of all the charges, nobody has alleged that I stole any money from the N19.5 billion, not even the EFCC, not a penny of the money that I administer, when they saw it they withdrew the charges on the N19.5billion from the Abuja Court against me, they have not brought those charges again because there is no evidence of my wrong doing, the money that I administer, the N3.8 billion of the N19.5 billion it is their for everybody to see what we use the money for, before I went to office, N8 billion was spent and it disappeared, nobody know where it went and I am the one that blew the whistle and exposed it to the President that this money was missing and the people that were responsible are now being prosecuted for the in an Abuja High Court, okay and I left N7.2 billion in the coffers of the intervention fund which is a record which everybody said I must have been mad to do that but I know they didn’t bring me into government to steal government money and I thinks it is not madness but the right thing to do and I am very proud of that and the records are there, I can show you the Bank statements which is why up till now, nobody has accused me of stealing any money from the intervention fund or even public funds what is in Court I will not discuss you can watch the court proceedings in full and am very happy the way it is going, we are presenting a vigorous and excellent defense on all issues and we will continue to do so and neither can I be intimidated by anybody because of any further arrest and further charges, if anybody likes, they can charge me and arrest me for the next ten years, they will not find anything that have done wrong because God is with me.
NF: Sir, people of Ife are commending you on your various inputs and achievements but their grouse with you is that you are too far away home, what is your reaction to this?
Fani-Kayode: No, the question of distance, it is a question of coming at the right time, you know, I am a regular visitor to the Palace, and also to those that are close to me in Ife, I just don’t believe that it is right for me to be coming to Ile-Ife to present myself for governorship before the time is right, you know, it will be an insult to the party and to the people, the timing has to be right and that is why I am talking to you right now to tell you that I am interested subject to the support and approval of Kabiesi Ooni and subject to the support of my party members and as time goes by I will be coming more and more often because I want to know my people better just as they want to know me because we are going to work together, we are going to rule Osun State together, it is the time for our people. I don’t fight for public office just to go there to serve myself. I don’t need anything from government, am very very comfortable and I thank God for that, my family have been comfortable and very okay for the past three generations, infact four generations. My grandfather was a lawyer trained in Cambridge University, as was my father and myself, my daughter is finishing there soon, my great grand father was an Anglican Priest and leading member of the Anglican Church that took Christianity to Ile-Ife, so I don’t need money from anybody, I don’t want to go into government to steal unlike some that I know, am not a 419ner, I don’t kill people, I don’t have blood on my hands, I believed that I am qualified if the people want me and I will make myself available to them because I‘ll be working with them closely if I get the opportunity to serve them and that that is all I want to do, I will interact, I will work with them and by the grace of God, we will get to where God has destined us to be.
NF: Are you married? If yes how many wives do you have and how many children?
Fani-Kayode: I am happily married, I have one wife and five children, and they all lived outside Nigeria now. And I must also tell you that out of respect for my people in Ife, I have said a lot of things here today. And since I left government on May 29th, 2007, this is the first formal interview that I am granting to any Newspaper anywhere in the world. And I am doing this to Newspapers from Ile-Ife because am an Ife, because I am proud of Ife and because I want to champion the course of Ife and not just Ile-Ife but Osun State in general and that explains why I chose to speak to you first.