The Resident Electoral Commissioner of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Ekiti State, Mrs. Ayoka Olusola Adebayo, spoke with GBENRO ADESINA on the forthcoming governorship election re-run in the state and her relationship with former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Q: You and the Acting Governor of Ekiti State, Hon. Tunji Odeyemi, were with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo recently in his house in Ogun State. What for or could you give the details of the meeting?
A: I don’t know the Acting Governor of Ekiti State. I have not met him one-on-one, not to talk of talking to him. I only see him on the newspaper pages and on radio or television but we have never had any rapport together. In a nutshell, I did not go to Obasanjo with Governor Odeyemi as speculated or as you stated.
Q: Are you saying that you have not been to Abeokuta or Ota in the last one or two weeks to see Obasanjo?
A: I will not say that I don’t go to Abeoukuta, because I am from Abeokuta. I cannot deny it. I have never been to Abeokuta or Ota with the Acting Governor of Ekiti for anything, including a meeting. Please, kindly find out from Governor Odeyemi if he has ever met me or if he knows me. He does not know me and we have never met.
Q: What is the relationship between you and Obasanjo?
A: Because I am from Ogun State, I should know Obasanjo. There is no relationship more than that. I am also from Owu in Abeokuta, so you can see, but there is no special relationship between us aside from the fact that we are both from Ogun State.
Q: How would you react if people get to know that there is an amorous relationship between you and Obasanjo?
A: That is wrong. How can a right thinking person think of such? There is no such relationship and there cannot be such a relationship.
Q: But the book published by Mrs. Remi Obasanjo confirmed that?
A: It is wrong. The book you are talking about, I have it and I have read it. I also know that there is my picture there. But it is the picture we took during my birthday. Nothing was said about me in that book.
Q: You once had a confrontation with Mrs. Remi Obasanjo, just after Obasanjo came back from prison. It was stated that you were sitting beside Obasanjo and Remi asked you to stand up from Obasanjo’s side for her to sit, but you resisted. What is your own side of the story?
A: Remi is like a sister to me and I know that she is the wife of our former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. One way or the other, we have contributed positively to each other’s life. There has never been a confrontation of any sort between us. How can there be a confrontation? There is no confrontation and there cannot be. The so-called picture, I have seen it and it was taken on my 70th birthday during the church service. I have never been asked at any occasion by Remi to stand up from where I was sitting beside Obasanjo. It has never happened. That is all I have to say.
Q: What is your level of preparation for the forthcoming election re-run?
A: Thank you very much for that question. Immediately we heard about the judgment of the Appeal Court, that it has ordered for a re-run election in Ekiti State, the second day, we started our preparation. We have all our papers which they used in the court. So immediately the judgment was pronounced, all our papers which had been with them were bought back to our office and immediately the National Commissioner of INEC was briefed. Even last Friday, I was with the National Commissioner so as to give him update about the re-run election. We have to collect all the papers. We have to let him know, though he has heard it from the media. So, we have furnished him information as we are supposed to do. We have informed him about the local governments that the re-run election will take place in. We have furnished him with information about the number of wards that the re-run election will take place in. All other information with regard to preparations, compilations are now with my officer who is on his way to Abuja.
Q: A hard task is ahead of you. The reason is that you once conducted election that was not free and fair which eventually brought Olusegun Oni to office. How do you convince the people of Ekiti, the people of Nigeria and the entire international community that you will not make the same mistake you once made and that you will conduct free and fair election this time around?
A: This time around, God helping us, we will conduct a credible election. We are going to have free and fair election and that is why we are not going to make use of ad hoc staff. The election we conducted in 2007, we had to make use of ad hoc staff and you know that they are not our staff. But this time around, we are making use of our staff, senior staff for that matter. These are the people who are already working in our office. We are not making use of the staff of INEC in Ekiti State alone. We will draw our staff from Kogi, Oyo, Ondo, Osun and other neighbouring states to join us in the election. I know that they will not mess up. We are aware that the entire world is watching and we are not ready to disappoint them. I will not disappoint anyone in the forthcoming re-run election. By now, I trust and I know that we will have free and fair election.
Q: This is another period that staff of INEC in Ekiti will be rich, more especially, the officials at the top level. This is the time when politicians from different political parties will come around to ask for your favour, which will not be for free. They will come with enough Ghana-must-go bags containing money and other juicy promises. How do you handle that in this hot seat?
A: We are paid. As I told you, we will make use of our senior staff. They will collect their salaries and they will still be paid for the job they want to do during the election. Knowing that the government has tried by paying you your salaries and for working during the election and you know that after some years that you have worked, say, 35 years, you have something to fall back on after retirement, you will not allow any Ghana-must-go to destroy your future.
Q: But don’t forget that you were appointed as INEC commissioner in Ekiti by a PDP-led administration?
A: I am not appointed under PDP government. I was appointed by President Umar Musa Yar’Adua and I am not for any party. I was happy when I came here in January. When I came to Ekiti, I had a meeting with stakeholders. All the political parties were present and I told them that I am here to serve Nigeria, including Ekiti State. I have not come to Ekiti State to serve PDP, AC, AD, NCP or any other party. I have come to Ekiti State to serve all the political parties equally as well as everybody, including our dear Nigeria and that is what I will do.