The Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, thursday formally unveiled his intention to contest for the 2019 presidential election, vowing to defeat President Muhammadu Buhari.
The tough-talking chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governors' Forum challenged his party men from the northern part of the country where the party zoned the presidency to for 2019 to stop dilly-dallying and come forward to declare their intentions.
He said the constitution of Nigeria guarantees every Nigerian the democratic right to contest for the presidency, adding that zoning is only a gentleman agreement which does not foreclose anyone from participating in the process.
"I do not stand before Nigerians today to present myself as one with the answers to all our national questions.
Rather, I present myself as one with the required knowledge, understanding, competence and above all, the political will to coordinate the human and material resources that we have in abundance to achieve national greatness," he said.
The governor, however, said his seeking the ticket of the PDP to contest the 2019 presidential election is without prejudice to the party's position on the zoning of presidency to the North.
He challenged politicians from the North interested in the presidential race to come forth now and declare their intentions, adding that Nigerians would no longer subscribe to a packaged president.
Fayose said: "I am a supporter of competence and capacity, especially now that this country needs young and able leaders that can take our country out of this present state of hopelessness.
"Most importantly, despite that the party has zoned the presidency to the North, it may interest you that no one has come out in this manner to show interest, and our party should not wait or beg anyone to fly its flag. Do we now say that if no one comes out from the North, the party won't have a candidate?"
Speaking about his chances, Fayose whose intermittent jabs at the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration drew applause from the audience, said PDP needs to field a strong candidate with right disposition to winning elections.
According to him, "When I was contesting for the governorship of Ekiti State, they were about 22 aspirants but I defeated them to become the governor. The party needs a candidate like me with a penchant for defeating the incumbents in electoral contests.
While insisting on his competence to rule the country, Fayose drew attention to his achievements in his state especially the feat recorded in education.
He lambasted the All Progressives Congress (APC) for incompetence and poor governance, adding that the economy has recorded its second worst investment inflow in 10 years under APC watch.
"Like they lied to win election, the APC government of President Buhari has been deceitful for over two years, and an end must come to this deceptive government by 2019.
"My party leaders, standing before you is Peter (The Rock) Ayodele Fayose, the man already destined by God to take Nigeria out of the present political and economic stagnations.
"You are all witnesses to my commitment to this party in this difficult period, where I have demonstrated uncommon courage that makes me stand out as capable of leading our country at this time.
"Our economy will be revived and returned to the path of progress that it was before we had the misfortune of having these clueless people in power. We will ensure diversification of the economy through agriculture, adequate supply of power and massive industrialisation, thereby creating employment for our youths," he said.
The former Minister of Aviation, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode, listed qualities of Fayose that stood out from his peers to include his uncommon courage, outspokenness and indefatigable approach to the cause of equity and fairness in the affairs of the country.
Fani-Kayode, who delivered his speech in fine prose to thrill the audience, described Fayose as a trusted ally who cares much about the down-trodden and does not support oppression of the weak.
Former Deputy Governor of Oyo State, Senator Iyola Omisore, said Fayose has shown himself as a man of courage who can change the state of things in the country for the better.
Meanwhile, speaking yesterday in Abuja, a member of the Board of Trustees of the PDP, Okwesilieze Nwodo, has said Fayose cannot contest in the party's primary poll for 2019 presidential election.
Nwodo, a former National Chairman of the PDP, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that party's ideology forbade Fayose and other members from the South from contesting in the presidential race in 2019.
He said the ideology would be followed to the letter in spite the governor's declaration.
"Fayose cannot run and I will tell you my reason," he said.
"When we formed PDP, the first battle we fought and won as a party was to zone the presidency to the South.
"Those of us from the south made a case because in the first republic, prime minister was from the North; in the second republic, the president was from the North, and in the third republic, a southerner won and the election was annulled.
"There was no way we could go back to the south and say let's elect a northerner again without giving the south a slot.
"A decision was taken that the presidency should come from the south and the chairman of the party to come from the North.
"That was how Solomon Lar became the chairman of PDP and secretary was zoned to the south; that was how I became the first secretary of the party."
Nwodo, a former governor of Enugu State, said the party would take a decision to ensure that its constitution and ordinances were respected.
He explained that those who tried it in the past failed to achieve their aim.
He said: "For example, late Abubakar Rimi, former Governor of Kano State paid for a form and wanted to run.
"Then I was the national secretary, I returned his cheque and informed him that the party had taken a decision that the presidential candidate could only come from southern Nigeria.
"When we went to the convention in Jos, he went to the venue and started to campaign without having a form because we didn't give him.
"We had to get some party leaders around to go and counsel him; we didn't want security agencies to manhandle or embarrass him and good counsel prevailed and he stepped down.
"That was what PDP did and now we did not only zone the presidency to the north, we have re-emphasised at every opportunity we had that the zoning will take place.
"So, the party will not collect expression of interest money from anybody else who is not from the North and will not issue him a nomination form to contest; no, we will not do that."
However, the euphoria of Fayose's declaration for the presidential election was cut short when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested top officials of his government.
According to EFCC Head of Media and Information, Wilson Uwujaren, the arrest was effected due to the refusal of the officials to honour the commission's invitation.
Uwujaren said: "Ekiti State Commissioner for Finance, Chief Toyin Ojo and the Accountant General, Mrs Yemisi Owolabi, are currently in the custody of the EFCC.
"They were picked up today following their refusal to honour previous invitations for interrogation in relation to pending investigation on the misuse of bailout funds by the Fayose administration," he added.
Meanwhile, efforts by the EFCC to challenge the Appeal Court's ruling dismissing the commission's application to get a stay of execution on the order to de-freeze the governor's two accounts with a new generation bank, suffered a setback yesterday, as the court adjourned the case to November 7.
Justice Ahmad Belgore of the Appeal Court, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti state capital, gave the fact that a notice of hearing of the date of the motion filed by EFCC was not yet served on the second respondent, Zenith bank, as reason for the adjournment.
Fayose has been having a running battle with the EFCC over the freezing of his two accounts on the allegation that the money in them were proceeds of crime.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court granted Fayose's lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, an order to de-freeze the governor's accounts by the bank on grounds that the EFCC suppressed the fact that Fayose, as a sitting governor enjoys immunity from criminal prosecution according to section 308 of the 1999 Nigeria constitution as amended.
Adjourning the hearing of EFCC's motion filed since June 22, to November 7, justice Belgore said the court could not proceed on hearing the motion yesterday as the hearing date notice was yet to be served on the second respondent which is the bank.