Dr. John Olukayode Fayemi, a former governor of Ekiti State and a native of Isan-Ekiti in Oye Local Government of Ekiti State resigned as the Minister of Solid Minerals Development on 30 May 2018, to pursue his ambition of governing Ekiti again on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Now that the 14 July governorship election is inching closer, TheNEWS team, made up of ADEMOLA ADEGBAMIGBE, YOMI OSOBA, GBENRO ADESINA and AYODELE EFUNLA hit the roads in Ekiti with Fayemi who was busy selling himself to the electorate on his vision for the state. Apart from his direct message to the Ekitikete, Fayemi seized the opprtunity TheNEWS offered to explain what he has for the people. Excerpts:
You were once governor of this state. Why do you seek a return?
Yes, you are right. I have governed Ekiti state before now, but I feel a profound sense of unfinished business. Unfinished business in the sense that all that I did in office had gone pear-shaped in the name of politics. May be few infrastructures have been sustained. At least you can still see the street lights. You can still see the Government House on top of the hill and you can still see some of the physical things. But particularly, our efforts in the area of human capital development, entrepreneurship, tourism development, healthcare have actually been severely damaged.
My quest to be governor again is born out of my sheer love and commitment to the well-being of my people. Each time I move round Ekiti, I see the pains on the faces of the 25,000 elderly persons who benefited from our social security scheme, 600 people who were employed into the peace corps, 10,000 volunteers who took N10,000 per month, among others but have been cut off from these safety nets by Fayose. The complaints and agonies of the beneficiaries of many abandoned physical projects and social welfare programs give me sleepless nights.
I will give you a couple of examples to demonstrate what I mean by that. Hundreds of boreholes in public schools are abandoned and not functional for lack of maintenance, over 40,000 people benefiting from our various social investment scheme have been put out to hang and dry. All that we did to better the lives of our people have been eroded in a lot of places, just go to Ikogosi, you will be sorry. Which sensible and reasonable person sees such laudable programs damaged/jettisoned and relax or go to sleep? These people have no clear understanding of how to run public offices. It is not about me or my sympathizers. It is largely about the interest and common good of Ekiti people. I am not an accidental/opportunistic politician. I am a goal getter. Government is a continuum. I inherited a huge magnitude of projects from Governor Segun Oni in 2010, l never abandoned them.
The most painful aspect is workers welfare. This is painful because workers welfare was one of their major premise of campaign back then. Most of our tertiary institutions now run epileptic calendar because of incessant strike. No civil servant in Ekiti state has received salary this year. Ditto, for the pensioners, none of them has received pension in 2018 and gratuity has not been paid for years. Yet the government keeps lying to the public about the financial situation of the state. Things are tight generally in the country no doubt but the problem of Ekiti state is simply misplacement of priority.
Over the past four years, Ekiti has retreated from the progressive values that we espoused in office and our grand ideals of human development. We have seen the entrenchment of the disdain for elders, traditional institutions, legislature, judiciary and all forms of constituted authorities. Without a doubt, Ekiti is in critical need of rescue.
I have been governor and I want to govern Ekiti state again. I’m not coming out of a sense of ambition, I’m coming out of a sense of duty, out of a profound sense of unfinished business which I believe only a progressive and ideological driven government can deliver as far as the state is concerned. I want to be Governor again to restore our dignity and bring succor to the hopeless. Ekiti people are being insulted, assaulted and mocked on a daily basis. We are known for our high level discipline, respect for elders, industry, literacy and wisdom. But what you hear now, “is this how Ekiti people are?” How can people regarded as well-read, refined and exposed make a character like the present governor rule them? That is why it is important for us to reclaim our land and restore our values.
There is this general belief that you are a candidate of Mr. President. What is your response to that?
I cannot deny the fact that I have the blessing of my boss, who is the overall leader of my party. I cannot also detach myself from the government in which I served. I worked for a principal, so it is not possible that I would be out campaigning the way I have been doing without haven gone to him to say “Sir, I am thinking about going back to Ekiti state and I need your blessing for me to pursue my ambition. If you don’t have any objection, I crave your indulgence to go home and repair the damage that has been done in my state.” If seeking and getting his nod and approval makes me his candidate, then I can boldly say to you that I am a candidate of Mr. President.
Truth be told though, anyone who knows President Buhari the way he functions would know that he is not the type that would interfere in a race that is clearly based on clear guidelines and principles. You have seen him demonstrating that consistently, including most recently, the issue of tenure elongation in our party. President Buhari is not the type we have seen within the PDP government, where the president says this is my man, and no one dares him. President Buhari won’t say that. Elections have been held and lost in many states by some APC governorship candidates because Mr. President is a sincere advocate of free and fair election unlike the pretending PDP who couldn’t practice what they preach. The invasion, harassment and manipulation that reigned supreme during governorship election under the watch of the PDP-led federal government are alien to civility and tenets of fair play.
I have the blessing and support of my boss but I can assure you that he is not the type that will manipulate the process to favour his own. He is a strong believer and advocate of free, fair and credible electioneering process.
You emerged winner of the primary election of your party. How far have you gone with reconciling with other aspirants?
First of all, permit me to once again express my profound gratitude to Ekitikete for their support for my aspiration and campaign so far. I equally want to use this opportunity to thank all APC leaders and party faithful. The peace and harmony my campaign is enjoying at the moment is because of the cooperation and support of all party leaders and members, especially my fellow aspirants. APC has once again proved to bookmakers that common interest supersedes personal interest. It was easier to reconcile with other aspirants because we all have the same purpose and objective, i.e, to reclaim our honor and restore our values by dislodging the PDP government and jointly prevent the continuity of their shenanigan in Ekiti state.
To the glory of God and massive synergy from fellow aspirants we are making tremendous and consistent progress. Ekiti state APC is today larger and stronger than we were before the primary election. You can see that in the way people from the other side are crossing over. A tree doesn’t make a forest. I owe the success of the process so far to the cooperation, support and guidance of APC national and state leaders and my co-aspirants. They are on the same page with me. They are all solidly behind me to restore the good governance that was cut short in Ekiti state four years ago
Fayose’s style of eating at the local mama put and other pastimes are being copied by many politicians as populist. In fact his deputy, now your opponent, was shown on social media frying akara or sharing bread. What’s your take on this?
They are just mocking the electorate and I cannot engage in such actions. For instance, have you ever heard of my opponent frying akara or sharing bread before now? These individual shamelessly put up this acting because of election; just to fool the people giving the impression that they are one of them and that they can feel their pulse. But some of these actions must be analyzed. How many times did people see Chief Obafemi Awolowo eating boli on the road just to demonstrate that he was a populist or grassroots man? Awolowo was an intellectual not one given to such puerile acts. However his love for his people was unrivalled. I am proud to follow in that footstep.
You need more than occasional eating in mama-put, frying akara by the roadside or sharing bread to show that you genuinely love the people. Grassroot politics in my view means affecting the lives of people at the grassroots in a fundamental way and improving their lot. I will rather focus on bringing succour to the elderly people by sustaining their social welfare of N5,000 monthly allowance; creating opportunities and empowerment for the youths and helping the artisans, farmers and traders to bring out the best in them in their professions than entertaining them with unproductive road shows. Do they think our people are senseless? Workers/pensioners are hungry because of nonpayment of their salaries and pension, the ones who should pay them are shamelessly publicly eating for them to see. This act is insulting in Yoruba land.
I will not fool my people with seasonal comic display in the name of election. How does the corn you eat on the street, the food you eat by the roadside, the akara you fried or the Okada you rode to campaign change the live of the people? I will consider you a populist and your actions worthy of emulation if there are verifiable evidence that those actions improve the standard of living of our people. I didn’t fry akara, eat on the street or share bread by the roadside but I made sure that all the 133 towns in Ekiti state felt the presence of government. So, it was not by accident that there were over 1,200 projects spread across various communities in Ekiti when I was leaving. I prefer to be remembered by the projects and programs I delivered to my people than by the number of times I eat in mama-put or on the street.
Some of your supporters are afraid that your opponent can use the recent administrative panel report or was it a judicial commission report to orchestrate your ban…
Which panel report are you talking about? You are far too knowledgeable to know that this cannot stop me or anybody for that matter. Yes it used to be the case in this country that you can use an administrative panel report or a judicial commission report to orchestrate the ban of a political office holder, but that period has since gone because it became very clear that this was a witch-hunting tool.
May I also remind you that there is a settled matter by the Supreme Court of Nigeria on this point and that is Atiku Abubakar vs Federal Government of Nigeria that you cannot use the report of a commission of inquiry or an administrative panel to ban anyone from public office. To the best of my knowledge, I have not even been asked to show up in any court over any allegation.
My brother and friend, Rabiu Kwankwaso also went through the same experience. He was governor, he went to become minister and when he was about coming back as governor, the governor of the then Kano State brought a commission of inquiry report. Of course, it was rubbished and the man became governor.
Though I am not the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), however, there is judicial precedence. Therefore I am sure that the so called white paper is of no effect. It’s a product of shallow minds and it is impotent. If anyone has any concrete/verifiable case against me, he/she should prove it in the court.
Appraise the Fayose government. People say he built a bridge and other infrastructure.
Did you just say other infrastructure? Well I will leave Ekitikete to be the judge of that. Every government has its own focus. I went into office with a clear manifesto and agenda, which guided our performance in office. The welfare and overall best interest of the people was our guiding principle. However that cannot be said of the present administration. Everything about Fayose and his government is all about smokescreen. The more you look the less you see. There was no manifesto then and there is no manifesto now.
Every budget of the Fayemi era requested and adopted briefs from every community that make up Ekiti state. For the first time in Nigeria’s history, a governor does not do budget until he has visited communities for their inputs and demands. Can you compare that to a government that’s built around the irrational decision of just one man? He came on board with no clear agenda and now they are talking about continuity of same.
I was the only governor in the history of Ekiti state that has continued with the project of his predecessors. Every governor that came after Governor Adebayo had abandoned previous projects, some of which do not resurface again. One thing I did in office was to clear the backlog of past projects. There were roads that were 20% completed, mobilization fees that were just 10% flagged off and not paid, most of them abandoned the projects. I believe it is not fair; government projects shouldn’t be personal projects. I made sure there was no abandoned project in my era because money invested on those projects belong to Ekiti people.
I had an agenda, everybody knows the agenda, it is something the people can recite and they recite it all the time. The eight point agenda, the road map to Ekiti recovery. It was like a mantra. I don’t just stand on my agenda, I also go into communities and discuss objectively with them; what are your priorities for next year? What would you like me to do? There is no community that you can get to in Ekiti state that you would not find six or more projects determined by the people, not imposed on them. It was good governance at its best. We are coming back to build on that and make it better.
Bridges are meant to provide solution and prevent havoc. What solution is the bridge of that length on a dry land providing for Ekitkete? What havoc is that bridge preventing in the history of motoring in Ado Ekiti? You need to critically look at the bridge from these two angles for you to understand how irrelevant the bridge of that magnitude is to its location. There are many roads within and around Ado Ekiti township that are begging for attention. The final but shrouded cost of that bridge is enough to pay three months salary of the entire workforce of Ekiti state civil service. I will rather toe the path chosen by Governor Tambuwal recently. Just some days ago, it was all over the news that Governor Tambuwal of Sokoto state said he cannot jettison the welfare of his people for overhead bridge.
What do you expect from a government that built bridge according to them, so that our people don’t have to go to Lagos or Abuja before they see overhead bridge? This implies that the bridge was built without serious consideration for its economic or social value rather it was built for show. However at what cost and whose expense? There is nothing exciting or inspiring about the present government. Talking about this government is sickening. This is a government that cannot be taken seriously because it thrives only on lies, propaganda and blackmail.
Ekiti people now know the difference between oil and water. There is no comparison between them and us. Everything that we did was informed by analysis, deep thinking of the Ekiti condition and what will take us speedily to sustainable development. If we do road infrastructure in a landlocked state, rural place, it is because we are very clear in our mind that those who want to bring the proceeds of their farms to the urban centres would be able to do it in a relatively seamless and painless manner. We connected our state with a network of multiple roads. It was not an accident when people care and set up facilities in Ekiti state. When I became governor, you could only refer to one standard hotel in Ekiti, maybe two: Fountain and Pathfinder. Before I left as governor in Ekiti, not fewer than 10 standard hotels have sprung up. For me, it is always about our people, it is not about self. There are verifiable evidence everywhere you go in Ekiti state that good governance was cut short four years ago. That summed up the rating of the present government.
PDP also claimed your government collected N35 billion commercial loan and N25 billion bond with nothing to show for them and that you plunged the state into debts that will end in 2036. What is your reaction?
They are just being mischievous because what we did was clear to everybody. One thing you cannot take away from the current administration in Ekiti state is their notoriety for bunkum. We took only N25 billion for infrastructure development, not for salaries, not for frivolities and those projects traversed the length and breadth of the state. The bulk of that money was spent on roads. When I was governor, the entire road network in this state changed. We spent about N14 billion out of the N25 billion on roads alone.
Besides, we brought back Ikogosi, we built the new Government House, we built a 12,000-seater pavilion and we built the civic centre out of this money. In fact if you calculate what we spent the loan on, we spent more than N25 billion. But, Ekiti state now has a governor, who is really notorious for being economical with the truth.
The present administration is a champion at twisting and distorting facts to score cheap political goals. Otherwise there should have been no controversy over this bond at all. There are verifiable records on what the bond was used for, including the payment plan and outstanding balance as at the time we left. However Fayose and his party decided to embark on character assassination with the bond issue because of my rising political profile and the imminence of the PDP candidates rejection at the coming gubernatorial poll.
They even claimed that their inability to pay workers salary is because of the bond my administration took. It is ridiculous that Fayose and his aides can still be lying and peddling inaccurate debt figures after the Debt Management Office (DMO) had published the debts taken by Fayose himself alone, in the last three years which has amounted to N56 billion, even though he swore and lied many times that he never borrowed a kobo.
We admit that we borrowed N25 billion to be defrayed within three years and records are there at the DMO that Fayemi paid back N14.5 billion of the debts, leaving the balance of only N10.5 billion before we left office on Oct. 16, 2014. If the official debt figure was N10.5 billion, how then did they come about the N35.34 billion they claimed to have used to service an outstanding debt of N10.5 billion? That means that the state was servicing the debts at an average of N1.1 billion monthly for them to have arrived at N35.34 billion. They lie shamelessly about anything and everything. Unfortunately for them the truth about our borrowing and outstanding as at the time we left are in public domain for people to see and make their own judgment. Ekitikete are not fools.
Not a few believed that Fayose and Jonathan used Federal Power against you the other time. The same people are now saying it is your turn to use the same advantage. What is your response to this?
The events leading to the election of 2014 in Ekiti state negate the principles of a free, fair and credible election. From the militarization of the election to the police attack on our supporters, arrest and detention of our leaders across the state and the use of huge funds to induce voters, the federal authorities skewed everything in favour of the PDP. While we believe that the various security agencies indeed have a role to play in providing the necessary security for the election, we do not see why the whole state should be locked down in a nonbelligerent situation like an election. There are many questions begging for answers: who ordered the clampdown of the opposition? Who gave the orders to stop Gov. Rotimi Amaechi from reaching Ado-Ekiti, as the Army captain who stopped and threatened to shoot him said he was acting under orders from above?
Also worth mentioning is the flagrant abuse of national institutions that led to the country’s aviation authorities shutting down airports in Akure and elsewhere on the same day that our party had its last campaign rally in Ado-Ekiti. This act of impunity was targeted solely at the opposition, and it runs against global standards. Lest we forget, on the same day the helicopter ferrying Governor Adams Oshiomhole from Benin Airport to Akure en route Ekiti for that final rally was prevented from taking off. Airports are never shut without the issuance of a NOTAM Notice to Airmen. Again, who gave the orders for the closure of the airports? This is an attestation to the fact that the security operatives were in the state more for a sinister motive than just to provide security for the election.
It is a known fact worldwide that dictators and criminals are the worst cowards. They are usually exposed at their weakest point when they are deprived of their weapon of intimidation, harassment and oppression. The current whining of PDP this time didn’t surprise many of us. However that is where we are different from them. We are not cowards like them and we cannot play their dirty games. Therefore, on our part, there will be no intimidation, harassment or oppression of opposition and every law abiding individual. We are set to win in a free, fair and credible process.