Immediate past Minister of Mines and Steel Development and governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr Kayode Fayemi, in the July election in Ekiti State, speaks, in this interview, on why his aspiration will succeed.
Following the rancour that characterised the APC primary, where you emerged as candidate, how far have you gone in your reconciliatory efforts with former aspirants?
APC has once again proved to bookmakers that common interest supersedes personal interest. It was easier to reconcile with my former co-contestants because we all have the same purpose, to restore our values by dislodging the PDP government. To the glory of God and massive synergy from the former aspirants, we are making progress. Ekiti 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 the former 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 about four years ago.
Many people are asking, why do you want to be governor again having once served in that capacity?
My quest to be governor again is borne out of my commitment to the well-being of my people. Each time I go round Ekiti, I see the pains on the faces of the 25,000 elderly persons who benefited from our social security scheme, the 600 people who were employed into the peace corps; the 10,000 volunteers who took N10, 000 per month, among others, but have been cut off from these safety nets by the Fayose administration. The agonies of the beneficiaries of many abandoned physical projects and social welfare programs give me sleepless nights. For instance, hundreds of boreholes that we constructed in public schools are not functional today due to lack of maintenance, over 40,000 people benefitting from our various social investment schemes have been put out to hang and dry. Go to Ikogosi, you will be sorry. The most painful aspect is workers’ welfare. This is painful because workers’ welfare was one of their major campaign promises back then. Most of our tertiary institutions now run epileptic calendar because of strikes. No civil servant in Ekiti has received salary this year. Ditto for pensioners who have not been paid anything this year while 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 is simply misplacement of priority
Are you not afraid that the Fayose government may use the White Paper to get you barred from contesting the election?
The White Paper 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. And this is a settled matter by the Supreme Court courtesy of the case between Atiku Abubakar and the Federal Government 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. Rabiu Kwankwaso also went through the same experience. He was governor in Kano, went to become a minister and, when he was about coming back as governor, then-governor brought a commission of inquiry report. Of course, it was rubbished and the man became governor. I am not the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) but there is judicial precedence. Therefore I am sure that the so-called White Paper is of no effect. If anyone has any concrete/verifiable case against me, he/she should prove it in court. 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 debt, leaving the balance of 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 Ekiti was servicing the debt 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 of the time we left are in public domain for people to see and make their own judgment. Ekitikete are no fools.
It is believed that you are planning to use federal might against the PDP in the July election, just like they did to you in 2014.
The events leading to the election of 2014 in Ekiti 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 security agencies indeed had a role to play in providing security for the election, we do not see why the whole state should be locked down. There are many questions begging for answers: who ordered the clampdown on the opposition? Who gave the orders to stop then-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 aviation authorities shutting down airports in Akure and elsewhere on the day our party had its last campaign rally in Ado-Ekiti. This was targeted at the opposition. Same day, the helicopter flying then-Governor Adams Oshiomhole from Benin Airport to Akure en route to Ekiti for our 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? The current whining of the 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 the opposition and every law abiding individual. We are set to win in a free, fair and credible process.
Should you come back as governor, what would be your areas of priority?
We are bringing on board this time a message of consolation, hope and restoration. Consolation for the tolerance and perseverance of the last four years and hope for speedy restoration of abandoned programs, infrastructures, industries, values, projects and all the good things we lost due to some actions or inactions of the incumbent administration.
The business of electing rests with the people of Ekiti and I believe they are intelligent people who can compare what the situation was when we left office and the way it is now and what the future holds for our children and people. When they look at what we did in office side by side with what is on ground now, they know the difference. This coming election is not about me or the APC but about what is good for Ekitikete. This election is therefore a referendum for Ekitikete to either support me to reactivate the good governance that was cut short about four years ago or to approve the continuity of the abysmal performance of the current administration.
Despite the electoral result of 2014, you appear very much confident. What gives you the confidence?
Our confidence is in the people. Our people have gone through a lot of pains in the last three and a half years of the PDP government in the state and have come to the conclusion that the PDP government is a product of fraud and it is a government that does not care about their welfare. The World Bank Ease of Doing Business study ranked Ekiti when I was governor as the number five place where you can do business easily in Nigeria, we moved from number 34 to number 5. The kids that entered secondary school when I was governor were the ones who took WASSCE and NECO exams and excelled. You do not get that in one year of being in government. Een though the Fayose administration is trying to claim credit for that, it is the cumulative effect of the work we did that resulted in what those kids achieved.
If you move from that to the DFID assessment of governance, Ekiti was ranked as the state with the most transparent budget when I was governor. Why was this possible? Because I focused on ensuring that budget is responsive to the yearnings of the people.
If you move to tourism, it is the same approach, People who visited Ikogosi when I was governor can attest to what we did and those are the kind of things that would draw people to our state. Ekiti became a kidnappers den when I left office because security was compromised, accountability was compromised; government was also compromised because what we had was a one-man show. These are the areas where I would make a difference.
Is it true that the APC government would ban Okada, sack teachers and local government workers?
There is no reason to sack local government workers or any worker for that matter. I believe downsizing is the only option available for the PDP government because they are short of ideas on how to get themselves out of the self-inflicted quagmire. I have said it repeatedly to the people of the state that the welfare of the people is what is paramount to us in APC and that is what the in-coming APC government will pursue. We never had any issue with Okada riders. What we insisted they must do was to comply with safety rule, that is, wear crash helmet so as to reduce the level of injury in case of an accident. Similarly we have no plan to sack any teacher or local government workers. We didn’t sack any worker or teacher during our four years in government and I believe we have very cordial relationship with different categories of workers in Ekiti. As a matter of fact, under my watch, the civil service will be strengthened, re-orientated and reequipped to do better. Where necessary, we are going to employ more hands to energize the service. All the youth empowerment and employment schemes that were cancelled by the current administration will be resuscitated to provide employment and succour to as many youths as possible. Can I be planning all these and be thinking of downsizing at the same time?
What are your plans for youth empowerment and employment?
We are going to restore, reorganize and repackage all the abandoned life-changing youth empowerment programs to be more effective and efficient for a much larger number of the youths. Peace Corps, Dagrin, YCAD, Youth Volunteers and others will be resuscitated. My vision is simply to make poverty history in Ekiti. In order to do that, I believe we need a combination of approaches. Therefore, apart from the aforementioned programs of our government, I feel very strongly that one critical sector that we can make poverty history is agribusiness. We are going to maximize our potentials in agriculture and mining while getting our youth empowered through various government interventions in these sectors.
Job creation and empowerment for the youths have always been a major concern for me and was a cardinal program of my administration. This is an area where we excelled back then. Ekiti youths are innovative and eager to earn legitimate living if rightly guided and motivated. Government is a continuum in an ideal clime but unfortunately that is not the case in Ekiti with the present administration. Just like they did with physical projects, all the life-changing programs for the youths were also jettisoned. The greatest disservice to the youths was the cancellation of the youth in agriculture, YCAD, scheme..
How do you rate the performance of the current PDP government in the state?
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 interest of the people was our guiding principle. However that cannot be said of the present administration. Everything about Fayose and his government is smokescreen. What we had then was governance at its best. We are coming back to build on that. Bridges are meant to provide solution and prevent havoc. What solution is the bridge on 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 that are begging for attention. And the shrouded cost of that bridge is enough to pay three months’ salary of the entire workforce of Ekiti civil service. I will rather toe the path chosen by Governor Tambuwal of Sokoto State who said he cannot jettison the welfare of his people for overhead bridge.
How do you react to the allegation that you plunged Ekiti into a debt that would take 25 years to service?
We took N25billion loan for infrastructural development not for salaries or frivolities. The bulk of that money was spent on roads and, when I was governor, some of the roads are not the way they were and there have been no maintenance. There were about 14 roads that we spent about 14 billion of that 25billion on across the state. We didn’t stop there. We revived the Ire Burnt Bricks project, it is still there. We brought back Ikogosi which became a tourist delight. We built the new Government House out of this money. We built The Pavilion, a 12, 000-seater-pavilion. We built a civic centre. In fact, if you calculate what we spent the N25billion on, you will discover that we spent more than N25 billion. So there is no basis but you have a governor who really cannot be accused of showing fidelity to the truth.
I have been gone for three years before he suddenly remembered that I took a bond, first year, no enquiry, second year, no enquiry, third year, you now brought your kangaroo enquiry in which five of the six people on the panel were actually serving officials of government, people who you paid salaries to and could not look you in the eye and tell you that what you were doing was absolute rubbish and then you brought a retired judge to chair the panel. But leaving aside all that, part of what you said I committed as an offence, the people you were citing came to the panel of enquiry, Access Bank for example came to the panel and told you categorically that there was no missing N835 Million from UBEC, that they took their money back because the state did not meet the obligation attached to the grant that was to be given to the state.