The Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by Governor Ayodele Fayose administration has concluded its assignment and submitted a report indicting you on the way you managed the finances of Ekiti State. Since then, we have not heard from you. Why have you kept mute?
You know my view about our friend, the alawada-in-chief (comedian-in-chief) in the Government House; I am always unequivocal in my view about him as a rabble rouser who has not learned anything from his previous travails after being thrown out of office in 2006.
So, how do I respond to something I regard as illegal and unconstitutional by a governor who I have the least regard for? What Ayo Fayose set up was a kangaroo panel with a clear mandate to work to a predetermined answer. Try and remember the genesis of the panel. His rubber stamp House of Assembly passed a resolution that he should probe Fayemi over an alleged stealing of N852 million from SUBEB and for giving President Muhammadu Buhari N1.5 billion of Ekiti money because I refused to appear before them.
Based on that resolution, he set up the Oyewole panel after I’d gone to court to challenge the shenanigan in the assembly. If you had followed the Ayo Fayose story, he believes that I am the only one in this state who can clip his boisterous wings and he wants to do everything to embarrass me in the hope or expectation that I will come crawling to beg him. Unfortunately for him, he has chosen the wrong target this time.
He started by denying me my entitlements as prescribed by law as a former governor of this state. I didn’t even bat an eyelid, neither did I ask him to pay. Even all my political appointees who served the state with distinction were denied their severance claims and entitlements and he tried to use the payment as a bait to lure some of them to his side.
Again, he failed, no appointee of mine left APC to join him. So, a panel which started with the so-called N852 million that Fayemi stole from SUBEB fell flat as it could not even sustain the lie that any money was missing, especially after the bank, Access Bank, told his panel that the bank took back their money because government did not fulfil the terms and conditions attached to the loan after I left office. They also informed all and sundry that it was the Fayose administration that took the N71 million interest rate that accrued.
By the time the joke of a panel completed its hatchet job, what Fayemi ‘stole’ had shifted from N852m to 17 buses and he also mismanaged the bond and must explain N2.6 billion.
At the risk of being immodest, everyone in this country knows that I’m an advocate of transparency and accountability in public office. I’d be happy to explain anything that’s unclear after leaving over 500 pages, painstakingly detailed hand-over note on my stewardship but not to an administration that has no interest in seeking the truth. Without prompting, I declared my assets publicly when I became Ekiti governor and did when I left office. There is nothing that I have by way of assets that I cannot defend.
And as President Buhari’s pointsman at NEITI who also chairs the inter-agencies task force on anti-corruption, I have a duty, indeed a responsibility not to do anything to bring his name or mine into disrepute.
Now, tell me: is Fayose a serious human being? I’m told he’s now cooking up a white paper that he can shop around with a view to getting me banned from public office. Can you imagine? What a joker? Anyway, the less said, the better on the panel. We will see who would end up in jail in Nigeria between Ayo Fayose and I. You see me in Ekiti all the time, I walk around Ekiti freely. We shall see if Fayose would be able to walk freely after October 16, 2018.
Speculations are rife that you want to contest for the governorship election. How true is this?
It is the stuff of politics for people to speculate, especially as elections draw close. But there is nothing that is happening now that is new; Since I left office in Ekiti in 2014, I’ve always made it a point of duty to host party leaders and members every quarter and we use these gatherings to reflect on the state of the party and state of the nation. We have held these meetings 12 consecutive times.
Of course, based on feedback, we’ve also broadened representations at the meetings. So, the one you’ve witnessed is very large because all wards, local governments, LCDAs, senatorial and state executives of the party are led by our National Deputy Chairman, Engr. Segun Oni, who is from Ekiti and our state chairman, Chief Jide Awe. Over 7000 party chieftains came. The bottomline for us is that we have to ensure that our party is well positioned and strengthened to go into elections. It has nothing to do with a personal ambition or an intention to contest. I believe that is the burden leadership has thrust upon me and I don’t want to shirk that responsibility.
The choice really for every Ekiti free-born is either to walk away and avoid Ekiti like a plague, and many have done that, particularly the elite or take the alternative , which is to treat Ekiti as a sick child. We all know how a concerned mother treats a sick child; when a child is sick and the child refuses to take any food and the prescribed drugs, our mothers apply tough love to that child and what is that tough love? Mothers have a way of forcefeeding the sick child by blocking his two nostrils, pinning his hands and legs down, before putting the food and drugs in the child’s mouth.
Of course, the child will wail and cry as mothers apply this tough love, but ultimately, it is for the good of the child. If you agree with me that Ekiti is a sick child, I leave you to speculate about the application of tough love on a sick child. As for contest or no contest, we will cross that bridge when we get there.
Fayose used to say that people should ask you what benefits have you used your position as a minister to attract to the state. This is an opportunity for you to clear the air. Will you?
The trouble with Fayose is that every time he opens his mouth, he exhibits an unbelievable level of ignorance which underscores why our state is in the doldrums. I have told the whole world what I have used my office to benefit Ekiti and to benefit the whole of Nigeria not once, not twice. I am Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I am not minister for Ekiti State affairs.
Governors who love their people and want progress for their states know how they get things for their states. For his information, I’m responsible for mineral resources development in 36 states and the contiguous water bodies offshore. But yes, I’m also the representative of Ekiti in the Federal Executive Council and what I have done with the position is tangible, measurable and clear and for his information, it is better than what was done for our state in the previous 16 years when PDP was in the saddle in the centre.
And I must confess that his behaviour and crass incompetence have made things more difficult for our state and prevented her from even more benefits from the FG. but to come back to what we have done. Take for example the federal secretariat. For the last 16 years, Ekiti had been trying desperately to have a major federal secretariat where all the federal institutions will operate from. I went on inspection yesterday to check how far work has gone in the secretariat and I am pleased with the progress being made.
That project was awarded under this (Buhari) administration and I knew how it was awarded, I don’t want to claim credit for anything but I knew what I had to do to ensure that the minister (in charge) not only awarded it but awarded it to a competent company run by Ekiti indigenes.
That is one, number two, (former) Governor Rotimi Amaechi has never stopped telling people why he had to extend the rail to Ekiti State which was not in the original standard guage rail plan put together by the PDP. Ekiti was not factored into the plan done by the Goodluck Jonathan administration or the Olusegun Obasanjo administration before it.
The only time Ekiti State found its way into the federal rail project is under this administration and I went to meet the president and pleaded with Amaechi that the rail should be extended to our state. You have heard of N-Power; nearly 4,000 Ekiti indigenes are beneficiaries of N-Power as we speak and if we wait for another two months, over 12,000 Ekiti citizens will be beneficiaries of N-Power.
That is an initiative that is akin to our own Youth Volunteer Scheme, just like the Social Security benefit which we are paying at the federal level now is similar to our Social Security scheme in Ekiti. I know what the families of those young men and women who are now getting N30,000 monthly on account of N-power are saying about Buhari. Ekiti public servants are being owed from six to eight months salaries; N-Power beneficiaries got their December salary on December 22, 2017. I am talking broadly now, let me come down to mining; the Nigerian Geological Surveys Agency has just completed a comprehensive survey of kaolin in Ekiti and the result is very promising.
The next phase is to move into production. We are commencing the exploration of bauxite, lithium and feldspar and we are pulling together all the small scale miners in Ekiti to enable them to benefit from the recently launched N5 billion support fund placed in the Bank of Industry.
The Central Bank that has been languishing for years is almost completed, I was there yesterday ditto the youth in agriculture scheme is being expanded at the federal level.
When people open their mouth and say Federal Government has not done anything and the person who has the temerity to say this to people in Ekiti collects every month, Budget Support Funds, bailout, Paris Club release in addition to the federal allocation to which the state is entitled, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that this is more a celebration of ignorance.
I’ve not mentioned the Ecological Funds he collected, the refunds on the roads that I did which has now gone through the Federal Executive Council or the Central Bank’s N2.2 billion SMEs fund and he can stand before people to say all sorts of rubbish. I know he believes that lying is what has given him success in politics since he believes Ekiti people are ignorant and gullible.
Somebody who has zero integrity can open his mouth and talk; no wonder, nobody came out for his local government election charade because Ekiti people are fed up with this man. I see it daily, they come to me saying ‘what can you do to help us to get rid of this man.’ I say to them he has four years and he has immunity but immunity is not permanent, some of us had immunity before and we are walking the streets of Ekiti today without immunity. But I know people who will not walk the streets of Ekiti the day they stop being governor of this state. We will all be here and will see what will happen.
Is it true that APC in Ekiti is factionalised into about seven groups? And is there any factionalisation in the South-West?
Are you aware of two APC factions in the Southwest? Is anybody in court challenging the legitimacy of the various state executive committees that we have? Is there a parallel APC in any of our states? If you are saying we have robust debates, these happen, absolutely. Do we have disagreement among ourselves in debating the progress of our party? Yes, we do.
This is a progressive party, progressives are known to have robust debates but towards one end – improving the lives of the citizens of our states and country. Tell me, who do you know joining PDP in the South-West? Even in Ekiti, which is the only state that they claim to have in the South West, how many APC people have you heard joining PDP in Ekiti State?
The way you have seen the Akalas of this world, the Teslim Folarins of this world in Ibadan two weeks ago, the Ayodele Adiguns of this world. Even the Honourable Aribisogans of this world in Ekiti here, they are the party in power in Ekiti, who is joining them? So, that should tell you where we stand if you really want to know the standing of APC in Ekiti. If you are talking of division, PDP in Ekiti has two factions, they have two chairmen. Jide Awe has been chairman of our party from get-go and we have not changed him. Nobody is challenging his authority. How can a governor who has three contending forces within his party talk about factionalisation in our party?
You are journalists, I’m sure you went round during his local government election. You went round and you saw the ‘mammoth crowd’ that came out, you saw the ‘massive turnout’ of voters in Ekiti (laughter). Seriously speaking, we just have to appeal to our people to exercise some patience because as we say in Yoruba, when you have tasted water and you are now tasting oil, you clearly get the better picture and the difference is clear. But again, I always say to people, the difference has to be clear. Ayo Fayose knew his Abuja gangsters led by President Jonathan were bent on rigging him in.
Ayo Fayose never, one day, campaigned to say this is what I am going to do in education, in infrastructure, in health. In agriculture, let me give you a very sad example – and I feel very sad when I say this to people, one of the key figures in charge of Anchor Borrowers programme in agriculture in Nigeria which had benefited many people in many states in Nigeria – especially in rice growing states like in Kebbi, Jigawa, Ebonyi, and Ogun recently, it will interest you to know that he is an Ekiti man.
My former Commissioner for Agriculture, Jide Arowosafe, is the Executive Director of Operations in NIRSAL. Ignoring party affiliation and party differences, I advised ‘Jide to engage DAWN when Dipo Famakinwa was still alive and I also asked him to call his successor in office, the current Commissioner for Agriculture in Ekiti, we were known for growing rice, upland rice, this is an opportunity, let them bring a plan so that Ekiti too can benefit from this Anchor borrowers programme. Jide Arowosafe met with his successor – I think his name is Odebunmi but up till now, no proposal came from Ekiti. Maybe one will come tomorrow.
Fayose never promised anybody that he would do anything so if he is not doing anything apart from his noisome distractions, I am not at all surprised. I always say to people, we had an eightpoint agenda and I challenge anyone to point out any part of the agenda that we did not fulfill to the people of Ekiti, they should come and challenge it. Whether it is community development, most of the projects that we had in which we gave money to communities, they chose their projects, they chose the project sites, they chose their own contractors, they implemented the projects, they are there for all to see.
The five kilometre roads, virtually, all communities have it; the schools, nothing has happened to those schools in four years and those that unfortunately lost the roofs to rainstorm have remained unrepaired.
The Youths in Commercial Agriculture, nothing is being done; Youths Volunteer Scheme, nothing; Social Security for the Elderly, nothing; Peace Corps gone, EKSTMA (Ekiti State Traffic Management Authority) gone, minimum wage increase in three installments in four years, not a single increase has happened to salaries in the last three years; thirteenth month bonus, gone. Now, the governor is the generator of the budget, the implementer of the budget, he is the Speaker of the House, he is the Budget Committee of the House, he presents budget, passes budget, hits the gavel.
He is almost the Judiciary in Ekiti because he has muzzled the Judiciary in Ekiti and they are all so afraid to do the right thing to avoid their courts being invaded by thugs; even when they know the truth, they shy away from it because they are scared. People use to say ‘Ekiti, this your state, na wa o. You went to school now, sebi you are the Fountain of Knowledge, where you get this kind governor from?’
Even me that they should be sympathising with, they ask me where do you get this kind of man from, I say me? It’s really, really sad.
The APC came to power in 2015 in a blaze of glory, but now, it appears the party is losing a lot of supporters. How could you assure Nigerians that APC is the party they should keep faith with?
I take that question very seriously; in governance and in political science, there is something we call mid-term blues. Every government runs into a mid-term blues. It’s almost an automatic curve; you get to a point where you are not as popular as you were when you got into office. However, the context is always important; we came into office at a point that the major source of our economy, oil, was selling at $30 a barrel. Years before then, the average price of crude oil was $100 a barrel, these are facts, not conjectures or suppositions.
So, it automatically means that the revenue base of Nigeria dropped by 70 per cent and we had to manage with 30 per cent. Maybe given the context of the election, there are always those who will say we over-promised. The truth though was that Nigerians wanted anybody but Jonathan and given the depth of depravity and corruption of the Jonathan administration, they felt Buhari offered the most promising platform for change on account of his spartan integrity, not on account of the plethora of policy ideas contained in our manifesto.
I was in charge of policy during the campaign and people certainly brought a lot of ideas – you must do this, you must build a million houses, you must generate these number of jobs, etc. I see a lot of documents flying around whatsapp pages these days claiming to come from our manifesto but many of them are fake. I can tell you that the President then as candidate and immediately after we won, limited himself to the three cardinal themes, namely; restoring security, particularly in the North East, fighting corruption and rebuilding the economy. This was the mandate he gave the Transition Committee and he consistently cautioned us to limit ourselves to the three cardinals. Wherever you hear him speak, he would not go beyond the three cardinals; He never went beyond that and if you are to judge him on account of those three, I would honestly say that he has tried.
The economy is out of recession, even though we still have a lot of grounds to cover, the security situation in this country particularly in the North East has improved significantly. During the Yuletide, you would have heard of bombs going off in and around the FCT, even in churches and Eagle Square in Abuja. People could not sleep with their eyes closed under the Jonathan administration. This is no longer the case, even though it is also true that terrorism never full disappears. In fact, the reality of every terrorism experience is that it mutates. Because of that, the President has taken a two-pronged approach to resolving the security crisis particularly in the Northeast.
The first focus is on the military option and that precisely is why the military is asking for additional resources to prosecute that military option. But much more importantly, he focuses on the development option; that is what has led to the creation of the Northeast Development Commission now. People rarely talk about that, they always want to talk about the military option but if you don’t have a human security response to security challenges, you cannot resolve it fully. We must be tough on terrorism, but we must be even tougher on the root causes of terrorism.
There is still an army of unemployed and underemployed youths who can become cannon fodder for further crisis. What is the governement doing about it?
If you don’t provide a mechanism for dealing with that situation, it won’t go away. Long-term solution is the development option but the short-term is the military option; military itself cannot solve the problem alone.
To make a bomb, I will show you a site now on the web, on how you can make a bomb and it is the easiest thing to do. If you think that is going to stop, it won’t. All Nigerians ironically don’t appreciate, what we expect them to appreciate is that there are more potential explosions stopped than there are that actually occurred but security people will not come and tell you that, ‘in Ado-Ekiti yesterday, we foiled an attempt to bomb Emmanuel Church’ ah, people will not go to Emmanuel Church again.
So they cannot talk, they have to labour under the notion of not doing enough even though they do more than we will ever know. If you go to the anti-corruption (crusade), we have been accused of all sorts of things that the anticorruption war is selective, it is not institutionalised. I happen to chair an inter-agency task force on anti-corruption, comprising agencies such as EFCC, ICPC, CCB, FIRS, NEITI etc and somebody was saying that they are not using enough technology.
How can anybody say that? These agencies have perfected the art of tracking money and the amount of money that had been recovered, all the governments in Nigeria put together in the last 16 years have not succeeded in recovering it. But then again, we are victims of international politics; some of the money that had been recovered, we cannot even bring it back because of the conditionalities attached by the countries where these stolen monies have been found.
We are a sovereign state, somebody wants to tell us that in order for you to have your $540 million back, you must tell us what you want to use the money for, our money? We should even charge you for allowing your country to aid and abet such a crime; allowing your country to be used as a safe haven for illicit funds.
But you want to tell us that you are ready to return the money but what are we going to do with the money?
What is your business with that? But because of the track record of the previous administrations where monies retrieved were re-looted, you can understand where such claims are coming from even if it cannot be justified. But it is being institutionalised, more work is being done, the resources retrieved are being identified and the accusation that the fight is one-sided, of course it is targeted. Who has had his/her finger on the plough in the last 16 years? You cannot accuse me of what I did not know anything about or what I have not had the opportunity of even serving at that level? Nobody can accuse you of that, I was governor in Ekiti, I can be accused, even if it is a ‘419 accusation,’ the record shows that I was governor in Ekiti for four years, how can you then say it is one-sided.
Some people still say that corruption has not gone down. Don’t you agree?
People should not pay attention to that; the truth of the matter is that there is less corruption (now) in the system, I cannot say it has been wiped out completely because the President himself will not condone it, the body language itself is not disposed to corruption. You as a minister, you cannot condone it; in the age of TSA (Treasury Single Account), you cannot spend money that has electronically gone into the system without due process. Significantly, you cannot get the kind of mind-boggling stories you hear. I read one story and my head was spinning as I read the story.
Ah, N50 billion? That one individual and 38 houses? Is that not madness? And yet, people still have mouths to talk because they want to come back and steal more money, that is what PDP is about. Really the final point I want to make in response to your question is that for Nigerians, it is very clear. We either return to the old criminalisation of the Nigerian state and the brigandage that PDP represents and nothing absolutely convinces me that PDP has changed.
Absolutely nothing, not the shenanigans that we saw at their National Convention in Abuja, not the performance of their governors, not any remorse on the part of their henchmen. Not a single apology anywhere for the damage they had done to this country and I think it will be totally, totally unfortunate on the part of any sane Nigerian to even remotely consider PDP in its current state as an alternative to APC; there is no basis for that comparison. I know populism sells and as a victim of empty-headed populism, I should know. I am not suggesting that we have perfectly handled things, no, there are things that citizens should criticise our party for, and they will be right to do so. We criticise ourselves too.
For example, a lot of our party operatives are unhappy that some of our parastatals are still being manned by PDP chieftains. We have been in office for two-and-half years and some of these characters, not only do they hate the guts of our leader, President Buhari, they are utilizing the resources of the state to rebuild their party.
There is one that I read from the social media who comes from this state, who daily abuses Buhari and he has been serving in the National Population Commission. Why would somebody like that, if he has any sense of integrity, he himself should resign and say look, I do not believe in your government, I do not want to serve in your government, I want to criticise you. But you cannot be using our resources, yes, you can say the resources belong to Nigeria but we are the ones managing it right now, to attack us. It is not done anywhere in the world.
Whats is your take on those calling Fayose the opposition leader in Nigeria?
That is what I say to people when they say, ah, the alawada in Government House Ekiti is the opposition leader in Nigeria, opposition my foot. If only you people know what he does, every time he has a problem getting budget support; you people should come and see how he prostrates in Abuja, Ekiti people don’t know that. ‘I don’t know when (Lere) Olayinka issued that statement o, please, I did not authorise it. Buhari is my father o. Honourable minister, please let them release my money …and so on, and so forth’. He is actually fortunate he is dealing with a God-fearing leader like Buhari. What he cannot tolerate inside his own party in Ekiti, not to talk of the opposition party, he now goes around boasting of heraldry.
This joker? Opposition leader, my foot?