In this interview with OLUSOLA FABIYI, a former Minister of Mines and Steel Development, who is the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress in the July 14 election in Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, speaks about his plan for the state and how his chances in Saturday’s election
You emerged as the candidate of your party, the APC through a hotly-contested primary. What have you done to reconcile with other contestants?
My party, the APC, has once again proved to bookmakers that common interest supersedes individual interest. It was easier to reconcile with my co-contestants because we all have the same purpose and objective.
The purpose is to reclaim our honour and restore our values by dislodging the Peoples Democratic Party government in the state.
You think that has been achieved?
Oh yes! I can tell you conveniently that 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 the 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.
What did you forget in the Government House, having been governor once? Why the interest to return?
My quest to be governor again is borne out of my love for my state 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 in the Peace Corps; 10,000 volunteers who took N10, 000 per month, among others but have been cut off from these safety nets by Governor Ayo Fayose. The complaints and agonies of the beneficiaries of many abandoned physical projects and social welfare programmes give me sleepless nights.
For instance, hundreds of boreholes in public schools are abandoned and not functional for lack of maintenance. These people have no clear understanding of how to run public offices. The most painful aspect is workers’ welfare. This is painful because workers’ welfare was one of their (PDP) 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 have received pension in 2018 and gratuity have not been paid for years. Yet, the government keeps lying to the public about the financial situation of the state.
But people say things are tight generally in the country. Is that not what is affecting Ekiti too?
Yes, things are tight generally in the country no doubt but the problem of Ekiti State is simply a case of misplaced priority.
But your government borrowed N25bn and your successor, Governor Ayo Fayose, claimed that his own administration has spent N35.34bn to service it?
We admit that we borrowed N25bn to be defrayed within three years and records are at the Debt Management Office that Fayemi paid back N14.5bn of the debts, leaving the balance of only N10.5bn before we left office in October 16, 2014. If the official debt figure (incurred by my administration) was N10.5bn, how then did they come about the N35.34bn which they claimed to have used to service an outstanding debt of N10.5bn? That means that the state was servicing the debts at an average of N1.1bn monthly for them to have arrived at N35.34 bn.
So, where did the N35.34bn come from?
Ask them. They (tell) lies shamelessly about anything and everything. Unfortunately for them, the truth about our borrowing and the outstanding payment as of the time that we left are in the public domain for people to see and make their own judgment. Ekitikete (Ekiti people) are not fools.
But there is a government White Paper that indicted you. Can’t the state government use that to stop your aspirations?
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-hunt to stop political opponents.
You want to cite any authority on this?
Yes, even though I’m not a lawyer. But you may wish to be reminded 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 contesting public office. Though I am not the Independent National Electoral Commission, however, there is judicial precedence. Therefore, I am sure that the so-called White Paper is of no effect.
You seem to be planning to use the ‘federal might’ against the PDP, just like some claimed the Fayose’s government in the state did to you in 2014?
You will agree with me that the events leading to the election of 2014 in my state negated the principles of a free, fair and credible election. There was militarisation of the election process, 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 non-belligerent situation like an 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 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.
So, this is an opportunity to pay the PDP back?
No, I did not say that. 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.
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. If you ask somebody who has not earned salary in eight months, at least they will tell you that “under Fayemi, I was not owed.” That is, if you take it at such a basic simplistic level. But I do not want us to even take it at that level because that, for me as I said, is not a measure of good governance. It is just a measure of the duty that I have to the people if I pay salaries. Take it from what I have said to you, when I was the governor, Ekiti excelled in all the rankings. The World Bank Ease of Doing Business study ranked Ekiti (when I was governor) the number five place where you can do business easily in Nigeria; we moved from number 34 to number five. The kids that entered secondary school when I was governor were the ones who took WASSCE and NECO exams and excelled. So, you do not get that by one year of being in government. Even though the Fayose administration is trying to claim credit for that, it is the cumulative effect of work that we did that resulted in what those kids achieved.
What will be your areas of priority if you are elected again?
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 programmes, infrastructure, 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 State 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 the ground now, they know the difference. Our people have encountered what we would call water and oil; they clearly know the difference. They’ve seen the difference, between the time when salaries were paid on the 25th of every month without fail and a time when they don’t even know when salary would come.
Is it true that the APC government would ban okada and probably reduce the number of 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 the APC and that is what the in-coming APC government will pursue. We never had any issue with the okada riders. What we insisted they must do was to comply with safety rules. That is, they must put on their 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. The number one priority of my administration was the payment of salary as and when due. This is going to be our focus again.
How would you rate the performance of Governor Fayose?
I will leave Ekitikete to be the judge of that. Every government has its own focus. Everything about Fayose and his government is all about smokescreen or facade. 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.
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