‘The Nigerian masses are driving APC’ – Fayemi

June 22, 2013

Ondo is in our sub-region It is not regional integration of parties…
…But there is no O’YES in Ondo, there is no Opon Imo in Ondo…?
Well, they may not be at this point. But that does not mean that it won’t be interested in it; anything that involves the progress and development of our people, regardless of where they are located, that is what drives our agenda. There is Mega School in Osun, there is Mega School in Ondo. There is Abiye in Ondo, there is Abiro in Ekiti. So, there are these projects and we don’t just do these, we actually send people over. We’ve just held a governance share in Lagos and the six states were there and they adopted things that should be replicated across the board. So, it is regional integration of concrete projects. That is what will sell the vision itself and we can correct things along the line.You are the chairman of Contact and Mobilisation Committee for the APC. Thank God you’re a scholar in political history and the worry is how APC will not go the way of other mergers because it appears as if we’re walking the old paths? We want you to shed light on what makes the APC in this dispensation different from Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA) and other political efforts of the past. Some people scoff at the APC as a merger of political convenience to hijack power with a motley crowd. Are you not worried when people say such things?
I am because it is a denigration of a very, very comprehensive effort that is going on but unfortunately, labelling is part of our political culture too and you cannot run away from it. The difference between APC and whatever efforts we’ve made in the post-1999 political project is simply that it is an idea whose time has come. And when you have an idea whose time has come, evil machinations will not succeed to destroy it because everybody is focused on the larger picture because democracy is in the doldrums. Every Nigerian agrees with that. It’s almost a cliché. Everywhere you go, no one is happy about the quality and the texture of our democracy. Yes we have a democracy in the sense that we have elected people in authority. But are we really a democracy? Are we citizens or are we subjects? What we are attempting to do is to create a basis for this democracy to endure because Nigeria by our constitution genetically and otherwise, I believe we are resentful of a one-party state.

That is Nigerians now. We want an alternative at all times. And Nigerians are really unhappy with us, particularly those of us in the opposition, that we have not succeeded up till now to come up with a platform that is not just a name, but a platform that is organic in nature, and that speaks to the core problems that we have in the country in a manner that resonates across the length and breadth of the country, not just a particular section.
I think more than anything else, that is what is firing the popularity of the emerging APC. It’s not even us, it is the people. Even though the people are expressing those cautionary statements you are talking about, but deep inside, you’ll see a groundswell that ‘you people must not fail o, you must help this country by succeeding. And if you don’t succeed, we are going to come after you and do whatever we can to make you succeed.’ It is almost like a cry for help by our people and we have interpreted that well to be: it is not even a duty about ambition, it is not even about ourselves, it’s about an assignment to rescue Nigeria. And in doing that, I can tell you that I’m involved and that we have jumped so many hoops that ordinarily would have killed this venture in the manner that it did in the past. But accommodation, understanding, focus on the big picture, focus on the end goal have been what have carried us this far because opportunism are bound to come in, of course these are different individuals from different places and we are talking merger, we’re not talking alliance. The minute you get into the realm of merger, that is a different ball game because some people would subsume their position in the larger interest of all. That is essentially what is happening.

I also said it is an idea whose time has come because you really need to see the implosion going on, on the other side, the implosion that is not APC-generated anyway.

You have even mentioned the issue of implosion. It is taken in certain political circles that when there is going to be a shift in political power base, there will be an implosion within the existing power structure. But some people will scoff at the APC’s efforts to save Nigerians from the PDP as it seems now. Some people are of the opinion that this will not happen until there is an implosion in the PDP itself that would cause a major splinter group to move out of the PDP to wrestle power from a sitting government…
How is that peculiar to Nigeria?

What we are saying is that, are you not foreseeing a meeting point between that splinter group and the APC?
It is the nature of politics… even in much more advance democracies of the world.You foresee that happening?
You remember there were people known as ‘Reagan Democrats’ before Ronald Reagan became the president of America? They are democrats, card-carrying members of the Democratic Party who were unhappy with their party and they moved to the Republican just for a sole purpose…

Was that why your party supported President Jonathan in the presidential election of 2011?
We never did…!

…How come then Jonathan won in Ekiti?
We’ve actually heard so much about this and we must tackle it… I’ve heard so much of this, and we cannot raise an issue without tackling it… Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu doing a deal and all that… There was no deal done anywhere…

…Your Excellency, there was a deal…?
…Let me say. Let me say, and I speak with a certain amount of authority here because President Jonathan won in Ekiti. He won in Lagos. He didn’t win in Osun but he won in every other state.

I was in a market place and I was worried about. I had an election of my senators coming, so I had to go round. We have an Igbo Catholic Church here and I went there to speak with them. They were honest, they were not even apologetic about it. They said: “That is not your election. When it is your election, we will vote.” One lesson I learnt from that election is that the religious tolerance quotient in this country was strained. That was what happened in that election and President Jonathan’s campaign managers very smartly, keyed into it. The whole Adeboye kneeling down hullaballoo; the Oritsejafor campaign around the place and so on… at least in the South, I don’t know about other places. Unfortunately, both ourselves and General Buhari, we were not alive to the seriousness of the impact. We were still living in the mould of ‘after all our party SDP had Abiola and Baba Gana Kingibe and they won’. The truth of the matter is that that was what happened in 2011. There was no deal…

You were not able to submit the names of your interim leaders for the registration process and then there is a rival APC in court now. What’s your take on this?
You know that the question of rival APC is virtually sorted. INEC has made its pronouncement on that. On the submission of names for the interim committee, the provision is also very clear. We have submitted names. Yes we have. We have submitted names, we may not have put positions to those names but we have submitted names in accordance with the requirements of INEC.

Why were you not able to attach positions? Any problems?
Because for us, there is nothing in the INEC regulation that says we must compulsorily do that and, for some of us, if we would have our way, we would rather go straight to the substantive convention and elect the formal party leaders rather than an interim party structure. To me, if we are not able to do that, we have an interim party structure in place.

So, we should be calling you a member of APC now?
Well, almost. We’ve had the conventions of our three parties; we have wound down the activities of our three parties and we are in the next stage is that full development to APC.
So, if I call you an ACN governor, I might be wrong?
I’m an ACN governor! I’m an ACN governor because I was elected on the platform of the ACN, but by the time we have another election that may not be the party that will present me.Is it true that you directed that teachers who want to continue their work as teachers should come to the secretariat and apply and those who are not ready to work should continue with the strike.

Governor Fayemi is supposed to be populist in disposition. What is going on?
It is not true because I have not at any time said that those who want to be teachers should be on one side and those who want to continue should continue. No! Recall that this is a national strike that involves a number of states. It so happened that our recruitment of new teachers coincided with the announcement of the strike action. But the substantive issue should still be addressed; the relationship between the government and the teachers.
Ekiti teachers have had the best of times under this government. When I came in as governor, the minimum wage of teachers in Ekiti was N8,000, that is, in 2010 October when I became governor. I increased it to N13,500 when they opted for relativity instead of Teachers Allowance. Even though they were not qualified for relativity since they were not core civil servants, we acceded to the request by teachers and paid relativity. By 2012, the minimum wage had become N19,300. So, in a space of two years, teachers had had more than double their salary in Ekiti State – from N8,000 to N20,000, and I’m talking minimum. And I’ve gone ahead for the fisrt time to make teachers Permanent Secretaries – three Tutors-General in the state in addition ti permanent secretaries… It has never happened. In addition to that, for the first time in the history of this state, we introduced Teachers’ Rural Allowance because we don’t want all our teachers concentrated in Ado Ekiti. We want our teachers to embrace working in the rural areas of the state. That is aside the restoration of their car loans, housing loans and other emoluments. We also gave introduced the laptop initiative, 18,000 laptops to teachers in this state. That is for teachers.
In terms of infrastructure, we did what had never been done since the government of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Every single school in Ekiti was either rebuilt where it has fallen apart; renovated or refurbished… all schools not one school, with new furniture! So, teacher quality with emoluments, we’ve done something, infrastructure in schools, we that is in addition to our free education from JSS 3 to SSS 3. And in that we pay for JAMB, we pay for WAEC, all the exams are paid for by the state.

The sticky point in this 27.5 per cent is simply this: We have said even though this is not known to labour law – it is an agreement that governors acceded to in 2008 or thereabouts – that they would give an allowance to teachers. We, in principle, did not object. We would pay it. But paying 27.5 per cent, to us in Ekiti, is almost like a kiss of death because it implies a N172 million increase on our wage bill per month, not per years, almost N2 billion per year and Ekiti is number 35 on the federation allocation ladder and we get on average N2.5 bilion every month out of which we virtually pay salary with everything. It’s a miracle that we’re even able to do what we are referring to. And we pleaded with our teachers that they should take 15 per cent. The 12.5 per cent that remains, we will figure out a way to pay it as the economy of the state improves. That is the crux as far as that issue is concerned. But it’s not that we’ve presented an alternative that if you don’t want to work and so on. No. The National President of the NUT was here and I said this to him and the truth of the matter is: not all states are paying it, even states that are more buoyant than us who don’t even have as many teachers as we have. That’s our predicament.

Is it true that you walked out of the meeting with the national leadership of the NUT?
I didn’t. The National President of the NUT finished his meeting with me and I thanked him for the meeting and I left.

On your Eight-Point Agenda, how much have you achieved?
I think we’ve done reasonably well. The jury is out there and you have heard of that jury which is the Ekiti people. They would say what we’ve been able to do in the area of governance and they would also say something similar on education. On healthcare, the indices are there to show that we have also brought tremendous improvement. They are interlinked in a number of ways. I think, given the amount of resources available to us in the state, we certainly have covered all grounds. We haven’t left anything behind.

In fact, what I would have loved, and I will still want us to do that, is a tour. I will ask you to come with us to our Agricultural belt so that you will see what is happening in the other parts of the state, including the rice belt and all that and also visit some of the hospitals and communities.
The challenge is that we have a lot to still do. We do not have limitless resources to do it. If we had we would have completed the projects and so far, we have restored our education and healthcare back to where they were in the 70s and fundamentally put a dent on poverty, which is about the most serious challenge in the state.
But now, when you drive round at night, you will notice how the economy has improved. Ekiti used to sleep at 7p.m o’clock in the past but now taxis are still on at 12 midnight because of the streetlights, people are still cooking on the roadsides. So, the economy is moving up because of the infrastructure development that is taking place. Our Ikogosi, which has not even started operations, is fully booked till September and people are coming from all over the place to use Ikogosi.
This article was first published in The Nigerian Tribune

Last modified: June 22, 2013

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