Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State is in the eye of a little storm following his endorsement by the leadership of his party, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) for another term of four years. In this interview with BIODUN FANORO, which took place before the endorsement, Fayemi said it was his track record that recommended him for governorship in 2007. Now, his performance has won him endorsement by the people.
There are reports that your party has already endorsed you for next year governorship election even when there are others with same aspiration. Has this not compromised your party’s internal democracy?
HOW does endorsement conflict with internal democracy? I don’t see the contradiction at all. My party, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has its process to pick its candidate. Details of this are enshrined in the party’s constitution and these processes stipulate steps to be taken when going for an election. As far as I am aware, that process has not even started. The endorsements are expressions of contentment, appreciation and faith on the part of those who do it. It is not possible to legislate against someone who wants to say, he is happy with the way Governor Kayode Fayemi has delivered on the promises he made to the people of Ekiti State.
All of these achievements are clearly factual. Is it not true that we have delivered on free and compulsory education, up to secondary school level, as we promised? Is it not true that we are delivering on our free health programme? Is it not true that we pay social security allowance to people that are 65 years and above? Today, there are not less than 20,000 beneficiaries. Is it not true that Ekiti secondary school students have benefited from our programme of one lap-top per student, where all the text books in all the subjects they offer are loaded? Is it not true that teachers have had their salaries increased three times within the spate of two years, from N8,000 in 2010 when I became governor to N13,000 in 2011 and now it is about N20,000. Is it not true that almost all the roads in Ekiti are motorable now? So what is wrong with people expressing their appreciation that we have truly excelled in all these and many other areas? One thing that none of these various groups that have endorsed me, including the state’s Elders’ Forum, the party’s Leaders’ Forum, have done is to insist that Fayemi has become the party’s candidate for the election. I have not even declared my intention to go for a second term. What happened on June 12 was that I accepted the endorsement by council workers in the state. So far, there is nothing barring any member of the state ACN who wants to run from declaring his or her interest. It’s a legitimate interest of such members to run, I am a democrat.
What you are saying is that nobody has been shut out?
To my best of knowledge, nobody has been shut out or prevented from declaring interest. I am a leader of this party in the state; therefore I am in a privileged position to know if anybody has been shut out.
If in theory, the endorsements do not mean others have been shut out, does it not mean in reality that their chances have been foreclosed?
It is on record that before I emerged as the candidate of this party in 2007, I ran against 17 aspirants and I won. I had a track record then beyond my democracy activism and my professional career. Now that I have been in office, demonstrated what I could do to Ekiti people, ensured that policies are delivered, what is therefore the reason or fear to bar any one from running?
But there are claims that the party structure is already manipulated against others, as was alleged in Opeyemi Bamidele’s case?
Well, is Opeyemi Bamidele running for seat of governor? To the best of my knowledge, I have not heard, neither have I seen any expression of interest on the part of Opeyemi that he is running. It is well within his right if he chooses to do that. All I know is that we have sent him to the House of Representatives to represent one of the six federal constituencies in the state. To the best of my knowledge, that is what he is doing. However, if he is desirous of running, he is very well aware of the party’s processes. But if I am not aware he is running, I wonder who will. I don’t think it is fair to accuse the party of manipulating the process.
Come to think of it, I don’t think the process could be manipulated against someone who has not even come forward to declare he is running for an office. If groups, people and structures have endorsed me, is that a manipulation? Is it not a way of expressing their democratic view that we want you to continue with the good work you have started? And if it is about people who are fetish about zoning, and would prefer that the good work and good governance must stop and be sacrificed on the alter of zoning and that no governor must spend more than four years in office, then that certainly stands logic on its head.
As far as I know, there is no provision in the Nigerian Constitution that bars an incumbent governor from seeking re-election, neither is such a provision found in the constitution of the ACN. Opeyemi Bamidele, as far as I know, is someone who is very knowledgeable about the structure of the party. He has served at one level or the other using the platform of the party.
You have just denounced zoning; is there no case of gentleman agreement regarding one term?
Agreement between who and who? I am not aware of any agreement, either between the party and myself or any particular individual and myself. I don’t do back-room deal, everything I do, I do it in the open. I think I have fairly decent reputation in this country and beyond as someone who stands for what he believes in. Let me quickly say this, which of course is known to many of my admirers in Ekiti, it was not ambition that brought me to this seat. I am just there for service. Let me repeat it, even at the risk of sounding immodest, it was not ambition that brought me to this position; it was a request by concerned Ekiti indigenes.
They were the people that urged me to come and serve. Opeyemi indeed played a vital role in this project to come and serve. Many people were involved. They knew what they did to convince me to come and run for the governorship of the state. So why would I now take it as a matter of do or die as some people probably are wickedly insinuating?
The truth is; I was identified, I was persuaded to serve, I was reluctant to come to serve, I was eventually convinced to serve, my wife was weighed on to convince me, at the end of the day I felt it could be mistaken for arrogance, so I agreed to serve. Since then I have been doing my best to justify the confidence reposed in me by all that I could deliver and with the help of the Almighty God and the unceasing support of Ekiti people, I have been delivering on all these promises. I have no vaulting ambition at all.
You would be seeking re-election on the platform of a new and unknown platform, the All Progressives Congress (APC), could this not be counter-productive and be your party’s undoing?
In the first instance, Ekiti people are very enlightened they could reasonably make their choices. It is not the length of time a party has been in existence that would determine who their choice would be. This is a society and people that have been fed on the diet of progressive politics. They have the unmistaken belief that the reason why a government is in place is to serve the interest of the people first.
Incidentally, this is the very tradition where I came from. If you run through the various programmes my administration has put in place, which are aimed at making poverty history, be it through the cooperatives or through the social security allowances or through our free health, free and qualitative education programmes, it is to benefit the great number of people in our state. What is APC about? APC is the unanimity of progressive forces in our country to rescue Nigeria from perdition, from the journey without map that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has put Nigeria on over the last 14 years.
On that day when decision would be made, it is going to be based on the simple question; that, as a person, has your life faired better under the PDP over the last 14 years?
Ekiti people on their own know progressive politics as well as progressive platform, they could easily identify it; they know that, that is what APC is all about. The history and antecedent of Ekiti people have revealed clearly that they are not reactionary, they are not conservatives, they may not be the cosmopolitans of Lagos or the bureaucrats of Abuja, but one thing they know is what serves their interest best. And when that decision is to be made they are not going to have any doubt about some of the elements parading themselves as latter-day saints when they have no track record, when they were there for seven and a half years and they knew what our people went through under their tutelage.
APC is poaching on PDP, which it has denigrated and seeking to replace. At the poll, how would you explain this to Ekiti electorate?
The truth of the matter is that the PDP is not a monolith. The PDP is a conglomerate of a sort, of many characters. I have friends in the PDP that are even more progressive in their orientation than one or two individuals within the ACN. For this class of people, their hindrance is the platform, the PDP. Some of these people are in the PDP by the circumstance of the fact that in their own environment that is the only platform there. In their area, PDP was the only game in town. To that extent, we would be suffering from a mindset of over-generalisation, if we tar the PDP members with the same brush.
For instance, our revered Audu Ogbeh used to be chairman of the PDP; today he is an elder in my party. Any time I sit down with chief Ogbeh, I marvel at some of the profound fundamental socio-democratic ideals that he espouses every time I speak with him. My brother, Prof. Julius Ihnovbere used to be in the PDP, I am very close to Julius, and I know the tradition he comes from politically and ideologically speaking. At the end of the day, when he was frustrated out of the PDP we told him, ‘welcome back to your traditional home, you ought not to have been there in the first place’. If we are asking some people in the PDP who we consider to believe in the same ideals with us, who are running their states along the same socio-democratic template as we do in our states, and they share the same fundamental core values of anti-poverty strategy of freedom for all, of life more abundant, then PDP for such people is a platform and not truly their political and ideological home, where they are mere sojourners.
This is certainly not new, neither, would Nigeria be the first place where it would happen. In the US, there were those called the Clintonian Republicans, because President Clinton (then) actually stole some of their ideals by adopting the mantra of a conservative economic agenda and won them over. So, APC has a duty to build a broad platform that is founded on core values and very clear principles. All these are clearly stated in the manifesto and constitution of the new party.
Going by the reaction of ACN, it is raising alarm that progressivism would be endangered with the resuscitation of the Unity Party of Nigeria; do you think so?
I don’t know what can endanger the progressives in the Southwest if live up to the ideals of our ideological progenitor, the late sage, chief Obafemi Awolowo. All I urged commentators on the Southwest to do is, to travel from Lagos to Ogun State, to Oyo State, to Osun State, to Ekiti State and let them pass their judgment, using what they have observed in terms of infrastructural transformation by the governments in these states.
Nothing can secure us in the hearts of our people than these fantastic development we keep giving them everyday. Elements of this development litter everywhere across all these ACN states for everybody to behold. So the progressives in the Southwest fear no foe, neither do we believe anyone or any association poses a threat to us because we have remained in the mould of our revered progenitor, late chief Obafemi Awolowo and the people know this; they are our testimony and our guarantor of progressive politics.
With the greatest respect to my elder, Dr. Frederick Fasehun, who I know very closely, especially during the pro-democracy movement, where he was at the forefront in the struggle to restore democracy, his contributions to the resuscitation of democracy is indeed undeniable, I am however, miffed by the story we are hearing about him and the resuscitated UPN. I must quickly concede to him, the right to set up a political party. The Nigerian Constitution guarantees the freedom of association. So I wish him well with the UPN. To my people in the Southwest, I would say, we should allow a thousand flowers grow, I am however glad that our people have a discerning and shining eyes, to identify the progressives. Surely, by their fruits we shall know them.
You were persuaded to serve, three years down the lane, would those people be able to beat their chest today going by your performance?
In absolute modesty, and with thanks to the Almighty God, I could say, we have come, we have seen the rots and we have conquered the rots. Within this short period, what was broken has not only be fixed, it has been further developed.
Today, people come into Ado-Ekiti, and they marveled, asking if this is the same state capital, Ado-Ekiti that they saw just three years ago, that has now turned to a true city, a thing of beauty to behold. A friend of mine, who has been away for about five years, recently came home (Ado-Ekiti) and he missed the way to his father’s house, because the whole area has been overtaken by development. Today, market women trade till 11 p.m. in the night under the illuminating streetlights, on all major roads and streets in Ado-Ekiti. Same for taxi drivers, they now work as late as 11 p.m. Happily, this is not limited to Ado-Ekiti, it is the same story in most towns in the state.
We knew that if only Ado-Ekiti and a few major towns were lifted up, we would be faced with the problem of migration from the rural areas to those elevated towns. That was why we extended the metro renewal projects to the rural towns and villages.
Your government had some face-off with workers some time ago; how you manage all that?
I don’t know what you mean by face-off with workers. I don’t have any face-off with any worker. I have a pleasant relationship with workers in the state. But I’m also very clear about turning the face of Ekiti round comprehensively, not just in one area, but in all ramifications; including the professionalisation of the civil service, including blocking all the loop-hopes where our scarce resources are being swept away.
If minorities of workers are not happy with that, then I leave them to the public court of the good people of Ekiti. If I could increase the Internally Generated Revenue of Ekiti from N100 million monthly to N600 million monthly, which is still not the target, without necessarily increasing the taxes and there are no new taxes for now, that should tell anybody about tax collection pattern before and what has been happening when we decided to use e-payment system for taxes and all other collections. People who were benefiting from that fraud, as few as they were would never speak well of our government.
They would stop at nothing to instigate opposition at any front against us, because they are very powerful, they also have the wherewithal to launch opposition and attack against us. I am however glad that the average worker in Ekiti who has got his salary upwardly reviewed three times in the two and a half years of this administration, who can now access car loan and housing loan, which he was never able to access under the former administration, who is treated and rated according to his competence and not according to the god-father he has in the system, and can become a Permanent Secretary simply by coming tops in the common test he did, without coming from the governor’s village, those ones are going to help tell our story much better. They may not be lousy, but they are credible, they are our ambassadors to propagate the good story of good governance, we have installed. The truth is that workers in Ekiti have never had it so good the way they are now having it under our administration today.
If your government is truly delivering as you claim, why are people decamping from the ACN?
Decamping is part and parcel of politics. At any given time, you would always have people who are not happy with the set-up, in any party, particularly the ruling party. Usually, they are people who are insatiable, you cannot please them. Some may want to become commissioners, but got full-time board appointment, some are eyeing full-time board membership, but got part-time, etc. So for reasons like these, they may decide to move into another party. And you can’t stop them, because you will discover that they are not builders, they are not ready to make sacrifice to build the party.
However, we never fail to tell them that there is always another time, if they make sacrifice today to build, tomorrow they could get what they could not get yesterday. Usually, those who decamped to other parties are those who see themselves as juggernauts. Thank God in the whole Ekiti ACN, we don’t have juggernauts. If I may recall, 17 aspirants who contested for the party’s ticket against me, who considered themselves as juggernauts decamped to the PDP. You know what happened, their supporters abandoned them, they did not go with them, they all voted for me in 2007 and in the re-run that followed it.
The opposition says your victory at the Supreme Court was not on the basis of points, but on technicalities. So where is the basis of your confidence that you will triumph in next election?
What the Supreme Court said was that it was an abuse of court processes for the matter to have come before it, because the court lacks jurisdiction in the first place. The matter had reached the final bus stop in the Court of Appeal and this bust stop had pronounced unambiguously that I won the election in 2007 and that I also won the re-run in 2009 and that those who stole my mandate should vacate the seat for me. Sadly, there is no provision in the Electoral Act for those who did that to be punished maximally, for stealing the mandate of the people.
Is that why you have now resorted to probing the former governor, Segun Oni’s administration?
I am shocked that people keep talking about this probing as if it is new. When I came into office, I set up an Administrative Contract Review Panel that looked into the contracts awarded by the Segun Oni administration. That panel came out with its findings. However, I decided to hold on to the report, to allow the court proceeding Segun Oni instituted to go on, so that he and his team would not be distracted. More importantly, so that I would not be accused of opening a new battle front against them, which could make them to be engaged in battle from two fronts.
What I did was to allow them to concentrate on the legal battle they instituted. Now that the legal battle is over, this administration has a duty to the people of the state to bring to them the outcome of the investigation, which we used their resources to carry out for the purpose of promoting prudency, accountability, justice, fairness, equity and good governance. I am very glad that my brother, Segun Oni has said we are on the right track and that he would be ready to give account of his stewardship any time he is invited.
So it is not a case of witch-hunting them after their Supreme Court losses?
My brother Segun Oni knew that this investigation did not start after the Supreme Court judgment. He knew that this process had been on long before now. I just slowed it down because I didn’t want to be accused of intimidating or harassing them because they took me to the Supreme Court. I am a product of the rule of law, I am a democrat, I must allow every aggrieved person the opportunity and the unhindered environment to pursue his or her case to seek justice.
Some people have accused you of using and dumping former Governor Ayo Fayose, who they say you now have cat and mouse relationship with.
I am not in any cat and mouse relationship with former Governor Fayose. I have a tradition, which is that you would never find me denigrate anyone who has occupied this honourable seat I have the grace of God and of the people to occupy today. Doing that, I would not only be denigrating the person, I will also be denigrating myself. The seat is more important than the occupier.
Now let me address the issue of use and dump. I don’t believe that Mr. Fayose himself would say that anybody has used and dumped him. He is not the type that could be used and dumped. The former governor supported me in my re-run election in 2009. But he was not alone, all the former governors in the state supported me. Former governors Bamidele Olimilua and Niyi Adebayo supported me. I don’t think there is anything unusual about that.
I am of the firm view that they (including Fayose) were also listening to the views and decisions of the people of Ekiti with regards to who their choice was. So they were simply and expectedly aligning with the position of the people of the state. With due respect to all of them, they couldn’t afford to move against the people’s will and the political tide. They didn’t want to be on the wrong side of history. I would forever be grateful to him for that wise decision and support. But to say I used and dumped him would tantamount to saying that I signed a deal with him and I reneged on the deal. Remember that Fayose that time moved to the Labour Party where he contested the senatorial seat against my party man, Babafemi Ojudu. I cannot support Fayose against Ojudu because it would be regarded as anti-party.
This article was first published in The Guardian
Last modified: July 7, 2013