Ekiti State Governor, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi (JKF), recently gave his account of stewardship of his three years in office where he asserted that he had no excuse to disappoint his people that gave him their mandate to serve them.
According to him, he knows that the state is 35th on the federal allocation ladder before he sought their mandate, which he said was given to him freely. RAZAQ BAMIDELE brings the excerpts from the interactive session.
What can you say about the Peace Corps, which the opposition tags parallel police force?
Somebody has asked me recently why are we are starting the Peace Corps; is it another way of starting a state police? And the answer is no. Our Peace Corps is largely community-based. Of course, I am an unapologetic federalist. People know my views about multi-level policing. I don’t talk about state police, I talk about multi-level policing, which does not rule out federal police but it makes a distinction between their roles. There are crimes that are federal and there are state-based crimes and it should be clear as to who takes responsibility for what crime. In every federal setting I know around the world, this is what happens and I don’t see any reason ours should be different. It is interesting times in Ekiti State.
As you are approaching the last year of your first term, are there things you plan to do differently?
The 2014 budget in Ekiti will be a budget of consolidation. We started with Budget of Renewal in 2011 and in 2012 we had what we called Budget of Delivery. Now in 2013, it is Budget of Empowerment that focuses on the communities primarily and the 2014 budget will just be focusing on completing a lot of the projects. You might have seen our projects around. We would like to consolidate on them and then move from stability to sustainable growth particularly around areas that we feel constitute the greatest headache that we have- functional jobs per population – that is a major challenge that we want to focus our attention on. Now that infrastructure is almost back to what we would ordinarily want it to be and that will help us with the enabling environment for a growing economy, we need to make sure that we put money in our peoples’ pockets – not by sharing money, because we don’t have money to share, but by creating opportunities for them to work. And if you take our Youths in Commercial Agriculture Development (YCAD) programme for instance, that is one example of how to put money in our young peoples’ pockets. Those who are involved in the youth agriculture commercial scheme, are amazed at the amount of money they are making today. The Nigerian Starch Mill is in Ekiti buying up all their cassava; the Nigerian Flour Mills is in Ekiti also buying up their cassava. Ekiti cassava has the highest yield in the country today with 18 to 20 tons per hectare and almost all of these are being taken away by these starch producing factories. So that is just one way of empowering our people in a more sustainable manner.
Already we are in election year..
(Cuts in) Are we? 2014 is my election year. (General laughter.)
Ok. We are less than a year to your election year. One just wants to find out if governance will not suffer as you approach the electioneering period ?
Government is not just about the governor and I think that is something we have to get away from. We still have an authoritarian mindset in Nigeria because of our military past. I am one governor who is on the road a lot and governance does not suffer when I am not in Ado-Ekiti. So, the fact that I am on the road should not mean government is suffering. I am spending the entire November, for example, as I normally do every year, touring the communities because we do that in preparation for the budget. So I am spending 30 days in November going round about 150 communities in Ekiti. So, does that mean government will suffer because I am not sitting in this office (Governor’s office)? That is governance for me. That is what government is! When I am with the people I am governing.
Does that mean you are also campaigning?
I am not campaigning. I am preparing for budget 2014. But you know this is not the first time I am doing this. I do it every November. So, you cannot associate it with campaign. I am not campaigning.
There has been quite a number of endorsements from different groups and individuals within and outside your party. Now, the question is, will you run?
Yes, I will.
Now that you have declared that you will be running; if you look back at when you started in 2010, what do you think will speak for you in the coming election?
You know that it is seven years in a normal run of things. (2007 to 2014). We should have been in for four years but then you knew what happened. And I can be assessed properly.
The question would be: Oh, you said you are going to give to every school child in secondary school a laptop computer; have you done that or haven’t you?
If you said you are going to ensure that there is community involvement in governance and there will be participatory government at grassroots level; have you done it? If you said you will do virtually all the roads in Ekiti, have you done so?
If you are able to deliver on all these there can be no question about it, but you know politics is not a ludo game, there are other factors that come to play. So if you are asking what will work for me, clearly this is one government under which the people have experienced peace.
In terms of peace, no other governments except the Niyi Adebayo government achieved as much in terms of peace – with Ekiti people sleeping with their eyes closed and not having to worry about whether someone is going to send assassin after them or not. You don’t have that with this government. Two, if you are going to look at what our people call personal infrastructure; I think we have done even better than others but not in the way that others did. There is the Social Security Benefit Scheme that we have done. We have backed it up with a law. Interestingly, if we are to be sharing those five thousand naira on the streets, people will hail us.
That was what some people were doing, walk up the street and just throw money around, and the people didn’t know that it was their money that was being thrown around that way. And I say okay, this money belongs to you; let us structure it in a sustainable manner and back it up with a law that will make it sustainable even when Fayemi is no longer here. Even now, we are spending more money but we are not spending it in the manner of a politician looking for advantage.
So, if you are to go out on the streets and speak to some people, they will say “well, yes we can see all the works, we can see the roads but I don’t have a car so why do I need road?
All the avenues that we had to make money he has blocked them, so if you now ask them that we heard that in two years Fayemi has increased your salaries three times, they would say yes, he has increased salary. That is not what we are saying. And he doesn’t owe us salary even when allocation did not come from Abuja for three months, Ekiti did not stop paying salaries to its public servants. So they will not deny that but they will just say things are just tough under him. It is not tangible. But as I said earlier, perception is a big issue in politics.
Your critics are pointing to the issue of the bond obtained by this administration. Is it that they are not seeing what you have done with the bond money?
I don’t think the issue is about my critics not seeing what we have done the way you are seeing it. As a matter of fact, I think they are seeing it. And it has become a political hot potato for them. Their challenge is: What are we going to use to campaign against this man? Since there is nothing to use to campaign against him, and since we are politicians, there must be something. Yes, we may not have anything to take to EFCC or ICPC about him, but we must find something against him. And the best they could find is the bond.
Yes, we went to the bond market. It was public information. We took N20 billion bond in December 2011 – meaning about 18 months ago and the projects that we said we were going to use the bond for are specific. They were identified. If you look at the bond book they are listed there. The 10 projects were listed. You can just google Nigerian Stock Exchange website or the Security and Exchange Commission, you can access the information there. We took N20 billion, we were going to do roads, we were going to revive our moribund brick factory in Ire; we were going to re-develop Ikogosi; we are going to build a government house; you can see it on the top as you drive around Ekiti and you will see what we are doing there.
There is not a single project that we took bond for that is not being implemented. So the issue is not that we took bond, the issue is whether we have worked with the bond. Lagos State that makes N20 billion from internally generated revenue every month has bond of about N250 billion. These are facts that you can check. Akwa – Ibom, Rivers have N300bn bond. And why do you want to go for bond? Simple- it is better structured. It has a lower interest rate of about 14.5 per cent as against straight loan where you pay as much as 22.5 per cent interest. So, bond works out better for us over a long period. Otherwise how are we going to do any development in this part? Yes, we have increased the IGR in Ekiti from about N109 million to N600 million but that is just a scratch. Or is it the N3 billion from Abuja that is going to give us all these things that you have said we have done? So, when the election comes we would have that debate about bond and anybody who wants to come with a superior argument would also table it.
And what is our track record? The last government that ever did anything in this state that you can refer to as concrete – evidence based legacy was the Adebayo government. Adebayo government took a N4bn bond in 2002; Ekiti House in Abuja that was built in 2002 for N700m; we have just done revaluation, and the Ekiti House is now worth N4.7bn. So these are trade-offs. It is even wiser to take these bond to develop, because Ekiti people are not going to say to me that because money does not come from Abuja I would not work. It is an excuse for inaction. They are not interested in that. Didn’t I know that the money was limited before I became governor? When I was running, haven’t I thought throughly how I was going to get money? We took N20bn in December 2011 as at today, as I speak to you we have paid N9bn out of that because it is ISPO; it is deducted automatically from our FAC account. The second issue for me, which I think ought to interest our colleagues is: are there obligations that this state had that are not being met because we have taken bond? Are we owing salary? Things that were not done when we didn’t take bond under Fayose and Oni administrations, we are doing now- social security, housing loan, car loan – these were things that were not there before and we have increased salary. When I became governor the salary in this state was N7,500 minimum wage, we took it to N13,500 and now N19,300 and we have not had a corresponding increase in the FAC allocation to Ekiti. These are calculations that can be easily done but for mischief makers they would just sell all sorts of silly things about us. Yes, we know he is working but he borrowed money.
This article was first published in Daily Sun
Last modified: November 6, 2013