FEATURES: My Performance Has Become Hot Potato for My Critics – Fayemi

November 12, 2013

On October 16, Dr. Kayode Fayemi clocked three years in the saddle as Ekiti State governor. For him, he has justified the mandate given to him. In this interview with AYODELE OJO, he speaks on his performance, the N20 billion bond, second term ambition, national conference and South-West regional integration. Excerpts:

What are you doing differently from the path your predecessors took?

Well, I think the idea of putting the people first in all that we do is one major thing we are doing differently. This idea of putting the people first reflects in all our policies and forms, the crux of our development agenda.

Talk about the social security scheme for the elderly citizens, where elderly citizens without any form of livelihood are paid N5,000 monthly, or the free health care that is targeted at the most vulnerable members of the society – children under five, elderly citizens above 65 years, physically challenged people and pregnant women.

Even our community empowerment programme where we provide grants in aid to every community to undertake a particular developmental project of their choice is as a result of putting the people first.

You will recall too that every year, we go round the various communities across the 16 local government areas of the state to get the people’s input into the budgets of the following year. All these are geared towards doing development with the people and making them critical stakeholders in everything government is doing.

The result of this is the huge confidence the people now have in government as opposed to the apathy and despondency of yester years. There is no denying the fact, this government came to power by the grace of God and the massive support of the people.

Specifically, what are your visions for Ekiti and to what extent have you realised these in the last three years?

Our main vision is to make poverty and diseases history in Ekiti, and so far we can boldly say that we are in the right direction and there are evidences that our people are gradually escaping from the pangs of poverty and disease.

Today, Ekiti has the highest life expectancy in the country; it has the lowest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate; Ekiti has the highest school enrolment in the country. And you know through the N5,000 monthly stipends we pay to the elderly citizens, our elderly citizens are actually living above the $1 per day poverty line.

Because the N5,000 is actually more than a dollar per day. Again the money helps to develop the local economy of the various communities because the beneficiaries would spend the money in their communities. The various empowerment programmes for the youths, women and physically challenged have also impacted positively on the lives of the people and the state is better for it.

What sort of interventions have you made in critical sectors of the state: education, health, tourism, infrastructure, agriculture, job creation etc?

Our eight-point agenda was designed to cover all the vital areas and we have touched all these aspects in the last three years. Through tourism development, we are repositioning the state as number one destination of choice for people looking for leisure. Our intervention has led to the creation of employment opportunities for the youths. It is also generating income for the state. In agriculture, our intervention especially in the creation of the Youth in Commercial Agriculture Development (YCAD) has redefined farming.

We now have a crop of young, educated people in commercial agriculture. Many international companies and organisations are also partnering with us. We have been able to provide employment opportunities for over 17,000 youths through various programmes. The job creation agency is saddled with the task of exploring avenues and programmes that will provide jobs for our youths.

The combination of the sincerity and transparency of the government coupled with the trust which the people now repose in the administration has attracted over N10 billion private sector investments to the state in the last three years.

In specific terms, have the reforms you undertook in the education sector started yielding results –WAEC/NECO, test for teachers and others? What is the performance of the state in the public examination?

Yes, it is gratifying to note that the various policies put in place in the education sector are now yielding dividends. Now our teachers and students are better motivated and are putting in their very best. The 2013 WAEC result where the state recorded about 70 per cent pass rate is a reflection of the work that has gone into our education sector. This is a remarkable improvement from the 2012 result where the state recorded 12 per cent pass rate.

The state university also for the first time recorded 100 per cent accreditation from the National Universities Commission, NUC. When we merged the three universities, our intention was to have a state-owned university that will be properly funded and better managed. Ekiti teachers are also winning laurels in different competitions.

Ekiti is on the 35th in the federal allocation sharing; how are you coping with low revenue against the developmental projects?

By being creative and prudent in the management of the little resources.

What have you done to improve the revenue profile of the state?

By blocking the various loopholes and introducing e-payment for all government transactions. We have been able to increase the Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, from N109 million in 2010 to N600 million monthly.

Your critics are always pointing at the issue of the bond obtained by your administration, saying you are plunging the state into debt. How far is this true?

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 – about 23 months ago and the projects that we said we were going to use the bond for were 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 were 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 N300 billion 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 Internally Generated Revenue, 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 N4 billion bond in 2002; Ekiti House in Abuja that was built in 2002 for N700 million; we have just done revaluation, and the Ekiti House is now worth N4.7 billion.

So these are trade offs. It’s even wiser to take the 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 through how I was going to get money? We took N20 billion in December 2011 as at today, as I speak to you we have paid N9 billion out of that because it is ISPO; it is deducted automatically from our FAAC 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 salaries?

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 FAAC 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.

Why are you having disagreement with public servants in the state? Civil servants and teachers carry on as if they have scores to settle with your government. What are the real issues and what are your efforts address them?

The government is loved by Ekiti workers, forget whatever some politicians are trying to say. Workers in Ekiti State have never had it so good under any government. The few people fanning the embers of disunity are those who had benefited from the rot of the past.

Some of your critics see you as not being concerned about their personal infrastructure; I mean giving out money to people like some of your predecessors.

We take care of the personal infrastructure of the citizens through the various empowerment programmes for the youths, women and elderly citizens. Through this we put money in their pockets. What we do not do is throw money to them on the road. But our empowerment programme brings in more money and support to them than the few naira notes that some people would throw at them from the windows of their cars.

There is the complaint that your administration does not patronise local contractors, thus bringing about capital flight and not in line with your poverty alleviation stance. How will you react to this?

Again, this is another propaganda by some individuals. One thing you cannot take away from this administration is the transparency and accountability principles. Every contract is publicised and a competitive bidding process precede every contract. And if a local contractor with track records makes a bid, he will get it. I have some names of local contractors handling some projects in the state as we speak. And some of them are doing excellently well.

Already, we are in election year?

Are we? 2014 is my election year.

We are less than a year to your election. I just want 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’m one governor who is on the road a lot and governance does not suffer when I’m not in Ado-Ekiti. So, the fact that I’m on the road should not mean government is suffering.

I’m 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’m spending 30 days in November going roundabout 150 communities in Ekiti.

So, does that mean government will suffer because I’m not sitting in this office (Governor’s Office)? That is governance for me. That is what government is! When I’m with the people I’m governing.

Then you are also campaigning?

I’m not campaigning. I’m preparing for budget 2014. But you know this is not the first time I’m doing this. I do it every November. So, you cannot associate it with campaign. I’m not campaigning.

There has been quite a number of endorsements from different groups and individuals within and outside your party. Now, the question is: Would you run?

Yes, I will.

When elected for another tenure, where do you intend to take Ekiti to?

We have a greater plan for Ekiti. That is consolidating on the various development and opening up new frontiers of development.

Will you give yourself a pass mark in terms of performance in the last three years?

We have done our best. We have actualised over 70 per cent of what we promised the people of Ekiti State. And we are prepared to do much more in the remaining year by the grace of God.

What should the people of the state expect from you in the next one year?

More development. Greater participation of the people in governance.

The opposition has expressed fears over the Peace Corps you have introduced in Ekiti, saying it was designed as a parallel police force. Why the initiative?

Somebody has asked me recently why are we starting the Peace Corps; is it a back way of starting a state police? And the answer is no. Our Peace Corps is largely community based. Of course, I’m an unapologetic federalist.

People know my views about multilevel 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 why ours should be different. It is interesting times in Ekiti State.

There seems to be an upsurge of political violence in the state as against the relative peace in the state before now? What is responsible for this?

You know we politicians are attention seekers by the nature of the business we are in and that is part of the problems. If you are a politician and you want to impress your political leaders or masters in Abuja, you want to give them the impression that you are the one in charge and you go to Abuja and the people say to you: but there is nothing happening, the place is peaceful there is no problem in Ekiti, how do you think you are going to challenge this man if the place is this quiet?

Then, you will begin to look for opportunities to create crisis or to foment trouble and I think that is what we have noticed in the last couple of months here. But I am determined to ensure that we have a peaceful state even if it means bending over backwards to bring in all of the people to agree to a code of conduct – a code of ethics that binds us.

Maybe, we would call all our elders in Ekiti, so that it is not seen to be partisan or the governor dictating his position to them. But I would like to think that majority of our politicians are interested in peace.

You know this was a state of one week one trouble. How else do you want to explain a state that had six governors in seven years? How do you explain that? We have had too many problems here.

That already tells you the instability we had. When we had the pension law for former governors, it was only two people that qualified; Niyi Adebayo and Paul Alabi, because they were the only people – governor and deputy governor that completed their tenures of office.

This article was first published in National Mirror

Last modified: November 12, 2013

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