Governor Kayode John Fayemi is seeking another term in office to serve the people of Ekiti State on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
In this interview, Fayemi, among other issues, expresses his worries for the election, how the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, can ensure the poll is devoid of irregularities and the coming on board of a former governor of the state, Mr Segun Oni, to lend support for his ambition.
You have gone round the communities in the state in the course of electioneering campaigns. What has been your message to them?
Basically to thank them for their support of the past three and a half years, to solicit their support in the coming election and to highlight what the government has been able to achieve, specifically in their communities and collectively for the state.
Luckily for us, there is a track record that is palpable and tangible. When I get to any community, before I say anything, one of the things the royal father touches on is what we have been able to do to make a difference in the lives of his people.
Of course, these are not wealthy communities in terms of material wealth but they have genuine intentions. Government has helped by giving them money for what we call community projects specifically and they have been able to make a lot of difference in their communities.
Then of course I tell them that this election is going to be about character, it is going to be about integrity, it is going to be between light and day and the choice is with our people.
I ask them, ‘do we want a government that is driven by integrity or we want a government that is driven by people of low moral fibre, people that do not represent the values that Ekiti has been known for over the years, people who will not be accountable to them? And the reception has been great and I really must thank God and our people for that.
Every single community that we have been to, we have not had a negative reception. We have had surprising reception in some places we visited feeling that because some opposition figures come from their, we would receive lukewarm reception. That has not been the case. The work of the government speaks for it everywhere we go.
When you assumed office in 2010, your administration’s theme was Ekiti roadmap to recovery. What will be your administration’s focus in your second term?
The vision to roadmap to Ekiti recovery was to make poverty history in Ekiti and, clearly, we have achieved a major dent on poverty; you can judge this from some of the results we are garnering from our social welfare initiative.
This is a government that is ideologically rooted in social democracy; we believe that everyone cannot be for himself.
We must have an unbreakable bond that enables society to strengthen itself and government has a responsibility to help the weak and vulnerable.
You refer to the social security benefit scheme; you refer to our free education, our free health scheme. These are initiatives tied to our anti-poverty strategy and it has achieved a tremendous difference in Ekiti State.
What we are now doing is not jettisoning any of those eight-point agenda. We are consolidating and strengthening them in a manner that they become a way of life. We want to do it in such a way that no government will come and say security is not my priority, I don’t have money for free education, I do not have money for free health care.
We have used the last three and a half years to build infrastructure, but we now need to consolidate on that by focusing more on jobs for the people and that is why we are extending our coverage on education to Ekiti Knowledge Zone which is a free zone because education is our industry and we believe we can achieve a knowledge economy that is productive and can utilize a lot of the young people who have degrees but have no skills. We need to build them up.
We are going to focus on employment and empowerment more than what we are doing now because we have 20,000 jobs, directly or indirectly, out there in the youth and commercial agriculture, in the volunteer corps and in our various initiatives.
We have that but we believe that we can even elevate the kind of jobs we make available to our young people so that they will improve on their sense of self-worth. So you see a huge focus on employment, you see a greater focus in agriculture and an additional focus on tourism as vehicles for economic prosperity in our state.
Then, we will of course not shy away from the education sector. However, we are going to introduce free meals in primary schools. Our enrolment in Ekiti is good, our enrolment figure is the highest in the country but we still feel that there is a lot of dots to connect in terms of nutrition of our young people so that they grow at the rate they are supposed to grow, their brain develops at the rate it is supposed to develop and we also create an economy around the feeding of our children who go to school.
In the health sector, we shall be entrenching our free health programme through our health insurance scheme which we have started on a small scale but we are going to widen under the next term of office by God’s grace. I can go on and on but the difference is that this is not just about achieving stability; this is consolidating growth and development; that is the next phase of our work.
There is no doubt that you will need funds to execute these projects you have highlighted. How do you intend to source for funds?
As you know, we are not short of ideas and our track record speaks for itself. The amount of funds we were able to raise in the last three and half years really speaks volume about our seriousness in raising funds for whatever initiatives we had.
For our infrastructure project, there is no doubt we need more money and we would be looking for money from development partners, from the banking system.
Some of the things we are going to be focusing on now are things that will make Ekiti self-sufficient.
Our independent power project, our airport project, our major water initiatives, we have already secured some funding for some of them. We have secured $50million for example from the World Bank for the urban water project.
We are discussing with a whole range of institutions on almost a zero per cent interest basis for our power project, which will put new sub stations. We have finished our energy master plan that gives us projection on what power Ekiti will require in the next 25 years.
We have finished our water master plan, our tourism master plan and these are things that we have deliberately done so that we are not just charting in the dark, we will know clearly where we are going, we will know how to get there and we believe that we have the capacity, the commitment and the credibility to raise the resources having proven ourselves with previous funds that we have raised both from the capital market and from our own internally generated resources. These are the places where the funds will come from.
There have been reported cases of attacks allegedly carried out against other political parties. How have you ensured that APC members eschew violence?
As a rule, we do not get involved in violence in APC, we are very clear on that. We even developed a code of ethics which really makes our abhorrence of violence indisputable and equivocal.
That we have done at the level of a baseline and this is the minimum irreducible for us. We held a mega rally and not one incidence of violence was recorded because we do not have a culture of violence and we do not tolerate it.
However, even when you do not have a culture of violence and violence is brought to your door step by people who belong to other political tendencies, how do you restrain people from reacting when they are attacked?
This is a challenge and it is a challenge I cannot tell you I have an answer to. I cannot continue to tell my people to turn the other cheek when they are being attacked. I am the governor; I could unleash massive force on many of these characters who do these things.
If I were not to be the person I am, we would have really seen a degeneration even worse than some of the skirmishes you have noticed but because of who I am and because I believe leadership also calls for restraint, I have been a major restraining influence on my campaign, on party members, who are attacked unprovoked since almost a month that we have spent traversing the length and breadth of this state.
I have gone further to work with interested stakeholders where I suggested a code of ethics and conduct to them. Our royal fathers called us to a meeting, I did not say because I am governor, I will not go and I gave my word to them. In any case, people know me by my antecedents.
I fought for my mandate in Ekiti for three and a half years after the election and I did not, for one minute, resort to extra legal means of reclaiming that mandate. I insisted to my people that I do not want to be governor over dead people and that we shall pursue it legally till the very end and that is what we did.
I cannot now be in government, with all the powers associated with my office, and be the one promoting violence, but we do have candidates who have track records of violence. My appeal to the law enforcement agents as the chief security officer of the state is that violence should not be condoned; whoever is found should be picked up and charged to court.
Did you, at any time, report the incidence where your convoy was stoned to the police authorities?
I did not need to report because there were police officers there.
Has there been any arrest made?
I do not believe any arrest has been made and this is the kind of issues I have raised with the police. The police that investigated have not told me they have made any arrest which is unfortunate because it then gives the impression that either the police are not doing their job or there are lapses here and there.
It is my duty that nothing untoward happens to the people of Ekiti and that is part of what I have been insisting on with the police and other security agencies in the state.
It has been reported that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has reduced the voters’ strength for both Ekiti and Osun states. How do you see the development! Do you suspect any foul play?
Well, I do not know if there has been a reduction in the voters’ figure in Ekiti. I know that INEC released a figure recently and I know that the draft was released to parties and it is pretty close to what we used to have in Ekiti even in 2011.
The voters’ figure is 762, 000 or thereabouts and that is sizeable; even if those in that register vote, it would amount to a significant number.
I know, however, that from what I have read in the newspapers and from what my own monitors have told me, from card collection across the local government areas, the collection rate is not what we would like it to be. We are closer to 60 per cent now.
Our problem with INEC is not that, our problem is the credibility of this Permanent Voter’s Card that has not been used without electronic readers and that is the point we have consistently made.
As advocates of One Man, One Vote, the only way a Permanent Voter’s Card becomes interesting to some of us, is if it can be machine readable and that it can detect multiple voting, multiple registration and fake user of the card.
That is the relevance of the Permanent Voter’s Card. If it is not going to be used in a manner that the Presiding Officers and the party agents can detect that ‘this card does not belong to Kayode Fayemi, so why is he using it?’, I do not see the big deal in a Permanent Voters’ Card.
I think INEC should listen to us because if you cannot use a PVC in a machine readable manner for an election as tiny as Ekiti and Osun states, how are you going to pilot for 2015 when you now claim you want to use it?
I do not find that believable, I do not find it credible and our party’s position is very clear, we have said it consistently that the only condition that would reduce the level of fraud in this election, is to use the machine because we have believable information that these PVCs are being cloned.
These cards are like ATM cards. What is the beauty of an ATM card? If you have N500, 000 in your account and you remove N20, 000, the time you removed the N20, 000 and the amount you removed is there. That is the beauty of the card reader. You cannot now come to your bank and deny that you did not take the money.
So this is common sense because almost every village has an ATM machine. When you put the card that they give you in your bank to use in an ATM, it records the time and the amount you collected money, it reduces it from your money in your account.
This is what we are saying Professor Jega should do because these PVCs are like ATM cards. Why do people like treating us as if we are still in the Stone Age? It is only people who are afraid of genuine voters that would not want an electronic machine reader used for this election.
Does that form part of your fears for this election?
We have concerns; we do not have fears because we build scenarios. I am saying that this election will be easier fought, by all concerned, and it will give INEC greater credibility, if they conform to the basis of issuing PVCs.
What is the purpose now if it is not going to be readable? That means I can carry Dapo Akinrefon’s card, clone it and then use it before you get to the polling station. Somebody should convince me in INEC the relevance of the PVC.
The only relevance of the PVC is if it enhances the credibility and integrity of the process and there is only way it can do that and that is if it is read by the machine.
So, it is a concern, it is not a fear and the onus is on INEC to convince us as to why they cannot use the card reader.
How many machine readers do they need for Ekiti and Osun states because the elections will not take place the same day? Let us assume they will need 3, 000 machine readers, will that make them sacrifice the credibility of the election? I believe it is in Professor Jega’s interest to listen to us because we are even his best advocates by insisting that things should be done properly.
Your party, the APC, has been criticized by the PDP for going ahead with the rally just a day after there was a bomb blast in Jos in Plateau State where scores of people died?
Were you at our rally?
Good. Our rally was fixed more than a month ago and the Jos blast that you talked about happened the day before. We thought it was too late to cancel the programme, but we then decided that everything we had to do had to be scaled down considerably which was why there was no music.
We had brought international stars, we brought major music artistes, Nollywood artistes but because it was a sombre mood and because we were extremely mortified and worried about what happened in Jos, we thought we should just conduct the business of flag presentation to the candidate whilst also stressing the importance of all joining hands to work together on the mounting insecurity in the country.
Let us not forget one thing, the buck stops somewhere; we are all jointly responsible for the security and safety of our people. As a party, we have highlighted a ten-point agenda of how we will handle Boko Haram insurgency and any other sources of insecurity if we are given the opportunity by Nigerians to run the affairs of the nation.
We added that we stand together with Mr President on matters of security, we will work with him if he allows us.
A party cannot have 16 governors, 40 senators, half of the House of Representatives and not be locked into the process or security management and security response.
It is our view and this has been clearly expressed by our party that a time like this calls for a joint approach. Do not forget that three of the most affected states are APC states, but we cannot take responsibility for what we are not directly solicited to be part of. The government that is in the saddle of Nigeria today is the PDP government and let us not pretend about that.
Most of the communities your campaign train visited had politicians decamping to the APC especially the former governor, Segun Oni. How do you see his support for you?
What most people do not actually remember is that of all the people who were on the PDP side, way back in 2007, the one person that I had the closest affinity to was Governor Segun Oni. It is not just because we were members of E-Eleven, a group of Ekiti stakeholders, but also because of his mien.
I have had cause to tell people over the last few weeks since he moved over to us, that even in the heat of the moment when tempers were flaring all over the place, I never had a personal negative word against Governor Oni. I always talked about his party and his government and not him because I have always known him to be a decent person. This is not a contradiction.
What he has even done now has really shown how much of a leader he is because he has gone beyond personal issues and pettiness. There are a lot of people who will not do things for you because you have gone to say hello to them in their house.
Governor Oni has gone way beyond that and if you listened to his speech, it was the most impactful at our rally because it demonstrated sincerity, candour and not being petty. He said we are erecting a new platform and it is about the future of our children and our state, it is not about us. Nobody is perfect.
It comes back to what I have been saying that this election is not going to be about performance because performance is not in doubt. Nobody challenges whether Fayemi has performed or not anymore, I think the icing on the cake is going to be about character.
That is the point Governor Oni made in his remarks that character matters and, particularly in Ekiti, our people cherish integrity and they are not going to leave a gold standard to follow sand; they are not going to leave a dual carriage way and go into the bus.
So, I think Governor Oni’s coming, as politicians, we will be looking at the numbers and I can tell you that is extremely significant.
I can tell you that Governor Oni’s coming has shifted the dynamics in critical local governments, he remains a factor because you cannot be governor for three and a half years and not have anchors of people. So, on numbers base, it is a plus, on character definition, no one can do a better job than him.
As the election draws near, what are your expectations?
My expectation from the police and security agencies is that they will do everything to protect the integrity of the election.
I know that once INEC has done its own job, the police and critical segments of the security agencies will be involved in protecting the integrity of the election.
If they are not allowed to their own responsibility, it can be a problem.
By Dapo Akinrefon
This article was first published in The Vanguard on June 08, 2014.
Last modified: June 8, 2014