Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, as part of his administration’s third anniversary ceremonies recently, fielded questions from journalists. Group Political Editor, Ehichioya Ezomon, was there.
LOOKING back at when you started in 2010 compared to 2013, how would you relate the events of 2007 with 2014 and what would speak for you in the coming election?
You know that it is seven years in a normal run of things. 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 were going to give to every school child in secondary school a laptop computer; have you done that?
If you said you were going to ensure that there was community involvement in governance and there would be participatory government at the grassroots level; have you done it? If you said you would do virtually all the roads in Ekiti, have you done it?
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 into play.
So, if you are asking what will work for me, clearly this is one government under which the people have experienced peace. No other government except the Niyi Adebayo government that 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 assassins after them. 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’ve done. We’ve backed it up with a law.
Interestingly, if we are to be sharing the N5,000 each on the streets, people will hail us. That was what some people were doing: walk up the streets and just throw money around, and the people didn’t know it was their money being thrown around that way.
I said, ‘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 would 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 avenue that we had to make money he has blocked them.’
If you now ask them that we heard that in two years, Fayemi had 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. They will not deny that, but they will say things are just tough under him. It is not tangible, but perception is a big issue in politics.
As you approach the last year of your first term, are there things you plan to do differently, if re-elected?
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’. In 2013, it is ‘Budget of Empowerment’ that focuses on the communities primarily and the 2014 budget will focus on completing a lot of 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.
Our Youths in Commercial Agriculture Development (YCAD) programme is one example of how to put money in our young peoples’ pockets. Those who are involved in the 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 these starch-producing factories take almost all of these away. So, that is just one way of empowering our people in a more sustainable manner.
Will governance not suffer as you approach electioneering for the 2014 governorship poll in Ekiti?
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 the fact that I am not in Ado-Ekiti should not mean government is suffering. I spent 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 spent 30 days in November going roundabout 150 communities in Ekiti. Does that mean government will suffer because I am not sitting in the Governor’s Office?
That is governance for me; that is what government is! When I am with the people, I am governing.
Then you are also campaigning?
I am not campaigning. I am preparing for the 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’m not campaigning.
How close are you to Mr. Opeyemi Bamidele (who had declared for the Labour Party (LP)? Is there any betrayal along the line, as he appears to be aggrieved?
To the best of my knowledge, he is my brother and he is representing this organisation (APC), but what you should know that in politics, you don’t even need any excuse to have ambition.
Ekiti State used to be relatively peaceful but it’s beginning to experience political violence?
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, ‘but there is nothing happening (in Ekiti); 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 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 ex-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.
How do you allay opposition’s fear that the Peace Corps you established is not designed as a parallel police force?
Somebody had asked me recently why we were 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. 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 why ours should be different. It is interesting times in Ekiti State!
It appears critics raising issues about the bond obtained by your administration did not see what you have done with the money, have they?
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 N20bn 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, and you can access the information there.
We took N20bn, and we were going to do roads; we were going to revive our moribund brick factory at 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’s 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 N20bn from internally generated revenue every month has a bond of about N250bn. 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 loans 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 N109m to N600m but that is just a scratch. Or is it the N3bn from Abuja that is going to give us all these things that you have said we had done?
When the election comes, we would have that debate about bond and anybody who wants to come with a superior argument will also table it.
What is your 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 N4bn bond in 2002, and Ekiti House in Abuja that was built in 2002 for N700m, we have just done revaluation and the House is now worth N4.7bn.
So, these are trade-offs. It’s even wiser to take these bonds to develop because Ekiti people are not going to take it from me that because money does not come from Abuja, I would not work. It is an excuse for inaction. Didn’t I know that the money was limited before I became governor? When I was running, hadn’t I thought through how I was going to get money?
We took N20bn in December 2011 as at today (September), we have paid N9bn out of that because it is ISPO (Irrevocable Standing Payment Order); it is deducted automatically from our FAC (Federal Allocation Committee) 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? Do we owe salaries?
Things that were not done when we didn’t take bond under the Fayose and Oni administrations, we are doing now: social security, housing loans, and car loans. These were not there before and we have increased salaries.
When I became governor, the minimum wage in this state was N7,500; 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 The Guardian on Monday, January 2nd 2014
Last modified: January 2, 2014