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INTERVIEW: Steer Clear Of South West

L-R: Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State; Chairman of defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Ekiti State, High Chief Jide Awe; and his deputy, Chief Dele Falusi, during the official Flag-Off of APC, in Ekiti State.

Any attempt to manipulate or rig the forthcoming governorship polls in some South West states by the Federal Government-backed Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the Labour Party will be resisted with mass revolt, Ekiti State Governor, Dr John Kayode Fayemi has warned.  Elections are due in Ekiti and Osun states around middle of this year, with Oyo and Ogun’s coming few months after.

Fayemi, who issued the warning, said his words should be taken as a timely piece of advice as against a threat. He frowned at the attempt by the PDP to use the Labour Party as a lapdog not only in Ekiti but in other South West states. The All Progressives Congress, APC, is the ruling party in all the South West states except Ondo where LP controls the government.

Governor Fayemi said though he had received threats that federal might would be used to displace him by locking him up on the day of the election, he, however, vowed that such an illegal move will be repelled.

“I have heard people in the opposition say to me that we will do a repeat of Anambra here in Ekiti. We will use federal apparatus; we will even lock you up on the day of election even as governor.  This is exactly what is happening in Rivers State, they should also know although we are the smallest in the South West; they are going to get a David versus Goliath in Ekiti”, he stated.

According to the governor, who has already been endorsed for a second term in office by both the state and national leadership of his party over his satisfactory performance, “it is a fact that PDP is using Labour Party as its handmaid in this state. We have verifiable facts in this state, not just in what my brother is doing next door. But they forget the history of the South West.

“Anytime you manipulate the election in the South West, you spell doom for democracy in Nigeria. If you can recall the Wild Wild West of 1965, the  Omoboriowo saga in 1983, and the 1993 incident that ended up consuming IBB. Every time you use the South West as the target for destabilizing popular government, even the Federal Government will be consumed in it. Whoever is occupying the ruling centre, will be consumed by it. It is more of advice than a threat to whoever wants to do that. Anyone who knows the history of Ekiti people knows that they will never become slaves under Ondo again. There is a history that led to the creation of this state. Even if Fayemi is the most hated person, for whatever reasons, once you put that rampaging onslaught from next door in Ondo on the overall frame, you watch how Ekiti people will react. This was precisely how they reacted to the Ibadan invaders in Ekiti Parapo war.

Ekitis were more Awo than Ijebu people in 1965 and that has been in history. We know all the plots, all the meetings that are taking place even outside the country.”

In this interview with FEMI BABAFEMI and CHIOMA IGBOKWE, Dr Fayemi said beyond any threat from some federal agents, he is confident that his performance scorecard will campaign for him when he eventually declares for the second term race. He spoke more on this and other national issues. Excerpts:

Four years down the line, how will you assess the achievements and performance of your vision for Ekiti State? 

I think it has been a positive experience. If I was to base it purely on what I promised Ekiti  people during my campaign, my roadmap to recovery popularly known as the eight-point agenda and finally my inaugural speech, on October 16, 2010, I think I can say without hesitation that we have fulfilled our promise to Ekiti people to a large extent. If I should put a figure to it, I will say that I have covered 70 per cent of my eight-point agenda on infrastructure, educational reforms, qualitative health care, revival of our industrial base, agriculture and on tourism development as well as in the area of gender equality and women empowerment. On each of this broad strand of our eight-point agenda, we clearly proved to our people that our word is our bond.

Above all that, we have done something to restore the pride of Ekiti people which was greatly diminished. You can recall that within seven years, we had six governors in between and only Governor Niyi Adebayo completed his tenure and in 2010 I was elected. These several changes do not augur well for stability in any political environment. We were able to restore the honour of Ekiti people, and you can bear me witness that it is no longer the period of one week, one trouble.  We have managed to get Ekiti back on track. Stability has been achieved; growth is on a rising trajectory. The next question will be, have we done everything? Absolutely not. Are there challenges and the answer is yes.  There are a lot of things I would have loved to have done a lot better than we have done. One of such areas is the area of youth unemployment which I see as a big issue. As a social democrat, pulling up the weak and vulnerable should remain the primary focus of any democratic agenda.

We have created a social security for the elderly and free health care for the vulnerable. We have also ensured that there is free education up to secondary school level. My major concern now is on how to reduce the unemployment rate among  the youths of Ekiti state.

Achieving 70% at this point one could conveniently say that it is a pass mark. With that, can you beat your chest that the people of Ekiti would return you as the executive governor of the state if you decide to contest again?

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The people of Ekiti are very discerning although they are very fastidious; they know what is in their utmost best interest.  If we go by the experience of our past, they are also traditionally progressive and I think their level of education has a lot to do with that. If elections should be based on performance, accountability, peace and stability, I don’t know what anyone will come and tell Ekiti people about roads that they have not seen in three and half years with the promise of seeing more. We have successfully moved our educational performance in WASC examination from 20% pass rate in 2010 to 70% pass rate in 2013. I graduated from a school that had 9% in 2012, and recently made 99% in WASC examination in 2013. So, what is it that you want to tell Ekiti people that you will do better than the incumbent?  We have virtually changed the face of schools, from primary, secondary and the universities. For the first time, the university in Ekiti state in its 33 years history has all of its courses accredited, for the first time the university in Ekiti emerged the best at the law school in 2013.

If it is health care, the national indices demonstrate all that we have done, we are a pacesetter. I don’t know any government that has come to its state and fixed all general hospitals, primary health centers and brought the teaching hospitals to a reasonable decent stage, comparable to others in the country.

I also don’t know what anyone is going to say about tourism in Ekiti that used to be dead. Three years and three months ago, Ikogosi was the home of reptiles, gigantic snakes and alligators. Today, that place is a sight to behold, no wonder that above 20,000 tourists visited that sight during the festive period last December.

At the risk of being immodest, if the decision were left to Ekiti people exclusively to conduct a free, fair, credible election, I don’t think there will be any issue there. We are not going to be complacent but I know Ekiti people are smart. They don’t want to return to the past that was clearly not pleasant for them.

Severally I have run into people at the airport and they rush to me and thank me for restoring their pride. Even if it is only that,  I think that  anyone who knows Ekiti well should  know that those  locust years diminished Ekiti people and no one wants to return there.

Are you then saying this is the simple answer to the volume of investments coming into the state now or there  are some other factors responsible?

There is a direct correlation; nobody wants to bring his or her resources where there is instability and where there is no clear vision on the part of the government to support them by creating an enabling environment. Over the last three years, we have had six state-of-the-art hotels spring up in Ekiti State. Before then, we only had the Pathfinder and Fountain hotel, even Afe Babalola is building a hundred room hotel on the way to his university. The truth of the matter is that people connect easily to stability and better infrastructure that make way for more private investment. Before now, it will take you six hours to get to Ekiti  but now you will notice the difference once you drive in from any of the neighbouring states.  The roads are much better because we have invested much in the road infrastructure. We know that you cannot be a landlord complaining about access and not put road network for your people in a largely rural agrarian setting.

How do you expect them to bring in the goods from the farms? How do people from the metropolis get into the hinterland? We have taken deliberate steps to promote business competitiveness; we have taken steps to encourage foreign investors in the state. We have revived moribund industries.  The Igbemo rice mill is back on stream in a joint venture between Fountains holding and a Chinese company. The Ire bricks factory is back after 23 years of stagnancy.  Ikogosi is also back. When 20,000 people come to any setting, even if they pay N100 each, it helps that society to improve its economy and for us we need to move from this image of being a civil service state.  Civil service is great, it is our pride and joy but it is also necessary to make a transition into an industrial and knowledge driven economy. We have chosen a knowledge-driven economy because of our long-standing background in education.  We feel that we have the entire necessary factors in place to help develop that economy.

This city used to go to sleep at 7pm, at that time you will not find a soul on the streets. You will be shocked that we still have taxi in town till 12 midnight, simply because of the streetlight which gives them the sense of security.  People no longer feel that they have to rush home and sleep. You extend the hours of business, people don’t have time for inane things and they concentrate on ensuring that their business thrives.

In spite of this and against the backdrop of the fact that your predecessors had always stayed one term in office, are you in anyway scared that should you want to run in 2014, what happened in the past will repeat itself?

Well, let me address the question this way. It is more likely that I will run in 2014 than not. Let me stop beating about the bush, even though I have not formally declared.  Am also a historian and a student of politics. When people said that none of my predecessors was re-elected for a second term, then they are not well informed. The truth of the matter is that as far as the history of this state is concerned, I have only one predecessor who completed his term. I told you that we are six governors in seven years. The normal term of office is four years constitutionally, only Otunba Niyi Adebayo completed his four years term which was in 1999 to 2003.  If you want to extend that history a bit further to the second republic when we were part of old Ondo State. Nobody can come up with the argument because Chief Ajekunle Ajasin won a second term although it was stolen. He retrieved it; it was only the military that aborted the second term after he had spent three months. So, that statement is false.  We know what happened to Niyi Adebayo’s administration which was part of Obasanjo’s bandwagon. Many Ekiti people are not convinced that Adebayo lost any election; many believed that it was another Anambracadabra in 2003. Ayo Fayose and Segun Oni never completed their term. Those were supposedly elected; the other Olori was an emergency governor. Others were speaker turned acting governor.

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I thought it was important to establish the basis of such statement. Ekiti people know what they want, as long as you don’t have external interference. Ekiti people have not shown that they have an objection to keeping a winning team. Most especially where there is evidence across the length and breadth of the state that the governor is transparent and has met his own end of the bargain.  This means that the governor has demonstrated all the values that Ekiti people are known for, which are honour, character, competence and commitment. If I decide to throw my hat into the ring, I don’t see it being rejected on the account that nobody has done well. It is a false statement. In any way, isn’t there going to be a first start? Who says that Governor Fayemi is not going to be the first governor to be re-elected in the Ekiti history?

 

By the time you are coming into the race, nobody can dispute the fact that you are the candidate to beat. Assessing the political parties’ maybe one or two or probably the aspirants, do you think any of them poses any threat to you or your party?

One thing I learnt very early in both theoretical and practical politics is that you must never underestimate anybody.  Could they pose a threat?  My honest answer is yes. Am sure that whoever is picked eventually by these parties that you mentioned would be up to the task that he wants to defeat an incumbent with an outstanding record.  He must have the credentials to beat us but the reality is that the person will be ready to confront a formidable incumbent who has done well for the people. If everything is laid out, I don’t think that we should entertain any fear but we should be alert and consider every candidate serious enough.  I go by the mantra that says that we should not underestimate anyone in politics.

As a follow-up, there is a strong belief that the Labour Party is being backed by the PDP-led Federal Government not only to contest and probably displace APC in Ekiti but other South West states where APC is the ruling party. Do you think what happened in 2003 when most of the South West governors were swept off is possible?  

What you have posed more as a conjecture goes beyond the conjecture. It is a fact that PDP is using Labour  Party as its hand maid in this state. We have verifiable facts in this state, not just in what my brother is doing next door. But they forget the history of the South West.

Anytime you manipulate the election in the South West, you spell doom for democracy in Nigeria. If you can recall the Wild Wild West of 1965, the  Omoboriwo saga in 1983,and the 1993 incident that ended up consuming IBB. Every time you use the South West as the target for destabilizing popular government, even the Federal Government will be consumed in it. Whoever is occupying the ruling centre will be consumed by it. It is more of advice than a threat to whoever wants to do that. Anyone who knows the history of Ekiti people knows that they will never become slaves under Ondo again. There is a history that led to the creation of this state. Even if Fayemi is the most hated person, for whatever reasons, once you put that rampaging onslaught from next door in Ondo on the overall frame, you watch how Ekiti people will react. This was precisely how they reacted to the Ibadan invaders in Ekiti Parapo war.

Ekitis were more Awo than Ijebu people in 1965 and that has been in history. We know all the plots, all the meetings that are taking place even outside the country.

I will like to think that the president of Nigeria and those interested in the security and stability of our country will see Ekiti election as Ekiti election because it  has nothing to do with the 2015 race. My advice is not so much about Fayemi staying in office; it is for safe guarding democracy. Our people have a parable which says those 20 years pounding yam stone still remains piping hot to burn your fingers.  You don’t need rocket sign to know that there is a plot. I have heard people in the opposition say to me that we will do a repeat of Anambra here in Ekiti. We will use federal apparatus; we will even lock you up on the day of election even as governor.  This is exactly what is happening in Rivers state, they should also know although we are the smallest in the South West; they are going to get a David Versus Goliath in Ekiti.

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Based on the information out there, your next door neighbour (Ondo) is allegedly funding their party in your state as a payback for what you did during their own period of campaign. Were you in anyway involved in any attempt to help an ACN candidate to displace the incumbent governor there?

There is a huge difference. They had no party in this state and I still insist that there is no Labour Party in Ekiti state. I won’t say the same of PDP because they have structures in this state. Labour is simply a figment of the imagination of their sponsors. This why they put all manner of resources to manufacture consent, because they know that they do not exist. A former governor of this state once ran under Labour for a senatorial ticket and lost. Labour has become a tool and I am saddened by this because I played some little role in the formation of the party as a civil society representative. I know the history of the party and I know that this was not the plan for the Labour Party to become a tool to all opportunistic elements that have no commitment to democratic development. If you say I supported the candidate of ACN, the question will be that would they rather I commit anti-party activity?  Yes, I was there for Akeredolu rally. I am not complaining about the governor next door supporting his party, he is quite welcome. I am saying that he does not belong to the Labour Party. The Labour Party does not exist. You saw the person who used it in Anambra election, that is not the labour man ideologically. I do not want to really dwell on these issues. We all come from Yoruba land and character is something that our people cherish, it is the business of Ekiti people to decide whether they want to move forward. I know they are smart enough to make up their mind in that direction. And those who want to become an agent of Ondo State should remember that they are our kith and kin and we share the same ideas. Those who want to become the agents of Ondo government are welcome. They will come and meet us here and we have to decide those who are free born in Ekiti and those who are not.

I want to be one of the prophets that will predict your victory but before then  what do you want to do differently or what you’ve not done now when you are re-elected as the governor? 

I just refer to my daily dilemma about human development as regards youth empowerment and what we can do in the area of skills development. We have a lot of certificates and we enjoy such, but sadly they are not of much use to our people. We believe that since we do not have oil or huge industries like Lagos, we should be modernizing our agricultural sector, improving our domestic tourism base and focusing on our knowledge economy.  These three are going to be the drivers of our entire work if re-elected.

We believe that we can grow the agricultural sector and we can grow the knowledge zone to provide functional jobs for our young people. We can also develop our tourism belt to provide more jobs. These are the things I will like to focus on in the years to come, to the point that what we earn will come from us rather than dependency on federal allocation. This can only be possible, if we can guarantee continuity.  This is the experience of Lagos, 16 years of progressive administration, has also shown 16 years of tangible development.  I have heard it said severally that during second term, leaders don’t do well as there is no evidence of performance.  I know that Fashola did not stop working rather he is investing on entrenching value. He needs to establish a behaviour that ultimately keeps the infrastructure in good state.  If you build the entire infrastructure in the world and you do not build the capacity to manage it, it will amount to nothing. I am confident that returning as the governor will enhance the values that always propelled Ekiti in the past into a respectable place.

With what is happening in Rivers and other places, will there really be 2015?

There will be 2015, this tension rises normally during electoral period.  Nobody expected that there will be any 2011 but here we are today. I don’t want to be complacent, I want us to continue to encourage our people to let peace reign. Particularly those in charge of security apparatus in the country because as I said our history is replete with manipulation resulting in a collapse of democracy. And I hope those lessons have been learnt.

Your advice?

If the powers that be will listen to advice, we should let these things take their course. Nigerians are not stupid and cannot be manipulated, if Nigerians want President Jonathan in 2015, there is nothing anybody can do about it, they will vote for him.  President Jonathan was an under dog, he was voted for in many parts of the country and there is nothing that says that for whatever reasons, if the people are comfortable with him, they will never do it again. There is also nothing that the ruling elite can do although they have the resources and security apparatus; if Nigerians don’t want the candidate of PDP to win. If they try to manipulate the genuine wishes of Nigeria, it will collapse.  So, my advice is let the people decide and the credit will go to President Jonathan either way.

This article was first published in SaturdaySun on Saturday, January 18, 2014.

Ekiti State Government Press Release

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