Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Olukayode Fayemi
By Olawale Olaleye
Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Olukayode Fayemi, at the weekend, said contrary to the perception that Nigerian governors are using their platform to strangulate the Federal Government on every front, it is the government at the centre that is oppressing them.
Fayemi, who said the perception was now ingrained in the public’s consciousness, however, explained that one of the reasons the governors are unhappy with the way the country is being run was that none of them can say for certain how much the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) rakes in revenue because it is a secret held by the Federal Government.
“To the best of my knowledge, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) is not written into the constitution of this country; it is a voluntary body, funded voluntarily and meetings are attended voluntarily by its members.
“Its decisions are not binding on the country; its resolutions are shared with the press from time to time and to the best of my knowledge, it is not because I belong to that forum.
“It is almost always driven not by politics and I would not be saying this. I am not a member of the political party that is in the majority in the governors’ forum. It is only things that we agree on that we push collectively.
“There are a lot of things that governors do that they don’t do together. So I don’t know how anyone would come to the conclusion that we are frustrating the country, oppressing the president and not allowing the constitution reform process to progress. It is not evidenced by facts.
“This is a federation and in a federation, we have two federating units. When you have two federating units, they are not subordinate units; they are the coordinate units. That is the language we use in political science,” he said.
Fayemi added that it was totally absurd and nonsensical because he was unaware of any federation in the whole world that operates like Nigeria.
“You cannot hijack the powers of a coordinate federating unit but that is what happens here. And because governors are not the most popular public office holders, people conflict logic with illogicality and that is how I see it,” he said.
Speaking on the agitation for state police, as one example of some of the disagreements between the states and Federal Government, Fayemi said: “Our argument has never been about state police, the media described it as state police. It has always been about multi-level policing because we were never against federal police.
“We acknowledged the role of the federal police in a federation, but state police have their own role, local police have their own role and even university campus police units have a role in that multi-level approach to security.”
The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) governor maintained that he was not aware of any governor that has ever argued that federal police are unacceptable and were unwanted. “We have always argued for a multi-response to our security challenges,” he said.
Dwelling on the issue of lack of transparency at NNPC, Fayemi said: “Another thing is our interpretation of Section 162 of the constitution. We have a religious interpretation of it in the governors’ forum, which is why we are in court in about four cases.
“Section 162 (2) of the constitution is very clear that every penny that comes into the coffers of the Nigerian state goes into one and one account only – the Federation Account. Not JP Morgan, not Citi Bank. But over and over again, we run this federalism as if it is a unitary state and our authoritarian military past is affecting us.
“People do not pay fidelity to this critical issue. Monies are collected by the NNPC, we do not know the amount; no governor in this country can tell you how much this country earns on a daily basis.
“Shouldn’t I be whipped at home that I am supposed to be part of an entity and there is accountability and transparency, yet nobody gives me a full picture of what is earned? Time and again governors have raised this issue at all sorts of forums and we have four cases on this at the Supreme Court.
“We like what Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance) has been doing by publishing what goes to us, that is fine. Our people should know what goes to us so that they can monitor us.
“But we too want to know the actual money earned by the Nigerian state to which we belong so that we can also challenge with our own independent analysis. People should support that instead of haranguing us.”
Fayemi said he would not accept the fact that devils are saints, “but I don’t believe that governors are the devils that they are painted by a variety of people who cannot even stand up to scrutinise themselves.
“We have just become the football that everybody wants to kick. If you are a governor, you are a rogue; if you are a governor, you are a criminal and yet, nobody can come around and give specifics on what you have done.”
He admitted that there are governors who have misbehaved, “but what I have noticed as a detached observer is that we have seen progressive improvement from those who got into governors’ offices from what used to obtain previously, and accountability has also increased because our people are more conscious of their rights and of the questions to ask.”