Mr Gboyega Oguntuase, a lawyer by profession, is the chairman of Peoples Democratic Party in Ekiti State. In this interview with Olakiitan Victor, in Ado Ekiti, Oguntuase speaks on politics in the state and the performance of the APC federal government. Excerpts:
Governor Ayo Fayose has spent two years in office. How would you rate his performance?
It is so clear that Governor Ayodele Fayose and the PDP have shown that Ekiti people have not lost the votes they overwhelmingly cast for Fayose during the June 21, 2014 governorship poll. Governor Fayose, in spite of the poor economic situation in the country, has lived up to the expectations of Ekiti masses by living up to his electioneering promises. He has been able to show the reason why he was voted into power.
Prior to the governorship election, the APC had lived a reckless life in Ekiti. Their fiscal and political decisions could be best described as abysmal and lacking sobriety. Through this, the APC government of Dr Kayode Fayemi left a huge debt, which almost crippled the state’s economy and left immeasurable uncompleted and abandoned projects that bear no relevance to the realities on ground.
During the APC regime in Ekiti, there wasn’t value for the money spent on projects. They just did those projects to meet their own taste rather than meeting the needs of Ekiti people. Going by available records, that government took about N36 billion commercial loans from different banks and a total of N25 billion was taken as bonds. This is apart from huge indebtedness secured in other areas. Because of this, Ekiti is paying back every month from the federal allocation to service those debts. Money being deducted from the federation account is N1.2 billion monthly and as a result of this, government has to be managing with at times N900 million per month and in most cases N750 million per month.
This is different from the situation under Fayemi who received N3.5 billion monthly or higher. Against this background of hopelessness, Fayose picked up the tattered structure and embarked on massive infrastructural facilities. As of now, almost all the local government headquarters have their major roads dualised. Ado-Ikere dualisation road is nearing completion. In Ado Ekiti, several new roads have been constructed and the state capital is wearing a new look. Even a monumental flyover is springing up, in spite of the dwindling revenue.
In terms of sectoral attention…
In the area of agriculture, the Fayose administration has been giving seedlings and loans to farmers. Water supply in areas like Aramoko Ekiti, Igbara Odo, Otun and in many other towns has improved.
In the area of education, Fayose has been fighting hard to restore the Ekiti glory of a deserving education-loving state. Before we came in, Ekiti and, in fact, all the South-west states being controlled by APC were lagging behind in WAEC results. But today, Ekiti has jumped over several states because of the attention being given to that sector.
Again, this state under Fayose has been able to maintain relative peace to the extent that no case of political assassination has been recorded. We have not also done anything like depriving the opposition of the right of assembly. This is different from what we witnessed under Fayemi. And you can see now that people can feel the peace all over the state.
The health facilities across are also receiving attention.
Fayose in a bid to boost the economy initiated the stomach infrastructure and enhanced entrepreneurial scheme, where loans were given to people across the 177 wards of the state. To further consolidate the scheme, another set of 10 persons per ward has been compiled so that they can benefit N5,000 monthly stipend as social security scheme. All these are aimed at making life better for our people and making the populace feel the impact of the government.
What is your take on the menace of Fulani herdsmen in Ekiti State?
Fayose was able to neutralise the Fulani herdsmen who wanted to make incursion into the state through Ikole Local Government Area because he has the political will to do so. The governor is working hand-in-hand with the security operatives to ensure that social vices like robbery, kidnapping are no longer visible in Ekiti State. Fayose under two years has been able to maintain peace with the traditional rulers. If you observe very well, there has been no case of conflict between the governor and the traditional rulers. Our Obas are being treated with dignity and they are receiving serious attention. The palace of Ewi of Ado Ekiti has been turned into a huge tourist attraction.
Recently, the chiefs from all the towns in Ekiti State were invited to Government House to contribute to the making of the next budget, so that they can discuss our areas of need in the state. Also, the governor used the forum to secure a common position on the security matter to ensure that the state is not infiltrated and this consultation is going to be a regular thing, so that the government can have a feel of what is happening at the grassroots.
The government has been taking proactive measures to make Ekiti a peaceful state and the result is manifesting in the peaceful coexistence among the indigenes and the non-indigenes. The governor has also assented to a grazing prohibition law to further checkmate rampaging herdsmen and criminalise their illegal activities here in Ekiti.
How would you rate President Muhammadu Buhari’s performance?
Buhari has clearly manifested that his government has no economic programme and policies for Nigerians. The ignorance of the APC government led by Buhari has caused the current economic recession. It is no longer news that naira has stumbled to N420 per dollar. It is equally noticeable across the country that petrol, which sold for N87 per litre under Goodluck Jonathan, now sells for N145 under the APC government . Prices of food items have gone up astronomically and the ordinary man can hardly have three square meals per day. Apart from the increase in transport fares across Nigeria, air fares have also increased. As we speak now, economy class ticket from Lagos to London has increased from N250,000 to more than N400,000 and Lagos to the US has increased from N350,000 to N600,000 or more.
The totality of what is happening vividly shows that Nigeria is under tension and a suffocating economic situation and needs the attention of people who truly believe in the survival of the Nigerian nation. I also want us to remember that because of this recession, over 30 states can’t pay salaries and all these are clear indications that the APC government has lost control of the economic shape of Nigeria and the economic shape is gradually moving towards a catastrophic structure if nothing is done.
However, the situation looks redeemable and this could have been made possible if we had a listening government and approachable president at the centre. The agenda of change promised by APC has only manifested in retrogressive and negative manners that all of us must do something to change the change by booting out APC in 2019.
What is your take on the menace of militancy and insurgency?
We have witnessed nothing but deception under a government that presented itself to Nigerians above its real stature. APC promised that it will wipe out Boko Haram few months after assuming office but today nothing has been achieved. Those who said President Buhari was winning the war should be asked ask whether the Chibok girls have been recovered from their captors, one and half years after Buhari got into office. The insurgents are still making serious incursions into many of the North-east states. What I am trying to say is that Boko Haram is still a huge threat to our nation, so Buhari has failed in this regard.
The incapability of Buhari to handle some of these crises is manifesting in the militancy in the South-south and the rampaging herdsmen, who daily kill, rape and destroy farmlands belonging to innocent Nigerians without any checks from the APC government. The inability of Buhari to emulate the diplomatic approach of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and the meekness of Goodluck Jonathan in settling militancy is responsible for Nigeria losing several millions of dollars daily, because of the activities of the Niger Delta Avengers, who are bombing our oil installations. Apart from the destructive violence, don’t forget the activities of Independent People of Biafra.
President Buhari has failed woefully in appeasing the agitators in the South-east and South-south and this is responsible for the zealousness on the part of these militants to fight the federal government to a standstill. It seems the APC –led government has a security network that has no relevance to the contemporary security situation at hand. These visible dangers have compounded the harsh economy and led to the increase in the social vices. Without fear of contradiction, Buhari’s approach to security issues is either antiquated or insufficient to the contemporary challenges at hand and he has performed abysmally low in this aspect.
Your party is polarised into two factions. Don’t you think this will affect your chances in 2019?
Well, 2019 is a little bit far, so we have time to deal with the issue squarely. Committed PDP men would have resolved the issue before now, but some external forces have made it more challenging to resolve. But I want to tell you, as much as I agree that Ali Modu Sheriff issue is a huge distraction, I have the belief that the leaders of the PDP across the nation are doing what reasonable men should do to resolve the matter. Let me be categorical, the Ahmed Makarfi –led PDP controls 90 per cent of the PDP members in Nigeria, including all the governors elected on the platform of the party, 95 per cent of the members of the National Assembly too, as well as all the state party chairmen. Aside from that, all the elders of the party are united behind Makarfi.
The position of the PDP has been that in a genuine democracy, allowance should be made for differences in opinions, but the structures within the party must be sufficient enough to harmonise the opinions and that is why we appeal to the Sheriff group to explore the internal mechanism in resolving whatever matter they have rather than the courts being used to inflict injuries on the party, so that our heroes, past and current nationalists and upcoming revolutionary youths can be happy with us.