But for the triumph of reason, the initial withholding of the statutory allocation due Ekiti State by the federal government would have heightened tensions between the two tiers of government, write Shola Oyeyipo and Segun James
If there is anything that is quite certain, regardless of the shifty nature of politics, it is the fact that the duo of President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State may never find a common ground, either on personal or mutually exclusive matters. The animosity between these two is beyond the comprehension of the undiscerning. It is ethnic, religious, political and much more, personal.
Unfortunately, whilst one engages in this sordid feud and moves on as if everything is fine, the other is taking frantic notes and unrepentantly unforgiving of the invectives so far hauled at him. Thus, these irreconcilable circumstantial dispositions are what have further complicated their otherwise needless rivalry.
The situation soon assumed a different scale when the Ekiti State governor recently alleged deliberate withholding of the statutory allocation due the state last month. He suspected it was a deliberate move to strangulate the state and by implication, ridicule his administration before his people. He cried out and went a step further to challenge the federal government to release his funds. His party and members had quickly joined in scaling up the protest.
On their part, the federal government and the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) dismissed the allegations as unfounded and argued that the governor didn’t understand the issues. Although the governor had expressed confidence that the money would be released shortly after visiting the Minister of Finance, whom she said assured him it was a mix-up and that the money would be paid soon, the tension had more or less subsided.
But the scale of what would have happened if the experience of Lagos State under former Governor Bola Tinubu and President Olusegun Obasanjo some years ago had replayed itself is better imagined. First, there is the need to understand how far the two had come in their rivalry to better understand the import of what would have come in the wake of the allocation controversy.
The Path to Fayose’s Troubles
Fayose has always been in the spotlight of political crisis. And since his second coming as the governor of Ekiti State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he had opted, more or less, to stand against the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and its president, Muhammadu Buhari. This has again made him a cynosure of all eyes.
During the election that ousted former governor of the state and Minister of Steel and Mineral Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, he engaged all possible including the brazen deployment of his stomach infrastructure to win. Then APC members alleged that they were driven to the bush in many towns across the state.
For instance, in Efon Alaaye, the party claimed PDP thugs did not allow any APC member to participate in the accreditation process while no party agent was allowed to stay in any of the polling units in the town, while traditional rulers in some communities threatened to banish whoever voted for the APC.
There were also allegations that PDP agents forced members of the National Youths Service Corps (NYSC), who worked as ad hoc staff, to abandon card readers for manual accreditation in some units. But despite the hues, Fayose was declared winner. He polled a total of 203, 090 votes to defeat the APC candidate and then incumbent governor, Dr. Fayemi who garnered 120, 433 votes though Fayemi was believed to have performed.
The APC too was prepared to show that the election was fraudulently won. So, from the onset, Fayose drew the battle-line with the APC-led federal government. He was prepared to hold on to his seat with an iron fist. At a point, precisely on Monday, September 22, 2014 confusion erupted in the premises of the Ekiti State High Court when hoodlums believed to be loyal to Fayose invaded and disrupted proceedings in a case challenging his eligibility (then he was governor-elect), to contest the June 21 governorship election.
Justice Olusegun Ogunyemi, who presided on the case, had refused an application to set aside an order abridging the time for the PDP candidate to file his defence in the case filed on behalf of socio-political group, Ekiti-11 by one of its members, Mr. Femi Ajakaiye.
Later on that same year, Fayose was locked in a fierce political battle with the APC dominated 26-member state House of Assembly. The APC had 19 members in the state legislative arm then. The face-off took a dangerous dimension between Monday, November 17, 2014 and Wednesday 19, when the state capital, Ado Ekiti, was taken over by anti-impeachment protesters led by deputy Governor Kolapo Olusola and other Fayose supporters. It was during that fracas that Mr. Modupe Temitope Olaya in Efon-Alaaye lost his life.
The 19 APC lawmakers, who were initially encouraged by President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory, remained on the run till the expiration of their tenures and they were rendered practically useless till the PDP eventually swept the assembly election.
Eventually, the APC Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, Dr. Adewale Omirin, and his deputy, Adetunji Orisalade, were removed by seven PDP members of the assembly on November 20, 2014 and it remained like that till the end. The seven members also approved Fayose’s commissioner nominees and local government caretaker committees as well as the budget.
This is in addition to the fact that Fayose remained a fierce critic of the APC, particularly its presidential candidate in the build-up to the last presidential election, President Buhari, whom he said was too old to be Nigerian president and he insinuated that he could die in office. And this is one of the major areas of discord between the governor and the president’s admirers.
But the APC handlers in the state were resolved to get at Fayose. Later in 2015, a shocking audio conversation amongst fayose, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, Senator Iyiola Omisore and former Police Affairs Minister, Jelili Adesiyan in collusion with some military officers surfaced. The audio shed light on the factors behind some irregularities believed to have been perpetrated in the last Ekiti State governorship election and how the PDP manipulated to win it.
Captain Sagir Koli of the Nigerian Army recorded the voices of Fayose, Obanikoro, Adesiyan, Omisore and Brig-Gen Aliyu Momoh, when they allegedly planned how to deploy soldiers to rig the elelction. Interestingly, Fayose admitted that his voice was on the rigging audio clip but vehemently denied talking about rigging. Rather, he maintained that he was accusing General Momoh of colluding with the APC to rig the election.
The standoff continued last year October when Fayose prevented operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from arresting the wife of another vocal and critical PDP member, former Minister of Aviation, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode, Mrs. Precious Fani-Kayode, who was detained for several hours in Ado Ekiti branch of Access Bank after a visit to the governor.
Fayose stormed the bank in company with many of his fanatical supporters around 7pm to ensure that she was released. At the end, no one knew why the anti-graft agency wanted her.
More recently, in January, Fayose repeated his grandstanding posturing when he personally foiled an attempt by the DSS to arrest Apostle Johnson Suleiman of the Omega Fire Ministries in Ado Ekiti after the fearless preacher told Christians to resist the killings by Fulani herdsmen and urged them to resist further attacks by the killer nomads.
Another high point in Fayose’s controversial relationship with the ruling APC at the centre was the recent revelation of how he and the former Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro allegedly got a plum share of N4.745bn from the arms deal loot which the President Buhari-led government has resolved to recover.
As part of efforts to track and trap the money, the EFCC had frozen a Zenith Bank account belonging to Fayose but that would no longer be as Justice Taiwo Taiwo of Federal High Court in Ado Ekiti later ordered the EFCC to unfreeze all blocked accounts belonging to Fayose. The judge said the decision by the EFCC to freeze the account without first hearing Fayose’s position on the matter is simply an abuse of his fundamental rights to fair hearing. So, in his usual mockery of the ruling APC, the governor headed to the bank to make a media-celebrated withdrawal of N5 million.
While it seems like the governor who enjoys immunity always get away with every attempt to clip him, Fayose who is now the face of the opposition PDP and the most outspoken one for that matter, has continued to lambast the Buhari government at every given opportunity.
The issues of the herdsmen, the Southern Kaduna killings, FG’s attempt to borrow money, lateness in forwarding Walter Onnoghen’s name for confirmation as substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria, the high cost of living, increment in workers PAYE and several other sundry issues have become handy for the governor in his attacks against federal government.
He had accused government of doing everything possible to upturn his election. He also once said the central government is working to run his state down. In all, it is obvious that Fayose is not ready to court the ruling APC and he is hinging his recalcitrance on the constitutional provision of his freedom and protection. Though to some analysts, how he hopes to get away with his actions at the expiration of his tenure will be of utmost interest to students of politics and power, he is however not intimidated by all standards.
Now, the Allocation Controversy
As it is not unusual for the governor and the federal government to be at each other’s throat, it was not surprising when Fayose raised the latest alarm that the federal government had deliberately withheld the January 2017 allocation and the monthly budget support due to his state.
But the federal government on Thursday denied Fayose’s allegations. The Director of Information, Federal Ministry of Finance, Mr. Salisu Dambatta, who shed light on why the N1.1bn Budget Support Facility for Ekiti State for the month of January was withheld, first noted that statutory allocation due to the state had not been withheld. He said for the budget support, the state had refused to comply with a provision introduced to bring prudence to the disbursement of the
“The ministry categorically denies and states the claim as incorrect as the ministry has not withheld any statutory allocation due to Ekiti State, or any other state in the country.
“The fact is that the Ekiti State Government failed to comply with the necessary requirements for participating in the Budget Support Facility, which is a Conditional Loan Programme to state governments introduced with a view to enhancing fiscal prudence, designed particularly to enhance transparency, efficiency in public expenditure and payment of salaries.
“This is not the first time of non-compliance by the Ekiti State Government. His administration defaulted in meeting the conditions specified and agreed upon by the 35 state governments that are participating in the programme as contained in the Fiscal Sustainability Plan and the Ekiti State Government was warned formally of its failure to comply with the full requirements vide a letter on August 5, 2016, with reference number HMF/FMF/ASG/1/2016.”
This explanation however came after Fayose had already taken to the media to accuse the government of victimization. He even took the pains to visit the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, to ask for his money. Although he did not meet her at her desk, she would later call to ask apologise for the situation and promised to ensure the payment of his money, he said. And government too, reports have it, had promised to pay up the money this week.
A Recent Past Experience
Although Fayose had made his point and the federal government has also clarified the issue, the scenario above would only remind students of politics and power of the frosty relationship that characterised the era of former Lagos State governor and national leader of the APC, Senator Bola Tinubu and a former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
Just as it is now, Tinubu was the face of the opposition Alliance for Democracy (AD). His case was even more delicate as he and Obasanjo are from the South-west and yet, he remained a major opposition to the Obasanjo-led PDP government.
Obasanjo chose to withhold onto the Lagos local government funds by claiming that the state government must revert to the 20 local government structures, when the state increased its local councils to 57 by creating additional 37 Local Council Development Authorities (LCDAs). Obasanjo was accused of constituting himself into an appellate court over and above the Supreme Court by ignoring a ruling that the funds be released to the state.
To underscore the political sensitivity of the issue, it was the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who later directed the then Accountant-General of the Federation, Alhaji Ibrahim Dankwambo, to immediately release to Lagos State Government, its seized local government funds which totalled N10.8 billion.
Obasanjo’s argument for withholding the Lagos allocation was hinged on the fact that by the creation of new LCDAs in the state, the old local government areas have been tampered with in respect of their names and boundaries as they were divided into smaller units and therefore, not recognised by the 1999 constitution.
To him, the constitution only recognises 774 local governments in the federation, so, in Lagos State for instance, the constitution recognises 20 local governments.
For instance, Alimosho local government which is duly recognised by the constitution was divided into five LCDAs while the old name – Alimosho – no longer exists. Same applies to the 19 other local governments in the state, recognised by the constitution. As such, council allocations to the affected states were withheld.
On the other hand, Lagos State, claimed that they had fulfilled all constitutional requirements for the creation of new local governments and that what remained was an Act by the National Assembly, making consequential provisions with regards to the new local governments.
Lagos accused the federal government of unduly punishing local government workers as withholding of the allocation implied withholding of their salaries. The affected workers included teachers in primary schools, local health officials and workers at the local government secretariats among others.
Very easily, Nigerians have begun to compare the two scenarios as similar. Like Tinubu, Fayose is not a friend of the ruling government and he is an unrepentant critic of the Buhari administration. So, some are already drawing the inference of political persecution from Fayose’s allegations.
And the Debates Had Already Begun…
On his Twitter handle, Fayose, who served the salvo, wrote: “Out of the 36 states in Nigeria, Ekiti is the only state that did not receive budget support fund last month. They want to cripple my state”, he said.
But lawyer and former National Secretary, Labour Party, Dr. Kayode Ajulo did not see the matter in the context of political witch-hunt.
To him, questions should be asked particularly as regards whether or not Ekiti State had complied with the provision Dambatta claimed it has not complied with.
To him, questions should be asked particularly as regards whether or not Ekiti State had complied with the provision Dambatta claimed it has not complied with.
“I have to know from all indications, as a lawyer, available facts have shown that he (Fayose) is not telling us the fact that it is statutory allocation. There are some conditions he has to meet to access the fund. He should not play politics with it. It is not about PDP or APC; it is for the people.
“The Ministry of Information’s explanation is in tandem with good reasoning and Governor Fayose should remember that when his account was frozen, we defended him. In this case, we don’t have to lie about it”, he said.
The Executive Director, Kogi State-based NGO, Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution (CDHR), Mr. Idris Miliki, was also of the opinion that the governor ought to be more diplomatic in handling the matter and that the interest of the people should supersede all other sentiments.
“I think the fact has been established that there are certain conditions to be met before the money would be released to the states. And there are also issues of due process and compliance. But overall the money is for the state and the people. So, let them put their heads together to ensure that the people get the money. It doesn’t belong to Fayose.
“The governor should also know that it is not by making a noise; you must lobby; he is also a politician”.
But former deputy governor and Senator representing Ekiti South senatorial district, Senator Abiodun Olujimi did not agree that the governor is playing politics with the matter.
“A governor and most especially the governor of Ekiti State cannot play politics with the livelihood of the civil servants, who are the real owners of the state. Also, we heard from the ministry’s spokesman whose claims are shrouded in confusion.
“We can’t see the clear reason for the refusal and what is to be done. Nigeria is one and meaning should not be allowed to be read into actions, especially where a government is stifled without adequate notice”, she noted.
A Lagos based lawyer, Mr. Morenikeji Saliu, advised the federal government to separate Governor Fayose from his people so that its actions are not considered as mark of intolerance.
“What the FG has done could be seen in some quarters as a transfer of the vendetta or hatred against the governor to the people of the state. The question now is, why punish the innocent citizen for whom these allocations are meant?
“Although an attempt has been made by the FG to rationalise the action on the ground that the Ekiti State Government did not fulfill certain conditions that will make them access the fund; that story should be told to the marines. Only a foolish person will not see FG’s belated explanation as a mere subterfuge”.