Minister for Mines and Steel Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi says Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose has no power to stop him from returning as a governor. He spoke with journalists after his declaration. Shola Oyeyipo was there and presents the excerpts:
You have been governor in Ekiti State before, why do you want to return as governor?
Yes, you are right. I have been governor here in Ekiti State before now, but I feel a profound sense of unfinished business. Unfinished business in the sense that all what I did in office had gone pear-shaped in this state. May be some infrastructures have been sustained. At least you can still see the street lights, you can still see the Government House on top of the hill, you can still see some of the physical things; particularly, our efforts in the area of human capital development, area of entrepreneurship, tourism development, healthcare, have actually been severely damaged.
I give you a couple of examples to demonstrate what I mean by that. Over 40, 000 people benefiting from our various social investment schemes have been put out to hang and dry. 25,000 that I was paying 5000 to, in our social security scheme, the 10,000 benefitting from youth volunteer scheme – our youth empowerment system being paid 10,000 monthly and being engaged in variety of our initiatives; environmental sanitation, teaching in schools, working in the health sector and all of that, they were disbanded. The youth in agriculture scheme, which was at the time used by Minister Akin Adesina, no longer exists in this state, though some of the beneficiaries have now gone on to better things in the agricultural sector..
The peace ccorps that I established and which had about 1000 people across the state, has also been disbanded and all those people out on the streets. So, when you go around Ekiti and you talk to the elderly, the young, pregnant women and people who benefited from the variety of things we did; pupils in schools, university students who benefited from our bursary and and scholarships – that no longer exist in this state, nobody gives scholarship again, then you can understand the pain that I feel about missed opportunities for our people. If it was about me, I really do not need to be governor in order to live a decent life.
Frankly, and I am sure you will agree with me, Abuja is an easier setting to operate. As a minister, if I were to see politics as business, it is also the better place to do other things, network and gain opportunities but I would not be fulfilled, if I were to ignore all the damages that had been done in the state.
And its also much that a lot of what I did had been eroded. Just go to Ikogosi. You knew what I made out of Ikogosi. You only need to visit Ikogosi now and see what had become of Ikogosi – and the damage does not just focus on human capital development, infrastructural development, you would imagine that somebody who has taken out 40,000 jobs or support schemes, out of the budget of the state, will be in a position and much stronger footing to pay salary regularly in a known civil service state but civil servants are being owed six months at the minimum, teachers are being owed 10 months, local government workers are owed 10 months, traditional rulers, who used to take 5 percent of local government funds that come to the state when I was governor – not only has it been reduced to 2.5 percent, they don’t even get it. Five – six months they have never earned any pay.
So, if you ask me, yes, I have been governor; I am not coming out of a sense of ambition, I am coming out of a sense of duty, out of a profound sense of unfinished business, which I believe only a progressive and ideologically driven government can deliver as far as Ekiti State is concerned.
About 25 aspirants are jostling for the All Progressives Congress’ ticket. Isn’t better to agree on a consensus candidate? Some aspirants think you should also not be in the race.
First, I am an interested party, even if I were to take that option, it may not be wholly acceptable. But I still do not think that is completely written off. I believe that opportunity will abound in which those who are contesting will have the chance to have a stakeholders’ engagement with leaders of the party with the view to, may be, reducing the number of those running or at least ensuring that this is a clean race.
Frankly, we have to come to term with the fact that its a plus that the APC ticket is much sought after. It is a positive for our party. However, it has to be managed carefully.
Once the primary takes place and a clear winner emerges, I don’t think the problem we are envisaging will happen actually. Where you may run into a problem is when its a close race and people imagine that some hanky-panky has given one person or the other an edge in the race.
Frankly, I do not think it is going to be a close race but that is a separate matter. Everyone has the right to run and aspire in a political competition and I don’t think we should stop them from running .
Are you in the race because you have the support of President Muhammadu Buhari?
Answer: I can also not detach myself from the government in which I serve, that is also going to play up and I am not going to say to you that I have not secured the approval of my boss to enter the race. I work for a principal, so it is not possible that I would be out running around the way I have been doing without having gone to my principal and say sir, I am thinking about going back to Ekiti and that I need your help for me to pursue my ambition, but if you don’t have any objection, I believe I would crave your indulgence to go home and repair the damage that has been done in my state.
That is not necessarily an endorsement and anyone who knows President Buhari the way he functions would know that he is not the type that would insert himself in a race that is clearly based on clear guidelines and principles and you’ve seen him demonstrating it consistently, including most recently with the issue of elongation in our party. He is not the type we’ve seen with the PDP government where the president says yes, this is my man, and no one dares him; President Buhari won’t say that.
Some said that the party’s leadership in the state was installed by you and therefore, would deliver to you the party ticket at the primaries.
There is no doubt that the leadership of the party emerged at the time I was governor in the state and they don’t have the brouhaha going in our party. This leadership emerged in 2014 and four ears after, according to the constitution of our party, the leadership must change in 2018.
But again, when you look at the background of this leadership you talked about, you have in the executive of our party, people who came from the PDP or new PDP. Also in the state executive, you have traditional ACN people from my own side of the party in that same executive, you have people who also came from other tendencies, people within the broader ACN family. So we are not all sleeping facing the same direction. But the most important thing for me is that people have a record to sell. If I am running, it is a market place, you need to look at your unique selling point and place that before the delegates. So anyone who says oh you have the president backing, and oh too, he has the structure of the party in the pocket, I believe they are mistaken on both stands.
Don’t you have unfinished business in the Ministry of Mines and Steel where your activities have brought appreciable progress?
As a matter of fact, what is uppermost in the minds of stakeholders in the mining sector is if I can use the word foundational. The work I have done over the last two and a half years as minister is largely foundational, retrieving critical data for the sector, supporting private and small scale miners with low interest rate funds, ensuring that the regulatory framework is much more predictable and certain so that when you get a licence, you are not going to run the risk of another person coming to say it is not yours, it is mine. It is also about strengthening the relationship between states and the federal government as well as well as the surveillance of the illegal mining activities.
But the truth of the matter is that as much as I love what I am doing, the mandate that the president has saddled me with, I also know that mining is a long term sector, the foundation for massive transformation has been laid since I got there.
On the critical projects that we have, mining does not subject itself to an electoral circle. Unfortunately, it is not a 4-year sector, it’s a 2025 year sector to plan and I don’t believe that staying out would give me a sense of fulfilment of what is required in the sector. Besides, I have a colleague who I have carried along very closely as minister in the sector so nothing is likely to change. He would deepen the activities that we’ve put in place and I don’t see why he would not do well in continuing with the work I have done and we’ve both jointly presided over the sector, even on more larger platform, you are right. You know there are so many competent Nigerians that can fix things at the federal level and also at the state level, you only need knowledgeable people, you need people with experience. And in governance and politics, there is always a sense in which it is safer to hear from the side of people who you had served.
I outlined a lot of things this afternoon when I was speaking and the truth of the matter is that these are precisely what have been missing in this state for over the last three years and the sharp penury, hopelessness, the heartlessness that the Ekiti people have been experiencing is beyond belief. For a state that has climbed thus so high in all indices of human development to now in the last four years end it up in a situation where the rate of children-out-of-school is now the highest in the country is a tragedy. This is a state that had the lowest percentage of out-of-school children in the federation not just south-west, now it has the highest because the parents were not paid salaries, you cannot have been charging their children school fees. That was exactly not the situation in this state, before it was a state where pupils used to go to school free. So if I am coming back, it is actually out of pain that this should not be allowed to happen in a decent society.
What about the 10-year ban the Ekiti State slammed on you though the white paper?
Which government white paper? You mean the toilet paper or what? You are far too knowledgeable about this thing and you also have a good sense of the history of where this is coming from. Yes it used to be the case in this country that you can use an administrative panel report or a judicial commission report to orchestrate the ban of a political office holder but that period has since gone because it became very clear that this was a witch-hunting tool either in the hands of the federal officers who have used this or at the state level. And there is a settled matter by the Supreme Court of Nigeria on this point and that is Atiku Abubakar vs Federal Government of Nigeria that you cannot use the report of a commission of enquiry or an administrative panel of enquiry to ban anyone from public office.
Only a court of record and what is defined as a court of record in law? A high court either at the state level or at the federal level. So for anyone to tell you, to the best of my knowledge I have not even been asked to show up in any court over any allegation. And donâ€™t forget I did not even appear before any panel…
â€¦you were invited
I was invited but you should also remind yourself that I challenged that invitation in court and that case was in court as the panel was sitting. So I cannot approbate and reprobate. I cannot challenge a matter in court and then go to the same panel to show up thus legitimizing the activities of the panel. I am not INEC, however, there is a judicial precedence. I have a friend called Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso who went through same experience. He was governor. He went to become minister and when he was about coming back as governor, the governor of that state brought out a commission of enquiry report. Of course it was rubbished and the man became governor.
So you have to ask yourself, what is the point of those saying that? It may well be traceable to ignorance of the law and of the state of play because it is not just settled in the Supreme Court case that I mentioned, it has also let to the alteration of that section of the constitution. So if you read that constitution today, it does not say what it says in 1999 to 2003. This is why I describe the white paper as a tissue paper.
Can you shed more light on the N25bn loan taken by your government and the specific projects you embarked upon with the money?
Absolutely because what we did is clear to everybody. We took N25bn for infrastructure development, not for salaries, not for frivolity and those projects traverse the length and breadth of the state. The bulk of that money was spent on roads. When I was governor the entire road network in this state changed and there were about 14 roads that went into that. We spent about N14bn out of that N25bn on roads alone. Besides we brought back Ikogosi, we built the new Government House out of this money, we built a 12000-seater pavilion out of this money, we built the civic centre out of this money. In fact if you calculate what we spent the N25bn on, we spent more than N25bn. But you had a governor who really cannot be accused of showing fidelity to the truth.
Part of what you said I committed as offence, the people you were citing came to your own panel of enquiry. Access Bank came to your panel of enquiry and told you categorically that there was no missing N835m from the funds of UBEC, that we took our money back because the state did not meet the obligation attached to the grant. So if a bank lends you money and that same bank takes the money back and you could go to the entire public and say Fayemi stole N825m. You then set up an independent panel yourself chaired by a former Chief Judge in the state who is now a king, and that panel came out that no money was missing, how can you pay serious attention to the report of such a panel and these were the things you hinged your allegations of fraud and mismanagement on. So what we did in the state, the record is there for all to see and we can defend our record any day.
You are running for governorship on the platform of the APC at a time there is disenchantment against the party. Donâ€™t you see that affecting your chances?
Frankly, I believe that we have a lot to sell as a party and I am not just running on my performance when I was governor, but also on the performance of the Muhammadu Buhari-administration, which I am part of because it is a collective responsibility. So, I am not going to shy away from the perceived inadequacies. I am going to explain what the APC government has done in all spheres. It is going to be a strength rather than weakness because it is about framing the narrative properly. I have just placed side by side what we left, when I left office in October 2014 vis a viz what is happening in the state today and I provided independently verifiable evidence either on the debt status of the state or on the programmes that we implemented and the ones that are being implemented today in the state. If I were to do that between what we have done in the two and half years of the Buhari administration and what the Jonathan administration did for five years, there would be no basis for comparison.
We have enough to sell to Nigerians because we have retrieved the country from the precipice. People may not pay enough attention to that because it is not as tangible as money in your pocket, but it is people, who have a safe and secure environment that will talk about money in their pockets.. I hate to sound like a broken record, but my boss, the Vice President (Prof. Yemi Osinbajo) did a more brilliant job on this, when he spoke at the Bola Tinubu Colloquium in Lagos. I canâ€™t even do better than he did because you just have to look at the records; what we have done in infrastructural development, petroleum sector, health sector and compare with what happened when oil was selling at over $100 per barrel. And donâ€™t forget that when we came in, oil production went down to about 700,000 barrels from 2.2 million. The price was $30, thank God it is now $70, and if I should add, the federal government became the babysitter of virtually all the states because 30 of them were not paying salaries. If not for President Buhariâ€™s generosity, I donâ€™t know where many of the states would be now.
Even with all the support, take my state for example, I gave you a figure of N56 billion from the first bailout, second bailout, budget support, ecological fund, micro credit funds, Paris club one and two. I cannot imagine where Ekiti would have been today if President Buhari is not as generous as he has been to provide the kind of support he has provided to Ekiti State and to provide it to a man, who daily insults him. When I was governor, I would like to think that I had a very respectful relationship with President Jonathan. But, you know what; President Jonathan had a selective approach to distributing federal funds. Those of us in the opposition never benefited and these were our entitlements. They will share ecological funds without Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) being part of it. They would do road refund but they would not give us our own, but that does not obtain in todayâ€™s government.
So, on very many grounds, I believe that the track record of my boss is a selling point. I am not saying that this government has been perfect on all grounds; we also suffer from the tyranny of exaggerated expectations.
I cannot imagine where Ekiti would have been today if President Buhari is not as generous as he has been to provide the kind of support he has provided and to provide it to a man, who daily insults him