Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, Chief (Mrs) Monisade Afuye, in this interview with Gbenga Sodeinde, bares her mind on the need for state Deputy Governors to be totally loyal to their principal, the governors while stressing that Governor Biodun Oyebanji has brought positive development to the state in the last one year.
What is your take on the impeachment moves being pressed against some state deputy Governors on account of lack of trust?
My take is that Deputy Governors must display 100% loyalty to their bosses. We can’t have two drivers in a bus at a time, the bus will crash. The Governor is the driver that is handling the wheel while the Deputy is to play a supportive role. To lead the people and deliver requires the two to really trust each other and partner to work towards the set goals.
In Ekiti, I am 100% loyal to my boss, whom I considered as a very good and humble man. Most interesting is the fact that Governor Oyebanji considered me as a co-pilot in our services to Ekiti. The two of us are like Siamese twins that will remain together, because the task of delivering the best is our utmost goal and nothing more.
If this should be the case, then there is no point for any Deputy Governor to be disloyal or trying to undo his boss, this is grossly unacceptable.
The worst thing to happen in any government is for the Deputy governor to constitute himself or herself to a distraction to his boss, such government will be difficult to run.
The two must work together because the constitution has made the governor number one. Two people can’t be governor at a time, that will lead to crisis and chaos.
It has been one year that you and your principal came into office. How has the journey been?
We thank God and the people of Ekiti State for the opportunity given us to serve them. It was a divine privilege for Governor Biodun Oyebanji to have been chosen to lead Ekiti at this time and we thank God that we are making good use of the opportunity.
The journey has been very challenging because Ekiti State is one the states that are financially challenged. Go and check the federal allocation ladder, Ekiti receives one of the lowest allocations from the federation accounts. The internally generated revenue is also relatively low, but we are working round the clock to deliver the best to our state and with the support of the people in the civil service, organised private sector, drivers’ union, youth groups, market men and women and other strata of the society, I think we have not disappointed them.
Governor Oyebanji has been able to show that good performance can occur with little amount that we have with all he has done across all the sectors of the economy, particularly around the six-point agenda of this administration through which we campaigned across Ekiti and made promises to the citizens.
Ekiti is predominantly agrarian. How is your government making use of this opportunity?
Ekiti being majorly agrarian has been a source of strength to us as a government because it affords us the opportunity of having potentials that can attract investments to Ekiti and Governor Oyebanji is working hard to ensure that all these opportunities are tapped to the fullest. You know that farming is one area where Ekiti has a strong comparative advantage.
Attainment of food security status is very dear to Governor Oyebanji’s heart because of the general belief that when people have enough food to eat, then poverty becomes a little bit solved.
The governor is not just trying to encourage farming, but he is keen about two things: One, to encourage commercial and large scale farming and two, to encourage our youths to take farming as a profession.
Time has come for us to do away with this conservative thinking that farming belongs to poor people. It is now an occupation that gives enormous wealth if well practised.
To actualise our dream in this sector, the present government has rehabilitated a total of 16 kilometres of rural roads in two local governments. This initiative covered towns like Ayebode, Ilupeju, Araromi and Ilawe Ekiti with 700 farmers as direct beneficiaries.
We have constructed drainage system at poultry site at Erunfun, while the existing boreholes there had been renovated for steady water supply.
Ekiti was known as a cocoa belt during the old Western region. How are you relaunching the state back to reckoning in Cocoa production and other sectors?
This is one areas that made the old Ondo State had relevance under the administration of Chief Obafemi Awolowo during the Old Western Region, that was our prowess in Cocoa production considered as the heartbeat of our economy then.
Governor Oyebanji knew that we are gradually losing that reckoning because production of cocoa has reduced in this axis due to lack of incentives to farmers and perhaps poor attitude to farming. But this government is trying to bring back the old good days. This government as part of its policies has distributed 10,000 oil palm seedlings to farmers at subsidised rate.
We are also collaborating with USDA on cocoa value chain while we have allocated 246 hectares of land to indigenous farmers. This government has supported 221 farmers with 509 bags of fertilizer and 1103 litres of herbicides to increase productivity.
Knowing that cassava is now a hotcake in the market, we have supported 180 farmers with 3370 bundles of cassava cuttings, 20 farmers with 300kg of rice seeds and 132 farmers with 507 goat weaners.
We are also embarking on aggressive land clearing around Ipao-Oke Ako-Irele axis and we have approved compensations for farmers whose lands were taken away in the process.
Has the local governments contributed to the economic growth and people’s standards of living under this government?
The local governments in Ekiti under Oyebanji are truly independent and what we have now is competition among the 16 local governments and the 19 LCDAs in project execution. The Governor upon assumption of office promised the people that the councils which are the closest to the people will be made to be financially independent and that is why you have them embarking on projects like water provision, construction of ultra modern markets, building of primary schools, grading and tarring of intracity roads in their areas.
In fact, if you go round all these councils, you will appreciate the quantum of works they have done and this is having remarkable impacts in the lives of our people.
The governor further enhanced the growth of local economy by his instruction to the council chairmen that all these contracts must be awarded to local contractors to boost local economy and prevent capital flight.
The traditional rulers are the custodians of culture and tradition. In which ways have you given them the needed comfort and respect they deserved?
Governor Oyebanji has enormous respect for royalty and he can’t do anything that can denigrate them. Recently, the Governor inaugurated an ultra modern Ekiti State Traditional Rulers’ Chamber in Ado Ekiti to give our monarchs comfort during their bi-weekly statutory meetings.
This is the first time this would happen in the 27 years of the creation of Ekiti. The one they were using before could hardly accommodate 82-member council and that accounted for the rotation of membership of the council. But the present edifice can accommodate 145 Obas at a sitting.
It has very expansive parking lots and other accessories that can give them honour, respect and comfort.
Governor Oyebanji had also created the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Home Affairs to handle cases revolving around tradition in our dear state. This also attested to the respect this administration has for our royal fathers. The governor had also made it clear that he has a lot of initiatives that will be rolled out soon to better their lives. The expansive Ulera Wa Health intervention programme of government will also visit palaces to look after the wellbeing of our royal fathers.
You can go and verify, the government is not joking with issues that border on their welfare and wellbeing because they are our partners in maintenance of peace and stability across all the towns in our dear state.
The government is also serious about the implementation of the State Regency Law, which stipulates that no Regent must be on the throne beyond six months.
It was formerly two years before being compressed. Some of the towns where regents have spent over two years are being encouraged to get new Obas by mediating in their internal crisis, particularly by pleading with those who are in courts to opt for out -of -court settlements because no town can develop without a substantive Oba in place.
How are you responding to the rising youth unemployment in Ekiti ?
Mr Governor is very passionate about the building of the capacities of our youth because no nation can get it right when youth are neglected or allowed to be redundant. You all know that we are in the ICT world, the present administration had distributed a total of 910 laptop computers to 35 secondary schools under the Adolescent Girls’ Initiative For Learning and Empowerment (AGILE).
This is meant to build their capacities in this aspect ahead of the future. This government has released a sum of over N35 million to support ICT project being envisioned by private individuals and organisations.
This government had also launched the Innovation Grant Facility to enhance innovation and creativity in the realm of advanced digital skills and entrepreneurship. This project will create about 10,000 jobs for Ekiti youth.
As a matter of policy, Mr Governor has separated the Sports Commission from the Ministry of Youth Development.
The Ministry of Youth now stands alone to cater for the needs of the youth. As a way of encouraging our youths, Mr Governor recently sponsored some athletes to Kaduna and three of them had been chosen to represent Nigeria at the Confederation of Athletics Africa championship.
Infrastructure is a catalyst to industrial development. What measures are you devising to ensure industrial growth through increased public facilities?
There is no doubting the fact that investment in infrastructure is key to industrial development. We have realised this and we are not taking it for granted. If you visit Ekiti even up to the interland, you will see the aggressive work we are doing in terms of road rehabilitation, dredging of waterways, rural electrification, solar power extension for social activities.
All these were copious attempts to make lives better for our people. Within this short time, we have dredged 7,949 metres of waterways covering Ado, Ikere and Ekiti Southwest local governments. We have rehabilitated and connected Iloro, Ikogosi and Erinjiyan tourism corridor to the national grid likewise Ayekire and Ekiti East LGAs. Some towns like Ijan, Iluomoba, Aisegba, Agbado, Ode, Isinbode, Imesi, Iro and Omuo are being reconnected to national grid after being in perpetual darkness for over 10 years.
No society can grow when things like these are happening. We are presently installing solar lights at Atikankan noted to be a flashpoint for criminal activities.
We want to reclaim that place from evil doers. We are doing a lot of construction work along Agric Olope-Moferere area, Ilawe-Igbara Odo, and Ado township roads, Ilawe-Araromi and Ayebode Ekiti. We have also awarded Ikere-Igbara Odo road as well as Ilawe-Igede road.
This government is also installing transformers in some towns to bring stable power supply and increased social and economic activities.
We have acquired 200 hectares of land for the Knowledge Zone that will now house the Free Trade Zone at Ijan Ekiti in Gbonyin LCDA. We are supporting Women in Mining in Nigeria while the government is inspecting the mining sites and quarry, so as to be able to contribute substantially to our IGR.
Power supply is also key to the growth of businesses. Is your government placing priority on this?
Yes, the current government is not taking issue of power lightly because it is the pivot on which the economy rotates. The government is fast tracking action on the completion of the Independent Power Project (IPP) we inherited from the immediate past administration. The project if completed will supply 5MW of electricity to power government institutions like the State Secretariat, House of Assembly, the new and old Governors’ offices and the Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital. The electricity from this will also power the streetlights in Ado Ekiti metropolis.
The reason behind this is that when it takes off, the electricity being currently supplied by the Benin Electricity Distribution Company to government institutions will be diverted to other areas and that will stabilise electricity supply to the state capital and neighbouring towns for more economic activities.
The rural electrification project under Governor Oyebanji has been massive. Currently, the government is undertaking rural electrification along Ado-Ilawe-Erinjiyan-Ikogosi axis to ensure steady power supply to Ikogosi warm springs that remains the best tourist attraction in our dear state.
When Governor Oyebanji came on board, the entire Ayekire and Ekiti East Local Government areas were in total darkness. They had been removed from from national grid but through great efforts of this administration, they are now reconnected back and this will improve business activities in that axis of our state.
The growth of local economy is very essential and that is what the governor has just achieved. Other areas like Ile Abiye-Ilawe road streetlights had also been electrified to increase nightlife activities in that area for more business prosperity.