Fayemi: Ekiti ’ll vote for continuity

By EMMANUEL OLADESU
In Nigeria
Mar 11th, 2014
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On June 21, the governorship election will hold in Ekiti State. Governor Kayode Fayemi and his challengers in the opposition parties will test their popularity. Since 1999, no governor has been elected twice in the ‘Fountain of Knowledge’. But, Fayemi believes that this myth will be destroyed on poll day because he has lived up to expectation and justified the confidence reposed in him by the people across the 16 local governments. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is pushing for power shift. But, Fayemi insists that Ekiti will vote for continuity, based on the achievements of his administration in the last three and half years. Group Political Editor EMMANUEL OLADESU reports.

In 2007, he did not aspire to rule Ekiti State. But, fate entrusted the heavy responsibility on his shoulders. Twenty people were competing for the governorship ticket on the platform of the defunct Action Congress (AC). The pro-democracy activist was persuaded to put his hat in the ring. Like the biblical David, the son of Jesse, John Kayode Folorunso Fayemi got the ticket, beating other aspirants, including Prince Dayo Adeyeye, Navy Capt. Caleb Olubolade, Otunba Ayo Arise and Dare Babarinsa, at the primaries. He also won the election, although the crown was initially delivered to the loser, Mr. Segun Oni of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

After the mandate was retrieved from the interloper, the “accidental governor” began the rescue mission in the far flung state. All the sectors were in their knees. Under his leadership, governance has not been a tea party. The successes recorded in education, health, agriculture, job creation, social security and women empowerment attest to Fayemi’s vision and sense of mission. The impact of the administration is felt in the 130 towns and villages. In October, he will complete his first term.

In the last six months, there has been a gale of endorsement. Party members, the aged, who are beneficiaries of the novel security scheme, women groups, youths and traditional rulers have requested the governor to seek for a second term. Although the governor acknowledged these gestures, he delayed his response to avoid distraction from his official responsibilities. But, Fayemi has now picked up the gauntlet. The war scholar and pro-democracy crusader is now on the firing line.” I am running on the strength of my own conviction that I want to be governor in Ekiti State”, he told reporters in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital.

Seven years ago, Fayemi’s campaign train rolled into the rustic Ekiti towns. He met a state in distress. Then, associates expressed concern over his safety. “The question among many of my friends in the academia and the civil society was: ‘do you have a death wish?’ ‘Why would I want to go and do this in a place as dangerous as Ekiti?’ That was the general feeling,” he recalled.

Why is the governor now seeking a second term? His answer: “I have an unfinished task. The task is not complete. We have restored Ekiti back to its pride of place. But, restoration does not necessarily equate to transformation. Restoration brings Ekiti to a point of stability. I do not delude myself that we have achieved all that we set out to achieve”.Ekiti indigenes believe that Fayemi has made a difference. The state is reclaiming its glory as a land of honour and integrity. Unlike in the past, the hilly state is now peaceful and congenial to investment. Gone were the days of fear. The culture of political tolerance has also been restored. Basking in the euphoria of these achievements, the governor said that many Ekiti people are no more ashamed that they are from the state. “The fact that my word is my bond has enabled me to say that I promised this on October 16, 2010 when I delivered my inaugural address, and this is where we are now on that agenda. We have gone way beyond the 70 per cent mark, but it is still unfinished business because poverty has not been totally eradicated”, the governor added.

Since Fayemi unfolded his legitimate ambition for a second term, there has been a revival of political activities. He has no opposition to his aspiration in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Outside the fold, it is a different ball game. For the governor, the asporation is more of a duty than an ambition. Some people have described second term in Ekiti as a myth. The same fear had been expressed in Kano and Ondo states before until Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau and Dr. Olusegun Mimiko changed the tide. Seven people have been on the driver’s seat in the state. Apart from the first governor, Adeniyi Adebayo, no other governor had the privilege of completing his first term. Even, Adebayo failed in his second term bid.

Will the myth be destroyed on June 21, when voters exercise their franchise? Fayemi said that Ekiti will choose wisely. The governor also said that the people will prefer continuity. “This a state where the prominent parties have both had a go at it. The PDP had been in charge of this state for seven and half years. Place the two governments of the PDP and ours side by side and do a dispassionate analysis of what we both contributed to governance. Every asset that is standing on ground in this state, happened under the progressive wing. Whether you are talking of Ekiti House in Abuja, Ikogosi Water Springs that many people are visiting now, or the revived bricks factory among others, you will realise they all happened under the watch of the progressives.

“That is in terms of physical infrastructure. If you talk in terms of human development, which involves social security, youth volunteer scheme, peace corps, we have also done much. In agriculture, the story is clear. If you talk of health care in terms of the state of hospitals, access to healthcare, health insurance, it is only under us that these things occurred.

“If you talk of education, the statistics are very clear. You only need to go to the merged Ekiti State University and see a focused government that has an agenda for educational reform. If you don’t want to go as far as the university, check out what is happening at the secondary school level. The statistics are also clear. The evidence before us suggests that, if you don’t want to arrest development, then, continuity is very critical to growth, especially in an environment where every time government has been sidetracked or affected by the term of office, you also almost automatically have abandonment of key initiatives”.

The high turnover of civilian administrators has taken its tolls on the poor state. Successive administrations have often abandoned the projects they inherited from previous governments. However, Fayemi has maintained a clean break from the past. “This is the only government in Ekiti State that did not abandon projects of previous governments. The projects that Governor Adebayo did that were abandoned, the residences of our House of Assembly members that Fayose never touched, are there. The Governor’s Office is a hotel built by Governor Adebayo and somebody came and said this is more befitting for me as an office, but we would have been making more money if it had remained in its original state that Governor Adebayo put it.

“I came and said I was not going to abandon any project. People thought I was stupid. ‘How could you be doing the road to your enemy’s hometown?’ they asked. But, I said Governor Oni is not my enemy. I only challenged him because I was convinced that I won an election. The money that was being used to construct the road to Ifaki was not Governor Oni’s personal money.

“It is Ekiti money, it is our commonwealth. So, why would I abandon it simply because it goes to Oni’s village? When I came, the road to Governor Fayose’s home town was the worst road in the state. I was the one who did it. Virtually all the roads leading to the supposed enemies’ home towns, I did them because I felt it was right the thing to do”.

Fayemi allayed the fear that any project embarked upon by his government will be stalled. He said the urban renewal project in Ado Ekiti will be completed. Many indigenes have compalined about the slow pace of work at the site. “Work has not stopped. If you go to Ikole or Ikere, you will see that those local roads are being constructed. In Ado, we have had a peculiar challenge with the contractor handling the beautification and the contract has been revoked. And there is a process to that. We cannot get a new person to do it until we legally remove those who were in charge of the original contract, that is the reason for that. I know that the new contractors are about to start work on the beautification of Ado Ekiti,” he stressed.

The governor also promised to intensify work on the community development projects across the state. “We have spent so far about N614 million on the various projects. The way we went about it was that we had a philosophy that the people are the best monitors and implementers of projects that are dear to their hearts”, he said.

The projects underscore the essence of participatory democracy at the grassroots. Fayemi explained that they were dictated by community preference. After the various communities conducted their need assessment, the presidents and secretaries of the town unions will list the projects, their plains and costs. “We will then send people from our Ministry of Rural Development to assess and evaluate projects and we then give them money in phases. 50 per cent to start, then, 30 per cent and 20 per cent subsequently”, Fayemi said.

The governor is happy that, in virtually all the communities where these projects were sited, 80 per cent completion has been achieved. In many towns, they have been completed on time and at minimal cost. Fayemi acknowledged that these communities have done much better than the government that awards contracts to people outside. “From the assessment I have done, it simply shows that people take ownership of what they implement and it is difficult to steal community money. If it is government, nobody is government. Government money is money for everybody and whoever can grab. I have an unfinished task at the Government House.

That is the notion that has been engraved in people’s mind. But, for communities, you need to see the kind of accounting records that they keep. It is one of the most successful project initiatives we have come up with”, he added.

In spite of these strides, there are challenges, constraints and impediments to effective performance. For example, the governor has been challenged for introducing the competitive test for teachers. Although it was designed to boost their efficiency, it was misinterpreted by the opposition, which alleged that its results would be used to either retain or sack them because he hates teachers. Fayemi denied the allegation, saying: “Anyone who asks you to improve cannot hate you. If somebody is interested in you becoming better and much more qualitative in what you do, then the person loves you. I think I must admit that there are times when good initiatives may be communicated in a way that it does not achieve the objective that you set out to achieve. I don’t think there is any teacher in this state that believes that I hate teachers”.

“First, I am a product of a teacher and secondly, I am a teacher by training. Thirdly, free education is an obsession for me and at every opportunity. I also want to improve myself and I want people around me to also be improved. Fourthly, I am a product of public school education in this state, not in Lagos or Abuja. You can walk to my school in ten minutes from the Governor’s Office. So, I grew up here and I knew what solid public education was when I was growing up, and I really wanted to rekindle that when I became governor here. I can tell you that teachers in Ekiti have never had it so good,” he explained.

Fayemi said that, if he hated teachers, his government would not have introduced the “core subject allowance” as an incentive for good teaching. “If you teach English, Mathematics or you teach basic science in Ekiti, on top of your normal salary, you get 20 per cent as an incentive. This is an addition to the general teachers’ peculiar allowance. In fact, other workers of government are complaining that teachers in Ekiti are too well treated to their own detriment. For the first time in the history of this state, primary school teachers are getting car loans. We gave car loans to secondary schools and civil servants in. the state. But the previous government did not even give loans to anybody, whether you are primary or secondary teachers. This is the government that has pioneered all these things” he said.

Fayemi listed his achievements in education. These include the renovation and construction of 183 secondary schools and 856 primary schools, some of which had not been touched since the time of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Now that the schools are funded adequately, pupils are leaving private schools for public schools in Ekiti. “We received the good news from Abuja of having the best primary school in the country. The Stock Exchange did a competition just late last year and our College of Education Demonstration School in Ikere-Ekiti came first. The state university made the best result in the Law School this year. For the first time in 34years, Ekiti State University has all its courses accredited by National Universities Commission (NUC),” he added.

The governor said that his higher education reforms have also yielded good dividends. He pointed out that the Ekiti State University, which was in the doldrums when he became the became the governor has been repositioned, following the merger of three glorified secondary schools masquerading as universities.

Apart from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Fayemi is also battling opposition from an unusual quarter. In June, his compatriot, Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele of the House of Representatives, may be contesting against him on the platform of the Labour Party (LP). The crack on the wall was not envisaged. Many members of the political family believe that reconciliation is still possible between the two disciples of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

The governor has not made any adverse comments about the Iyin-Ekiti-born politician and former Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy. He also denied the allegation that the federal legislator was edged out of the party. “Opeyemi is my friend. He will remain my friend for as long as I live. I consider him more than a friend. I consider him a brother and that is why he could do all of what he is doing without my batting an eyelid. But, I also said to you, in times past, that there is nothing wrong in having an ambition; it is legitimate. The only objection I had was the notion that he was hounded out of the party because there was no space for him to contest. I will give you specific examples and evidence that Opeyemi never approached the party that he wanted to run for any office, not at the ward level, not at the local government level and not at the state level. So, nobody could have denied him the right to run”, he clarified.

Fayemi noted Opeyemo’s objection to the decision of some political leaders in the APC to endorse him for a second term. He said that nobody can legislate against endorsement because endorsement is neither an election or primaries. “Chief Obafemi Awolowo endorsed a gentleman named J.S Olawoyin as the candidate for the UPN in Kwara State. That primary held thrice. A university lecturer named C.O Adebayo defeated the giant of Kwara politics. Chief Awolowo had no choice than to accept the result, even though his own colleague and friend, whom he wanted, was the victim of that race. Nobody said Opeyemi could not run. Opeyemi, in his own estimation, looked at the terrain and felt that, if this man has been endorsed by some leaders of the party, if I run against him, it may be a futile effort. Why don’t I go to another party? And he is right in doing that. I don’t think that should make enemies of us,” he added.

As the poll day draws near, fears are being expressed about the competence of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The umpire had bungled the Anambra State governorship poll. The candidates are now in court. Although the INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, has assured that there will be a transparent election in Ekiti, his assurance has not doused the fear. “The taste of the pudding is in the eating. The INEC is always good at demonstrating preparedness, but there is always a difference between demonstrating preparedness and implementing preparedness”, Fayemi said.

In the governor’s view, Jega may be genuinely committed to a clean and credible process, judging by his antecedent. But, he quickly added that “when you do things the same way and you expect different results, it does not come across to me as genuine preparedness. I will like to be proved wrong that I have not seen that qualitative, objective, independent readiness. Maybe, I don’t know enough of what is in place.”

Fayemi, who has been a victim of rigging in the past, said that Ekiti will insist on one man one vote, adding that the vote must also count. “I sit in my vantage position. I monitor what is going on and I also talk to those who are somewhat involved in the process and I do not get a sense that we have learnt lessons. But then, my reactions maybe extreme because I have been a victim as you know and I am not prepared to give the INEC a benefit of the doubt. My own mantra is to be over prepared for them”.

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