The cause of the hostility between the Minister of Solid Mineral Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State is believed to be buried in the speculated interest of Dr. Fayemi to contest the forthcoming governorship election in the state. Fayemi served as governor of the state between 2010 and 2014 when he was stopped in his second term bid by Mr. Fayose.
Though the transition was smooth, the relationship between both men ever since has, however, been marked by one controversy or the other.
The latest is the report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry initiated by the Fayose administration which indicted his predecessor.
Responding to the issues raised in the report and other political developments in the state, Dr. Fayemi in this interview affirms that Governor Fayose has chosen the wrong target in his purported character assassination scheme.
By Rotimi Ojomoyela
What is your take on the report of the judicial commission of inquiry which indicted you on the management of the state’s finances?
I am always unequivocal in my view about him as a misfit and a rabble-rouser who has not learnt anything from his previous travails after being thrown out of office in 2006. So, how do I respond to something I regard as illegal and unconstitutional by a governor who I have the least regard for?
What Ayo Fayose set up was a kangaroo panel with a clear mandate to work to a predetermined answer. Try and remember the genesis of the panel. His rubber stamp House of Assembly passed a resolution that he should probe Fayemi over alleged stealing of N852 million from SUBEB and for giving President Buhari N1.5 billion of Ekiti money. Based on that resolution, he set up the Oyewole panel after I’d gone to court to challenge the shenanigans in the assembly.
If you had followed the Ayo Fayose story, he believes that (I am) the only one in this state who can clip his boisterous wings and he wants to do everything to embarrass me in the hope or expectation that I will come crawling to beg him. Unfortunately for him, he has chosen the wrong target this time. He started by denying me my entitlements as prescribed by law as a former governor of this state. I didn’t even bat an eyelid.
Even all my political appointees who served the state with distinction were denied their severance claims and entitlements, and he tried to use the payment as a bait to lure some of them to his side.
Again, he failed, no appointee of mine left APC to join him. So, a panel which started with the so-called N852 million that Fayemi stole from SUBEB fell flat as it could not even sustain the lie that any money was missing, especially after the bank, Access Bank told his panel the bank took back their money because government did not fulfill the terms and conditions attached to the loan after I left office. They also informed all and sundry that it was the Fayose administration that took the N71 million interest that accrued. By the time the joke of a panel completed its hatchet job, what Fayemi stole had shifted from N852m to 17 buses and he also mismanaged the bond and must explain N2.6 billion.
At the risk of being immodest, everyone in this country knows that I am an advocate of transparency and accountability in public office. I’d be happy to explain anything that’s unclear after leaving over 500 pages, painstakingly detailed hand-over note on my stewardship; but not to an administration that has no interest in seeking the truth.
Without prompting, I declared my assets publicly when I became Ekiti governor and did when I left office. There is nothing that I have by way of assets that I cannot defend. And as President Buhari’s pointsman at NEITI who also chairs the Inter-agencies task force on anti-Corruption, I have a duty, indeed a responsibility not to do anything to bring his name or mine into disrepute.
Now, tell me: is Fayose a serious human being? I’m told he’s now cooking up a white paper that he can shop around with a view to getting me banned from public office. Can you imagine? What a joker! Anyway, the less said, the better on the panel. We will see who would end up in jail in Nigeria between Ayo Fayose and I. You see me in Ekiti all the time, I walk around Ekiti freely. We shall see if Ayo Fayose will be able to walk freely after October 16, 2018.
How do you respond to Governor Fayose’s claim that your appointment as a minister has not benefited Ekiti people in any way?
The trouble with Ayo Fayose is that every time he opens his mouth, he exhibits an unbelievable level of ignorance which underscores why our state is in the doldrums.
I have told the whole world what I have used my office to benefit Ekiti and to benefit the whole of Nigeria not once, not twice. I am Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; I am not Minister for Ekiti State affairs. Governors who love their people and want progress for their states know how they get things for their states.
For his information, I’m responsible for mineral resources development in 36 states and the contiguous water bodies offshore. But yes, I’m also the representative of Ekiti in the federal executive council and what I have done with the position is tangible, measurable and clear and for his information , it is better than what was done for our state in the previous 16 years when PDP was in the saddle in the centre.
And I must confess that his irresponsible behaviour and crass incompetence have made things more difficult for our state and prevented her from even more benefits from the FG.
Back to what we have done, take for example the federal secretariat. For the last 16 years, Ekiti has been trying desperately to have a major federal secretariat here where all the federal institutions will operate from. I went on inspection to check how far work has gone in the Federal Secretariat (under construction) and I am pleased with the progress being made. That project was awarded under this (Buhari) administration, and I knew how it was awarded, I don’t want to claim credit for anything but I knew what I had to do to ensure that the Minister (in charge) not only awarded it but awarded it to a competent company run by Ekiti indigenes.
That is one. Number two, former Governor Rotimi Amaechi has never stopped telling people why he had to extend the rail to Ekiti State which was not in the original standard gauge rail plan put together by the PDP. Ekiti was not factored into the plan done by the Jonathan administration or the Obasanjo administration before it. The only time Ekiti State found its way into the federal rail project was under this administration, and I went to meet the president and pleaded with Minister Amaechi that the rail should be extended to our state.
You have heard of N-Power? Nearly 4,000 Ekiti indigenes are beneficiaries of N-Power as we speak and if we wait for another two months, over 12,000 Ekiti citizens will be beneficiaries of N-Power. That is an initiative that is akin to our own Youth Volunteer Scheme, just like the Social Security benefit which we are paying at the federal level now is similar to our Social Security scheme in Ekiti.
I know what the families of those young men and women who are now getting N30,000 monthly on account of N-power are saying about President Buhari.
Ekiti public servants are being owed from six to eight months salaries; N-Power beneficiaries got their December salary on 22nd of December.
I am talking broadly now, let me come down to mining; the Nigerian Geological Surveys Agency has just completed a comprehensive survey of kaolin in Ekiti, and the result is very promising. The next phase is to move into production. We are commencing the exploration of bauxite and lithium, and we are pulling together all the small-scale miners in Ekiti to enable them to benefit from the recently launched N5 billion support fund placed in the Bank of Industry. The Central Bank that has been languishing for years is almost completed, I was there, ditto the youth in agriculture scheme is being expanded at the federal level.
I know he believes that lying is what has given him success in politics since he believes Ekiti people are ignorant and gullible.
I say to them he has four years and he has immunity, but immunity is not permanent, some of us had immunity before, and we are walking the streets of Ekiti today without immunity. But I know people who will not walk the streets of Ekiti the day they stop being governor of this state. We will all be here and will see what will happen.
Is it true that you want to contest in the forthcoming governorship election?
It is the stuff of politics for people to speculate, especially as elections draw close. But there is nothing that is happening now that is new; since I left office in Ekiti in 2014, I have always made it a point of duty to host party leaders and members every quarter, and we use these gatherings to reflect on the state of the party and state of the nation. We’ve held these meetings 12 consecutive times. Of course, based on feedback, we’ve also broadened representation at the meetings.
So, the one you’ve witnessed today is very large because all wards, local governments, LCDAs, senatorial and state executives of the party were here led by our National Deputy Chairman, Engr. Segun Oni who is from Ekiti and our State Party chairman, Chief Jide Awe. Over 7,000 party chieftains came here today.
The bottom line for us is that we have to ensure that our party is well positioned and strengthened to go into elections. It has nothing to do with personal ambition or an intention to contest. I believe that is the burden leadership has thrust upon me, and I don’t want to shirk that responsibility.
The choice really for every Ekiti free-born is either to walk away and avoid Ekiti like a plague. And many have done that, particularly the elite. The alternative is to treat Ekiti as a sick child. We all know how a concerned mother treats a sick child; when a child is sick, and the child refuses to take any food and the prescribed drugs, our mothers apply tough love to that child and what is that tough love?
In Ekiti, mothers have a way of force-feeding the sick child – blocking his two nostrils, pinning his hands and legs down, before putting the food and drugs in the child’s mouth. Of course, the child will wail and cry as mothers apply this tough love, but ultimately, it is for the good of the child because, if you agree with me that Ekiti is a sick child, I leave you to speculate about the application of tough love on a sick child. As for contest or no contest, we will cross that bridge when we get there.
Governor Fayose has said that the APC in Ekiti is factionalised into about seven groups..
Is he a member of APC? How does the APC in the South-West stand today? Is the party really factionalised? Are you aware of two APC factions in the South-West? Is anybody in court challenging the legitimacy of the various state executive committees that we have? Is there a parallel APC in any of our states?
If you are saying we have robust debates, these happen. Do we have disagreements among ourselves in debating the progress of our party? Yes, we do. This is a progressive party, progressives are known to have robust debates but towards one end – improving the lives of the citizens of our states and country. Tell me, who do you know that is joining PDP in the South-West? Even in Ekiti, which is the only state that they claim to have in the Southwest, how many APC people have you heard joining PDP in Ekiti State?
The way you have seen the Akalas of this world, the Teslim Folarins of this world in Ibadan, the Ayodele Adiguns of this world, even the Honourable Aribisogans of this world in Ekiti here, they are the party in power in Ekiti, who is joining them? So, that should tell you where we stand if you want to know the standing of APC in Ekiti.
If you are talking of division, PDP in Ekiti has two factions; they have two chairmen. Jide Awe has been chairman of our party from the get-go, and we have not changed him. Nobody is challenging his authority, how can a governor who has three contending forces within his party talk about factionalisation in our party?
I always say to people; the difference has to be clear. Ayo Fayose knew his Abuja gangsters led by President Jonathan were bent on rigging him in. Ayo Fayose never, for one day, campaigned to say this is what I am going to do in education, in infrastructure, in health. In agriculture, let me give you a very sad example – and I feel very sad when I say this to people, one of the key figures in charge of Anchor Borrowers programme in agriculture in Nigeria which has benefited many people in many states in Nigeria – especially in rice growing states like Kebbi, Jigawa, Ebonyi, and Ogun recently, it will interest you to know that he is an Ekiti man. My former Commissioner for Agriculture, Jide Arowosafe is the Executive Director of Operations in NIRSAL.
Ignoring party affiliation and party differences, I advised Jide to engage DAWN when Dipo Famakinwa was still alive, and I also asked him to call his successor in office, the current Commissioner for Agriculture in Ekiti, we were known for growing rice, upland rice, this is an opportunity, let them bring a plan so that Ekiti too can benefit from this Anchor Borrowers programme. Jide Arowosafe met with his successor – I think his name is Odebunmi, but up till now, no proposal came from Ekiti. May be one will come tomorrow. Fayose never promised anybody that he would do anything. So if he is not doing anything apart from his noisome distractions, I am not at all surprised.
I always say to people, we had an eight-point agenda, and I challenge anyone to point out any part of the agenda that we did not fulfill to the people of Ekiti, they should come and challenge it. Whether it is community development, most of the projects that we had in which we gave money to communities, they chose their projects, they chose the project sites, they chose their own contractors, they implemented the projects, they are there for all to see.