By Femi Owolabi
Since last Saturday that the PDP gave APC a drubbing at the governorship polls, many analysts have been analysing what went right and wrong with the election. There is the popular argument that Fayemi is an elitist governor and Fayose the friend of the masses. Some accused Fayemi of cronyism, while some hailed Fayose as a populist. Some say Ekiti people are foolish to have opted for a criminal Fayose over a visionary Fayemi. Some are unsure, if indeed, the election was freely and fairly conducted.
In a June 25 report by The Economist, the British magazine wrote that: “In dismissing a forward-thinker, the voters sent a loud message. After coming to power in 2010, Mr Fayemi laid new roads, improved the university system, presented a plan to get more young people into jobs, created a social-security scheme for the elderly, and cut corrupt wage payments to government workers. But such reforms upset people with vested interest in the old political system.”
It could be worrying how these post-election reports seem to be plagued by unguarded statements. Ekiti people are now being reduced to hungry men and women who only care about their stomach.
In an effort to seek clarity on some of these issues, The Scoop’s Femi Owolabi had a conversation with Lere Olayinka, the former Chief Press Secretary to former Ekiti State Governor Segun Oni. Even though Oni recently decamped to the APC, Olayinka remained in the PDP where he became one of the strongest public voices in support of Fayose in the media.
Enjoy the interview:
Mr. Olayinka, you have been a prominent voice in Mr. Fayose’s camp during and after the electioneering. What fuels your conviction of Fayose?
First and foremost, I am a PDP person to the core. I believe in the ideals of the PDP as a party and I am convinced that PDP is the only democratic party in Nigeria. Initially, I was supporting Prince Dayo Adeyeye for the PDP governorship ticket. But as God ordained it, His Excellency, Dr Ayodele Fayose emerged as the governorship candidate of my party, and Adeyeye, as a core party man threw his weight behind Fayose. Therefore, those of us who believed in Adeyeye joined Fayose’s team. As per my conviction on Fayose, I am convinced that he is far better than Governor Kayode Fayemi, and that he has the zeal, commitment and character needed for Ekiti to move forward.
Fayose was impeached in 2006, and recently, the EFCC announced that he’s yet to be cleared of the corruption charges against him. What are your views about this?
Fayose’s impeachment was a conspiracy by those who wanted to take over power in Ekiti State for their own selfish reasons. They were the ones who waged war against Otunba Niyi Adebayo when he was governor and the same people also waged war against Segun Oni. They were involved in the initial stage of Fayose’s government in 2003. One of them was the one who supplied the cloth used for Fayose’s swearing-in ceremony. Unfortunately, some of us were recruited into the conspiracy, but we now know better. We know better because immediately Fayose was impeached, what they did was to share government positions among themselves within three days of assumption of office of the then Acting Governor, Friday Aderemi. And, is impeachment among the grounds for disqualification from contesting election to the office of Governor of a State? The answer is no!
As per the EFCC trial, it is a clear position of the law that an accused is presumed innocent until pronounced guilty by a competent court of law. In this case, Fayose is innocent until the court gives its verdict. However, let me state that this issue has also exposed the hypocrisy of the APC people. The same people who are making issue out of Fayose’s EFCC trial are silent on that of the Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Kuforiji, who still presides over the Legislative arm of Lagos State government inspite of his ongoing alleged corruption trial. In 2011, former Governor of Kogi State, Abubakar Audu was the governorship candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) not-minding that he was, and still being tried by the EFCC for alleged corruption. Then, in the infinite wisdom of the moral sheriffs in the APC, it was right for Abubakar Audu to contest Kogi State gubernatorial election as ACN candidate, but now wrong for Fayose to contest Ekiti governorship election as PDP candidate. To me, that is hypocrisy taken to the most ridiculous level. Also, as at today, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, the man who leads the APC in the House of Representatives remains an ex-convict, having been convicted by the Supreme Court of Georgia, United States of America for defrauding his client of $25,000. So methinks our friends in the APC should first remove the timber in their eyes before aspiring to remove the speck in other people’s eyes.
The popular perception is that, Mr. Fayemi is an elitist governor. In an interview with him, he, however, argued that elitism is not a hindrance to good governance. Do you agree with him?
Is Fayemi really an elitist governor? I think he is just an overrated individual. He is someone, who was robed in messianic garment, and could not measure up to what was expected of him. Or is it elitist to scrap functioning universities? Is it elitist to refuse to pay pensioners? Is it elitist to be short-changing civil servants by holding on to deductions from their salaries meant for their Cooperative Societies? Is it elitist to refuse to obey the Constitution that he swore to uphold? Is it part of elitism to use borrowed fund to build State Pavilion, Civic Centre, new Government House, etc? Is it elitist to employ graduates as volunteers and be paying them N10,000 per month? Is it elitist to be protecting his party members, who killed innocent Ekiti sons and daughters? Methinks Fayemi is not elitist, he is just wicked.
On a comparison scale, can you evaluate the merits of Fayose’s government [2003-2006] and Fayemi’s [2010-2014]?
Between 2003 and 2006, Ekiti people could see and feel governance. They could see what government was doing and they could reach their governor. All the dual carriage roads in Ado-Ekiti, except those from Atikankan to Baptist Church and Old Garage to Ojumose were constructed by the Fayose government. The present Governor’s Office, Fountain Hotel, Trade fair Complex, etc were constructed between 2003 and 2006 and over N10 billion was left in Ekiti treasure when Fayose left office. Today, the issue is about how much debt Fayemi is going to leave behind.
In the last five months, I’ve often visited Ekiti. There are a few things to show that Fayemi’s government is working. The Ikogosi Warm Springs, for example, has been transformed into a standard resort. (I should also mention that while at Ikogosi in February, we were told by Fayemi’s government that it was Fayose who wrecked the place). Others are; the 5km road project, the civic centre, the cancer diagnosis centre, and the state pavilion. Don’t you think these are good developments that perhaps should have earned Fayemi a victory at the polls?
You mentioned Ikogosi Warm Springs and I ask; is renovating a hotel the same as transforming what ought to be a world class tourist centre into a standard resort? Has Ikogosi generated a dime for Ekiti State since Fayemi and his wife squandered over N2.5 billion on the place? And where are the 5km roads? How many of them were completed? What are the benefits of state pavilion, civic centre and new government house to the people of Ekiti State? The reality is that Fayemi disconnected himself from the people. He acted as a ruler, not as a leader and he paid dearly for it last Saturday. Take for instance, the Oba Adejugbe General Hospital, Ado-Ekiti project that was initiated by the PDP government of Segun Oni. Up till now, that project is yet to be completed. Instead of completing the project, which has direct impact on the people, he was busy with roads beautification, construction of civic centre, pavilion and new government house.
It is a widespread assertion, especially on the internet, that Ekiti people voted Fayose because he shared rice to them. What is your response to this?
So Fayemi did not share rice too? Is it because Fayemi’s paid bloggers closed their eyes to it? Even on the day of election, who were the people arrested for inducing voters with between N5,000 and N10,000? Were they not the APC people? Or was it not reported in the media that APC people were arrested while sharing cash to voters? Fayose did not share as much rice as Fayemi shared. Fayemi did not only share rice, he shared cash, indomie noodles, matches, recharge cards and sachet regal gin. He (Fayemi) and his wife even turned themselves to chefs, serving cooked rice to people. The reality is that Ekiti people preferred Fayose to Fayemi. They prefer to buy Fayose’s campaign vests while Fayemi was distributing his own free.
Do you agree with the conclusion of some analysts that Fayemi has raised the bar of governance in Ekiti State, and perhaps his loss at the polls is because his style of governance seems too sophisticated for Ekiti people to comprehend?
Which bar did he raise? Is it by refusing to obey the laws, executing projects that do not have any bearing on the welfare of the people, scrapping universities, and turning government to his family affairs by making his wife the Chairman of the State Action Committee on Aids (SACA), his elder sister the Chairman of College of Health Technology, Ijero-Ekiti Governing Council, his younger brother the Chief Operation Officer of Fountain Investments, his cousin the Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary Ministry of Justice and another of his cousin the Accountant General? Fayemi was just over promoted by those who packaged him and Ekiti people realised early enough that they were scammed by those who told them Fayemi was Obama’s friend. Ask the over 15,000 local government workers that are being threatened by what is known in Ekiti as Local Government Boko Haram, the Teachers whose 27 percent TSS that was being paid before Fayemi was foisted on Ekiti people was stopped only for Fayemi to announce that he has approved the payment less than five weeks to election, sick people that are being made to pay N4,000 for a bed-space at the State University Teaching Hospital, people whose shops and houses were destroyed to pave way for planting of flowers that are not seen anywhere in Ekiti, parents who are paying exorbitant fees in primary, secondary and the state owned university despite Fayemi’s declaration of free education at all levels, traditional rulers that are being treated with disrespect and others, they will tell you that Fayemi did not raise any bar as far as governance is concerned in Ekiti State.
Recent reports indicate that Fayemi’s government may go ahead with the creation of additional local governments before his term expires in October. How do you react to this?
There are laid down procedures for creating local councils. One of such procedures is that elected representatives (councillors and House of Assembly members) of the people in the affected areas must make request to the House of Assembly. As at today, there are no elected councillors in any local government in Ekiti State. Secondly, the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) must hold referendum, and as at today, there is no SIEC in Ekiti State.
You were Chief Press Secretary to former Governor Segun Oni. How would you describe his government? And what was your reaction when he dumped the PDP for APC?
I better leave the rating of Segun Oni’s government to Ekiti people. Because, whatever I say here cannot be seen as objective. As per his (Oni) movement to the APC, it is personal to me, the same way my decision to remain in PDP is personal to me. Asiwaju Segun Oni is someone that I respect and regard so much. But when the issue of his leaving the PDP came up, I made it very clear to him that I won’t have anything to do with Fayemi and his APC. I can’t just imagine myself lining up behind a character like Fayemi, who caused so much injury to Segun Oni, the PDP and the entire people of Ekiti. Here is a Fayemi, who said Segun Oni should not be addressed as former governor of Ekiti State; claiming that he was never governor, the same Fayemi who said Segun Oni rigged election and that he should have been jailed, the same Fayemi who said Segun Oni stole over N5 billion, my conscience won’t allow me to work with such a person and I told him (Oni) my mind.
What are your expectations in the next four years that Fayose would be governor of Ekiti State?
I expect a better Ekiti, Ekiti State where the resources of the State will be used to develop the State and its people. I expect an Ekiti State where every citizen of the State will be treated with respect by the government. And most importantly, I expect an Ekiti State where the people will be in charge of government not the government being in charge of the people.
– Follow the interviewer, Femi Owolabi on Twitter: @femiowolabi