Tuesday, May 6, 2014 10:15 am
Governor John Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State spoke to GBENRO ADESINA about the forthcoming governorship election, confident that if one man one vote counts, he would win
Q: Are you satisfied with your performance as governor?
I shared an agenda with Ekiti people when I was running, which is popularly known as the Road Map to Ekiti Recovery, the Eight-Point Agenda. I have fulfilled to a large extent every component of that agenda and the evidence is independently verifiable. The works are there. The physical projects you are seeing, the human capital development is evident, and the change in orientation is beginning to take a positive effect. When I came, I said we needed value re-orientation in Ekiti. Things had gone to the dogs. People were beginning to even desecrate the importance of education and knowledge in a state founded on the core value of knowledge acquisition and knowledge adoption. I think I have done enough but I use the term ‘to a large extent’ because the job is not finished.
We are on a journey of a destination. Political work is never completed but you lay a solid foundation and you build on it. That is the only reason I am in the race. I would not have been in the race at all if I felt what I have done had been consolidated enough not to be reversed by anyone who doesn’t change the vision of making Ekiti a better place. This is a cause for consolidation, not for building. We have built. Everybody commends the infrastructure we have provided.
The road network in Ekiti State is one of the best you can find around. The water availability has increased significantly more than 30 per cent. When I came, I met it at 25 per cent but now it is 60 per cent. My target when I was running is that I will take it to 80 per cent coverage. We are not there yet but I have also just secured $50m long-term loan from the World Bank just on water. That is something that will clearly finalise that original plan that I had.
Electricity is not what we want it to be because majority of electricity users in Ekiti are residential not commercial; about 94 per cent residential. We need to use electricity to generate jobs. So, we need enough incentives for local industry, and local entrepreneurs to come to Ekiti. I am focusing on independent power project. I am working with National Integrated Power Project, NIPP. They have agreed to put 132 KVA sub-station in the northern part of Ekiti where we have a lot of agro allied processing initiatives.
We already have 132 KVA sub-station in Ado Ekiti. The whole of the power that gets to Ekiti now is not up to 40 megawatts. What we have in our energy master plan that has just been completed is what we will need in terms of power generation in the next 25 years in Ekiti. I am the director representing South West in the NIPP. I am involved directly in ensuring that we expand our electricity power base. That is an infrastructural initiative that will build on what we have already done.
If you take our knowledge economy, we have an Ekiti Knowledge Zone which is really going to be the hob for not just employment generation but for making Ekiti a destination of choice. We have laid fibre optic cables around. People may not immediately connect to the importance of that because it is not food on the table directly now but that is the fastest road to career development, to functional jobs for our young people because employment generation and employment opportunity is a major focus of our work in the next term of office. Realistically speaking, we have advanced the development of Ekiti. Ekiti education and health sector have improved. Life expectancy of our state has reduced, maternal and child mortality rates in our state have reduced, the HIV/AIDS prevalence in our state has reduced. We also have our unique quality donation to Nigerians as social security benefit scheme for the elderly which three other states have joined in now and that vision will go further. I am more than convince that when our party wins at the centre, the scheme will be APC’s policy to cater for the needy.
Do you think you have the chance to win?
Clearly because Ekiti people are enlightened. They are very intelligent and prefer progress to reversal. You may pick up all sorts of side talks and interesting comments from people who see politics as an avenue to enrich themselves. There is no controversy, I am on top.
To campaign, I deliberately decided that I was going to reach and every community. I am not campaigning in the capital. I am going to rural areas, farm stead and villages. It is interesting and heart warning what I am picking from all the people which is not hearsay but evident based development in their communities. I go to the palaces of the royal fathers and they will say you have done this for us, you have tarred our roads in this little community.
You have given us a palace, health centre, schools, water, and others. It is consistent in all the communities I have visited. As long as it is Ekiti people who will vote in this election, I have absolute no doubt that this party will come back because we have done well for our people and people acknowledged it. I find it ridiculous when I hear that some people are saying that I don’t share money, I don’t throw money at all, I don’t sit at “sepe” (local gin) joints. Is that the job of a governor? The job of a governor is a very serious assignment. It is not about sitting down in beer palours. It is not about eating “boli” by the roadside. It is by making fundamental difference in the lives of people.
That is the uppermost duty that I have. When you check Nigerian constitution, it states that the first duty of government is the welfare and security of the citizens. Do I improve that by eating “boli” with them on the roadside? That can give people a short time respite. But how does that benefit the life of that particular person? And when people say he doesn’t throw money around, why should I throw money around? I don’t believe that is the way I can improve the life of an average person in Ekiti. I do not accept it and I am not going to do it. But I do share money. I share money in an institutional manner. The N5, 000 that 25,000 elderly people are receiving is money shared but money shared in a manner that is backed by law.
I am not just throwing money at them and I am not making them lose their dignity. The money is given to them privately and respectably in a dignifying manner and they have the freedom to spend it. It is a direct cash incentive to a vulnerable segment of our population that is not looked after by the community anymore. The volunteer corps that I pay N10, 000 each every month, that is sharing money. I am not throwing it out at Fajuyi park, they are getting it in their accounts. When people say these things, I expect those that listen to them to enlighten them and ask them if that is what they want. And when people share your money in an unaccountable manner, they will put 90 per cent in their pockets and share N200 for you on the streets for you to hail them. This is simply taking an advantage of the ignorance of our people and I do not come from that school of politics.
Do you entertain any fear over the desperation of PDP to capture South-West starting from Ekiti and Osun states?
It is in the nature of competition for competitors to aspire and nothing is wrong with that. Dreams are very nice and imagination can be fertile. PDP acknowledged that no government has performed as well as Fayemi government in the 18 years of the creation of Ekiti State. Don’t forget that PDP was in office for seven and half years. Memory may be short but history can’t be deleted. All we need to do is to rekindle the memory of our people about what transpired in the seven and half years of PDP here. I am running on a track record of the last three and half years in government, and on the track record of my old party predecessor, Otunba Niyi Adebayo. You can also see that we have been in government for seven and half years. Compare our record together and do an independent assessment, asking just one question ultimately- has your community fared better? Has your life improved as an individual?
Considering the fact that the man that dislodged Niyi Adebayo is still out to dislodge you and going by the fact that no governor has ever been returned in Ekiti, do you think you have the strength to break the jinx of second term?
I don’t see any jinx here. What I see is simple. You have a good tarred road that people are driving on, like the road I have put in every nook and crannies of the state and you have the bush and you are saying to the people forget that you have the road that is asphalted, and modern, that can take you a shorter time to take you to where you are going and that is ultimately in your best interest. Ignore that road, take this uncharted territory, and take this bush because that tested road is becoming boring. That is the logic of the argument of this so called jinx. I don’t buy into it. This is an assertion that is not backed by evidence. When you say nobody has ever come back, how many governors have attempted to come back in Ekiti? The truth is that we have done well and it will be very difficult to dislodge us in the minds of the people. They will try but they will fail. I mean, if it is Ekiti people that will vote in this election, there is no cause for alarm and there is no problem.
The challenge here is that you have a party at the centre that is desperate to make new road and it is ready to use all means fair and foul to try and come to the South West. There are few allegations against your administration which I think we need to talk about. Students of Ekiti State University, EKSU, felt bad that you banned their union for two years and unbanned it very close to election. They requested for water and transformers in students-concentrated areas. Members of the community alleged that you didn’t execute capital projects and that few projects on campus were done by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFUND. What is your reaction to this?
No governor has ever done what this government has done for EKSU. The record is there. Let me first address the TETFUND issue. TETFUND is not federal money but Ekiti money dressed up as TETFUND. It is two per cent of federation account. It is money that should come to Ekiti and other states which now becomes TETFUND just like the State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB.
People should try to seek information if they are in doubt. They should know what federalism is. Under elementary Political Science 101, federalism is not a master-servant relationship or a subordinate relationship but a coordinating relationship. I am shocked that you heard this in the university environment. Secondly, this is a university that has existed for 32 years. No government right from Ondo State till I became governor or from the founding father Chief Ajasin to Segun Oni ever gave them one naira of capital fund. This government has put in EKSU N500m in capital fund, their subvention increased from N210m to N260m monthly. By calculation, that is N600m additional and this government doesn’t collect from them one naira.
The tuition of about 25,000 students goes to the university. In addition, this government connected the university to the national grid in its 32 years of history. I encouraged the local government to construct two kilometre of road in the school. I don’t know anyone apart from mischief makers who have not noticed the significant improvement at the EKSU. In fact, NUC now chose EKSU as a model for universities that want to do well for a merged experience. Don’t forget I merged two universities and the seamlessness of that merger was what NUC found remarkable.
Other states have tried to do it, they couldn’t. It worked here because it is the people that requested for it. It is the recommendation of the summit chaired by late Professor Sam Aluko that I implemented. There are some buildings that we put there in the last two years; the Pharmacology and Biochemistry departments I commissioned last year were built by this government. We are building medical building. I wish you could sit with the VC and other officials, let them talk to you about the transformation that has taken place during my tenure. Because I am an academic, nobody can lecture me about what a good university is. That is the difference between Fayemi and any other person in the race.
They once had somebody as governor here who rode rough shod over the university, cancelled the College of Medicine that Governor Adebayo started 12 years ago which was reversed under Segun Oni and we now built on. You need to go to the teaching hospital and see what we are doing there and that is the component of EKSU. That also get subvention of almost N200m monthly. Somebody talked to you about transformers. I have put three transformers in that university. There is water in the university. In other to reduce challenges being faced by the students, I am also insisting that there must be on campus living. The university is putting residential accommodation now for the first time.
What about the speculation that you have a university in Ghana?
What sort of rubbish is that? Let them produce where that explanation came from. When people just say because you are a governor, you are fair game to be maligned, it is totally unquestionably irresponsible and denigrating. I and my family lived in Ghana since I returned from the United Kingdom. If I own a university, produce evidence from the Universities Council of Ghana. There are some people who do nothing but concoct lies to destroy their fellows.
Can Afe Babalola hide this massive university he built there? I am sad that educated people believe this sort of silly tales. My wife was a distinguished social entrepreneur. Everybody knew what she did before she became governor’s wife. What an insult to diminish or try to denigrate her? Her record is international. I am seriously considering taking the person behind this particular rumour to court. The only thing I brought to this job is my name. I don’t joke with my name because it is a name I am keeping in trust. That is why I declared my asset. If you go on internet, you will find what I have there. There is nothing wrong in having a university. I am an academic. I look forward to the day I will be able to own a university but pending that time, I have many things that I am doing for university.
My wife has just put for her alma mater a gender centre at Obafemi awolowo University, OAU. I am just gathering funds from friends to put up a building at EKSU, a Regional Institute for Peace, Governance and Security Studies which is my neck of the wood. I am helping the university with that and I am going to be teaching there. I have no shame associating myself with academics. That is my primary career. But when people spread unfounded baseless stupid unintelligent rumour, I believe decent people also ought to call them to order. I was something before I became a governor. It was not being governor of Ekiti that made me a person. I don’t have a university in Ghana.
What about the test you asked teachers to write?
I can’t be blackmailed. Teachers know that their career must be improved. We have some of the best teachers in this state. A teacher from Ansar-U-Deen High School, Ire Ekiti has just won a competition for the best teacher in Nigeria, having sat for an examination. There is nothing wrong about the test and I will never stop saying that. I am a teacher. There is nothing wrong in assessing the quality of your teachers. Having said that, there are ways the assessment can be done which include capacity building for the teachers.
If we pay rural allowance, core subjects allowance and we pay teachers peculiar allowance, and we give them other incentives, it is all about making the future of our children to be better. The specific response to your question is no, we are not doing any assessment for teachers because we have looked at range of options to measure the quality and that is what we have been doing. This is not a test for test sake. The end is that our children must do better in their examination. My aim is not to sack anybody and I have not sacked anybody in this state.
As a matter of fact, I have recruited more teachers. I have just finished the recruitment exercise of teachers less than two months ago. The teachers know themselves that no government has treated them this well. They have had their salary review three times; they are working under much more conducive atmosphere. All the schools are brand new, no roof is leaking, no child is sitting on the floor in any public school in Ekiti, people are moving from private schools to public schools now. What else do they want? The textbooks are there and the laptops are there. There are things that Fayemi can point to tangibly that has never been done by any government before I came. They might say I am tough but as I always say to the teachers, it is tough love.
How are you addressing the allegation of disparity of salary in the health sector especially between the local government and state?
As for local government health workers, there is no problem as at today. I approved the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure, CONMESS, the week I became governor. Ekiti is number 35 on the revenue ladder of this country. Some people are wondering how we manage to do the things we are doing. We do not owe anyone a single salary in Ekiti in spite of the difficulty all states are going through. I know states in this country that have not paid January salary. With so little, we manage our resources and we still manage to give money to people who ordinarily would not have expected anything from us – the elderly, the young graduates who do not have jobs – and yet we still do all the infrastructure that people see.
What is your reaction to those that criticise you over the building of a new government house, describing it as a waste of resources?
Your question is tied to the way I spend the bond I collected from capital market. Ekiti State earns N3 billion. Do you think that can do all that I have mentioned that we have done, N260m to EKSU, N180m to teaching hospital, another N200m to College of Education, on subvention alone and that is what they use to pay salaries in those institutions. On subvention alone, we dole out almost a billion to our various institutions. Chunk of the remaining allocation is spent on salary and operation cost of other civil servants: teachers, health workers, civil servants. We are running almost 80 per cent recurrent budget. The rest of what we have is what we get from our Internally Generated Revenue, IGR and because I am a development person, I have managed to also gain access to funding from development agencies. These are long term loans that are almost at give away price, one per cent interest, 30 years moratorium.
If you get a bond or a loan from the capital market in December 2011, this is April 2014, two years four months and you pay an average of N500m every month, that is almost N14b out of N25b loan that has been paid for projects that are long term, regenerating, and will make Ekiti a destination for investment. Ikogosi that was dead for the better part of the last 10 years was revived, running, making money; the value of what we spent on it has actually doubled in less than one year.
Ire Burnt Bricks Factory, dead in 21 years, is back to life, receiving orders from various establishments for red bricks. The pavilion, the civic centre and of course, the government house you are talking about and the myriad of roads. All the roads that everybody commends us on, the money comes from somewhere. This is a government with a vision. I am not ruling for now alone or governing this state for now alone. I could imagine what some people in the West said in 1959 (Is it television we are going to eat?) when Chief Obafemi Awolowo launched Western Nigerian Television Station, WNTV and Western Nigerian Broadcasting service, WNBS, first in Africa. Likewise when he built Cocoa House and Liberty stadium. Imagine the foresight. This government house will be there in 100 years.
Fayemi is not going to take it to his village. It is going to become a tourist monument for the state. I am not aware of any government house in Ekiti in 18 years of being a state.