Tuesday, June 3, 2014 12:40 pm
Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and candidate of the All Progressives Congress speaks with the General Editor, ADEMOLA ADEGBAMIGBE and GBENRO ADESINA on his achievements, the forthcoming election in the state and other issues.
With the campaigns going on by all the parties, how far will you say you have gone in swaying the people to your side or retaining their fidelity, as the case may be?First and foremost, I think Ekiti people are very determined. You can sell yourself and put all manner of manipulations out there. Ekiti people know how to separate the wheat from the chaff. Luckily for us, among the governorship candidates recognised by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, two have occupied this position. So, you can put them on the weighing scale and reach objective conclusion about how far they have made life more abundant for the people; how far they have transformed the state.
Interestingly, when you calculate, the first was in the office for three and half years before he was impeached. I have been in the office for three and half years. So, you can measure in a very tangible, precise, measurable manner how differently we have run the state. In my own case, it is not about winning people over. I have just completed the first phase of my campaign which took me to 132 autonomous communities with their own royal fathers. And every single community that I visited, it was a show of gratitude. Our people don’t hide their feelings. Ekiti people, no matter whose ox is gored, will tell it the way they see it.
In every community, they are always excited to see me. Yes, the governor is coming; if it is a governor that has not done something for them in the community, what is he coming to campaign with? By the time I get to any community, the first five minutes, almost routinely, will be for: Thank you for our roads, thank you for our schools, thank you for our new civic centre that we have been building for the last 30 years, thank you for the social security for our elderly, many of whom would have died if they didn’t get this N5,000. So, the first phase of the visit consistently was always about gratitude. They would then add on the part of the gratitude that, for us, we don’t even know why you are here because there is no point campaigning here. But now, you have come, it is ok. We appreciate your visit but let us talk about the next term. This is what we would like to gain from government by the time this process is over. That was our experience in virtually every single community.
Now we are in the second phase of our activities, which is focused on special interest groups. I just finished meeting with local government workers; I had one before then, with teachers at the stadium; I am meeting pensioners on Wednesday; I am meeting artisans; I am meeting students; I am meeting the university community; I am meeting the Igbo, Hausa, the non-indigenous community. They all have particular interests. As I am doing that, my wife is running an independent campaign in the markets, in the farmsteads, with women groups across the state; the DG of the campaign is running his own independent campaign all over the streets, door to door, because we have a product to sell and we can point to what we have done in three and half years which can’t be controverted, not even by the opposition. That is the story we have to tell.
You are seeking second term for what you called ‘consolidation’. Could you please expatiate?
For all the gratitude that has been demonstrated by our people, all that we have been able to achieve, fundamentally, is stability. The reason I say that with all sense of modesty is simply for us to be able to cast our minds back. Where were we when I entered the race of governorship in this state 2006? If you recall, it was a period of one day, one trouble, a period of assassinations, period when people could not sleep with their two eyes closed, period of criminality and brigandage in Ekiti. Ekiti was known during that period for all the wrong reasons, not for the values that it is used to be associated with in the past. After I won the election, we spent a significant amount of that period in court. Instability continued.
And between 2003, when Niyi Adebayo left office and 2010, when I became governor, there were six governors in seven years. I don’t know what could better describe the instability than that. So, if we have achieved anything in the last three and half years, we have achieved stability that has given us the opportunity for predictability of the investing environment. And what we have done essentially is to restore all of those things that have been significantly lacking: security, safety, new infrastructure development, new educational platform, new platform for health care, new opportunities for empowerment and job creation. It simply means that we have established the basis for growth. We have not achieved the full poverty eradication that is our primary vision.
When I was running, the mantra was that I wanted to make poverty history in our state. We have done certain things to put Ekiti on that path. Our social democratic ideological framework privileges the weak and the vulnerable in society. That is why we pay social security benefit for the elderly; that is why we have free health care for children, that is why we have free education, that is why we have health insurance, that is why we have empowerment for graduates, volunteer corps, and peace corps, because we know that everyone cannot be for himself.
The society that is run on the agenda of ‘everyone for himself’ is a society that is aimed for destruction. We consistently say that we have a duty to pull up the weak and the vulnerable. But have we achieved full turn around eradication of poverty? Obviously not. Having achieved stability, having provided the legislative, the legal, the political framework for that stability to turn to growth and deep development, we now need to build on that solid foundation. So, when I talk about consolidation, it is about building on the gain that we have made; because continuity is important so that reversal is prevented. When you look at the trend, states that have relatively done well in our country today that you can point to as sites of progress are states that have also experienced continuity.
Take Lagos, 16 years of unbroken social democratic agenda; if you take Cross River, the same. I can point to a number of states that fall into that category. But you can also point to states that have seen reversal. We all knew what a state like Anambra used to be before they broke that circle. Wearing my political scientist hat now, any democracy that has not gone through waves, we have what we call a theory of democratic consolidation, there is a wave theory, the first wave, the second wave, the third wave. A democracy that has not had the opportunity of either alternation of power or continuity of government, run the risk of reversal.
And we are saying that Ekiti has made progress but we are not there yet and we will be delusional if we think that all problems have been solved because they have not been solved. Even in terms of infrastructure, in terms of job creation, some of what we are doing now have not produced what we know will be the improved productive capacity of our economy.
When we lay fibre optic cable round, many people do not understand the import of what we are doing, that broadband access and the impact it would have on the knowledge economy that we are creating [for jobs, for infrastructure development, for economic opportunities, for access to the good things of life. These are not things that will immediately jump at you as tangible evidence of progress but in another four years, when we would have had an airport here, when we would have had our knowledge zone fully operative, when we would have had independent power project fully on steam, when we would have had all our agro-allied processing factories fully operational, when we would have had the second phase of Ikogosi – the golf course, the additional hotel facilities – then people can begin to envision what we originally had in mind. It is not entirely clear now. And there are those who would pooh pooh the idea: is it road we want to eat, is it pavilion, is it civic centre, is it Ikogosi?
The governor is just an elite representing elites like himself, he is not connecting to the real needs of the people. That is tragic.
I am not going to apologise for the benefit of being the product of good Ekiti education. I have never considered Ekiti to be a place for the dregs of the Nigeria society. We should be the drivers of change in this country precisely because of the level of our education. And if we can’t do things that become replicable by other states, then why do they call us fountain of knowledge?
Why should we be second class in Nigeria? The very best thing in this society should be found first in Ekiti, not anywhere else, because it is a standard saying that knowledge will forever govern ignorance not the other way round. But if knowledgeable people leave governance to charlatans and brigands, ignorance will forever govern knowledge and we will see the result before our very eyes.
That is the difference we brought to governance. That we don’t have to apologise for good things but that the good things must go round because we must create opportunities and access to everybody in the society so that they can be lifted up to achieve the very best that society can help them to achieve. Am I an elite? Yes. Absolutely, no doubt. I am a member of the elite class but the elite in my view is not synonymous with a tiny minority where inexplicable wealth lies and abject poverty thrives. No.