Former Ekiti State Governor and Minister of Mines and Steel Development Dr. Kayode Fayemi recently hosted All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftains from 16 local governments at an end-of-the-year party in his hometown, Isan-Ekiti. He spoke with reporters on the Judicial Commission of Inquiry that has indicted him, speculations about his governorship ambition and the APC’s preparations for the poll. Excerpts:-
Speculations are rife that you have the intention to run for governor. Are you running again?
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’ve 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 are here led by our National Deputy Chairman, Engr Segun Oni who is from Ekiti and our State Party chairman, Chief Jide Awe. Over 7000 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 a 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.
The Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the Fayose administration has indicted you for financial recklessness. What is your reaction to this?
You know my view about our friend, the alawada-in-chief (comedian-in-chief) in the Government House; I am always unequivocal in my view about him as a misfit, an uncouth political thug and a rabble rouser who has not learned 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 an alleged stealing of N852 million from SUBEB and for giving President Buhari N1.5billion of Ekiti money because i refused to appear before them. Based on that resolution, he set up the Oyewole panel after I’d gone to court to challenge the shenanigan 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, neither did i ask him to pay.
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 the 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 N71million interest rate 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’m an advocate of transparency and accountability in public office. I’d be happy to explain anything that’s unclear after leaving over 500 page, 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.
Fayose has said that you have never attracted any Federal Government project to Ekiti State as a minister. This is an opportunity for you to tell the whole world how you have used the office to the benefit of your home state.
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 am responsible for mineral resources development in 36 states and the contiguous water bodies offshore. But yes, I am 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 sixteen 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. but to come back to what we have done. Take for example the federal secretariat. For the last sixteen 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 yesterday 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 guage 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 is 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, lithium and feldspar and we are pulling together all the small scale miners in Ekiti to enable them 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 yesterday ditto the youth in agriculture scheme is being expanded at the federal level.
When people open their mouth and say Federal Government has not done anything and the person who has the temerity to say this to people in Ekiti collects every month, Budget Support Fund, Bailout Funds, Paris Club release in addition to the Federal Allocation to which the state is entitled, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that this is more a celebration of ignorance. I’ve not mentioned the Ecological Funds he collected, the refunds on the roads that I did which has now gone through the Federal Executive Council or the Central Bank’s N2.2 billion SME (Small and Medium Enterprise) fund and he can stand before people to say all sorts of rubbish. I know he believes that lying is what has given him success in politics since he believes Ekiti people are ignorant and gullible. Somebody who has zero integrity can open his mouth and talk; a man who could steal from his own pocket – look at what he did with the delegates’ funds at their recent convention. And a shameless man like that is still talking?
No wonder, nobody came out for his local government elections charade because Ekiti people are fed up with this man. I see it daily, they come to me saying ‘what can you do to help us to get rid of this man.’ 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. ButI 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.
How do you assure Nigerians that APC is the party they should keep faith in as the 2019 general election beckons?
I take that question very seriously; in governance and in political science, there is something we call mid-term blues. Every government runs into a mid-term blues. It’s almost an automatic curve; you get to a point where you are not as popular as you were when you got into office. However, the context is always important; we came into office at a point that the major source of our economy, oil, was selling at $30 a barrel. Years before then, the average price of crude oil was $100 a barrel, these are facts, not conjectures or suppositions. So, it automatically means that the revenue base of Nigeria dropped by 70 per cent and we had to manage with 30 per cent. Maybe given the context of the election, there are always those who will say we over-promised.
The truth though was that Nigerians wanted anybody but Jonathan and given the depth of depravity and corruption of the Jonathan administration, they felt General Buhari offered the most promising platform for change on account of his spartan integrity, not on account of the plethora of policy ideas contained in our manifesto.
I was in charge of policy during the campaign and people certainly brought a lot of ideas – you must do this, you must build a million houses, you must generate these number of jobs etc. I see a lot of documents flying around WhatsApp pages these days claiming to come from our manifesto but many of them are fake.
I can tell you that the President then as candidate and immediately after we won, limited himself to the three cardinal themes – namely, restoring security, particularly in the North East, fighting corruption and rebuilding the economy. This was the mandate he gave the Transition Committee and he consistently cautioned us to limit ourselves to the three cardinals. Wherever you hear him speak, he would not go beyond the three cardinals;
He never went beyond that and if you are to judge him on account of those three, I would honestly say that he has tried. The economy is out of recession, even though we still have a lot of grounds to cover, the security situation in this country particularly in the north east has improved significantly. By now (during Yuletide), you would have heard of bombs going off in and around the FCT, even in churches in Abuja, in Eagle Square, Abuja. People could not sleep with their eyes closed under the Jonathan administration.
This is no longer the case, even though it is also true that terrorism never fully disappears. In fact, the reality of every terrorism experience is that it mutates.
Because of that, the President has taken a two-pronged approach to resolving the security crisis particularly in the Northeast. The first focus is on the military option and that precisely is why the military is asking for additional resources to prosecute that military option. But much more importantly, he focuses on the development option; that is what has led to the creation of the Northeast Development Commission now. People hardly talk about that, they always want to talk about the military option but if you don’t have a human security response to security challenges, you cannot resolve it fully.
We must be tough on terrorism, but we must be even tougher on the root causes of terrorism.
There is still an army of unemployed and underemployed youths who can become cannon fodder for further crisis in these places and if you don’t provide a mechanism for dealing with that situation, it won’t go away.
Long-term solution is the development option, but the short-term is the military option; military itself cannot solve the problem (alone). To make a bomb, I will show you a site now on the web, on how you can make a bomb and it is the easiest thing to do. If you think that is going to stop, it won’t. All Nigerians ironically don’t appreciate, what we expect them to appreciate is that there are more potential explosions stopped than there are that actually occurred but security people will not come and tell you that ‘in Ado-Ekiti yesterday, we foiled an attempt to bomb Emmanuel Church’ ah, people will not go to Emmanuel Church again. So they cannot talk, they have to labour under the notion of not doing enough even though they do more than we will ever know.
If you go to the anti-corruption crusade, we have been accused of all sorts of things that the anti-corruption war is selective, it is not institutionalised. I happen to chair an inter-agency task force on anti-corruption, comprising agencies such as EFCC, ICPC, CCB, FIRS, NEITI etc and somebody was talking this morning that they are not using enough technology, can anybody say that? These agencies have perfected the art of tracking money and the amount of money that had been recovered, all the governments in Nigeria put together in the last sixteen years have not succeeded in recovering it. But then again, we are victims of international politics; some of the money that had been recovered, we cannot even bring it back because of the conditionalities attached by the countries where these stolen monies have been found. We are a sovereign state, somebody wants to tell us that in order for you to have your $540 million back, you must tell us what you want to use the money for, our money?
We should even charge you for allowing your country to aid and abet such a crime; allowing your country to be used as a safe haven for illicit funds. But you want to tell us that you are ready to return the money but what are we going to do with the money? What is your business with that? But because of the track record of the previous administrations where monies retrieved were re-looted, you can understand where such claims are coming from even if it cannot be justified.
But it is being institutionalised, more work is being done, the resources retrieved are being identified and the accusation that the fight is one-sided, of course it is targeted. Who has had his/her finger on the plough in the last sixteen years? You cannot accuse me of what I did not know anything about or what I have not had the opportunity of even serving at that level? Nobody can accuse you of that, I was governor in Ekiti, I can be accused, even if it is a ‘419 accusation,’ the record shows that I was governor in Ekiti for four years, how can you then say it is one-sided. People should not pay attention to that; the truth of the matter is that there is less corruption (now) in the system, I cannot say it has been wiped out completely because the President himself will not condone it, the body language itself is not disposed to corruption. You as a minister, you cannot condone it; in the age of TSA (Treasury Single Account), you cannot spend money that has electronically gone into the system without due process. Significantly, you cannot get the kind of mind-boggling stories you hear where somebody, I read the story of one Ngozi Olejeme yesterday and my head was spinning as I read the story. Ah, N50 billion? That one individual and 38 houses? Is that not madness? And yet, people still have mouths to talk because they want to come back and steal more money, that is what PDP is about.
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