Former Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi spoke with Group Political Editor EMMANUEL OLADESU on his legacies, the crisis in the Ekiti State All Progressives Congress (APC) and people’s expectations about the Buhari Administration.
What efforts are leaders making to resolve the division in the Ekiti APC?
I don’t see what is going on as a division. It is not uncommon in politics to have tendencies within the broad spectrum within a party, provided they are dedicated to strengthening the party to deliver its agenda. What should be the agenda in Ekiti? It should be the retrieval of the state from the irresponsible leadership that is currently in office there. For us, as leaders of the party, we speak with one voice. The former governors who constitute the leadership are Mr. Segun Oni, Otunba Niyi Adebayo and myself. We are fully on the same page with the party leadership; the party executive; on how to reorganise the party in the aftermath of the June 21, 2014 governorship election and the recent general elections. So, we are building a process that will bring everyone who is genuinely interested in the party to work within the house. Those who choose to do otherwise clearly are not interested in the APC in Ekiti. For me, the reality is that as party processes move towards another election, interests will appear and people will want to pursue the interest in the manner they deem fit. And in doing that, it generates tension within the party. They will push the frontiers of the debate. They will want to push the position and interest they represent. But, what is clear to those of us in the core leadership of the party is that we need a large tent to accommodate everybody, who may have one perspective or the other. As long as they do that within the ambit of the party, it is allowed. So, I do not see any division. It is artificial. Once the leadership is not divided, it is easy to bring these tendencies back into the fold.
Your former Commissioner for Education, Dr. Eniola Ajayi, said on a television programme in Lagos today that what you did as governor was gradually being destroyed by your successor. What is your comment?
I don’t like to comment on my successor, if I can avoid it. This is not out of disrespect to the public interest because people want to know what is going on. My heart ache anytime I am in Ekiti and see the degeneration some of the projects and institutions have suffered. I spent the last weekend in Ekiti. It is a source of concern that the efforts that we made, which should bear fruits, in terms of the fundamental restructuring of the Ekiti economy, are now being threatened by the seeming lack of direction that the current administration there exhibits. It is a source of worry to me when Ekiti is now seen as a the kidnapping capital of the Southwest. That is a major security challenge we never witnessed in the four years I was in office. Even, when we had a few worrisome armed robbery incident, we quickly took steps to nip it in the bud by working closely with the security agents and supporting them materially and financially to be able to deliver on the task of protecting the people of Ekiti. This dovetailed to other areas. The Ikogosi Warm Spring Resort which we spent a huge sum of money on to bring about has been abandoned. The private initiative has been abandoned. There is no management there. There is nobody doing anything there. In less than a year I left the government, it is a shadow of itself. This is an area the private investor was already complementing what the state was able to do. We had already concessioned it to a private organisation to run before we left office. I was told the new governor has reversed it. Thankfully, Ire Blocks Industry is back after 23 years. The clay factory is working now. I hope they will allow it to be run as a private entity in a professional manner.
Anywhere you go in Ekiti, all you see is the structure that we put in place; the road we constructed, the schools we build, the hospitals that were done under us, and the university projects. We hoped that the new government will build on those things. I know they cancelled the traffic management agency that we set up. He cancelled the social security benefits for the elderly. He cancelled the youth empowerment scheme, the youth-in-commercial agriculture development. All these things contributed to the reduction of poverty in the state. People hardly stay in the hotel in Ekiti State now. When I was governor, eight brand new standard hotels sprang up in Ekiti State-Delight, Midals, Prosperous. If you go to Fountain Hotel now, hardly can you get 10 customers staying there. This is applicable to other hotels that used to be full when I was governor. The correlation can be analysed. If you have a conducive environment, people want to come. They want to use their own creative talents to make things happen. But, those that are Ekiti people are running away now because of the threat of being kidnapped or insecurity. Party chieftains are shooting at each other in the same fold and all manner of uncertainties. So, my commissioner was not wrong when she said that the good works were being destroyed. But, I hope good judgment will prevail. I hope that those who are non-partisan and leaders in Ekiti will find it within themselves to talk to him, if he will listen, to thread the path of building, instead of destroying. It is very easy to destroy, but it is very difficult to build. But, if he doesn’t, history repeats itself. One thing that is certain is change. It is something that is constant. Although he has cancelled social security, the same social security is what has become a national initiative in our manifesto now that we are about to deliver to the people by paying N5,000 each to indigent elderly people. I know that these are programmes that will be enduring. All the communities that have benefitted from our initiatives cannot say that they did not benefit. They benefitted from our ten kilometres per local government. They thank me when they see me. The good roads we have in Ekiti are courtesy of what I and some of my predecessors also did. I am sad about it. But, that confirms the reality of politics.
What are the lessons which you think the APC as a ruling party at the centre should learn from protracted National Assembly crisis?
I do think that we have to be careful. I know the leadership of the party feels about it. The leadership of the party is now wrong ti want its own members to be the elected leaders of the National Assembly. But, you know, I have been involved in a similar situation. When we had the era of 13-13 in the Ekiti State House of Assembly, it was obvious to Governor Segun Oni and myself that none was going to be dominant. Although we were opposed to one another, we had to work out a way to have the Speaker in one camp and the Deputy Speaker in the other camp and to share the various portfolios in the House of Assembly. When I became the governor, in my first six months in office, I worked with the PDP Speaker. I worked quite amicably with Hon. Tunji Odeyemi, who was the one in charge. For me, I don’t think the issue is the fact that the minority PDP has somebody there. It is the manner of his coming that is the problem. That is what our party objects to. It is the manner of his coming that the party leadership objects to. Clearly, the party leadership cannot object to Senator Saraki because he is a leading member of our party and he was active in mobilising members of his own faction of the PDP into coming to join us and work assiduously for the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari. To that extent, he has the right to express an interest in a position in the National Assembly. However, once the party has taken a position on some of these core party issues in the National Assembly, I think we have found a way to balance the equation. No President, no governor wants the Majority Leader-the Leader of Government Business-imposed on him. You can accommodate other things. But, the Leader of Government Business is supposed to be one of the closest people to the executive branch because he is the one who presents the Executive Bills and pilots the bills through the National Assembly. We have to accommodate the view of the party in that regard. But, i am realistic enough to know that, in a Senate that has 49 PDP members, they are not minute. There is nothing we can do that requires two-third majority that will not require some of them supporting us because we do not have the majority that is overwhelming. And this is practical politics. We have to sit and discuss certain things with them to get our way through on the important views that the President and our party want implemented in the National Assembly. So, to that extent, I don’t think we can take a monolithic view of how this matter should be resolved. Negotiation becomes important. There is need particularly, for negotiation skills. That was what the National Chairman of our party told journalists, that we are working on it and it is our expectation that this thing will be resolved. We also know that the President has taken a view that, for him, party supremacy is important, but he does not want to be drawn into matters that are exclusively legislative. So, it is striking the right balance. I think, so far, the President and the party have done reasonably well on that. We just have to ensure some pragmatic resolutions of the issues are further encouraged.
The President has told the nation that he will release the list of ministerial nominees next month. What are your expectations about the quality of those what should be on the list?
Well, it is the President’s expectation. It is the President that was elected by Nigerians and we have ceded some aspects of our rights to him by the vote given to him. We also repose confidence in his ability to determine what is good and in the ultimate best interest if the country. What he has said, which is not in doubt, is that it is about integrity, competence, commitment and character, He has also told us that those are not the qualities that necessarily reside within the political party alone. As seen in the appointment of service chiefs and the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, the President has demonstrated his stuff by making the right choices; round peg in round hole; that would be able to carry the agenda forward. So, I could not expect any less in the appointment of cabinet members and other relevant officials that will come on board.
The President is thorough. He cannot be intimidated. He cannot be stampeded. He does not pander to media pressure. He is very confident in his commitment to Nigeria and ensuring that the agenda of change is delivered. So, we must be patient. We must trust in his judgment. Nigerians must repose the confidence in the President that he will do what he has promised the nation.
There are three challenges-the shortfall in revenue, corruption and insecurity. What is your advice to the President on these three issues?
I had the privilege of working with the President on some of these issues and leading the Policy Directorate of the party. On many of these things, we have come up with ideas and proposals. The President has also put together a transition committee that advises him and offers a range of recommendations. We are already seeing some results, even in these early days. They are already winning converts to him and showing people the direction that change will come from.
On anti-corruption, the President’s body language is clear. I think that body language is even doing the magic. But, we need more than body language. We need an institutional framework to address corruption. That institutional framework will come as things unfold, in terms of punishment, incentives and judicial processes that will be put in place to stamp out this ill wind that blows no one any good in the country.
On the revenue shortfall, clearly, the President is not unfamiliar with this. He was in this situation 30 years ago and he was able to navigate his way out of it up to a point before he was unfortunately removed. But, the reality that we are confronting now is that the President is determined to reduce the cost of governance. A lot of leakages will be blocked. The new Managing Director of NNPC has just reduced the number of executive directors from nine to four. That will also go down in other aspects of the administration. In that regard, we don’t know the number of ministries that will emerge from the presidential consideration of the recommendation of the transition committee. But, these are areas I suspect we will see significant changes in what the President does.
On insecurity, the step is taking far more public steps. He is taking more steps in private that people are not even aware of. The results are also showing. We can see the quality of the leadership of security services now, which many believe will be able to address the misfortune we are witnessing in the Northeast. We can also see the very aggressive courting of our neighbours. This speaks about the President’s foreign policy of concentric circle, in which our immediate neighbours are the number one priorities. He has visited Benin, Cameroun, Chad. He has engaged them in a manner the Nigerian government has not done in the last five years. The multi-national joint task force is being re-invigorated. The support also coming from Nigeria is also unprecedented. Look at his visits abroad. They have largely concentrated on security. His G-7 visit to Germany, his visit to United States. Security has featured very strongly on the agenda of the meetings. Nigerians should be patient with the President. he will deliver on his agenda of change.
By Emmanuel Oladesu, NATION