The candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), in next month’s governorship election in Ekiti State. Kayode Fayemi, in this interview by NURUDEEN ALIMI, showcases some of the things he is bringing to the table for the people of the state, if elected as governor.
Do you really think you have gained the confidence of Ekiti people ahead of the election next month?
If you talk about the confidence of Ekiti pe0ple, I will say that is not tested yet. What has been clearly tested is the confidence of my party and primary election result of which I almost scored the entire votes of the delegates is in itself a demonstration that I have never really lost the confidence of the grassroots of the party who formed the bulk of the electorate in that election. However, I am not a greenhorn in this business. For someone like me, it is my track record that will determine whether I will gain the confidence of Ekiti people or not. I never lost their confidence because of the numerous things that I did in the state as a servant of the people. Whether you talk of education, social investment for the elderly, infrastructure in the state as well as quality of life, in healthcare, social security, industrial development and In tourism. There are markers in all of those segments of governments that are still there for people who choose to measure these things in an objective and dispassionate manner. So, I never lost the confidence of Ekiti people, and I always believe that I did not even lose an election in 2014; We leave that judgment to the people.
Can you highlight those things you are bringing to the table this time round?
As I said, I am not a greenhorn in this business of governance and politics. I am someone who has been tried and tested, and my 8-point agenda is still as relevant to Ekiti as it was then. Yes, we made a lot of improvements, but in the last three and half to four years, there has been significant reversal of those improvements. The over forty thousand people who were either on the payroll of goverment or receiving social security benefits have all been yanked off from the opportunities created for them by the state. In education, the free education that we ran had been taken out of the state. Now, Students have to pay for going to school, they have to pay for WASSCE (West African Secondary School Certificate) and University Matriculation Examination). The parents have to pay tax not normal tax but development levy for sending their kids to school. Ekiti is largely a civil service state and these are the same parents who have not received salary for eight months or nine. Even if all that I restore is regular payment of salaries which is not a good measure for how a good governor is because that is a duty I owe people who have worked, but for people who have not have the benefit of receiving their pay for work that they have done. Anyone who is able to do that has made a fundamental difference in their lives. We won’t stop there because I paid salaries before too but I also did other things to affect the lives of the populace, and those are the things that we would reinforce. Good governance, accountability and transparency, human capital development will improve in the state, infrastructure development, free and qualitative education, free medical care for the vulnerable segments of the populace, the under-5, the over 65, the pregnant women, the people with disability. We would continue with all these in a manner that we will reinforce the achievement we had by the time we left office in 2014, when Ekiti had the highest lifespan in the country, the lowest infant mortality rate, the lowet maternal mortality rate, the lowest HIV prevalence in the entire country. These are verifiable things that we did when we were in office and tourism development. Look at what we did in Ikogusi that has become a sorry sight three and half years after leaving office. What we did in industrial development in reviving the burnbricks company in Ire, opening up the space for entrepreneurs to come in particularly small and medium scale enterprises. Those are the things that people want to see, recruiting more public servants who during my time had their saleries increased three times within four years and the salary has remained stagnant where I left it.
There is this assertion that education in Ekiti suffered a major setback during your tenure as governor
As a matter of fact, education became much more qualitative during my time as governor. It was during my time that pupils did not have to go to school under leaking roof. It was during my time that pupils had laptops. it was during my time that we improved the capacity of teachers, and during my time we were responsible for relieving parents of the burden of payment of school fees, WASSCE and UTME. It was during my time that miracle centres disappeared in the state because we insisted that quality education is what Ekiti has been known for and the regression in the years of locust must be reversed, and we reversed it. And the cumulative impact of that is that the kids who were in JSS1 TO JSS2 when I was governor in 2010 were the kids who came first in WASSCE and NECO exmams in 2016/2017. If you want a measure of quality of education that I superintended, I do not think that there is any better measure than that.
Are you considering agriculture as a way of improving the state’s Internally Generated Revenue?
It was a major platform that we ran, and we will do it with greater intensity now. As I said, mordernising agriculture was a key plank in my 8-point agenda and all of the things that we did then like youths in commercial agriculture which has now become a national platform. Clearing of lands for farmers who want to come into the state, encouraging new plantation farmers, particularly in the products that are very subsetible to our land in Ekiti. Those are the things that we will push. The rice revolution that we started, which has gone to regression now, we will be brought back, especially now that the goverment at the centre is supporting rice production in large scale farming. We have not benefitted from that, and the irony is that my own agric commissioner who was the driver of our agriculture initiative when I was governor is now the man in charge of the Anchor Borrowers programme at the federal level. So we have an opportunity to take advantage of that and not minding party affiliation, I encouraged him to support the present government in Ekiti, but they did not rise up to occasion. So we have opportunities to build on.
Sport is believed to be a unifying factor, Do you have plans to develop sport in Ekiti State?
I have plans to develop sport in Ekiti. As a matter of fact, the second phase of the development of ikogusi warm spring when I was in office was the establishment of a sport academy there. We had finalised plans to build a sport academy and it was during my time we set up Ekiti United Football Club and the team actually entered the second division of the Nigerian football league. If I have been there, Ekiti United would have been in the Nigeria Professional Footbal League. We have raw talents in this state that have not been developed, and it was also during my time that we started the idea of catching them young when we started the Principal’s Cup again. All of these have been abandoned simply because one is no longer there, and that is part of the reasons I feel duty-bound to come and redress many of the giant strides we took into government that have not been continued. Governance should not be about that, governance is a continuous engagement. We should ensure that, regardless of who occupy the office, what has been done with the resources of the state really should be sustained over long period of time so that the continuity can enhance governance.
What have you in store for the youths, particularly those who are unemployed?
That is a challenge but it is also an opportunity. What we were able to do when we were in office was that we started the youth empowerment scheme. That was the youth volunteer scheme in which I was paying every young graduate who is out of work the sum of N10,000 monthly to move into specific areas of our work: health, education, environment and all that. We deployed them in variety of places. It is very similar to what we now call Npower that our government at the federal level is doing and paying N30,000. And what we did then was that after you have been on the scheme for two years earning N10,000, you then get a bulk sum of N100,000 to go and establish a trade or a business that can then fetch you a sustainable income. I believe we need to really improve on that and deal with the demographic in a manner that the skill that is required is also what we push in our universities and other higher institutions in the state, particularly our technical colleges. We were turning our technical colleges into waht we call life academies in Ekiti then. But again that was cut short. Those are the kind of things that we believe that we can instill in our youths. A sense of value which has been largely lost in Ekiti because the government in Ekiti now only believes in using our youths as agents of all forms of nefarious activities rather than promoting values of decency, accountability, hardwork and dedication to duty. That for me is the area we need to strengthen and I believe the opportunies are legion, In agriculture for example, in vocational activities, in small scale enterprises, there are legion of opportunities that we can leverage in order to ensure that our youths become fulfilled in their aspirational outlook.
On a final note sir, I want you to tell us why your party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), should be considered by the electorate to administer government in Ekiti State?
Because people have seen the regression. If you asked somebody who has not earned salary in eight months at least they will tell you that ‘under Fayemi I was not owed.’ That is, if you take it at such a basic simplistic level. But I do not want us to even take it at that level because that, for me as I said, is not a measure of good governance. It is just a measure of duty that I have to the people if I pay salaries. Take it from what I have said to you, when I was governor, Ekiti excelled in all the rankings. The World Bank Ease of Doing Business study ranked Ekiti when I was governor as the number five place where you can do business easily in Nigeria, we moved from number 34 to number 5. I just told you that the kids that entered secondary school when I was governor were the ones who took WASSCE and NECO exams and excelled. So, you do not get that by one year of being in government, so there is no way even though the Fayose administration is trying to claim credit for that. But it is the cumulative effect of work that we did that resulted in what those kids achieved. If you move from that to the DFID assessment of governance, Ekiti was ranked as the state with the most transparent budget when I was governor. Why was this possible? Because I focused without any doubt on ensuring that budget is responsive to the yearnings of the people. So we did not do budget in Ekiti to people, we did with people, we ensure that their input was what formed the content of our budget estimate, and we then implemented that accordingly. If you move to tourism, it is the same approach, People whi visited Ikongosi when I was governor can attest to what we did and those are the kind of things that would draw people to our state. Ekiti became a kidnappers den when I left office, so security in the state was compromised, accountability was compromised, government was also compromised because what we had was a one-man show, it was not government of the people by the people for the people. And that compromises democracy. These are the areas that I think would make a difference, APC is a social democratic party, for us we believe that the only way you can make a difference in governance is to lift up the weak and vulnerable people, and characters who are there now are not interested in that and that is why the state has sufferred so much regression over the last three and half years to four years and that is why we need a corrective measure that can then build on that to grow the economy, improve the development of the state and then bring life more abundance.