By Kehinde Adewole
Dr. John Kayode Fayemi is the current Nigeria’s Minister for Mines and Steel Development and the immediate past governor of Ekiti State, who lost to the incumbent governor Ayodele Fayose. In this interview with us, he claims that Fayose, now popular as leading opposition in Nigeria, is an hypocrite who prostates to get budget support, federal allocation and other benefits from the federal government in Abuja, but turns round to abuse President Muhammadu Buhari. He also speaks about other issues, including his performance as a minister.
Q: Just recently, the Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the Fayose administration concluded its assignment and submitted a report indicting you on the way you managed the finances of Ekiti state, while you were the governor. What is your reaction to this?
A: 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 towards 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 APC to join him: So, a panel which started with the so-called N852 million that Fayemi allegedly 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 N71M interest rate that accrued. By the time the joke of a panel completed its hatchet job, what Fayemi allegedly 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, 2018.
Q; There are speculations that you have the intention to contest for the governorship election again in 2018. Is this true?
A: (Long laugh) It is the stuff of politics for people to speculate, especially as elections draw close. As for contest or no contest, we will cross that bridge when we get there.
Q: The PDP in Ekitj have said you haven’t done anything with your office as minister, what is your take?
A: 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 a 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’m responsible for mineral resources development in 36 states and the contiguous water bodies offshore. But yes, i’m 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 federal government. Take the issue of the federal secretariat for example. 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 (election) 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. But I 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.
Q: The APC came to power in 2015 in a blaze of glory and people welcomed the party with so much goodwill at the federal level. But now, it appears the party is losing a lot of fans who are getting disenchanted by the day with the alleged poor management of the economy coupled with the latest fuel scarcity. How do you assure Nigerians that APC is the party they should keep faith in as the 2019 general election beckons?
A: 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. 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 youth 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. I am not suggesting that we have perfectly handled things, no, there are things that citizens should criticize our party for, and they will be right to do so. We criticise ourselves too. For example, a lot of our party operatives are unhappy that some of our parastatals are still being manned by PDP chieftains. There is one that I read from the social media who comes from this state, who daily abuses Buhari and he has been serving in the National Population Commission. Somebody like that, if he has any sense of integrity, should resign and say look, I do not believe in your government, I do not want to serve in your government, I want to criticize you. That is what I say to people when they say, the alawada in Government House here in Ekiti is the Opposition Leader in Nigeria, opposition my foot. If only you people know what he does, every time he has a problem getting budget support. You should come and see how he prostrates in Abuja. You should hear him when he’s disclaiming and denouncing one of his aides, Lere Olayinka in Abuja, ‘I don’t know when (Lere) Olayinka issued that statement o, please, I did not authorise it. Buhari is my father o. honourable minister, please let them release my money…and so on, and so forth.” he is actually fortunate he is dealing with a God fearing leader like President Buhari.
Q: There was a time Fayose said APC in Ekiti has been factionalized into about seven groups. Is there any factionalization in the APC Southwest?
A: (Cuts in) Is Fayose a member of APC? Are you aware of two APC factions in the Southwest? Is anybody in court challenging the legitimacy of the various state executive committees that we have? Is there a parallel APC in any of our states? If you are saying we have robust debates, these happen, absolutely. Do we have disagreement among ourselves in debating the progress of our party? Yes, we do. This is a progressive party, progressives are known to have robust debates but towards one end – Improving the lives of the citizens of our states and country.