Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, clocked 56 last Tuesday. In this interview, the Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum, speaks on efforts taken so far at instituting sustainable development and rid Ekiti of poverty through knowledge economy, management of COVID-19 among governors, relationship with former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu, among other issues.
ADEWUMI ADEMIJU of New Telegraph reports:
It’s the era of knowledge economy. How critical is it to Ekiti and what impacts have you made in this sector?
In the knowledge economy, we have restored our old policy which is free education that was cancelled by the immediate past Government. Now, there is free education at the public primary and secondary schools. We have begun to see major increase in school enrollment.
The primary pupils have gone up by 40,000 and the secondary school enrollment has gone up by 25,000. I wonder where these people were before we came and it was because some people out of poverty cannot send their children to schools. When you are poor, you may not be able to do that no matter how committed you are to education.
Up till now, I still get messages from people who kept their wards in private schools and were unable to pay due to some circumstances begging for all forms of assistance. It will shock you to know that all the four model schools built recently by our administration have been filled up. Even we still have to build three others to make up for the shortfall based on demands.
This intervention in the knowledge economy is really working. We are planning to build three more schools, one in the heart of Ado Ekiti to make up for the gap created by Christ Schools existing from being a public school and it will be called Adhen Model College, because that is where Reverend Adhen used to stay near the Old Emmanuel area in the State capital, these are schools lost by way of returning schools to their missionaries and initial owners.
We are planning to build another one in the South in Ikere Ekiti to make up for demands and pressure that are being mounted on the existing schools. One will be built in the Ekiti North.
Some of the missionaries are still requesting that we return their schools in line with x Return School to Owners Policy. Anglican is asking for more schools, Nawarudeen is asking for the return of their school, Ola Oluwa Muslims Grammar School.
We have also taken this to the tertiary level. We have established the Bamidele Olumilua University of Science and Technology, which we did through consistent agitations of the Ikere people and it will start admitting people from the next academic session.
We have also secured accreditations for many of our higher schools. We have established the College of Agriculture in Isan Ekiti to provide employment and provision of middle cadre manpower for the civil service and our institutions. We have the Ekiti State University, College of Health Technology, Ijero Ekiti and many others.
What about in the area of infrastructure?
In the area of infrastructure, if you observe very well, you will see that we are laying fibre optic all over the State because we realised that what can give Ekiti an edge and bring us out of being a dependent civil service State is technology as contained in our economic strategy.
We are into partnership with MTN for the laying of the broadband that will create a regional loop that will be extended to all the four universities, Ekiti State University, Federal University, Oye, Bamidele Olumilua University and the Afe Babalola University.
That is the value addition we brought and we think we can we bring to the table to make Ekiti a destination of choice for businesses, where you can stay, play and live to do your businesses and prosper.
How much equipping has your administration done in terms of social investment?
In the social investment sector, we are helping the weak and the vulnerable out of their position of poverty and giving them leverage and relevance. Under this, the health sector takes the lead in that area.
The primary health centres are being strengthened. 50 of them will be renovated and equipped within the next six months. We are also planning to equip all our secondary facilities, this we intend to do to make healthcare delivery available to our people.
We are also paying attention to our tertiary hospitals by way of ensuring good welfare and provision of equipment. This is a COVID time and you were all here last year and you saw how we were able to manage the situation. In fact, Ekiti has not done badly in the management of the pandemic.
With this new strain of pandemic and the virulence way with which it attacks, we need to increase vigilance and ensure that our people observe all protocols in most serious manner to check the spread of the disease.
The next move now is making the vaccines available to our people. And we are looking at alternative way of procuring our own vaccine in addition to what the Federal Government is able to make available to us. In the area of infrastructure, you are all here and you know what we have been able to do in that regard.
Ekiti is a State with limited resources but with unlimited resourcefulness. We have giant ideas and we are resolute to take Ekiti from a backwater State to the forefront of being a civilized society.
In about three decades, the water was still flowing in Ado Ekiti and environs before our taps started running dry. As of today, we have rehabilitated three dams; Egbe, Itapaji and the Ero Dams. The State is also partnering the Federal Government to rehabilitate the Ogbese Dam in the Southern part that had been abandoned by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources.
Last year, I ran to Mr President to approve the rehabilitation of the Ogbese dam that is considered a multipurpose dam, which can supply water to the people of the South with the Egbe dam that is being turned around and also a good utility for hydroelectricity generation.
In the northern region, the Itapaji dam is going to be more of irrigation to improve agriculture in that axis, I mean ensuring farming all year round. In the area of electricity, we are also working hard to ensure improved power supply to Ekiti. We are partnering and signing MoUs with private investors. Roads are coming up gradually.
We have six roads that transverse the three Senatorial Districts under construction. We have the Agbado–Ode, the road to the tourism belt, Erinjiyan-Ikogosi, Ilupeju-Ijan-Igbemo road, which is 80 percent completion. We have the Oye-Ayede, we have the Ado-Iyin road and the by-pass from Iyin-Aramoko and to Efon.
We are signing independent Power Project work next week for more megawatts of electricity generation to supply more electricity to Ekiti. We have a lot of building projects, the Oja Oba market which had been commissioned. We will also commission our neighbourhood markets in all the Local Governments. We are also working on solar power as alternative to hydro electricity power.
Our knowledge zone and the airport are also there. In the airport, we are evaluating the whole process and the fencing had been done and the contractors will soon move to site and I am confident that it will be completed before the expiration of my tenure.
We have strengthened the public works corporation to be able to rehabilitate some of the township roads our people are complaining about.
You just said that you established a university and a College of Agriculture. Don’t you think this may add to the burden of Government?
You could recall that it was my Government that consolidated the University of Science and Technology, Ifaki, the University of Ado Ekiti and The University of Education, Ikere Ekiti (TUNEDIK) during my first term. Let me say this, the Government had returned the license of TUNEDIK to the National Universities Commission before I came in 2010 due to irreconcilable differences.
It was my merger of those three universities that gave rise to the establishment of the Ekiti State University. But there has been a serious agitation from the people of Ikere Ekiti that the university should return. But I have to say this, I made myself clear that the Government won’t increase subvention to the university.
Though, I am particularly happy that we have a resourceful Management and Governing Council, who have been working hard to ensure that things work out in this regard. I am particularly happy that the community has been living up to its promise to ensure that the university is funded through public-private partnership. I even heard that the community has contributed about N500 million to fund the university.
So, my granting the request for the upgrading of College of Education Ikere was as a result of the request of Ikere Community, which I believed we have to listen to them, because governance by all context and understanding is about the people.
About the College of Agriculture, there has been a serious gap in the training of human capital in the Agric sector, that is the Agric extension officers.
As of now, we don’t have the required numbers in Government and these are the people that used to train our farmers farming techniques in the olden days and we have to return to that era. I believe this College will help in training middle men cadre that will be of help to our farmers and our institutions, both public and private and make us return to the hey days of agriculture practice. It is going to be a win-win situation for the State if we make use of the institutions very well, it will make us to put education and agriculture to the front burner.
When you came on board , you came with five pillar policy thrust centred on what you wish to do for the people of Ekiti State. How well have you been able to prosecute this?
Well, when I came, I was very clear about what I intended to do that can make tremendous impacts in the lives of the people, I mean an average Ekiti man.
As a result of this and looking at the challenge of funds that could really pose as stumbling block, I had to narrow down my earlier eight point agenda, which was what I worked with in my first term to five-pillar, which revolved around thematic areas I believe can create wealth for Ekiti people, because creating wealth has always been the challenge here.
All these were meant to tackle poverty, entrenching wealth creation in our State and make poverty history in Ekiti by making our economy to work. I have been here for two years and three months and in that period, you have seen what I have been able to do to advance and drive the economy of this State.
Though, the jobs have not been finally done and it will never be done but we ensured that those things we promised were being addressed critically. In terms of our specific realms of accomplishments in areas of focus, I think we can say that we have done considerably well, we have gone reasonably far.
In my new year speech, I tried to run through all what we have done in those thematic areas; Agriculture and rural development, social investment, industrial and infrastructural development, knowledge economy and governance itself. In all of those areas, many of what we promised to put in place to ensure that salaries are regularly paid have been done. You know I used to say that payment of salaries is not what we should celebrate because people have worked and they deserve their wages and they have to be paid.
But against the backdrop of the fact that there were backlog of salaries yet to be paid by the previous administration, payment of salaries became a big issue. By allowing salaries to be paid as and when due, very large population in the civil service can determine, predict and organize their personal economy in terms of what goes in and what goes out to plan for the future.
What of the reengineering of the Civil Service? Has the policy gained traction?
Yes, that also has helped in such a way that we have been able to return professionalism to the civil service and public service in general by recruiting within a spate of two years, 2,400 civil servants, bulk of whom belong to the teaching service, the rest are in the health sector and core civil service. We are also ensuring promotion for those in the civil service and clearing backlog of promotion of our workers.
In addition to that, we succeeded in producing the first female Head of Service in the history of this State. We also ensured that whoever becomes the Permanent Secretary or Head of Service must pass through a process and not just by happenstance or by your relationship with the Governor or somebody who is perceived to be influential in a way. We ensured that everything that we do is governed by processes.
If you check Ekiti website today, you will see the financial records of this State, the audit reports, contracts awarded and amounts they were awarded for, financial records of the State, the budget of the State including the one I signed December 20, 2020. You will even get the performance of our budgets with the recent one, budget 2020 had 92% performance.
You will realise that all these become open books as far as this Government is concerned. We have a clear record of what we have done in the Agriculture sector which emphasized the need for public private partnership and partnership between those from the private and our own local farmers, our local growers to be able to fit into commercial framework brought by the private sector.
Are you not worried that the Nigeria’s Governors’ Forum is divided on the issue of COVID-19 Pandemic?
Not at all, we are not in any way divided. We have 35 Governors on one side. Only one of us had divergent opinion and that is the beauty of democracy. But a situation whereby our people are dying, and the whole world is worried and people are still doubting the existence of the disease is unfortunate. Let me tell the public that my very dependable and reliable ally, Hon Adegbuyi died of COVID-19.
Everyday in the last three weeks, I used to know one person that died of COVID-19, so it is very unfortunate to say that the pandemic doesn’t exist. As democracy demands, we can hold our views, but as leaders, the welfare of our people should be paramount to us.
We shouldn’t take anything that has to do with welfare and wellbeing of the people with levity for whatever reason we shouldn’t mislead our people and if we do, we must have vicariously caused the death of our people for listening to us. Some are even saying the vaccines were out to eliminate Africans, it is just unfortunate.
We will try to convince the people that hold this view so that they won’t blame themselves for whatever calamity that befalls them. I can assure you that every Governor is conscious of the seriousness of this pandemic and we are working assiduously to curtail the spread, but every single death we recorded brings sorrow to all of us.
But for those who have contrary opinion, we will continue to appeal to them. My duty as the head of the NGF is to convey the totality of our agreement to the President and I can tell you without any shadow of doubt that we don’t follow opinions, we follow science.
The reason why things have been better for us in Ekiti is because we were strict even than Lagos, Abuja and other States. I want to tell our people that we must follow science on this issue of COVID-19. Let me say this, I experienced it and I knew what it means and I will never wish what I experienced with COVID-19 on my enemy.
The 2023 has started generating ripples in Southwest APC with those loyal to you and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu fighting on social media. Where do you stand and how do you douse the raging tension?
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and I have no reason or business to have any altercation on any issue because nothing has arisen to warrant that. Politics to me is not played on the social media. It is not a twitter game or a social media business. There is no basis for any altercation. I have not told anybody that I will be running and Asiwaju has not told anybody that he will be running.
This is just a storm in the tea cup. Some people are just creating this crisis for themselves even when they have not been sent by anyone. Asiwaju or myself had not told anybody that they should start attacking people.
I am sure that the future will sort itself out. APC is one big political family and I don’t think it will be right to start fighting over ambition or engaging in character assassination.
This kind of politics or war of attrition will not help us in APC or in the Southwest. It is not helpful to the development of democracy, not helpful to our zone, and our race. Well, things will sort themselves out in the future.
The 2022 governorship election in Ekiti is around the corner. Are you confident of winning for APC despite the crisis in your party and in view of this widespread impression that APC has not fared well at the federal?
You remember what people were saying in 2019 that APC will lose Presidency and this same President won. In 2018, they said the same thing in Ekiti and we emerged victorious. We are politicians and we can say anything to discredit a Government in power in order to win election.
When I came back in 2018, I told the people that I will make a tremendous impact in their lives and it is on that record that whoever that would succeed me will run.
One thing I know that made me won the 2018 election was that, there was no community that I got to where I could not point to two, three or four projects that I did in my first term. When the time comes and I cannot point my projects by which my successor can be trusted to run, then it means we have all failed together. I have promised that my successor will run on a record.
So, there is nothing like internal crisis in APC, what we have are tendencies within a vibrant political party and any party that is truly democratic must have that. I am very confident without a shadow of doubt that we will have enough to sell to our people.
Campaign is a market place, we will all go out and talk to Ekiti on why the candidate of APC should be voted for, because we are going to run on a record.
You clocked 56 on February 9. Looking back to your childhood, were you over-pampered by your parents being the only son of your mother?
I was not in any way over pampered, but I have sisters who were always there for me. Though, we are of the same parents but with wide gaps in our ages.
I am always close to my mother helping her in her shops and running errands for her. At a time, I was even the one staying in her shop and being her driver, taking her to where she plied her trade or purchased something. I learnt a lot of things while growing up.
My sisters pampered me to the level that each time I felt bored at home, I would relocate to their homes and each time I did that I was always welcomed. I had a very fantastic childhood but I was not really pampered by my parents.
What modality are you putting in place to ensure that the APC has a hitch-free membership registration in Ekiti?
This APC membership registration is an open thing and it is the right of every member to revalidate their membership. The process is a straightforward thing that nobody will ask you question if you come to register. All of us will be part of this process and we even want others who are not part of us to come and join us. Some people will be coming from the opposition to join us. About a week ago, former State secretary of the PDP defected to APC in his ward in Iyin Ekiti, so all members have the legitimate right to register without hindrance.
What of the impression that the APC in the federal has failed the nation?
Like I said earlier, they said more than that in 2019 and we won. The APC has not done badly at the federal level.
We have not in any way disappointed and the records are there for everyone to see. Is it the second Niger bridge, the Lagos-Ibadan road, Abuja-Kaduna-road, Ibadan-Lagos rail line, Abuja-Kaduna rail line and so on.
Even the dualisation of Ado- Akure road has been awarded and the project will begin soon. The Federal Government is doing a lot of projects all over the nation. Let me say it expressly, the APC we will the 2023 Presidency and let us all wait and see what will happen then.
Source: New Telegraph