The Gubernatorial Interview
Perhaps, it is proper to conclude that the expression of interest for a second term by the Ekiti State Governor, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, has formally opened up the political space ahead of the June governorship election in the state. Although before his declaration penultimate Monday, subtle activities that were campaign-related had already taken place, none however had legitimate recognition because the Independent National Electoral Commission had not lifted its embargo on political campaigns. But all that ended with the release of the time-table for the elections, both later this year and in 2015.
Thus, last Friday, Fayemi observed no restrictions when he spent two hours with the THISDAY Political Desk, discussing the state, his re-election bid and party politics; challenges associated with the forthcoming elections as well as his prospects in the governorship election, among other national issues. Excerpts:
You’ve finally declared your interest in re-election. What was there to declare or was anybody thinking you weren’t going to come back?
The expression of interest has nothing to do with coming back. Coming back is in the realm of election. Expressing my interest is declaring an intention that I am prepared to run for another term in office. There’s a process here. There is nothing that says I will automatically run for second term. We have cases in history, even though rare, of people who had served for a single term in office, even though they qualified and were constitutionally allowed another term. It’s very rear. But I also felt it was important not to jump the gun. I have had a whole retinue of endorsement as people will call it.
I’m naturally suspicious of endorsement as an individual because I do not equate endorsement with an election and I do not necessarily believe that endorsement forecloses primaries because our party in its constitution and the party that I used to belong to too is very clear about the process leading up to the adoption of a candidate to run for an election. And, if you look at the INEC guidelines, which was what I waited for before I expressed my interest, the INEC guidelines also has dates where you can express an intention; where you can put yourself forward for nomination; when your party can even withdraw your nomination before it’s finally accepted for the election in June 21,2014.
So once INEC gives a date that their election would take place and we know that we have 90 days between the date of that election and the date that the campaign officially starts, there are still processes before that, which are primarily party processes of getting the candidate of a party in place.
As well, if you read my letter which has been widely available in the newspapers, I was very specific about my own attitude to declaration. I was also very specific about the necessity for all flowers to bloom in order for us to get a democratic process at the end of the day. I was also specific about the importance of politics not taking the place of governance and I have a team responsible for campaign; for projecting by political agenda, whilst pursuing my government agenda uninhibited.
Now that you’ve expressed your interest in re-election; what has changed and what would you say precisely is the significance of that action?
I don’t know why this is so but a lot of our people in Ekiti, particularly members of my party actually believe I’m not a politician. They have this impression that if you harass him too much, he might say guys, look, I’m not interested anymore; I’m going back to my previous life; that I’m happy to have delivered what I have delivered. I think it’s a false notion that I’m not a politician. Yes, I am not a traditional politician, neither am I a professional politician but a professional in politics.
To that extent, there are things I don’t do the way normal politicians do them. So, what has changed? First, relieve in the minds of our people who do not want any truncation of what has happened in the last three and a half years in Ekiti. Two, the way and manner it was done, conveyed an impression, at least in Ekiti. The fact that this happened the day after INEC released its own timetable gives our people a sense of readiness that something has been going on that we weren’t quite aware of; it must be that the governor has been taking some steps and he’s fully worked out his arrangement; that all he was just doing was releasing a first step in that line of activities.
Three, I suppose for those who are on the other side, and want to run either within my own party or outside my party, I’m sure it’s a wakeup call to them that clearly, this person is ready. In case they were in any doubt before that things will drag and they weren’t sure what will happen, even if they felt that he’s going to run in the election. I think generally, it responds to one of the false notions out there about either running for a second term or winning election for a second term in Ekiti.
What actually informed the timing?
What informed the timing wasn’t serendipitous; let me put it that way. It wasn’t happenstance. I have always had it in mind that I would wait for INEC to blow the whistle and I’d always insisted on that. I was also mindful of not distracting myself; that is very important to me because politics by its very nature is time consuming. Since I announced that I will run, from Monday till this Friday, I am not sure I have slept for 14 hours altogether. I have been in meetings. I knew it was going to be like that. Once I indicated that interest; it’s just woken up the party and this is also happening around the time that we are preparing for registration within our party. So it’s a whole combination of things happening.
Preparing for this election now and comparing it to your previous election, which was your first, what does it feel like?
Many things have changed. One, I was not governor before. I had a tremendous amount of goodwill across the length and breadth of the state. Of course, I had challengers but I ran on a platform of what I will deliver. So, everywhere I went in the course of that electioneering campaign, I pledged to do free education, free health, social security and many more. So it really was something futuristic for people to determine whether the devil they knew at the time was better than this angel that was promising all the goodies. The most fundamental difference with what I am doing now is that I am running on the basis of a track record.
What I think is most significant is that you can judge me now. So I have a record and it’s an advantage. Unlike some other people who would come like I came then to make promises, I can go out there and say I promised social security for the elderly and I have delivered on social security for the elderly; I promised road infrastructure connecting all of Ekiti, check me out on that record; I promised improved educational standard and quality in secondary schools, this is how I have fared. So, I think that clearly is the most significant difference. Although there are other differences; this, for me, will be the one people can relate to.
Most people who visit Ekiti say you’ve done well. But then, looking at the countdown to the June election, there has been this frightening frenzy of clashes and all that; how did Ekiti get to that point?
First and foremost, I guess you could say that, especially compared with what Ekiti had been like in the last three years and four months that I have been governor; it’s been a largely peaceful and tranquil environment. Of course, as election draws near, tension also rises in the polity, but even at that, I’m not sure I will use the term frenzy. I will use the term excitement in the political terrain, and that excitement has occasionally resulted in some avoidable violence in my view.
But when you look at it also, you will see that this is sometimes manufactured violence because, when you are running and I can tell you the intelligence available to us is clearly that there are those who have reached a certain conclusion that the only way they are going to be able to even have a foot in the door as far as the Ekiti election is concerned, is not to allow this climate of peace that has been dominant in the state to remain, because how then do you demonstrate to either your sponsors out there or your supporters that you actually have the clout you claim you have if everything is smooth; if the governor is working and the people are acknowledging that there is work, then how are you going to win?
So, it is important in the calculation of some putative aspirants that they generate a climate of fear, because they think a climate of fear is directly correlational to an increase in their profile. In other words, whatever happens, the governor is the chief security officer; he’s going to get blamed; his status is going to diminish, and if his status diminishes, you can step up and say he is the one; he can’t manage the place and that’s why we’re experiencing this. I think my duty and the duty of the security agencies in Ekiti or anywhere else is to ensure that this election is about issues; this election is about where Ekiti had come from, where Ekiti is now and, where Ekiti is going to be in the future and, that’s clear. We have come from a state of one-week-one-trouble.
That’s what it was seven and a half years before I became governor; it was a state of crisis, a state of arrested development, a state of fear and, the record is there for all who monitor politics in that era. But people can also see statistically- we can pick the crime figures from the police and check out what had happened in Ekiti in the last three and a half years. The significant reduction in crime is evident; the significant reduction in harassing anybody is also evident because for me, a thousand flowers as I said should bloom. If you want to challenge Fayemi, challenge him on his records. If you want to run against him, it is your legitimate and constitutional right.
You’ve always expressed worry in the way the Anambra election was conducted. Performance aside, what other worries do you have as you approach the election in June?
You know my greatest worry is that there are elements who would want to turn this election into a referendum about national politics; it is not. This election is about Ekiti people- 2.5 million people who want a government that is progressive; that is accountable; that is transparent and can deliver the goods to them- provide jobs for the jobless, healthcare for its people, feed the hungry and improve the infrastructure. That is what this election is about. This election is not about who becomes president in Nigeria in 2015. I see a lot of exaggerated clamour for entering into the South-west – we need a vehicle to break into the South-west in order to break the control that the opposition has; the grip of the opposition on the South-west, and we must take Ekiti and once we take Ekiti, we will take Osun after.
For those who reason that way, it is their right, but I think it’s a false analogy. This is because presidential election will follow its own trajectory. Yes, Ekiti is a federating unit in the Nigeria Federal Republic; Ekiti is a proud constituent part of Nigeria. We cannot isolate ourselves from national politics, but the role of Ekiti in the election should not be exaggerated. That is all I’m saying. It is true that I have not been quiet on the national scene.
It is true that I just stepped down as the chairman of the Progressive Governors’ Forum and that I had responsibilities in that position but I’m just saying that the election in Ekiti is about Ekiti people and Ekiti people should be left to decide for themselves whether their governor who is seeking a re-election has earned the trust of the people. And if he is defeated on that basis, then I think it’s a free and fair and credible process that must be transparent to all.
The tone of your language is contrary to the allegation by your opponent, that if there will be trouble during the election, it would be engineered by you. They said you had even slated to work with members of the road transport employers association of Nigeria whom you intend to use to cause violence during the election. Is that correct?
Kayode Fayemi did not drop from nowhere. It is true that I am an expert in security management but I am a very peaceful person. I am not saying this as a statement for you to accept; you can as well do an independent verification. Having a Ph.D in war does not make me a warrior rather it makes me understand the mind of warriors and how they organise. This is why I know what is coming. What I have been saying to you is precisely so because I have the intelligence of meetings held locally in Nigeria and those held outside Nigeria on the things that I am hinting at.
When I was in court for three and a half years, why didn’t I institute violence if indeed that’s my track record? I was rigged out of an election on April 14 2007; I stayed in court from that time till October 15 2010, three and a half years. Do you know how many times I was in court? I was in the lower court twice. I had elections twice. I was in the court of appeal twice. You can imagine what I went through in three and a half years; the temptation to resort to violence. So, if I didn’t do it, is it when I am in charge that I will now use violence? Who controls the apparatus of violence in Nigeria? I don’t have a military. I have some of my friends in the PDP that have actually told me to my face that they control the military and the police; even threatened that they’ll lock me up on the day of the election.
I think it’s just balderdash because everybody knows that since I’ve been governor, NURTW is just another union. I come from a long history of activism, so virtually all the trade unions in the state I support them to ensure that they maintain peace and tranquility in the state. Have I supported NURTW? Absolutely yes! I have even given them vehicles, because they have a trade and many of them don’t have the resources to go and buy commercial vehicle cash down. So, as a state, we utilised resources to procure vehicles and gave this out to them at an interest rate of six per cent.
You can’t get that anywhere else. How they distribute it is their business. I don’t see how anyone would say that’s wrong. I’ve done it for market women and for nurses and doctors. Virtually every trade union have benefitted from the generosity of spirit of the current government in Ekiti. So, is it because I want to use them for violence that I do that; of course not. I always challenge my friends on the other side to take my plan and also my inaugural speech which are online and go paragraph by paragraph to know what I have done and failed to do. The evidence of what I have done is there. They are palpable, tangible. As I always say to people, that is not my most significant pride.
My most significant contribution to my state is the restoration of honour and hope that we lost in those seven years of the locusts, to the point that people would ask some of our leading lights when they say that they’re from Ekiti- really?- as if Ekiti is a place for second class citizens. People are no longer afraid to listen to their governor in Ekiti speak anywhere; they no longer worry whether he would put his feet in it. That restoration of pride and values in Ekiti is probably the most significant thing we’ve done; not even the physical things that people can see. When anyone says it is because he wants to use NURTW, do I have the mien and carriage?
At the event where Honourable Bamidele declared his intention in Ekiti, at a point, the police came in and started firing teargas canisters on those present. Along the line your name was mentioned that you were the one that sent them. And that almost sank because you are the chief security officer of the state?
You know how it is; people would always say the governor takes the blame. You know I said it earlier that as chief security officer, if anyone can create the climate of fear and violence, the governor is responsible. To a large extent, yes, because I have the number one responsibility of security and welfare of the citizens of the Ekiti State. So in that generic sense, I take the blame. But of course I did not direct the police to do that. Why would I do that? Do I even have such encounters with the police? I do not have such encounters with the police. The day you were talking about, I wasn’t even in Ekiti. I think it was the day of the National Economic Council, if I recall.
So I wasn’t even in Ekiti to have directed the police. The police also came out to state their own position to the media. Whether I agree with their position or not is a different matter because I believe in the freedom of association and movement. But that was the police position, which they claimed they took on the back of INEC law. I said earlier that part of the reason why I had not indicated my intention was that I was waiting for INEC to release their guidelines because I did not want to be accused of running afoul of the law. So if I could adhere to what everybody knows to be provisions of an electoral law, I don’t see why any other person should not.
But for the record, I did not and would not order the police to undertake an unlawful act. And if I even were in a position to do that, as we can see all around, there is nothing any chief security officer tells the police that the police do not crosscheck with the Inspector General in Abuja. I can tell you that even in matters of immediate challenges in the state. I have had one or two encounters of that nature. There was a case of when I asked the police to go into the university to rescue some university staff in a situation of a fracas between the students and the university, the commissioner did not mince words, he told me yes sir but advised me to call the Inspector General.
I am the governor and so-called chief security officer but he said that I should first call the Inspector General. Not until I called the Inspector General, saying my university is about to burn and your men are parked at the gate, saying they cannot enter, can you please order the commissioner to allow your men to enter the university. Not until I did that before the police were able to enter. So people exaggerate these powers that they claim governors have. And we have seen it demonstrated in Rivers State.
What does it feel like going into an election with a brother and friend, Honourable Bamidele? Also, in one of his interviews, he quoted you as saying he needed psychological help; do you regret saying that?
I honestly wished this matter did not come up. You know naturally I have said that one of the things that I consider very important is not to diminish the status of this office and that’s why you will never find me quoted anywhere attacking former governors Segun Oni, Ayo Fayose or Otunba Niyi Adebayo, which is understandable because he is my leader so people may say well you cannot attack that one. Do your search; I do not talk negatively about anyone who has occupied this exalted office. I can talk about their policy and I do that often. I can talk about the impact of their government, but I totally refrain from personal attacks.
And it is the same, perhaps even more so when you’re talking about a close friend whom you still consider as a friend, regardless of one expression of ambition that he has demonstrated which is legitimate, quite frankly. This is what I’ve always said to people; there’s been this attempt in the media to paint a picture of intolerance. But those who know me know my position on Opeyemi’s ambition. I have said to Opeyemi, directly to his face, and in meetings with the party leaders that look, if you want to run, go ahead and run. I even gave him examples. Don’t say because somebody has endorsed the governor, that means they have shut you out.
I gave Opeyemi the example of somebody known as G.S Olawoyin in this country and a gentleman called C.O Adebayo. In the Unity Party of Nigeria, everybody knew where the heart of the leader of the party was; he didn’t hide it. Because Chief Olawoyin was one of the foot soldiers; in fact he was probably the most significant foot soldier because in the Northern House of Assembly, he was the stormy patriot of the Action Group, almost a lone ranger at the time. And in the trial of Chief Awolowo, he was also a victim. So there was a sense in which Chief Awolowo felt he owed him, just like he felt he owed Lateef Jakande.
But you know what, the primaries held thrice in Kwara, and C.O Adebayo, the unknown university lecturer won. So there’s been this myth and impression in the media, which I find unfortunate, which is why I don’t respond to them. The line that Opeyemi has peddled, which has been attractive to the media is that they’ve endorsed the governor, which means he’s been shut out of the space. Chief Awolowo endorsed Ajasin and Omoboriowo ran against Chief Ajasin and lost. It was after he lost that he opted out to go and take the NPN ticket, which was already in the hand of somebody at the time.
They collected the ticket from that person and gave it to Omoboriowo before he eventually lost it. But they did their abracadabra at the time, which created the chaos in 1983. So, let’s be clear, I have no issue with a brother or a friend running against me. For me that is the beauty of democracy. Friends can disagree but we must show fidelity to the truth. This is what has been vehemently lacking and this is why I gave an example of G.S Olawoyin and Omoboriowo because the media keep peddling it that they shut someone out. Meanwhile no one has been shut out.
You cannot say because you think Governor Adebayo, Tinubu and Baba Akande have endorsed me, then that’s the end. That’s not the end. What C.O Adebayo did which earned my respect forever is in spite of the bleakness of his ambition. It was very bleak; anybody who came from Kwara and remembers this story would tell you it was very bleak. But he went with his youth vanguard; they were the ones who did the work. G.S Olawoyin was a big name in Kwara politics; it’s not like Opeyemi and myself, this is not a David and Goliath kind of relationship, but C.O Adebayo and G.S Olawoyin was David and Goliath completely. And David won. Meaning, who knows, if Opeyemi had stayed, fought his battle internally, since he claims to be very popular in the party; if he had done that he would have actually advanced democracy.
Because whatever gaps that the governor has, even if I win, at the end of the process he would have helped us as a party to strengthen the base of the party, and he would have earned the respect of party members. The friendship part of it, I hope that after this whole process would continue because I consider him a brother and friend. He contributed his quota to my success as governor. But you then raised another issue about psychological help. Let me say that yes, I do regret it because it was a throw away remark, but a throw away remark that was not uninformed. It was very well informed.
Two things: Opeyemi had told many press people that I was a PDP apparatchik, a speech writer for President Obasanjo whom he rescued and introduced to Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He gave this story consistently in about three or four newspapers and he knew that he was lying. He had no reason to lie. He is my friend, he couldn’t have introduced me to Bola Ahmed Tinubu and he knew he didn’t introduce me to him and the evidence is all over the place. Two, Opeyemi knew I never belonged to the PDP. As a matter of fact, when I returned to the country, I didn’t even belong to the AD. I was an adviser to one or two AD governments; the way I was when Gbenga Daniel became governor, and he was PDP.
It was more to do with the policy orientation of their government. In Ekiti State when Governor Adebayo was there, it was more to do with my development background, which enabled me to bring DFID into Ekiti at the time. Did I render such assistance to the Obasanjo regime, absolutely I did. I helped them set up the Human Rights Violation Investigations Committee, known popularly as the Oputa Panel. And I was the technical adviser to the Oputa Panel. I helped them raise funds, because of my own interest in truth and reconciliation. Bishop Kukah and Justice Oputa and their colleagues knew what I did. In fact if you read Witness to Justice, Bishop Kukah has written about what I did for them in his book.
So was I aiding the Obasanjo government? I was working for Nigeria. Obasanjo put me on the steering committee of NEPAD because of my background. I was on the presidential committee on security sector reform because of my background. When I was put on the committee on the MDG’s, when the MDG was going to be established by government, I also helped. These were technical, professional, academic assignments, just like I did for Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu in Lagos or Governor Niyi Adebayo in Ekiti. To then suggest that I was Obasanjo’s speech writer was beyond belief.
He followed that up recently. I read another interview, where he said the social security I am doing I copied it from him. He claimed that because my wife came to help him launch some social security initiatives that he did for widows in 2011, after he became House of Representatives member, Governor Fayemi copied him. Yet, the social security benefit for the elderly was one of the cardinal points in my inauguration speech on October 16, 2010.
There’s this rumour that you had problem with teachers and local government workers. The opposition is now saying you plan to deal with them once you secure your second term. Where is that coming from?
Facts are sacred and opinion is free. Now, having said that, what is my track record with teachers and local government workers? When I became governor, the minimum wage salary for teachers and local government workers in Ekiti was N8,500. I took it to N13,500 in 2012, and N19,300 in 2013. My wage bill literally doubled in the space of three years that I have been in office. I restored car and housing loan for all public servants that were stopped by the previous administration. I have just started the primary school teachers’ loan board because they were not included in the one we did before. Ekiti is the only state in this country that pays 20 per cent rural teachers allowance, just to ensure that our rural areas have teachers.
Also there is the 20 per cent allowance for teachers of core subjects like English, mathematics and Integrated Sciences. That is, if you are a teacher in Ekiti and you are willing to teach in the rural area, you will get the teachers peculiar allowance, which everybody gets in the country now; you will also get 20 per cent of your basic for working in the rural area. And if you happen to be teaching any of the core subjects, you’ll get another 20 per cent, making it 40 per cent plus the 27 per cent, plus your normal salary. Also, every single teacher has a laptop computer and we take them through capacity building programmes. Yes I did something that some teachers were not particularly happy about. I told them that as part of our education reform, they cannot teach what they don’t know, and the future of our children is in their hands. If we pay them what I have just enumerated, making them better paid and qualified than many private school teachers, then why shouldn’t the results of public school examinations get better than the result in private schools?
You know what, in three years of the Fayemi administration, this 2013 WASC exam, the best three candidates were from public schools – Ikere High School, Government College, Iyin and Christ School, Ado Ekiti. And 2012 exam, Christ School had nine per cent in WAEC. Nine per cent of the student who took the WASC examination made five credit, including English and Maths; and in 2013, 99 per cent. That’s why I said facts are sacred because anybody can say what they like about teachers not liking Fayemi because he said they should take exams to access and know how much capacity building they require in order to deliver on their job.
It was never intended to sack anyone and as a matter of fact, we have recruited more teachers since I became governor. That’s what can be independently verified. Teachers who left since I became governor left voluntarily or because they had reached retirement age. Again they can challenge it and go and check the records. Am I passionate about teachers doing well for their students; absolutely. My vision is that pupils would leave private schools and come to public schools because they are better and that is beginning to happen in Ekiti. The differences we’ve had are fundamental based on principles. Why would I have any issues with teachers? Rather, being a teacher myself and a product of teachers, I want teachers to have the best. We do have a duty to improve the welfare of teachers in the state.
Opposition in the state has also raised questions about finances, regarding the state bond. They tried to paint a picture of a corrupt man in the final analysis, saying yes he is working but at what cost? They say that the works you are doing are avenues to pilfer the state’s resources. Question is, are you truly a corrupt person?
You know it’s easy for me to say no I am not a corrupt person, but talk is cheap. I am not that kind of person who would answer that question that way. Again, let’s go back to facts. The only governor in this country today, who declared his asset publicly, since Governor Umaru Yar’Adua, is Kayode Fayemi. You can google my name on the internet and pull out what I declared and go and check whether they exist or not and whether they belong to me or not. I did not do it privately for a purpose. I have no problem with those who have followed the law, because what the law says is that you declare to the Code of Conduct Bureau privately. There’s no compulsion that you must make your asset declaration public.
But I come from a very long history of activism; I was involved in the campaign led by the media rights agenda for the Freedom of Information Act. I felt at the time I became governor that it would amount to double standards if I am demanding of public officials to be transparent in anything they do and I am not even prepared to be transparent about my own background. That’s the simple reason why I did that. And I followed it up institutionally by being the only state, again, in this country today that has domesticated the Freedom of Information bill into law in my state. Again, the reason is simple; there has been pronouncement in courts that you cannot use the national law to get judgments on a state matter, unless the state has also replicated or domesticated the law.
In other words, what I am saying is that Ekiti is the only place you can go today and demand for information. This is what I say to people who talk about bond that they actually come across as illiterate and it is unfortunate, because the information is available with us. They could easily take it from us in Ekiti. If they weren’t sure that we would give them the correct information, there is something called Securities and Exchange Commission in this country; we could not get the bond without the approval of three critical institutions- namely the Debt Management Office, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the federal Ministry of Finance because the Minister must approve that we have enough money for the ISPO, which is a statutory deduction from source, even before your federal allocation is sent to you, the money owed on the bond would have to be deducted to go to the bond subscribers. But they chose not to do this and instead, consistently peddled this in the media.
But let’s go to the substance. It is true that when I became governor, as I said, I had the advantage of planning. I knew that the resources available to Ekiti would not accomplish the task I had set for myself and the promises I had made to the people of Ekiti. In my analysis, I knew that there were only two critical constituencies that I could depend on; my own development constituency, which had almost virtually disappeared from Ekiti by the time I became governor – DFID, USAID, World Bank, Africa Development Bank, European Union. But I knew I could use my own credibility and links with them to bring them back. The other was the capital market. Because when I became governor, the situation was far worse than I thought. I was thinking on the surface that if I became governor, no debt, no obligations.
But I came in and met eight billion naira commercial loan, which was not on any regenerative projects; it was just loan taken. I also met 32 billion naira on contracts unpaid. So I met as governor, 40 billion debt portfolio, and yet in my agenda I had promised free education, free healthcare, connecting all the parts of the state by motorable roads, reviving all the moribund industries; I had made so many promises that I had no choice than to deliver. By God’s grace, all of the things we promised, because we had planned, we were the fastest to raise money. We still hold the record at SEC as the fastest state to raise money from the capital market, because 11 months after I became governor, we raised a bond of N25 billion.
We raised it to embark on regenerative projects like the roads, critical arteries in the state: the Ikogosi Resort, the Civic Centre, the Freedom Pavilion, the revival of the Ire Ake industries and the Quarries in Igbemo, the Government House, the Market in Oja Oba. People talk about the Government House; I have no apology for it. The reason is simple: the governor of Ekiti lives in a boys’ quarter. It’s probably the worst residence of any governor in Nigeria today. When I became governor, the roof was leaking. In fact, I lived in my personal house in my village for the first three months of my administration, just for them to patch the place up. In any case, it wasn’t built as a governor’s residence. If you see the plague when President Obasanjo came to commission the building, it described it as guests’ chalet.
As I said earlier, we are no second class citizens in Ekiti. We are building the Government House because it is a monument, a legacy that would be there the way people go to the White House today. And we are doing it in one of the most scenic points in Ado Ekiti. Wherever you are coming from, you cannot miss the new Government House in Ado Ekiti; it is there on top of the hill. I genuinely believe that anyone who is governor, his family deserves a reasonable level of comfort. If I have two meetings in the current Government House that we live in and my wife happens to have another meeting, two of those meetings we will have to do in our bedrooms, while the third meeting would be in the only sitting room that is there.
That’s a fact. And my colleagues come and other people too. It diminishes us as a state; it doesn’t diminish me as a person because it is not my house. By the way, my house is much better than where I live. Now, it is a sacrifice for me to live in the boys’ quarters. The new Government House is something that would be there for the next 100 years; it is regenerative. I am not the first governor to go to the bond market in Ekiti. Governor Niyi Adebayo went to the bond market, and I’ve said this thing once or twice to people who have asked. When he went and took N4billion naira in 2000, to build what has now become the office I use in Ado Ekiti, as a Fountain Hotel, another governor came and appropriated it into an office. So now we are trying to return it to its original plan.
He also built the Ekiti House in Abuja, which most people know as Nanet Suites. He built the Nanet Suites for N700 million. But today, Nanet Suites is N4.7 billion at the time we did evaluation less than a year ago. That is the value of long term loan for long term projects. The bond that Ekiti has now is 14.5 per cent interest rate. We’ve managed to shave off at least eight per cent, if not more, of current market rate for commercial loans. The other point is that if you are not credit worthy you would not be allowed to borrow in the capital market. Some states have been banned from borrowing from the capital market, because their record is clear. Don’t forget I am an opposition governor, and so if the record is what these people claim, they would have insisted on me not having it.
Finally, the other aspect that they put forward to whip up sentiments is that he is putting our children and future in bondage because they are the ones who will come back and pay this loan. That’s not correct. The loan we took from the capital market has seven years tenure. Every month Ekiti pays 400 million naira, since 2011 December that we entered the capital market. If you calculate 400 million naira every month from December 2011, to December 2013, that is 9.6 billion naira out of 25 billion naira. We just took the balance of the 25 billion last December. If you calculate it over the tenure and calculate the 14.5 per cent interest rate on it, you will see that by 2018 this government would have settled all debt in relation to what we borrowed from the capital market.
In declaring your assets, it is alleged that you made a lot of anticipatory declaration. How true is that?
Let me tell you what is in my declaration. I think it is important for those of us who occupy public office to be scrutinized; I think it is absolutely necessary, so that we don’t have this broad brush approach of labeling everybody a rogue as if they had nothing they were doing before they came into office. In my declaration, I believe I declared all the properties I have. I want to know what that person meant by anticipatory declaration and whether there was no evidence to back up his claim. I think this is an insult. This is what scares many decent people away from politics. Many of my friends ask me what I am doing in politics where I allow many people to insult me anyhow. I consider myself extraordinarily lucky to have had all the opportunities that I’ve had in life. Quite frankly, sometimes I don’t even need any of these.