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Whenever an election approaches, certain issues tend to define the thinking of those seeking to occupy office. What, however, defines the issues varies, including the factors of place and circumstance of the elections. In the case of Ekiti, Governor Kayode Fayemi has identified four major issues that are germane to the June 21 governorship election.
Starting with the credibility of the process, the governor has repeatedly harped on the need for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to give the Ekiti people a credible election, away from what typified the Anambra election. He reiterated this concern for INEC’s disposition, since a lot depends on the electoral body.
Alluding to what happened recently at Ilaje-Ese Odo, during a by-election where the Minister of State for Defense, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, was alleged to have interfered with the process, Fayemi, in a chat with reporters expressed worry that a script is being played, prelude to his election and by extension, 2015.
"INEC ought to be sending a very strong signal to the president himself that we would not take kindly to these kinds of interference by the minister of state in an election that we want as a precursor for the 2015 presidential election," he said.
While charging INEC to wake up to its responsibility against the backdrop of an alleged intelligence report that some people are sewing fake soldier and police uniforms, in preparation for the Ekiti election, Fayemi said “I hope INEC would be reassuring not just Ekiti people but Nigerians because the Ekiti election is even far more important than the 2015 election because if confidence is lost in INEC's preparation and eventual implementation of the Ekiti election, that will rub off terribly on the 2015 election.
"I mean INEC is already on the tenterhook. We know what happened in Anambra – it is already on the tenterhook because of what happened in Anambra. To then see Ekiti election go in the wrong direction would totally put paid to any hope on the part of Nigerians that anything good can come out of the 2015 election and I don't think President Jonathan needs that.
"I think he has conveyed an image of himself as a decent politician who is not going to manipulate or resort to extra-legal or illegal ways in election management in Nigeria."
The governor advised INEC along with inter-agency committee and security that would be involved in the election to give the people a reassurance that there would be credible election in the state.
Fayemi’s worry number two is that he would not want the federal government to interfere with the election. Though he has expressed this particular concern at different times, his suspicion was again aroused when Vice President Namadi Sambo, who was named the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Campaign Committee for the Ekiti and Osun States election was quoted as saying the Ekiti election is a "war front."
The governor was embittered that the PDP is making effort to translate the election into a show of federal might whereas it is an election that concerns the Ekiti State people primarily, and that they are supposed to be the ones to determine his fate and not the presidency.
"Federal might is always going to be a factor in any election, but peoples' might is bigger than federal might," said Fayemi, adding that in spite of the interest of the federal government in the state, the election would be determined by the people who are on the ground to assess what he has done in relation to his electoral promises to judge if he has failed or not.
"An election is necessarily a referendum of what an incumbent has done, if an incumbent is running because I cannot go out there and tell the people I will double your salary. Somebody coming for the first time can come and make promises. I have to go out there to say I have done this in Efon; I have done that road; that I have provided water and that I have built your hospital – I have done this to your Oba’s palace.
"I must present tangible – palpable evidence of what I have done which is what I have to sell. And in addition to that, with the record that you know that I have, I now want to do one, two, three and four when I come back.
"So, it is a referendum on my performance. It may not be a referendum of the performance of my competitors. Even in the case of one of my competitors (Fayose), the election is a referendum on who he was when he was in office in the state. Even if he chooses not to talk about that we would talk about it. Other people would talk about it. We need to place the record clear," he said.
The third issue on the governor's mind is his confidence that he has delivered on his electoral promises so well as to guarantee his reelection and this seems to explain why Fayemi appears largely unruffled, somewhat.
"My performance has earned me a reason to believe that I would be reelected. Seriously speaking, I think we have done reasonably well."
He said when he was running in 2007, he was specific about what he was going to do in office and that he worked assiduously to deliver on those promises within the limit of the available resources and time.
"When you talk about social security – if you read my inaugural speech you will find social security. If you read my inaugural speech, you will see laptop per child there. There is nothing that we have done in this state that we have not picked up from my 8-point agenda. And everyone who is objective can attest to the fulfillment of what we promised Ekiti people. And in the various communities that we are going to, people, they speak to that.
"Don’t forget that this is the number 35th state on the federation account. People often forget that. And this is a state that gets N3bn a month against N23bn in Bayelsa; N34bn in Rivers every month. So if you want to compare, you have to compare like-for-like. Kogi, Kwara and Ebonyi are the states in our category. And you can look at what is happening in those states and compare with what is happening here.
"As a matter of fact, if you place what is happening here on per capital basis, it is more than what is happening in Akwa – Ibom and Rivers. So I think it is important to put this in perspective and work out a proper dimension of what is happening," Fayemi noted.
The issue number four is that Fayemi is already articulating his post-election plans, one of which is to annex the potentiality of his opponents in actualising his second term bid.
"Opeyemi is my very good friend. I’m sure you know that. And he has every right to be ambitious. Every human being should have ambition because it depicts a level of seriousness and the fact that he is running for office against me should not make him my enemy. He is my opponent but he is not my enemy.
"Governor Fayose is my friend and I’m sure if you ask him, he would probably tell you the same. I have my own issues, he probably has his own issues with me but he is a former governor of this state and deserves to be respected. And once the election is over, governance begins and, don’t be surprised if there is any reason for us to come together in the ultimate best interest of Ekiti State and the Ekiti people.
"I’m going to solicit for their assistance and their wise counsel because at least, I can say of Opeyemi; that he genuinely wants to put up his best and help the people. Even governor Fayose – his style may be contrarian or not the most acceptable norm of behavior, he most clearly has an interest in the people of Ekiti to want to run for office. It wouldn’t just be fun for him.
"So anyone who genuinely has an interest here should be encouraged to contribute. But to turn them to enemies, I don’t think it is wise. And besides, Ekiti is unique; we are different from any other state. This is the mono-ethnic place you can point to in Nigeria. Even Bayelsa still has strands but in Ekiti we are one stock. We are the same people and we are probably all related in one form or the other in our various 132 communities and in politics, there are no permanent friends and there are no permanent opponents," he said.
On what would be his areas of concentration if he eventually returns to office, Fayemi said: "Three things: agriculture, tourism and the knowledge economy. Let me explain what I mean by that. Clearly, I’m not going to stop my focus on education but it is going to be narrowed into the creation of knowledge economy.
"We have a lot of focus on technological education, on vocational education, on ICT and the knowledge park that we are constructing. It is a 3000 hectare knowledge park where we are having an airport coming. It is probably larger than the Lekki Free Zone; it is going to be the base for education tourism, medical tourism and ICT outsourcing.
"We feel that is an area that can give us an edge. Agriculture, understandably because of our own ground but it is expanding and developing the food value chain. We would be focusing on cassava, the revival of our cocoa, rice and oil palm.
"Three, tourism; we feel that Ekiti can still be the best destination of choice. All of us talk about what has happened in Cross River but we still feel we are better placed than Cross River because Cross River is much more difficult to get to and particularly Obudu. It is much more difficult to get to than Ikogosi. And we can build a whole hub around Ikogosi to serve our grand vision of making poverty history in our state."
Obviously bursting with confidence, Fayemi said his second term would be more of consolidation of what has been done in the first term. But he hoped that it would be driven by how many jobs that can be generated from these sectors because "It is going to be job-focused," he said.