In these interviews with SAM NWAOKO, a former commissioner in Ekiti State and publicity secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Taiwo Olatunbosun, speak on the political situation in Ekiti State.
THERE have been protests by your party loyalists against Governor Ayo Fayose and counter protests in favour of the state government over sundry issues. How would you describe what is going on?
To start with, people should not construe the happenings in Ekiti to mean organised political rallies. Rather, they are the response of the populace to the kind of hardship that the PDP-led government in Ekiti State has brought on them. It is not premeditated; people voted in individuals they believe could bring about positive changes in their lives but it had turned out that the people have found that they have been duped, that they have been shortchanged. There is hunger and starvation everywhere. Workers are not getting their salaries for up to seven months now. Resources that are accruing from both the internally-generated revenue and the federal allocation are being squandered and embezzled and diverted to personal use by the head of the government. The result is what you see in the last few months. Don’t forget that the serious constitutional issue of the electoral fraud that brought in Fayose, a fraud which casts a serious moral question on his emergence, is still there.
Notwithstanding, Ekiti being what we are, people agreed that let’s move on, let him be while we see what he can do. But it turned out that Ayodele Fayose has turned governance into a roadshow drama. He behaves as if he is acting in a comedy. The populace realised that if they didn’t take their destiny in their own hands by crying out, instead of taking laws into their hands, they took to the streets to show their displeasure to the misrule, misgovernance and violence his government has foisted on Ekiti. You could say before the ones we organised as a party, you would realise that there has been some protests from individuals, corporate institutions, civic society, civil servants, doctors and so on. What you see is a let out of the accumulated feelings against the government of Governor Fayose, particularly in the area of the mismanagement of the taxpayers money in terms of the resources accruing to the state.
Talking about management of resources, hunger in the land, non-payment of salaries and sundry issues you have raised, the government has said the numerous loans taken by the immediate past government of your party threw the state into debts, which have caused the funds accruing to the state to seriously dwindle. They have also coupled this with shortfall in the federal allocation. What’s your reaction to this?
That stands logic on its head. The government has reeled out different figures as the debt owed by Ekiti State in the last two years. The question he has refused to answer is what the actual debt of Ekiti is. The only authority which has the records of loans and debts, which we have also challenged Fayose to refute, is the Debt Management Office (DMO). The DMO has come out to say that Ekiti is not owing more than N18 billion as of December/January. When Fayose came, he said we owed N100 billion; two weeks after, he said the debt was N85 billion. The matter is that former Governor Fayemi took N25 billion bond and before you could take a bond, you would have been a contributing partner into that bond. And we can see what he did with that money. If properly managed by the present administration, Ekiti should be in the surplus and should have been benefiting from what he used those funds for because they are physical things that we can see. Not only that, he had paid reasonably before we left government, before the election of 2014. It is unfortunate that today, Governor Fayose would come up and say that the debts owed by the state make him unable to pay salaries. Fayemi did not owe salaries when he was there despite taking that bond. Immediately Fayose came on board, he asked for a moratorium of six months, after the six months and despite the suspension of the payment of loans, he could not pay salaries. He refused to pay the salary of September 2014, which he got the allocation for, and up till today, he still owes them. It is just an excuse on the part of government to be blaming a loan which had been reasonably paid and which has been used substantially and reasonably for the infrastructural development of Ekiti, as the reason for his inability to pay workers’ salary for up to seven months. The most ridiculous aspect of it is that the governor is claiming that the loan will take over 30 years to pay. We have asked him to bring any document from any authority to prove that that loan would be paid for about 30 years.
Not only that, is Governor Fayose saying that he himself has not acquired loans? What about the N10 billion he deposited with a new generation bank for up to eight months without any interest up till now? If not that we have come out shouting, he wouldn’t have come out to say he would use it to build a flyover. Is Fayose also saying that the N9.6 billion that was given to him by the FG, is it not a loan? Add that to N10 billion. What then with the N2 billion he took for small-scale industries from the Central Bank? All of them amounts to N21.6 billion. We are aware that the Federal Government has approved budget assistant funds, which is in form of loans as well. He is acquiring that every month and we are afraid if he would use that to pay the arrears of salaries and salaries of workers which it is meant for.
Would you say all these allegations of yours are why the EFCC is after Governor Fayose?
It is only those who do not know Fayose that would believe him. He is so deceitful and I have reasons to say this. Let him come and account for federal allocations his government has received for over 20 months now. He has nothing to show for it. Where did he get the wage bill of N2.6billion when he has done away with all the people-oriented programmes of Dr Fayemi like the social security scheme, which provided N5,000 for about 20,000 people for about four years? What has he done with the YCAD people, the road/youth volunteers? How many people are actually serving in Fayose’s government? He said he would reduce the cabinet which he met and he reduced the cabinet to about 24 from 48 people to be specific. He also said he had been able to discover about 500 ghost workers. Despite all the appointments made by Dr Kayode Fayemi and other employees in different forms of programmes and activities, the wage bill of Ekiti State was N2.6 billion but as of today, Fayose is still claiming N2.6 billion. Is that not enough for the EFCC to be running after him? Is the money he got from Dasuki not enough for the EFCC to be running after him? Is the money he stashed in the new generation bank for eight months not enough for the EFCC to be running after him? Is the mode of awarding contracts to his friends and a contractor being the consultant at the same time not enough for EFCC to be running after him? Is all the properties he is acquiring all over the world not enough for the EFCC to be running after him?
The contention of the government is that any time the AD, ACN, APC is not in government; the state does not know peace. That whenever you are in government, nobody runs the state aground, all over. How do you see this allegation along with the fact that the election you talked about is over two years now?
If you commit a crime, the fact at that point without the consciousness of the victim does not make you a saint. By the time the crime is discovered and the criminal is discovered, then it becomes an issue. The election of 2014 was shrouded in mystery. It was a serious electoral mystery. Shortly before the election, we discovered some people were thumbprinting somewhere. Some were arrested and because it was a government by PDP, they quickly managed the whole situation. It was a surprise that after, in a polling unit, even without being a governor, you realise that you have just one vote there. You have wife and children. All these issues are what to look at but then, let’s forget about that. Captain Koli’s recorded video has actually exposed the kind of shenanigans that took place during that election. The involvement of a general in the apart, the involvement of two ministers, including a Police Minister, is an issue that cannot be pushed under the carpet like that, it is an issue we must get to its roots to serve as deterrent for the future. I’m happy today because you cannot put something on nothing. It is unfortunate that people are suffering now because everything that is achieved by fraud cannot bring any benefit. It is good to benefit from any kind of leader that we chose and I am an Ekiti person, we are benefitting from that choice now. We seemed to endorse his electoral rascality and because Fayemi is quiet and easygoing and not a street entertainer, and we have a Fayose that dances on the street, we believe that is the kind of person that we want. Today, the die is cast and we can now see that this man is just deceiving people. If Fayose is claiming to be a friend of the people and he dances on the street with them, does that make him a friend of the people? He claims to be a friend of the masses but he cancelled the social security scheme of Fayemi. Even if he didn’t want to go with that, he could as well come up with another scheme so that people can benefit. Today, he is turning graduates into criminals, is his imposing taxes on school children portraying him as a friend of the masses? The government that is in Ekiti at the moment is not the government our people wished they had.
As a party, given all that you have enumerated now, what is your next step? What is you way forward? What do you think is the implication of all that you have stated for both your party and the state?
We are one out of the many political organisations in Nigeria. Particularly, a chapter of APC, the ruling party in Nigeria. We still believe that we were robbed in the 2014 election by the powers that be then. We intend to bring all the accomplices to book and we will continue to agitate for that, not because of any interest. It is to ensure that we contribute to the sanitisation of the electoral process in this country and Ekiti can be a good platform to do that. As a political party, we will continue to be on the side of the people. We will continue to agitate and to push for a good welfare and the wellbeing of our people. We are supposed to be a kind of watchdog for our people. If government is supposed to do something and it is not doing it, we will push them to do it. We will continue to be law-abiding and peaceful.
The allegations are also that the EFCC chooses which cases to pursue. The claims are that there were petitions against the mismanagement of SUBEB funds by the administration of Dr. Fayemi and that nothing has been heard about them. Did you hear about the SUBEB funds and the alleged one-sidedness of the EFCC pursuits?
I cannot defend the EFCC or the police. It is not my responsibility to do that. What is important is that if petition has been written against Fayose on the management of the state funds, he should answer those petitions. I’m sure the EFCC has not put him under trial. It has not charged him to any court. But it is not out of place for them to investigate any financial crime as provided under the law. And so be it. On the issue of the police, I want to say that anybody who is found to have committed any crime against the other should be investigated. I say this because your right of extending your hand ends where my nose begins. That’s the truth. The moment you extend to the extent of touching my nose, then you should expect that you could be invited by the appropriate authorities. This is more so when the victim in that respect will not want to involve in the gutter form of attitude like that person. What this implies is that two wrongs cannot make a right. The moment there are established laws and institutions to intervene in issues of crime, then those institutions should be allowed to work.
Fayose is trying to make Nigeria a replica of what Ekiti is under him: To suspend all forms of institutions like he did to the judiciary and the legislature. He believes he can gag the EFCC, he believes he can gag the police, he believes he can gag the DSS, it is not possible. Even if he is willing to do that, the authorities of the law that establishes this country and which is a ground norm in the running of the administration of Nigeria, will not allow him. Either ways, even though he has ruffled the law to be in that position, he should be made to submit himself to the laws of the land. He is not above the law.
So, let the police do their job. We are crying out now that the police must do their job, we are crying out now that Fayose must be properly investigated. We still believe that the EFCC is yet to get to the bottom of all his accounts. They are talking about Zenith Bank account, what of accounts in other banks? What he expects is that we should be watching him and allowing him to impoverish Ekiti when people are dying on a daily basis. Pensioners are dying, workers are dying, most pensioners who have served Ekiti cannot afford N1,000 or N2,000 for their medical attention. I say clearly without any form of fear that the police should do their job because if they don’t, we too can resort to fight for ourselves, which we have been restraining ourselves from doing. That’s the truth.