Ekiti State Commissioner for Information, Youths and Sports Development, Mr Lanre Ogunsuyi, in this interview by SAM NWAOKO, speaks on the governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose and other issues affecting the state government. Excerpts:
The various responsibilities of the state government have become more of a difficult task. How would you say your government has been coping with the paucity of funds and it’s duties to the citizenry?
We didn’t imagine it was going to be easy. However, it was even made more difficult by the financial situation we met on ground and the political resistance of the government before us to the results of the election. We have been kept on our toes. It’s been very challenging. But I always say that it is very essential that the leadership in every struggle should remain focused and we thank God for the kind of leader He has given us in Peter Ayodele Fayose, the governor of Ekiti State. As the centre point of the social/political activities in the state, he has been very steadfast, focused and result-oriented. Difficult, yes but I think we are on track.
To many Nigerians, the persona of your governor and his style, which is vocal, are factors in the difficulty the state is facing in some areas of its life…
I don’t agree with that line of argument because we must always remember that the democracy we are enjoying today is due to the vocal outspokenness of people like the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the late Dr Tai Solarin, the late Dr Beko Ransome Kuti and others like them. Governor Fayose is an enigma; he is a brand in politics. It is a whole group of people that are called the “The Oshokites” which he heads. We have philosophies and principles, one of which is never to keep silent in the face of the suffering masses. One of it is to be the voice of the oppressed people. It is also the principle of the group to ensure that we run a transparent government. There are constitutional rights and privileges of states and citizens of the state and the country and anyone who occupies either the seat of the governor or the president should not deny the citizenry those rights and obligations. Thus, if you happen to be a friend of, or the chief critic of either the governor or the president, you should not be denied your rights as a citizen. This is because either you are a critic or a friend that should not stop the president or governor from discharging his obligations to the citizenry.
Even if Fayose is viewed as the chief critic of the president, that should not deny the state its rights and privileges because even in that state, we also have members of the president’s party. His own sympathisers are there too and they voted for him and have sympathy for him. The only thing is that the governor had the majority of the votes in the state. So, it will be an aberration for the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to impugn on the rights and privileges of that state, because the governor critiques the president.
Would you say then that the governor’s disposition and outspokenness or what you called Oshokoism is affecting governance in the state by debating some expected privileges?
I can even say that there are not so many privileges that the central government is bringing to the states. I say this because there is high inflation. We are a people-oriented government; we are not an elitist government. So, when rice is N20,000 per bag, there is nothing you give us that will make us to be happy. When Naira is 420 to a Dollar, we cannot be happy. When Fulani herdsmen go and murder people in their sleep and the Presidency does not do anything about it, we cannot keep quiet and we cannot be happy. When you lock people up without trial, we will speak against it. As a philosophy, we will always speak out against tyranny and oppression. It is now left for you to see us as either your friends, those who are out to promote democracy and not as enemy.
Again, what are those things the state is entitled to that are denied it? We are supposed to have a minister, we have a minister; we are supposed to have an ambassador and we have an ambassador. What is the president doing for Osun State that he is not doing for us? So, we don’t know. If there is an attitude like that, we plead with the president and anybody that knows the president to please know that Ekiti State is a constitutional being in Nigeria and it should be accorded its rights and privileges, regardless of who is governor of the state, at any time.
On your contention of Fulani murdering people in their sleep, the governor recently signed the grazing bill into law and it has generated a lot of debate across the country. What informed the controversial bill that has regulated cattle grazing in the state?
For any law to come into existence, there must be a need for it. People were murdered in their sleep; people were attacked in their farms and then the government thought that the people must be protected against the ravaging herdsmen who have always been with us but were not dangerous and were not cantankerous and antagonistic to their host communities. Now we have enacted a law which is to complement laws like the one against illegal possession of firearms. You will know that it is illegal to just be carrying firearms. With the law, whoever that is claiming to be grazing cattle cannot also just be carrying an AK47. We also have enacted that you can do ranching, for which the state has also stated that it is ready to provide land for people to do cattle ranching, which is the standard practice in civilised places. We don’t want people to graze their cattle just anyhow because it had led to a lot of communal clashes and loss of life. We think that there should be a regulatory law and that is the grazing law the state has made.
Has the controversy created by this law caused you any form of introspection on its coming about?
For those who want to go on with impunity and destruction of other people’s farm, life and property, illegal carrying and exhibition of fire arms, of course they will not like the law. But those whose lives have been affected and impugned upon and who have had their farms destroyed by cattle, they love it. It is as simple as the normal two sides to a law: Those who infringe the law and who continue with impunity and those who have been offended. So, one side would be jubilant and the other side would be a little bit petulant.
There are controversies on the outstanding salaries of workers in the state and people had even contended that the government should have left projects, such as the ongoing construction of a flyover, to pay workers. What do you say to this?
That is why there is always a campaign and that is why we have what is called plutocracy. We campaigned and made promises and what we are doing today are the fulfillment of those promises we made to the people of the state by Fayose during his electioneering campaign. Even though we didn’t know that the financial situation was as precarious as it is now, we never said we were not going to put infrastructure in place for the growth of Ekiti. It is not everybody that is employed in the formal sector. We will continue to do those things we promised the people that we are going to do.
So, it doesn’t matter what they say about the things you do?
No, it doesn’t matter, so long as we are not doing anything that would dim the shining light of Ekiti State in various spheres of human endeavours. We will continue to develop the state. Look at the dual carriage ways in the state, which is why they call Ayo Fayose the “architect of modern Ekiti.” In his first term, we used to put project inauguration every 100 days. The last regime (in the state) has bastardised the economy of the state but we are doing our best and we will continue to do our best.
For an insider who knows that current state of the state’s economy, what would you tell the people of the state in terms of advice?
They should first of all believe their governor. When you trust a man, you believe him. They should disregard all kinds of rumour that tend to set the state backward and pit them against their leaders. Agents of misinformation should be disregarded and we should also learn to maintain peace. We should desist from bringing people down and we should support the government and the governor to be able to do his job of developing the state effectively. In another two years from now, there will be an election and you can easily choose another governor. But for now, Ayo Fayose is the governor and let us cooperate with him so that we can get the best from him while he runs the affairs of the state and from this democracy.