YOMI AYELESO reports on the ripples created by the recent summoning by the Ekiti State House of Assembly of the immediate past governor of the state, Mr. Ayo Fayose over sundry issues during his tenure.
RECENTLY, the Ekiti State House of Assembly summoned the immediate past governor of the state, Mr Ayodele Fayose over alleged misappropriation of local government fund when he was in the saddle between 2014 and 2018. The invitation extended to Fayose by the lawmakers was not a surprise to many observers, as the fifth Assembly had summoned Dr. Kayode Fayemi in 2017 when he was the Minister of Mines and Steels development over N852.9 million Universal Basic Education(UBEC) Fund he allegedly expended. However, Fayemi preferred to reply to the Assembly through a letter, saying his handover notes to the then Governor Fayose, a copy of which was sent to the Assembly, contained all they needed to know about his account of stewardship. But the then Speaker of the Assembly, Kolawole Oluwawole had insisted that Fayemi should appear to clarify issues on the counterpart fund of the state Universal Basic Education Board.
Like the fifth Assembly, the House summoned Fayose to appear before its committee on Public Account over alleged misappropriation of local government funds while in office. Also summoned were the former chairman of the Association of Local Government chairmen (ALGON) in the state, Mr Dapo Olagunju; former Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, Mr. Kola Kolade and all the former 16 local government chairmen.The Assembly said that its decision followed the adoption of the recommendations of the Joint Committee of the House on Public Petition and Local Governments that was earlier directed to look into a petition submitted to the Assembly by eight suspended local council chairmen in the state. The Assembly had on December 2018 suspended the council chairmen while eight were reinstated in July 2019. The chairman of the Public Petition Committee, Honourable Adegoke Olajide said the remaining eight chairmen on suspension made a plea to the house for a review of their indictment and possible reinstatement. He alleged that the chairmen, during an appearance before the committee, confessed to have diverted funds of their councils on a monthly basis to an account in compliance with the directive of the allegedly by immediate past governor. The Public Petition Committee chairman said the council chairmen, who provided documents to back up their allegations,alleged that the instruction to withdraw the council fund was often passed to them through the former ALGON chairman, Olagunju and the Commissioner for Local Government, Mr. Kolade.
A top aide to the former governor, Lere Olayinka, while reacting to the summons had ruled out the possibility of his principal honouring the invitation. He said: “If they have any evidence of financial impropriety against him (Fayose), they can ask the man who used SMS to appoint them to invite the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)operatives and accommodate them in the Government House as he has done on many occasions. As for us, we are moving on.”
However, less than 24 hours after the summons was reported, Fayose put up a surprise appearance, which cut many unaware at the Assembly complex. On arrival at about 2pm, Fayose went straight to the office of the Speaker’s office, Mr. Funminiyi Afuye and the deputy Speaker, Hakeem Jamiu, where the trio met behind closed-doors for about 40 minutes. Shortly after the meeting, the speaker accused Fayose of an ambush against the Assembly because he came unannounced. Consequently, Afuye in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media , Chief Tai Oguntayo, claimed that after the resolution of the Assembly at the plenary inviting the former governor to appear before the house, Fayose called the speaker to confirm if the report was true. “The speaker confirmed to Mr Fayose it was true and that was the end of the discussion. After Fayose’s phone call, the speaker intimated two of the lawmakers of his conversation with the erstwhile governor. Just as the speaker was settling down in his office this afternoon, Mr Fayose stormed his office with a retinue of pressmen, led by his former media aide, Mr Lere Olayinka, who was equally invited for an explanation on another case of financial impropriety. The speaker, who was accompanied in his office by two other lawmakers, immediately stopped the journalists from entering his office and warned Olayinka against writing any fake report as it’s usual of him. When Mr Fayose announced his readiness to the speaker, he was told to go back and await the official invitation letter from the House of Assembly,” the statement said. Afuye stated that the former governor was accorded his due regards on arrival at the Assembly ‘’being a former No.1 citizen of the state.’’
On his part, Fayose while speaking with newsmen, said he received the summons on him through the media and decided to meet with the lawmakers. “You know my style when the EFCC wanted me, I told them I am here. Today too, I have come to the Ekiti House of Assembly to tell them I am here and if they need any clarification, I can answer because a clear conscience fears no foe. I am saying that I am available. The speaker confirmed that they don’t know that I will be coming. He said that the committee in charge was not immediately available. But I want to let them know that for any question whatsoever, I am a leader; I am here and I will continue to be here. So, I drove all the way from Lagos to tell them that there is no hiding place for people like us.I am ready to give an account of my stewardship.”
On whether he was given a soft-landing by the Federal Government on his case before the EFCC, the former governor said: “The Fayose you know won’t compromise standard. I won’t follow a multitude to sin. While I want to believe that selective justice won’t help our country, I have condemned it severely when they say when you join the All Progressives Congress (APC), you have become a saint. I have said it severally that I will not join the APC. If I wanted a soft-landing, I would have done it in the past. What is the soft-landing, is it because I am before the EFCC?”
However, another twist was added to the drama, when Fayose, in a phone call, alleged that he narrowly escaped an attack after left the Assembly and was on the way to his hometown, Afao Ekiti. He alleged that thugs, in an unmarked black Hilux Jeep, trailed him and hauled stones at his moving Range Rover sports utility vehicle. He, however, did not give details of the attack; he simply thank God for sparing his life. He said he was not hurt and nobody in his entourage was hurt. The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Caleb Ikechukwu,however, denied any attack on the former governor. So, both the drama at the Assembly and the alleged attack on Fayose triggered a war of words between the ruling APC and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) in the state. While the PDP urged security agencies to arrest those who allegedly attack him, the APC accused Fayose of lying in order to get sympathy from members of the public. The chairman of the PDP in the state, Mr Gboyega Oguntuase, said it was an irony for leaders who obeyed a summons by a legislative body to be ambushed and harassed and threatened shortly after the visit. Oguntuase urged the police to investigate the matter and bring the culprits to book. But the APC in Ekiti State, through its deputy chairman, Sola Elemi said that nobody attacked the former governor. He said:”It has not happened in the history of progressive governance in the state to harass or intimidate political opponents. We have not done that in the past and we are not going to do it anytime. Nobody attacked him and if anybody attacked him, the person was on his own. It was done not at the premises of the Assembly. He said he has street credibility if that is true, would he be harassed at the market place? Let him go to the House when he is invited to go and defend himself. As far as the APC is concerned, we are not responsible for the attack.”
So far, the two camps have beaten a retreat after the initial melodrama ostensibly to prepare for the next stage of the power tussle. How soon will normalcy return to the sea after the tempest? Time, indeed, will tell.