Immediate past deputy governor of Ekiti State, Professor Kolapo Olubunmi Olusola, popularly known as Eleka, recently addressed newsmen on a number of issues around the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ekiti State and what he plans to do in the coming years. SAM NWAOKO brings excerpts of the interview:
Your emergence on the Ekiti political scene was in an amazing fashion. What were you doing before the journey to the Deputy Governor’s office in 2014?
It is true God’s purposes for each of us are distinctive and these divine purposes can never elude us as children of God. I was born in Ikere-Ekiti into the family of Pa Joshua Olusola Ojo Eleka and Deaconess Eunice Olusola Ojo Eleka, under whom I grew up learning the rope of politics; but I must admit that my emergence on the political scene in Ekiti State prior the 2014 governorship election was principally birthed by divine grace. God worked through the good mind of my leader, Dr. Peter Ayodele Fayose to bring me on board. Before I became the deputy governor of Ekiti State, I was a lecturer in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, where I was involved in 24 years of active teaching and research in Building Structures and Construction Materials and Technology, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
You have been described as ex-Governor’s Fayose’s stooge. How do you see this?
Democracy thrives on the oxygen of competitive and healthy opposition among the existing political parties in any society. Unfortunately, the nature of politics being played by the actors can be malicious and derogatory most times. So you should not be surprised if someone is tagged a stooge because of his personal decision to be uncompromisingly loyal to his leader or organisation. By my training and persuasion, I have been taught to always show gratitude to my benefactor. First, God is the Ultimate Master, the number one Benefactor. However, He works through men. So, ex-Governor Fayose was the man God used for me to attain the position of Ekiti State Deputy Governor between 2014 and 2018 and in becoming the candidate of PDP in 2018 governorship election. Hence, I see no wrong in being committed, dedicated and loyal to one’s leader and benefactor. Becoming a deputy governor brought me into the office of a steward under a master who is the governor. I already had an instruction from God the Ultimate Master to be faithful. So, why not? As a faithful steward, I’m bound to stay connected to my leader in season and out of season as long as the First Master permits.
How true is the rumour that your relationship with Fayose has gone sour? How true is the claim that you are no longer his choice for the governorship in 2022?
We experience malicious and derogatory practices daily in politics. Nothing between us has nosedived. That assertion is part of the malicious practice within the political space I earlier referred to. My leader, Dr. Fayose and I are not having any issues and nothing between us has nosedived. For the records, I have no issue with any leader in Ekiti State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Of course, there could be disagreements within a political party and this is not peculiar to the PDP. Other political parties also have their own share of the peculiar crises. Interestingly, the reason for this cannot be far from the struggle of power and interest. In Ekiti PDP, ex-governor Fayose is our leader and we give him all due respect and honour. Personally, I’m eternally grateful to him for giving me opportunity to serve under him as Deputy Governor. He remains my leader.
There is leadership crisis in Ekiti State chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) between Fayose and Senator Biodun Olujimi. Do you think this won’t affect the chances of your party in the state?
There are bound to be disagreements in politics, and crises are not peculiar to PDP. It is an internal challenge of the party. In the APC there is even more serious crisis to the point that they expelled some chieftains of the party in the state. The challenges can be resolved and our leaders are already working towards that. PDP in Ekiti will soon bounce back stronger and more united than ever.
What was your experience in mainstream politics before now, not many knew you before you became a deputy governor?
My father was a three-term chairman of Ikere Local Government, so I was born into politics. I was also actively involved in the activities of my professional body, the Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB). The organisation has branches in all the 36 states of the country and I once contested and won election into the position of Chairman, Osun State Chapter of NIOB. I became the body’s Registrar and later the Research and Development Secretary. I had also been a card-carrying member of PDP long before I became the Deputy Governor.
After the 2018 governorship election in Ekiti State in which you carried the flag of the PDP, what is your plan for the future politically? Are you contesting for the position again?
By the grace of God, I have intimated our leaders of my intention to contest when the window of opportunity opens again. However, in all these, may God’s will be done.
As a major part of the government of Ayo Fayose, looking back in comparison to what the state has now under Kayode Fayemi, how would you place the two?
Across all sectors in Ekiti State, ex-Governor Fayose’s legacy projects speak for themselves – the long elevated roadway, popularly called overhead bridge; the Oja Oba Market that was more than 90% completed and sections of which were already allocated to traders before our exit; the Justice Ajakaye High Court building; Adunni Olayinka Women Centre, the new governor’s office, the transformed Government Technical College, Ado Ekiti, Gifted Academy, Afao Ekiti, renovation of palaces and many road projects including dualisation of Ikere-Ado road, among others were all delivered.
Of unique mentioning is the performance of Ekiti State in the secondary school education sector where I was assigned to superintend. Very simple but focused and target-driven solutions were put in place to address the poor performance of our children in the external WAEC and NECO-conducted Senior School Certificate Examinations. These include introduction of intervention lectures in English and Mathematics, procurement and free distribution of a compendium of six-years past questions to all SS3 students in public and private schools and continuous training of science, arts and commercial subject teachers. We also embarked on a vigorous campaign against examination malpractices. Hard work and excellence were rewarded among teachers as a way of motivation. Best primary and secondary school teachers were given new cars. Best head teachers and best-performing schools were recognised and rewarded. These proactive measures resulted in history-making and record-breaking performance of Ekiti State candidates in these external examinations. Ekiti State came first in NECO SSCE all over the country in 2016 (96.48%); 2017 (85%) and 2018 (90.61%). The performance in WAEC SSCE moved from the undesirable 29% in 2014 to as high as 71.83% in 2017. These are records that no one can deny.
In addition, Ekiti State took the first position in the national YONSPA – Young Nigerian Scientist Presidential Award (Best Science Student), JETS Quiz competition, STAN Science Quiz competition, all in 2016. Unfortunately, some of these good measures were jettisoned by the present administration in Ekiti State. My recent findings show that Ekiti State has lost its leading position in NECO SSCE by 2019 just a year after all our measures were abandoned by the Fayemi administration, and the state is just struggling to remain within the first 10 positions. This is a clear evidence of retrogression. Let me leave Ekiti people to judge the other areas. I have spoken on just the education sector.
The Federal Government under President Buhari has received knocks for under-performance. How would you assess his government?
Buhari told Nigerians that he was bringing positive change; that he would fight corruption, secure the nation and improve the economy. But the Federal Government under President Buhari is obviously characterised by unprecedented corruption. If you put a man at the head of an anti-corruption agency like the EFCC and the man is now being tried for corruption, it means the whole policy has failed. Two years into Buhari’s first tenure, his secretary to the government of the federation was booted out because of allegations of corruption. So, corruption in high places; wastefulness, rampant disobedience to court orders, sectionalism, high level of insecurity, mounting foreign debts and lack of focus are now the order of the day. Under this government, the economy has gone from bad to worse and Nigeria is gradually becoming the world’s poverty capital. The change has turned to chains!
Some have posited that you lost the 2018 governorship election due to inexperience? How do you react to such insinuation? In addition, what more experiences have you acquired?
There are many players and stakeholders in the conduct of an election: INEC, security agencies, the Judiciary and others. In 2018, the Federal Government’s security agencies came to intimidate us and they attacked virtually everyone. The Governor then was attacked; my family members and I were attacked. They created fear in the hearts of people. So, if, despite all that intimidation and other things which we cannot mention here, APC was only able to defeat us with 19,000 votes and over 19,000 votes were voided, it simply showed that Olusola Eleka was more popular. To say that Eleka lost because of inexperience is totally out of it; we lost due to intimidation by the Federal Government. Many could not come out to vote because of that intimidation. But remember such will not happen again. Look at what happened in Edo, people won’t fold their hands and wait for the judiciary to install a governor for them. There are so many gentlemen and reasonable men and women in the judiciary but unfortunately, there are also a few people who won’t do the right thing. Personally, I am of the opinion that we should allow the will of the people to prevail, and not wait for the judiciary to install a governor. Imagine what happened in Imo State where a candidate, who the Supreme Court had earlier said was not a candidate of a party, later became the governor and today people call him ‘Supreme Court Governor’. That is an abnormality. Regarding experience, if I had been in government for four years at the level of a deputy governor, I would have acquired so much experience. For the past two years that I have left government, I have been in constant touch with my people in all the local governments. My people still love me and are clamouring that they want me to be their governor. I have learnt a lot and by God’s grace we will make use of what we have learnt.
The loudest noise in the nation today is from ethnic groups that are asking for restructuring and, in the extreme, secession. What is your take?
I am not against one Nigeria because unity is a very important virtue that we should all encourage. But if you look at the way it is being run now, you would agree with me that Nigeria is no more one. I mentioned earlier that one of the ills of this Buhari administration is sectionalism. If you are not a Fulani man now people will see you as a second class citizen but is it all Fulani people that are bad? No, there are a few bad people in all tribes and these few ones have created sharp division among the various ethnic groups in the country. That is why there are agitations, a good number of people from most of the ethnic groups feel marginalised. We are not practicing true federalism because of the concentration of power at the centre. States cannot even help the federal government because of the centralisation of power. It is not that Nigeria cannot work; people want even distribution of our wealth. No region should be marginalised especially when such region contributes so well to the nation’s wealth. We must ensure that all ethnic groups feel that they belong to this country. We really have to work towards this.
We have been clamouring for restructuring. Those who can make it happen are the lawmakers but it appears they are not working towards it because majority of them are products of this structural imbalance, and that is why many have been asking for sovereign national conference, do you think this is realisable?
I believe it is realizable but we have a problem, it is leadership failure and that is why we are saying let the right people get there. People like you whom I believe is well exposed, enlightened, are you thinking of contesting to get there? If it is same set of people who do not care about what happens to Nigeria are the ones who get, then, we will remain in same spot. Look at what happened in Edo, a god father wanted to impose someone on them but the people said they don’t want that and voted Obaseki. They said Edo no be Lagos. If our lawmakers are not doing well the people can recall them if it was the people that voted them and not that they have been imposed. You have a situation where some lawmakers have not even been able to sponsor any bill for many years while others have sponsored over 50. We have a challenge with the type of people we are bringing up there. The difference between Nigerian and America is leadership and that is why for me, I have been there and I want to be there again because I have something to offer. I am not going there to make money but to make an impact.
The forthcoming race to the government of the state in 2022 will be keenly contested; do you think you stand a chance?
There are just two parties, APC and PDP. It is normal for many people to contest for the governorship position. For me, I support Ekiti agenda but I urge that we should be fair to the southern Ekiti and this is why I am also in support or the Ekiti South agenda. All other senatorial districts have had their share for more than 12 years but the south has not had any share. It is not that we do not have good products I am one of them and I am quite capable and there are other good ones too here. So, it is just fair that we give Ekiti south that chance.
What is your message for leaders and members of your party in the state over the crisis rocking the party?
United we stand, divided, we fall.
Some have argued that a major challenge of governance in Nigeria is the failure of states to assist Federal Government in areas of development and growth. What is your take on this?
It might be difficult for states to assist the Federal Government beyond what they are doing now. Nigeria is not operating true federalism. There is need for true devolution of power to the states. The Federal Government wields too much power and control. In some other instances, the Federal Government through its relevant agencies had been observed to create unnecessary bottlenecks on the way of states or regions that resolve to assist in the area of security. The initial opposition of the Federal Government to the establishment of Amotekun is a clear example.
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