Wednesday, July 11, 2018 11:52 pm
PROF. KOLAPO OLUBUNMI OLUSOLA ELEKA, the Deputy Governor of Ekiti, was an accomplished teacher in the Department of Building, Obafemi Awolowo University for 24 years. He recently emerged the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party. As the 14 July governorship election approaches, Eleka fielded questions from TheNEWS team comprising ADEMOLA ADEGBAMIGBE, YOMI OSOBA and GBENRO ADESINA on his vision for Ekiti. AYODELE EFUNLA took the photographs.
You were a lecturer and a researcher, how easy has your movement been from the academia to politics ?
To me, it has been a very smooth transition. Already l have a background in the academic environment where we are taught to be diligent, focused and selfless. I believe these are qualities that have helped me greatly even in politics. Here l have learnt to observe things painstakingly, l have learnt to be patient and look at things thoroughly. These are attributes that are already inbuilt right from the academic environment.
As a lecturer, l have learnt to wake up very early. I have learnt to stay late in the night to do research. I have learnt to adapt to different situations. Only a lazy lecturer will have a stereotype lifestyle in which case some will decide that they don’t want to get to work until 10am and leave around 2pm. You will observe that such lecturer will never get to the top as at when due. But a diligent lecturer, is one who must have learnt to wake up very early, and how to stay late in the night so as to do some academic work that you cannot do in the day time due to other academic activities like lecturing and attending administrative meetings.
Also in politics, sometimes we stay late. Sometimes l have to wake up very early. I am the type that lives by example. It is my responsibility to get to the office by 8am or latest by 8:30am and I expect the workers under me to emulate that. This is what they have been doing actually. To me many of the things that are happening here are not entirely new. By the grace of God, I have gone through a lot of things in the academia and the inbuilt character, in built strength are also helping in this regard.
Your father was the PDP man. Did he influence your choice as Deputy Governor to Fayose?
When my father was selected to be the running mate of Dr. Peter Ayodele Fayose, l was not aware because I didn’t have so much interest in politics. I took interest in politics but not to the extent of active participation. At the time, I didn’t really know what went on in Ekiti politics and my father only discussed politics with me when I asked him about what was happening in the world of politics. Up to the time he was taken to Abuja to be shown to the party leadership and for documentation in Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, I was not aware of anything.
As at that time, I was in Covenant University on leave. Suddenly, one particular day, specifically a good Friday and it was a very wonderful Friday of course, it was a day that was a turning point in my life. I called my father to say hello to him not knowing that he was with Dr. Ayodele Fayose. It was later that his call came in again and the voice I heard from the other side was the voice of Fayose, my governor. He did not even allow me to talk. He said l am Peter Ayodele Fayose. Where are you and I replied him that I was in Ibadan. He said okay, can you please see me today and l rhetorically asked back, ‘see you today’? I was wondering what was happening. He said come with your curriculum Vitae, CV, come with this and that. At that moment, I was with my mother in Ibadan. I told her what Fayose just told me. I added to her that l was not looking for employment. Then, my mother narrated some of the things that had been happening. That was how my journey of the deputy governor of Ekiti State and politics started. It took me time as a Christian to pray and to ask from the Lord, what is His mind concerning this issue. To me, when God is leading you, you have nothing to fear.
It is rare in Nigeria, in our recent democratic experiment for a governor to wish that his deputy should succeed him. Why is Ekiti different and what are those things that have been keeping you and Governor Fayose going?
In this country, it is very rare for you to see a governor coming out and saying that I endorse my deputy to succeed me. For this I am grateful to God and I am also grateful to Dr. Peter Ayodele Fayose. The inspiration I had when I came in was that I learnt that I should listen to him. Don’t forget, I read the constitution, I read everything. The position of the deputy governor is as directed by Mr. Governor and I made up my mind that I am not going to go beyond my bounds. So many deputy governors are having problem with their governor because while sitting on the seats of the deputy governors, they want to act like governors. That is totally wrong. In my own case, I made up my mind to support my own governor right from the beginning so that successfully, we can both exit after our four-year tenure. For him to endorse me, he said something. He had said that I am not his personal choice to succeed him or let me say that I was not his personal choice but this is a man so many people do not know some basic things about. He is a man that fears the Lord. Governor Peter Ayodele is a man that fears God. He is a man that prays a lot. You may think that because you believe he is outspoken, people believe that he doesn’t have very good attributes but those of us who are very close to him know that he is a very courageous man, the man that fears God. He is a man that believes so much in prayers. He subjected the issue of successor to prayer and he said that God led him to endorse me.
If God has led him to endorse me, then he has nothing to regret. But I thank God for him because he also listens to the voice of God. He has done a good thing and this has been commended by other deputy governors across party lines. I have had discussions with my colleagues in other states and parties, they have commended him. They said he has given them a ray of hope and said that if they are also loyal to their bosses, and they serve very well, that one day their time will come.
Why are you and your boss so confident that this election will be a walk-over and is it true that you have signed an oath of allegiance with Gov. Fayose?
Propaganda! The power of the people is greater than the power of us who are in power. Federal might or no federal might, there is nothing called federal might when you have the Almighty God on your side. With God on one’s side, every other might fizzles out and evaporates. So nothing can stand before the mighty power of God. So in Ekiti right from the day we took over governance, we have been working as if there will be election tomorrow. We are in very close affinity with the people. If you do your opinion sampling, you will see that we are on ground. Ekiti people are behind us. It is not soldiers that will come and vote here, it is not the policemen that will come and vote here, it is the people of Ekiti that will come and vote. We have had a case of somebody from the opposition, who started his campaign but was prevented by the people of a community from entering the palace. In some other places, people threw sachets of water at him; they said they don’t want him. Some people lined up by the roadside and told him that they don’t want him.
That is Ekiti people for you. What the opposition started and succeeded in doing in Ondo state cannot work here. This is Ekiti state. People are behind us. We are on ground. We have the support of the people. PDP is on ground here. Fayose is a popular governor and he is on ground. I, as the deputy, that popularity has also rubbed off on me. Don’t forget that I have warmed myself into the hearts of Ekiti people. I have interacted with them. Because Ekiti people want a listening governor, they will vote for me. They want a governor that is accessible; they want a governor that can be talked to, not a governor that will come with elitist attitude who will look at people as if they are poor and treat them with arrogance. Anybody that is arrogant to Ekiti people or that has elitist attitude is finished. Ekiti people need somebody who is accessible and who they can relate with. That is what we have done and that is why today we have the support of Ekiti people. I didn’t sign any oath of allegiance with my governor, Dr. Peter Ayodele Fayose. That is just propaganda.
Apart from popularity and grassroots politics, what other virtues have you learnt and emulated from Ayodele Fayose?
I like one thing in the Bible, it says, I have not received the spirit of fear but the spirit of power, love and sound mind. Fayose has been described by his wife, Her Excellency, Mrs. Feyisetan Fayose as a man that has the face of lion but then he has the heart of a lamb. That is a very good summary of who he is. Fayose is courageous, fearless, but then compassionate. He is generous and he is a man that when he sees people suffering, he becomes touched. He doesn’t like seeing his people suffer. That is why when you talk about stomach infrastructure, they don’t understand. In Yoruba, stomach infrastructure simply means ‘Okun inu, la fingbe tita’, that is when you have strength within, then you can excell. The little token we give to people is just to say that we care for them. From time to time, we will come around to show you love. So, the attribute of courage even in the face of adversity, the attribute of fear for the Almighty God,
People see the Ekiti Governor as confrontational…
It depends on your definition of “confrontational.” If you are speaking the truth, now tell me, of all what Fayose has been saying about Buhari, Obasanjo and many national issues tell me the one that has not come to pass? It is after all these have come to pass that they will say that Fayose has said this before. Don’t forget God will never lack a man to stand in the gap. There will always be a man to stand in the gap. When others close their mouths, God will always find somebody. Fayose is a man that is sent to this country. He still has a lot to do for this country. He is a voice raised by God himself. So when a man is speaking the truth, let us commend him. One beautiful thing about this man, Fayose (though it is very rare), if he toes a particular line, and finds out that it is wrong, he will apologise and tell you that based on the fact that is available to him he took that step but now he has discovered that that decision is not right. He will apologise. Look at the issue of Modu Sheriff, he thought that Sherif is a man you could bring to salvage the image and destiny of PDP but when he got to a particular point and discovered that this man had his own plan which is not going to help PDP, he never denied that he was one of those that brought Sheriff in, he confessed to that, that we have made a mistake.
But thank God and he was one of the people that quickly took step to redress the untoward situation otherwise, we would have found ourselves in terrible mess in PDP today. So we should commend him.
Were there occasions when you quarreled with him?
You talk about misunderstanding, I am glad to tell you that no single day of misunderstanding between my boss, Governor Fayose and I. The secret is mutual respect. That does not say that I have not done some things that are wrong. Wrong in the sense that probably there is something I didn’t do right. He has his own way of correcting me. So, it is not misunderstanding. He is putting me right and that is part of mentoring. I am learning.
If you become governor, won’t Fayose be the one running Ekiti? Won’t you cover his track.
To me there is no track to cover. That is the truth. It is only when you have skeleton in your cupboard that is when you will be afraid. Don’t forget that Fayose himself has been saying that he is not afraid of death or incarceration. When your hands are clean, you have nothing to fear. By the grace of God, I am the vice chairman of the State Executive Council and I am deeply involved in the running of the activities of this government. We have been following due process in all that we have been doing. There is nothing to fear. The issue of whether he will not allow me to perform, I have responded to this in several interviews and I said I am a professor by the grace of God. I am a child of God and I am a pastor. It is absurd for anybody to think that a man who has been a professor, who has been in the academia for 24 years, will not have a mind of his own. I have a mind of my own. Loyalty does not translate to not having a mind of your own. In fact Mr. Governor has been telling me that the buck stops on my table. It is your name they will mention. We have been talking. He said when you give instruction to carry out a responsibility, you must take charge otherwise some people working around you will mess up things for you and they will not say it is Fayose, they will say when Eleka was the governor. Loyalty is not synonymous with being a stooge. For me, Fayose is a destiny helper to me. He is my mentor. He is the shoulder that God provided for me upon which I stand and I am rising. Do you expect me to take a cutlass and cut the shoulder that I am standing on? If I do that, I am coming down myself because that is the shoulder upon which I am resting. Let the whole world know now that I am going to take care of that shoulder. That shoulder that is taking me up, that is providing support for me, if they like let them interpret it to mean anything, it doesn’t matter to me.
Now for whoever cares to listen, whether Fayose is in office or out of office, I will be loyal to him because that is a demand for me by the Almighty God. I will never betray him. I am going to be a model and a mode of good followership. Some deputy governors when they are in position, they are loyal to their bosses and their bosses supported them. When they become governor, they turn their back against their mentor and benefactors.
What is your vision for the electorate in Ekiti?
About my agenda, let me just summarise it. I call it the SHIELD Agenda. The ‘S’ stands for three things there: security, sustainable human development, and social empowerment. On security, this administration has been able to ensure that menace of armed robbery and kidnaping are curtailed. We can’t deny the fact that we have experienced issues like that just like in any other state. It is not peculiar to Ekiti State alone. But then, in terms of synergizing with the security agencies, we have been able to curtail their activities. For instance, some years ago, buggling of houses by armed robbers and other vices were very rampant but we have been able to burst that syndicate and today everybody is sleeping well. On kidnapping, you are all aware that there was a time many people were being kidnapped in Ekiti State. Again with the cooperation of security agencies, we are able to burst all their camps in all those forests where they have been hiding.
Look at Efon, they were coming from Osun State creating problems between Efon and Iwaraja. Again today, we have been able to dislodge them. It becomes very important for me to sustain this issue of security because where there no adequate security there can’t be meaningful development. Ekiti state today is the first state to enact the anti-grazing law. Initially some people were critizising us even some states in the North. Today, they have sent for our anti-grazing law and they have started replicating what we have done here. When they saw that their people were being killed every day. This issue, the step we have taken by enacting anti-grazing law, putting in place the grazing marshal and monitoring team involving security agencies also have gone a long way in checkmating the menace of these herdsmen. Some herdsmen are good, they do their jobs normally but there are some killer herdsmen. They come around and destroy farms. Last year for instance, something terrible happened to a particular woman. She cultivated about 100 hectares of vegetable, cassava and other things and herdsmen came and destroyed the whole farm. The woman lost over N40m, but government had to encourage her. With the enactment of the anti-grazing law and stepping up the activities of the anti-grazing marshal and the monitoring team over there, we were able to curtail in Iyemero side the activities of these herdsmen.
This woman was encouraged to cultivate another 100 hectares. She has fenced the whole place round because we told them that if you want to make this, make it total. If you fence your farm round, that will reduce access of these herdsmen. She has started all over again. Why I am saying this is that if you want to develop agriculture, adequate security is very important. If you want development, if you want to invite investors to come and establish their business here, security is very important. When I become the governor, I am going to improve on the current existing structure we have put in place in terms of making available modern security facilities that will be aimed at detecting security lapses here and there or any group of people that want to cause trouble with the assistance of ICT.
About the sustainable human capital development, one of the things we have been doing is continual training and retraining, exposing our people to workshop, seminars, and updating their knowledge. We have sent some of our teachers abroad for training, local conferences and the rest. To me this is one area I have had deep input in this government and I believe it is an area I am going to improve on.
Social security. Sometimes some people will tell us that ‘Owo arugbo’, the aged money, that we have cancelled it. We didn’t. In this particular case, the APC administration led by Dr Kayode Fayemi, started this social security scheme between 2011 to 2014 and terminated the programme before we came in. The programme was terminated by John Kayode Fayemi’s administration in June 2014. They paid an average of N76m monthly to 15,200 beneficiaries, average of N76m for 15,200, that is N5000 cash. Now we discovered that in this age it is fraudulent to pay this people in cash. Giving people money in cash and by hand is susceptible to frauduldent practices. A lot of people were not qualified to benefit. I know a 30- year old woman in Ikere Ekiti, my town, who was benefiting from what is meant for 60-year olds and above, all because she is a women leader of APC.
When we came in we found out that it is not only the aged people that form the bulk of the vulnerable group, we repackaged the programme. Up till date we have paid N5, 000 monthly to 60,129 beneficiaries at a total monthly average of N32m. The money is paid electronically to the beneficiaries after we have done a well-documented data capturing. You must have a bank account to which we can pay this money to. That has reduced fraudulent practices and every vulnerable groups is involved not only the elderly. The youth, the poor and unskilled people are benefiting from the stipends.
There are other empowerment programmes we do to alleviate poverty. For instance, we give N20, 000 to women selling petty things. That is what my stands for. As I said, we talk about continuity agenda. If you go to Lagos State for instance, Lagos State is thriving. Lagos State is massively developing. The Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of Lagos State is increasing because it has a master plan. There is already a blue print. Governors that is coming in keys in and it becomes easier for them because all of them come from the same political family. Though, Lagos State is APC State, yet we must acknowledge a good system. The continuity in Lagos State is a very good thing that should be emulated. We are ready to emulate it in Ekiti State. That is why we talk about continuity agenda here. We want to continue from where we stopped. If there is anything we have started, I am ready to improve on it. I am part of this administration. I know what we wanted, what we want to do and our limitations and I know what I can add, the area of improvement. If I have run a programme for four years, I should be able to think of areas of improvement.
What about healthcare?
Also, healthcare development is our priority. We have done a lot in healthcare that I cannot itemize within this little time of this interview. One of the things that I have observed is that we need to upgrade our health centres and make them modern. That is one area I am going to concentrate on. Most of the services are rendered by comprehensive health centres. Most people that are being attended to on daily health needs go to these health centres. How many go to teaching hospitals? I will upgrade our health centres to be able to give better health service to our people. We are not able to do much here when we came in because of the economic challenges and lack of funds that we face.Thank God the whole thing is improving.
I want to give kudos to some of our local government chairmen. They have done a lot in improving the facilities that we have in our various health centres. I remember, one day I stopped at a gathering where the youth of my community in Kajola Area of Ikere-Ekiti were having carnival. I stopped. I greeted them and interacted with them. They said they wanted me to come and support them. I said look, I am not going to give you money because if I give you money, you will just spend it. What project do you have in mind? I was very impressed when they told me that they wanted to have brand new generator for their health centre. I said wow, this is good. I said consider it done. I am going to personally provide that for you. That opened my eyes. There could be so many health centres that are having similar challenge. I took time to visit some health centres and I noticed some of the challenges they are facing. I will upgrade the health centres with modern facilities. I will ensure that people are able to access good health centres.
The other things I have in mind is to ensure completion of the accreditation of the college of Medicine in Ekiti State University. This administration has done more than 80 percent. The next round of accreditation will be around November. I have interacted with them, see what the needs are and I believe personally as someone from the academic environment, the onus is on me to ensure that that accreditation is complete. Don’t forget that nothing was done in the place during the era of John Kayode Fayemi. Students were stagnant. It was in this administration when we came in that we took some steps and put in some facilities and today, they have been granted accreditation and the students have started writing their exams and being promoted. I had interaction with some medical students of recent, one of them is in 500 level, he has spent nine years. Nine minus five is four, that between 2010 to 2014 when Fayemi was there as a governor, he did nothing. So if he had done something, that four years of stagnation would not have been added to the year the medical students have spent. It is quite unfortunate. We believe by God’s grace, every other thing that need to be done will be done. We are doing a lot to improve the teaching hospital. Recently, a lot of damages were done to some buildings, almost 17 buildings were affected in the teaching hospital and this administration has successfully renovated all except one which is still in the process of rehabilitation.
There is also a plan I have in terms of healthcare. We can have cottage hospitals. Primary health centres can be upgraded to cottage health centres and some comprehensive health centres can be upgraded to cottage health centres. I have seen a system somewhere which is working in which case we can have consultants from the teaching hospital coming over to these cottage hospitals maybe twice a week to consult. He is not there permanently. He is from the teaching hospital, he is a consultant. If you need special attention then you make yourselves available for two days. You will only need to add a little bit of extra incentive to cover transportation.
What are your plans in the area of infrastructure?
There is no administration in this Ekiti State that has surpassed Fayose in infrastructural development especially road construction and construction of edifices that will continue to be points of reference in Ekiti State. Look at the dualisation. He started the dualisation of Ikere-Ado Road in his first time, after he left, the road became damaged, the previous administration ignored that road. This is a major road that links us to Ondo State. Look at the traffic coming from Ondo State. That is where we have the highest traffic from Ondo State down to Ekiti State. That road became so bad that the previous administration ignored that road. He came in this term, improved on this road and extended it down to the roundabout, the centre of Ikere. Ikere people will never forget that. Today when you enter Ikere, you believe that you are already in Ado because there is no difference again between Ikere and Ado in terms of modernisation. Now you will notice that new development, high rise buildings are coming up by the road side. It shows that the government is developing. What is attracting that? It is the dualising road that is attracting that.
The same thing in Ado, when he started dualisation of roads in his first term between 2003 and 2006, people were asking. Is it dualisation of roads that Ado needs now? We don’t need dualisation of road. But today if those roads have not been put in place, we would have been suffering from serious traffic jam almost everywhere because without those roads ease of traffic will be very difficult. Fayose is a very proactive governor. One of the things that I have learnt from him is also to give the attention that infrastructural development needs. He keeps saying, look you have to improve on this infrastructural development. Our flyover is meant to add to the existing infrastructural development. Look at the new high court complex, look at Oja Oba Market, all these again will affect commerce one way or the other, directly or indirectly. I have observed that there is a need for two things: bypass roads within Ado. I am going to add to that. And rural roads construction especially roads that lead to farms are going to be one of my major areas of focus so that we can open up our farm settlements, farm areas and it becomes very easy for people to bring out their farm produce for sale.