In this interview with KAMARUDEEN OGUNDELE, the Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, Prof. Kolapo Olusola, who is the Peoples Democratic Party candidate in the July 14 governorship election in the state, bares his mind on his chances
Some people believe that your confidence is built on the alleged plans by Governor Ayodele Fayose to rig the election in your favour. What is your reaction to this?
It is absurd for anyone to think like that. Is Governor Fayose the one conducting the election? The Independent National Electoral Commission will conduct the election as an agency of the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government. The APC members have been boasting of the federal might advantage. My leader and mentor (Fayose) has no such plan. Don’t forget that Governor Fayose has a name to protect; I also have a name to protect. We have been tested, we have been proved and we have been found to be qualified and worthy of getting the victory.
Some people say you will be Fayose’s stooge in office and that it will be like a proxy government for him. What do you have to say to that?
If being a ‘stooge’ will lead to excellent performance and Ekiti will be transformed, I’m ready to be one. But where they are getting it wrong is this: a former Lagos State Governor, Raji Fashola (SAN), couldn’t have become governor without the support of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. (Akinwunmi) Ambode couldn’t have become governor without the strong and dynamic support of that wonderful leader, Asiwaju Tinubu. Godwin Obaseki is there now as governor of Edo State. It is an open secret that he was well supported by former Governor Adams Oshiomhole. Don’t forget that the arrangement almost led to a fracas between Oshiomhole and his deputy at that time.
For Governor Fayose, my leader, who has mentored me for almost four years, standing tall behind me, to say that he has endorsed me and that he is supporting me does not translate to becoming a stooge or ‘third term’ by proxy of Peter Ayodele Fayose. It simply means the man believes in my capability to deliver the dividends of democracy to the people of Ekiti. He has tested me by asking me to supervise the Ministry of Education and we have achieved records that had not been achieved in the history of the state. And in every other assignment, I have not been found wanting by the grace of God.
As a professor, I have the background and I have a sound mind. I don’t have the spirit of timidity; I have the spirit of power, the spirit of love and sound mind, so I’m ready. But if people are taking my loyalty and using that to describe me a stooge, then that is good. In office and out of office, I remain loyal to my mentor, the man whom God has chosen as my destiny partner to lift me up. So, I make no apologies for saying that.
If he directs you to do something, can you say no?
People don’t understand some basics of life. There is hardly any man that gets to the top without leaning on the shoulders of another person. If after getting to the top, you don’t respect them again, you don’t reckon with them again that their counsel now becomes ‘old men counsel’ that should not be taken again like Rehoboam in the Bible, who believed the old people that worked with his father were no longer relevant and he surrounded himself with young people who were giving wrong counsels, such type of disposition leads to abysmal failure.
I’m even more fortunate than Governor Fayose. When he was to become governor, he didn’t have anybody to lean on as such. He could have learnt from people but he didn’t have a leader per se that he could lean on. I’m even going to perform better than Fayose when I become governor because I’m going to enjoy his counsel. As governor, he has transformed Ekiti State. That is why we call him the architect of the modern Ekiti. I’m going to make myself available to him to enjoy his counsel and I’m going to assure the people of Ekiti and Nigeria that this deputy governor, who will soon become governor, is going to be a model of leadership. I will be a model of good relationship between the mentor and the mentee, both in office and out of office. So, there cannot be, by the grace of God, any crisis between my leader and me.
Some people believe that Fayose is desperate for you to succeed him because he wants to cover his tracks and avoid any probe. How would you respond to that?
What tracks are they talking about? When people are saying ‘cover up the tracks’, has he defrauded the state? Has he murdered anybody? In his time, despite the lean resources of the state, we are witnessing legacy projects. The ultra-modern market is there. Part of what (former) Governor Fayemi got loan for was to build an ultra-modern market and he didn’t execute that. I don’t even know what he did with that loan; he plunged Ekiti into debt. Now, this administration under Fayose has constructed the ultra-modern market and it will soon be inaugurated.
The flyover is there, which has come to change the face of Ekiti. Look at water fountains everywhere. Look at the new high court complex. The existing complex was built in 1968. Today, we have maybe the best high court complex in the South-West. Look at the new office of the governor, not the one that was constructed and the roof was leaking. Almost all the buildings constructed by former governments are substandard. What tracks are we covering? He has no skeleton in his cupboard. Rather, we are going to build on the legacy he has laid down, improve on them and even perform better because he will be happy if we do it better.
Do you think Ekiti people will vote for you considering the fact that your government owes workers’ salaries?
When you use the word, ‘owe’, you are to look at history and ask how the state got into the mess of not being able to pay salaries. It is because previous administration plunged the state into debt. They used our Federal Account Allocation Committee as collateral for loans taken. Unfortunately, deductions have started. It started during our time. But we believe things will get better and as we begin to see improvement in the crude oil price and the economy, I believe we will get more funding. So, we know that we are not going to leave as debtors.
Ekiti people are wise and intelligent. Teachers will vote for the PDP because we will never think of sacking them. We will think of improving them on their job by improving their capacity training so that they can do better. The same people that Fayemi wanted to sack are the same people that are teaching the students who are coming first in NECO back to back. Are you asking me why local government (workers) will vote for him? The same people who were living in palpable fear with thoughts that they could be sacked at any time? There is peace now and I’m sure the people will go for peace and not war. They will go for light rather than darkness. The PDP is light; the PDP is life, and the PDP is the enabling environment that the Ekiti people craved.
The PDP is transforming everywhere in Ekiti. More than 11 local governments now have highways, the first of its kind. We are also improving on agriculture. Go to Ekiti North now, you will see so many investors coming in. We have cultivated over 357 hectares of land in Oke Ako just to mention a few. The workers are enjoying now and they know we will not sack them. They know that even if we owe them salaries, we will pay them because Fayose did it in his first term. And we are going to do it again. This administration will not leave as a debtor of salaries.
Some people say the gains of Fayemi’s government, like developing Ikogosi to put the state in a good place for tourism, has been reversed by this government. It appears nothing happens at the place again. Why did you neglect the place?
We did not abandon Ikogosi Warm Spring Resort. Go to that place. They said they sank several millions of naira there but if you look at the buildings there, most of them are substandard. These are not the types of construction that would attract tourists. We travel outside the country and we know what we see. It is unfortunate that some people would put up public programmes with the aim of siphoning public funds. For Gossy water production, it is not a government’s action. The place was contracted to UAC and they discovered they could not run it anymore; so, they decided to shut it down. The company that was in charge said they could no longer cope. But let me tell you: this coming administration will develop the tourism potential of the state, including Arinta waterfall. This is a place of interest to tourists. Arinta is close to Ikogosi; so, the fortunes of one will rub off on the other.
Ebonyi is reviving its local rice. Kebbi and Lagos states are producing rice but it does not appear as if Ekiti is doing anything about Igbemo rice. Why is this so?
In the first instance, it is not proper to compare Ekiti State to Kebbi or any other state in the South-West. Land clearing is our major challenge. The huge money that we spend on clearing land is enough to cultivate large hectares of land in the North. But we will not, because of that, say we will fold our arms and do nothing.
Presently, different financial supports have been granted to farmers in rice and some other agricultural products. In this year’s budget, we have provided for the clearing of large expanse of land to increase arable land and accommodate more farming activities. The state government is taking an active role in the regional economic development in the South-West that is anchored by DAWN (Development Agenda for Western Nigeria) Commission. This has provided a window of functional collaboration between Lagos and Ekiti to drive rice value chain. Over 10,000 rice farmers in Ekiti State will benefit from over 9,000 hectares already committed to the transaction.
So, it is part of what we have put in place to support cultivation of rice. We are also encouraging farmers to key into the Enhanced Anchor Borrowers Programme. The government has agreed to commit 10 per cent stakeholders’ contribution on behalf of the farmers to encourage them. We are also going to revive our farm settlements so that farmers can have a full place to operate their businesses. These are just some of the few programmes we have in agriculture.
You will contest against some high-profile candidates, including a former governor in the July 14 governorship election. Do you stand a chance?
I am 100 per cent confident that I will win the July 14 governorship election by the grace of almighty God. The indices are there. Federal might or no federal might, the power of the people is greater than the people in power. The voice of the people is the voice of almighty God. We believe in God, strongly. The Ekiti people have seen what we have done and they are strongly behind us.
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