Penultimate Saturday, Ado-Ekiti, the capital of Ekiti State, was literally shut down for the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi.
Thousands of indigenes, mostly members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), stormed the premises of St Michael’s Primary School, Ajilosun as Fayemi declared his intention to vie for the July 14 governorship election in the state. Ahead of the rally, the declaration had been the talk of the town as glossy campaign posters announcing the event dotted major parts of Ekiti.
The former governor had the previous week travelled across the 16 local government areas of the state, meeting with APC leaders and stakeholders at ward and local government levels. And at the quarterly meeting of the Ekiti APC leaders held at his Isan Ekiti country home on April 2, the minister had also spoken of his plan to run for governor again on the platform of the APC.
That Saturday, Ado-Ekiti came alive quite early. As early as 7am, APC members, from different parts of the state, started arriving the state capital in large numbers. The members all donned T-shirts announcing Fayemi’s intention to return to the Government House.
Around midday, Fayemi, accompanied by his wife, Bisi, and thousands of his supporters, began the six-kilometre trek from the Fajuyi Roundabout to the APC Secretariat, also in Ajilosun. It was a carnival-like atmosphere, with the accompaniment of music and dancing as the train meandered its way through the different routes.
By then, the thick gridlock had stretched to the Ijigbo Roundabout. Vehicular movement was greatly hampered, and even commercial motorbikes found commuting a herculean endeavour. By 1pm, getting to the venue had become an uphill task for motorists, motorbike operators and even pedestrians. The premises of St Michaels had become filled, and the crowd had spilled over to the main Ikere Road as well as the side streets in the area.
But slowly, Fayemi and his associates made their way through the crowd into the APC Secretariat where the minister met with the waiting party leaders. He explained to the leaders that he was holding the rally to announce his intention to run for the party’s ticket in the governorship poll. While the crowd awaited Fayemi, the atmosphere at the venue of the rally was vivacious. A loud din reverberated through the area when Fayemi arrived at the premises of St Michael’s Primary School, accompanied by some party leaders in the state.
He walked straight to the podium and exchanged pleasantries with the dignitaries, party leaders and journalists already seated. Fuji Star, Sulaimon Adio Atawewe, who had been thrilling the audience just before Fayemi’s arrival, paused as the minister offered his salutations to the crowd in Ekiti dialect.
Donning a branded white T-shirt proclaiming ‘JKF for Governor’ atop a pair of blue jeans, the former governor expressed gratitude to the crowd for their love and support. “They said APC was dead in Ekiti, but now they know better,” he taunted, as the crowd cheered.
He then launched into why he was offering himself for service yet again, employing English and Yoruba as well as Ekiti dialect to make his point. He said even though he was having a fantastic time in Abuja as a minister trusted by his principal the president, he was seeking to return to the Government House in Ado-Ekiti because he had unfinished business in the state.
He regretted that the current administration in Ekiti was a disaster. Fayemi lamented that there was nothing to show for the several billions of naira that had accrued to the state during the tenure of the Fayose administration.
“Fayose collected bail-out funds, Paris Club refund, took loans and, yet, he refused to pay workers. Today, civil servants are owed salaries of between six and ten months; teachers, local government workers are owed at least six to ten months.
Pensioners are being owed. You don’t pay their parents, and you still ask even primary school students to pay”, the minister said. “All the employment and poverty alleviation programmes that we instituted, he cancelled. We had the Social Security Programme for the Elderly under which 25, 000 vulnerable people were paid N5, 000 per month; he cancelled. Our Peace Corps scheme under which 800 youths were employed was scrapped and those youths thrown out of jobs. The special allowances for teachers in rural areas, he stopped. The only thing he does is to abuse President Buhari everyday; yet, Buhari still gives him bailout funds to pay workers. But he doesn’t even pay the workers. The only thing he’s doing is to build a bridge to nowhere. It is only in Ekiti that I’ve seen a governor building a bridge to nowhere”. He also spoke about the N25 billion bond taken by his administration. The funds, he said, were used to resuscitate the moribund Ire Bricks Industry, rebuild Ikogosi Warm Springs, build the 12, 000 capacity Ekiti State Pavillion, construct many verifiable roads across the state, and build a brand new Government House, among other projects. He said he had already repaid about N14 billion of the money before he left power. He regretted that Fayose had abandoned all the projects, noting that Ikogosi had become dilapidated. “Today, besides all the money our friend has collected, he has also borrowed over N56 billion. Yet he doesn’t tell you that.” Fayemi also informed that the present administration slashed the salaries of traditional rulers, and had not paid the new rates in ten months. The minister also recalled that there was not a single community in the state that was not touched by his administration. He asserted that he did at least one or two projects in each community in the state during his tenure. He faulted the state government’s White Paper purportedly banning him from holding elective position in the state for ten years, noting that the paper was far worthless than a tissue paper. While asserting that the Supreme Court had already resolved such matters, Fayemi informed that the bank in question as well as the traditional ruler, a one-time chief judge who chaired the panel of enquiry had said that no money was missing from any bank. Fayemi then issued Fayose a dramatic red card. “We will do everything that is required to win Ekiti back. The PDP government in Ekiti knows their time is up and that is why they are jittery and resorting to all manners of pranks. They are now dangling their White Paper. Their White Paper is nothing but a tissue paper. That is why we must tell the man who is shouting around that he has a White Paper, we have a red card for him and his party. We will ensure that he will end up in jail.” Fayemi said each aspirant on the APC platform would perform far better as governor than Fayose, assuring that the aspirants would work for whoever got the party’s nod to run for governor in July.