Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Mr. Muyiwa Olumilua is the Ekiti State Commissioner for Information. In this interview, he spoke on issues that concern the state and the difference between his principal, Kayode Fayemi’s style of leadership and that of his predecessor, Ayo Fayose.
What’s your assessment of Fayemi’s administration in the past one year.
I am a member of the administration. So, being a member of the government, people might see my assessment as being biased. But sincerely speaking, the administration has taken strides way beyond expectations of the people vis-a-vis the available finances. We inherited a badly indebted state. When we took over, Ekiti State was indebted to the tune of N115 billion or more. But we have been paying those debts and doing other developmental projects. Workers in Ekiti State were being owed several months of salary arrears but gradually, we are clearing them.
How were you able to raise resources to pay the inherited debt?
Most of the debts are tied to our federal allocation with irrevocable standing orders that the money be deducted from source. The payment started when we took over government after the moratorium ended. That, undoubtedly, affected the finances of the state greatly.
Has that affected the smooth running of the government?
It affected us severely. If not that Fayemi became governor in 2018, Ekiti State would have collapsed by now. Because all the viable and developmental projects kayode Fayemi started before the end of his first tenure were stopped by the previous administration for lack of vision. All the development partners also withdrew their support from the state for confidence and trust deficit in the past administration. But they have returned and continued from where they stopped.
What level of rot did you meet in Ekiti when you returned in 2018?
In all honesty, there was a lot of rot but I won’t like to go into details. However, the most glaring was the issue of salaries. Past administration collected budget support, bail out fund, Paris club refund and some other ones but couldn’t pay workers’ salaries. Our administration never collected all these interventions but we are consistent in salaries. Just few days ago, the Ekiti State House of Assembly said they would review the financial transactions of the past administration. Maybe, when they do, you will hear more about the rot in the system.
There’s this sack scare in Ekiti State. What is the true picture of the situation as regards job security in Ekiti?
Last December, rumour of mass sack filtered in from nowhere. There was fear and panic among the workers and we were surprised because there was no such plan to lay off workers in Ekiti. I don’t know what gave people that fear. I believe some mischief makers were behind it. Ekiti State is not sacking workers, rather we are employing more people. About 3, 000 more people would be recruited soon and most of them are teachers.
But something must have stirred the rumour. Are you suspecting that some people must have planted such mischief?
I suspect that unfolding events at Ekiti State university must have caused it. The new university management, obviously, uncomfortable with the ‘bloated’ and ‘unsustainable’ staff payroll ordered a forensic staff audit and discovered some discrepancies in the employment of staff in the university. Consultants were invited to review the records of staff, and several rots were discovered. Some of the records even discovered that some staff left primary school before they were born. So, those indicted were asked to go. That, perhaps, led to the rumours that the state government was planning mass sack of workers.
What lessons has your principal learned from the 2014 defeat?
In retrospect, Governor Fayemi came to Ekiti as a young man with lots of idea and energy, ready to work. He was more interested in building legacy projects that would turn the fortunes of people of Ekiti state. Unfortunately, the election was lost in 2014 and I don’t want to speak about the circumstances that surrounded the loss. He, however returned in 2018 refined and more grounded in playing local politics.
Was not knowing how to play local politics well that made him lose that election?
The blame for that 2014 loss is for everybody that served in that government -cabinet members, numerous aides and several others. It was a collective fault of us all. He trusted us to handle the issue of local politics for him, but we failed. We disappointed him in that regard. But this time around, he was deeply involved in the local politics and that largely contributed to the success achieved in the polls.
Is he more connected to the people now than before?
He is always connected with the people. But he doesn’t believe that he must eat corn, eat Akara or drink local gin with the people on the streets of Ekiti to be seen to be connected with or loved by the people. That, to him, would not add anything to the people. He prefers to sit in his office developing plans and policies that would herald greater transformation for the people. Maybe, that was the difference between him and his predecessor, Ayo Fayose.
There are speculations that Fayemi is aspiring or being prepared to pair with a northern candidate ahead of 2023 presidential election. Is that true?
Governor Fayemi is a very focused person. If he wants to be involved in 2023 elections, he would inform us. But as at now, he has not mentioned that to anyone of us. Not me, not any of the cabinet members. However, I will be pleased if he indicates interest because I know he has the capacity and all it takes to make a great in Nigeria.
Was your Principal misquoted in a newspaper interview when he said that APC may not survive after Buhari?
No, he was not misquoted. In fact, he came out to reiterate the fact that he actually said so in an interview he granted. He should be commended for speaking the truth to power regardless the fact that he is a key member of the party. It takes a lot of courage and honesty to say the truth especially to power. All the things he said were things he saw because he is a top member of the party. So, it’s left for the party to take the necessary actions to avert a major crisis. As a party, we made promises to Nigerians in 2015 particularly in areas of security, economy and others. It’s important that deliberate steps are taken to deliver the promises to keep the trust, love and support of the people.
Coming of Amotekun in South West has generated serious reactions. What is your view?
Yes it has, even though there are several misconceptions about the Amotekun. Amotekun is a cure for an ailment that came at the right time. In the past one year, insecurity in the South West was alarming. Our people cried to the government for urgent action and that gave birth to Amotekun. It is not a replacement for police or other established security systems. It’s simply an organisation set up to potentiate the effort of police and other established security systems. Police is integrated in the system. But the part that scares people is that local vigilantes, OPC members would be involved in the operation. The reason was because they know the terrain very well more than the police or other established security systems. We are more interested in proactive policing and not reactive response. Amotekun has nothing to do with secession as being alleged by some people. We believe in one Nigeria. The governors are only interested in protecting the lives and property of the people.
What is your position on the fear of most people that such an outfit is prone to abuse by politicians?
There’s no perfect organisation anywhere. Nigerians have complained about INEC, Police, Army, Customs, DSS, Immigration and others being abused by people in power. Shall we then demand that they are dissolved? There should, rather be structures and established rules that would reduce the abuse to the barest minimum, hence the move for a legal framework for the outfit.