Saturday April 14 was an unusual day in Ado-Ekiti, the capital of Ekiti State. It was the day thousands of Ekiti indigenes, mostly members of the All Progressives Conference (APC), thronged the premises of St Michael’s Primary School, Ajilosun in their numbers.
The school compound was the venue of a rally hosted by the former governor of the state and the current Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, to declare his intention to fly the party’s flag at the state governorship election later this year.
It was one day that would remain in the minds of Ekiti residents for long. The entire capital was virtually shut down. Traffic along the popular Ikere-Road, which runs from Ijigbo Roundabout to the neighbouring Ikere-Ekiti community, was at a standstill for many hours.
But all that wasn’t unexpected. Days before the rally, the grand event had been the singsong on many lips within and outside the state. Campaign posters announcing the event already dotted major parts of the state.
In the past few weeks, it was gathered, Fayemi had done a tour of the 16 local government areas, meeting with APC leaders and stakeholders at ward and local government levels. He had also written letters where he communicated his intention to APC leaders.
And at the quarterly meeting of the Ekiti APC leaders at his Isan Ekiti country home on April 2, the minister had also intimated his plan to run for governor again on the platform of the APC.
On Saturday, April 14, Ado-Ekiti came alive quite early. From the early morning hours, buses and cars conveying APC members from different parts of the state were arriving the capital in droves. The members all donned T-shirts announcing Fayemi’s intention to return to the Government House.
About 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 compatriots 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 scheduled to hold in July.
While the crowd awaited Fayemi, the atmosphere at the venue of the rally was vivacious. It was a chaotic scene outside the venue, as thousands of people stood in a long line, waiting for their turn to make their way inside the school compound. Scores of gun-toting policemen as well as baton-wielding private security guards ensured that security was tight. Some of the armed cops also paraded the venue with some menacing-looking police dogs.
Two platforms had been mounted on the school’s open field. On the podium to the right, a disk jockey thrilled the many people that had successfully made their way inside, even as popular comedian, Gbenga Adeyinka dished out jokes and intermittent prayers. On the other platform, dozens of chairs had been arranged, with some dignitaries already seated.
Several vendors hawking assorted branded items made brisk sales at the venue. Some of the items on sale were APC-branded T-shirts, bowler hats, fez caps and others. A special publication promoting Fayemi’s governorship ambition was distributed freely at the rally, as the people awaited Fayemi’s appearance.
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 of Governor Ayodele Fayose had brought unmitigated disaster to the people.
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 present 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.
“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,” the minister said.
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 pooh-poohed the state government white paper purportedly banning him from holding elective position in the state for ten years, noting that the paper was far worthless than 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.
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.