• My Philosophy Of Life Is To Always Strive To Make A Positive Difference
For Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, it will be unfair of Nigerians to blame All Progressives Congress (APC) or Presidency for not implementing restructuring agenda as promised in its manifesto. He says the National Assembly should be tasked to work on the reports of the Nasir el Rufai committee on restructuring formally submitted to the Legislature by all the APC governors. Fayemi who turns 55 today also spoke on the modus operandi of Operation Amotekun, State Policing and why he wants the National Police Council (NPC) to be more active in checking the activities of the Police. He spoke with MUYIWA ADEYEMI (Head South West Bureau).
What is your concept of restructuring and how do you think it can be achieved?
RESTRUCTURING means different things to different people. When you talk to some people, the minute they hear the word “restructuring”, what rings in their ears is secession, it’s rebellion, not re-organising, with a view to improving. And for me, restructuring is simply re-organising with a view to improving the status quo. If you want to reduce it to the national sphere, it simply means how best can we move towards a more perfect union? Nigeria is a country rich in diversity but diversity and difference are not a crime. Not managing diversity and difference well is what leads to crisis.
So, restructuring is also how best do we manage our diversity and difference in order to continue to grow and improve our society. And on the basis of my education, on the basis of my interaction, on the basis of my engagements with different segments of our population, it seems very clear to me that we may be different but our goals in terms of peace, in terms of security, in terms of development is essentially the same. And the nexus that ties all of that together is better governance. So, how do we achieve better governance in order to have enduring peace, in order to get security and in order to have development and my own logic is, you have to bring government closer to the people in order to achieve this. So, as they say, all politics is local, because it is the impact you make in the immediate community that will speak to your relevance to them. It is not what you do to the world that your people are totally disconnected from, it is how you impact the lives of those who are closest to you.
Your party, APC promised to restructure, in fact, it is clearly written in your manifesto. Again, there was an El-Rufai committee your party set up on restructuring and that committee submitted its reports, but your party seems to be finding it difficult to implement.
I think it will be unfair to say it is difficult for our party to implement it. Yes, restructuring is one of the things that we promised in our manifesto and what the party asked the El Rufai committee to do was to really define what we mean by Restructuring. And the Nasir el Rufai Committee did a brilliant job of that; going around the country, holding zonal meetings, asking questions from a diverse audience and then coming out with a set of recommendations, including even proposed draft bills that define the consensus. However, the job of legislation and reforming the Constitution of Nigeria in order to achieve what we promised Nigerians is the job of the legislature.
But there has not been any executive bill seeking restructuring?
I can tell you for a fact that we formally presented the Nasir el Rufai committee report to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. And what we presented to them also contained proposed bills that I earlier spoke about. But all the governors of the APC formally presented this report to the National Assembly upon assumption of office. So, when you say there is no executive bill; and the reason why we have not come to it from the executive side is that there is a standing committee in the National Assembly dedicated to Constitutional Reform chaired by the Deputy Senate President and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. This is a joint committee, a very powerful one that is dedicated to this issue exclusively.
So, the onus is on the National Assembly to do the needful?
That is my humble opinion because we have put our own reports before the National Assembly. The National Assembly is not only for the APC, but it is also the National Assembly of Nigeria. So, it is up to them to subject what we have presented in the El Rufai committee report to scrutiny and even if they like, to allow a public hearing in order to get the best of what Nigerians would like to see in the Constitution.
Did you expect the Amotekun (Western Nigeria Security Outfit) to generate the kind of reactions it got and did your governors make enough consultations before launching the security outfit?
Frankly, the less said about Amotekun, the better. And we have designated our Chairman, Governor Akeredolu of Ondo State to be our spokesperson on this issue. The one thing I can say is that the simple intention behind Amotekun is to protect Nigerians and even foreigners legitimately resident in our jurisdiction. We wanted to take measures to complement what the Police and other security institutions; who are clearly overstretched, were already doing. We spoke to the leadership of security institutions and they were well represented in our two summits, one convened directly by the Southwest Governors in June 2019 and the other convened by the Inspector General in August 2019. The idea was very clear, though it might have been misconstrued in other quarters, our idea was simply how do we stop the carnage on our highways, and the virtual take over of our forests that was now preventing farmers from working on the farms, thus impinging on food security and damaging the economy of the country. If farmers are too afraid to go to the farm, the implication is very dire on public safety and food security and for the general wellbeing of the people and we felt as governors, our first duty to those who elected us is to protect and secure them. So that there is freedom from fear and two, to ensure that the welfare of our people is paramount in our minds.
Of course, the increased incidence of insecurity was not unique to the Southwest, there was insecurity all over the country but it would appear that the intensity was becoming more unbearable in the Southwest because our people were complaining that we must do something as governors. So, there was nothing that we did with Amotekun that ought to have generated the kind of response. But I’m glad Amotekun has underscored the general desire for peace and security in the country.
I am not talking of consultation among you governors but critical stakeholders in Yoruba land….
We consulted with many stakeholders, institutions, vigilante groups, Hunters’ Associations, our traditional rulers, we did all that. Even our Commissioners of Police, our directors of State Services, our Civil Defence commanders were all involved and were supportive. They were all in the picture.
Were you surprised that the IGP kept mum while the debate with the Attorney General raged. He did not own up that he was aware of Southwest’s plan to flag off the security outfit?
I must give credit to the IG. He managed the situation impressively. He had issues with aspects of it, even though we briefed him. In fact, I was the one who represented my colleagues on the eve of the launch, I went to Abuja to see the IG because he requested to see us and my colleagues were not available and I felt it would be wrong of us not to show up at all. Don’t forget, I have a relationship with the IG, he worked in Ekiti State and he knows this environment very well. When I was the governor in my first term he was the Deputy Commissioner and was promoted Commissioner here before he moved on, and I also know that he has more than a passing interest in Community Policing. When he was at NIPSS he wrote his Senior Executive Course final project on Community Policing and it is something we have been discussing.
I chair the National Economic Council committee on Security and Policing and he is a member of that committee and he has been doing a lot in that committee in the last six months, on how to ensure we bring about a Community Policing Structure.
At my meeting with him, his entire management team was present and we discussed extensively. He raised his concerns and I tried to allay his fears. He advised us on the best way to move ahead. I pleaded with him that all of the issues raised are germane and Governors were willing to sit with him and his team to work out the grey areas after the launch that was too late to cancel. I thought that ought to have been the approach the AGF also should have taken because the AGF is not an unknown person to many of us. I served in the same cabinet with him, I have a personal relationship with him and he would have called just like the IG communicated his concerns and we would have probably explained to the AGF and allayed his fears. It is just a confidence-building measure, it is not a regional police, it is not a secessionist agenda, it is not a violation of the Constitution and we would have explained the issues which was eventually what we did when we held a meeting with the Vice President.
So, Amotekun will now operate in the mold of Community Policing?
Absolutely, if you recall my speech in Ibadan at the launch of Amotekun, I did say one thing, I said I am aware that the IG was putting together the Community Policing strategy but that pending the time the IG will be ready with the plan, we had resolved to launch our programme which in future would be integrated within the frame of the community policing strategy. I did say that in Ibadan.
At the Governors’ Forum, we are told that some who supported the idea of State Police before now appear to prevaricate. Why should all governors not be happy to have state police?
We come into this from different experiences, from different backgrounds and nothing says all governors must support community policing. We are not even talking of state police. I try as much as possible not to talk about state police because state police are just a tiny bit of an overarching policing strategy. I am a student of security and I know what it is when I want to discuss policing. I talk about multilevel policing, I never talk about State Policing, because multilevel policing is not an either-or.
The assumption is always that when people talk about state or community policing, they want the abrogation of federal policing. It is not. All these things exist within their own jurisdiction. There are Federal crimes, there are state crimes that we prosecute in this state; the DPP of Ekiti, or the Attorney General of Ekiti, has some crimes that he is empowered by law to prosecute even in the criminal code. But there are also Federal crimes that only the Federal High Court and Federal Police, FCID would investigate and take up. But the point I am making is, having a state police or a local government policy, or even a university police does not detract from the Federal Police and if there are people who are not ready to have state police, there is nothing wrong in speaking to the Federal police to help them manage their security situations in their states. But that, in my humble opinion, should not stop those who want state, Federal, university community policing from having them. You just need to structure it in a way that every section exists within its own jurisdiction and you don’t exceed what is provided for in that jurisdiction.
And as I have always argued, there is no federation in the world today that I know – I have studied policing across all federations – there is none, apart from Nigeria that has a centralised police structure. India, Australia, United States, Mexico, Switzerland, none of them. Even countries that have unitary arrangements like Britain, they have decentralised policing structure. So, what the London Metropolitan Police does not necessarily have to be what happens in Warwickshire Constabulary. But the training is the same; they all go to the Police Academy in Hendon; that is where they are all trained. From there, they go back to their own jurisdiction and operate within that jurisdiction and London Police will not come and operate in Essex Police Jurisdiction. That is simply what we are saying.
Can we say we haven’t developed to that level?
I don’t know what you mean by we haven’t developed to that level. People will always tell you that if we allow state police, Governors would abuse it. If we allow this, they will use it against their opponents. That is possible. I am not going to suggest that that is not possible. But you were here (Ekiti) in 2014, during my election, Federal Police assaulted me, I had immunity. So, you can misuse any police. You can misuse Federal Police, you can misuse State Police; you can misuse even community police. The antidote to that misuse is to ensure that you have an arrangement, a supervening authority that is responsible for holding every Policing structure accountable. And we have that in Nigeria, we just haven’t been using it.
In the Nigerian Constitution, we have what is called the Nigerian Police Council (NPC). The Nigerian Police Council has a membership of the President and all the 36 Governors, plus the Inspector General of Police and the Chairman of Police Service Commission. But do you know what we use the NPC for? It is supposed to be the equivalent of the National Judicial Council (NJC) that disciplines, monitors and promotes judges. The equivalent of the NJC is the NPC, not the Police Service Commission. Most Nigerians have never heard of it. In almost a decade of being in government, I think we met twice when I was Governor in my first term; we met when Onovo was made IG confirm his appointment.
The last time we met in the Police Council was when Muhammed Adamu became the IG. It has become an IG ratification council rather than a National Police Council that really supervises everything that is done by the Police. So, if a Governor has a complaint that should be the place to take it to. And if anyone has any complaint against a governor’s misuse or even the presidential misuse of Police authority that is where to go. The equivalent of this in the UK is the Police Authority, which superintends the activities of all police formations. So, it should meet regularly. As I said, the only time we meet is when we want to ratify an IG’s appointment because nobody can become a substantive Inspector General of Police in Nigeria without the Police Council’s ratification. And that is why you will notice that when an IG is appointed, he is always appointed as Acting IG until the council meets and we ratify. But the council should not just be about ratification of IG appointments.
Elections in Nigeria have become so violent and there was a time you talked about how to reduce tension generated during elections; that was before 2019. Even in 2019, there were pockets of violence. In all this, do you think we are ready for electronic voting?
I think it is not the system that is our problem; our problem is attitudinal. Whatever system we put in place, Nigerians are adept at subverting systems. I think one of the ways we need to deal with the attitudinal challenges we have around election is: one, we need to figure out the best way to make public office less attractive. If you ask yourself, why do people kill to get to public office? Because in Nigeria, it is a zero-some game. When Muyiwa Adeyemi and Kayode Fayemi contest, and Kayode Fayemi has 51% of the votes, and Muyiwa Adeyemi has 49% of the votes, Fayemi takes everything; Adeyemi’s 49% is useless because there is nothing attached to it. That is the failure of our majoritarian democratic process. If it is a proportional representation system that we are operating, every vote will count. Your 49% will give you 49% of that government. So, you don’t have to die. You won’t be Prime Minister but you will have 49% in that government.
Is it possible in a Presidential system?
It is possible. The French System is a mix of that. The South African system is a Presidential and a parliamentary system. What they have in South Africa is a president but they use a proportional representation based on a party list. They use what is called a party system. So, it is the party they vote for. The party’s percentage in the election is what will determine the number of the parliamentarians they will have in the legislature. It will strengthen the party. This one that we jump from one party to the other the way we do will not happen. People will not die; they will focus more on, okay, if I can just win in my area, I can have a parliamentarian. You can have Ado-Ekiti People’s Party and all you want to do is to serve the people of Ado-Ekiti and you win all the seats in Ado-Ekiti and you use it to negotiate with those who have won the seats in Ekiti North, Ekiti South and Ekiti Central.
So, I think, one, we need to change our electoral system. Two, we need to make public office less attractive and I think, frankly, three, citizens need to become more active. It is the only way you can put the feet of those you elect to office to fire. I am not talking of activity on tweeter and Facebook, which is what many people indulge in. Activity on the street and people holding those they have elected in office into account.
You are back to Ekiti after a four-year break, what did you learn?
I have learned that it is really not by my power, it is by God’s grace that has made it possible for me to come back. Two, I think I have learned a lot about people, human beings being who we are, we are phlegmatic, we are opportunistic and will go for what does not necessarily represent our core values but our immediate interest. I have also learned that your work does not necessarily speak for you, you must shout to let people know what you are doing.
You were here when I was governor in my first term, I felt genuinely that Ekiti people, my people are more aware of their environments and more interested in what you do developmentally. But I discovered in that period, that as interested as they are in genuine development, they also like a little bit of entertainment; they don’t like you to be too serious. They want you to be socially engaging like going to parties – naming ceremonies and funerals and all that. You know I never used to go to parties and all that. I have a wife who steps in for me in those areas. But these days I attend funerals, go to parties because you derive a lot of social capital from these things as a politician. It is in this clime that someone can say, ‘ha, he honored me with his presence at my birthday, and for this I will always vote for him’, even if he has not done anything in terms of development. So I have learned some lessons on a lighter note.
More seriously though, I have also learned the truism in Martin Luther Kings Jr’s saying that “the Arc of the moral universe is long but it always bends toward justice.” Meaning that one’s character and values are the only things that are ultimately self-sustaining and not material possessions.
So, what do you plan to leave behind?
You know, when I was coming into politics in Ekiti in 2005, my mantra was making poverty history in Ekiti State. And for me, what will represent the most fundamental legacy is the extent to which I have been able to reduce the incidence of poverty in our state by creating opportunities for wealth. There are many other things, improving the education standard for example, which I also see as an antidote to poverty. But for me, freedom from fear and freedom from want and a life more abundant are the critical things that I would like to leave behind as lasting legacies by the time I’m done here. I want an Ekiti that has become, the choice place to work, live and for leisure.
Your stay at the Ministry of Mines promised a lot of hope. Do you find your legacies coming to fruition?
Yes, I think the new Minister is pretty much following on the road map that I left behind as the Mining Minister. And that is basically to increase access to finance in the mining sector. Mining is a highly capital intensive venture. To improve geological data, the project that I started on exploration is ongoing, and has come to a significant point now -to organise our artisanal miners. The bulk of the miners we have in Nigeria are artisanal and that doesn’t necessarily make them illegal. But, there isn’t much you can do with artisanal mining if you are not organised and linked to off-takers that are ready to help develop the mining eco-system with enough room for small players. We also focused on improving the relationship between states and the Federal Government because you know, one of the contradictions in mining in Nigeria is that mining is exclusively federal but the land is exclusively state’s. So, for you to get to the minerals, you have to gain access to the land. So, you need state governments to be on the same page with you as a miner in order to utilise the license that you have obtained from the Federal Government.
You also need the community. It is a partnership that must work very well, if it doesn’t, mining cannot thrive and one of the ways we have tried to bridge this gap was to encourage states to become more active in mining by setting up their own special purpose vehicles, limited companies in order to obtain the licenses from the Federal government and then become quite active and a lot of states did that during my time in the ministry. I see that the Minister is continuing with this. I have not left mining actually. I still chair the National Economic Council committee on solid minerals. So, I am still somewhat involved in what is happening in the mining sector.
How was growing up like in Ibadan and Ekiti?
I HAD a normal but exciting childhood. I’m the last child of my parents, with five siblings ahead of me. By the time I was growing up, my siblings were either working or in boarding schools. My late father was a civil servant, an Information Officer in the Western Region Public Service and my late mother was a trader; it was a pretty regimented life. We lived in Agodi GRA, and I attended Ibadan City Council Primary School (ICC) from 1970 to 1975, about a kilometer away from our house in the government quarters, so I walked to school. I relocated to Ekiti for secondary education in Christ’s School. I had a strict and catholic upbringing. Although, it was in Ibadan, it was a typical Ekiti upbringing. With an Information Officer father, I had access to newspapers and I started reading newspapers at about age five. And that planted a seed in me to be conscious of my environment, and to be curious about happenings around the world. I became known in my secondary school as “Current Affairs.”
My classmates would come to me when they wanted to know the capital of Peru, who is the President of Sri Lanka, who is the first person that went to the moon, I used to represent Christ’s School, Ado Ekiti, in debating and Quiz competitions. But I was also a pretty introverted child. I was on my own a lot and I kept the company of my books.
How would you describe your parents’ influence on your world outlook?
They had a strong influence. It was a nuclear family, but we had my parent’s relatives living with us. Before my father joined the civil service, he was a teacher; put together, my upbringing was very strict. My father was around more because of the nature of his work. He was always back from work by 4p.m. but my mother was out in her shop most of the time, so maybe having a wife who works and is out there is not something strange to me because my mother worked. Even when my dad retired home my mother still maintained her commercial activities.
Can you remember the first book you read that had impact on your life?
The first book that I read that had so much impact on my life is the Catechism. It is a summary of the belief of the Catholic faithful and contains its doctrinal standpoints, the liturgy and values. As an altar server, you had to commit it to memory in order to be able to follow the precepts. I also read a lot of comics and literary works and by the time I got to secondary school, I was a voracious consumer of James Hadley Chase, Nick Carter, Sidney Sheldon as well as the African Writers Series. Indeed, Christ’s School was a crucible for honing my reading skills. So, in Christ’s School one of the first things you get acquainted with is the Ancient & Modern Hymn Book.
You have to memorise hymns in that book. And we have teachers who were very committed. They really regarded themselves as our parents and they behaved as such. We were brought up to be truthful and respectful. I had two Principals in the course of my time in the school. The Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti was the first and the late Mr S. O. Agbebi took over from him. Apart from the standard curriculum that we had excellent teachers for, the school also taught us to use our hands very well on the farm and on the field of sports, as well as in drama and the arts. Our education was well rounded – modeled after the public school education in England, we had other things. You can’t go to Christ School without excelling in one sport or the other. For instance, I played badminton for the school and it’s 40 years this June that I left Christ’s School and my set is hosting the School’s homecoming event this year.
What is your philosophy of life?
To make a positive difference in whatever I do and in a very fundamental way. For me, I have learned not to let the perfect become enemy of the good, but I believe that one must continue to strive, to struggle for change, for improvement is a permanent venture for me. I do not believe one should relent even against all odds, in spite of all the imperfections one should not be frustrated by imperfections or negativity. I try to reduce anything that might generate negative energy. So, my philosophy of life is to always strive to make a positive difference.