Ekiti guber: Civil servants as toast of politicians
If there is a bloc vote that could decide next Saturday’s governorship poll in Ekiti, it is the civil servants. The 50,000 man-strong workforce on the payroll of Ekiti State government has become a crucial deciding factor in the election, mainly because they usually vote in unison.
Consequently, a few days to the election, the civil servants have become “beautiful brides” sought by all politicians. In the last governorship poll four years ago, there were 733, 766 registered voters, out of which only 369, 257 actually voted. It was civil servants, who made the difference.
However, for sometime now, the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has been meeting with candidates of the 21 political parties contesting the July 14 year governorship election in the state.
Promises and assurances of improving on the welfare of workers, prompt payment of salaries and allowances, training and retraining of workers, were made.
The state NLC Chairman, Comrade Raymond Ade Aladesanmi, said they made it clear to the candidates that peradventure the present administration could not clear all the arrears of salaries, pension and gratuity, labour will give the incoming administration just three months to clear the backlog of salaries and pension and six months to reduce appreciably the gratuity owed, “otherwise workers will be led against the government.”
Concerns are however mounting in the state over the seeming politicisation of the workforce by promises being made and various steps being taken to coerce them into voting for a particular candidate.
As at last Friday, civil servants are being owed four months, while teachers and council workers have not been paid in the last seven months. Also, lecturers in all the tertiary institutions in the state have not received their salaries in the last seven months, while pensioners are being owed several months of arrears.
However, the incumbent governor, Ayodele Fayose, promised to clear all arrears before leaving office, assuring that his party’s candidate, Professor Olusola Eleka will continue from wherever he stopped.
To court the workers for the election, Fayose promised to clear the promotion arrears of 37,132 workers, while 15, 722 workers were also promoted. But the last screening and promotion exercise conducted by the state government has been roundly criticized for setting a bad precedent in the state civil service.
While the exercise ought to have been in both written and oral interview, going by the civil service law, the written aspect was jettisoned and the only oral question was “who will they vote for during the election?” Mentioning PDP candidate, Prof Olusola Eleka’s name as the answer automatically settled the matter.
One of the recently promoted civil servants confided in The Guardian, alleging that, “Almost all of us were asked the same question and once you assured them you would vote for Eleka, you have passed the interview. I just received my letter, but we all know that it’s all politics, because he cancelled all promotion exercise Fayemi did shortly before his election.”
Observers have also expressed concerns about the alleged directive to all Head of Departments to collect photocopies of the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and attached their bank account details to it. But this has unsettled some teachers and civil servants who reported the matter to the Department of Security Services (DSS).
While the teachers at Olaoluwa Muslim Grammar School, Ado-Ekiti had gathered their PVC and the photocopy was going on, some of the teachers alerted the operatives of DSS that swooped on the school and arrested some members of staff making the photocopy in the Principal’s office.
The School Principal, Mr. Sunmonu Olaoye, who condemned the arrest of the workers said: “The DSS operatives were in black uniforms and also wore black masks and headed for my office. I wasn’t in the office, but I was within the premises to monitor the ongoing third term examinations. Some of my staff members were in my office making photocopies of their documents, including their PVCs.
“I allowed them to make use of the school’s facilities because I don’t want anything to disrupt the ongoing examinations. The DSS people just swooped on the teachers, seized their documents including their PVCs and took away two members of staff. They also locked up my office and denied us access to examination materials we were to give to our students.
“I don’t know when making photocopies of documents including PVCs became an offence. One of the operatives even called my number saying I must report in their office within an hour or I would be treated as a common criminal. We have 123 teachers in the school and the people are resolved on who they will vote for during the poll regardless of intimidation and harassment.”
The arrest and detention of the staff had thrown up debates on the legality of their action, which can only be decided by the court. However, the NLC chairman, Comrade Adesanmi, has warned politicians in the state to desist from harassing and intimidating its members, saying the union would stand against such acts.
He added: “Let’s re-emphasise here that NLC is apolitical. Hence, we enjoin all workers to come out and fulfill their civic responsibility by voting for the candidate of their choice.”
Meanwhile, a moderate-size pavilion in Fajuyi, Ado Ekiti, has become a meeting point for job seekers, who besiege the place everyday to submit their application letters.
Since last month when Governor Fayose announced that all unemployed residents of the state interested in government job should submit their application letters at the centre, hopes of hundreds of job seekers were rekindled.
Indeed, collection of their application was a big ceremony presided over by the deputy governor and governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prof Kolapo Olusola, who promised that 2,000 applicants would soon be provided jobs.
But, the academic or professional competence of the job seekers were not the main consideration of the government officials that received and acknowledged the application letters, it was their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), their contact addresses, including their telephone numbers, bank account details, wards and local councils that were properly checked and confirmed to be authentic, before accepting their application letters as alleged.
Over 20,000 applicants were said to have applied for the job, while the exercise lasted. This government process of “recruitment” has not only helped to improve the number of registered voters in Ekiti, but has forced many registered voters to collect their PVCs from INEC.
Besides, the state government has not left the job seekers unattended to by constantly sending them text messages on why they must vote for the PDP candidate, Prof Olusola, in order to secure their “dream jobs”. In fact, they were duly mobilised to participate in the presentation of the PDP flag to Olusola last Thursday.
Like other civil servants in the state they received a message, which stated: “You are invited to meeting with the Governor in Ado Ekiti on Thursday 5th of July 2018, 10am at the Fajuyi pavilion. Kindly be punctual. Thank you!” A few seconds after the message, they received alert of N1, 500 from the “Empowerment Fund”.
Indeed, political watchers said that was not the first time Fayose would use this kind of tactics to woo hapless unemployed youths to secure their votes.
They were quick to recall how in 2014 he publicly announced at all his campaign rallies that those seeking jobs should submit their applications at his Afao-Ekiti residence and his hotel in Ado Ekiti, without employing anybody since he became the governor.
Criticizing Fayose for playing on the emotions of the unsuspecting job seekers, the State Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Taiwo Olatunbosun, said it is unfortunate that the governor keeps on deceiving youths when he has no plan for them.
He said: “During his governorship campaigns in 2014, he asked Ekiti youths to submit their credentials to his campaign office for immediate mass employment if they voted for him. But after winning the election, the credentials of the youth found their way to groundnut and roasted plantain sellers, and up till now, none of them has been employed.
“I think people should ask him how many people he has employed since he became governor, instead he sacked people employed into various intervention schemes by Dr. Kayode Fayemi. The old trick he used last time will not work now. People know who has the capacity to employ and they will vote for Fayemi on July 14, this year.”
Also, former Minster for Works, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, said that the recent offer by Governor Fayose to create 2000 jobs for the youths of the state, is a scam that would end in nought and that it would only hurt their feelings and aggravate their present position instead of improving their lots.
However, the state Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr. Jackson Adebayo, refuted Adeyeye’s allegations against the Fayose administration, saying that the employment exercise was not a scam.
He added that many youths, who had obtained the forms had been praising the governor. “ I am not surprised at the allegations of Prince Adeyeye. Fayose will never release employment forms that are not genuine or fake but Adeyeye is only criticising the state governor because he is a failure.”
Similarly, the Commissioner for Information Youths and Sports Development, Mr. Lanre Ogunsuyi, said: “Adeyeye is only speaking from both sides of the mouth. He is not a democrat and before he defected to APC, he was always supporting all the actions and decisions of Governor Ayodele Fayose. I will only advise Ekiti people to disregard his words and comments.”