I’m most qualified to strengthen developmental strides in Ekiti, says Oyebanji
The immediate past Secretary to the Ekiti State Government, Biodun Oyebanji, is one of the leading governorship aspirants on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Ekiti State. The former university lecturer, former banker and public servant tells AYODELE AFOLABI that his decision to contest is driven by his passion to contribute to the development of the state and its people.
Why did you decide to contest the governorship of Ekiti?
I saw an opportunity to impact my people positively and contribute my quota to the development of Ekiti and our people. I have been involved in the government of Ekiti, holding different positions for 11 out of the 25 years of the state’s existence, and I have not been found wanting in terms of competence, character and delivery. With the experience garnered over the years in academia, the private sector and in public service, I believe I have sufficient understanding of the issues dear to the hearts of our people. I have a clear understanding of the vision of the founding fathers of the state, having worked closely with them during the agitation for state creation.
What is your take on the reports making the rounds that you are Governor Kayode Fayemi’s anointed candidate for the governorship seat?
I don’t understand what you mean by being anointed but if it means the same thing as endorsement or support, I think I deserve it if I get it. I say this because having served under Governor Kayode Fayemi for two terms without blemish and with a record of performance to show for it, if I show interest in the governorship race and he chooses to support me, I must have earned it. In fact, people should be very concerned if I don’t get his support, or if he cannot vouch for me, having worked closely with him for over seven years in different capacities and having known him for over 20 years.
However, let me quickly add that this is not my exclusive right because many people also served under Governor Fayemi and can equally enjoy the same benefit. In fact, almost all the persons contesting now must have approached him for endorsement or to get his support in one way or the other. Beyond the gubernatorial race, at least three of the aspirants have been supported by Governor Fayemi to be elected to the National Assembly at various times. So, to answer your question, his support is highly coveted and I would be honoured to get it.
Is it true that the idea to contest didn’t come primarily from you but from your promoters who want to use you to continue governing the state by proxy or use you to cover their tracks?
That is an interesting thought, but I understand because that is the perception some people have of politicians. I have also heard from some people, including journalists, that the speculation about me contesting this election has been on for over a year. The truth is that those who are close to me can confirm that I’m not the type that could be forced to contest if I don’t have the wherewithal to govern. The question I think people should ask is why it took me this long to aspire for elective office. My style is different; I don’t venture into any business if I am not grounded. Today, I can tell you that I’m one of the most qualified with the required capacity, exposure and experience to strengthen the developmental strides in Ekiti and continue from where the present leadership will stop on October 16. At an early age I was involved in the drafting of the Master Plan for Ekiti State. That was during the build-up to the creation of the state and I think this will help very well in building on what successive administrations have done.
To the other part of your question that some people want to use me to remain in government or cover their tracks, that is quite laughable. But we are dealing with serious issues of governance, so I will not laugh. One, the Governor Fayemi I know is not someone who is hungry for power and so the idea of him governing by proxy doesn’t add up at all. It will interest you that after the controversial 2014 election, some individuals were desperate to get the mandate back by any means possible but he insisted on the rule of law.
Then you spoke about covering tracks? Which tracks? Perhaps track record of performance and delivery of quality service to Ekiti people. Governor Fayemi is not a frivolous person; he is transparent, respects the rule of law and is ever committed to lifting Ekiti to its desired heights. He has run one of the most transparent administrations in this state, winning the Open Government Partnership awards in 2020. What ‘tracks’ does he need to cover? Such claims are from those who may feel they are losing out because of the ground swell of support my candidacy is garnering daily. There is no substance in it at all.
Since 2003 or thereabout, people of Ekiti South Senatorial District have been clamouring for power shift. Another opportunity is around the corner and here you are from the Central slugging it out with them. Don’t you think that Ekiti political class is not fair to the people from that axis?
First, we are all Ekiti, a state that has often been described as being homogeneous, principled and loving. As a stakeholder, who is also involved in politics, I can tell you that at no time has any barrier been placed on any part of the state stopping them from participating in the governorship race. In fact, records have shown that since 1999, there hasn’t been any time that one person, at least, did not show interest from the three senatorial districts. As I speak, in APC alone, at least three governorship aspirants are contesting from the South. Having said this, I think the most important thing is to get the best person for the job. To me, every interested indigene of the state, regardless of his or her religious affiliation or senatorial district, should be given opportunity to contest and tell Ekiti people what he or she has to offer. Then, we will go for the best. The most important thing is even distribution of the commonwealth and opportunities.
Do you think Ekiti people will be willing to elect an APC candidate as governor come June this year?
Ekiti people are not only willing but are earnestly waiting for the day because the APC has done well in the state. Forget the distractions here and there through propaganda; the party has brought about stability in business, politics and other areas. I’m sure we will still get to discuss in more details what the party has been able to achieve under Governor Fayemi but one other thing I want to add is that there is peace in Ekiti and that is essential. There is progress and prosperity under the Governor Fayemi–led APC government. There is no victimisation of members of opposition parties and there is a conducive atmosphere for people to go about their businesses. These are in addition to the huge investments in education, health care delivery and infrastructure development. For this, the people have good reasons to support and vote for APC come June 18, 2022.
Has Governor Fayemi done well to justify Ekiti people voting the candidate of his party in again?
This question excites me because it gives me the opportunity to shed light on the details of Governor Fayemi’s achievements. It is now over three years since Dr. Fayemi was sworn in for the second term after an interregnum of four years. When he came on board on October 16, 2018, the State was in a state of total despair and despondency. So, when JKF assumed office on October 16, 2018, his job was cut out. He made a promise to ensure prompt payment of salaries and pensions to the workers. He abolished fees and taxes paid in primary and secondary schools and introduced free, qualitative and compulsory education from primary one to senior secondary school 3. He also put in place some legal and policy frameworks that have aided growth and development as well as protect the vulnerable in the society.
He also commenced massive infrastructure development to bridge the infrastructure gap. Many of the projects he embarked on in the areas of road construction, establishment of new schools and comprehensive renovation of all primary and secondary schools in the state have been completed. His interest in human capital development has led to the upgrade of the state-owned College of Education in Ikere to a University of Education, Science and Technology. This is in addition to the establishment of a state polytechnic and rehabilitation of technical schools to aid vocational education. He has never ceased to fulfill this promise in spite of the combined effects of COVID-19 and the inevitable global recession that followed, he has evolved different coping mechanisms, including slashing the salaries of political appointees, to ensure workers were never owed their salaries. The government has also recruited more civil servants and teachers to fill existing vacancies while promotion exercises that had been embargoed before his return have become a routine exercise when due. The same applies to the provision of car and housing loans, which workers now access with minimal effort.
There is, no doubt, that the JKF administration has continued to faithfully implement its policies, programmes, and projects aimed at achieving the five pillars of the administration’s development agenda. For example, governance, which is the first pillar and the main frame for governmental functionality has taken a positive direction since 2018. Consequently, service delivery has received a boost in terms of quick delivery and cost-effectiveness. Clear evidence of how serious the Fayemi administration treats good governance can be seen in the tremendous improvement in transparency and ease of doing business indices, which have placed the state among the best in Nigeria. Just recently, the State was adjudged the second most transparent state in public procurement and financing. The State has also soared high in the Disbursement Linked Indicators mileage of the World Bank/FGN backed State Fiscal Transparency Accountability Sustainability (SFTAS) scheme aimed at improving probity, accountability, and transparency in public expenditure.
Some members of the public have described you as a technocrat while others described you as a politician. Where exactly do you belong?
I belong to both and I am proud of that. I have been a lecturer, I have been a player in the banking sector, I have served the state government for 11 years and I have served on the board of a Federal Government agency as Chairman, Governing Board, Citizenship and Leadership Training Centre, Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development (June 2009 – Dec. 2010). Besides, I read a lot and I have a passion for books on development, the global economy, African socio-economic movements and books that deal with strategies for growth.
You are one of the few Ekiti politicians who are close to both former Governor Niyi Adebayo and Governor Kayode Fayemi. Don’t you envisage a kind of dual loyalty moving forward?
I’m close to many Ekiti leaders, including former Governor Adebayo and Governor Fayemi and I’m loyal to all my leaders and elders of our party, including my ward chairman in Ikogosi Ekiti. Perhaps, you don’t really know these two gentlemen you mentioned. They are not frivolous and they don’t like eye service or sycophancy. If they give you a task, they want result and not just result but good one for that matter. Ask other people who have worked with them, they will tell you Fayemi and Adebayo are not your usual politicians. They are respectable, focused and innovative leaders.
Some of your supporters have described you as a home boy. In what contest are you a home boy?
This is another issue that can be interpreted based on the perception of the speaker. Some have described me as a homeboy because I had almost all my early education, in fact, to the first degree level in Ekiti State. I have put in at least 15 years of my working career into Ekiti development, first as university lecturer and later in government. I am also married to an Ado Ekiti princess, who is a senior lecturer at the University of Ibadan. So, you can call me a homeboy with the right education, exposure and network of friends across different strata.