Ekiti state governor and chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), Dr. Kayode Fayemi has spoken on why he did not campaign for the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the just concluded governorship election in Edo state.
He said campaigning for APC during the election would have amounted to campaigning against his colleague, Governor Godwin Obaseki who ran on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Obaseki polled a total of 307, 955 votes to defeat All Progressives Congress (APC)’s Osagie Ize-Iyamu who got 223, 619 votes, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
A faction of the APC in Ekiti State had few days ago suspended Governor Kayode Fayemi, accusing him of funding the campaign of Obaseki in the Edo election.
“Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the Executive Governor of Ekiti State is hereby suspended from the Party in view of his numerous anti-Party activities especially his role in the recent concluded governorship election in Edo State which is contrary to the provisions of Article 21 (A) (ii) of the APC Constitution,” Ekiti State APC faction said in a statement.
However, speaking with journalists in Lagos, Fayemi said he could not campaign for the APC in the election because his role as chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum does not allow him to campaign against any sitting governor who is seeking reelection.
He said those who are allowed to do so are the chairmen of the APC Governors Forum headed by Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi and Aminu Tambuwal who is the chairman of the PDP Governors Forum.
“I have been accused for example that I was not seen in Edo campaigning for my party or jumping around the rostrum. That is true. One, I have COVID-19 around that time and two, there is`a golden, unspoken rule in the Nigerian Governors Forum which is, the chairman of the Governors Forum does not campaign against a sitting governor”.
“Most people don’t know this but the chairman of the NGF can never campaign against a sitting governor running for election anywhere because my job is to protect, defend and to support a sitting governor whether of PDP, APC or APGA”.
“But the partisan forums, they have no apology about that. The job of Bagudu is to go and campaign for any APC governor running for office and it is the job of Tambuwal to do that for PDP governors. The NGF is about interest or issues that affect governors collectively”.
On how he has been successfully managing the affairs of the NGF “I don’t want to lay claim to having any extraordinary powers. But don’t forget, in the recent history of the Nigerian Governors Forum, I am probably the only chairman that has emerged by consensus”.
“There was no vote. PDP and APC governors agreed that I should be the chairman of the governors forum. PDP governors passionately pushed it as much as APC governors pushed it. So, even those who have it in mind that they will like to run, they immediately backed down”.
“I think that speaks to not just relationship building but also the focus of NGF itself. We are not a partisan body. We have our partisan forum. If you want to discuss partisanship, you go to Atiku Bagudu and Aminu Tambuwal. They are the chairmen of APC and PDP Governors Forum. I go there but I play a low-key role there” he said.
Meanwhile, Fayemi has said time has come for Nigerians to confront the reality of restructuring the country.
He said it was time to figure out a structure that is more responsive to the yearnings of the population, cautioning that the Nigerian federation is currently not working.
Governor Fayemi made the remarks yesterday in an interactive session with a select group of Journalists in Lagos.
The NGF chairman said the current challenges facing Nigeria have shown a clear justification for more devolution of not just functions but resources of the country.
He said: “I think we are getting to a point where we must confront our reality as a federation. We cannot continue to run the economy the way we are doing.
“We have to figure out a structure that is more responsive to the yearnings of the population and this current structure obviously privileges those who are more associated with a unitary federal structure rather than a genuine federal structure that is accountable more to the people and responsive to the challenges that the people have.
“What that structure should be, of course, has been a subject of debate from all sides of Nigeria but clearly the state structure we have now is problematic.
“What is a federal road? The people plying the road in my state do not know the difference between a federal and state road. All they would say is that Mr governor, you are not doing your job.”
He added: “There is entrenched interest to keep Nigeria the way she is; no doubt but there are also entrenched interests of those determined that this country must change and must change for the better.”
He expressed hope that Nigerians would be able to push the argument further to a point where the resources and the powers that reside in Abuja can be devolved effectively including the revenue to support the responsibilities.
He said: “I am a known advocate of fiscal federalism and I am saying that even those who were reluctant before are being confronted daily with these challenges and they are asking themselves how long can we continue to do this? Am I elected just to pay salaries?
“It is not just about revenue but creating the enabling environment that would allow investments to thrive in our various states.”
He said he did not see the conflict between the pursuit of fiscal federalism and expanding the devolution project whether one calls it restructuring or constitutional reforms.
“The national Assembly should put together the various constitutional reforms to be consolidated with the report from the APC governors and subject it to a national referendum. I don’t think it is a rocket science but maybe there isn’t that political will in the National Assembly. They cannot say it is Buhari or APC governors that have stopped them from doing this because we have done our bit.”
He decried the current level of insecurity in the country, saying that for effective policing, there should be a localization of the institution.
“If you look at the Nigerian state today, challenges are coming from everywhere. Take for instance security; a couple of days ago, I was in Maiduguri and two kilometers after Maiduguri, you cannot go without escort. The governor told us this”, he said.