How has the journey been since you came on board as the Special Adviser on Political and Interparty Affairs to Governor Biodun Oyebanji?
So far, so good, the journey has been very smooth irrespective of one distraction or the other which are very necessary in politics. These are the ingredients that make politics to be very thick. As adviser to the governor on political matters, it is a usual terrain. We know how to navigate, particularly in this state. We have been in the politics of this state for a while, right away from Ondo State down to Ekiti State and the man of the moment, that is, Governor Oyebanji, is an exemplary leader, who is very easy to work with. He knows what to do at the right time and he is doing it. And such a person just needs a little advice, and he is ready to take and consider whatever you bring before him. So, such a person will not be very difficult to work with. Secondly, he knows the terrain of Ekiti having been in the saddle for a while, at least, from the inception of this state. To God be the glory, he is one of the architects of modern Ekiti State. Also, he has worked more or less with about two or three former governors and that has exposed him to the nitty-gritty of governance in this state. So, to me as adviser, my job is very simple. It is like you take instruction and execute it. The people of Ekiti State are at home with Oyebanji. They find it very convenient to work with him. He also has been having a lot of interactions with them, that has been giving him a bit of edge over those that might have ruled before him in this state. So far, so good, like I have said, there has not been much difficulty aside from the national economy which is affecting the state also. But I know within a very short time, the leadership traits of the President of the Federal Republic, Bola Tinubu, I know the journey would be very smooth, and at the end of the day, we are going to triumph over whatever is staring us at the face now.
Governor Oyebanji recently celebrated his 300 days in office, do you have anything to say that is worth that celebration?
It is always necessary for a leader to be able to measure how far he has been able to go in administering the state. And Governor Oyebanji has chosen a hundred days to be a standard measure for his administration right from the inception. So, the last one that was celebrated was 300 days, which was celebrated in Ekiti East, that was in Omuo-Ekiti, where he was able to meet with the stakeholders and the Chief Jide Awe is the Special Adviser on Political and Interparty Affairs to Ekiti State Governor, Biodun Oyebanji. The former chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state speaks in this interview on the current administration in the state, among other issues people of the state. He rendered his account of stewardship for the past 300 days and he was adjudged as an achiever. So, measuring one’s activity is a good tonic for government to flow with the people. And that’s exactly what he has done. Also, he was able to assess the level of participation of the local governments and LCDAs in the state. And I think that area too is functioning very well. So, it’s a yardstick to measure his performance, and to a very large extent, we are happy as a people that having reached 300 days, it is a good milestone.
The governor is perceived in many quarters as a type of helmsman Ekiti needs, what is the justification for this?
The justification is that the governor is at home with the people of Ekiti. It is like having been with them for a very long time as a commissioner, as this and that. He has studied the people. He knows what they are after and he is giving it to them. And you know he is a lowprofile person. That’s one of the things that Ekiti wants. They want somebody that is cool-headed, straight forward, who doesn’t tell lies. People will be at home with him. So, to the governor, he is a round peg in a round hole. He is at home with Ekiti people. He moves with them, he interacts with them, he knows the language of Ekiti people, and he is speaking it aggrieved are coming back to the party for good. Those who left the party for either the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) or the Social Democratic Party (SDP) are willingly coming back, some on the basis of the governor’s performances so far. They are encouraged that within a very short time of 300 days, he was able to do a lot. They are well impressed. And they discovered that they have to come back into the party and we are receiving them. People are encouraging them at the party level that we started this party together. And having them at the other side of the fence will not pay us as a people. The task of building a state like Ekiti should be all-encompassing and people who know about it should come round. And that’s exactly what they are doing. So, we don’t have problem with those people, who left the party but are coming back.
Kudos and knocks have trailed the Federal Government’s N5 billion palliatives to states to cushion the effects of the fuel subsidy removal, how do you see this step?
The government realized that the sudden removal has some effects on our people and in order to reduce the hardship, the windfall from the subsidy is what has been distributed to the 36 states of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to be able to cushion the effects. It is not only in monetary terms alone. To a very large extent, foodstuff distribution has started. Each state of the federation has decided what to do with the money to be able to reach all the nooks and crannies of their states. And that’s exactly what Ekiti State has done. Ekiti made provision to ease transportation, because subsidy removal actually aggravated the transport fare, particularly for the civil servants in urban city like Ado-Ekiti. The government has rolled out some vehicles to convey people free to and fro their places of work. Also, there are other measures that are in place not yet implemented, but a committee has been set up by the government to see to the smooth distribution of these palliatives. I think the government too still has a lot of programmes, particularly in agriculture to be able to provide enough foodstuff for the populace. These are some of the areas which the government has answered the pressure from the removal of subsidy. And I think when all these are well implemented, the effect will not be much on our people.
What is your perception of the APC as it is today at both the state and national levels?
That is our party. All those things that had divided us in the past, we are trying as much as possible to reduce the tension within the party. And the first hurdle that we have crossed is the former national chairman of the party. After the election, we realized that there were a lot of loopholes which actually occurred within the party. Seamlessly, we talked to ourselves. The national chairman had to be relieved of his post. And another chairman in the person of Abdullahi Ganduje, former governor of Kano State is in the saddle and he has started mending fences wherever possible. Then the President is not taking it low. He is appealing to members of the party to come on board. Generally, party administration and party activities are on one way or another. And the ability of the leadership to be able to play statesman, which he is playing already, I think, there is no party without crisis. The ability of the party leaders to resolve issues will actually bring the party together. So, as far as I am concerned, the APC has identified its problems and it is also proffering solutions.
As the Special Adviser to the governor on Political and Interparty Affairs, are you extending the olive branch to the opposition, and what has been the response?
Yes, we are doing that. The response has been great, particularly from the PDP and SDP. It’s no longer as hard as when they started during the election. The protagonists in all these parties are all citizens of this state and the governor has made it abundantly clear that he is out to solve the problems of Ekiti State in terms of infrastructural development. And he appealed to them that we should stop playing the role of opposition, particularly when there is no election. We should embark on development to which a very large number of our people from opposing parties have acceded to. We are still talking to as many as possible. Then, the Association of Nigeria Political Parties is equally at work. They realised the human element in the governor of the state, and they believe that working together will pay off. That’s exactly what they are doing. So, to me, not that there is no opposition, oppositions do exist but they are not as volatile as it used to be. Nearly all those that contested and won governorship election in this state have been visited by the governor and he has embraced them and he is beckoning to them that the state is greater than any of us. That the best we could do is to see to the uplifting of the state which Governor Oyebanji is doing. And the reception has been fantastic which we believe will turn to a great achievement at the end of the day. So we are one and we are doing fine.
The PDP recently berated President Tinubu, saying over 150 million Nigerians can no longer afford their daily meals three months after he assumed office. What do you make of that?
Before President Muhammadu Buhari left, he made a statement that people criticised him for saying that Nigerian youths are lazy. It is not the youth alone, the workforce, particularly those who are producing food, they are reducing by the day. We are saying that it is as a result of insecurity, it is not insecurity alone, people who do farming are no longer there and the white-collar jobs which we are running after can no longer feed us effectively. I think the issue is beyond rhetoric; let us develop the agricultural sector. Is it president Tinubu that will go to the field and do the farming? The workforce at the farm is reducing everyday, so it is you and I that will find solution to it and not the President alone. And I think all over the world, with what is going on between Ukraine and Russia, it has adverse effects on us here. Some of the things we are importing from those countries, particularly maize, we are finding it difficult to do so now. So, we must sit down and see to what we can produce before we start crying of hunger. Hunger will not go if we don’t attack it frontally.
Don’t you think that attacking it frontally can also be by addressing the issue of insecurity as the challenge is believed to have kept farmers and intending farmers away from farms…
There have been cattle herders right from the inception of this country, it has never been to this level. Let us realize the situation in which we are in, by saying that insecurity, particularly the one caused by kidnapping and bandits. We should put a stop to it. Those are the ways by which we can reduce the level of hunger and put food on our table. It is not that people are no longer farming but that the issue of the day can no longer be solved by cutlasses and hoes; we need mechanised farming to produce enough for our teeming population.