Amb. Gbenga Olofin, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain in Ekiti State, was the party’s House of Representatives aspirant for Ekiti Central Federal Constituency 1 in 2011 elections. In this interview with journalists, including Senior Correspondent, Mark Mayah, Olofin speaks on Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) governors in the South West, describing them as lacking in ideas to reposition their various states. He also speaks on the crisis in the Ekiti PDP, among others.
You lost the PDP House of Representatives ticket last year and you are now launching empowerment programmes for the people. Is this in preparation for your next political moves?
We are all political animals and we cannot rule out politics from most of what we do. However, what we are doing as per the little assistance we are rendering to our people is first and foremost a way of giving back to a society that has been good to us. I was born and bred in Igede. Whatever I do for the people here is just a way of thanking God for His kindness. Most importantly, we are concerned with the economic liberation of our people. We do not want people to use pittance to get our people’s votes any longer. This can only happen if the people are empowered economically.
But only the aged appeared to have benefited from the empowerment.
What we are doing is not only for the aged. We are also focusing on indigent students, petty traders and farmers. For instance, we are giving scholarships to students and advancing loans to traders and farmers. It is our projection that in the next few years, we would be able to beat our chests and say that we have taken more than 10,000 people out of the valley of poverty. One only needs to have been in that state to be able to appreciate what our people are going through. For instance, what many people require to start a trade is not more than N10, 000, and with that amount, they can sustain themselves. Because they do not have such amount of money, they will remain in abject poverty, whereas, many of us spend more than N10, 000 to buy drinks at a sitting. You can imagine the little amount of money that we spent to renovate residences of those aged women and how elated they are. Recently, I was in the house of one of our leaders and it rained; the whole house was full of water. I asked how much it would take to fix the roof and the man said he needed just six iron sheets. There and then, I made up my mind to fix the roofs of houses belonging to members of our party in the town to prevent rainfall from disturbing them. We have asked them to register at their respective wards and in the next two weeks, we will start work.
Why is the gesture for only PDP members? We are restricting it to only PDP members because it is the duty of the government to make life more meaningful for the people. The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) government in the State should at least be able to assist its members and supporters in that regard, since the party appears not to be doing anything for the entire populace. Secondly, we need the instrumentality of the party to register people and I doubt if any ACN member would come to PDP secretariat to register. However, if non- members of our party register at any of the wards, we will definitely take care of them.
That brings us to the present government in the state. What is your assessment of its activities?
It is not in my character to assess people, more so as I belong to the PDP. If I say anything now, some people are likely to say that; he is a PDP man, what do you expect him to say? But you can go to the streets, especially in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital and talk to the ordinary people. Talk to the people whose houses and shops were demolished without compensation just to pave way for planting of flowers that was never done. Talk to civil servants who are being made to pay exorbitant taxes and are no longer being paid as at when due. Talk to local government workers that are either being sacked or demoted from levels 12 to 07. Talk to teachers that are being compelled to write Competency Test and are being made to pay N95, 000 for a Samsung Laptop that many of them do not need. Then visit the state-owned university in Ado-Ekiti and ask the students what they are now paying as tuition fees. Ask them if they are not paying above N50, 000 as declared by Governor Kayode Fayemi when he was sworn in as governor aftermath of the Salamic magomago judgement. Ask primary school pupils that were being fed with egg and chocolate during the Segun Oni-led PDP government if they still enjoy the free meal. Go to our schools and ask if they are still being supplied with free text books as it was during the Oni-led government. It is then that it will be known to you that it is now very clear to the people that the ACN has nothing to offer except creating sorrows for the people in the entire South West states.
But the ACN has always maintained that its governors in the South West are performing.
Yes, they are performing! They are demolishing people’s houses to plant flowers or to reclaim the land and share it among themselves, and also killing the people in the process. They are plunging the states into debts by taking loans here and there. They are destroying our institutions like Aregbesola is doing in Osun State, bringing a judge who has never practiced in the state before as the Chief Judge. They are foisting aliens on the people like Fayemi did here in Ekiti by appointing over 30 non-Ekitis as aides. They are imposing their wives, in-laws, concubines and siblings on the people as done by Fayemi here in Ekiti. They are subverting the Constitution that they swore to protect by sacking duly appointed members of Boards and Commissions and removing duly elected council chairmen. They are employing graduates as street sweepers or bush clearers and are paying them N10, 000 per month. They are really doing wonders! The question I will like to ask someone like Fayemi is: what is the economic sense in borrowing money to rehabilitate roads? For instance, nothing is wrong with Fajuyi Park – Basiri and Fajuyi Park – State Hospital Roads. Yet, Fayemi is spending borrowed fund to lay fresh asphalt on the roads. He is destroying the road dividers and putting new ones. Is that what borrowed fund should be used to do? Definitely, these elements running the affairs of the South West now are confused. Look at education, which Fayemi promised would be free from primary to secondary schools. Close to two year after, is education now freer in Ekiti than it was under the PDP government? Are our schools better than they were left by the PDP government? Where is the scholarship scheme created by the Oni-led PDP government in which over 2,000 students benefited? Look at what they did by scrapping University of Science and Technology, Ifaki that was functioning well before Fayemi became governor. This they did in spite of the difficulties being faced by Ekiti youths in securing admission into universities. When a state like Kano is establishing new universities, Fayemi’s only idea was to scrap an existing one. Is this not retrogressive?
It was said that the university was scrapped because the state could not fund more than one university. Was it not so?
Is it not that funny? When even Churches are funding more than one university? Or is it not university an institution that can fend for itself? The same state that they said could not fund more than one university was able to do rebranding for over N1billion. A governor who could not fund more than one university is building a new Government House that is costing over N2billion. Is it a new government house that is more important than a university? That shows the way they reason and it is very unfortunate that we are in this messy situation. One can go on and on, but the good thing is that those who were deceived to believe that Fayemi was their messiah now know better, and for that, we thank God for the opportunity given the governor to expose his level of intellect and commitment to the development of the state.
With all these, where do you think your party will be in Ekiti in 2014?
Government House of course! We are going to dislodge these locusts that are ravaging our land and return Ekiti State to the path of progress that it was before these people purchased the judgement that brought them to power. You can see the signs already. Last week, more than 100 members of the ACN from Ward A in Igede-Ekiti decamped to our party and days after, another set decamped in Ward B.
How about the internal crisis in the PDP?
Honestly, it gives us concern but I have confidence in the ability of our leader, Chief Segun Oni to get the matter resolved. The fact is that we must all work together and anyone that believes that the party should be run with the exclusion of others is an enemy of the party. I, therefore, wish to appeal to those fanning embers of disunity in the party to begin to come to terms with the reality that no single tree can make a forest. PDP that will win elections will not be one that is in the pocket of a single individual or group.