HOW FAYEMI LOST TOUCH WITH THE GRASSROOTS: IGBEMO-EKITI AS A CASE STUDY
The main reason Kayode Fayemi and the APC lost woefully to Ayodele Fayose in the June 21, 2014 governorship elections in Ekiti State and subsequent elections in 2015, according to pundits, is that he lost touch with the grassroots. I have searched without success to decipher this expression since it gained currency among many political commentators in Ekiti State. Few of us who still don’t agree with this theory have been called names and described in many pejorative expressions such as “failed intellectuals living in self-denial” “arrogant aides who claimed to know it all” etc. yet, I and few others still don’t agree and it is our right to stick to our belief even though it may not be popular. Not even the latest discovery that the June 21, 2014 governorship elections may not be free and fair after all when one of the candidates admitted in the now famous Ekitigate audio recording that he collected soft copies of INEC sensitive materials and printed for use during the election can make any difference to change this theory. The advocates of the lost-touch-with-the grassroots are not ready to listen to any other argument to explain Fayemi's loss even though they haven’t told us how Fayose connected with the grassroots other than street stunts, eating roasted corn and plantain and drinking at paragajoints.
However, I am beginning to see “reason” in their argument. Two developments informed this. The first is the latest article by one Yinka Erinfolami entitled, 'Party in Denial: Ekiti APC Leadership, what Next?” In that piece, just like Bryon, he also blamed Fayemi’s loss on the same loss of touch with the grassroots even though the writer admitted that Fayose should be impeached! The second development is the payment of the Conditional Cash Transfer money to indigent and vulnerable women in the State. This is an MDG project where vulnerable young women were paid N5, 000 monthly for one year with a mobile phone and another N100,000 as exit fund to set up their businesses. It was started during Fayemi's administration during which the present 2,250 beneficiaries were selected in 5 local governments as a test case. The money was paid recently, but instead of N100, 000 to be paid, N90,000 was paid in three installments. The second and third tranches were paid after APC issued a press release raising an alarm that the actual amount should be N100,000 to be paid once.
My local government of Irepodun/ Ifelodun and town, Igbemo-Ekiti, was among the lucky beneficiaries as a test case. The CCT went a long way to alleviate the sufferings of the single mothers and widows.
Igbemo alone, 92 women are beneficiaries and this made me understand in a reverse order how Fayemi lost touch with the grassroots and I cannot but agree with the theorists though in a strange way. 92 women were on N5,000 for 12 months and another N100,000 as exit fund which amounts to N14,720,000 with each woman benefitting to the tune of N160,000 each. To show that Fayemi didn't discriminate, his administration made sure prominent PDP leaders in the town were given slots. Fayemi by this singular act, has lost touch with the grassroots in Igbemo-Ekiti. No wonder many of them refused to vote for him on June 21, 2014 while in the other elections held in March and April 2015, all his candidates, including Barrister Ayodeji Odu, who hailed from that town and APC candidate for the House of Assembly poll, were roundly defeated. A man in the town who didn't understand the meaning of losing touch with the grassroots, reminded them that the money they were rushing to collect was made possible by Fayemi who they didn't vote for and by extension their own son, Odu, who facilitated their inclusion but whom they rejected at polls.
Fayemi also lost touch with Igbemo people when he made 219 elders (across party lines) beneficiaries of N5,000 monthly stipend for the social security for the elderly amounting to N1,095,000 monthly and N13,140,000 yearly and for three years which equals to N39,420,000. No wonder, many of the elderly did not vote for him because Fayose promised them he would increase the money to N10,000 naira if elected while some of them were reported to have asked, 'Is it N5,000 that Fayemi gives his mother to feed monthly”? I agree that he also lost touch with the grassroots here! Many of them were given N500 on election day and they forgot N180,000 each of them earned for three years under the Fayemi administration. Fayemi got it completely wrong when he also arranged with his wife through the Food Bank Programme to cook food for the weak elderly people on weekly basis in the town and give them raw foodstuff. They completely hated him for this unsolicited gesture. He ought to have left them in their previous condition where many of them looked unto their children, who were themselves not employed before they could feed. The programme has been cancelled by Mr. Fayose but the N10, 000 monthly promised is still in the pipeline all the same, the elders love Fayose!
A total of 71 youths were paid N10,000 in Igbemo under the Youth Volunteers scheme in two batches for three years. While the first batch of 29 earned N240,000 each in two years making a total of N6,960,000, a second batch of 42 earned it for a year making a total of N5,040,000. Twenty nine of the beneficiaries in the first batch got N30,000 each as payoffs after two years of the programme. This amounts to an additional N870,000. Fayemi also lost it here because N10,000 is not enough and as one of the youths said, 'N10,000 is not enough for us to drink beer at a sitting”. The youth may be right considering how they now drink beer every Friday, courtesy of Mr. Fayose. While Fayemi disconnected in this aspect, Fayose connected well! The programme has been cancelled by Mr. Fayose!
Five youths were beneficiaries of the Youths in Commercial Agriculture (YCAD) in Igbemo Ekiti. There was expandable credit facility of N1.4 million for each of the farmers with 10 hectares of land worth N2 million. Fayemi also lost touch with the grassroots in doing this.
Road Materials Company (ROMACO) a quarry site in Igbemo-Ekiti was moribund for years but with an investment of over N200 million naira (Two Hundred Million naira) it was put back to life by the Fayemi administration. Presently, it is the major income generating company for the State Government owned Fountain Holdings Limited. Many Igbemo indigenes earn their living there presently. Fayemi disconnected with Igbemo people with this!
Barely six months after they were appointed, Igbemo Political appointees (numbering about six as at that time and later increased to 13, including my humble self, contributed over half a million naira from our salaries to repair about five borehole water fetching points which had been out of use for years in the town and these are still working till today. We and Fayemi disconnected with the grassroots because we ought to have left our people to keep complaining about lack of potable water. Added to this, Senator Ojudu and Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele sunk two boreholes with big reservoirs in the town.
There are four Igbemo youths recruited into the Ekiti State Peace Corps and they earned N20,000 monthly which amounts to 80,000 monthly for the four and N960,000 yearly with each beneficiary earning N240,000 yearly. Fayemi also disconnected with the grassroots here and that is why Mr. Fayose cancelled the scheme for being a waste of time and money.
A female Health Sciences graduate from Igbemo got employed as a full time staff at Federal Medical Centre, Ido with full compliments of a Federal Medical worker. This was facilitated by a political appointee from Igbemo Ekiti. This another way of losing touch with the grassroots.
In March 2014, 3 Igbemo youths were selected for the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) Skill Acquisition Scheme a Federal Government/World Bank programme where they would be trained in such jobs as laying of tiles and interlock, painting, etc and a specified amount would be made available for them to start off their businesses. Fayemi got it wrong and disconnected with the grassroots in Igbemo!
Two Igbemo indigenes were recruited into the Civil service during the Fayemi administration, while another four got teaching appointments and another two were recruited into the Ekiti State Transport Management Agency, but what is the need for all these? Fayemi again disconnected.
The first project Fayemi Commissioned in December 2010 when he was barely two months in office was a mini rice producing factory in Igbemo that used to produce the brand called Igbemo Rice. Fayemi encouraged the young man because of his love for the local delicacy which the town is known for, that he directed he should supply 500 bags of rice to be distributed as gifts during that year's Christmas. The guy could not meet up with the demand because he had not got such a huge supply order before and Fayemi directed that he should be mobilized with a reasonable amount of money. Fayemi again disconnected with Igbemo for this unsolicited gesture!
Where Fayemi missed it completely was his unnecessary and unsolicited village square meetings where Igbemo people like other communities he visited requested for some projects to be included in the budget and these were done. The projects include; Electricity extension and transformer installation. Creation of Ifelodun LCDA with Igbemo as headquarters was a recurring demand by Igbemo people in the three village square meetings held with them by Fayemi during his tenure. Electricity was extended from Iyedi junction to New Maternity on Ire road while one new transformer was installed and a damaged one was repaired. All these cost N6 million. The fencing of Onigbemo palace was one of the projects under the State Assisted Community Project and it was the project chosen by the community. It costs N3.5 million. Fayemi also lost touch with the grassroots here! Interestingly, Fayose connected well in this area in February 2015 when PDP thugs aided by Lakanu's Policemen raided Igbemo in the dead of the night for no reason and rained bullets for four hours on many APC members buildings with some pellets falling on the palace roof!
The maternity centre along Ire road where electricity was extended in Igbemo was upgraded to an extension of the Ekiti State Teaching Hospital (EKSUTH) where some medical students were to receive lectures. This was championed by the same Hon. Ayodeji Odu and supported financially by other political appointees from the town. Again, Fayemi and his aides disconnected with the grassroots!
There is no befitting Civic Centre in Igbemo for ages but Senator Ojudu, through the MDGs considered Igbemo for a modern civic centre that can sit about 700 people and expected to be furnished on completion. This was embarked upon and has been completed and handed over to the town. This is at a cost of N35 million. Again, the APC administration under Fayemi disconnected with the Igbemo community!
The Ilupeju-Ire-Igbemo-Ijan-Road was awarded by Fayemi and construction had already started before Fayemi left office. The project has been stopped now because Mr. Fayose saw no need for it but he has awarded the township roads his own town of Afao which is the next town to Igbemo. Again Fayose connected with Igbemo people while Fayemi disconnected!
The two secondary schools in the town, Igbemo Community and Oloketuyi Memorial Grammar School were renovated like every other school that Fayemi did all over the State under the Operation renovate all schools while laptops were distributed to the students of the schools. All the materials used such as planks, sand, gravel, iron and cement were supplied by Igbemo people while the workmen like carpenters, bricklayer were all from the town. The amount spent on this was about N3 million, most of which circulated in the town. Fayemi again disconnected with Igbemo people here.
Barrister Ayodeji Odu was the House of Assembly candidate representing Irepodun/Ifelodun constituency II in the Ekiti State House of Assembly and sought re-election but he got the shocker of his life as he was roundly beaten by a candidate from Eyio-Ekiti, another town. He is from Igbemo but he was rejected in his town because they told him his party under Governor Fayemi did not do anything for the town and he also did not do anything for them. Apart from all the above projects I have mentioned and which Odu participated actively in, I am aware he empowered many people not only in Igbemo but in the nine towns that make up his constituency. I am not holding brief for him but only x-raying how and why we all lost touch with our grassroots. He distributed grinding machines, hair dressing machines, motorcycles, generators, refrigerators, farm implements etc to many in Igbemo and the surrounding towns. This is apart from many individuals who he helped financially in paying school fees, hospital bills and other domestic problems. Again, just like Fayemi, he lost connection with Igbemo people and they voted him out while Fayose and his candidate who connected well with them were voted in!
Erelu Bisi Fayemi, wife of Kayode, empowered many Igbemo women during the period under review and on a particular occasion, she visited Igbemo farmsteads with many items to assist the women in their various vocations. These include cassava grinding machines, pepper grinder, blenders, farm tools and household utensils. She also gave salt, rice and many food items while 15 of the women were included in the social security for the elderly scheme. Again Fayemi and his wife lost touch with Igbemo grassroots.
Fayemi gave 13 Igbemo sons and daughters political appointments ranging from Special Adviser to Members of Boards and parastatals apart from having a member of the House of Assembly from that town. It is part of their salaries and allowances that these political appointees contributed occasionally for developmental projects and welfare of their people in the town. Fayemi again got it wrong with too many appointments from the town. No wonder Fayose connected well with Igbemo by appointing only one indigene of that town as a Supervisory Councillor in the Local Government with a promise of more appointments to come. At least promise is better than reality!
A recurring demand of Igbemo people for ages has been the creation of Ifelodun Local Government Development Area with Igbemo as headquarters. This was finally realized during Fayemi's tenure. Fayemi again lost touch with the Igbemo grassroots here and this is why despite cancelling the LCDA in Igbemo like others, Mr. Fayose is still preferred by them. No wonder, some of them embarked on a solidarity rally for Fayose in Ado-Ekiti while they denounced Fayemi and his political appointees from the town. Fayemi will suffer and regret his actions by the time the APC controlled National Assembly ratifies LCDAs created by a state like Lagos and make them full Local Government Areas recognized by the constitution with attendant benefits!
If the above is how to lose touch with the grassroots, there must be an esoteric definition and explanation of this phrase. Also, it is better for Political Scientists to begin a study of the emerging sociology of Ekiti people. I am not saying the Fayemi administration didn’t make mistakes as no administration is perfect, for in the words of Albert Einstein, “anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried something new”. What I am saying is that Fayemi losing touch with the grassroots is not part of that mistake. There is no government since the creation of Ekiti state that touched the lives of ordinary Ekiti person directly or indirectly like the Fayemi administration.. That is my argument.
The above are incontrovertible facts. The above projects and beneficiaries are not limited to Igbemo but cut across all 131 towns in Ekiti State. If you are from Ekiti and reading this, please educate us by letting us know how Fayemi lost touch with your town so that we may learn more and guide against this pitfall in the nearest future.
Written by Hakeem Jamiu, the Senior Special Assistant to former Governor Fayemi on Research and Documentation.