SENATOR ARISE'S CONFESSION ON EKITI FEDERAL VARSITY CONTROVERSY
• Senator Ayo Arise (middle),Chief Femi Ajayi (behind senator), Oba Ademolaju Adugbole, the Oloye of Oye (Arise's right hand), Oba Solomon Adeloye, the Owa of Ayegbaju (Arise's Left hand side) and others at the proposed university site in Oye-Ekiti
PHOTO: THE SUN PUBLISHING
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The Chairman, Senate Committee on Privatization, Senator Ayo Arise, has denied influencing the alleged relocation of the newl Federal university, from Ikole-Ekiti to Oye-Ekiti, an allegation which led to a violent demonstration and the unfortunate killing by the police, of five protesters, and maiming of others, some weeks ago.
'The Ikole people are my people; my wife is from there, she is not only a daughter of Ikole, she is also a princess from Ikole,' Arise said while addressing newsmen during the 'spiritual cleansing' and hallowing of the proposed site of the university in Oye-Ekiti, recently. 'I have repeatedly said that I would not do anything against the Ikole people and I expect that they would take a cue from my position and understand that there is no dispute in life that cannot be settled. Nobody can afford to be extremely rigid on any matter. I'm still making effort. I'm actually trying to reach the governor (Fayemi) as well, and I hope I would be able to have a meaningful discussion with him.'
During the last month protest staged by Ikole-Ekiti, the Ifaki-Ekiti-Omuo-Lokoja end of the highway, the road between Iluomoba and Ikole-Ekiti, was barricaded by protesters that prevented free flow of traffic. Commuters were trapped for hours.
Many workers in the town, especially at Ikole Local Government Area, had to run for their dear lives, when the protesters engaged the policemen in a free for all, with the security agents shooting sporadically to disperse them. The protesters threatened that if the Federal Government did not change its decision on the matter, it would become a communal clash between the two communities. They accused Arise of influencing the relocation. But defending himself, Arise denied doing so. He however admitted lobbying for the university to be sited in Oye-Ekiti and said he does not see anything wrong with that as any other person in position of authority or influence would have done the same, he argues.
'Our people go to the polls to put us in power so that we can do what would benefit them and my first port of call is Oye,' he posits. 'My next interest is Ikole because of my wife, in that order across the Senatorial district. If any other thing is coming and I have the opportunity to be influential, I can assure you the next port of consideration is Ikole-Ekiti. It is a natural thing and I have spoken to most eminent people in Ikole-Ekiti, they are fighting because they want it in their own town. I'm not aggrieved about those people calling me names because I know that deep down inside them, if they have the same opportunity, they would first of all say Ikole, before saying Oye next, that is the fair way to look at this matter. I did not work at anytime against Ikole. I made application for this university the second day the Federal Government announced that there would be six universities. I have the letter acknowledged by the Minister, Minister of State and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education.'
It should be recalled that long before this controversy broke out leading to loss of lives and property, the governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi had, during the visit of the Minister of State for Education, Kenneth Gbagi and some officials of the National Universities Commission (NUC) to the state, named Ikole-Ekiti as the proposed site for the new university. He said the state would make use of the site of the Agricultural Development Project in Ikole town. Making the declaration he said the decision to site the university in Ikole-Ekiti satisfies the choice of balance in the location of tertiary institutions in the state and remarked that it was informed by the need to give the people of the Northern part of the state an opportunity of enjoying the dividends of democracy.
Fayemi who was said to have resisted pressure from his own people, who wanted the university, said it would be immoral to site the university elsewhere because Ikole deserved it more than any other area. He added that siting the university in Ikole would engender development and promote equality. Agreeing with Fayemi, Gbagi noted that the choice of location for the university is purely that of the number one citizen of the state which Fayemi rightly exercised in the announcement of Ikole.
It was surprising therefore when news filtered out later that the proposed university has been relocated to Oye-Ekiti. It led to first, peaceful protest and later to rampage, following the killing of five of the protesters, by the police. But reacting to the development, Chairman, Ondo/Ekiti Axis of the National Association of Nigerian Students Joint Campus Committee, Comrade Aremo Gbenga Oyebode, blamed the crisis on the unguarded statement of Governor Fayemi about siting the university in Ikole-Ekiti, without approval from the Federal government.
While condemning the police for their high-handedness that led to the death of the protesters and the maiming of many others, Oyebode however noted that the crisis and the unnecessary harvest of deaths that followed would have been avoided 'had Fayemi acted within his powers.'
'Firstly, Governor Fayemi does not have powers to determine where a federal institution should be located and he ought to have realized this before making unguarded statements on location of the federal university,' he argues. 'Or how possible is it for Governor Fayemi to have given what does not belong to him? If Fayemi had not announced Ikole-Ekiti as the site, the people of the town would not have protested when Oye-Ekiti was announced by the federal government as the location of the university. Therefore, the bloodshed witnessed in Ikole was caused by the governor and he must be ready to accept responsibility for it.
'However, it is our plea to the people of Ikole to be cautious with their agitation for the university so as not to jeopardize the brotherliness among Ekiti people. Ekiti is Ekiti whether it is Oye, Ikole, Otun, Omuo or Okemesi and nothing should be allowed to set our people against themselves,' Oyebode pleaded.
But disagreeing with Oyebode's position, the Caretaker Chairman of the Ikole Local Government Area, Chief Biodun Akin-Fasae and a member of Ekiti State House of Assembly, Adebayo Morakinyo, absolved Fayemi of any blame in the crisis.
'The university was wrongly relocated to Oye-Ekiti by the Federal Government', Fasae said. 'Ekiti people and specifically the people of Ikole did not request for a Federal University, but the Federal Government gave us one. A team of experts came from the National Universities Commission (NUC) in company with the Minister of State for Education, Dr. Kenneth Gbagi, and they okayed the site in Ikole-Ekiti, which Governor Kayode Fayemi was favourably disposed to.
'The governor paid over N1.5 million to the surveyors doing the layout of the proposed site and even our local government here have spent over N8 million on publicity, and all the academia of Ikole Ekiti origin have been making efforts to ensure a smooth takeoff of the university.'
Morakinyo disagreed with Oyebode's position that Governor Fayemi has no say in the matter. 'Look at what happened in Kogi State. Governor Ibrahim Idris located that of Kogi in Lokoja, which was an indication that he had an input on the location, just like other governors. But I begin to wonder that some people are saying that Dr Kayode Fayemi does not have a say in the matter.'
But in a chat with newsmen, Arise who recalled how he worked concertedly with another native of Aiyegbaju-Ekiti, a neighbouring town of Oye-Ekiti, Chief Femi Ajayi, Director-General, Nigeria Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), to persuade the Federal Executive Council and the Federal Ministry of Education, to pick Oye-Ekiti, still insisted that Fayemi was wrong to have allocated a site for the proposed Federal University.
Referring to his pronouncement at the visit of Gbagi, the Minister of State for Education and some officials of National Universities Commission (NUC), Arise contended that Fayemi 'made a very honest mistake by assuming that a Minister of State can establish the university. He took him for that and he went on air to announce. But Mr. President is the head of the Federal Executive Council and it is only this body that can decide on any executive policy and so, Mr. President decided to locate that University in Oye Ekiti.
'That university was never located in Ikole by the Federal Government. It is time for us to speak with our brothers in Ikole. The distance is so short, there is no way the university would be here and it would not touch the lives of everybody in this state, let alone those next to us in term of local governments' boundary. Besides, I had alluded to the fact of the two major key positions appointed for this university, not one person is from Oye, because most of the communities that had a university produced the VC. The one that benefited from this university is Professor Bolaji Aluko who is from Ode-Ekiti, the Registrar is from Ido-Ekiti. So, this is Ekiti thing. Nobody should, under any guise, work against the interest of Ekiti people, we are the same people and I think for the purpose of peace, forgetting about politics. I know that my brother, the governor, is interested in eroding my political influence in Ikole and that is why all these games started.
'But I have left everything in the hand of God, because I do not have the powers to locate a university in this town, the only person with that power is Mr. President and he is the one who located that university in this town. He might have had his reasons, those reasons are part of life, they happen in decision-making and this is not the first country or state where somebody would influence a university to be located in his home town.
'Looking at the University of Ife, when it was established in Ile-Ife, it was because Oba Adesoji Aderemi was the Governor of Western Region. Awolowo needed a governor, just like Azikiwe and Tafawa Balewa needed each other. Azikiwe was President, he went and put a University in Nsukka, even though Azikwe was from Onitsha.
There are so many things that worked to determine where a university would be.
'The Federal Government located the university in Oye-Ekiti just like eight others were located in different states. We have not had any problem from any of those states; Ekiti would not be a problem to Nigeria. Mr. President knows best and God would bless his decision, because this is in the interest of our people. There is no local government in this Senatorial district that would not have a child attending this university, so this is not a university for Arise. I have made it clear in all my speeches. My last son is in university already. But I know our children's children would benefit from this institution, so let nobody work to scuttle this university, because posterity is there to judge all of us. This is not about politics.
'When Jimmy Carter was the President in United States of America, he put Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta that is where he comes from. Look at the biggest project; it has gone to Illinois in Chicago under Obama.
'Concerning the approval of this university for Ekiti, the announcement was made 9:30 pm, the next morning, I was at the Ministry of Education, that is what my people sent me there to go and do, to go and represent them, I don't have any other job. I did it and I was lucky to have a person in the calibre of Femi Ajayi at the Presidency, a very good friend of the President. Therefore, whatever we were putting across, he was ensuring that everything got to the President and he was updating him constantly that this is where he is from. I think Femi's role was very significant, because Mr. President knows him, more than he knows me. I'm a Senator, I have worked with him as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Privatization before he became the President. A number of things worked well for us. We did not say remove it from Ikole, it was never located anywhere.
'Everything I have done, I have been very fair, I have been very sincere, I have been very truthful. This campaign is about educating the people too, and discussing with them that I did no wrong. I did not take any university from Ikole, because none was established there. I keep on saying it is because our governor just got to office, he was not up to even sixty days in office when this thing happened. His experience in governance was not much, this is his first time. If he were to handle this kind of situation next time, he would go and lobby the President for it. He would not say I have established this university that he does not have the power to establish. In the first place, that is what happens, it is just a mere administrative mistake and that is what has caused the grief for the people of Ikole. Mr. President would have told him, where he planned to put the university.
'For example, they sited a university in Otu-Oke, Mr President's town, that is what they recommended to him, but he cannot ask them not to put it there. As I was lobbying for this university, others were lobbying for it as well, anybody could have had it. If they had taken the university and put it in Ijero, would I have taken up arm and say I want to go and fight them in Ijero? Because I have noticed that Retired Navy Captain Caleb Olubolade sees Mr. President every week and would have influenced the siting of the university there if it were possible. But we were going there every week, troubling the President and sending text messages. That might have worked in our favour. They have disparaged my person, calling me all sorts of names, but I'm not bothered. I promised them in Ikole that if it is named today as where the university is going to be sited, nobody from Oye would raise an eyebrow.'