My intention this week was to write about some of the acrid stench permeating the Executive arm of Oyo State under the governorship of Alao-Akala. But I could no longer resist the temptation to cross over to Ekiti State for now and address what has undoubtedly become the most corrupt, inept and indolent government out of all the state governments that used to belong in the old Western Region.
When I was in Nigeria this past June/July, I stumbled on a copy of the News Herald, a rather small local newspaper published by a maverick lawyer by the name Morakinyo Ogele. The paper was replete with angry tirades at the person of Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose, and the office that he occupies. Since I had never met Ogele, I inquired about him from a friend who represents Ondo State in the Federal House of Representatives. I was advised not to be too dismissive of Ogele and his newspaper, as the man had single-handedly taken up the mission to rid Ekiti State of the canker worm epitomized by Fayose, which had eaten too deeply into the fabric of its otherwise decent society. Naturally, I began to ask further why Ogele would stick his neck out so publicly and so dangerously in a country where political assassinations had attained a sporting event status.
My questions yielded sordid answers. And so, I was not too surprised when, a couple of weeks ago, Nuhu Ribadu sent his men to the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA) in Lagos to pluck five members of Ekiti State House of Assembly from the cabin of an outbound international flight and placed them under detention. Those ensnared were Messrs. Ola Olusegun Festus, Eyeowa Gabriel, Olusegun Emmanuel, and Oluyemi Olatunji. Mrs. Oluwafemi Owoeye also was cuffed, hauled into the cargo area of the notorious “Black Maria” and taken to Alagbon Close. All those arrested received at least N2 Million each as “hush” money from multifarious corrupt practices engineered by Fayose. Ribadu’s men also arrested the governor’s close friend and contractor-in-chief, Gbenga James, and the governor’s aide, Goke Olatunji, bringing to an abrupt end the reckless, spendthrift, no-one-can-touch-me lifestyle of Olatunji in particular.
Peter Ayodele Fayose, the governor himself, would have been arrested were it not for that silly constitutional immunity that he enjoys as a serving governor. Early this year when Ribadu announced that the EFCC had concluded plans to file corruption charges against 24 of the 36 governors, Fayose knew very well that he was close to the top of that list. How could he not know? He had presided over the looting (and sharing between him and his cohorts), a whopping N1.4 billion (mostly non-appropriated) Local government funds meant for a bogus poultry project. And like most of the governor thieves before him, Fayose used a close friend – James – as his main conduit for siphoning his people’s money.
Have you ever been to Ekiti State? If you have, you will understand the depth of my consternation. Ekiti State is one of the poorest in the Federation. Other than a relatively higher percentage of Western education enjoyed by its people, the State has virtually nothing else going for it. So, to have one person embezzle so much money in a democratic dispensation is galling, to say the least.
I must crave your indulgence to bore you with a little detail about this poultry palaver.
Fayose and James concocted the poultry scheme in 2004, with Fayose’s proposal signed and submitted through one of James’ companies – Biological Concepts Limited. The initial proposal was for four poultry centers with the headquarters located at governor Fayose’s hometown, Afao. You can’t blame the governor for citing a poultry farm at his hometown. Everybody is doing it. Initially, the project was to cost N400 million (already a huge hike in what such an enterprise normally cost), but greedy Fayose later directed James to go ahead and submit another proposal that would cover the entire 16 Local Governments in the State. He then billed the people of his State another N400 million. Each Local government was to pay N25 million for its project, but the first kicker was that Fayose deducted and diverted the money from the Local government accounts before issuing them (the local governments) their constitutionally stipulated subventions, a clear impeachable offense.
Why would Fayose do such a dumb thing? Well, he had committed his government to a 70 – 30 (James – Ekiti State) spurious profit sharing formula with James’ Biological Concepts Limited. Ekiti State was to contribute N100 Million and Biological Concepts Limited would contribute N300 Million which it planned to obtain through a WEMA bank agro loan. This was one of those Halliburton-type no-bid contracts where the Tenders Board knew nothing about the project. And if the Tenders Board knew nothing (and did not approve), the Legislature could not appropriate funds. And since Fayose could not get State funds, he had no choice but raid the Local government funds. He knew that the Local government chairpersons were mostly rogues whose hands he had previously caught in the cookie jars of their Local governments, and therefore could blackmail into silence. With Biological Concepts Limited already owing WEMA bank close to N60 Million, it was unable to obtain the N300 Million it promised. Fayose then initiated the second kicker. He paid the entire money from government coffers, conveniently forgetting to repudiate the gentleman 70-30 sharing formula he had with James, thus leaving James the opportunity to cart away 70 percent of any profit earned even though he did not take any financial risk.
Also, built into this dandy scheme of theirs was a 15% “consultancy fee” that netted a cool N60 Million for James. Remember, James did not do any consultancy. The whole poultry project was that of Fayose. He just used James to draw the money.
Would you be surprised to know that as elaborate as this scheme was, no aspect of it was written down in any contract form until long after Fayose had approved the payment of the initial N400 Million to James? Would you also be surprised to know that at no time whatsoever in 2004 when this whole scheme went down did the State’s budget reflect any poultry project? Not even the supplementary budgets ever mentioned this project. Please don’t be too surprised. I can give you comparable cases in Oyo State, my home state. But it would have to wait till another time.
As Fayose continued to financially rape his state, his deputy governor, Abiodun Aluko (the one whose impeachment he later orchestrated), along with the Auditor-General and the Secretary to the Tender’s Board cried out. But their cries were soon muffled by large “Ghana-must-Go” bags delivered by Fayose. They all quickly fell in line and Fayose had his way. Eventually, Aluko and Fayose became mortal enemies and Aluko ceased to be deputy-governor.
How did I know that Fayose bribed Aluko when things were still rosy between them? Well, since Ribadu nabbed James, he (James) has been singing like an excited canary. He has confessed to giving Aluko N7 Million. Aluko has not come out to deny this. The Commissioner for Finance, Kayode Esho, received N900.000, while the Commissioner for Agriculture, Boboye Olanipekun received N800.000. The “generous” James claimed to have shared the rest of the loot with the State’s Accountant-General (!), Attorney-General (!!!), Chief Surveyor, Director of Building, Permanent Secretaries and a host of other leaches in the odious Ekiti State corridor of power.
According to James, some of the money was used to purchase a N2.5 Million Mercedes Benz car for Fayose’s mother, Prophetess Victoria Oluwayose. Prophetess? Haba! He also bought 21 air conditioner units which he and two others shared 7 apiece. Fayose had James convert some of the money (at the black market) to foreign currencies,
ostensibly to be used in purchasing properties in foreign countries. This governor so debased the office he occupies that he personally drove to the office of one of his cohorts to collect large cash amounts, dragged in Ghana-must-go bags to his waiting car!
Fayose’s thievery is so elaborate that time and space would not permit me deeper elucidation. But I take solace in the fact that the EFCC is camping outside his home and office while it investigates his myriad cases of Kleptomania. It is why many of the ordinary people of his state, especially those living overseas, feel ashamed each time his name comes up, much like I feel when governor Alao-Akala of Oyo State is mentioned. It is one thing to award contracts to your friends. Cronyism, they call it. And it is a forgivable crime. It is another thing to award phantom contracts, inflate the cost to a prohibitive, godless sum and then pocket the money. That is pure robbery. And it should be unforgivable.
When I drove to Otun-Ekiti, the road was so bad that at one point it literally ended. Yes, the road ended! We had to get out of the car, step in the ankle-deep river in front of us to check the depth before driving through to the other side where we linked the road again. There was not a drop of pipe-borne water in Otun-Ekiti. In fact, you had to “import” your own “pure water” if you visited the town. And this is the same State that this heartless governor is criminally and unabashedly fleecing back to pre-historic times. One of Fayose’s oft-stated missions was “…to make Ekiti State a model for emulation and a pride of the Nigerian State.” The people of Ekiti State must clearly look elsewhere for their Messiah.
A few days ago when governor Kalu of Abia (now notorious for speaking with his foot in his mouth) remarked that older generation politicians ought to give way to younger ones like him, I could not help but laugh. Fayose was born in 1960, making him 46 years old, by any account a young generation governor. Is this the kind of young generation politicians that should govern Nigeria? Alamieyeseigha, former governor of Bayelsa now cooling his heels in Ribadu’s detention is a young generation politician. He robbed his state blind before the long arm of the law caught up with him. Chris Dariye of Plateau, like Fayose, has men of the EFCC right in front of his door, waiting for the minute he no longer would be governor so that he could be carted off to jail for corruption. Are those the sort of young generation politicians about whom Kalu was talking? Give me a break.