Professor Olusola Eleka is the immediate past deputy governor of Ekiti state. In this interview he bares his mind on his relationship with Ayodele Fayose and his ambition ahead of the 2022 governorship election in Ekiti state.
The story of your emergence on the scene of politics in Ekiti State is quite amazing. Can you tell us who you were before the journey to the Deputy Governor’s office in 2014?
It is true God’s purposes for each of us are distinctive and these divine purposes can never elude us as children of God.
I was born in Ikere, Ekiti State, into the family of Pa Joshua Olusola Ojo Eleka and Deaconess Eunice Olusola Ojo Eleka, under whom I grew up learning the rope of politics; but I must admit that my emergence on the political scene in Ekiti State prior the 2014 governorship election was principally birthed by divine grace. God worked through the good mind of my leader, Dr. Peter Ayodele Fayose to bring me on board.
Before I became the Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, I was a lecturer in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, where I was involved in twenty four (24) years of active teaching and research in Building structures and Construction Materials and Technology, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. I started my career as a graduate assistant in the Department of Building, Faculty of Environmental Design and Management. I rose through the ranks from 3rd October, 1990 to become a Professor on 1st October, 2012. I had successfully served as External Examiner to many higher institutions of learning and supervised five PhD Students and thirteen M.Sc./M.Phil students in the field of Building Structures. My research efforts were geared towards development and use of alternative materials of construction for housing and improvement of the performance of the building process. By the time I was called to serve my people in Ekiti State, I was the most senior academic in the field of Building Structures in my department. My sojourn in the academic world was actually a memorable one.
In addition to my academic services, I was actively involved in leadership capacities in the church, as an ordained Pastor and in my service to my professional body, The Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), as a Registered Builder. I am not in the University system fully now. I am currently a visiting Professor at Covenant University, Ota. I am not yet prepared to go into full teaching because of my ambition of becoming the next governor of Ekiti State.
The opposition has tagged you as ex-governor’s Fayose’s stooge. How true or otherwise is this opinion?
Democracy thrives on the oxygen of competitive and healthy opposition among the existing political parties in any society. Unfortunately, the nature of politics being played by the actors can be malicious and derogatory most times. So you should not be suprised if someone is tagged a stooge because of his personal decision to be uncompromisingly loyal to his leader or organization.
By my training and persuasion, I have been taught to always show gratitude to my benefactor. First, God is the Ultimate Master, the Number one Benefactor. However, He works through men. So, ex-governor Fayose was the man God used for me to attain the position of Ekiti State Deputy Governor between 2014 and 2018 and in becoming the candidate of PDP in 2018 gubernatorial election. Hence, I see no wrong in being committed, dedicated and loyal to one’s leader and benefactor. Becoming a Deputy Governor brought me into the office of a steward under a master who is the The Governor. I already had an instruction from God the Ultimate Master to be faithful. So why not? As a faithful steward, I’m bound to stay connected to my leader in season and out of season as long as the First Master permits.
Sir, but you have not really addressed the question. Are you a stooge to ex-governor Fayose?
Listen, for anyone to say I am a stooge would be highly preposterous. Loyalty is sacrosanct and should not be misconstrued or misinterpreted as stooging. A stooge is a weak or unimportant person who is compromisingly controlled by a powerful person or organization. So do I look like a weak or an unimportant person? For the records, Professor Kolapo Olusola Eleka is not a stooge but a political mentee to ex-governor Fayose. While I was serving as Deputy Governor, His Excellency Dr. Fayose directed that I should supervise the Ministry of Education, giving me free hand to plan and implement relevant policies. The excellent results are there for all to see. May I quickly add this. Most followers have their names recorded in the black book of their leaders because of ungodly struggle for power that actually do not belong to them and for lack of patience. Please write that word in capital letters. A follower loses the great virtue of patience and becomes disloyal when he could no more Persevere, (P) he is no more Adorable (A) in character, he loses Trustworthiness (T), he is no more Irrepressible (I) by adversity, he loses all Encouragement (E), he is no more Non-compromising (N), he loses Courage (C) and ultimately loses his godly Exemplary (E) status. A stooge will soon lose touch with Patience.
We have been hearing in some quarters that your relationship with Fayose may have nosedived with time. Some said you are no longer his beautiful bride for Ekiti 2022 governorship candidacy. Can you react to this sir?
(Simles) Malicious and derogatory practices in politics are what we experience daily. Nothing between us has nose dived. That assertion is part of the malicious practice within the political space I earlier referred to. My leader, Dr. Fayose and I are not having any issues and nothing between us has nosedived. For the records, I have no issue with any leader in Ekiti state Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Of course, there could be disagreements within a political party and this is not peculiar to the PDP. Other political parties also have their own share of the peculiar crises. Interestingly, the reason for this cannot be far from the struggle of power and interest. In Ekiti PDP, ex-governor Fayose is our leader and we give him all due respect and honour. Personally, I’m eternally grateful to him for giving me opportunity to serve under him as Deputy Governor. He remains my leader.
In follow up to the respect you have for Fayose, some say the leader is Olujimi others say it is Fayose, you are saying it is Fayose, do you think this won’t affect the chances of the party in the state?
There are bound to be disagreements. Crises are not peculiar to PDP. It is an internal challenge of the party, in APC there is even more serious crisis to the point that they are going to expel some chieftains of the party in the state soon. These are challenges can be resolved and our leaders are already working towards that. PDP in Ekiti will soon bounce back stornger and more united than ever.
Have you had any political experience in any way before you came into mainstream politics? If yes, tell us.
My daddy had been the chairman of Ikere Local Government area for three years. I was born into politics. I had also been actively involved in the activities of my professional body, The Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB). The organization has branches in all the 36 states in the country and I once contested and won elections into the positions of Chairman, Osun State Chapter of NIOB. I became the body’s Registrar and later The Research and Development Secretary. I had also been a card-carrying member of PDP long before I became the Deputy Governor.
What is your plan for the future politically? Are you contesting for the governorship position again, recalling the fact that you were the gubernatorial candidate of PDP in the 2018 governorship election in Ekiti State?
By the grace of God, I have intimated our leaders of my intention to contest when the window of opportunity opens again. However, in all these, may God’s will be done.
Though your party and your good self challenged the last poll in court and lost; do you have anything more to say about that development, Sir?
There shall be another day.
How would you assess the immediate past government of Ayo Fayose and the current administration of Kayode Fayemi?
Across all sectors in Ekiti State, ex-governor Fayose’s legacy projects speak for themselves-the long elevated roadway, popularly called overhead bridge, the Oja Oba Market that was more than 90% completed and sections of which were already allocated to traders before our exit, the Justice Ajakaye High Court Building, Adunni Olayinka Women Centre, The new Governor’s office, the transformed Government Technical College, Ado Ekiti, Gifted Academy, Afao Ekiti, Renovation of palaces and many road projects including dualisation of Ikere-Ado road, among others were all delivered.
Of unique mentioning is the performance of Ekiti State in the Secondary School education sector where I was assigned to superintend. Very simple but focused and target-driven solutions were put in place to address the poor performance of our children in the external WAEC and NECO-conducted Senior School Certificate Examinations. These include introduction of intervention lectures in English and Mathematics, procurement and free distribution of a compendium of six-years past questions to all SS3 students in public and private schools, continuous training of science, arts and commercial subject teachers and a vigorous campaign against examination malpractices. Hard work and excellence were rewarded among teachers as a way of motivation. Best primary and secondary school teachers were given new cars. Best head teachers and best-performing schools were recognized and rewarded. These proactive measures resulted in history-making and record-breaking performance of Ekiti State candidates in these external examinations. Worthy of mentioning is Ekiti State coming first in NECO SSCE all over the country in 2016 (96.48%), 2017 (85%) and 2018 (90.61%). The performance in WAEC SSCE moved from the undesirable 29% in 2014 to as high as 71.83% in 2017. These are records that no one can deny.
In addition, Ekiti State took the first position in the national YONSPA – Young Nigerian Scientist Presidential Award (Best Science Student), JETS Quiz competition, STAN Science Quiz competition, all in 2016.
Unfortunately, some of these good measures were jettisoned by the present administration in Ekiti State. My recent findings show that Ekiti State has lost its leading position in NECO SSCE by 2019 just a year after all our measures were abandoned by the Fayemi administration, and the State is just struggling to remain within the first 10 positions. This is a clear evidence of retrogression. Let me live Ekiti people to judge the other areas. I have just spoken on the education sector.
What is your assessment of the Federal Government under President Buhari?
Buhari came in telling Nigerians that he is bringing positive changes, that he wants to fight corruption, secure the nation and improve the economy. But the present Federal Government under President Buhari is obviously characterized by unprecedented corruption, if you put a man at the head of EFCC and the man is now being tried for corruption it means the whole policy has failed. You would recall what happened in the two years of Buhari first tenure, his Secretary of the Federation was booted out because he was alleged to have been corrupt. So, wastefulness, rampant disobedience to court orders, sectionalism, high level of insecurity, increasing foreign loan acquisition and lack of focus. Under this government, the economy has gone from bad to worse ever and Nigeria is gradually becoming the world’s poverty capital. The change has turned to chains!
What is your reaction to the view that you lost the 2018 guber poll due to inexperience and should we wait for judiciary to install?
There are many players, stakeholders in election conduct, INEC, security agencies, and the Judiciary and others. You all knew what happened in 2018, the federal government’s security agencies came to intimidate us and they attacked virtually everyone, the Governor then was attacked, myself and my family members were attacked. They created fear in the hearts of people. So, if despite all that intimidation and other things which we cannot mention here, APC was only able to defeat us with 19,000 votes and over 19,000 votes were voided, it simply showed that Eleka was more popular. To say that Eleka lost because of inexperience is totally out of it, we lost due to intimidation by the Federal Government. Many could not come out to vote because of that intimidation. But remember such will not happen again. Look at what just happened in Edo, people have now realized that if you want a rebellious person you send an evil messenger against him. That is the axiom now, nobody wants to fold their hands and wait for the judiciary to install a governor for them. There are so many gentlemen and reasonable men and women in the judiciary but unfortunately, there are also few people who won’t do the right thing. Personally, I am of the opinion that we should allow the will of the people to prevail, and not wait for the judiciary to install a governor. Imagine what happened in Imo where a candidate who the Supreme Court had earlier said was not a candidate of the APC later became the governor and today people call him Supreme Court governor. What kind of practice is that? That is an abnormality.
” If I have been in government for four good years at the level of deputy I would have acquired so many experience, for the past two years I left government, I have been in constant touch with my people in all local governments. My people still love me and are clamouring that they want me to be their governor. I have learnt a lot and by God’s grace we will make use of what we have learnt.
The loudest noise in the nation now is that ethnic groups are asking for secession and restructuring, what is your take?
I am not against one Nigeria because unity is a very important virtue that we should all encourage to build up. But if you look at the way is being run now, you would agree with me that Nigeria is no more one. I mentioned earlier that one of the ills of this Buhari administration is sectionalism. If you are not a Fulani man now people will see you as a second class citizen but is it all Fulani people that are bad?, no. there are few bad people in all tribes and these few ones have created sharp division among the various ethnic groups in the country and that is why there are agitations, a good number of the ethnic groups feel marginalized. We are not practicing true federalism because there is a lot of concentration of powers at the centres. States cannot even help the Federal government because of the centralization of powers. It is not that Nigeria cannot work but people want even distribution of our wealth. No region should be marginalized especially when such region contributes so well to the nation’s wealth. We must ensure that all ethnic groups feel that they belong to this country. We really have to work towards this.
We have been clamouring for restructuring , those who can make it happen are the lawmakers but it appears they are not working towards it because majority of them are products of this structural imbalance, and that is why many have been asking for sovereign national conference, do you think this is realizable?
I believe it is realizable but we have a problem, it is leadership failure and that is why we are saying let the right people get there. People like you whom I believe is well exposed, enlightened, are you thinking of contesting to get there? If it is same set of people who do not care about what happens to Nigeria are the ones who get, then, we will remain in same spot. Look at what happened in Edo, a god father wanted to impose someone on them but the people said they don’t want that and voted Obaseki. They said Edo no be Lagos. If our lawmakers are not doing well the people can recall them if it has been the people who have voted them and not that they have been imposed. You have a situation where some lawmakers have not even been able to sponsor any bill for many years while others have sponsored over 50. We have a challenge with the type of people we are bringing up there. The difference between Nigerian and America is leadership and that is why for me, I have been there and I want to be there again because I have something to offer, I am not going there to make money but to make an impact.
The forthcoming race to the government of the state in 2022 will be keenly contested; do you think you have a chance?
There are just two parties, APC and PDP. It is normal for many people to contest for the governorship position. For me, I support Ekiti agenda but I urge that we should be fair to the southern Ekiti and this is why I am also in support or the Ekiti southern agenda. All other senatorial districts have had their share for more than 12 years but the south has not had any share, it is not that we do not have good products I am one of them and I am quite capable and there are other good ones too here So, it is just fair that we give Ekiti south that chance.
What is your message for leaders and members of yur party in the state over the crisis rocking the party?
United we stand, divided, we fall.
Some have argued that a major challenge of governance in Nigeria is the failure of states to assist Federal Government in areas of development and growth. What is your take Sir?
It might be difficult for states to assist the Federal Government beyond what they are doing now. Nigeria is not operating true federalism. There is need for true devolution of power to the states. The Federal Government wields too much power and control. In some other instances, the Federal Government through its relevant agencies had been observed to create unnecessary bottlenecks on the way of states or regions that resolve to assist in the area of security. The initial opposition of the Federal Government to the establishment of Amotekun is a clear example.
The last governorship poll in Ekiti State showed that you have teeming supporters among the Ekiti people. What words do you have for them?
They should keep hope alive and continue to have trust and faith in the leadership of our party. Assuredly, we shall reclaim our mandate. The broken walls shall be rebuilt. My vision for Ekiti transformation still revolves around my agenda-setting programme and blueprint which is carved in the SHIELD acronym. The contents include Security, Sustainable human capital development, Social empowerment; Health; Infrastructure; Education and Economic development; Leadership; Development of agriculture and Tourism. The thrust of this blueprint is to build on the existing development plans and explore other new ideas that can assist Ekiti State towards becoming an economically and industrially viable state in Nigeria.