The Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, has declared his support for the president’s rejection of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
Mr Fayemi spoke Tuesday while addressing journalists after meeting with the president at the State House, Abuja.
“Mr President has not objected to direct primaries, neither has he endorsed indirect primaries, he has only said, be fair to all, let all options apply and what you decide should be determined by your own local and peculiar circumstances; being mindful of questions of security, finances, and internal democracy.
“So I think we all should commend the courage of Mr president to stand with the people,” the governor said.
PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday reported how Mr Buhari wrote the lawmakers, telling them he would not be signing the bill into law.
“The amendment as proposed is a violation of the underlying spirit of democracy, which is characterised by freedom of choices of which political party membership is a voluntary exercise of the constitutional right of freedom of association,” Mr Buhari wrote.
Many Nigerians believe the bill would bring more transparency to Nigeria’s elections as it contains clauses such as that which legalises the electronic transmission of election results. The electoral commission, INEC, had also written in support of the bill.
Some Nigerians including human rights lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, have called on the National Assembly to override the president’s veto of the bill.
On Tuesday, Mr Fayemi also spoke on next year’s governorship election in Ekiti and other matters.
Read the excerpts of Mr Fayemi’s interview with journalists below.
Q: What’s the purpose of the visit?
Fayemi: Well, it’s customary, I mean, as chairman of the Nigerian governors to always exchange notes with Mr President from time to time, especially in the yuletide season like this, I always find time to come and say hello to Mr President. But yes, there will always be issues to discuss between binary, sorry, between the sub nationals, and the president of the Federal Republic, to commend him for his efforts in trying to stem the tide of insecurity in our country, and to also deal with the economic challenges that we are confronted with. On our part as governors, we have had cause during the year to raise issues, about insecurity in various domain, we have our cause to raise issues about economic challenges that the country is experiencing, we have had cause to raise other governance-related issues.
And Mr President has responded to many of those issues, he has stepped in the bridge, he has assisted us as states, even most recently a had supported as with bridge finance, to address some of the economic difficulties that states are experiencing. And it’s always appropriate to express our gratitude, even if we, as we continue to raise concerns about aspects of our governance that we still want him to do more on.
Q: About the kind of support states are receiving from the federal government in the past year, many criticisms on how governments utilise such funds, what assurance are you giving Nigerians, this last one, will be properly utilised by your colleagues. And then secondly, your level of preparations for elections in your state February next.
Fayemi: Well, governors are elected to tend to the affairs of their states and protect their citizens in the best manner possible. You would recall that the bridge finance that we negotiated with the federal government was precisely that to bridge the gap that was created by the repayment of the previous facilities, around bailouts, around budget support, and on excess crude support, which Mr President approved in 2017. The repayment of those loans had commenced because CBN wanted the money back. And because that would have left us with a very deep hole in virtually all the states. We then negotiated for these to address specific things in relation to workers welfare, in relation to infrastructure development, in relation to improving the enabling environment for investments in our states, and these are the things that states are spending it on. They are very specific, measurable and each state had outlined what this support would cover.
On preparation for election in Ekiti state. I didn’t come to discuss that with Mr President, by the way, but yes, Ekiti is already on the match the aspirants are already expressing their intentions in both the major and the minor parties. I gathered yesterday 17 aspirants from the leading opposition party PDP, we’re here in Abuja meeting with their own party chieftains. And I know that the last time I checked, at least five aspirants have obtained the gubernatorial form from the All Progressives Congress. So the marches on, we’ll see how it all pans out at the various primaries, you know, as an exiting governor, I’m the father of all i am only basically just watching and ensuring that the party regulations are adhered to in a manner that is inclusive and gives everyone the opportunity and the level playing field to express their intention. So that’s essentially all I’m doing in my own case. But it’s good to look forward to a free, inclusive and fair process that will then culminate in the elections in June 2022.
Q: What is your takeaway from meeting with Mr President and secondly, what’s your reaction to the President withholding his assent from the electoral act? I’m sure the governors are happy.
Fayemi: Okay, well I don’t I don’t know what you mean by governors being happy. At least as the governor who has gone through a series of elections. My election to office during my first term was via a direct primary that took place in all the 177 wards in my state. And my election to my second term in office was via an indirect primary. So I’ve tested both. And I can tell you that it really doesn’t matter to any governor whether you have primaries via direct mode or an indirect mode. What is the governors’ interest and concern is that opportunities are given for an inclusive process. And I think that is what Mr President’s letter has brought out. Mr President has not objected to direct primaries, neither has he endorsed indirect primaries, he has only said, be fair to all, let all options apply and what you decide should be determined by your own local and peculiar circumstances. Being mindful of questions of security, finances, and internal democracy. So I think we all should commend the courage of Mr president to stand with the people. And the President, you know, just like me, is not afraid of whatever mode you decide to use. When I chaired the primaries, the historic primaries that brought him in as a presidential candidate, I was the chair of that primaries in 2014. It was an indirect primary. But in 2019, when he was coming back, he came back via a direct primary. So Mr President has also tasted both. And I don’t think it’s somebody to be lectured about the pros and cons of either process. What is important is to ensure that whatever process you choose in your particular circumstance, still provides a process that is as free a manner as possible. It’s not completely free process, but at least there is something that is called substantial compliance in electoral law. And if it meets substantial compliance, I think all of us should be happy with that we shouldn’t really dwell too much on there’s been this exaggerated expectation that direct primaries is going to provide all answers to whatever electoral challenges that we have faced. And we all know that that is false direct primaries has its own challenges indirect primaries has its own challenges. A consensus approach is also not without challenges, but options should be provided. That’s all I think, Mr President has said and whether governors are happy or not, it’s really material to government, whether it’s direct or indirect.
Oh, it’s always enlightening to meet with the President, as you know. I came to see the President in my capacity as the chairman of the Nigerian governors and to express, as I said, gratitude for his approval of the bridge finance and is also to let him know, some of the steps we are taking in our various states to also fundamentally address this lack of revenue, because we have a challenge in this country, and tokenistic support will not do what the federal government does not have the resources. Neither do we have the resources in our various states. So we need to look for creative measures that would allow us to be able to raise funds that we can use to tackle the challenges of the moment, the challenge of infrastructure gap, the challenge of educational inequalities of our children that are out of school in parts of the country, the challenge of security. If we don’t have the resources, we would continue to have difficulties in managing people’s expectations. And the truth of the matter is, the country is not as buoyant as most people think it is. And one of our suggestions, Mr President, is clearly that we need to create the enabling environment that will give those who can provide such support for the country the confidence to want to invest in the future of Nigeria. Those are the things that I discussed with Mr President.
Q: Teachers, members of the NUT in your state are right now contributing N500 each to pay for ransom for Mrs Awoniyi, a teacher of St. Paul’s primary school Ikole Ekiti. What do you think?
Fayemi: I saw that funny clip that you’re just reading on my way here. Don’t always believe what you read in the social media. It’s not true.