The Special Assistant to Ekiti State Governor on Public Communications and New Media, Mr. Lere Olayinka, justifies the removal of Senator Babafemi Ojudu’s campaign billboards in this interview with SUNDAY ABORISADE
Why did the Ekiti State Signage Agency remove Senator Babafemi Ojudu’s campaign billboards from the streets of Ado Ekiti?
What happened was that Senator Ojudu erected campaign billboards in the state without first seeking the approval of the signage agency and making necessary payments. The procedure is that payment will be made after approval and after the site where the billboards will be erected has been identified. Ojudu did not approach the signage agency to seek approval so that the agency could allocate sites to him. He did not also make any payment. He erected the billboards against the law, which he was aware of because the law was enacted when Mr. Segun Oni was governor.
Why didn’t the signage agency ask him to pay instead of going ahead to remove his billboards?
There are two issues here. First, the law did not give us room to relate with the person who willingly committed an offence because we don’t know the owner of the default. Anybody can erect billboards. So, the normal thing is for those billboards to be removed. The owners will then approach the agency to challenge such action and sort out the areas of controversy. Senator Ojudu is behaving as if Ekiti belongs to him. He thinks he can do whatever he likes and get away with it. Ojudu knows the law, yet he chooses to flout it. Even when the agency approached him with the levies, he still ignored them. If I were him, I would have paid that money and watch to see what the state government would do next.
But why didn’t the agency just remove some of the billboards as a deterrent instead of clearing everything?
The agency did not remove all the billboards he erected all over Ekiti. It only removed those that he erected in the middle of the roads. The one at the Dalemo junction in Ado Ekiti is still there. He is just using the issue of the billboards to gain underserved publicity; that is why he flouted the law.
Why did the signage agency remove only Ojudu’s billboards? Is he the only governorship aspirant that defied the law?
The agency has removed billboards of the deputy governor (who is the anointed Peoples Democratic Party governorship candidate) erected in the middle of the roads. Billboards of the deputy governor mounted on the electric poles have also been removed.
The Governor Ayo Fayose administration in Ekiti State is being accused of deliberately creating crisis to frustrate candidates of the opposition parties from campaigning. What is your reaction to this?
It is not true. Last week (penultimate) Friday, Sen. Ojudu blocked major roads when he wanted to declare his political ambition. He ensured that there was no vehicular movement at the Okehinmi roundabout, which is a major road. He decided to launch his campaign on the road, instead of going to the stadium, where he would not obstruct traffic. If the government is not creating a favourable environment for other aspirants, will it have allowed him to block a major road?
Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele, another aspirant, did the same thing. He even went to the state radio and television stations, where he was granted audience to say whatever he wanted to say against the governor and the state government for one hour. When the APC was in government in the state, they never allowed such things. Even members of the APC, who were not in the good books of former Governor Kayode Fayemi then, were not allowed access into the studio of the state broadcasting service.
In 2012, during the celebration of Ifaki Day, former Governor Segun Oni, who is from the town, was referred to as a former governor in one of the jingles for the event and the state government stopped it from being aired because Fayemi had said Oni should no longer be referred to as a former governor. These days, we run jingles of other political parties on the state radio and television stations without discrimination.
Senator Ojudu alleged that Governor Fayose committed the same crime he is accusing him of by erecting a billboard in Abuja to announce his presidential ambition without first seeking approval. What is your reaction to this?
I wonder why Senator Ojudu should say such things. He was accused of committing an offence and he was trying to justify his action by saying that somebody committed similar offence last year and he was not punished. Does that make sense? When did Ojudu become the head of the signage agency in Abuja? Assuming without conceding that the governor did not pay in Abuja, should that be an excuse for Ojudu not to also pay in Ekiti? So, if someone committed murder last year and he was not arrested, should that be an alibi to commit murder too? His argument does not hold water at all.