By Yemi Bankole
Between October 14 and 20, the entire Ekitiland was enraptured in a carnival as Dr. John Kayode Fayemi marked the first anniversary of his return as governor of the state.
Fayemi, had first ruled the state between 2010 and 2014, but had his quest for a straight eight-year tenure during his first coming dashed by a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration which swept into power in controversial circumstances in 2014. But that regime is now incriminated by indigenes for allegedly stalling the developmental strides begun by the previous JKF regime and foisting the blight the state witnessed in the four year-interregnum.
By October 16, last year when Fayemi reclimbed the cockpit to resume the flight to Eldorado he promised to take Ekiti during his first term, the state was virtually in doldrums with frustration and despair on the people’s brows. Save for an 800 -metre flyover bridge constructed along Fajuyi Road in Ado- Ekiti, the state capital, said to be worth N17.5 billion, the PDP rule was barren of any significant achievements. Education, health, economy and other critical sectors languished due to neglect and absence of dynamic and proactive policies and actions by the government, while electoral promises to provide or upgrade infrastructure and social amenities among others remained just that…promises!
Worse, workers and retirees agonised over unpaid salaries and pensions in arrears of between six and 10 months, even as artisans, traders, transporters and other members of the informal sectors groaned under the burden of a harsh tax regime imposed by the Ayodele Fayose government.
Wole Olujobi, a Commissioner in the State Local Government Service Commission, in an appraisal, likened Ekiti’s social condition between 2014 and 2018 to the awry situation depicted in Joseph Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness and Kobina Sekiy’s The Blinkards. The state, according to Olujobi, lay prostrate and in ruins, as it struggled “within the context of episodic development.”
But within just one year of his return, Fayemi, an intellectual of repute, had coloured the landscape with his distinctive mark of difference, bringing dramatic transformation into various facets of the life of the state.
The inauguration anniversary ceremony was thus a celebration of the symbolic return of the ‘rainbow’ to the skyline of the federation of 33 kingdoms that make up the geopolitical space its people proudly call “The Land of Honour”, a harbinger of good.
The weeklong programme showcased the administration’s accomplishments, which, observers remarked were “amazing and incredible” given the short time Fayemi had been in office. From it emerged the picture of a focussed, welfarist and people-centred government led by a revolutionary, dynamic man of ideas, perhaps, a little in hurry to reposition Ekiti from being one of the poorest states to a model and envy of others in the federation.
Throughout the week, Fayemi, his aides and other state functionaries notably his wife, Erelu Adebisi Fayemi; deputygovernor, Chief Bisi Egbeyemi; Speaker State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Funminiyi Afuye; Secretary to the state government, Biodun Oyebanji; criss-crossed towns and villages in the 16 local government areas of the state, turning the sods and inaugurating various developmental projects installed or initiated in the first year of the administration. In all, over 100 projects were inaugurated. Among them were the ultra- modern Ministry of Justice Complex, a secretariat/council chamber for Obas in the state, and the abandoned cargo airport at Ago, a suburb of the state capital.
Also restored was the elderly care and support fund scheme, “Owo Arugbo” meant to provide succour to the vulnerable class of old citizens. The social security scheme under which beneficiaries aged 65 years and above are paid N5,000 each, was relaunched amid fanfare with a complimentary package of provision of free meal, “Ounje Arugbo”, and recreation facilities said to be have been promised by the governor’s spouse, Erelu Bisi Fayemi on Day 3 of the festivities.
Earlier that day, Governor Fayemi was at the State House of Assembly, where he gave the state- of- the -state address, broadcast live to the people of the state. In the speech, the governor gave account of his stewardship and unfurled a roadmap, or what he called the “restoration, resuscitation and transformation agenda” for Ekiti. He listed among his achievements in the past one year defraying of N31.1 billion (26 percent) of the total debts he inherited from previous government, composing of arrears of salaries, pensions, subventions and contractor funds; prompt payment of salaries; multiple water projects across the state; recruitment of 1,100 teachers to strengthen teaching capacity at the primary school level as well as aggressive efforts at making state self-sufficient in food and agriculture its mainstay of its economy. Besides attracting funding assistance and partnership with international agencies, notably the World Bank to execute life-changing projects, the state’s helmsman reported with glee the imminent return of dairy giant, Promasidor to its milk-producing factory at Ikun, following a partnership with the government The plant, he said, would produce 9,000 litres of milk daily and had the potential of creating hundreds of jobs in addition to the value chain.
Within the short period of his being at the helms, the state had also been adjudged best performing in the federation in urban renewal and ranked third under another index of good governance.
Fayemi pledged to embark on series of infrastructural projects that would have direct and lasting impact on the economic and social lives of indigenes of the state in the next phase. Notable among these assets he dubbed “Legacy projects” were the Ado-Ekiti-Akure dualization; Ado Ekiti Ring Road; and the Cargo Airport.
The week also witnessed the presentation of volumes of palace judgments, arising from the Fayemi government’s novel move at according the traditional institutions recognition as ‘courts’ of first instance, with powers to adjudicate on, especially customary and communal, cases within their jurisdictions. The objective was to give the people of the state greater access to and facilitate quick dispensation of justice by having these palace courts, which due to their closeness to the grassroots and long history command both traditional authority and credibility, serve as alternative dispute resolution mechanism, in order to avoid statutory courts on the higher rungs of the judicial ladder being clogged by litigations otherwise likely to arise.
Receiving the quasi-law reports at a brief albeit significant ceremony, attended by Speaker, Afuye; the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Wale Fapohunda and the state’s traditional rulers at the Governor’s Office, Fayemi described the initiative as the first of its kind in Nigeria and the African continent, promising to support the palace courts with resources they needed to discharge their mandate.
Guests who thronged venues of the different events had nice time as they were feasted and entertained. The grand finale was a banquet hosted by the state government on Friday that drew dignitaries from within and outside the state. The celebration was rounded off with a thanksgiving at St. Patrick Catholic Church, Ado-Ekiti on Sunday, October 20.
Above the thrills and fun though, the imprint and signature of the new administration as idea-driven and constituted by a battery of intellectually well-endowed men and women shone in the various aspects of the weeklong celebration. But, nowhere was this fact more glaring as at a colloquium and prize presentation for an essay competition organised for pupils of secondary schools and tertiary education students in the state! Stakeholders said it was the first time ever the state would witness such feature in the almost 20 years history of similar commemorative ceremonies! Held inside the main bowl of the Adetiloye Hall, Trade Fair Complex, along Basiri Road, Ado Ekiti, the twin-event underscored the Fayemi led-government’s attempt at restoring education and intellectualism that appeared to have suffered a setback before his advent, back to Ekiti, as the hallmark and traditionally cherished values of the people, as well as driver of its development!
Both the talk shop and the literary tourney not only stirred up inspiring memories of the glorious era the state earned national acclaim as “The Fountain of Knowledge” for its rich endowment of highly intellectually resourced human capital and indeed, the people’s love for education; they also served as fulcrum for dissecting, analysing and proffering solutions to the problems of the state, with public participation and input on what direction to take in the goal to reposition it for growth and economic prosperity.
Adegboyo Solomon Adekunle, a Law graduate, who won the N500,000 star prize in the postgraduate category of the writing contest, enthused in an interview with Newspeak Magazine shortly after being awarded the prize: “I can see the dawn of a new future for the youths of Ekiti and the state itself. This is the first government in the history of the state that will start it (Essay competition). If government can be in the forefront of promoting an academic exercise like this with financial incentive, then you know our educational system is ready for a positive turn-around. See how students gathered on this occasion. As you can see, what happened here today is bound to encourage more students, in fact everyone across the state to participate. It will propel them to study more and develop themselves academically, because they want to win.”
The native of Orin-Ekiti in Ido-Osi Local Government area who bagged an LLB degree with Second Class Upper from the Ekiti State University (EKSU), predicted: “I see Ekiti recovering its position as the intellectual resource basket of the nation. In years to come, we’ll certainly be proud of this great initiative by this government.”
Participants at the colloquium who included Governor Fayemi; his Information Commissioner, Muyiwa Olumilua; former Minister of Sports, Bolaji Abdullahi; Adebola Adeniyi-Agbaje, a broadcaster; Bamidele Olateju, a journalist and Gender rights activist; as well as Modupe Adetiba, Vice President of the EKSU Students Union examined the theme: “Building a sustainable economy through values orientation and innovative thinking”, in Ekiti State. They articulated the challenges and concluded that was a metaphor for a national predicament, what with paucity of funds, collapse of education and socio-moral values that has bred a lazy, visionless and corrupt youth population enamoured more to drugs, internet fraud (Yahoo-Yahoo) and other hues of crime, often with tacit parental endorsement.
The need for government to revamp the educational system; for parents to monitor and create time for proper upbringing of their children and for stakeholders in the various sectors of public and private life to key into the imperatives of innovativeness was emphasized if Ekiti was to frog-leap into the exclusive league of developed and prosperous states.
Governor Fayemi enunciated measures being taken to realise this beautiful dream, but lamented government faced daunting challenges. For instance, he reported that part of these moves was to make of what he called the “Knowledge Zone”, comprising the geographical axis hosting four tertiary institutions – EKSU, Afe Babalola University, Federal Polytechnic, Ado Ekiti and a technical college of education, a hub of educational excellence of the nation’s knowledge industry, with the motive of not only attracting increased traffic of students and their parents/guardians thus boosting the state’s economy, but also exploiting the potentials for its technological development and industrialisation.
He lamented, however, that despite government’s huge spending to renovate and fully equip the technical college its dream to use it as the linchpin for achieving the critical aspect of the goals was being threatened by indifference of young people who had so far failed to take advantage of it. According to Fayemi barely 200 students were enrolled in the school that offered skill acquisition and training in various technical and vocational fields! He decried the get-rich-quick mentality and false life prevalent among youths, regretting that “Yahoo-Yahoo boys” bring (Mercedes) Benz, and other brands of luxury cars, but parents don’t ask questions these days.” The governor remarked that the family had a role to play in upholding and restoring Ekiti values of honesty, integrity, education, hard work and legitimate pursuits. He, therefore, stressed the need to “work out a synergy between the efforts being made and the results achieved” to eliminate .
Fielding questions from the audience at the interactive session, the governor called for greater participation of the people in governance, urging them to avail themselves of available job and investment opportunities via the Investments Commission, office of transformation and other relevant agencies, as well as ask questions or offer suggestions, observations and comments on how to improve the state through the highly interactive official website of the state government.
Describing innovation as the pathway to Ekiti’s growth and economic success, Fayemi disclosed that among other challenges, dearth of funds has made pursuing bold, pragmatic and dynamic strategies as well as exploring alternate sources of funding, especially international financial assistance towards achieving policy initiatives and execution of life-enhancing programmes for the people of the state, including the deplorable Akure-Ado Ekiti Road, a federal highway that had been abandoned. Also, government, he said was leveraging on technology to bring its business and processes to the cutting edge of modern practice, so the public could enjoy easy and faster services. He promised to put in place a fully digitized land registry by 2020.
However, as Fayemi plunged the ship of state into the waters for the second phase of a four-year voyage, fears have been expressed over the fate and sustainability of his laudable initiatives, programmes and other beautiful dreams for Ekiti, when he finally quits government. The misgivings, observers note, appears justified in view of tendency of new governments to discontinue projects inherited from their predecessor, especially where the latter is from an opposing party. In the case of Ekiti State, many of the social intervention programmes including the “Owo Arugbo” fund started by Fayemi were jettisoned by Fayose who succeeded him.
But, the governor, who dons the hull-shaped ‘Awo’ cap emblematic of the persona and ideas of his political icon, the late sage and nationalist, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, whose administration as Premier of the defunct Western Region left legacies adjudged first class in Africa, has taken pragmatic step this time around to secure such people-oriented and beneficial programmes against such arbitrariness, political chicanery or spite by signing a new legislation, the Ekiti State Transition Law, that obligated succeeding governments to preserve and continue with projects inherited from their predecessors.