By ‘Seun Fakuade
It is easy to wear the deportment of detachment when Ekiti State is mentioned. Well, that used to be the state synonymous with pandemonium and violence; and until recently very bad road networks and stunted growth. Home to about 2.6million Nigerians, Ekiti state is located deep in the heart of Western Nigeria, a hilly state (from where its name is reputedly derived) and is home to some of the nation’s most prominent and eminent Professors.
It is humus ground for rumour mongering as well as active political awareness amongst citizens. Ekiti citizens know their rights, always have a point to prove, always have a say; and their political sagacity cannot be underestimated. In other words, they are politically opinionated and socially republican. Besides, historically, you will do well to remember that the sweeping tide of 1966 and the downward turn of Nigeria began in 1964 during the Omoboriowo crises of Ijero (then in Old Ondo State).
Ekiti State has passed through years of turbulence. That is no longer news. Any avid follower of the political terrain in Ekiti State will easily recount the number of Governors (elected and imposed) and Administrators that have since occupied the exalted leading position since its creation as a state in 1996. What is not news too, is the years of economic pillage and erosion of values that has confounded the state, and in turn worsened the social value fabric that once stood the state up as an ideal model of respect, love for elders, industry, amongst many others.
It is my duty to visit my state every quarter, an act much necessitated by my parents living in my country home. During these days, I take time to go around the communities and see first hand the travails and experience under democratic rule. On these visitations, I have been engrossed with stories of unfulfilled promises by politicians (as is usual in Nigeria) and frustrations amidst growing apathy amongst the citizenry. It seems, after all, that settling with under-performing leaders seem to be the new turn in our democratic dispensation.
Year after year, I have seen deplorable roads, abandoned projects (sometimes from previous administrations), sub-standard white elephant projects, and above all, grand-scale cover up of corrupt practices. As a young Nigerian with deep interest in policy research, advocacy and social entrepreneurship, I became attracted to the administration of Dr. Fayemi (whom I found a breath of fresh air given his civil society foundations, political meteoric rise to leadership and undoubtedly his academic background).
However, my love for advancing development across Nigerian communities led me to criticizing him heavily in his first year of leading the ship in Ekiti State. It seemed there were several stumbling blocks towards development in those early days under Kayode Fayemi and my generation, being in haste, spared no effort at pointing them out in their colours and shades.
The traffic delays caused by rocks being blasted while travelling the then Ifaki-Ado road during construction, and the lethargic handling of the road caused me much anguish and I spared no words in describing the administration of Kayode Fayemi as “slow, much unfocused, and a leadership committed unfortunately to another set of construction jamborees”.
I am aware how long it may take a State as landlocked as Ekiti, and as cash-restrained to advance in the path of development as seen in other developed communities. My difficulties in understanding the mind of such a visionary as Kayode Fayemi was also compounded in the fact that he is not a showman who advertises what he does. After being frustrated with the hooliganism which Mr. Ayo Fayose’s administration heralded, I feared the worst in 2011 and most of 2012; thinking Dr. Fayemi was much disconnected with the travails of the common man in the state. I was wrong.
I was invited to Ekiti state. My online vituperations, having caught the eyes of some of Dr Fayemi’s team, heralded my first visit to the state in 2013. I got the ROADMAP TO EKITI RECOVERY, and began a tour of the state to verify the claims made by the administration. Ekiti state is taunted as having the most open and accessible leadership. I have that verified. Not only was I able to visit commissioners and query their policies, decision-making processes and projects; but I was given free access to take pictures, make my criticisms without any sense of trepidation or harassment. It is naturally difficult to have your say at “Men In Power” in Nigeria, especially where sycophancy and hero worship reigns supreme. Unlike previous administrations too, he completed the projects left over by the administration of Gov. Segun Oni.
It takes a visionary to understand that leading a poor state out of the doldrums require more than paying monthly salaries (which take an estimated 87% of monthly revenue) and drinking Alomo bitters by the roadside. Borrowing N25bn altogether from the stock market is not only commendable, the systematic monthly deductions towards repaying the loan has enabled the state pay about 60% of the total bond sourced from the stock market. Detractors are quick to point at this borrowing, but anyone adept at development will know it is a no-brainer.
That Dr. Kayode Fayemi is a visionary is no longer news to most of those who know him or those who have been unbiased in assessing his style of leadership. I had a 19-minute critical discussion with him around 2am and I must confess he is an amazing workaholic. It is admirable to see Nigeria still has men of sterling qualities in leadership especially one whose monthly allocation remains the 35th (out of 36 states in Nigeria. I have visited the roads, the hospitals have been refurbished (never touched in 18 years), the educational institutions wear new looks & new infrastructure where necessary. I have seen the ICT revolutions in Ekiti (which was foremost in Nigeria and quite unknown unlike Opon Imo), the tourism revolution, the revived industries (previously abandoned), the social welfare scheme, amongst many others.
Were the re-election to be based on compelling issues and critical reasoning alone, Dr. Fayemi would not have to campaign. Unfortunately, Nigerian politics currently run on propaganda and populism. Were he a populist, there are no reasons Ekiti people, and indeed the world should not be aware that Ekiti State operated and sustained the first ICT revolution in schools in Nigeria, nor are there reasons why the Ire Burnt Bricks factory’s revival and expected ROIs should not be much taunted; nor the world class tourist center at Ikogosi Warm Spring Resort much publicized; the Legacy projects, the unveiling plans to make Ekiti the “Bangalore of Africa” amongst many amazing projects. It was under Fayemi that I discovered that construction companies do have bonds with banks that require them to repair roads within a specified timeframe if such roads have cracks/flaws else the bonds can be revoked.
Commendable improvements under Fayemi include the social welfare scheme for elders, the revival of the Ire Burnt brick Factory (which will have an estimated N1bn yearly ROI), the massive agricultural projects (YCAD), the transparent spending mechanism (FoI, FRA) and several gender empowerment laws. There is huge disconnect of information amongst the citizenry in Ekiti. This should not be. This would all have made it easy for Governor Fayemi not to stress himself too much on reelection. Nevertheless, I can appreciate his reticence and his complete focus on the job while also taking into consideration the wear such PR efforts may take on the small budget Ekiti has.
The dream of EKITI RECOVERY towards “MAKING POVERTY HISTORY” is a laudable dream that cannot be realized in just 4 years of administration. If we must be honest, we need a sustained, completely competent team who understands what it requires to make this dream a reality at the helm of our affairs. This is why Ekiti state must never return to the hands of Alibaba and his thieves no matter the cost. This is why Ekiti sons and daughters, at home and abroad, must unite and do whatever is required, by all means possible to sustain the mandate of Dr. Kayode Fayemi.
It will be disastrous to think that Ekiti state will find such peace, clarity of purpose, openness, transparent spending, and visionary leadership under Mr. Ayo Fayose – the much-touted spendthrift of Ekiti Politics regardless of whatever claim of repentance he may have.
Governor Kayode Fayemi gives me hope, gives Ekiti State hope, and I daresay Nigeria as a whole. Going by Nigerian standards and expectations, there is no reason a state with such low income/revenue should have such advanced development like Ekiti does. States with much succulent income have no excuse for less!
JKF, as he is now popularly called, revalidates my new found hope that social critics and civil society activists can combine ideological principles and idealistic leanings with the maneuverings that politics bring. June 21 will remain, for a time to come, the most memorable day in the history of Ekiti State when we eventually reelect Dr. Fayemi, thereby sustaining the vision and pride of the South West region, and of Nigeria as a whole. That is my hope in this present democratic practice we are wading through.
– ‘Seun Fakuade sent in this piece from Abuja. Follow this writer on twitter: @seunfakze