Ekiti State a Toddler at 25? No, Objection My Lord


Aare Afe Babalola

By John Ajayi

Recently, Ekiti State celebrated 25 years of its creation by the then military junta of late General Sani Abacha. Coincidentally, the celebration which continues to generate excitement and euphoria amongst the citizens of the state appears to be a fore-taste of the huge celebration in the work for the third year anniversary of the administration of His Excellency Dr. John Olukayode Fayemi. As usual, this epochal event has drawn unwarranted flaks from some critical elements and stake holders in the state. Indeed these criticisms are not unexpected, especially in a democratic society and more importantly, given the different political leanings and ideological configuration of these personalities and stakeholders. Aside the fact that the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees everyone the right and freedom of speech, it is an indisputable fact of life that there will always be divergent views amongst the citizens of the state notwithstanding its homogenous nature. Not only that, the state which boasts of the highest population of the highly educated people with historic record of renowned Ph.D. holders and seasoned lawyers, professionals and accomplished technocrats, the issue of governance and leadership contestation cannot but become a matter for critical review and evaluation. This is also coming against the backdrop of the fact that Ekiti indigenes are generally perceived to be fastidious in nature. Here, no negativism is intended about the good natured people of Ekiti State to which yours truly belongs in flesh and in blood!
Nonetheless rolling out the drums and popping champagne in celebration of 25 years of the creation of the state by the current Executive Governor, Dr. John Olukayode Fayemi administration cannot be said to be a mere jamboree nor a misplaced priority. Ordinarily, age 25 has come to be recognised universally as a landmark epoch in the life of individuals, institutions, organisations, states or nations. Generally regarded as Silver Jubilee or quadranscentennial anniversary, the 25th anniversary of any living being, be it state or human is unarguably a watershed. However, in evaluating and assessing the state of growth and development of Ekiti State in this near three decades of existence, it will be grossly unfair to assume or out rightly write off the state as a failure. While the state may not have fully lived up to the expectations of its founding fathers, it does not necessarily presuppose that the state has not achieved anything since its creation.
Particularly disappointing, if not completely unfair, on the part of successive administrations of the state is the castigation of the state as a ‘Toddler at 25. Reviewing the state of affairs of Ekiti State in the last 25 years, elder stateman and founder of Afe Babalola University (ABUAD) Ado Ekiti, Aare Afe Babalola had said that Ekiti State had nothing to celebrate. The highly revered lawyer, and one of the founding fathers of Ekiti had in a widely published press statement titled ‘Ekiti State A toddler @ 25’ castigated the State as land locked, air-port locked, industry locked, and power locked, adding that all these developments adversely affect economic development in the state.
While the elder statesman reserves the right to express his views and frustrations about the state he contributed to mid-wife, the objective reality on ground as far as developments are concerned, be it political, economic social or whatever does not in any way warrant or justify these assertions and lamentations. This is particularly so because successive administrations in the state have all contributed their own quotas to the growth and development of the state.

Since its creation, 1st October, 1996, the state has been administered by both military and civilian administrators each with its own unique style and approach to governance. Like an organic being, Ekiti State is clearly still a work in progress. For a fact, the founding fathers of the state may have had an utopian perception of the developments to expect within a particular time frame, the actual reality about governance may not and cannot be said to be the same with the imaginations and expectations of the founding fathers.
This is not to say that there are no short-comings on past and present political leaders and administrators of the state. Indeed, this cannot be said to be an unusual development as it is the phenomenon in an under developed, developing and developed nations. For those who may not know, the present administration of Governor Kayode Fayemi has done significantly well in positioning the state well above its peers when it comes to development in all aspects and ramifications. Feelers emanating from the state revealed that the JKF administration which will soon kick-start activities marking third year of his second term tenure.The exercise is not intended to be any jamboree other than projects commissioning and new projects unveiling.
Like all humans, Dr. Kayode Fayemi may have his shortcomings, it is indisputable that he remains a blessing and a gift to the state not only as the current Chief Executive Officer of the State but also a very good ambassador of Ekiti State as a major political actor on both national and global political space. His tenure so far as Chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) bears eloquent testimony to his intellectual sagacity and political wizardry. For JKF, the former United States Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes appeared right and justifiable in his famous and immortal quote when he said: “there are people who make things happen, and there are people who watch what’s happening and there are people who have not the slightest idea what’s happening”. So far, an objective review of past administrations in Ekiti will readily confirm the fact that Dr. John Olukayode Fayemi is a leader who makes things happen and indeed has great ideas of what is happening and must happen. Since he took the mantle of leadership in the State, he has made strategic thinking the cornerstone of governance and policy direction. As a consummate politician with progressive hue, JKF’s approach to governance has been anchored on the greater good for the greater number of his people.
The views of statesmen like Chief Deji Fasuan, former Governor Segun Oni, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, Biodun Oyebanji, and others, were in sync with the position earlier canvassed by Governor Fayemi that Ekiti has not failed in any way in the pursuit of its development agenda .

If truth be told, in the last three years, Fayemi’s government has attracted over $100 million investments to the state. Under this present economy, this is no mean feat and couldn’t have been regarded as a failure by any standard.

It can be appreciated that only the apolitical, who periscopes issues with unbiased spectacle could recognise and flaunt this enigmatic scorecard.

One fact must be reflected here; in 1996, Ado Ekiti city, as called then, was like a glorified village without modern touch. Today, all the major dualization of road in Ado Ekiti done cumulatively by the administrations of Governors Fayemi, Segun Oni and Ayodele Fayose like Basiri-Ijigbo-Ajilosun, Ijigbo-Ilawe road, Post Office-Irona and Ado-Ifaki, couldn’t have been undertaken, if the state had not been created. Akure, the Ondo State capital, could have been taken as the development fulcrum, where things would be anchored and concentrated.

The new Governor’s Offices at Oke Bareke, the Secretariat at the new Iyin Road, Trade Fair Complex , Civic Center, Ekiti Parapo Pavilion and other government structures in Ado Ekiti metropolis, are clear evidence of modernity and gradual face-lifting of the town.

Let me also state that before 1996, Ekiti had no functional state-owned industry. The ROMACO granite company at Igbemo, Ikun Dairy farm at Ikun, Ire Burnt Brick at Ire Ekiti and Orin Farm settlement at Orin Ekiti, were all moribund. But with shrewd and dexterous management by Fayemi, the derelict companies are bouncing back to reckoning.

For Ikun Dairy farm to be revamped, the government, in partnership with Promasidor Nigeria Limited, spent a sum of $5m to import cows and purchased other machines. At optimal production level, the company will produce 10,000 litres of milk daily. This will go a long way in generating employments and fortify the State’s revenue profile.

Deploying his nexus with the international community, Governor Fayemi had partnered private companies to manage the ROMACO and Ikun Dairy Farm for effective management and they are gradually being revamped.

One of the catalysts of good governance is functional and robust local government structure. When the third tier of government is closer, it makes development spiral and gain traction.

Before 1996, Ekiti had six local governments of Ero, Ekiti East, Ekiti South, Ekiti North, Ekiti Central and Ijero. But the tally had increased to 16 statutorily recognised councils, with 19 Local Council Development Authorities established to midwife and propel development pedal at the grassroots.

In 2011, the government of President Goodluck Jonathan established 12 new Universities across the nation, with Ekiti being a beneficiary by the approval given for the establishment of the Federal University, Oye Ekiti in the state. The concept behind this was to ensure balancing, so that each state could have a federal University.

It is an unassailable fact that Ekiti couldn’t have benefited from this lofty gesture, if it is still subsumed under Ondo, this was because the Federal University, Akure had been in existence for decades. In few months time, work would also begin on the approved Federal Medical University in Iyin Ekiti after receiving presidential assent.

As parlous and feeble as Ekiti seems to be in the area of economy, the state gets an average of N3.5 billion from the federation account monthly. These monies are expended on education, health, agriculture, human capital development and other pivotal sectors. Would it have been possible for Ondo to earmark a staggering sum of N3.5 billion on projects in Ekiti axis monthly, if Ekiti still retains the six local governments which we had then? This also signifies another area of benefit that should be taken into cognisance.

This came to fore because of the fact that Ekiti gave Governor Fayemi the veritable gubernatorial platform to prove his mettle and worth. Let the skeptics rummage the history books; no Ekiti man had ever been touted for such coveted seat.

Added to that was the fact that Governor Fayemi is the Chairman, Nigeria’s Governors Forum, superintending over the affairs of the 36 Governors across party lines and divides. These are records that lend credence to the fact that Ekiti has gained reckoning not only as the most educated, but also as a politically sophisticated and conscious set of people.

John Ajayi is a public affairs commentator and a Lagos based journalist