By Akin Rotimi
Nigeria is at a critical crossroads as the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC), is now set for the special convention to determine the party’s candidate for the 2023 general election. The primary election is of interest to most Nigerians who look to the APC for the emergence of a credible flag-bearer who could possibly be Nigeria’s next president.
At a time our country faces increasingly worrisome challenges, there is a sense that we cannot afford to get it wrong in choosing President Buhari’s likely successor from amongst the shortlisted candidates, including Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the current governor of Ekiti State, and chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), who most informed stakeholders and analysts consider best fit for the presidency at such an important period in our history.
Amongst other aspects of his reputation and public records, Fayemi’s legacy as Governor of Ekiti State is an indicator of the possibilities that abound for Nigeria if he emerges, just like former President of the United States of America, Bill Clinton, became president after serving two-terms as Governor of the small landlocked state of Arkansas, and chairman of the National Governors Association. It is therefore expedient to revisit the basis of the critical acclaim Fayemi has earned on account of his stewardship of the small agrarian state.
He does not have a loud and boisterous nature and he is prudent to a fault, hence his lack of interest in self-aggrandisement and going overboard to blow his own trumpet, but at the heart of his efforts as governor lies Fayemi’s moral compass. He is first a man of deep convictions driven by concrete social democratic principles. His motivations and vision for the Nigeria Agenda are well documented in books he has authored before and during his sojourn in public service so far, and his big ideas have found expression in a comprehensive and integrated manner in the policies, programmes, and projects implemented in Ekiti State. For example, Governance which is the first pillar and the mainframe for governmental functionality has taken a positive direction under his watch.
Clear evidence of how serious the Fayemi administration treats good governance can be seen in a tremendous improvement in transparency and ease of doing business indices which have placed the state among the best in Nigeria. Recently, the state was adjudged the second most transparent state in public procurement and financing. The state has also soared high in the Disbursement Linked Indicators mileage of the World Bank/FGN backed State Fiscal Transparency Accountability Sustainability (SFTAS) scheme aimed at improving probity, accountability, and transparency in public expenditure. It is no wonder that in spite of very lean revenue accruable to the state, it has continued to be a frontline state in school enrolment, public health coverage, social security, gender equality, ease of doing business, and social amenities. Ekiti has the highest life expectancy in Nigeria, the lowest out-of-school children, and the best social investment strategy.
Similarly, the administration has done well in infrastructure development with the completion of a number of critical roads such as Oye-Iye-Otun road, Aromoko-Erinjiyan-Ikogosi, Agbado-Ode-Isinbode-Omuo, New Ado-Iyin, Ilawe-Igbaraoke, and Ilupeju-Ire-Igbemo-Ijan. The government has also commenced the rehabilitation of Ado-Ifaki road and Ikole township roads, in addition to massive restoration of Ado-Ekiti metropolitan roads.
The government has delivered the Oja Oba Market at Erekesan. It has completed the magnificent Obafemi Awolowo Civic and Convention Center which is a multipurpose structure designed to accommodate shopping malls, a cultural center, cinemas, amphitheater, library, museums, halls, e.t.c. It is one of the first of such purpose built buildings in Nigeria. The government has also delivered the biggest water corporation headquarters in Nigeria and undertaken a total overhaul of three major water dams in Ero, Egbe, and Ujere with the installation of power sources, main pipes, and reticulation of hundreds of kilometers of pipes to towns and villages in about ten local government of the state.
In education, in fulfillment of the overall vision to develop manpower needs for sustainable development in agriculture as well as science and technology, the administration established the Ekiti State Polytechnic, Isan-Ekiti, and the Bamidele Olumilua University of Education, Science and Technology, Ikere-Ekiti. In an effort to expand access to secondary education, the administration has constructed five new model colleges, with three others being built in the three senatorial zones. Over 900 blocks of classrooms have been rehabilitated with sanitary, water, and fencing facilities, just as all schools in Ekiti have been supplied with furniture and instructional materials. It is noteworthy that education is free and compulsory for all children up to senior secondary school level.
In addition to the state’s free health care programme, the health sector has received a tremendous boost with the rehabilitation of all the primary health facilities across the state. The General Hospitals are also undergoing massive rehabilitation and equipping. The state’s tertiary health facility, Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital has witnessed phenomenal growth in terms of expansion and building of structures to host the different departments of the hospital. More importantly, the administration saw to the full accreditation of the institution.
In terms of the big ideas to reposition the state as one of the most viable and economically self-sustaining states, the Fayemi administration began what is clearly an audacious journey to prosperity. The strategy is anchored on the areas of economic advantage as an agrarian state. In addition to a number of successful public-private partnerships such as the Ikun Dairy Farm now being run by Promasidor Limited, and the Ire Burnt Brick which has been revamped and given to a competent private sector operator, the administration created a thriving agric-processing zone in the northern senatorial district with massive agricultural processing industries springing up and smallholder farmers emerging.
The game changer Fayemi embarked on to help farmers have access to international markets is the construction of the agric-cargo airport that will be delivered by August, 2022. The vision is to make Ekiti the ultimate destination for the vegetable and allied produce market globally. Though landlocked, the airport will change the status of the state to an international destination without boundaries. The project is envisaged to create an agro-business hub and serve as both a national and international cargo gateway to Nigeria with the ability to attract both cultural and medical tourism. It will also be an international free trade zone. Technically, the runway can carry aircrafts as large as the Boeing 747 with a 3.6km usable runway (3.2km runway with overrun of 400m). The airport would also be useful for our national air defense system. When completed, the airport will have a night navigation system that can make 24 hours landing possible as well as bulk fuel installation for aircraft to stopover to refill while on transit. It will also serve as a major craft maintenance hub that will relieve local airlines of the humongous cost of maintaining their craft offshore. These are some of the unique offerings of the airport when completed.
Another big idea that Fayemi’s midas hands are touching is the Ekiti Knowledge Zone which is aimed at turning the people’s passion for learning into a viable economy. The Ekiti Knowledge Zone is a smart city, a piece of information, and communication technology (ICT) hub, and an innovation city where content creators, ICT experts, programmers, innovators, soft and hardware engineers can ply their trade. The vision is to make the EKZ a go-to place for all manner of innovative solutions destinations.
While Fayemi appreciates the importance of physical infrastructure as a catalyst for socioeconomic development, he is quite aware that the ultimate operating system for any society to work remains the values upon which the society is constructed. It is for this reason that he undertook a comprehensive values orientation project that saw to the development of Ekiti Values Education as a compulsory subject in Ekiti public schools. This is a major legacy to ensure that the future generations are brought up on sound ethical principles.
There are many more phenomenal achievements of the Fayemi administration in Ekiti State that are well documented, including his efforts in improving security in the state, extensive civil service and public sector reforms and facilitating the legal framework that would ensure no one is discriminated against on account of their religion, gender, tribe, age, or physical ability. In Ekiti State, there is a zero tolerance policy for Gender Based Violence, a law to protect and empower differently abled people, and a law to ensure women are given an equitable percentage of appointive political offices. Fayemi has fought to ensure no one is left behind, and his template of inclusive governance is needed at the federal level to heal and unite all Nigerians again.
In conclusion, it is necessary to touch on Fayemi’s tenure as Minister of Mines and Steel Development. Fayemi drove the formulation of a sector roadmap unprecedented in its scope, ambition and buy-in, which is what is now being used by his successors. The reforms in the sector required a dogged public official able to rally all the stakeholders, and Fayemi fit the bill. Using a decisive yet consensual leadership style, he secured the cooperation of a disparate range of industry actors in charting a new course for the sector. If his transition from state governor to federal minister and then back to governor was seamless, it was due to Fayemi’s consistency.
In bringing all the sector stakeholders together, Fayemi was applying the same philosophy of participatory governance that has defined his public service career, and which Nigeria desperately needs now – a detribalised nationalist and proven technocrat with the expertise, experience, and network of relationships across the country, to build consensus on the imperatives for rebuilding a new Nigeria.
History has placed on the APC stakeholders and delegates the responsibility of choosing a candidate that is best positioned to move Nigeria forward – and we hope they make the right choice in the person of Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, for a New Nigeria.
*Akin Rotimi writes from Ado-Ekiti*