INTERVIEW: Choice Before Ekiti Voters Is Simple

March 16, 2014

Femi Awoniyi, Germany-based publisher of The African Courier magazine, was recently in Nigeria. The metallurgical engineer-turned journalist visited the The Nation in Lagos and spoke at length with Seun Akioye on the politics in his native Ekiti State. Excerpts

What lessons can our governments learn from Germans?

Our governments should work with properly-formulated polices that are tied to well-defined desired outcomes, and the people should be actively engaged in governance. Governor Kayode Fayemi is doing that very successfully in Ekiti. His administration’s 8-Point Agenda is one of the most innovative, original programmes of governance that I know of.

Why do you think Fayemi has done well?

I live abroad but I visit home regularly and I notice that many things have changed for the better since he became governor. And from my interaction with Ekiti people, I know that the overwhelming majority of them are pleased with what he is doing.

What changes have you noticed?

Many! First, the peace that reigns in the state today is a marked departure from the insecurity that ruled before Fayemi’s coming to power, when political violence and urban banditry were pervasive.

For me, a revolutionary feat of the Fayemi administration is the introduction of social security scheme for the elderly. It has greatly helped to alleviate abject poverty in the rural communities. Look at Ikogosi. The place has been completely transformed and it is drawing tourists from all over the country. That is a boost to the state’s economy.

Programmes such as the Youth-Commercial Agricultural Development Programme and Youth Volunteer Corps Employment scheme have taken thousands of youths away from the streets into productive economic activities.

The roads are much, much better also. In fact, Ekiti has never had such number of good roads. Fayemi has shown what a huge difference good roads make. Education is another big achievement of the government. And a good indicator of that is the pass rate of secondary school leavers in the state. When Fayemi assumed office in 2010, only 27 percent of students passed their WAEC. Last year, more than 70 percent were successful. Like an icing on the cake, the overall best male student in Nigeria in 2013 also came from Ekiti. That, for me, is the true meaning of transformation. I can go on and on.

Do you think that the people see these achievements like you see them?

Of course, the people are grateful for the enormous work the government is doing. I witnessed an expression of that gratitude during the APC registration exercise in my home town of Ipole Iloro on 5 February. As early as 7.30 am, residents, both old and young, had started trooping to the registration centres in the small town. There was no inducement of any kind. Not even sachets of pure water were distributed to the people. The whole town literally came out to register for a party. That is for me an evidence of people’s appreciation of the importance of the Fayemi government to their lives.

We drove to Ikogosi and Aramoko the same day and mass enthusiasm was palpable at the centres we visited also. In Erinjiyan, it was like the town’s residents were being counted. It was an inspiring experience.

I must commend the APC workers in Ekiti for a superbly organised exercise and the national leadership of the party should be happy to have an able manager like Chief Jide Awe in its ranks.

Why do you think Fayemi has had so much success?

I am awed like everybody else by Fayemi’s gargantuan intellect. But what I admire most about him is his passion for the people; a fervent desire to make a difference in the lives of the people. That is for me the true mark of religiosity, this deep-soul conviction of man’s duty to his fellow humans.

Fayemi’s success makes a compelling case for more activists to get directly involved in governance.


We need self-sacrificing leaders! Remember that after Fayemi earned his doctorate in London, he could have gone on to a very lucrative career in international diplomacy. As one of the very few specialists in security sector governance then, he could have found a very good job within the UN system. No, he didn’t choose that path; he chose the cause of Nigeria at a time when that cause appeared hopeless due to the duplicity of Western countries that were more concerned with their economic interests in Nigeria than the plight of Nigerians under a brutal dictatorship. That heroic bent is what makes selfless leaders.

Ekiti will go to the polls in June. What is your take on the election?

The positive changes in the state in the past three years are visible to all. This was a state that wandered aimlessly in the political wilderness for seven years – a period bereft of any progress and when insecurity ruled. The choice before Ekiti people therefore is a very simple one. They are to choose either to continue on the path of sustainable peace and development or go back to the unsavoury past. Ekitis are a highly educated and smart people; I have no doubt that they will choose progress.

How is life in Germany? People have the impression that Germans are particularly racists. Is that true?

I get asked that question often. One thing I would say is that it is not that bad as it is often imagined in Africa. You can live in Germany for ten years without having experienced a single racist encounter.

A very close friend based here in Lagos visited me and my family in Germany last year. After five days, one morning at breakfast, he suddenly exclaimed “why do people say that Germans are racist? Everywhere we have been to, people were very friendly.” That shows how wrongly the issue of racism is perceived.

There is no colour-blind society in Europe – or even anywhere in our world. However, one must give it to Germans that they are making strenuous efforts towards more equality. When I arrived in Germany in the early 1990s, you wouldn’t see a person of migrant origin manning the counter at the train station or post office. But today, an African, who came to Germany in 1985 as a student, sits in the Federal Parliament. That is for me a sign of an open, progressive society.

Europe is in crisis but Germans are doing so well. What makes Germany tick?

I don’t think that you can attribute German success to one single reason. It has to be a cocktail of many factors. For one, its highly competitive industry is a game winner. And the Germans are a frugal people; they have one of the highest savings rate in the world. That makes resources available for investment. These are some of the factors responsible for the prosperity of the country.

Why is German industry so competitive?

Remember that Germany has a long history of innovation. More than 75 per cent of the major technological breakthroughs of the 20th century were made by Germans or people who were born German and migrated to other places such as the US. That is why Germans pride their country as the land of ideas.

Also, the country’s corporate culture, which places the interests of a company over and above those of its owners, makes a big difference compared to countries where shareholder value rules supreme. That is why Germany companies endure.

And Germans are a very hardworking people. They are an exacting people who don’t leave anything to chances; everything has to be well planned and meticulously done. That is why German products are so exceptional.

By Seun Akioye
This article was first published in The Nation on Sunday, 16 March, 2014.

Last modified: March 16, 2014

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