Fayemi: A Leader’s Performance ‘ll Always Sell Him

August 16, 2012

Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi

Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, speaks on his efforts to mobilise the state’s enormous human capital for development, in this interview with Jaiyeola Andrews. Excerpts:

Ekiti State is blessed with many landmarks, which makes tourism a potent revenue source for the state. How do you intend to drive tourism in the state?
Tourism to us is very important to Ekiti is very important given our history and antecedent, Ekiti having been known with cer4tain tradition and values. Telling us that you are from Ekiti, something speak to mind immediately rustic, rural, traditional, intellectual, intelligent  people from the back waters. I say alternatively that it is really resistant to cheating and caution rather than obstinacy those are the virtues that you associate with Ekiti.
But what is more importantly, what does Ekiti mean? Ekiti simply mean place of hills, rolling hills all over the place. I don’t know of any part in this country that you consider as beautiful as Ekiti and this is not in any exaggerated form it is just a natural terrain that sprite you anytime you come to Ekiti. As you are entering the gateway from Okemesi, you notice the difference up till the time you are getting out of Omuo, or Ikerre or all of the boundaries in Ekiti.

What were your ideas regarding tourism in the state before you became governor?
For long before I became the governor, it was a key point in my 8-point Agenda that tourism and environmental sustainability, something that we must pay a lot of attention to. But we decided that we were going to do it in two forms; the cultural side and the natural side. The natural side driven by tourism corridor of Ikogosi, Ipole Iloro and all of the communities around it. Although Ikogosi is well known but it is dilapidated and totally abandoned for the better part of the last 15 years.
Every government comes and says look, we are going to do something about Ikogosi. Before we came, we actually did viability plan, feasibility studies on how we can make it work on a sustainable basis and decided that we cannot do it as a wholly government initiative, it has to be a partnership. Before we can interest all the people in this, government will have to start the process and that is precisely what we have done.

What are the details of your administration’s tourism development roadmap?
We kick-started the process which is a first phase of renovating all the whole buildings there putting a few new building and also ensuring that we put a management in place that is professional, that is exposed, that understands the difference between managing a rural resort from running a Protea in Lagos or Sheraton in Abuja.
We succeeded in getting one of the most outstanding groups involved in what I would call rural, countryside tourism, that is what they are known for. They run the lodging, they restructure the game reserve and before we decided that we were going to go with them, I actually went to a number of lodgings they were running in South Africa and decided that yes we could go with them. They have come and they are working with our team with a view to not just making the place the usual attractive hot or cold resort but what you do with the facilities and want it to be primarily a conference tourism attraction.
Ekiti is an intellectual capital of some sort in Nigeria, if you are going to make it something attractive, you really don’t want to create another adder, the closest it will be, an Ogudu and if we are going to compete with Ogudu, then where is the market? It is Lagos, it is Abuja because Ekiti is almost equidistance to the administrative capital and political capital of Nigeria and the commercial capital of Nigeria. So we know that we can get there but at the same time we are putting in Ado Ekiti, the state capital more facilities, because quite frankly Ado is a little better than a village  setting and I am not being pretentious about it at all. I grew up here, I went to school here so I know how long we have traveled, quite some distance but we are still not where we ought to be

How would these boost the internally generated revenue profile of your state?
Let me start from the earlier one that is tourism. Lots of things are in Ikogosi, it will interest you to know that averagely in a day we get about a thousand of people who visit Ikogosi in that moribund state. Imagine what will happen when it is what we envisage to be, a properly so call resort. The traffic will increase and so much will be paid coming to Ikogosi. Money will be coming to the state state, that is a natural resources, IGR.  Right now, there is a solid mineral company in Ekiti that has started mining in Efon Alaye and these are causerie. We have a lot of precious stone here.
If you are driving in from Ilesha coming into Ekiti, you will see the whole section of the road, there is BOS motors around the place. You can see how impressive these stones are it is not just an ordinary stone but one that will go places if we really do our work well. So we cannot do it alone that is why we are partnering with a range of professionals in the business. We have granites, we have marbles, gem stones, we have a whole range of them and we have almost 500million tonnes of rock in Ekiti which will last at a very minimum of 500 years. So clearly we have a lot of work to do, but we are determined to do this work.

What would you consider the greatest asset of the state?
The greatest asset we have here is human capital. If we take advantage of human capital in fully functional manner, it will be a different place. When I was campaigning, I talked about Ekiti being the Bangalore of Nigeria which is why we prioritised ICT as the major vehicle of transformation in Ekiti. So there are a whole range of things we are doing. Gradually, IGR is increasing from 109 to 600 million naira that is not a lot, we are not Lagos yet but that is significant for a state that really  has not been doing well in terms of generating internal revenue.

What do you think the victory of Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole at the poll portends?      
I was involved in Edo, not that I was a voter but of course you know is my party and Adams Oshiomhole is an old comrade of mine. I think Edo election if there is any lesson that we can draw from Edo, election it is that performance credibility much more than electoral credibility is what will carry the day in Nigeria today. You can play all sorts of pranks, you can do all sorts of media attraction but there is no see and feel as advertising guru would call it. It will be bound on what is on ground.
What Adams did, was to concentrate on delivering his promises to Edo people and even when he has not managed to deliver all he promised, he also managed to connect with the voters that there is a reason for you to vote for me in order to continue the good work I have been doing. But what he was also able to do successfully, was to mobilise public opinions to the extent that the people were ready to protect and defend their votes.
We are not unfamiliar with that here given my own trajectory which is not dissimilar to Adams trajectory to office. The only thing that I have consistently say to my people here is, it not politics of passed insinuation, it is the work and Ekiti people are very discern they are like Edo people in several respect if you stick to a promise, if you deliver on a promise and where you cannot and you are honest enough to tell them that I am facing challenges here, you will get it right on time.

So far, would you say your government has significantly improved the lives of the people?
We are 18 months into our tenure, and in that period we have managed to touched all the sections of the 8-point Agenda that we have in the state some controversially, taking steps that are not overwhelmingly popular let me put it that way. But even when we have done those, Ekiti people have come to the conclusion that it is a necessary stage. But when we merged the universities, initially there were feathers ruffled but if you go to the university now, you will actually feel its ambient, you will see the difference.
This is now beginning to look like a university properly so called not a glorified secondary school. If you go into infrastructure every single community in this state at this point in time that I am having this conversation with you, has one form of reconstruction or rehabilitation going on there a hundred and fifty communities. We are doing that with rural electrification, we are doing that with water provision, we are doing that even with broad band laying of computer fiber.
So, and you can talk about that in the health sector, you can talk about it in tourism, we are resuscitating moribund industries which have been dead in this state for 15, 20 years they are all coming back on stream. We are also doing novel things that have never been done in any other parts of Nigeria; putting a laptop computer on each child desk is not even done in the territory of my colleagues that I refer to as oil sheikhs.  They do computer laboratories but they don’t do a laptop computer on every desk.
They don’t pay a social security to the elderly in addition to our own free health care programme. We also pay social security, not a lot, N5,000 to every elderly person above 65 who is not on pension with clearly indigent without any means of support. Those who benefit from this, they think the world of what they get. Some of them have not come across a thousand naira in one fell swoop now they get N5,000 every month. It makes a whole difference to our own agenda of making poverty history in Ekiti.

Have you had cause to alter any aspect of your eight-point agenda?
Thank you. Necessarily, blue print are broad programmes you cannot be exactly specific in the delivery  of all of the things you have drawn. But if you look at what we have done, we have said in all of those 8-point Agenda that by 2014, we will do this a day we get into office. Free education for primary and secondary schools that was declared the day I became governor. The social security scheme was announced the day I became governor but it did not commence until a year after because we needed to plan, we needed to do enumeration, we needed to do a number of things ditto for tourism.
Health care, what is clear is that everything we have promised Ekiti people, 2005, 2006 when people even turn to how is it going to be possible; laptop on every desk, nobody is ever going to achieve that, connecting every community with motor able roads, it is just not possible because the question they ask me now is but they told us that Ekiti has no money so where is this money from that you are spending to do this? And I said well, a little bit of planning, a little bit of prudence and a hundred percent commitment to the agenda we have set to achieve because it is a put-people-first agenda.
So, we haven’t really altered significant things, the plan in all of its ramifications. Some things have not started the time we would have loved them to start, some has to do with the vagary of contracting, procurement, processes it can be frustrating. But by and large almost 2 years down the line, I will like to say we have gone above 50 percent in the delivery of many of the initiatives we have put on the table.
And when you look at the statistical indices, the federal Ministry of Health just  released an indices now Ekiti has the highest life span in the country and one of the lowest maternal mortality and child mortality index. Surely we must be doing something right in order to get such result, but we must not rest on our oars because there is still a lot we must do.

Do you think the social security scheme of your administration is sustainable given available resources?
How sustainable? Sustainability depend largely on continuity and largely on putting processes and procedures in place in order to ensure that regardless who is there these things would continue. There are lots of things we are paying attention to in our governance agenda.  It is putting in place the laws, legislation that would be there when after this government is no longer in office. So, we did not just do social security for the elderly, we also put a bill into a law that has become Ekiti legislation on social security.
The other day, we sent it to the Federal Government because they needed to look at it in planning their own social security agenda. Of course the new government may come and tweak it a little, but when it is a popular programme it will be difficult for a new government even if it is an alternative party to do away with it unless that government is going to be able to replace it with something better.  Unless it want to face the wrath of the people because every community is benefiting from social security.

How do you determine persons qualified to benefit from the social security scheme? Does political affiliation play any role?
It is totally, regardless of your party affiliation nobody asks you for ACN card when you are collecting social security. The criteria are well clearly defined, you must show evidence that you are above retirement age, you must show evidence that you are not on pension, you must show evidence that you don’t have kin taking care of you, and there must be some fairly determined way of knowing that you are really indigent and you are on the border line that way we won’t ask you for party card and we don’t ask for party affiliation in all things we are giving out.
We don’t ask kids when they go to school whether they are PDP or ACN before they get laptop. No. Because for us it is about Ekiti people and once I became governor here I am not governor of party, I am governor of the entire population and residents as well who may not be Ekiti but have lived here and pay their taxes here. We owe them a duty too so if their kids are going to school whether you are Chukwuma, Nzeribe or you are Yinka Oyebode the important thing is you are in Ekiti you deserve to be served by the government of Ekiti.
So, those are the kind of things that will make it sustainable. For if it is partisan, if it is selective, if I decide that it is only people who attend ward meetings of ACN who must collect social security of course anybody who comes here later will be well within their right and power to yank it off and there will not be any public uproar. Right now I get mail by members of my party that the majority of the beneficiaries of these schemes are not even party members ;they are PDP, they are this or that and I say well they are Ekiti people and for me it is the single qualification required.

Would you say the calculation of the social security benefit has been based on accurate data?
I have the confidence that we can fine tune and improve on a number of these things; the enumeration of the social security is still not completely accurate but we are doing a citizen register, we are doing a citizen ID card. Our directorate of ICT is busy working on that now which will also be a multi card that can be used as a tax card, used as a social security benefit card, that can be used as a health card when you go to hospital for free health, it can be used as an education card by your tax, it can be used as your tax receipt.
So once we are done with this it would help with biometric data which we already introduced in civil service, the public service system now even to the university. We used to have problems of know how many students we even have in this university, it is only recently that we are managing to resolve that problem that the university authorities managed to get that right and it is because the government in the state itself is not averse to accurate data that would enable us to serve our people better. Those are the kind0 of things that will make it sustainable for a long time it is not any magic on our part.

What is your vision of Ekiti in the next three years?
Clearly you know for me, the way I would want to see Ekiti in the next 2 or 3 years is a place that has become a destination of choice for people who want to do business, people who want to relax, people who want to work in a professional, competent and consistent manner that for me would tackle all the other things that I see as problem particular poverty. I campaigned on an agenda of making poverty history  and you are not going to do that by just giving out handouts, it is okay for me to give cash to the elderly, what do I do to the younger people?
Over 55 percent  of the population of Ekiti is under 25, they have to be my target by taking care of the elderly I have to also figure out how to ensure that  they become functional to this economy so it is a completely double-edge agenda that must respond to the yearnings of the elderly without ignoring the needs of the young ones and I believe that we are reasonably well placed in the few years we have been in office. With the one and half years we have been in office, it’s been tough even setting the basic parameters that would now form the foundation for the sustainability over a long time.
But that in itself should not be an excuse, it should ginger us to ensuring that we get to where we want to go and that destination clearly is ensuring that Ekiti people more like regain a sense of self worth, a sense of esteem and pride.  Somehow years of bad government has also affected the quality of lives of our people, that will be my own sense of where we should be in 5, 10 years time.

Are you not worried about the seemingly intractable state of insecurity in the country?
Spate of insecurity, I talked about apology first and foremost I am a student of security I know one or two things about security and I know that there is a direct correlation between poverty and insecurity. In fact you have extensive literature in security studies that sees poverty as violence because when you are poor it gives you sense of not having anything to lose.

This article was first published in This Day on August 12, 2012.

Last modified: August 16, 2012

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