My Vision, My Passion By Kayode Fayemi

January 13, 2013

Dr Kayode Fayemi, Ekiti State Governor

The other day – a friend called to sympathise with me on my Kogi colleague’s accident and loss of his ADC. Coming in the wake of the tragic loss of Gov. Ibrahim Yakowa and General Azazi, and the earlier plane crash of Governor Danbaba Suntai, he then added what I guess all my colleagues must be encountering from a wide range of friends and well-wishers. “You people”, he hesitated, “must be more prayerful now because you are now an endangered species” but with the finality of a fatalistic pentecostal preacher, he continued, “I know danger shall not be your portion in Jesus’ name, Amen”.

Although raised in a different context, the remark reminded me of what some friends used to ask when I announced I was going to run for the office of Governor in my state eight years ago. Many asked me then: Why, with all these degrees, a good career and a decent public profile, would you want to go into something dirty and nasty like politics, particularly in a setting as dangerous as Ekiti State, where the incumbent governor was daily accused of murder and mayhem.  Some bluntly asked if I had a death wish.

Down with a nasty flu and forced into a bed rest by Doctors in the last week, I have had a lot of time to reflect on these searching questions too – especially the bit about Governors becoming an endangered species and whether we have a death wish. Why am I in politics? What is the passion that drives what I do? Do I have a death wish? Is partisan politics the only avenue for me to achieve my life’s passion of making a difference in my environment? Given the abuse and unrestrained lies often peddled against public office holders, aren’t the insults too much to take for someone who genuinely seek to serve the people?  Why not just give it all up and live a life in the shadows, albeit still in service to humanity?

The unvarnished truth is that I love life too much to want to celebrate death. Indeed, the loss of any human being is a blight on my own humanity. So, I am not in politics because I have a death wish. I am in politics for the same reasons I became a passionate activist.  It was a selfish desire to live my life in freedom, in peace and in a democracy that transformed the frightened young man that I was into a bold activist against military repression.

It is my belief that another Nigeria is possible – one that embraces democracy, fairness, equity and justice and my faith in the possibility to say what we like, write what we think, participate in the political process without fear of intimidation, make our votes count so that our views will matter – these are the values that have always propelled me in the struggle for a good society.  In a sense, I see my current circumstances as an extension of my activist life and another stage in the struggle to restore the dignity of humankind.

For me, democracy is not an abstract concept.  If democracy is not capable of curbing corruption, guaranteeing transparency and improving people’s well-being and quality of life, it is at best an empty concept, at worst a sham. Poverty and despair, oppression and humiliation, economic and social insecurities are breeding grounds for violence and conflict and as much as Nigerians want democracy, they also want to see concrete evidence of democracy making a difference in their lives. The evidence of the correlation between poverty, inequality and insecurity in our society is stark.

Consequently, everything I have done since assuming office has been geared towards advancing my core values of transparency and accountability (my public asset declaration, passage of Freedom of Information Law, participatory budget making and transparent procurement processes);  Improvement in the Quality of Life of our people (Improved infrastructure, Free and Qualitative Healthcare Programme, Gender Equality and Women Empowerment, Social Security Benefit Stipend, Food Bank and Soup-Kitchen, Empowerment Programmes); Education, Enterprise and Human Capital Development (Free Education Initiative, Laptop per child programme, Samsung Engineering Academy, Life Academies, Youth in Commercial Agriculture Programme) Wealth creation and Entrepreneurial Boost of the Local Economy (Creation of the Tourism Hub – Ikogosi, Industrial and Technological Parks, Agro-Processing industries and revival of moribund industries.) and restoration of a sense of purpose and dignity in the average Ekiti person. All of these have not been accomplished without some challenges and criticisms but what is not in doubt is the clarity of our vision, our unrelenting focus, our commitment to change, compassion for our people and sincerity of purpose on the part of government.

This is why my own passion is about the need for a collective rescue mission in Nigeria. If we are determined to get rid of ‘brigands, parasites and unworthy custodians of power and authority’ from public office, we also have a duty not to allow the genuinely committed purveyors of good governance to be hounded out of office in order to encourage a critical mass of decent, disciplined, compassionate, committed, steadfast, visionary and focused individuals to enter that larger movement for change.

I believe we can revive the Nigerian state in a qualitative manner and make democracy more meaningful to the people, democratise governance, build infrastructure, provide jobs for the jobless, improve healthcare, modernise agriculture and reclaim our young people from a future of violence, decadence and despair. That’s the vision we are focusing on in Ekiti: to rescue Ekiti from poverty, help create wealth and restore the dignity of our people.

We are determined to ensure the state empowers rather than dictate, enables rather than control, pushes power down to the people and shares the responsibility of governing with them rather than lead them by the nose.  Through our effective policies of social democracy, we are glad with the delivery of free and compulsory education up to secondary schools, free health care to children, pregnant women, senior citizens and the physically challenged, social security benefit for the elderly, improved infrastructure in the state, evidently modernised Agriculture and a revived industrial sector amongst many developments.

This is my modest vision for a collective rescue mission in Ekiti State, and indeed Nigeria. But I do not claim to have all the answers to the problems. So, every time I am criticised, especially destructively, I am reminded of the immortal words of Teddy Roosevelt, former US President, “It’s not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the [strong] man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them  better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again…who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

So, in answer to my friends and concerned stakeholders, I do not wish to die on this job, but in saying that – I should also add that no price is too high to pay for the rare privilege of public service since I have an unshaken faith in our people, the determination to restore integrity and honour in our land and the commitment to turn Ekiti into a model for all. This is my vision and it is also my unrelenting passion. And may the souls of our faithful departed rest in perfect peace.


This article was first published in The Nation

Last modified: January 13, 2013

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