Reactions to a recent piece on how some leaders are managing power constrain us to take the matter further today, by looking more closely at Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi. The first edition of Peer Review Mechanism public document for all Nigerian governors, as produced by the 36 governors has only the scorecards of Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi and Fayemi. The latter, who we has watched for a while, was the Guest Speaker at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, popularly known as ‘Chatham House’, where his ‘predicament’ and below average performance in the simple matter of doing proper shakara as governor became the object of public discourse.
Among other responses to the article was that of Isikogu, who said: “Please Sirens ain’t the isssh….We need to see dividends of democracy from our leaders. Lateeph Onikoro followed with: “Who cared (sic) if a governor use (sic) siren or not, that (is) his own cup of tea. What matters is how high percentage of people they served daily life has improved. Example: how is the health service, education… life expectancy, ability to open businesses, and all other services that improve life? You (are) telling (us) about siren and other sentiments that does (sic) not put bread on anyone’s table. There was also the observation that such leaders “are tackling core problems which others have been avoiding for the obvious reason that they are either not easy or not quick to resolve and lead to applause.”
We trivialise leadership ‘achievements’ and miss the point altogether once we forget that anyone can build roads and buy drugs for a hospital. That is public administration and it can happen under the worst governance framework, or under weak institutional structures without any short or long-term vision. The real issue is “The cocktail of values with which a leader steers the state and the sustainability of his methods and policies as the socio-economic, political and moral determinants of a better future”. Leadership, for Fayemi, must rouse the people to a new consciousness, build trust and bring development. Development, for him, thrives on competence, openness, diligence, prudence and reliability. Thus he is distinguishing between development and capital consumption, while isolating the main pillars on which genuine progress can rest.
Many laughed when he called his team together to re-christen Ekiti State “Land of Honour”. But he knew what he was doing. Revitalising the culture of honour, which is their heritage, and providing a powerful emblem of the new era in the state, are essential to rejuvenating and cleansing the social, economic and political environment. Fayemi said so, reminding the people of who they really are and telling them that leadership in a land of honour must present itself as a trust. Teacher-like, he was at pains to drive home these points: (1) all power carries great responsibility, (2) whoever is addressed as “His Excellency” should be a moral exemplar, rather than the chief thug in a land of impunity and (3) the people must understand their role and follow the right value paradigms to keep their leaders on course.
Making participatory governance his joker, as well as the fulcrum of his leadership template, Fayemi took the initial understandable controversies his governance blueprint faced in his stride. He asked the people to invest their Ekiti passion, courage and integrity in promoting irreversible meritocracy, enthroning honour and restoring investor confidence in the state. In place of verbalised campaigns to attract local and international development partners, he put policies, incentives, values and clear standards on the table.
Knowing that the wellbeing of the people is the essence of government and governance, the governor made sure that knowledge, quality of human capital, healthcare, access to social amenities, the feelings of self-worth and the extent of involvement in the affairs of state all combine to define the quality of life. He declared free primary and secondary education and announced a social security scheme the very day he became governor. He said at the time that “planning, prudence and putting the people first” would provide the resources. Today, he has recorded between 50% and 100% delivery on his initiatives and his approach is holistic.
For a governor who inherited a N42 billion debt and many uncompleted and abandoned road projects, along with a 19% drop in federal allocation, some people actually said that Fayemi “walked into trouble” as governor. Ekiti spends N2 billion on salaries and pensions, among other routine statutory obligations, out of a federal allocation that dropped from N2.8 billion to N2.5 billion. The governor could have taxed everyone and everything to raise money, but he did not. Instead, he blocked and sealed existing (and sometimes elaborate) loopholes in the tax collection and management system. Forthwith, the internally generated revenue moved from N109 million to N600 million per month. With this, Ekitis’s future focus on the informal sector and widening the tax base of the state will be on a firm footing.
The holistic strategy and framework are paying off, as governance, infrastructural development, agriculture, education and human capital development, healthcare services, industrial development, tourism and gender equality and empowerment are all part of a well-choreographed cocktail of platforms delivering progress in Ekiti State. The state has also made regular interactive sessions with the people a tradition of governance. Everyone is abreast of what government is doing and can make inputs. For instance, the governor and his executive council toured the 16 local governments of the state to ascertain the actual needs and priorities of the respective communities in the state, before preparing the 2012 budget.
Being Nigeria’s “state of professor” (that is after Anambra, by the way!) Ekiti is transforming its educational sector and human capital. It is moving beyond free and compulsory education to ensuring that every secondary school student has a computer on his desk by 2014. The state government has, so far, distributed over 50,000 laptops to students and teachers. There were concerns when the governor merged the three universities in the state after his meeting with stakeholders. Today the logic of that decision and the wisdom of investing in vocational and technical education are there for all to see.
Rather than just build infrastructure and ‘commission’ it as a holiday resort, Fayemi is using the Ikogosi Warm Springs project to teach the difference between tourism and “sightseeing”. Tourism creates and maintains opportunities for spending on leisure and nurtures a local economy around the objects of interest. Sightseeing does not. Segun Adeniyi’s recent narrative in this paper about his visit to Ikogosi sometime in the past summed the trip as revealed in the potentials and telling a story of neglect and unutilised opportunities. “There is nothing there for me to see” was his off-hand response to Fayemi when the latter invited him to the place recently. The governor ascertained the last time Adeniyi visited and replied: “Then you need to come with me to the place.” The visitor could not recognise the scene again.
Ikogosi is emerging as a conference and holiday call point in Nigeria of the very best standards. A South Africa-based tourism development firm, Mantis Collection, is managing and a completed resort will have a golf course, a housing settlement, water parks, a conference centre, shopping malls, a helipad, a games village, a wild life park, rides and amusement park. A proposed cable car for connecting the tourism corridor can be taken for granted, as the ongoing transformation will retain and maintain such original features as the McGee Camp, which is named after the Baptist Missionary who built the chapel during the colonial era.
Statistics from the Federal Ministry of Health shows that Ekiti has the highest life span in the country, the lowest maternal and child mortality rates and the lowest HIV prevalence; and the state is only second to Ondo State in polio control and eradication. Immunisation coverage has also improved with more health centres established in all localities – as well as improved ambulance services. The 20 road projects, in addition to another 25 inherited, moved in tandem with urban renewal and beautification to, as several of them are now completed. The state has taken the Ado-Iwokoro-Ifaki road (inherited at less than 18% completion with 80% of contract sum spent) to over 80% completion.
Agriculture aims to revive cocoa plantations and make Nigeria the world leader in cocoa production. The state agric policy is being overhauled and the Youth Commercial Agricultural Development Programme (YCADP), which targets jobs for 20,000 youths, is going hand-in-hand with several other initiatives. There are technology and industrial parks for small and medium scale enterprises, in addition to micro credit facilities and the development of agro-allied and solid mineral sectors. The Fountain Holdings Limited represents the government in all Public Private Partner (PPP) matters and manages the investment portfolio of the state, while the Ekiti State Enterprise Development Agency encourages, promotes and coordinates investment activities and stimulates economic development. Two hitherto moribund industries, namely, the Ire Bricks Factory (dead for over 20 years) and the Odua Enterprise Centre (formerly Odua Textiles, which had been dead for 23 years) have been revived.
Ekiti has a female deputy governor who works closely with the governor to give voice and space to women, even as the governor’s wife plays a crucial and truly commendable role in women empowerment and gender equity issues. Ekiti is the first state to sign into law the Gender-Based Violence (Prohibition) Bill, as well as the first to domesticate the National Gender Policy. We say nothing about the Ekiti Development Foundation (EDF) in educating women on reproductive health, providing financial support for their small businesses, supporting couples with multiple births, offering new skills and offering access to better economic, political and leadership opportunities.
Typically poignant, Segun Gbadegesin, on the back page of The Nation newspaper last Friday, said: “…we trudge on aimlessly and despondently…until … one or a few of us defiantly challenge the tale we tell about ourselves. Great leaders …are dreamers. The greatest need of our society … is to understand the psychology of the dreamers and visionaries among us and create more of them.” Ekiti is on course! Ekiti also needs a new ‘replacement generation’.
By Okey Ikechukwu This article was first published in This Day
Last modified: March 20, 2013