FEATURES: Fayemi: A Pathfinder On Red Roof

April 7, 2013

Dr Kayode Fayemi

Politics is intertwined with interests. The leader’s interest. The public interest. The aide’s interest. The follower’s interest. The praise-singer’s interest. The family interest. The faith interest. And even ancestor’s interest. And so on and so forth. It follows therefore that appraisal parameters will definitely be dependent on the assessor’s interest. I must quickly admit some pedantic inappropriateness in not taking cognizance of the rule of political assessment when Kayode Fayemi, the Governor of Ekiti State was accused of inactivity by some select politicians of  Ekiti sentiments and I got puzzled.

As a stakeholder in Ekiti; yes, I am a stakeholder, not by birth or parental lineage but by “classmate attachment” or even “Great Ife Network”.

First, the governor is my friend and my classmate in Graduate class in 1986 at the Department of International Relations at the then Unife. “Kay” (as I fondly call him), Victor Adetula, now a professor in Unijos and myself were intellectual ‘cold war’ rivals, especially in Professor Olajide Aluko’s class. His wife, Bisi, was, and still is, my, “personal person.”  She was a special fan of “Mujemu,” a writer’s pseudonym in “King Cobra” a dreadful, admittedly to some degree, salacious and subversive campus journal (courtesy: Buhari/Idiagbon). We were also together in the History Department, Unife. By the special grace of GOD, I knew how it all started between them as I was a key actor and witness. One of the secrets of the relationship that I will share publicly is the fact that “ Kay” (as I fondly call him) achieved in one year what many lecturers and students in Ife could not achieve in four to five years that they were with Bisi in Ife. He came from Unilag to marry one of Ife’s most beautiful girls and his rivals were stunned and dazed by this audacious inter-university marital assault. I know some of them that have not recovered from the shock till today. Only God knows when they will recover and accept their fate that it is all over. Third, the Oba of Ilawe, Banji Alabi, is my friend and classmate in Ife. The Chief of Staff to the Governor, Yemi Adaramodu (Agbaman), was our Chief Cartoonist in “King Cobra” when I was the Cobra Chief in Unife and of course, the big masquerade himself, Femi Falana (SAN) another “Great Ife” from Ilawe is my very good friend. Also, Senator Femi Ojudu another Ekiti power broker was an ALPS chieftain in our Ife days. His organisation, Alliance of Progressive Students, was King Cobra’s chief antagonist and “Mujemu’s” greatest persecutor. The two Femis plotted the “coup” that brought me to the Tinubu government in 1999. For further details on this, consult the duo.

Enough of this stakeholder justification. The general impression I was getting before leaving for Ekiti was that Fayemi “o se nkankan ni Ekiti” literally meaning, Fayemi has not been active in Ekiti, or better still, Fayemi has not done anything in Ekiti. So, as a stakeholder, I decided to go to Ekiti on a private visit and possibly share with the governor, people’s sentiments about his administration. This was my first time of going to Ekiti since he became the governor of the state, though we have been exchanging phone calls and text messages. We only saw once at ‘Oga’s 60th birthday last year March (when I say Oga, I mean Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu). So, almost a year after our meeting in Lagos, I decided to visit him.

Driving from Lagos to Ado-Ekiti through Iju-Itaogbolu, a federal road in Ondo State was not very pleasant. But from Ikere to Ado-Ekiti, the whole town is on construction rampage. The entire Ado-Ekiti township from police headquarters to Basiri; from Teaching Hospital to Iworoko; from 1st Baptist to Old garage through Ojumose to Atikankan and Oke Ori Omi Aremu to Old governor’s office, I noticed a construction frenzy. It was however a smooth drive from Ado Akiti to Lagos through Ilawe and Igbara- Odo down to Ilesa-Ife road.

In Ekiti, road construction and the ‘red roof’ (school project) appear to be the government’s priority. Since he came to office, Fayemi has been constructing roads and renovating and rehabilitating schools and these are still on-going and they are not likely to stop anytime soon. If the road construction trend continues like this, the people of Ekiti may not need to polish their shoes for days because they are not likely to gather dust since all the roads would have been tarred.

Good roads have become an obsession with Fayemi. He is not just interested in rehabilitating or laying asphalt on roads, he wants roads with side-walks, drains, medians and street-lights. He wants solid roads that will endure. There was an instance where the governor confronted a contractor on the poor quality of his work. The contractor was unaware of the governor’s private inspection of a particular road and had counted about 17 pot-holes on that same road. The contractor was shocked when the governor disclosed the number of pot-holes to him. Fayemi expressed his disappointment at the shoddy job the contractor did and gave him a strong warning to stick to the specified standard and use the right materials.

An impressive aspect of Fayemi’s road networking is the fact that in addition to the existing roads he is rehabilitating, he has in two years of his government, constructed almost five new roads, I mean virgin roads, that were never in existence before. And the good thing is that all the roads are solid, standard and beautiful. For instance, the Igede-Awo road is a brand new road that reduces the journey from Ado-Ekiti to Iddo by substantial kilometers. It is a beautiful road of about 7 km that was commissioned during the 2nd anniversary of his administration.

The four other virgin roads include Osun-Iloro, Erijiyan-Ilawe, Ilemoso-Omu and Irele-Ponyan all of which have drastically reduced the stress of long journeys and facilitated inter-community connectivity.  A new one, Isan-Obo-Ayegunle, was awarded recently by the government. In the past, a journey from Ado to Ifaki and Oye used to take more than five hours but with Fayemi’s intervention, that trip can be done in less than an hour. On the whole, the government has completed more than 400 Kilometres of road out of the 600 km it has in its Phases 1 and 2.

Fayemi’s approach to road construction and network is scientific, strategic, functional, pragmatic, politically and economically expedient. From Ikere to Ijero, Ijero to Ikole, the entire stretch of Ekiti State has been rung round with roads that bridge contacts between the various Ekiti communities, between the government and its people, between development and underdevelopment, between primitiveness and civilization, between the “bush gods” and the “City God”, between “the bush man” and “the city man”.

Rural communities should not be made to feel completely alien in their own country by being isolated or restricted to their villages as a result of lack of infrastructure. They deserve good roads to transport their produce to the city for commercial exchange.

Globalization, or its variant “global village”, is not just about the magic of technology. The baseline for its functionality, especially in this clime of ours, lies in the provision of infrastructure like roads that connect one community to the other. What is the gain of globalization if it takes 6 hours  for a Nigerian to connect with his business associate in London but double that time for a son that lives and works in Ado-Ekiti to get to his sick mother in Ikole also in Ekiti State?

Guided by its 8-point agenda framework, the Fayemi government is not only constructing roads, it is also providing water and light for the people. One tragic narrative of our history relates to a community called Oke-Ako in Ikole Local Government, which has been in existence for close to 138 years without light. When in 2012, the government provided them with light, they erupted in joyous celebration that lasted for days. The same goes for the people of Ilemeso in Oye Local Government. They too were having light for the first time after living so many years of their existence in darkness.

In education, about 183 public schools at both primary and post-primary levels, are being rehabilitated and renovated with the red roof as symbol of their new look. Those that have been given a face-lift operate under a very peaceful atmosphere and environment that is conducive for learning and creative vocations.

From afar, and every corner of the state, one can see the red roof glowing and reflecting the change in the state, depicting a rising hope, exuding a glimmering idea of a bright future, generating a soothing attraction, beaming a gleaming star in the mould of a pathfinder that is  perching atop the roof using it as his observatory for a panoramic view of the state with the ultimate objective of clearing all the forest of ancient evils in Ekiti.

Fayemi’s style of governance is elevated. He is humbly unveiling his new political status by moving from a politician to a statesman. His behavior towards the Ekiti people transcends political partisanship. He behaves like a wise leader who is “motivated neither by crass self-interest nor by narrow partisanship but instead by considerations of the non partisan public good or the general welfare” (apologies Macstadt and Schotten). Ekiti by all development indices, is an evolving state. It has not fully reached the apogee of its development potential.

Based on this fact and what Fayemi is doing, Ekiti is transforming from its ancient character into a modern city. The kind of vision, wisdom and inspirational leadership that Fayemi is providing in the state will one day make the people of Ekiti record him as one of the founding fathers of modern Ekiti.

With what I saw in Ekiti during my visit, I now know that politicians, nay adversaries or better still, opponents or opposition, also speak in tongues. “Kayode o se nkankan ni Ekiti” has two interpretations: One is literal, the other is figurative. So, when a government, that is working round the clock to provide social infrastructure for the people and improve their lot through populist programmes and policies is being accused of “not performing “, it shows that they don’t mean it in the literal sense. It is simply a figurative expression to convey their frustration about the neglect of their own “stomach infrastructure” a la Godswill Akpabio’s sarcasm of “our members are hungry”.

Stomach infrastructure now overlapping with social infrastructure has become a contemporary political reality in this our side of the global divide. What a dilemma for our leaders! God Save Nigeria!!

By Dapo Thomas, a former Special Adviser to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, teaches History and International Studies at the Lagos University (LASU)

This article was first published in The Nation

Last modified: April 7, 2013

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