Ekiti Will Never Return To ‘One week, One Trouble.’ Not Under My Watch! – Gov Kayode Fayemi

October 25, 2013

Dr Kayode Fayemi

Last week, Dr Kayode Fayemi marked the third anniversary of his emergence as governor of Ekiti State. A few days before the landmark celebration, he had granted Daily Sun a commemorative interview. Excerpts:

People don’t like to assess themselves, but we want you to do a self-assessment. Three years down the line, how have you fared?

Well, three years into a four-year term, I think, is a reasonable period to cast our minds back to what we really promised, and how far we’ve come in fulfilling the promises made to our people. In the roadmap to Ekiti recovery, which was our eight-point agenda when we came on the campaign trail, we were very clear about what we were going to do in restoring participatory governance to our state in the light of where we were coming from. Ekiti was a state of one week, one trouble.

Ekiti, in the last seven and half years before we came into office, had six governors. No other state experienced that level of instability – six governors in seven years. And we then came, and what we met was almost a tabula rasa.

The best assessment I can give, in a modest way, is to say we have managed to lay a solid foundation for easing the democratic credentials and agenda of our state. And there are tangible indicators in all the sectors for this.

Let’s take education. I recall when you were here last year, I was sad. We discussed the state of education, and the fruit of all the reforms that we had initiated had really not started showing. In fact, we had our differences with teachers, we had a terrible result from the public examination (WAEC at the time), we were still developing our school infrastructure. It was almost done, so you had evidence of that at that time when you came, but it was not as fully ready as we have now.

I recall telling you then that my school, the school that I used to celebrate everywhere I went around the world, had scored a miserable nine per cent. That is, nine per cent of the candidates we presented for WASC examination only made five credits, including English and Mathematics. Well, if it is any measure of how far we’ve scored since last year in the education sector, I’m pleased to inform you that, that same school of mine, Christ’s School, Ado-Ekiti, that scored nine per cent last year, actually wiped the floor clean this year with a hundred per cent result in the West African School Certificate Examination. And it’s a measure of what has happened across the state.

You’d recall I mentioned with glee the Holy Child Catholic Secondary School that topped the examination table last year with a 99.5 per cent result. Holy Child still did well with its 97 per cent result in the West African School Certificate Examination. But not as well as Christ’s School. And Christ’s School might have done very well, but it wasn’t the only one. Government College, Ayede also made a hundred per cent. Government College, Emure also made a hundred per cent. Averagely in the state, we turned out a 70 per cent pass rate, five credits including English and Mathematics.

And I think that is the result of some of the steps that we took in terms of the learning environment for teachers and students, in terms of the teaching quality, the examination that got us into trouble with our teachers, in terms of the quality assessment, the inspectorate division of our work, the instructional materials, our laptop per child initiative, the renovation of all our schools with furniture in all the schools. But much more importantly, the refusal to allow automatic promotion. Because you’d recall we introduced, as part of the education reforms, a compulsory examination in SS2. And if you do not pass the compulsory examination, we will not allow you to go to SS3 and we will not present you for the school certificate examination.

So, almost to the letter, everyone we presented for that school certificate came out well. Of course, we have our accidents as well. And by also providing a vehicle for those who could not be included in the mainstream secondary school WAEC registration, with our remedial colleges, you know we introduced 16 remedial colleges for those who had to register as external candidates for the WAEC examinations. Those remedial schools helped us do away with the miracle centres in the state that used to foist all sorts of unimaginable fraud in the education system. But we didn’t stop at that. That’s at the secondary level.

You’d recall that while we were speaking last year too, we were encountering some challenges with the merger of our universities and the disciplinary measures that we had introduced with some interested stakeholders in the university system. But I’m also pleased to inform you that for the first time in the history of the Ekiti State University, all courses in the university gained accreditation from the National Universities Commission. So there are indicators. We are not where we want to be yet, but we are clearly on the right path. And our teachers are also coming on board.

We are in a much better relationship with them and we both understand one another a lot better now as a government that is interested in results and as teachers also who have better packages on offer. We just gave four cars out on World’s Teachers Day to the best teacher in primary school, the best teacher in secondary school, the best headmaster and the best principal. In addition to that, the Teachers Peculiar Allowance, we resolved that. We’ve also introduced rural teachers allowance.

We’ve done a number of things. We are introducing car loans and housing loans to our teachers in primary schools as well. And by and large, we are reasonably confident that we are on the path we want to tread. Because, ultimately, our goal is to make this a knowledge economy.

We don’t have oil here. We don’t have other things that people use. We are a purely agrarian state. But one thing that we cherish is education. In every home in Ekiti, we are passionate about education. But not education for its own sake. For too long, we have had education for its own sake. We now need functional education.

That is why we are doing some things that are not on the radar now but which are things that would give us the pride of place in the future. When we go around laying fibre optic cables around the state, a lot of people don’t understand what we are doing.

They don’t even see the basis of broadband connection and all that. When we talk about developing an Ekiti Knowledge Free Zone, somebody said to me, we hear of industrial free zone, but what is a knowledge free zone? But we know that for us in Ekiti, that’s our niche. We can develop our niche, whether it’s in medical tourism, or in educational tourism, or in ICT, we know that we can turn our land into the Bangalore of Nigeria, or the Silicon Valley of Nigeria because we have a base.

We have a solid education base that we can build on, that will now turn around to grow the economy of our state by providing jobs for those who have the basic knowledge to become more active in the knowledge economy. That’s on the education field.

On the health field, the indices actually show the picture. We remain in the country the state with the lowest maternal mortality. We have just launched our National Health Insurance Scheme in the state for our child and maternal health. We continue to do very well in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, which is still the lowest in the country, we are pleased to note that at least four other states have joined us in the social security benefit scheme. Bayelsa, Anambra, Osun have joined us, and we believe that in the not too distant future, it would become the order of the day in Nigeria.

That’s my vision, that’s my dream, that’s my hope, that every state in Nigeria would have a mechanism to provide social safety nets for the vulnerable segment of our population, particularly the elderly. Because, until and unless we take care of our elderly, we will not be a country that caters to the inadequacies within our system in a much more institutional manner.

Because the system we used to depend on clearly has gone pear shaped. The extended family system that used to support the weaker members of the family is no longer there. The poverty rate is such now that the children are even being taken care of by the parents. And until we are able to bridge the gap in terms of providing jobs, it would be difficult to expect that these elderly people would be able to cater to themselves.

But the additions we have introduced to our social security system is in the form of our food bank and our soup kitchen. When we discussed last year, of course I told you about the social security system. But we then discovered that there are many of these older people that we give the money to, but who are not in a position to cook for themselves. There are some of them who cannot even go out and buy the foodstuff, because they are so indigent and so weak that some even take advantage of them.

They take the money from them and they don’t provide them with the necessary support base that you would expect. So that’s why we introduced the food bank which supplies raw food to the elderly. And also, we introduced the soup kitchen on a local government by local government basis which provides at least one hot meal for these elderly people. So, these are mechanisms that further deepened our social democratic agenda for our people. The elderly who benefit from the food bank and soup kitchen still do collect their money. These are just additions.

And it’s not just limited to the elderly. There are also, for want of a better word, others that are destitute who are supported through the food bank and the soup kitchen. It’s just a place for the vulnerable to have a meal a day. The Ekiti Development Foundation (EDF), my wife’s organisation, they are the ones that support the food bank and the soup kitchen.

Of course, you already know some of what we managed to do in the area of infrastructure. What you may not have been aware of, and which has since come to fruition because we were just turning the sod when you came the last time, would be the Government House on top of the hill, the pavilion, our own equivalent of the Eagles Square, here in Ado-Ekiti, the Civic Centre which is now on the grounds of the Old Prison.

All of those initiatives are coming to fruition now. And why do we do this? There are people who will say why are you spending money on what you call Legacy Projects? For too long, we’ve been treated as the backwater place.

Fine, we are rural, and there is nothing wrong in being rural. We are rustic, but I think it’s important for people to know that there can be modernity in our rusticity. As I said, Ekiti used to be known as one week, one trouble in the past. But that’s because we have this logic that when your yam tuber grows, you must cover it up with your hands. That’s the Ekiti mentality.

You must not project yourself too much, you must not let people know that you are successful and so on. But my own attitude is, we are not second-rate Nigerians. Whatever is available in Lagos or Abuja or Port Harcourt should be available here. I want people to come here and be able to visit a good eatery and go to our cinema in our civic centre. Or look at our Government House and say, yes, this is quite good. It is a very critical point.

For too long, we’ve been treated as this backward people who really should not be considered as part of the happening people. I go to give talks and relate with my colleagues, and people come and ask me, are you really Ekiti? And then I come home, which is the irony, and some people say I’m a foreigner in my own state. And why is this? Because I don’t speak English with an accent, so you don’t say this is a local man, and that you can take him out of Ekiti, but you cannot take the Ekiti out of him. And that’s part of why we are doing these things.

When we give laptops to these kids, it totally changes their lives in an unimaginable manner. Yes, they even do terrible things on it sometimes. But that’s part of curiosity. Ultimately, they will be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. And that knowledge base is something that is going to be permanent to them, and it will enable them to play on the global field. That, for us, is why we do some of these things that we do. And it’s not just in the bricks and mortar infrastructure.

And the last time you came, I said our vision and our promise to the Ekiti people was that at the end of the four years, we would have connected all of Ekiti by motorable roads. And I can tell you, we’ve done almost 75 per cent. By next year, I am reasonably confident that we would have connected all parts of the state.

Tourism, you know what is also happening there with our hub, Ikogosi. We are not limiting it to that. We are also trying to extend our work on tourism by focusing on the tourism map. It’s okay, it’s attractive to concentrate on a project by project tourism agenda, but it doesn’t fully address tourism. Because you cannot talk about tourism, if you don’t have security. You can’t talk about tourism if you don’t have good roads. Nobody will come and invest in your setting. You need good hotels. And these are things we are putting in place in order to make sure that these investments yield good dividends.

Of course, in industrialisation, we are trying to revive a number of our moribund industries. And I want to link that to agriculture which is the other area where we are doing quite a tremendous amount of work. Because the bulk of what we can do for now is in the agric and the agro allied sector of industrialisation. Because that is our niche; that is our forte. We’ve managed to attract a number of commercial agriculture entrepreneurs to Ekiti, and a number of them are also constructing processing plants now.

This year, we also have the cassava harvested by our young people sold at N18, 000 per ton. Because our cassava has the highest yield in the entire country. And we are primarily focusing on cocoa, on cassava, on rice, on oil palm and on rubber. These are things that we know will not bear dividends immediately. Agric is a long term venture. But again, we are beginning to see the shoots of progress in that sector.

The other area where we concentrated on our roadmap to recovery relates to our environment, our urban renewal initiative, and when you travel round the capital city, you will see evidence of that as well. But it is not just about the capital city. We are doing it across the length and breadth of the state. The challenges are still enormous. The job is unfinished. But we have a clear path that we are pursuing, and that is why I said what we’ve been able to do is to lay a solid foundation upon which we can build.

And it’s natural. When you are interested in development in a comprehensive and integrated manner, it is important to lay the foundation so that the project can be integrated and better structured and the people can also buy into the agenda of the government.

One of the most critical things we’ve done, which I think is not often remarked but which for us is the greatest evidence of a people-driven government, is our community projects. You already know, because I said to you last year that we don’t do budgeting without community involvement. In November of every year, I go round the state and hold town hall and village square meetings with our communities.

And they will tell us, in addition to what the government is doing in our community, we want our palace fixed, we want a civic centre, we want a town hall, we want a health centre, we want roads to our farms, we want boreholes. And the addition we have made to that in the last one year since you were here was the introduction of what we call community self-help projects.

Because unlike before when they would give us a list and we come and do it, we now decided that every community must be the architect of their own fortune. So what we do is, this is their project, they come to us, we do an assessment, we find out what is going to cost, we now hand over the money to the community, to the town’s union in each and every community. The town unions then choose their own bricklayers, they choose their own carpenters, they choose their own contractors. They do the work. And you know what, our experience in the last one year showed us very clearly that that is the way to go.

The projects are completed speedily, they are cheaper than our own projects that are contractually put out there, and they take ownership. The interesting point is, the same person who is a civil servant who has no hesitation dipping his hand into the government treasury, when he’s appointed or elected as secretary of his community’s progressive union, he protects the money. He does not allow anything to happen to it. He’s accountable to the community. And I think there is a lesson there for us Nigerians. It’s what I think Professor Peter Ekeh called the two publics in his seminal essay. The way our two publics function, when we go to our own rural communitarian base, and when we are in this modern, stripped-bare-of-recognition setting.

That pretty much is what has been going on since last year.

So can we then confidently affirm that the average Ekiti man is happier now?              

Yes, the average Ekiti citizen sleeps with his two eyes closed now. That wasn’t what it used to be. More than anything else, you know, we often take freedom for granted because we have it. And sometimes, you tend to forget the trajectory that brought us to this point. But I don’t think Ekiti people have forgotten where we were coming from, and that’s why a lot of them are sensitive about the relationship between elections and insecurity. So a lot has been coming out now from our elders.

I was reading a statement by some of the elders that politicians should eschew violence and embrace peace. I saw also that the chairman of the Council of Traditional Rulers held a press conference in the same direction, on the same issue. And I think it’s a statement that they don’t want to lose the peace and the sense of safety and security that is currently very pervasive in the state. So, I think there is a sense of confidence that things have improved. We may not be where we want to be yet, and we don’t have jobs for everybody yet. We can still do a lot more. But the trajectory is upwards.

To quote you, Ekiti used to be one week, one trouble. Then things improved. But, somehow, for those outside, people are beginning to think that Ekiti is again returning to one week, one trouble.

No, Ekiti will never return to that point, at least, not under my watch. I don’t see any basis for that. This is a fear triggered by political activities. You know it is in the nature of politicians to exaggerate their importance. And one of the ways to do that is to make as much noise as possible in order to let people know that you are there and send that signal more to the outsider rather than to Ekiti people who are in here. I mean, you’ve been here now and you could still walk around the state capital.

There have been a few skirmishes which I consider to be unfortunate. No one who wants to run for any office should be debarred from getting involved. People who know me and know my antecedents know that my politics is politics without bitterness. And I would not condone any attempt, subterranean or direct, that impinges on the rights and freedom of others. And that is why everybody goes about… I think at the last count, there were at least 23 people on the PDP side who say they want to be governor in this state. And I think a thousand flowers should be allowed to bloom.

And in my own party, we have a putative candidate who is also running around that he wants to be governor, and I think it’s a perfectly legitimate thing. So I want to assure the reading public out there that for me, I am not a generator of violence. That is the difference with the previous government. This government and this governor will not be involved in any attempt to generate violence in this state. And once the leader does not generate violence, violence is difficult to sustain. That’s my experience in this state. We knew when we lost the Ayo Daramolas of this world, and the problems in Ikere with the College of Education students, and we lost the Ifaki gentleman.

We knew the direct and remote causes of that unfortunate tragedy. That’s not the case now, and that will not be the case. So, my word is my bond, and I want to reassure people who may be entertaining such a fear that you’ve expressed that, that is not going to happen here. Except, of course, you have a situation, as we seem to be getting from the undercurrents of intelligence, that external forces who are interested in proving a point in Ekiti might want to generate violence using their own apparatus of power than may even be more compelling than whatever may be available to us at the state level.

But again, on that, I don’t want to jump to any early conclusions. We just watch and make sure that we raise such an alarm where we see elements parading themselves as agents of the federal government who may not be agents of Mr. President but who want to use his name to cause disaffection and violence in our state.

As a governor, you are the father of many children, and they say a father should not have favourites. But you must have some projects that are dear to your heart, don’t you? 

You know I’m an educationist. For me, the most critical project is strengthening the human capital base of this state. You know I mentioned earlier that we’re educated in the sense that we have certificates. A lot of us have certificates. But how functional had been the education that we received? That has been the bane of Ekiti, in my view.

And we need to make the education of our children much more functional than it used to be, and much more creative and innovative. That’s the focus of our education reform agenda.

If we succeed – and I am very confident, I have no doubts that we would succeed – if we succeed in our efforts to make Ekiti the knowledge economy that it is currently not, then we can absorb all of the people coming out of school who have been properly trained to make themselves functional in that economy. Because, we are a small state – 2.7million people, there is no reason why we cannot provide jobs for every employable adult ready to work without necessarily taking them out of this state. Right now, it’s a rural-urban drift rather than an urban-rural drift.

But in the way we want to re-orientate the economy, by privileging knowledge, it is possible for us to turn this place into the education capital. Some of the efforts being made, including efforts by private investors, are beginning to yield fruits in that direction. Afe Babalola University in Ado Ekiti here is one of the fastest growing institutions that I know in the country, with students from all over the place.

And that is a measure of how Ekiti can become the Massachusetts of Nigeria by having the high quality, highly productive intellectual and academic efforts concentrated in one little state.

That’s what Massachusetts is to the United States. And there is no reason given our background as the knowledge production centre of old, why you can’t go back to that. But add the functionality to it. So that is still the dearest to me. But I must say that it’s closely followed by my interest in agriculture and tourism. Because I believe that after the knowledge economy, the other growth centres for our state are tourism and agriculture.

Talking about tourism, yes, a lot has been done in Ikogosi. The place has been totally transformed, no doubt. But beyond Ikogosi, what next, so that it doesn’t become a one-tourist site state.    

Precisely. You know I said something earlier that tourism cannot succeed purely on a project basis. It needs to be integrated. And our idea is that Ikogosi should be linked to a range of other attractions in our state. Even Ikogosi as a tourism site is not at the level you want it to be. Remember I’d mentioned that we are still going to have a theme park in Ikogosi, we are still going to have a golf course in Ikogosi.

We are going to have golf apartments there, and we’re still going to have a conversation forest, more like a games reserve in Ikogosi. So, it’s a whole range of activity. And we’re even thinking of introducing a spa around the water which is for medical tourism of some sort. And we feel that whoever is coming there should also have the opportunity to visit other places. The Arinta Waterfalls in Ipole Iloro is down the road from Ikogosi. We are also doing that place. The Ogun Onire Grove is there.

We expect you, if you’re coming to Ikogosi, to visit the civic centre here which has cinemaplex, and has a museum and has a gallery of arts right here in the middle of Ado-Ekiti. And to visit Olosunta in Ikere and go round to the Fabunmi Museum in Okemesi, all of which should occupy your time in addition to Ikogosi which is most likely going to be more attractive to conference tourists and corporate retreat people than just people who are just interested in holidaying. So, we clearly have that vision, and the way we are activating it is through a master plan, the tourism master plan for the state.

You have not declared that you would be running for a second term, even though I’ve seen some endorsements. What is the position now? There is also this slogan: four plus four equals JKF.

Well, there is a lot of sloganeering, and you cannot legislate against citizens coming out to express their wish and I’m humbled by that. I just don’t think it’s an appropriate time yet to talk about such plans. For a start, the Electoral Act is very clear about what we can do and about what we cannot do. It does not forbid the expression of interest, but I do not think there should be a lull between the expression of interest and activating the interest. That’s my own sense. So if anything is going to happen, it’s going to happen nearer to when the law permits full-blown activation of that interest.

Within your own party, you’re facing some opposition. Is there any cause for alarm?

No, no, no. That’s the beauty of democracy, even within the party. In any democracy, mature or otherwise, the likelihood is that an incumbent gets an automatic nod except the incumbent chooses not to run. It’s not law, but it’s convention in most places. But in the event that that’s not the case, it’s also the beauty of democracy. We let people exercise their right to put themselves forward for the position. What one can hope for naturally is that as long as the race is conducted with decorum and decency, whatever the outcome is should be embraced by all the players on the field.

By FEMI ADESINA and TOPE ADEBOBOYE

Last modified: October 25, 2013

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