Kayode Fayemi’s delightful Ekiti State

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A CONFESSION is in order at the beginning of this piece. Kayode Fayemi, the Ekiti State governor is my friend. I rooted for him in the lead to his election openly, in a couple of columns I wrote for DAILY TRUST. I followed keenly the effort to claim his mandate and was very delighted with the eventual outcome.

As I stated in one of my pieces, I won an invitation to visit Ekiti state as well as the right to eat Ekiti’s famous pounded yam, in Kayode’s company. We never got the opportunity until the last Easter break.

I had travelled to Ilorin for the holiday, as I wrote here last week. And because of the terrible state of the roads leading to Ilorin (the Kaduna end is a nightmare; going through Niger state via Bida is a horrific experience and the route through Egbe and Kabba in Kogi will take a toll on car and man!), most people now travel through Ekiti state. On Easter Monday night, I received Fayemi’s text to visit and so I was off to Ado Ekiti on Wednesday.

The impression I got was of a state undergoing rapid transformation. New roads are springing up all over the state, including well-lit dual carriageways within metropolitan Ado Ekiti. A new civic centre is under construction; there is the 10, 000 capacity pavilion; new government house complex and a new governor’s office.

The Fayemi administration instituted a welfare programme for 20, 000 elderly people who receive N5,000 every month just as IGR has been taken from N109M to N700M per month. Given the fact that Ekiti receives one of the lowest along monthly allocations, it was refreshing to see so much effort at development. Every school child is being provided a computer.

It was refreshing to see what the administration has done to uplift the touristic potential of the Ikogosi Hot Spring, which I visited, with the well-appointed chalets; the swimming pool and the conference centre. No wonder, many people now organise retreats there, while the second phase is envisaged to include a golf course; a reserve area and hotel.

I was worried about the maintenance of facilities as well as the institution of a customer service culture. Kayode Fayemi told me that the administration will partner with firms with a tradition of success in the tourism sector.

After my trip around Ekiti, we sat together for about two hours to discuss what I saw and his perspectives about leadership and development. Fayemi, who has an activist background, told me that  the most exciting part of what he has done in the past few years, has been the value re-orientation process attendant upon the leadership he provides.

There is a change of tone and content of the attitude of people; sustaining that is a major challenge. The administration is refurbishing schools and hospitals in almost every community and people wonder that such a feat could happen, almost 50 years after Awolowo.

The three universities were merged despite initial skepticism while the bureaucracy is gradually re-invigorating the meritocratic culture of integrity. He does not romanticise these developments, because there is still a lot wrong in the working of things. Bureaucracy, he argued has two sides; it can be a cog in the wheel and in the observe, can assist in transformation for good.

Considering the level of achievements opening up in Ekiti, the central issue has been the proper utilisation of resources. And as for the ideological underpinning of things, Fayemi reminded me that as a social democrat, he believes that the state has a role to play in societal development and central to that is the effort to institute social justice and egalitarianism. We also discussed the All Progressive Congress (APC), and its imperatives. In all, it was an eye-opening visit for me.

We later settled down for dinner and in fulfillment of my three-year hope, I tucked into the dish of pounded yam and vegetables! A few days after my trip, the tragic death of the Deputy Governor, Mrs. Funmilayo Olayinka, was announced. May the Almighty God give the family and the friendly people of Ekiti state, the fortitude to bear her tragic loss.

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