ONE YEAR AFTER, EKITI ROLLS OUT THE DRUMS
It was one battle fought with absolute resoluteness. For many months, they lay in the trenches, battling hard to retrieve their mandate. Until the appellate court sacked Mr. Segun Oni from office as Ekiti State governor on October 15, 2010 and declared Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) as governor, it was a long, long time on the battlefield.
Fayemi, his deputy, Mrs. Funmilayo Olayinka, scores of their associates as well as thousands of their supporters had fought for three and half years in the courts, struggling to upturn the verdict of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which had declared Oni as governor of the state in 2007.
Since the judgement of the appellate court and Fayemi's subsequent inauguration, relative serenity seems to have returned to the state, just as the fog of melancholy and palpable despair that hitherto pervaded the state has since evaporated. Little wonder that the administration recently rolled out the drums to celebrate its first year in office.
Between October 10 and 16, Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, as well as the other towns and villages in the state wore a gaily attire as the state government marked the first anniversary of the Kayode Fayemi administration.
Activities lined up to mark the day included commissioning of some of the projects put in place by the government in the past one year, hosting of lectures, economic summit, book presentation and youth conference, among other events. Projects commissioned by Fayemi included e-receipt management system, Bureau of Public Procurement e-office, 15 brand new tractors, New Deputy Governor's Office, Secretariat Phase V Complex, Health Data Management Office, six blocks of classrooms under Operation Renovate all Schools in Ekiti State, Administrative Block and Hostel at College of Health Technology, Ijero-Ekiti and the Oodua Enterprise Development Centre.
Other activities included the launch of Ekiti State Gender Policy, Signing of MoU with Samsung,
Signing of MoU with Wicklow Group, and the presentation of cheques to health beneficiaries.
The events were heralded with a prayer session at the Central Mosque, Ado-Ekiti while a Christian thanksgiving service concluded the programme.
Several dignitaries were in Ekiti to celebrate with Fayemi and his team during the week-long event. Among them were the national leader of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, national chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande, Minister of Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga, diplomats and several other notables from the private sector.
Besides the commissioning of projects which took place at the various sites, most of the events took place inside the ultra-modern Adetiloye Hall located in the expansive terrains of the Fountain Hotel, along Iyin Road, in the state capital. On each day, long rows of assorted vehicles in the parking lot hinted of the events taking place inside the hall. Several minstrels, their drums, gongs, trumpets, guitars and sekere at the ready, entertained guests outside the hall, even as policemen paraded the grounds, making sure the bad guys were kept at bay.
During each of the programmes, the governor reiterated his determination to ensure that Ekiti folks begin to enjoy a new lease of life in different aspects of their lives. Adetiloye Hall was bursting at the seams on Thursday, October 13 when the Bishop of Sokoto Diocese in the Catholic Church, Dr. Matthew Hassan Kukah delivered the anniversary lecture. The popular, fire-spitting cleric who had to cut short his pastoral trip to Zamfara State, spoke on Identity and National Cohesion: Challenges and possibilities.
Wearing a dark suit, Father Kukah, as he's more popularly addressed, described Nigeria as a vehicle that left its manufacturers in an excellent shape but is yet to reach its destination 50 years on, even as it has become dilapidated, rickety, ugly and seemingly unable to reach its final address. The man of God noted, in a tone dripping with regrets, that those countries that became independent at about the same time as Nigeria or even after Nigeria, have since overtaken the country. South Africa which Nigeria laboured hard to liberate from apartheid is now in the same league with Brazil, Russia and China, while Liberia and Sierra Leone, which were for many years embroiled in civil war, are even more united. He asserted that Rwanda which lost about one third of its population during the Hutu/Tutsi war, has since shoved Nigeria aside in the struggle for the top position at the African Development Bank.
'Today, we are unable to publicly celebrate our independence with the required pride, and, yes, our soccer team will not be at next year's Africa Cup of Nations,' he lamented. Enumerating some of the ills confronting the nation, Bishop Kukah said it was sad that after 50 years, Nigerians can't really say who they are, education is still in the doldrums, billions of dollars looted by the rulers are trapped in banks abroad, healthcare is in crisis, electricity is just not available, potable water is a mirage and the roads are death traps.
According to him, in Nigeria, 'our daily life is a running sore of drudgery, pain, oppression, poverty and want… Nigerians are living today in a morally deregulated environment and the evidence is the mess we are in… In my view, our inability to get our hands round the issues of citizenship is responsible for most of the crises we find ourselves in.' He called on Fayemi and others who came from the trenches to play politics differently from what has been obtainable in most states in the past years.
The cleric identified the jettisoning of the British system as a major cause of Nigeria's crises. 'It is state creation that is at the root of all our woes,' he said. 'It changed our identities and because it was not the product of proper planning, we are paying the price. The first set of states was created to avert the war, the second set was to reduce ethnic hegemony and subsequently, state creation became a reward system. Local Governments were donated to Generals at meetings of the Supreme Military Councils.'
To overcome our problems, he insisted that the incapacitation of the states must be redressed. He also counselled that the issue of place of origin, among others, be deemphasised. He also noted: 'This country has never had a leader who sat down, planned well, studied the country and had a blue print for governing Nigeria. Those who did never had a chance to put their plans in action. We have always had parachuted Presidents who came in by sheer chance and circumstances.'
He concluded, however, on a positive note: 'As the Chinese would posit: every disaster spells an opportunity. I hope we can seize the moment and take the future with greater courage and confidence.'
The book, Long walk to a new dawn, by Yemi Adaramodu and Hakeem Jamiu were later presented at the event. The following day, the governor inaugurated the board of the Fountain Investment Holdings Limited and the Ekiti State Economic Development Council where he expressed optimism that the moribund government-owned companies in the state would be revamped soon.
At the Ekiti State Economic Development Summit which held between Friday, October 14 and Saturday, October 15, Fayemi called on investors and business leaders to bring their businesses to the state.
'This state parades probably the highest number of graduates in various fields per thousand. The indigenes of the state are quite well educated; search for knowledge is our pride. The manpower for your industry or business concerns is available in quantity and quality. In essence, you have access to cheap labour to a large extent,' Fayemi stated.
He added: 'Ekiti economy has also been further boosted by the large presence of financial institutions doing businesses in the state. These range from banks, insurance companies to stock brokers among others. As a matter of fact, the Central Bank of Nigeria has an office in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital. For many of the opportunities in the State, the raw materials are readily available in large quantities.'
On Saturday, October 15, the government also flagged off the Operation Renovate All Schools in Ekiti State with the commissioning of a six-classroom storey building at the AUD Nursery and Primary School, Irona, Ado-Ekiti.
At the end of the weeklong event, everyone agreed that with a good foundation in place already, Ekiti's journey to infrastructural and economic transformation had commenced.