Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ekiti and the politics of stomach infrastructure

"He may have done well with the provision of physical infrastructure. However, what about my own stomach infrastructure?”
—Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State mimicking his detractors on TV
I had planned to write on something else but decided to examine the three years and three months administration of Governor John Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State after watching the January 11, 2014 edition of Sunrise on Saturday, a magazine programme of Channels Television anchored by the inimitable duo of Alero Edu and Kayode Akintemi.  I am ascribed different titles by many people but among my honorifics you will not find the word politician. I simply detest Nigeria’s type of politics. I have known Fayemi when he was the Executive Director of Centre for Democracy and Development. When he decided to join active politics, I privately commended his courage. I followed his campaigns in the media and after he was robbed of his victory at the poll, I equally kept tab on his long drawn battle to recover his stolen mandate through the election petition tribunals. When on October 15, 2010, the Appeal Court in Ilorin, Kwara State eventually declared him the winner of the April 2007 governorship poll in Ekiti State, I congratulated him on his Facebook page.
However, if truly Fayemi performed creditably as he and his lieutenants avowed on the Sunrise programme of last Saturday, then I want to congratulate the people of Ekiti State on their choice of the quintessential development worker. I also want to congratulate the governor for being a worthy ambassador of my constituency, the civil society. In the first one hour of the programme when the presenters grilled the governor on his performance in office, he eloquently rolled out his numerous achievements in various sectors. I am really impressed with the reversal of the dwindling fortunes of Ekiti State, as claimed by the governor, in the education sector through strategic interventions of the state government. According to the governor, his administration refurbished all the secondary and primary schools in the state, and abolished all “miracle centres” where mercenaries are hired to sit for examinations for those who could afford to pay. His administration, he also said, also declared free education in all secondary schools to complement the Federal Government’s free primary education policy. According to the governor, when he came to power in 2010, Ekiti State was recording about 20 per cent success rate in the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations, by 2013, the state has achieved about 80 per cent success rate. His administration’s merger of the three universities in the state which he referred to as glorified secondary schools into one has also yielded positive result as all the courses being offered by the state’s university are fully accredited by the National University Commission.
On the health sector, he said the state which has 16 local government areas has 22 General Hospitals with some communities that have a small population having Primary Health Centres.   Many of these hospitals are said to have been refurbished while others are currently undergoing renovations. Health services are said to be free for certain categories of citizens such as children from 0 – 5 years, pregnant women, persons with disabilities and adults that are 65 years and above. Fayemi also said his government introduced social security scheme where the indigent citizens, 65 years and above are being paid N5, 000 monthly for their upkeep. About 20,000 senior citizens are said to be currently benefiting under the scheme. The Ekiti State roads are said to have also received prime attention under Fayemi’s administration with some youths also having been engaged under the Ekiti State Traffic Management Agency.
It is instructive to note that it was not only the governor who was interviewed on the TV programme last Saturday; his finance, agriculture, tourism and environment commissioners as well as the Special Adviser on Millennium Development Goals also shed light on their ministries’ contributions to good governance in the Land of Honour. I am thrilled about the transformation of Ikogosi Warm Spring from a derelict monument to an international tourist centre. According to the Commissioner for Tourism, Mrs. Ronke Okusanya, the Warm Spring recorded over 40,000 guests between the Christmas and New Year Day. She spoke of the administration’s plan to build an helipad in the second phase of the development of the Ikogosi tourist centre, the ecotourism plan of her ministry, the Arinta Waterfall in Ipole Iloro, the various heritage sites such as Olosunta Caves in Ikere-Ekiti, the Ogun-Onire Grove in Ire-Ekiti, the Ero and Egbe Dams, the Okutagbokutaleri heritage site, the Ekiti Cultural Festivals among others.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on MDG described what is happening in Fayemi’s administration as Transformation 360 Degree. She spoke glowingly about the attainment of 30 per cent affirmative action by the administration, the passage of Equal Opportunity Bill and Gender Equality Bill, the achievement of the two out of the eight MDG goals, and the youth empowerment scheme of the Ekiti State government.  The finance commissioner informed the viewing public about the monthly allocation of the state which is put at about N3bn; the restructuring of the huge debt met when the current administration came to office in 2010 which was renegotiated from 22.5 per cent interest rate to about 13 per cent interest rate; the N20bn bond taken by the state and the efforts to ensure prudent use of resources by the government as well as the close monitoring of projects. The agriculture commissioner also shared his ministry’s success story in rice and cassava cultivation among other achievements.
Two of the 16 cultural ambassadors appointed by the state government also featured on the programme. They are Prof. Ojo Bakare, a renowned culture administrator and performing artist and the veteran septuagenarian actor, producer, and director, Chief Jimoh Aliu, MFR, popularly known as Aworo in the Yoruba theatre genre.   The 78-year-old recounted how he started his drama troupe in 1954 as well as his service in the military. I was spellbound to note that the man, who claimed to only have a six-month stint in formal school, could speak good English.
It was not all about physical infrastructure that Fayemi should be commended, more important to me is his seeming accountable and transparent administration as well as the premium placed on maintenance of peace in the state. According to him, the state has moved from its notorious “one week, one trouble” status to an ambience of peace and tranquility. As attested to by Bakare, no one dared go out after 7pm before Fayemi came to power, but now, people have, once again, embraced night life as they go about their lawful business even at odd hours of the night. This peaceful atmosphere has helped to further attract tourists and investments to the state.
Be that as it may, I still have my worries as the Independent National Electoral Commission plans to hold governorship election in the state by June this year. Political temperature is already rising in the state as there were reports of harassment of political opponents. Though the political and religious leaders as well as the state Commissioner of Police who also featured on the programme said they were all committed to peace and were mapping out strategies to promote law and order in the state, I do hope the political gladiators will sincerely allow peace to reign before, during and even after the forthcoming governorship election. I am disappointed that the opposition parties reportedly snubbed the chance to come on the programme. That would have afforded the viewing public an opportunity to know if Fayemi’s achievements in office were being exaggerated. According to the governor, those who would probably deny his performance are the tiny minority who are advocating for the infrastructure of the stomach. You decode what that means.