By Sunday A. Aniyi
IT is three years since Dr. John Kayode Fayemi was sworn-in for the second term of office after an interregnum of four years. When he came on board on October 16, 2018, the state was in a state of total despair and despondence.
Policies and programmes of government were non-existent as the then administration had elevated theatrics, deceit and demagoguery to an industrial complex level, while schools, hospitals, infrastructure and other critical function of government were in total ruins. As at that time, government could not meet the least of its obligations to its workers by regularly paying monthly salary and other emoluments.
Public works and maintenance were down the hills. The government before was only able to construct an overhead bridge mainly as a chest-beating project than a priority project for the State. While the overhead bridge itself was not totally without reason, many believed such a project of humongous economic outlay was not the best at a time the state was owing seven months of unpaid salaries and pensions.
So, when JKF assumed office in October 16, 2018, his job was cut out for him. He made a promise to ensure prompt payment of salary and pension to the workers. He has never ceased to fulfill this promise. In spite of the combined effect of COVID-19 and the inevitable global recess that followed, he has evolved different coping mechanisms, including slashing of the salaries of political appointees, to ensure workers were never owed their salaries.
The government has also recruited workers to fill existing vacancies while promotion exercise that had been embargoed before his return has become a routine exercise as and when due.
There is no doubt that the JKF administration has continued to faithfully implement its policies, programmes and projects aimed at achieving the five pillars of administration which clearly addresses the issues around socioeconomic development of the state in a comprehensive and integrated manner.
For example, governance which is the first pillar and the mainframe for governmental functionality, has taken a positive direction since 2018. Consequently, service delivery has received a boost in terms of quick delivery and cost effectiveness.
A clear evidence of how serious the Fayemi administration treats good governance can be seen in the tremendous improvement in transparency and ease of doing business indices which have placed the state among the best in Nigeria. Just recently, the state was adjudged second most transparent state in public procurement and financing.
The state has also soared high in the Disbursement Linked Indicators mileage of the World Bank/FGN backed State Fiscal Transparency Accountability Sustainability, SFTAS, scheme aimed at improving probity, accountability and transparency in public expenditure.
It is no wonder that in spite of very lean revenue accruable to the state, it has continued to be a frontline state in school enrolment, public health coverage, social security, gender equality, ease of doing business and social amenities. Ekiti has the highest life expectancy in Nigeria, lowest out-of-school children and best social investment strategy.
Things were never like this, in fact, they were in the inverted order before the advent of JKF 2.0. Similarly, the administration has done well in infrastructure development with the completion of a number of critical roads such as Oye-Iye-Otun road, Aromoko-Erinjiyan-Ikogosi, Agbado-Ode-Isinbode-Omuo, New Ado-Iyin, Ilawe –Igbaraoke and Ilupeju-Ire-Igbemo-Ijan.
The government has also started work on the rehabilitation of Ado-Ifaki road and Ikole township road rehabilitation. The administration is also in the process of awarding the contract for the massive rehabilitation of Ado-Ekiti metropolitan roads after the current raining season.
The government has delivered on the Oja Oba Market at Erekesan, it has completed the magnificent Ekiti Civic and Convention Center which is a multipurpose structure housing shopping malls, cultural center, cinemas, amphitheater, library, museums, halls and others.
It is arguably the single biggest state-own infrastructure in the whole of south west Nigeria and one of first five of such buildings in Nigeria. The maiden edition of Fountain Economic and Development Summit presided over by the Vice President, Professor YemiOsinbajo took place in the architecture awe on October 14, 2021.
The government has also delivered the biggest water corporation headquarters in Nigeria and undertaken a total overhauling of three major water dams in Ero, Egbe and Ujere with installation of power sources, main pipes and reticulation of hundreds kilometres of pipes to towns and villages in about ten local government of the state.
In education in fulfilment of the overall goal policy of the government to develop manpower needs in agriculture, science and technology, the administration has established the College of Agriculture and Technology, Isan-Ekiti and BamideleOlumilua University of Education, Science and Technology, Ikere-Ekiti. The technical colleges which were hitherto in coma have now been brought back to life with enrolment in technical colleges on the increase.
In an effort to expand access to secondary education, especially in furtherance of the increase in enrolment in public primary schools because of the improvement and incentives to the pupils through school feeding programme, government has built five new model colleges and has started another set of three model colleges across the three senatorial zones. Over 900 blocks of classroom have been rehabilitated with toilet, water and fencing facilities, just as all schools in Ekiti have been supplied with furniture and instructional material.
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The health sector of the state has received tremendous boost with rehabilitation of many primary health facilities across the state. The General Hospitals are also undergoing massive rehabilitation across the local government. The state’s tertiary health facility, Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital has witnessed phenomenal growth in terms of expansion and building of structures to host the different departments of the hospital.
More importantly, the administration saw to the full accreditation of the institution which led to the graduation and induction of the first set of the students of the institution after a decade of studentship.
In spite of this obvious turn around in the life of the state, poverty remains a great concern as the economic space of the state remains choky and narrow to the public sector. The private sector operation in the state is very low and thus, revenue generation capacity has not taken a positive leap in spite of the best efforts.
The underlying factor being absence of industrial operators that can cause real growth in employment and tax revenue that can support the infrastructural needs of the state in a sustainable manner. To correct this inadequacy, the Fayemi administration has laid a foundation on how to turn around the situation within a decade.
Fayemi’s future economic plan for Ekiti: In terms of the big ideas to reposition the state as one of the most viable and economically self-sustaining states, the Fayemi administration has begun what is clearly an audacious journey to prosperity. For many, this revolutionary move to put the state on the map of economically viable states remains incomprehensible but for Fayemi, there are great opportunities in our state and these are being deliberately triggered to engineer an Ekiti that is noted for something unique.
A strategy to create an economic dynamo in the next decade is already ongoing. The strategy is anchored on the areas of economic advantage as an agrarian community of mainly subsistent farmers. To create prosperity in agriculture, the government has created an agric-processing zone in the northern senatorial district of the state.
Even though the whole of the state is considered a blooming field for agricultural prosperity where food and economic crops can be grown, certain places have been designated as processing zone for the purpose of economies of scale to benefit co-localisation of industries. In these cluster zones, massive agricultural processing industries are already springing up, just as small holder millionaire planters are emerging.
To ensure that the products from the farms and industries do not suffer the challenge of transportation to the market, especially the international market, the state is already constructing an agric-cargo airport that will be delivered by mid-2022. The vision is to make Ekiti the ultimate destination for vegetable market globally.
The governor wants Ekiti vegetables and other agricultural produce to be in American and European supermarkets early in the morning, daily. Though landlocked, the airport will change the status of the state to an international destination without boundaries.
The airport when delivered will be the first agro allied cargo international airport, first of its kind in Nigeria. The project is envisaged to create an agro-business hub and serve as both a national and international cargo gateway to Nigeria with the ability to attract both cultural and medical tourism.
It will be an international free trade zone so as to serve as an international business destination of choice. Technically, the runway can carry Boeing 747 critical aircraft with 3.6km usable runway (3.2km runway with overrun of 400m). The airport can take the biggest cargo craft and, therefore, will be helpful to our national air defence system.
When completed, the airport will have night navigation system that can make 24 hours landing possible as well as bulk fuel installation for aircraft to stopover to refill while on transit. It will also serve as a major craft maintenance hub that will relive local airline of the humongous cost of maintaining their craft offshore. These are some of the unique offerings of the airport when completed.
Normally, the aviation industry is a dynamic and infectious one, it is, therefore, delightful that many investors in cargo handling, aviation education, aviation medicine, medical tourism, leisure, travel and national defense agencies are already bidding for positioning in the airport location.
So, the airport is not just an agro-business enabler for Ekiti, it is a multi-sectoral economy on its own. The second big idea that the Fayemi’s Midas is touching is the Ekiti Knowledge Zone which is aimed at turning the people’s passion for learning to an economy.
The Knowledge Zone is a smart city, an information and communication technology, ICT, hub and an innovation city where content creators, ICT experts, programmers, innovators, soft and hardware engineers can ply their trade. The vision is to make the EKZ a go-to place for all manner of innovative solutions destination.
Of course, this smart city has a lot of intended and unintended backward economic integration benefits in terms new businesses springing up in the knowledge zone. And it is estimated that it would be one of the most significant economic destinations in Nigeria within a decade.
As Fayemi climbs the last ladder of his four year ladder, there is no doubt that he will finish well and strong. The political atmosphere also suggests that the governing party in Ekiti has the capacity to succeed itself, largely based on the performance of the incumbent, better political management and a less rancorous succession politics.
As he is wont to say, governance is an unfinished business but there is an assurance that his avowed discipline and unabated commitment to his plans will ensure that he delivers on his set agenda even before handing over to a successor on October 16, 2022. Happy third anniversary, Mr. Governor.