I have just had cause to visit Ekiti State. Over a period of two weeks, I traversed the length and breadth of the State, a place I first visited about three decade ago (when it was still a part of the then larger Ondo State,) and whose pristine ambience enthralled me profoundly, reminding me of the Kukuruku hills which envelope my native land a short distance East-wards.
Prior to 1981, Ekiti land and its people did not feature prominently in my mind even though with the benefit of hindsight, they were a significant factor in my life with special regard to my educational development. At various stages of my growth and educational development, teachers of Yoruba extraction taught me; ditto Indians, Pakistanis Ceylonese (later called Sri Lankans) and a sprinkling of other groups as persons. I was never minded to delineate nor brood upon the details of their ethnic personae.
However, things changed in 1981 when my Uncle's neighbor in Lagos gave me a ride from Lagos to Ogbomosho en route Ilorin, on my way back to base in Kwara State during my Youth Corps Service year. Somewhere between Fiditi and Oyo town, in the middle of sociable blabbering, out popped the question: 'so, young man, now that you are on the verge of completing your service year, what plans do you have in mind for the future?" My reply was swift and non-hesitant; “I wish to return to the university and continue my studies Sir.” To this simple, direct commitment to the pursuit of academic goals came the explosion, 'I hope you are not aiming to be like Ekiti people; they read endlessly!" My tame reply was” No Sir”. Brief as this courteous verbal exchange was, my curiosity about these “Ekiti people” was aroused.
Over the course of the rest of my service year, I traversed Ekiti –land; exploring it and its people from every entry and exit point known then and still existing now. I was struck by its topography, its surreal ruraless, the stoicity of its people and their hospitality towards all as well as animosity towards none. At the end of my service year, I went back to the university, for further studies. In the course of that endeavor, I was lectured, tutorial-ed and professor-ed by so many academics of Ekiti origin that I almost became dizzy with knowledge. Amazingly, it was not uncommon to find two or three Professors in different spheres of academic endeavor in one university, who are siblings.
Paradoxically however, apart from the College of Education at Ikere Ekiti and the Federal Polytechnic in Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti land had no tertiary institution and could actually boast of very few primary and secondary schools at that time. Because I made several friends along the line amongst the Ekitis, I became a common sight in places like Ado, Iworoko, Ifaki, Otun, Ushi, Ijero, Aramoko, Igede, Iyin, Oye , Omuo and several others and in the process, learnt to respond "okun o" whenever I heard 'okun awe'! Everywhere one went, there was this (now) suffocating ruralness and stagnation of economic development. I wondered: how could a land so fecund and lush as well as abundantly blessed with talented and high caliber human resources be so pitiably underdeveloped?
Upon my return from a period of sojourn outside the shores of this country, I made out time two years ago to see my friends in Ekiti Land. I was amazed at the development strides that had been made and many more plans at implementation stages hither and thither in the state. Subsequently, I have visited Ekiti State bi-annually and one cannot help but be wowed by the chutzpah, the uncommon confidence that must have informed the bold endeavors that produced these formidable results. I later discovered that these achievements were to a large extent, attained because for the first time since its creation, Ekiti State had not only retraced its progressive roots, it was having an internationally acclaimed, well-learned professional and highly qualified person as its Executive Governor.
A few month ago when it came to my notice that the governorship seat was open for another election, my naïve technocratic mind presumed that the sitting and obviously performing governor was a logical shoo-in. At the end of the elections, irony of ironies, a previous occupant of the office, who did not in any way impact positively on the social-economic and political well-being of the state and had actually led the state to the precipice of multi-pronged disaster in consequence of which he was disgracefully booted out of office, had gotten the peoples' mandate to remount the saddle! Perhaps, this time to tip them over the cliff?
In a bid to understand this politically incongrous situation and its enabling socio-economic environment, I sought and rubbed minds with members of the public (in a peoples parliament setting,) and the political elite, during this my last visit. My enquiries revealed that the election result did not reflect the peoples' preference of past performance failure over present stellar achievement; rather, it evidenced an electorate's reaction to a fundamental disconnect between the ruling party, the government elected on its platform and the citizens who are the beneficiaries of the government's programmes but had been emasculated by the party’s politics. Put in simple terms, it appears that the party apparitcihika has effectively interposed itself between the government and the electorate. Given a combination of a technocratic, aloof government and a very small band of party leaders who had in this manner successfully insulated the electorate from the government they had worked so hard to put in office, the inevitable consequence was an electorate that could not identify with the Government (because even though it was apparently “performing” the electorate was not being carried along,) nor with the Party (because even though it was in Government, it was not with the people thus leading to a state of affairs where the people felt used, abused and dumped by their party functionaries) and, to make matters worse, the technocratically savvy but apparently politically naïve government could not understand what the hullaballoo was all about even while it was working so hard to satisfy every stakeholder. Briefly put, some persons for their own selfish material, financial and allied benefits, placed a wedge between government and the people. This was easily achieved because of absence of sagacity in government and presence of ruthlessness and calloueness at the top echelon of party leadership in Ekiti State.
My findings revel that culpability for these state of affairs lie squarely with Dr. Kayode Fayemi and Chief Jide Awe, current (but out-going) Executive Governor , and Ekiti State Chairman of the APC respectively. In this regard, sources have strongly asserted that even if the Electoral Tribunal rules in favour of the APC and the Appeal Court upholds its judgement, except there is a radical re-jigging of the combination of the above-named functionaries, the calamity that has befallen the APC in Ekiti State will be difficult to ameliorate. This shuffling assumes greater importance when due cognisance is taken of the fact that given Governor-elect, Ayo Fayose’s proclivity for prancing and posturing at the expense of rational attention to the gruelling demands of good governance, ( he recently stated in a media interview that he will probe Fayemi's government; lay off all new employees into the civil service and will not fund the LCDAs which were lawfully established after a State-wide referendum,) his second coming may not last as long as his first and his ejection from office this time around will be swift and ignominious.
The outcome of my interactions with different segments of stakeholders suggests that whereas the pair of Dr. Kayode Fayemi and Jide Awe are negative political baggages to the APC in their present constructs, they are not entirely useless to the Party. Additionally, whereas Dr. Kayode Fayemi has failed in the political dimensions of governance, he is still a well-respected technocrat; on the other hand, apart from the self-evident truth that Jide Awe has led the party down the ravine of political fortune, it is also apparent that Jide is jaded and jejune for now. Consequently, less taxing but equally relevant roles can be found for this pair outside their current pinnacles, in the interest of the party and the people of Ekiti State. However, there is a “caveat emptor” here: in trying out this recommendation (if found useful by the topmost hierarchy of the APC,) due cognizance must be taken of the following:
The zoning formula with regard to political and electoral offices must be retained; however, the time has come for the Chairmanship position of the State to shift from Ekiti Central to Ekiti South Senatorial District
A fundamental cause of the current state of affairs in the Ekiti State APC, as noted earlier, is that the Party is now out of touch with the people. My findings reveal that the people, even before the inauguration of Ayo Fayose into office, are already regretting voting for him and apprehensive of four years under his rule. The solution to this debacle is for the APC in Ekiti State to identify with the people who form its base. How to do so? Ensure that only genuinely home-based and acceptable grass-roots politicians take over at its forthcoming state congress.The final stroke in solving the jinx in APC is to find an acceptable home based politician to groom and sponsor for governship position so that governance, economic prosperity and social re-awakening may be domesticated in Ekiti land. Jide Awe, having spent close to eight years in office without a straight win in any election; who has bred and led a Party Exco little involved in appointing people into governance; Chairmaned an Exco which largely sidelined and sidetracked the members of the Party and ended up with a party well-loved but little cultivated by him, his team and the executive arm, is fatigued, fumbling as well as clueless and must give way for others who will grow, groom, expand and empower the Party to greater heights. He seems to have outstayed his competence as a party chairman, he should be given another assignment where his expertise will demonstrate upward productivity and fruitfulness. APC has to be given all chances of growth that the progressives expect in Ekiti State. Ekiti people are predominantly and innately comfortable with the progressives, the Awoist Camp, their age-long political cynosure.
It is my carefully considered view that the above, if taken into consideration, will ensure a swift turnaround of fortune for the APC in Ekiti State.
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