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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Ekiti, not yet Uhuru – By Segun Dipe



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“Expectations were like fine pottery. The harder you held them, the more likely they were to crack.” – Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings
The Fayemi-Oyebanji continuity of governance in Ekiti is a change of sort. Change in the sense that never in the democratic history of Ekiti had it happened that a party would produce two succeeding governors back to back. In other words, the only transition known to the seat of government in the State is for one party to take over from another after the mandatory four years, hook, crook or straight.
Of course, with a new government comes a new set of expectations. Yes, the citizens have the right to hope that the administration of Governor Biodun Abayomi Oyebanji, BAO, will be an improvement on that of his predecessor, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, JKF. They have their necessities and they have their wants. Their necessities are few but their wants are endless. They expect policy shift and a total overhaul, without minding how.
Expectations are rife. Even when the people build their expectations on a particular government, they are saying that it should act in a particular way, their own way, or no other way. The trouble with such expectation however is that it is without consideration for where the new administration takes its course. Most people don’t just expect good things to happen, but they nurse exact outcomes. They are unmindful of the fact that the change produced by the JKF-BAO transition is that of continuity and not a turn around. The people want stability, no doubt, but at the same time, they want to see Oyebanji making a 360-degree turnaround from the path laid by his predecessor and start doing things entirely differently.
Uhuru is a Swahili term meaning freedom or independence. Uhuru is often used to describe the freedom of a country/State to govern itself. What Ekiti craves is an Ekiti Uhuru.
Ekiti of today has been blessed with an Oyebanji who understands its yesterday to be able to reshape its today for its tomorrow. Oyebanji is nobody’s lackey. He has a mind of his own and ready to take responsibility for his action. But perish the thought that as a system person, he would not maintain and sustain the legacy he met, even if he wishes to rebrand for his own footprint.
But how much of economic uhuru does the State have or require? In his Six-Point Development Agenda, Oyebanji promised to focus on youth development and job creation, human capital development, agricultural and rural development, infrastructure and industrialisation.
Speaking on his developmental plan, the governor said he would create an enterprise development fund that will provide capital for startups and encourage youths to engage in legitimate businesses and vocations.
Good as all these may sound and reliable as they appear, capable of leading to new initiatives, major policy shift should not be expected. It is not yet known whether Oyebanji would streamline or enlarge his appointments, but what should not be expected is a total overhaul. Oyebanji will want to continue with what works and discard what doesn’t. That is the change in continuity, which should be expected, but which was hitherto unknown to the Ekiti baton exchange of old.
The people must also measure the performance of Oyebanji by what works and not what doesn’t. He would need to stretch himself without doubt. They must understand that the start and end of everything is the economy. There cannot be any successful reform if there is no strong economy. And this is the litmus test for the new and succeeding governments.
The economy of Ekiti has not been competitive. The State is one of those that receive the least amount from the federal purse. Currently, based on recent disbursement from the federal government, the state receives N4bn or less monthly. This figure is a result of the resources and amount of income the state remits to the federal purse. The reason is not farfetched. Ekiti State is neither an oil-producing area nor has giant companies that remit huge amount of money to the federal government coffers, unlike other states like Lagos and Rivers.
By default, Ekiti faces developmental challenges and capacity constraints as a small state. Even when its government aspires to higher standard of living for the people, it must struggle with the limited material and human resources. Its size and Gross Domestic Product are relatively small and can easily pin the State down. Going by ranking, Ekiti is the least favoured among the Southwestern states. Its GDP stood at $3.6 Billion with per capita of $1.133m and a labour force of 1.4m.
For the uninitiated, GDP is a key tool to guide policymakers, investors, and businesses in strategic decision-making. It functions as a comprehensive scorecard of a given state/country’s economic health being the total monetary or market value of all the finished goods and services produced within a border in a specific time period, providing an economic snapshot of a country or state, used to estimate the size of an economy and its growth rate.
According to ex-Gov Fayemi, Ekiti will need $50bn to shore up its fortune through the implementation of a new economic master plan. This will surely require an outside-the-box thinking to meet. It will require a new strategy for tackling unemployment and improving productivity toward prosperity, to achieve an improved quality of life for the citizenry, enhance coordination of government activities, sector planning, budgeting and performance review processing. So the experts say.
Oyebanji is determined to run this course, but he is not a magician who can conjure sudden economic transition. It is vitally important that both the existing projects as well as new ones must benefit from any policy shift that will happen. The success of the plan, therefore, would depend largely on discipline in implementation, discipline in finance, discipline in monitoring and evaluation. This is where the governor needs the understanding of his people.
Fayemi, whose administration came up with the new the economic masterplan has assured that it would also provide state leadership and successive administrations with detailed direction of its productivity, competitiveness, vision and strategy required for implementing and economic and social investment.
With a GDP ranking No. 34 in the country and the least in the Southwest, the hurdle is high, though surmountable. It must be crossed with patience, trust and understanding of all. Not with the belief that if it’s not one way, then it cannot be the other. Once there is transparency and good communication of intention, then every stakeholder must opt to be on the same page.
The Nigerian economy has not been performing lately. It has been experiencing a sluggish growth attributed to many reasons that are not the subject of this write-up.
Put this against the fact that Ekiti is one of the smallest states of Nigeria. It is landlocked, it is the 31st largest in area and 30th most populous with an estimated population of nearly 3.3 million as at the last count
In terms of Human Development Index, it ranks a joint 13th with Cross River and Osun. (HDI) is a statistic composite index of life expectancy, education (mean years of schooling completed and expected years of schooling upon entering the education system), and per capita income indicators, which is used to rank countries into four tiers of human development.
But, nay, this is not scary, neither is it an opportunity for excuses. Rather, it calls for the understanding of the people and the expectation must be relatively realistic. Comparing Ekiti growth with that of an economically buoyant State is a tall order and setting the government up for failure. The growth to expect must be progressively Ekiticentric. Only then can the State slowly but steadily attain its Eldorado.

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