By Raymond Eyo
“Will “JKF” bring a “new frontier” to Nigeria? Only time will tell, but there is no price to put on aspiration, is there?”
– Cameron Duodu
On June 21, the people of Ekiti State will go to the polls to elect their next governor. The incumbent, Kayode Fayemi, is deservingly seeking a second term and pragmatically letting his productive stewardship in the last four years speak for him. There are many reasons why Fayemi, and not his opponents, is the preferred candidate for the job. One of such reasons, and my preoccupation in this treatise, is that re-electing Fayemi won’t only be good for Ekiti State but definitely for Nigeria, as well.
The people and denizens of Ekiti should be proud of Governor Kayode Fayemi. More than being their performing governor, he is also a role model for the rest of Nigeria! Fayemi is not only an Ekiti phenomenon. He is, more importantly, a great Nigerian reference on good leadership and effective governance. In re-electing Kayode Fayemi, therefore, Ekiti State won’t only secure its own good but also give Nigeria, as a whole, the opportunity to learn even more from him.
In a January 8, 2013 op-ed in New African magazine, eminent and widely travelled Ghanaian journalist, Cameron Duodu, observes that, “‘Wonderful’ things are happening in Ekiti State in Nigeria, thanks to the foresight of the hard-working state governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi.” He added, “Ekiti does not produce oil, and the resources it gets from the Nigerian “federal” budget are relatively negligible. But the leadership in the state is so enlightened that it decided not to wait despondently for resources that would never come from the centre, in order to meet the pressing needs of its people (good-running water, motorable and safe roads, a steady supply of electricity, quality education, and so on). So the Ekiti leadership went to the capital market, inside Nigeria, to float bonds. Because the market saw that the Ekiti leadership was focused on projects that would produce returns that would enable the state to service its debts, the bonds were over-subscribed. Hence today, Ekiti has embarked on an ambitious eight-point development programme that will transform the lives of its people, as a first step to further development that will propel Ekiti into economic takeoff.”
As hinted above, Governor Fayemi’s first term has been a lesson on how to creatively bring about development, even with meagre resources. Despite a paltry monthly ₦2bn from the federal purse, and despite inheriting a monthly internally generated revenue (IGR) profile of a measly ₦105m, Fayemi has been able to accomplish many developmental feats and commissioned many sustainable projects that have significantly turned Ekiti State around for good. He has, in fact, raised Ekiti State’s IGR to above ₦600m at the moment. This is so instructive, especially in the context of an emerging post-oil Nigeria where taxation, described by former FCT Minister, Nasir El-Rufai, as “potentially Nigeria’s largest source of revenues,” will have to become a major source of government revenue.
The Fayemi phenomenon is also important for Nigeria, going forward, because he has not only domesticated the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act but has equally ensured a governance framework that guarantees that any quester will obtain a response. With a re-elected Fayemi administration in the next four years, this will certainly be taken as leverage by advocates for similar levels of FoI implementation by other states and the federal government. It was this fact that prompted the budget transparency entity, BudgIT (@BudgITng) to tweet on April 13 that, “Dear @KFayemi, please encourage your fellow governors, most especially @TundeFashola (of Lagos State) to respect FoI requests as pronounced by judges.” Matter-of-factly, Fayemi’s example should even constitute a blueprint on how to effectively implement the FoI Act.
In addition, as a visionary and a pragmatic person, Fayemi is Nigeria’s first public office holder to broadly incorporate social media in his governance and communication strategy. It is in testimony of this that he held a comprehensive parley, the first of its kind in Nigeria, codenamed #JKFeedback, with some members of Nigeria’s social media community in February. This is very important because social media has become a major tool for popular participation and feedback that modern governments must embrace and utilise diligently.
Again, whereas others like President Goodluck Jonathan don’t give a damn about publicly declaring their assets as required by law, Fayemi didn’t hesitate to declare his assets when he became Governor. He is noted to be transparent and accountable as could be inferred from the no-holds barred question-and-answer session which he subjected himself to, in the course of #JKFeedback.
Furthermore, Fayemi is Nigeria’s first governor and West Africa’s first leader to implement a social security scheme. The initiative, which sees his government pay the vulnerable among those aged 65 and above a monthly stipend of ₦5,000 each, per month, with over 25,000 people benefitting so far, has been acclaimed by the World Bank and adopted as a model in at least 4 other Nigerian states. Whilst giving money to the poor and vulnerable doesn’t necessarily guarantee the alleviation of deep-seated poverty, Fayemi’s scheme shows that, in a country like Nigeria, such sums could very well be life-saving.
When commentator and publisher, Dele Momodu, wrote, in his March 15 THISDAY newspaper column, that “It would be uncharitable not to salute the modest efforts of some of the wiz kids who form the nucleus of the opposition All Progressive’ Congress today even if they are not perfect. Collectively they are likely to push Nigeria forward”, he was clearly was referring to the likes of Governor Kayode Fayemi!
In his aforementioned commentary, Cameron Duodu also asserted that “Fayemi is going about the business of developing Ekiti with vigour and enthusiasm… Having served only one year of his four-year term, Fayemi was already being recognised as “Governor of the Year 2011”. His eight-point plan for developing Ekiti, if fully implemented, will propel him to the rank of one of the best ever leaders Nigeria has ever had, at whatever level of government one wishes to consider.”
And that’s the bottom line: re-electing Fayemi will give him a chance to carry on with the exceptional work he is doing in Ekiti State and give Nigeria a chance to complete the making of one of its best ever leaders! Surely, I imagine, with Fayemi only 49 now, by 2019, after what should have been his second term, it would be perfectly in line for him to ascend to a higher, national office that a national asset like him obviously deserves.
– Follow this writer on Twitter: @Raymond_Eyo