Bisi with her husband, Fayemi and Sule at the award ceremony ...the stage is set for 2014
For 42 months, Governor John Olukayode Fayemi of Ekiti State battled to retrieve his ‘stolen’ mandate after the flawed 2007 general election in which Mr. Segun Oni of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was declared winner. But in two years of assuming office, Fayemi has taken steps to justify his mandate, leading to his garnering accolades, writes Olawale Olaleye
The Ladi Kwali hall of the Sheraton Hotel, Abuja, the nation’s capital, was bursting at the seams with dignitaries. Perhaps, the Leadership Newspapers, organisers of the event to honour some eminent Nigerians, had underestimated the turnout at this year’s annual conference and awards ceremony. The honourees and their supporters defied the oppressive heat as they waited to witness the climax of the event—the presentation of the awards to the recipients.
Particularly noteworthy was the quality of the crowd the Leadership Newspapers had assembled. That alone, did not just demonstrate class and significance of the event; it underpinned the anxiety that has begun to envelope the socio-political space, given the inter-play of interests and their threatening indices. The award ceremony also held side by side with the company’s annual conference with the theme: ‘Is the Opposition a Serious Alternative in Nigeria.’
The impressive gathering include former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who chaired the occasion, Danmasanin Kano, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule; Speaker, House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal; Alhaji Ishiaku Ibrahim, former Minister of Defence, Lt-Gen. Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma; former Lagos State Governor, Senator Bola Tinubu; Governors Danbaba Suntai and Kashim Shettima of Taraba and Borno States respectively as well as Osun State Deputy Governor, Mrs. Titilayo Tomori-Olaoye. Others were wife of Ekiti State Governor, Mrs. Bisi Fayemi, National Chairman, Action Congress of Nigeria(ACN), Chief Bisi Akande; former Minister of Information, Professor Jerry Gana and Hon. Farouk Lawan.
Chairman of Leadership Group, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, justified the choice topic for this year’s conference in his welcome address when he said: “It is not enough for the opposition in Nigeria to continue to complain of being rigged out. The problem of the opposition here is lack of unity. No interest group ever achieves anything, anywhere without unity. The opposition cannot behave the same way as the ruling party and expect to be considered an alternative. I am sure this discussion will continue even in the ruling party.”
But Atiku understood the game better. He has been around for too long and that experience, he brought to play when he eventually set the stage for what later turned out a major debate for the conference. In his address entitled: “Thoughts on the Structure of Nigeria”, the former VP lit up the hall and left the atmosphere charged while the conference lasted.
Although, Shettima in his keynote address further elucidated on the irony of the Nigerian situation and suggested options on the way forward, the guest speaker, Professor Pat Utomi, adopted Atiku’s address as the fulcrum of his speech. The interactive session that followed merely dissected the variables and harped on the need for a united opposition as a way forward. With that, political affiliations notwithstanding, the conference session closed consensually.
And then, the awards segment began. The ceremony, which witnessed the presentation of various categories of awards, culminated in what was generally tagged the star award by the organisers. This was the Governor of the Year award given to Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. John Olukayode Fayemi.
The announcement of his name as winner of the award aroused passion in the crowd. The cheering that followed was dramatic. Supporters of the governor who were clad in traditional attires and sang intermittently in their dialect to celebrate their hero kept on interrupting proceedings with their chants. Their conduct turned the atmosphere into a political carnival as they drummed up support for a second term ticket for Fayemi, who is about to reach the midway into his first term in office.
The newspaper noted that because of Fayemi’s free education, massive intervention in agriculture, and an intellectual disposition towards governance, he is steadily changing the face of governance in his state. In just a year in office, the newspaper believes Fayemi had demonstrated, in a turf where good governance had taken flight, that social re-engineering and a development-oriented government is feasible.
Thus, upon assuming office, Fayemi devised an eight-point agenda as a form of his contract with the people. His manifesto includes education, solid agriculture base, healthcare, industrialisation, tourism a framework for women empowerment and infrastructural development.
Aside his frugal financial management of state resources, Fayemi is believed to have also leveraged on the expertise and competence of development partners like the World Bank, DFID, USAID and United Nations Development Programme, all of which have returned to the state and are actively supporting the ongoing change in the land of honour.
For instance, since Fayemi took over the reins of power about two years ago, the administration has taken some bold policy actions tailored towards change. These are not limited to free and quality health care services for people living in the urban areas, but for every indigene, including those living in the remotest parts of the state. The government has also commenced its social security scheme for the aged in the 16 local government areas of the state.
Not oblivious of the challenge constituted by finance, Fayemi had since raised the state’s internally generated revenue from N100 million to N600 million monthly with plans to raise the IGR to N1 billion monthly soon. That some of his various foreign and local trips have begun to pay off is evident in the conscious efforts to attract investments and industrialise the state.
Of note in the Fayemi development drive is the dedication to education as the flagship of his administration. He has tried to revamp the education sector in a state where folklore has it that every house has produced a professor. Today, under his watch, Ekiti has replicated the Freedom of Information Act, earlier enacted by the Federal Government, thus bringing his administration directly under public scrutiny. “It’s an open door policy,” Fayemi is wont to say.
Unknown to Leadership Newspapers, however, the award has not only kicked off celebration for Fayemi’s second year in office, starting next week, it may have also set the stage for the 2014 governorship election in Ekiti State. Leadership’s celebration of him is a clear message that no matter how hard the opposition try, it would be difficult to unseat the governor in the next election.