The Verdict according to Olusegun Adeniyi. Email, email@example.com
Except for the 2010 season when we were away from the country, my family had a tradition of spending Christmas in Kwara State. It was something the children usually looked forward to. But to my surprise last December, they were opposed to the idea because, as they put it, “now that grandma is dead, what are we going to do in Kwara?”
Being the first Christmas without either of my parents, I could understand their point. But following a family negotiation before leaving Abuja, we agreed that aside spending a few days in Ilorin we would also travel to other places of interest. We settled for Ikogosi Warm Spring in Ekiti State, Idanre Hill in Ondo State, and Alpha Beach in Lagos. Incidentally, it was my first time at the much-talked about Ikogosi and while I could see its potentials, I was disappointed by the experience. We nonetheless enjoyed our road trip and it was fun at Idanre Hill, a gift of nature that tells a compelling story of how blessed we are as a nation. Of course, it is also a story of neglect.
Given that memory, I found it hard to understand when on my recent visit to Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi asked me to accompany him to Ikogosi Warm Spring. “There is nothing there for me to see,” I told him bluntly.
“When last were you there?” he asked apparently taken aback by my remark.
“Last December,” I replied.
“Then you need to come with me to the place.”
So to Ikogosi we went and I was pleasantly surprised by the transformation which testifies to Fayemi’s methodical approach to governance.
The governor marked his second year anniversary in office on Tuesday and for a state that is in the 35th position on the revenue table of the Federation Account, I believe that all factors considered he has done very well but let’s go back to Ikogosi.Taken to the famous site in a Coaster bus with the governor and his aides, I almost could not recognize the place I had visited with my family less than ten months ago. It is currently undergoing redevelopment as a pivotal project which, according to Fayemi, is aimed at making the Ikogosi – Efon Alaye corridor a world class conference and holiday destination in the country, with the existing facilities being restored and upgraded to a self-sustaining and income-generating centre. I joined Fayemi as he inspected the state of the work at the specially designed swimming pool (which the warm water would flow into), the kiddies pool, the fountain and the McGee Camp--all interlinked.
When we reached the reception area being constructed with thatched roof, the governor noticed that the language being spoken by the work men was not the local dialect and asked where they were from and they said Cotonou. To this the governor asked the contractor why they could not incorporate local people. The contractor said the job required some special skills. “Then teach our people”, Fayemi dictated. In the presence of many of the young boys from the village who had congregated, the contractor gave a damning indictment: the local boys were not willing to learn. At this point, the governor called all the boys and began to address them on the need to work and that the essence of some of the projects was also for the local populace to learn new skills. As it would happen, many of the Ikogosi women were working on the landscaping at the car park, walkways and gardens and the governor took time to interact with them.
In explaining his vision, Fayemi, who has handed over the management of Ikogosi to a South Africa-based Tourism development firm, Mantis Collection, said that by the time it is completed, there would be a golf course, a housing settlement, water parks, a conference centre, shopping mall, helipad, a games village, a wild life park, a rides’ and amusement park as well as cable car for connection to other points of interest along the tourism corridor. The idea is to take advantage of the natural setting of Ikogosi area for those who want to plan their conferences away from the city and close to nature. Right now, the Information Centre and Control point, Conference Hall and Business Meeting Rooms, Restaurant / Bar, Amphitheatre and a total of 100 rooms (for lodging) are almost ready.
The Ikogosi project exemplifies what Fayemi has been trying to do as he changes the paradigm of governance in Ekiti based on creative thinking, having taken his time to conceive the project before execution. Beyond tourism, however, another area where Fayemi is taking an unfamiliar road is in the cash transfer to the elderly under the Social Security scheme. The scheme, which entitles indigent elderly citizens (65 and above) in the state to a monthly N5, 000 stipend, started on October 1st last year following the passage of the law by the state House of Assembly.With about 20,000 beneficiaries, the governor explained that theidea was to empower senior citizens who have no children to fall back on and who have stayed in Ekiti State for three years. The governor further intimated that a recent enumeration reveals that people within that bracket are about 5 percent of the population.
Fayemi who met a monthly internally generated revenue of N109 million but has been able to push it to about N500 million envisions agriculture as another pivot for reviving the economy of the state through cassava processing and the cocoa industry, while also paying attention to the solid minerals sector. The state capital, Ado Ekiti is wearing a new look with massive road construction works going on but to achieve this, he had to go to the capital market to raise the initial funds with which he started the road projects which includes an annual construction of five kilometre road in each local government.
On education, Fayemi on assumption of office merged the three universities into one, following a meeting with Ekiti stakeholders. He also invested in vocational and technical education, to drive artisan skills and support services. Due partly also to the efforts of his predecessors, Ekiti has the highest lifespan in the country, lowest HIV prevalence and lowest maternal mortality rates. It is only second to Ondo in Polio eradication. Notwithstanding these positives, Fayemi said there is a new trend in the state: lifestyle diseases like cancer, hypertension and diabetes are on the rise. He said some medical experts who are indigenes of the state are working with the state government to tackle this new challenge.
All said, I cannot claim to know all that is going on in Ekiti on the basis of a visit lasting no more than a few hours. For sure, issues will be raised about some of Fayemi’s ideas, especially with regards to the social security scheme which could become unduly politicized (or another slush fund) and there may be those who would query his tourism project. But given my long interactions with the governor and the little I saw, I left the state convinced that the people are in very safe hands and that by the time his tenure is done, Fayemi would leave Ekiti in far better shape than he met it.
Where Shema Gets it Wrong
Sometime around the end of May, I was at a football-related meeting where former Nigerian Football Association (NFA) Chairman and erstwhile military administrator of Borno State, Col Abdulmumini Aminu was present. Knowing he hails from Katsina, (a state I now consider second home), I asked him about current developments and he started to complain about the person of Governor Ibrahim Shema. I was therefore surprised when about three hours after our meeting Col Aminu called me to say, “Segun, I have just read THISDAY assessment of Governors and I can tell you that you people are wrong to rate Shema as an average governor. I have issues with the guy but I will be fair to him: he is one of the best governors we have around. Given his limited resources, he has done far more than most of the noisemakers being hailed by you people in the media.”
Given my association with Col Aminu since 2009, I know him to be a brutally blunt man so for him to acknowledge Shema, the Governor indeed must be working. I was therefore not surprised when a few days ago, former civilian governors and military administrators who ruled Katsina State at various times, said Shema has done far more than he is being credited for.Speaking separately at a dinner organised to mark the 25th anniversary of Katsina State, the former governors took turns to highlight Shema’s achievements. Colonel John Yahaya Madaki (rtd), one of the military administrators who governed the state, said: “what is on ground in Katsina reflects development as it is in the civilised world” adding that “Shema has performed more than all the governors who ruled Katsina put together.”
Madaki and others expressed delight that despite the lean resources of the state, Shema could still put up solid structures without borrowing money either from within or outside the country. Part of the projects the dignitaries inspected were the Maternity and Children Hospital, Barhin Housing Estate, Katsina Craft Village, Umar Musa Yar’Adua University, Katsina 250-bed orthopaedic hospital, new Government House as well as Katsina Stadium and a windmill project capable of generating 30 megawatts of electricity, both under construction.
But Madaki noted the problem of Shema who, like his predecessor, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, “was never bothered about media perception of him and his government”. This is the challenge with the Katsina State Governor, who has failed to appreciate the critical role of the media in a democracy. I know about the adversarial relationship between politicians and the media but the lesson Shema has consistently failed to learn is that media helps to shape public perception which then makes it an important tool for public administration and mass mobilization. Like Fayemi, Shema is focused and has his priorities right. But it also will not hurt for him to engage the media more.
Kofi Annan Hits Back
Mr Kofi Annan had a very eventful and sometimes turbulent stewardship as United Nations Secretary General but through it all, he held himself with dignity. Now that he is out of office, Annan has decided to hit back at some of the people who made his job very difficult. Two such persons whose duplicity he exposed in his just released memoir are former United States President George Bush and his British counterpart, Prime Minister Tony Blair. Annan’s book titled, “Intervention: A Life in War and Peace”, is a very insightful and must-read treatise for people who desire a better understanding of our current world.
Eugenia Abu @ 50
Broadcast journalist, prolific writer, and member of THISDAY editorial board, Mrs. Eugenia Abu is 50. To mark the occasion, a four-day photo exhibition started last night at FCT Archives behind her NTA office in Abuja while tomorrow morning at Yar’Adua Centre, there will be a public lecture with the theme, “Being the best you can be”. Congratulations, my sister.