Victor Ogunje draws attention to the efforts of Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State to establish the legal framework that will ensure equity and justice for the less privileged in the state
On October 16, 2019, the Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi clocked one year in office in his second term tenure. Though, the 365 days seemed to be more of a rocky foundation- laying era, but there is a ray of hope that the future will be better in Ekiti, if the present glowing passion and commitment to development can be sustained till 2022.
Aside from the euphoria and fanfare generated by the widespread impression that Fayemi had delivered the democracy dividends to the populace in town, most rewarding among his policies, was his quest to reintroduce the middle class in Ekiti’s social stratum to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor.
In any developing nation, the most conspicuous feature of inequality, is this idea of people going to bed with empty stomach. Hunger has been known to be the most prominent indices of poverty and every African country has been sensitized to see the issue of food security and wealth redistribution as potent weapons to tackle the menace. This can only be attainable with good policies in place and the political will to drive it.
Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari, at an economic programme in Abuja took the issue of pervasive inequality in Nigeria to the front burner of national discourse. The President in his humble opinion said over 80 percent of the Nigeria’s wealth was concentrated in the hands of a few from five states of the federation. He said this lopsided economic arrangement accounted for the deeply permeated poverty in the country.
President Buhari didn’t gave such a damning and startling revelation, he solemnly tasked policy formulators to rise to the occasion to ensure redistribution of the country’s commonwealth.
Acting in line with this, governor Fayemi upon his return swiftly established some legal framework in Ekiti, like Equal Opportunities Law and other anti-discriminatory legislation, to provide a leverage for the less privileged, for equity and justice in our society. Today in Ekiti, employment exercise into the public service and others, are not on the basis of political patronage, but on merit.
During his first term, Fayemi created so many policies that represented social investments safety nets that helped in checkmating poverty. Going by statistics, over 40,000 Ekiti productive population and those who could have constituted dependants to those being afflicted by poverty enjoyed this policies and such are being reignited to redirect the economy back to normal track as the governor’s second term starts to operate on full throttle.
Some of these safety nets include; the most venerated flagship policy called social security scheme for the elderly (Owo Arugbo), where poor and economically feeble elderly citizens above 65 years, are to benefit quarterly stipend of N20,000 to palliate their sufferings. Most exhilarating is the fact that a total of 13,813 citizens are already captured to savour the gains of good governance through this lofty policy.
Others include: a security outfit christened Ekiti Peace Corps, where 800 graduates and undergraduate youths are presently earning their living, the Youth in Commercial Agriculture that is radicalising the sector and injecting culture of commercial farming in the system, the Youth Entrepreneurial Programme that will benefit 2,000 youths, the Food Bank Policy called Food for the elderly (Ounje Arugbo), among others. All these were intended to create an egalitarian society and ensure that all the strata of the society get patronage from government.
Flagging off the social security scheme programme, Fayemi said the programme was part of the social investment programmes of his administration targeted at redistributing the wealth of the state and injecting the doctrine of equality in its body polity.
He said his government was not comfortable with the statistics that ascribed 56 percent poverty level to Ekiti, saying his focus is to reduce it to 20 percent before he bows out in 2022. The Governor stated that the policy will be prosecuted in collaboration with the World Bank as arranged during his first term in office.
Having a retrospect of how the scheme took off in 2011 during his first term, the governor lamented how a policy that gulped humongous sum of N100 million monthly and benefitted over 25,000 poor citizens above 65 years could have been scrapped by his predecessor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose.
“I stated during my inauguration that my mission is to make Ekiti, among other things, a place where the cycle of generational poverty can be broken, and in which our elderly can live a more decent life, reap the fruits of their labour and are safe, healthy and prosperous.
“As I did assure Ekitikete that our government is for everybody and is determined to remain all inclusive, let me restate here that, the selection process had nothing to do with partisan politics. We are all aware that hunger does not know political boundary lines.
“From the register, a total of 13,813 elderly citizens and physically challenged adults who are 18 years and above, representing the first batch, have been selected as beneficiaries of the grant. Each beneficiary received a quarterly grant of N20,000.00 and payments will be through their bank accounts.”
To send a signal that the programme occupies a prime position in government, Fayemi backdated the payment to July, 2019 when the pronouncement for the commencement of the scheme was made. Interestingly, the beneficiaries have been paid arrears of four months stipends .
Fayemi stated further, “We will however not stop at effecting and ensuring payment, we will follow up on these indigent citizens with other welfare schemes and monitor the use of the funds to ensure productivity and maximum impact on the beneficiaries.”
Today in Nigeria , the most daunting problem militating against the nation is unemployment. Ekiti, according to statistics, has the highest number of unemployed graduates being the most educated state in the country. It is confounding and scandalising to note that over 10,000 youths rely on commercial motorcycle operation as means of livelihood. Most disturbing was the fact that 5,000 of these youths are either polytechnic or university graduates.
In his response to this rising scourge, Fayemi said the reliance on Okada riding was directly connected to the fazing lack of skills among these categories. In tackling this head-on, the state government in collaboration with the World Bank have invested huge amounts of money on the development of technical education in the state.
This, according to Fayemi will complement the entrepreneurial steps that will benefit over 8,000 youths before 2022. Recently, the governor flagged off an entrepreneurial week in Ekiti, where exhibition was done to market what some local inventors were doing.
Speaking at the occasion, the governor said, “the youth that we are going to train here will get empowerment from us to be able to practise their skills and we are going to expose them to the outside world by way of exhibition of these products.
“We are not going to rely on local exhibition alone, we will go national and international through partnership and mentorship by some established companies and individuals to really give these young entrepreneurs motivation that will make them capture the world of business,” he stated.
Added to the foregoing was the Local Content Law assented to protect and elevate the status of home grown products in any government businesses. Under the enterprise policy of government, the traditional mats being produced in Ogotun and clay pots in Isan Ekiti and others, are receiving topmost attention.
The Governor is also making a huge impact in the area of education where it is now a sacrilege for the pupils to pay tuition fees. Fayemi has expanded the scope of his benevolence by making it the responsibility of government to pay the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) fees charged by the council.
The state now has a robust scholarship scheme to sponsor brilliant students up to PhD level. Before his enigmatic return in 2018, Ekiti was at its lowest in terms of school enrolment at the basic education cadre in the southwest. But with the advent of the school feeding programme, which the state government has keyed into, the state has overtaken others with over 96 percent compliance.
According to Information Commissioner, Mr. Muyiwa Olumilua, a total of 85,000 pupils are being fed daily in schools. The upbeat of the enrolment was also propelled by the Education Law passed by Fayemi , which makes it compulsory for children of school age to be registered in school. It now constitutes a criminal offence with dire punitive consequences, for any parent to defy this order.
Less than six mounts into his second term, the governor employed 2,000 primary school teachers as part of the way to redistribute the wealth of the state . Efforts are also on top gear to recruit 1,000 teachers into the state’s secondary schools for them to be well fortified to compete with their private counterparts.
Former Minister of Sports , Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi raised a poser while appearing at a colloquium marking the first year of the governor. He asked whether it was normal for only a few Nigerians to control the economy at the expense of others. The former All Progressives Congress (APC) National Publicity Secretary, advised that unless the country’s wealth is redistributed, the nation may be sitting on a keg of gunpowder waiting for a small spark to detonate.
With all these pragmatic steps being taken by Governor Fayemi, his projection that poverty can be history in Ekiti in 2030 looks realisable. But the fear in town is that, this dream might be forlorn if the culture of policy somersault and politicisation of issues continues.
The Governor is also making a huge impact in the area of education where it is now a sacrilege for the pupils to pay tuition fees. Fayemi has expanded the scope of his benevolence by making it the responsibility of government to pay the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) fees charged by the council