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Ekiti: Slowly finding footing

Further, the Appeal Court’s decision, On 26 of November, to cede political authority to Rauf Aregbesola of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), vindicates the opinion that the political tension in Ekiti was an expression of a general feeling in the south west. Chief Fayemi’s mandate is no longer in question, and his efforts towards entrenching policies of responsible governance have begun, many say, with speed and the dynamism demanded by the people of Ekiti state but the challenges to governance remain palpable and complex. An early indication is the announcement by Fayemi that he has inherited a state treasury that is empty and an infrastructural base that is evidently moribund. Many people in the state have consistently insisted that the dismissed Segun Oni administration virtually ran the state aground because it had never operated as a government that enjoyed the people’s mandate.

While this fact is constantly echoed across the state, and the realities on ground support it, no one is of the opinion that Fayemi’s administration will have a comfortable ride on the back of these criticisms for too long. Fayemi admits this much. In his opinion, the euphoria that welcomed his victory and control of the state’s government will last only as long as the people of Ekiti start seeing palpable signs of change in the social and infrastructural composition. To achieve these, Fayemi is in no way oblivious to the fact that a programme of responsive governance must be seen to have commenced with dedication and a swift drive towards reviving an economy long stifled by profligacy.

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As a first step towards instituting these changes, Fayemi announced that the state would commence a programme of free and compulsory education up to secondary level. While this is hardly surprising, given that this has been one of the focal points of his campaign, it has undoubtedly signaled the commencement of a far reaching programme for social transformation that touches the lives of a majority of the people in the state. This programme also addresses one of the most salient demands in strengthening civic responsibility.

The success, however, of this programme of affordable and accessible education cannot ride on just the consideration of the financial implications to the people alone but on the availability of relevant infrastructure to ensure delivery of qualitative service. This, many opine, stands as one of the most pressing obstacles imposed by the inheritance of a moribund financial base. The question that has been asked consistently is how Fayemi intends to tackle this seeming impediment.

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Fayemi has also indicated his desire to drive full scale agricultural reforms that would revitalise agricultural production across the state. The agricultural programme of the Oni administration suffered a major embarrassment on March 30, 2010 when thousands of farmers in a public protest alleged that the government compiled names of Peoples Democratic Party supporters as farmers who would benefit from the Federal Government approved N2 billion loan. They also accused the Oni-led administration of deceiving the public about the details of the loans. They said a N66 million agric loan approved by the state government was disbursed to politicians to ensure that the PDP was voted for in 2011 poll.

Fayemi’s acknowledgment that his administration inherited a near comatose infrastructure is also a realisation of the task that must be confronted; the governor must work hard to improve on the palpable infrastructural dearth, especially roads, across the state. While there are some proclamations of Oni’s attempts, it is also acknowledged that his impact was not felt by the majority who dwell in the state capital. Virtually all the roads in Ado-Ekiti are riddled with potholes while some are no longer passable.

Governor Fayemi’s decision to cut down on government machinery is a very important step towards reducing the financial burden on government. Fayemi’s claim that under the Oni administration government machinery was overburdened is accurate; with its meager resources and a budget already heavily burdened by recurrent expenditures the state had 21 commissioners and 14 Special Advisers of cabinet rank with all the apparatus of office and a system had been devised by which already existing ministries and parastatals were further broken down with each office under a ministry removed and given the status of a full fledged ministry and the commissioners appointed given the full benefits and remunerations of substantive commissioners.

Beyond the financial impediments imposed on Fayemi, there are political challenges that seem even greater impediments to effective governance in the state. Presently, the Ekiti state legislature stands equally distributed between the ACN and the PDP (recently turned opposition). This will create clear hurdles in his attempt to secure the passage of bills in the house not necessarily because the house finds these bills inimical to growth but simply as an attempt to stall his vision for development. This may also be intended to force a compromise that would require Governor Fayemi to reach backroom agreements intended to give increased relevance of this new opposition force by imposing its demands on him. As yet, this scenario has not played out. Whether it will remains to be seen. The possibility that PDP members of the house, who constitute fifty percent of the house membership, could institute an impeachment plot is not a feasible political option. If this was ever a consideration, the fact that the members do not have a majority to push for a two thirds support in their demands negates this option. Besides, evident public support for Fayemi’s government makes such an attempt almost suicidal.

Fayemi’s claim that the decision to dissolve the council executives was hinged on several pressing political realities can hardly be flawed; first, it is believed that the elections, which ushered in all the council bosses who are PDP members, were questionable; in an interview Fayemi noted that; ‘the government that organized the election that brought the local government chairmen had been declared a none existing government in this State. Not just for the 2009 election re-run, but also for the 2007 original election’. This clearly raises questions over the credibility of the local council elections.

So far, Fayemi’s programmes and policies are gradually being implemented with as little resources as are available but the realisation that work has commenced in charting a new course for Ekiti state remains the most important consequence of demanding and securing the people’s mandate.

Barrett wrote in from Abuja

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