On a Mission to Rescue Ekiti

In what clearly exemplifies his possession of a Midas touch, Governor Kayode Fayemi has rescued Ekiti from the doldrums

YCAD-Nursery-point-for-cocoa,-oil-palm,-teak-amelina,-banana-plantain-seedlings-farm,-Ilu--Omoba-Ekiti-(12)It was known as the fountain of knowledge. But at some point, the fountain appeared to have almost dried up. Ekiti State, known for its prowess in the area of academics, suddenly found itself lagging behind. In fact, at the beginning of the Kayode John Fayemi administration in 2010, Ekiti was literally desolate, rudderless and without focus in the area of the acquisition of knowledge. So armed with the mandate of the people for who he had pledged to give a new direction, Fayemi embarked on a rescue mission. That gave him the challenge to do surgical operations on all sectors to bring about development, give hope to the people and raise the standard of living in the state. On that assignment the governor has earned the commendation of Ekiti people at home and abroad, as well as visitors who have been to the state in the past and are confounded by the transformation that has taken place in just four years.

Ekiti-Rice,-produced-by-Crystal-Gold-Mills-&-Agro-Allied-Enterprises,-Ado-Ekiti-(3)First in the area of education, the pre-Fayemi administration report was damning for a state known for its leadership in education. “This administration came in on the 16th of October 2010. What we met on ground was, to say the least, not encouraging. The buildings were dilapidated, there were no items of furniture, no chairs or tables for our teachers very few desks and benches for our students,” says Kehinde Ojo, Ekiti State Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology. He added that “the laboratories and libraries were virtually empty, the general morale of the teachers was low, there was no discipline in our schools, there was cultism, absenteeism as a result of lack of interest by our students and also apathy on the side of the parents.”

Ekiti-State-Governor,-Dr-Kayode-Fayemi,-acknowledging-cheers-from-students,-during-an-interactive-session-with-Leaders-of-Indigenous-Students-Association,-in-Ado-Ekiti;-August-29,-2013The education sector was not the only one in dire need of resuscitation as at the time the Fayemi administration came on board. Equally begging for attention was the agriculture sector, which used to be the mainstay of Ekiti’s economy. “We met a terrible system on ground. We met a sector that was completely down that was not driven by developmental initiatives. People just wanted to do agriculture for the mere fact that their fathers or grandfathers used to do agriculture. That was what we met on ground. The system was highly disjointed and there was no agri-business going on,” says Babajide Arowosafe, Ekiti State Commissioner for Agriculture. He added that, “we met field operation in terms of tree crops, plantation that were as old as my grandfather’s age and that made productivity to be completely low. The sector was not doing the proper thing on cultivation, no proper scheme, and no proper input in terms of agro chemical. These were the major issues for me when I came on board but everything has changed now.”

Governor,-Dr-Kayode-Fayemi-(2nd-L);-with-SA-to-the-Governor-on-Special-Projects,-Bayo-Kelekun,-during-the-flag-off-of-Operation-Renovate-All-Hospitals-In-Ekiti-State-(ORAH),-in-Ijan-Ekiti.-September-9,-2013And he sure knows what he is talking about. Today, Arowosafe says the Ekiti State government under the leadership of Fayemi has created platforms for modernisation of agriculture and used that to engage people economically, making them financially independent to the point where they now add value to the economy of Ekiti State.

“For example, rice, when this administration came on board, we introduced rice expansion programme where we gathered most of the rice farmers in Ekiti State and we had an agreement with them that the government is ready to support them fully if they are ready to step up their production. So rather than farming on 0.5 hectares we moved them to doing five hectares minimum and we gave them the necessary input to do that. Everything they got was supplied by the state government to the point of giving them fund to drive their operations on field. It appeared like it was not going to work at first but now some are doing 10 hectares. We have in Ekiti State some rice farmers doing 100 hectares now. So we have been able to move the system from where we met it to a better system than it used to be in 60s and 70s,” Arowosafe said.

For cocoa, Arowosafe said before the Fayemi administration came on board, the state had had to buy cocoa seedlings from Ondo State for farmers in Ekiti State. “But in 2012 the cocoa seedlings that we actually gave out to farmers in Ekiti was from Ekiti by our youths because we are on the field. We have nursery operations owned by our youths in the state,” Arowosafe said.

He added that “this year alone, we are just about giving out close to 120,000 oil palm seedlings. We already have close to 353,000 cocoa seedlings, which is to be given out in the later part of the year and soon we will be giving out close to 150,000 of seedlings just for our forestry operation. This was not the case in the past; we used to buy the seedlings from other states. Now we have what will make the youth and farmers understand the importance of going into this venture and getting involved with it. This is one of the successes that the current administration has achieved.”

Another area where the administration had to do a surgical operation is the area of health. Convinced that the health of the people is paramount, if the developmental efforts are to be meaningful, the government decided to also focus on the health sector. Prior to the Fayemi administration, the maternal mortality rate in Ekiti was 420 per 100,000 live births. This poor and alarming figure was attributed to the fact that 62 per cent of pregnant women in Ekiti at that time delivered at home or in some unregulated health facilities largely because they could not afford the cost of going to the hospital.

But just like other forms of rot of the past, this is yet another poor record that is now consigned to the dustbin of history. In less than a year after Fayemi became governor, the maternal mortality dropped to 135 per 100,000 live births because under the free health policy of the Fayemi administration, pregnant women in Ekiti State can walk into any public hospital and get attended to. This is why Ekiti today has the lowest maternal and infant mortality rates in the country. Similarly, within less than four years of the Fayemi administration, the life expectancy of Ekiti became the highest in the country. This is because the state government now provides free health services for pregnant women, the elderly and children.

As the Fayemi administration tackles the issues of health, agriculture and empowerment, it sees its investment in education more as building the future of the state, with the development of the young minds. That is yielding results already and that is why Fayemi is excited that even long after he would have left office the products of the transformation in education would strengthen the pillar of development now being erected in the state. Hear the governor in an interview: “The best way to assess progress is to look at the result. When I came in as governor, the WASSCE pass rate in Ekiti was 20 per cent but in 2013, Ekiti had the highest pass rate at 70 per cent.”

He added that, “Christ School, Ado Ekiti, my school, which happens to be the crème de la crème institution but had 9 per cent in WASSCE when I became governor had a 100 per cent in 2013.” Explaining how this feat was achieved, Fayemi said, “What happened was the improvement of our teaching, the learning environment. You would have gone round and seen the red roof school structures all over the place. I literally improved the environment of learning across the state. One hundred and eighty-three secondary schools were rebuilt, renovated, reconfigured and 856 primary schools treated the same way. We didn’t stop there; we also cancelled automatic promotion in our schools and introduced a unified compulsory examination for students in SS2. So if you do not pass the unified examination, you are not presented for WAEC.”

What that means is that the administration makes the teachers to give the best in the impartation of knowledge, and when it presents the best for external examination it can only get a colourful performance in return.

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Adejuwon Soyinka

Adejuwon Soyinka was former Deputy General Editor, TELL Magazine and Editor, www.tell.ng, the online publication of TELL Communications Limited

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