By Steve Omolale
As the good people of Ekiti State prepare to repeat history on Saturday, June 18, this year, when they will troop out in their thousands, armed with their voter cards, to elect a new governor for another four years, many are certainly waiting with bated breadth to see who will emerge victorious in the election.
No doubt, the political landscape of the state is today a beehive of activities by the many contenders, a few serious, others unserious, to the gubernatorial seat at Oke-Ayoba, reminiscent of what happened four years ago. According to Arthur W. Osborn, “History is a long record of gory struggle,” and this is what is playing out in Ekiti today: the struggle to succeed Governor Kayode Fayemi.
However, the coast is getting clearer day by day as June 18 inches closer. The highly disillusioned and paupaurised people of the Land of Honour need a breadth of new life. Obviously, the massive failure and disappointment that the All People’s Congress (APC) administration at the national level represents to majority of Nigerians has continued to trickle down to Ekiti State in the last four years to the chagrin of the resilient people.
Without telling it, it is evident, even to the blind, that Ekiti people need a new lease of life and the golden opportunity will present itself on June 18. As the political chess-game hots up, it will be a straight fight between the APC, represented by Mr. Biodun Oyebanji, and the Social Democratic Party (SDP), represented by the highly politically-experienced Asiwaju Segun Oni. Other parties, led by the slumbering People’s Democratic Party (PDP) will surely be spectators on the election day, having lost the energy to stand on their feet in the mission to rescue Ekiti State.
Between Oni, a former governor of the state, and Oyebanji, a civil servant turned politician, one must take the mantle of leadership from Fayemi from June 18. And from all indications, it is almost certain that the frustrated good people of Ekiti State will settle for the man who had done it to their admiration before: Asiwaju Segun Oni. Ekiti surely needs an altruistic leader who has the experience in practical governance and has demonstrated the stuff he is made of before and Oni it is.
Having ruled the state between 2007-2010 when his tenure was truncated by the Court of Appeal in controversial circumstances, Asiwaju Segun Oni had proved his mettle convincingly, making the people of the state to crave for his return. As soon as he was removed from the gubernatorial seat in 2010, failed attempts were made by the then succeeding Fayemi administration to obliterate all the “firsts” and the dividends of democracy Oni introduced to better the lots of the people. This was a result of the morbid hatred for Oni by the administration. But the people were not swayed because they know their genuine friends. The resultant effect of this unjustifiable hatred is the unprecedented retrogression and backwardness that continue to stare the Land of Honour in the face till today.
For instance, it is on record that Asiwaju Segun Oni’s Midas touch and quick fixes propelled the economy of Ekiti State to greater heights during his brief tenure, even as his administration had an impactful effect on all sectors of the state, be it education, health, agriculture, the civil service, local government, traditional institution, tourism, security, sports and youth develeopment, as well as youth employment and empowerment and a host of others. What Oni achieved in all these sectors with his brilliant team will remain permanently etched in the psyche of Ekiti people, especially the civil servants and the retirees. No wonder, the patriotic crave for his return on June 18 has reached a frenzied dimension.
Specifically, on the economic front, the Human Development Report (HDR) of 2009 put Ekiti State at number 34 out of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on statutory allocation, whereas the same HDR ranked the state number 24 on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capital and number 10 on Human Development Index (HDI). What this means is that the Segun Oni administration did not only depend on statutory allocation to survive but made efforts, expanded and shored up the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state. No any other administration in the state has been able to achieve this feat ever since then.
Besides, massive renovation of schools was carried out across the state, while full boarding house was introduced for schools willing to have it with full complement of laptops for each of the pupils and VSAT facilities in the schools. The Oni administration also pioneered the School Feeding Programme for pupils, a programme the APC-led Federal Government adopted and is executing haphazardly today. Of course, we all still remember the campaign of calumny launched by the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) against the School Feeding Programme by saying the Oni administration put incisions on the plates used to serve the pupils and the eggs they ate thereby denying many pupils the nutritional benefits derivable from the programme. Very laughable indeed!
Also, the traditional institution in Ekiti would not forget in a jiffy the befitting welfare packages the Segun Oni administration extended to them. For the first time in the history of the state, the administration distributed brand new cars to each of the Obas according to their grades and refixed many hitherto decrepit palaces, among others, just to make it easy for them to perform their duties. It also made it mandatory for any vacant stool to be filled within two years after the demise or removal of a monarch, thereby reducing the acrimony and tension that usually trail the selection of Obas in the state.
Of course, several roads were rehabilitated, while brand new roads through virgin forests with the accompanying infrastructure to link all Ekiti communities were constructed across the length and breath of the state. Many of such roads still remain solid till date and the benefiting communities remain grateful to Oni for the roads.
In the history of Ekiti Civil Service, the then Segun Oni administartion was the first to ensure that while workers’ salaries were promptly paid (even clearing the arrears owed by the previous administrations), leave bonuses and other entitlements were settled as and when due. Pensioners who had lost hope and had been dejected before the advent of the Oni administration suddenly regained their strength as all their pension arrears and other entitlements were cleared by Oni, who also ensured that any retired civil servant got his or her entitlements within 90 days of exit from the civil service.
But since he left in 2010, the situation has again become hopeless for the workers and the retirees. Their salaries and pension arrears have accumulated in billions of naira with the pensioners dying in droves without collecting their entitlements. However, the pensioners who are still alive and the workers believe that if Oni is back from June 18, the good times will be back for them again.
Besides, in the health sector, hospitals were massively rehabilitated across the state by the then Segun Oni administration with all they needed to deliver to the people provided for them. Drugs and other disposables were never in short supply. Indeed, it was the period Ekiti people had the longest life expectancy in Nigeria!
Furthermore, subventions to all higher institutions in the state were increased and promptly paid by the Oni administration to the admiration of the various unions in the schools. But that glorious era has gone with the winds. The schools established and upgraded by the administration were scrapped and are today re-established as a university and a polytechnic in Fayemi’s hometown of Isan-Ekiti, but are largely underfunded. What an irony.
In Ekiti today, a large number of the highly educated youths are Okada riders and internet fraudsters, popularly called “Yahoo Boys” because there is no deliberate programme to empower them and provide them jobs, contrary to what obtained during the Oni administration which provided thousands of jobs for the army of unemployed Ekiti youths.
There were also sports development programmes in which veteran coach and sports administrator, Chief Adegboye Onigbinde and Amelia Edet were brought on board to identify and develop young talents for Ekiti State.
In fact, the list of Oni’s achievements during his short tenure is inexhaustible. All this and his integrity will surely speak for him because he is the only former governor among his contemporaries in the entire South-West geopolitical zone who was never invited nor quizzed by any anti-graft agency till today.
As the June 18 poll draws near, Ekiti people know who genuinely have their love at heart and those who will perpetuate the hardships they have endured in the last four years. They surely will vote wisely.
Omolale, a Lagos-based journalist, is on the Media Team of the Segun Oni Campaign Organisation (SOCO).