So, on October 15, 2018, I won the undergraduate category of John Kayode Fayemi Inauguration Essay Competition. Lots of people have been contacting me to get a copy of the essay, and I thought, for easy reference, I should just put it up here once and for all. Below is a picture taken at the award ceremony, showing the Governor of Ekiti State, his wife, other finalists and me. You shouldn’t have a problem identifying me in the picture; I’m the guy holding the plaque. Happy reading.
Many might have forgotten — and it is understandable if they have, considering a whole 100 years and more have passed — but before tales of the selfless heroism of Adekunle Fajuyi, before it became a topic of debate if Ekiti has the highest number of professors in the country, before our gubernatorial elections became a national sensation, before all that, the foremost thing that brought Ekiti to limelight was the war of Ekiti Parapo of the late 19th century. And while different people might have looked at it from different perspectives over the decades, depending on whom they pitched their tents with and how the war affected them, one thing everybody can agree on is that Ekiti people do not like to be bullied. No, we do not submit to oppression, not from the mighty Ibadan or Oyo Empire, and definitely not from a leader we appointed ourselves. Ekiti people are strong-willed, independent in spirit and cohesive in standing for any cause we believe in.
Perhaps this is why one often comes across the stereotype that Ekiti indigenes are very stubborn. Well, it should be said that other people do not know the beatings of the drum to which we dance; they do not know what drives us, what we live for. Instilled in us by our forefathers are our core values: diligence and integrity. We were taught to be hardworking. We were taught to be an epitome of all that is moral and just, to uphold our rights in the face of subjugation, and to stand our ground, no matter what. It is this diligence that continues to drive us to make exploits, like being one of the highest producers of cocoa in Nigeria even though we are one of the smallest states. And it is this integrity that made a man like Adekunle Fajuyi lay down his life, choosing to die for honour.
So, what does the Ekiti of my dream look like? There is the Human Development Index, a composite yardstick now used by United Nations to estimate the degree of development a people can be said to have achieved. It is based on certain parameters such as the citizens having a decent standard of living, a long and healthy life, and a high level of education. The Ekiti of my dream is one that ticks off all those parameters.
The only similitudes of industry that Ekiti can boast of, if at all, are pure water factories, concrete block industries, bakeries and saw mills. For a state blessed with such minerals like kaolin, columbite, granite, etc, what this suggests is that our resources are underexploited. From kaolin, like China, we can manufacture beautiful porcelains in commercial quantities for global patronage. Just as well, we can build an industry that will process our cocoa into finished goods like beverages, chocolates, drinks and cosmetics. The Oodu’a Textile Mills that appears moribund can be revitalized, and our tropical rain forest, with its abundance of timber, can be better harnessed. In essence, the Ekiti of my dream is one that is well industrialized, one that has become a commercial hub that attracts both local and foreign traders. I wish to see an Ekiti that has so many job opportunities and such adequate infrastructures that residents of neighbouring states are relocating to our land to partake in our blessings.
Understandably, industrialization and development of the scale described above are going to be capital-intensive, hence the question “how does the state get the money to realize such lofty dreams?” There is a popular pun in Yoruba that talks about how what one seeks in distant locations may very well be located in one’s pocket. In relevance to the matter at hand, Ekiti has to start her search for funds by first looking into herself. We have to plug the holes through which money has been leaking out of our treasury. One solution is to improve our tax system, and this should not be misconstrued as a prank to compound the misery of the masses through imposition of higher rates. Rather, the aim will be to create an efficient tax collection and management structure which utilizes a digital database that enhances watertight registration and quick e-payment. Internally generated revenues should be pooled into a centralised account, and stringent laws should be enacted to discourage tax evasion.
In addition, we have had an unprecedented proliferation of public offices and appointments in recent years, many of which are sinecures with little or no contribution to societal progress. The government must stop dishing out “compensatory and appreciatory appointments” that do not add value to the state. Redundant offices in any arm and tier of government should be scrapped. We need a cutback in the cost of public administration to make more resources available for capital projects that will transform the state. After all, political offices and appointments are supposed to be an opportunity to serve the people, not impoverish them.
There are roles for every indigene to play as well. The first is to be a good ambassador of the state wherever we find ourselves. Everything we do, one way or the other, reflects on Ekiti. This is because humans have a proclivity to associate the attributes of an individual with their place of origin. Thus, we should be careful not to do anything that will bring Ekiti into disrepute. The other role one must play as an indigene is to have Ekiti’s interests at heart. And this is worth mentioning because there are innumerable illustrious sons and daughters of Ekiti abroad, many of whom have become formidable forces to be reckoned with in different fields. Such people can contribute in moving Ekiti forward by coming home to invest their skills and resources. With collective efforts, we can achieve the Ekiti of our dream.
Èkìtì á gbè á o!
~~~ Omoya Simult