This piece is a birthday tribute to the high-flying governor of Ekiti State and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi (JKF) at 56. Nonetheless, it is not your everyday tribute, but a special kind that tells the cheering and inspiring episodic story of a diligent servant leader and astute administrator who has been exhibiting the highest level of competence in the administration of good governance and efficient public service delivery ever since his debut in high profile politics as Ekiti governor in 2010. An impressive sequence of outstanding performance over time in any given responsibility, no doubt, underscores Fayemi’s ingenious capacity for good governance best practices and ability to deliver public goods, with the first in the series being his sterling performance as Ekiti State governor between 2010 and 2014.
With a calming confidence, he walked the talk of enriching lives through a clinical implementation of a Road map to Ekiti Recovery popularly tagged the Eight Point Agenda. In fact, when you juxtapose his achievements in those four years with his inaugural speech on October 16, 2010, one would discover that through prudent management of very scarce resources, the governor was able to unprecedentedly fulfill all promises made to the Ekiti people. Consequently, Ekiti became an investment haven, a tourist destination of choice, the toast of development partners and a reference point in good and responsive governance.
Regrettably however, despite having a good run and recording series of consecutive successes in quality service delivery during his first term, Ekiti’s march towards greatness under his charge was truncated when he was denied a second term as Ekiti governor through an abracadabra election in 2014. It was an election that produced a mediocre government with a simpleton agenda which markedly impoverished Ekiti people for four very long and painful years of socio-economic stagnation and untold hardship. A long vision was indeed cut short and the will of the people clearly undermined. The rest, as they say, is history.
The sequence of quality performance however continued shortly after leaving office as governor when, in recognition of his tangible leadership attributes and diligent work ethics, he was appointed chairman of a 24-member APC National Convention Planning Committee that was saddled with an almost impossible task of planning the Convention and organizing the election of APC presidential candidate within 21 days. Expectedly, the party primaries that produced President Muhammadu Buhari as the APC presidential candidate, turned out to be the most credible and transparent election ever conducted by any political party in Nigeria.The third in the series of the outstanding performance serial was when providentially, Dr. Kayode Fayemi was appointed a federal minister in charge of an erstwhile moribund Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, not quite long after leaving Ekiti as governor. It was a period of exceptional performance that witnessed a series of mind-boggling reforms that took the stagnating sector to the next level of increased productivity and other positive developments that eventually repositioned it as the new frontier for economic diversification.
Revenue from exports in the mining sector increased by 592 per cent within one year of his stewardship, while he was able to improve funding for the sector by securing over N70bn intervention fund from development partners such as the World Bank and the Natural Resources Development Fund, something unprecedented in the annals of the sector’s history.
The country’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, duly acknowledged JKF’s excellent performance as minister when he remarked at a valedictory session which preceded the weekly FEC meeting in his honour that it would be hard to get another substantive minister of steel who would be as strong in intellect and courage enough to check effectively Nigerian and foreign collaborators who were ferrying away our resources. Next, as fate would have it, JKF returned as Ekiti governor, a very rare comeback privilege. The great comeback kid did not waste time in hitting the ground running. First, he signed several Executive orders aimed at correcting the ills of the past and more importantly make life more bearable for the poor majority. He would stop at nothing in pushing back frontiers to banish poverty from the land, restore our most cherished values and reposition Ekiti State for greatness.
Two years on, Gov Kayode Fayemi’s robust initiatives as espoused by his administration’s 4-point governance agenda gave birth to several social safety nets that have effectively halted the downward spiral and societal decay that was the lot of the society when he took over as Ekiti governor in 2018.
The governor’s deliberate strategy to drive socio-economic development through increased social investment and inclusion, rural and agric development, as well as infrastructure and industrial development, continues to yield positive results such as collective prosperity through wealth creation, attraction of local and foreign investments, unprecedented soaring rate of youth employment, reactivation of moribund industries like Ikun Dairy Farm and Ikogosi Spring water company, revamping of agribusiness, construction of roads across the three senatorial districts and other infrastructures like the Cargo Airport, the Civic Centre and much more, highly efficient and affordable healthcare delivery, free and compulsory education, women empowerment, better life for the elderly, the disabled and vulnerable ones, etc, thereby ultimately making life more meaningful and livable for majority of Ekiti people.
It comes as no surprise that in the course of good governance and purposeful leadership over the years, Fayemi had won several laurels, received commendations and got a pat on the back for excellence. Even a hurtful rhetoric of poor performance as shamelessly alleged by a pack of renegades within the ruling party could not change JKF’s concurrent optimal performance narrative, as such falsehood was generally viewed by Ekiti people as not only patently absurd, but lacking in sincerity and indeed laughable.
While congratulating the governor on the occasion of his 56th birthday and wishing him several more amazing returns of the day, I wish to advise the governor to remain steadfast and dynamically engaged in the relentless pursuit of happiness for the entire Ekiti people. He must not be distracted or shaken by both flattery and blind criticism, but should continue to provide appropriate leadership and lead the charge in the march towards our lofty destiny and greatness as Ekiti people. Gov John Kayode Fayemi remains an inestimable asset both for Ekiti state and the nation at large.
Gbenga Ogunremi writes from Ibadan