fter the successful conduct of the Governorship election of Anambra State, the next governorship election to be conducted in Nigeria is that for Ekiti State in July 2018. Let me first congratulate President Muhammad Buhari for presiding over a free and fair election, which his party lost after personally campaigning for its candidate. It is also on record that he has congratulated the elected Governor. Let me also congratulate the Governor, Deputy Governor and the good people of Anambra State for the resounding defeat handed over to the Biafra agitators, while embracing peaceful co-existence with other fellow Nigerians. And finally, my congratulations to the INEC for a successful exercise in spite of the need for improvements before the next elections.
We can see that though staggered elections, came in by pure accidents, it has become the best way of conducting elections in Nigeria especially in view of the less stress on the available resources including manpower, finance and other logistics. It follows therefore, if there is something urgent that can be done to further stager other governorship, state and national assemblies' elections, no sacrifice will be too much to make to achieve that. Even, if it will mean amending the constitution, changing the composition and quorum of the assemblies and the tenure of office of some governors. It may worth the troubles, the outcome of which, will be freer and fairer elections.
The next election in Nigeria now, is the Ekiti State governorship primary elections in April 2018, which is a constitutional precursor to the official governorship election in July 2018. We will be deceiving ourselves if anybody says it only affects Ekiti and therefore doesn't concern other states. No. Whatever affects any state in Nigeria, however far or remote, affects the whole country. It's like whatever affects the smallest part of the body, affects the whole body. Let us therefore pay attention and discuss how both the primary and the governorship elections in Ekiti will be successful.
The core of the success of any election is its being free and fair. Nigeria is lucky now to have a president who is not interested in being a king maker. President Buhari is only interested in who commands the respect and the will of the people. This should be translated to the state, local governments, and ward levels. For those who might be thinking otherwise, the recent election in Anambra is an eye opener. In spite of the fact that the President went to campaign for the candidate of his party, his party lost the election. The simple message here, is that, President Buhari is not ready to impose any candidate over any people or state, no matter that person's relationship with him. This is the message for Ekiti people, especially the members of the APC in Ekiti State.
The next election in Ekiti State, will be the most important election in the state since creation. Very likely, the election of the next governor of the state will transcend party politics. The major qualifications of the governor will not be solely party affiliation but the Candidate. This will include who is this candidate, his character and antecedents, in relation to the needs, yearnings and aspirations of Ekiti people. Also of great importance to the people will be the qualifications, experience - professionally, politically, administratively, in governance; and in public and private sectors. No political neophyte may be welcomed this time.
Ekiti people now needs a CHANGE AGENT. And not the type that will want to learn on the job, or promise to change, and who may fail. Ekiti needs someone who knows what to do, how to do it, when to do it, where to do it and who knows the men and material to put to use without fair or favor. The next governor of Ekiti has to be the person who has been tested and trusted in the realms of honesty, transparency, accountability, integrity, humility, open mindedness and inclusiveness. The next governor must have an all-round knowledge of what and who Ekiti is. He must be the best of all the available bests who are interested in being the governor of Ekiti now or yet to come. He must be a thorough breed Ekiti who knows his people and his people knows him. This is no more the time for somebody coming to Ekiti because he heard there is a vacancy in the Governor's Office. Ekiti people don't need a good Ekiti - abroad as the next governor of the state. Hope and idealism can no longer be substitutes for realism.
Why do we need such a special person in Ekiti in 2018? Those who are familiar with Ekiti State will not search too long for an answer. In summary, it is as if Ekiti State has not been under a governor recently. Because of the nature of Ekiti and which should be changed, virtually everybody in Ekiti - from the teachers, to the civil and public servants, artisans, market men and women, students and name it, we all depend on government for survival. That sounds strange? Not really. The point is that if the government doesn't pay the salaries and allowances of its employees, no money flows to other economic and social sectors of the state.
Currently in Ekiti, there are various categories of workers that the government is owing between five and nine month's salaries or more than twelve months allowances. Since 2010, no retiree has been paid gratuity and pension. The basic law of economics is supply and demand. Then, the demand must be backed by money before it becomes effective. But there in Ekiti, there are demands but not backed by money since the government, though collecting monies from the many Federation accounts, refused to pay salaries and allowances of its workers.
A local government worker - and they are found in all the sixteen local governments of the state - who is owed nine months' salary can't go to the market and buy food items in cash. The seller will not be able to stock new goods. Then, no new customer can buy and the seller will go out of business. There is a family of five, where the father and mother are teachers, owed six months' salary. They have two graduate children without a job, the baby of the house is in the university where they can't pay the tuition and other fees. There is another family, where the father and mother had retired after meritorious services to the state. No pension, no gratuity paid since retirement. They have four children. Two are in the public service, one is a teacher and the other a service servant. Both are owed months of salary, the third is unemployed while the fourth is home as her school fees cannot be paid. This is the common trend in Ekiti.
And this is a state where the governor is alleged to have diverted tranches of the bailout fund in billions, meant for paying salaries, allowances, pensions and gratuities of deserving Ekiti people. This is a governor alleged to have kept N680ml of the state's money in a private fixed deposit account that is giving him N6ml monthly. This is a governor who is alleged to be keeping the state's internally generated revenue in private account. This is a governor who is alleged to have since inception been awarding all major contracts in the state to himself, wife, children and other family members through phony proxy companies and contractors without due process. This is a governor who on inception disbanded the Ekiti State Bureau of Public Procurement responsible for maintaining due process in all government activities.
But this is a governor who allegedly earns N300ml every month as security vote, when there is no Boko Haram in Ekiti State and another N70ml monthly for the governor's kitchen. All these are not part of the governor's salary and allowances, none of which is not paid before the end of each month. Yet, the health services are in shambles. Doctors are owed about eight months of salaries. The Resident Doctors have been on strike for months but the governor has decided to turn to the alternative medical practitioners or traditional healers (The Babalawos), whom the governor has described as equally competent.
But I just heard on impeccable authority of the Chairman of the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN), Mr. Kunle Ajayi, that medical professionals are now avoiding Ekiti medical services like plague. This is due to poor funding and even non-payment of salaries and allowance to them. This is in spite of all bailouts received by the Governor to pay outstanding salaries. Yet, there was a time and a Governor, when Ekiti State became the Mecca for all categories of hospital workers, from consultants to doctors to nurses. That was when Chief Segun Oni, as Governor, made all hospital workers in Ekiti received equal pay and allowances as their counterparts at the Federal level and were paid before the end of each month. This was the same time when the best Ophthalmological Center in Nigeria if not the whole of West Africa, manned by the Cuban Eyes Specialist was in Ado Ekiti. This is a fact and not fiction that cannot be denied. Today, unfortunately, all have become history, less than ten years.
Politically, the governor of Ekiti sees himself as the Alfa and Omega of all political and economic decisions in the state. No government official, not even the stooge deputy governor, can approve N5, 000 expenditure. He imposed himself on the state and national party as the sole candidate because his party was a "Cash and Carry". He picked a running mate who though was a scholar but made a stooge; not to be seen and not to be heard. Again, he has single handedly nominated the same deputy governor as his candidate for the 2018 governorship election. Rumors have it, there an undertaking to remain faithfully as a stooge governor, with huge financial gratification to the Boss; thereby giving him, his Third Term. Also, the candidates for the proposed local government election in the state were selected by the maximum ruler in the governor's house. This is a political exercise that was supposed to be done through primaries at each ward's level.
The good news however, is that it is not every leader and member of his party that are supporting this dictatorship. In spite of his anointed governorship candidate, there are other aspirants who are still pursuing their aspirations under the party platform. These are people who have vowed that their political rights and aspirations will not be suppressed, believing the party constitution will harken to their voice and use a primary election to elect the party's candidate. But the governor has taken another step ahead of them by selecting delegates at the ward congresses.
The problems of Ekiti State are far more that what the governor is doing now. If that is all, one can be hopeful that after his tenure, sanity will be returned with a new more educated, politically matured and a more humane governor who is ready for good governance. But far from that. Within his three years in office, Ekiti governor has mortgaged the future of Ekiti State, government and people. The slogan of his government in the first one year as excuse for not doing anything including payment of salaries was "Gbese wa nle,"; that is; "there is debt in the state." This was an allusion that the previous government, was in billions of debt, between N35bn to N75bn and the figure kept changing until finally resting at a final figure of about N25bn.
However, in three years, our governor has plunged Ekiti State into a whopping debt of at least N56bn. This is official from the Debt Management Office, Abuja and more may still come. And these is where my concern lies. Yet, I know it is not a crime for a government to borrow money; though not impossible. It's is the management of the debt profile that matters to sound economics. The problem of a government should not be how rich or poor it is. It is not the amount of money available in the treasury that matters most. The progress one makes in life is not always about how rich the person is. A state can borrow money and turn the debt into big wealth, depending on the level of investment the money is diverted to. But in Ekiti, I have not seen, where the billions borrowed, have grown wings and fly to. Maybe to the pockets of very few opportunistic, selfish and greedy ones.
Find below, is the official debt profile of the Ekiti State government in the last three years. This is not a compilation by any opposition sources but by the Debt Management Office in Abuja, starting from October 16, 2014 when the government came to power. The government of Ekiti State:
Renegotiated of all outstanding loans as at December 31, 2014 for 20 years (till 2036) on behalf of Ekiti State in 2015. Here is a clear indication that now, every born child of Ekiti in 2015 and 2016 will grow up to be an adult debtors and be paying back loans.
In 2015, loans borrowed by the Ekiti State government stand as follows:
N24, 811,574,926.26 (Twenty four billion, eight hundred and eleven million, five hundred and seventy four thousand naira nine hundred and sixty two naira (I hate to put only).
Out of these amount, foreign loans stand as N2,709,786,898.98
Local bank loans stand as N22, 101,788,065.28.
In 2016, Ekiti State government borrowed new loans, with a summary as follows:
N31,688,638,962.30 (Thirty one billion, Six hundred and eighty eight Million, Six hundred and thirty eight thousand, nine hundred and sixty two naira, thirty kobo.
Foreign loans of N2, 705,737,050.37 (Two billion, Seven Hundred and Five Million, Seven Hundred and thirty Seven Thousand and fifty thousand Naira, thirty Seven kobo,
Local bank loans of N28,982,901,911.93 (Twenty Eight billion, Nine hundred and eighty two million, Nine hundred and one thousand, nine hundred and eleven naira, ninety three kobo).
In just two years, between January 2015 and December 2016 total new loans, summarized as:
N56, 500,213,924.56 (Fifty six billion, Five hundred million, two hundred and thirteen thousand, nine hundred and twenty four naira and fifty six kobo). Out of this:
Foreign loans stands as N5,415,523,947.35 (Five billion, Four hundred and fifteen million, five hundred and twenty three thousand, nine hundred and forty seven thousand, thirty five kobo only)
Local bank loans stands as N51, 084,689,977.21 (Fifty one billion, eight four million, six hundred and eighty nine thousand, nine hundred and seventy seven naira twenty one kobo).
This brings a total of N56,499, 213, 924.56 (Fifty six Billion, Four Hundred and ninety nine million, two hundred and thirteen thousand, nine hundred and twenty four naira and fifty six kobo (I hate to say only).
Below is the most outrageous of all the above revelations of the indefensible indebtedness of the Ekiti State government for this and coming generations. This is what is described as pending application.
NOTE: Pending Application - When every rational reasonable Ekiti people at home and in Diaspora, and all lovers of Ekiti everywhere, are complaining and condemning the profligacy of our governments, there is still a pending application for N25bn loan for the year 2017, waiting for consideration and approval. If approved, which shouldn't be, Ekiti will be indebted to the sum of N81.5bn. I think this will be a sin against God and a crime against humanity.
THE CHOICE BEFORE EKITI STATE TOWARDS 2018
In all honesty, this not the time for rhetoric. No. Our case has gone beyond grandiloquence. Our case has gone beyond counseling the governor and the government, to move towards good governance, probity and transparency. We don't need to tell them anymore to reduce their operating costs or costs of governance like hugely reducing or eliminating many of their unreasonable overheads. It will be like talking to the deaf and the dumb. It is no long necessary, asking them to free many spending on capital projects that are mere white elephants, like the bridge to nowhere at Fajuyi, Ado Ekiti and commit more resources to social infrastructure.
But there is an urgent need for a new government, under a new trusted and tested leadership. Someone, who will depart from the prevailing scenarios as above; who will combine probity, transparency, integrity and fiscal responsibility; and put the state on the path of Good Governance. If there is going to be borrowing at all, such future borrowing must be linked to profitable and sustainable projects in the areas of social and economic infrastructure. It is only by this, that capital cost of loans can easily be repaid and the overall interest of the state especially the income profile be put on an enviable pedestal. The new governor as a CHANGE AGENT, should lead his economic team to change Ekiti State from being a perennial debtor with cycle of debts to prosperity, characterized by increased IGR, improved tax collection and matching budgeting with planning. The watch-word should be: Spend Less to Achieve More.
The new Ekiti will capitalized on designed-to-fit economic investments that will significantly improve the overall economic performance of the state. This will change the state from being a 'civil servant' state, with creation of jobs in all economic sectors that will increase the internally generated revenue output. A transparent and incorruptible governor will improve spending and therefore improve value added tax revenue that accrues to the state. Ekiti State is blessed with many untapped resources, waiting to be tapped. Our youths are loaded with talents, qualifications and waiting opportunities in aquaculture, agriculture, small scale manufacturing, trade and other areas, where improved electricity will return many to self-employment across the state, all of which have been neglected and abandoned by lack of foresight in the recent past.
I am therefore calling on all Ekiti stakeholders; all our community, traditional, religious and political leaders - men and women, old and young (especially the youths) to make this clarion call, a task for the liberation of Ekiti State and people. There is hardly, if any, a very few of these groups that have not suffered from the present humiliating situations we suddenly found ourselves. There are many Ekiti, who are no long proud to be called Ekiti. There are many who can no longer answer questions and challenges from loved ones as to why they should open their eyes, fold their arms and watch or allowed the ugly spectacles that has been displayed in Ekiti lately in spite of our education and pride. Ekiti is the only homogeneous state in Nigeria Federation. We should therefore not allow anything to divide us; not politics, religions - nothing. As ONE, let us rise up in one accord, to fight this new war of liberation from our self-made and self-impose demagogue.
Dr. Bayo Arowolaju Sr. was the Special Adviser on Due Process, Ekiti State and later the Director General, Ekiti State Bureau of Public Procurement (DG BPP) under Governor Segun Oni. Now he is the President/CEO and Lead Consultant ProcureConsult Limited.