BY ODUNAYO OGUNMOLA
A new era of governance began in Ekiti State on that sweltering Sunday afternoon on 16th October, 2022 when Mr. Biodun Abayomi Oyebanji took the oath of office as the Governor in the Land of Honour.
Oyebanji came to power on the strength of a popular mandate given to him by the electorate of Ekiti State on 18th June, 2022 when he was elected on the platform the All Progressives Congress (APC) sweeping to victory with a vote tally of 182, 057 which was more than double of the nearest rival.
His arrival at the hilltop Ayoba Villa marked the beginning of a new era; the first time power would transit from a departing chief executive to an incoming chief executive both of whom belong to the same party in line with the wishes of the electorate who chose to keep faith with the broom party.
The Governor campaigned across the length and breadth of the state on a manifesto that was anchored on six pillars carefully designed to position Ekiti for peace and prosperity. The electorate were impressed by the vision and voted massively for him to exercise the mandate on their behalf. One hundred days down the line, majority of the people of Ekiti State are happy that they elected Oyebanji because of the immediate impact he had made within that very short time. The time may be short but things are turning in the right direction in Ekiti and the hope of a brighter future has been strengthened.
While staying the course of a lofty vision and mission in the last 100 days, Governor Oyebanji has laid a solid foundation of good governance and sustainable development to be built upon in years to come.
The six-pillar development agenda of the Oyebanji Administration are: Governance, Youth Development and Job Creation, Human Capital Development, Agriculture and Human Development, Infrastructure and Industrialization, Arts, Culture and Tourism.
Governor Oyebanji does not see his blueprint as just a mantra or a tool of sloganeering but he is already walking the talk in his avowed determination to make a difference in the lives of the people who elected him into office. With his belief that infrastructure is very key to his Administration’s economic development plan since no progress can be made without a deliberate investment in the sector, a major talking point among the Ekiti populace is the ongoing rehabilitation of major and nodal roads in Ado Ekiti, the state capital.
The rehabilitated roads have given the state capital a new face thereby reducing the hardship hitherto faced by transporters and commuters in moving their goods and services around and connecting one place to another. Some federal roads in the state are also undergoing rehabilitation in the state.
Also, within the last 100 days, nightlife in Ado Ekiti has received a major boost with massive deployment of streetlights under the “Operation Light Up Ekiti” Initiative with the scheme expected to be replicated in other towns in 2023. This initiative has boosted businesses at night and given cutting edge to security with many dark spots now lit up.
On human capital development, the Oyebanji Administration is in discussion with critical government agencies to facilitate access to cheaper funds to support the growth of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises which are aimed at linking up artisans, market women and private sector players with cheaper funds to support their businesses. Secondary health facilities in the state are all undergoing serious upgrade and retooling so as to be able to functionally respond to the health needs of the people which is needed to propel a virile economy.
Arts, culture and tourism agenda of the Oyebanji Administration has received a lift with the ongoing transformation going on at the Ikogosi Warm Spring Resort which has been given out on a concession arrangement to a private company to rebuild, expand and manage. Those recently privileged to visit the place can attest to the great work going on there to establish Ekiti as a prime tourist destination in Nigeria. Concerning matters relating to governance, the government is already working out modalities to address the issue of outstanding salaries, allowances and promotion of workers. Also, engagement of pensioners and labour leaders has commenced on the best way to address their pension and gratuity with a view to reaching a workable solution.
Security of lives and property is also gaining the attention of Governor Oyebanji in a bid to maintain the enviable status of Ekiti as the most secure state in Nigeria with recent interface with security chiefs, traditional rulers and stakeholders in Ipao, Oke Ako, Irele, Itapaji and Iyemero axis as a response to incidence of kidnapping recorded there.
The Governor is a regular face on project sites which he visits on many occasions without prior notice. His surprise appearances on project sites including nocturnal visits are to ensure that the people get value for their money and to put contractors on their toes and deliver on time and to specifications.
One of the first official assignments of the Governor is a visit to federal ministries, departments, agencies and development partners in Abuja. He is also reaching out to investors many of whom have visited the state to explore areas to do business with the government. The people of Ekiti State are falling in love with the personality of Mr. Governor especially his perceived humility, humane nature, accessibility, visibility on the streets, prompt response to their welfare, generosity and understanding of the job they gave to him at the polls.
Oyebanji showed a piece of the stuff he was made of at the New Year Inter-Religious Thanksgiving Service held on 3rd January, 2023 at the Obafemi Awolowo International Civic and Convention Centre which made a huge impression on everybody that attended.
When it was time for him to give a speech at the event, the Governor climbed the stage directly from his seat rather than going sideways to use the staircase to the admiration of the audience. This gave him away as a fit and sharp person who is very agile and ever responsive to whatever situation that comes his way.
Also at the event, Governor Oyebanji chose to use the lectern used by all the personalities who addressed the gathering including both Christian and Muslim clerics even when his official reading table that has the insignia of office was available and placed nearby for his use later at the service.
Before he started to make his speech, Governor Oyebanji proved himself to be a grassroots person by mouthing the slogans of some interest groups when he was acknowledging their presence with that of the market women drawing applause from the audience.
This was later to be acknowledged by the Grand Imam of Ekiti State who also doubles as President of the League of Imams and Alfas in the Southwest, Edo and Delta States, Sheikh Jamiu Kewulere Bello, who praised the gestures of the Governor for being at home with his people.
The senior Islamic leader particularly hailed the Governor for not being carried away by the glamour of office and addressing the gathering from the same place used by other speakers which he said was very rare of contemporary political leaders.
Sheikh Kewulere who lauded the Governor for “behaving like a homeboy who was well brought up” also appreciated him for massive rehabilitation of township roads in Ado Ekiti within a very short period of time in office which has brought reliefs to road users.
The sight of Mr. Governor stopping by at a location in Ado Ekiti and playing local game known as “ayo olopon” with excited residents is an image that is etched in the memory of the locals. He has proved himself as a homeboy who is free with the people who elected him.
Identification with the people at local fun spots and surprise attendance at some ward meetings of his political party are some of Mr. Governor’s gestures that make him feel the pulse of the people, know their feelings, get direct feedbacks from them and look for ways to solve their problems.
As a promise keeper, the Governor acquired a complete set of musical instruments for an Ikere Ekiti-based musician, Saka as this gesture has become the talk of the town. Not many thought that the promise would be fulfilled so soon because of deficit of trust many Nigerians have in their political leaders.
The latest streetwise gesture of Mr. Governor was his sponsorship of the surgical operation of a distressed citizen in Igede Ekiti which he learnt of while having a dinner with a friend in the town. The fellow had been looking for N1.6 million for the operation but was shocked to receive an alert of N2 million from the Governor to also meet other needs after the surgery might have been performed.
All these may not matter elsewhere buy they matter in Ekiti since every politics is local. The gestures are winning many people to the side of the Governor and further endearing them to the APC ahead of the general elections.
Both in the office and on the streets, Governor Oyebanji had in the last 100 days appeared as someone who knows the right buttons to press and is endearing himself to the people he is serving.
He believes that officialdom must be balanced with street credibility and visibility. Even the ardent opposition politicians know that Oyebanji has proved to be the man with the Midas’ touch just in 100 days whose popularity is soaring everyday.
There is no dull moment in Ekiti in the last 100 days. Governor Oyebanji is in charge and the impact is being felt by the people he governs and they are yearning for more having tasted a peculiar leadership style they love.
*Ogunmola writes from Ado-Ekiti .