Raheem Akingbolu writes that the body language, expression and attitude of the people towards Governor Biodun Oyebanji of Ekiti state as he marks one year in office depicts total acceptability across board.
In the run-up to the 2022 election, his opponents often dismissed him on the basis that he garnered almost all his experiences in Ekiti. On the other hand, Biodun Abayomi Oyebanji’s supporters gave it a positive spin. According to them, the All Progressives Congress (APC) gubernatorial candidate was “tiwantiwa’’ and roughly, this term translates to ‘’homegrown”. Oyebanji won the election and the nickname has stuck. One year after, Governor Oyebanji has lived the name through his reformation work in the civil service, infrastructure, the education and health. Now, that the foundation has been laid, the governor has thus opened a new chapter.
Findings in Ekiti in the last one week have revealed that Governor Oyebanji’s approach to governance and infrastructural development is different from the norm in the country’s political environment.
At an interactive session organized for the governor and civil servants to rub minds, the state Chairman of Civil Service Commission, Bunmi Famosaya, described the governor as a ‘silent achiever’. According to Famosaya, who was the state’s former Head of Service, BAO, as the governor is fondly called, has done more than what he’s being celebrated for.
Also, in different interviews conducted by this reporter with stakeholders in Ekiti, it was established that all projects, policies and programmes are designed with the people in mind. The ones most referred to are in the areas of electricity, road rehabilitation and construction.
For instance, a member of the House of Representatives, representing Ekiti South Federal Constituency 2, Hon. Richard Bamisile, while addressing guests at one of the events organized to mark the anniversary said the governor surprised him within a year for his commitment to see that his community was reconnected to the national grid after over 10 years of being in darkness.
“I came to Ekiti from Abuja with the determination to dedicate a whole week to this anniversary because of the political will deployed by Governor Oyebanji to make sure my people were connected again to the national grid after many years in darkness.
It takes a governor who has his people in mind to achieve what has almost cut our people away from civilization,” the House of Reps member stated.
Hon Bamisile’s declaration represents the feelings in many quarters across the state because that’s the governor’s style whether in the area of road construction, electricity, health and even policies.
Everything Oyebanji does, according to stakeholders, is people centered. In retrospect, towards last year’s election, Oyebanji’s campaign’s slogan was “Putting People First.” At every opportunity, he’s always eager to remind Ekiti people that he’s one of them in all totality and would not do anything that would demean his family’s legacy-the name.
He told the teachers that his parents were teachers who sponsored him with their salaries. He told the farmers of his farms.
He reminded the lecturers in various institutions in the state that his wife was one of them and that he, the APC candidate, started off as a university lecturer.
Looking back, the “Putting People First” slogan was self-evident even in the first three months, as the entire administration has always been people centered.
Specifically, policies are designed mainly to impact directly and positively on the lives of the people who have been neglected or short changed of dividends of democracy in the past years.
For instance, the news about the deplorable condition of Ekiti roads, especially the Ado Ekiti township roads were everywhere months before he came on board. On assumption of office, he instantly mobilized contractors to go and fix the Ado-Ilawe Road that had totally collapsed. Few days after he was sworn in, he commenced the rehabilitation of the roads in the capital city. Equally, in the three local governments: Ekiti West, Ekiti East and Ayekire, where several towns had been in darkness for between 10 and 15 years, Oyebanji waded in and restored the light. On the occasion of this one year anniversary, the inauguration of these electricity projects were highpoints of the occasion.
For example, in Ekameta LCDA (carved out of Ekiti West LG) where the governor ended 15 years of total blackout, Governor Oyebanji pointedly stated that he considered the projects as a move that would boost local economy and propel the industrial development via robust growth of Small, and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) in Ekiti State.
While charging Ekiti citizens to protect all public utilities in their domains to safeguard government infrastructure from being destroyed, the governor said his government would not tolerate the idea of towns being left in perpetual power outage for a period of 15 years, describing this as a potential danger that could cripple businesses and shore up the poverty level in the state.
He said the 33KV electrification project, which covers 19km radius and stretched from 132 KV TCN Sub-Station at Omisanjana to connect Erijiyan and Ikogosi-Ekiti, needed protection to spur business activities along that axis.
“I wish to urge our people to see all public infrastructure within their communities as their property and to jealously guard and protect them from vandalisation. They must also be prepared to pay for electricity usage,” he pleaded.
Oyebanji, who described electricity supply as an impetus and a major boost to the growth of SMEs, said this view accounted for why the government placed high premium on reconnection of towns experiencing lingering power outages across the state.
He lamented that a town housing one of the state’s business concerns was without power supply for years, saying connecting the town back to the national grid would boost the water bottling company as well as the tourism potentials of the area.
“For us, electricity is a critical infrastructure in our Ekiti development agenda. It is indeed, the circulatory artery upon which the Ekiti industrial agenda can be kept alive. Without power any talk of industrialisation remains an empty wish, it is for this reason that we made it a major priority in our Six Pillars development agenda of this Administration.
“When we came on board, the power infrastructure audit of the State indicated that many communities had been without electricity for many years, ranging from six to15 years. We also noticed that a critical factor that had bedeviled Ikogosi Warm Spring and Resorts and the Gossy Bottling Company was the absence of sustainable power supply and without connecting these facilities to the national grid, it would remain a mere pipe dream and the venture unprofitable.
“In our bid to find a lasting solution, it was observed that there was a 140MVA transformer at the 132KV TCN Sub-Station at Omisanjana, Ado Ekiti out of which only 80MVA transformer was being utilized while 60MVA transformer was underutilized due to lack of a corridor to evacuate the energy to.”
Speaking on the sidelines of the event, Tunde Adewumi, a youth leader from Erijiyan Ekiti, the headquarters of the LCDA, described electricity as the best thing to have happened to his community in recent times.
Adewumi who said he had evaluated most of the projects embarked upon by the governor in the last 12 months, said they are qualified to be referred to as achievement by any stretch of the imagination.
“We have witnessed over the years how governors embarked on projects that were executed to either satisfy sundry interests or to massage executive egos. For instance, a road that has no economic value or utility, may be constructed because it leads to a party chieftain’s house. Likewise, a general hospital may be sited at a particular village because of a king who is favourable to the governor’s aspiration, where all that is required is a Primary Health Centre.
Indeed, many white projects have always been on display anytime governors are marking their anniversaries in office but in Ekiti today, things are different,” Adewumi said.
Ultimately, the benefits of these urban renewal projects to the people of Ekiti are immeasurable. Apart from upgrading needed infrastructure for future growth, the urban revival will also create jobs.
In the long run, it will establish an enabling environment for economic growth, improved value of property and increased IGR. Significantly, the task of turning Ekiti State from its static and outdated self, to a progressive modernized place, is a daunting one.
However, Governor Oyebanji has taken the bull by the horns as the state has become activities driven state. By next year, when most of the projects must have been completed, Ekiti state will be wearing a new look.