By Segun Dipe
_“Our progress has shown that the vision which drove the movement for the creation of Ekiti State was not a misplaced one. An eloquent testimony to this is the fact that even though Ekiti is one of the smallest states in terms of size, income and population, it remains one of the frontline states in terms of human and social development indices. It is one of the States with the biggest stock of human capital, social amenities, social investments and steady development paradigms. It is a thing of pride for us to look back at our humble beginnings 25 years ago and to see how far we have come across the various sectors of human development. We have every reason to thank God for his goodness to us as a people.”_
The above statement, an extract from the speech delivered by the Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi on Wednesday October 1, 2021, is in commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of the creation of Ekiti State, which coincides with the 61st Independence Anniversary of Nigeria. It is indication that Ekiti has come a long way, beating all odds to become one to reckon with among the comity of states in Nigeria.
Governor Fayemi seized the opportunity to pay tributes to every stakeholder who contributed in one way or the other in ensuring that the State was founded on a solid rock.
What is deductible from the Governor’s anniversary speech is that while Ekiti may not have reached its _El-Dorado_ in its 25 years of creation –and no state or country ever does that, the state has come a long way as an independent state carved out from the old Ondo State without any take-off grant. In other words, Ekiti may all along have been boxing in the ring of growth and development with bare knuckles, but it has not been shadow-boxing as some cynics are wont to see or say.
When we downplay or skip celebration, we are telling ourselves that we haven’t done enough to be proud of ourselves. Even the biblical Israelites, as blessed as they were, did not fare any better, as they had to journey for 40 years before reaching the land promised them by God. The journey was to have taken them 40 days!
Like any small state in the federation, Ekiti faces developmental challenges and capacity constraints. Even when its government aspires to higher standard of living for the people, it must struggle with limited material and human resources. Its size and Gross Domestic Product are relatively small and can be excused if the state chooses to remain at the back burner. According to the 2015 ranking, and at a growth rate of 5.1%, the GDP of Ekiti stood at $3.6 Billion, its per capita was $1.133m, with a labour force of 1.4m. In comparison to the economy of other states in the same southwest region, this is undoubtedly a very weak foundation to build a strong economy on.
But the state is stubbornly trudging on. In the words of the erudite Prof. Banji Akintoye, himself an illustrious Ekiti son from Ado Ekiti, “…we are a stubborn people and we use our stubbornness to promote worthy course.”
For the purpose of this piece, here are 25 reasons Ekiti must roll out the drums. This, by no means, is exhaustive. Rather, it tallies it with the state’s 25 years anniversary as an independent state in Nigeria.
*One:* None one can deny the fact that Ekiti has within the short period adapted itself to the global standard of the changing world, to the new economic context, to the new technological paradigms and to new set of values.
*Two:* Ekiti is relatively a peaceful and safe state. No any significant domestic problem has eaten deep into the fabric of the state like it could have in any other state. And when they rear their ugly heads, the state government is always up to the task to solve them.
*Three:* it is not out of sheer coincidence that the governor of the state emerges as the Chairman of all governors, and from diverse parties, in Nigeria. He wouldn’t have, if his state is a troubled or failing one.
*Four:* Ekiti is constantly in the news for the good reasons. It is impossible to mention five states in the country today before mentioning the state. This is also noticeable in the kind of recognitions in form of awards and honours that keep pouring in for the its citizens.
*Five:* Looking clinically, one would see a level of confidence building in the state’s essential role in harnessing resources within and directing incentives through a distinctive policy-making process. The policies of the present administration of Dr. Fayemi have greatly attracted investors into the state. This is a thumbs-up achievement for a landlocked state like Ekiti.
*Six:* Ekiti cannot be underrated in the area of education. Apart from having a federal University, Ekiti of today boasts two state Universities and one top-notch private university set up by one of its notable citizens in Aare Afe Babalola. No one doubts that the Afe Babalola University in Ado Ekiti is riding high and competes favourably with anyone created in any other part of the country or even globally.
*Seven:* The dream of creating a knowledge economic zone in the state is now realisable more than ever before and the Fayemi administration has promised to bring it to bear before it leaves.
*Eight:* Ekiti ranks higher than other states in terms transparency and integrity. It is second only to Kaduna State which slightly leads it, with both sharing the “A” rating.
*Nine:* Regular payment of salaries is a thing of joy to the civil servants. An average Ekiti worker is able to plan with his or her monthly earning. That has been made possible by the present administration of Dr. John Kayode Fayemi.
*Ten:* Confidently, Ekiti is capable of planning for its socio-economic and political growth as an independent state. This is noticeable in the recent creation of growth centres in the form of 19 Local Council Development Areas, in addition to the existing 16 Local Government Areas.
*Eleven:* In Agriculture, several strategic policies are put in place by the present administration and have put the state in the radar of investors in the agro-allied industry. There is even a University of Agriculture to give agric an intellectual support in the state.
*Twelve:* Ekiti has put in place an integrated network of security infrastructure, which ensures that the state is safe and secure for local and foreign investors.
*Thirteen:* Ekiti boasts one of the best and safest road networks to travel in Nigeria today. Recently, the State Government again announced its approval of another sum of N7.6 billion for the construction of roads and rehabilitation of infrastructure in the state.
*Fourteen:* An Agro-Cargo Airport is under construction and will be operational before October 15, 2022. The benefit of this cannot be overlooked as it will certainly have a long term positive impact on agriculture and investment.
*Fifteen:* Ekiti is the first state to have passed a Freedom of Information Bill into Law in Nigeria. The state enacted the law exactly two months after the federal government enactment of the Freedom of Information Act. Only Lagos and Delta States have since followed suit.
*Sixteen:* Ekiti women have something to cheer. The state is now well-known for the most robust programmes and laws it has put in place for the empowerment of women in Nigeria.
*Seventeen:* In the area of infrastructure development, Ekiti is not doing badly and would not have been reckoned with, if it had remained in the bosom of the Old Ondo State. Today, statistics favour the state as a fast developing state.
*Eighteen:* Ekiti is at the forefront of championing a regional economic strategy for the south west through the floating of development-focused corporate entities named Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission.
*Nineteen:* The South West Security Network, codenamed _Amotekun,_ is one of the Security operatives that have been set up in Ekiti. This shows the seriousness the state has put into combating crime.
*Twenty:* Ekiti of today is an investment hub. No state in the southwest region would boast of attracting more investors, local and foreign, than Ekiti. Again, integrity and transparency is playing a critical role here, and it tallies with the promise made by the governor, Dr. Fayemi, to make the State one of the top five investment destinations in Nigeria before exiting office in 2022.
*Twenty-One:* As part of its commitment to help grow and diversify the Nigerian economy, the United States has found Ekiti a viable hub and has partnered with the latter to ramp up local milk production in Ikun Dairy Farm to about 10,000 litres, using cows from the USA.
*Twenty-Two:* Efforts are in top gear to produce of over one million metrics tonnes of rice within the next couple of years. Recently, the State announced that it was embarking on massive production of rice so as to be able to meet both local demands and for export.
*Twenty-Three:* Ekiti is not lying low in the sector of health. When the pandemic Covid-19 came ravaging the proactive efforts of Ekiti State government in stemming it did not go unnoticed. The state got rated second out of the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on the COVID-19 State Response Index.
*Twenty-Four:* Construction of a Civic Centre in Ado Ekiti is a cynosure to every eye. Residents and visitors alike have confirmed it as a standard and respectable project. No indigene of Ado would ignore its value-adding.
*Twenty-Five:* That the railway is passing through the Ekiti state is a dream come through and a thing of joy. Kudos.
Well, this is not all, but they are good enough reasons for every Ekiti son and daughter to be cheerful that their state gives them reasons to celebrate as it clocks 25.
Dipe is the Senior Special Assistant to Gov. Fayemi on Public Communtion