Governors, brand your states! – Part 3
A couple of years ago, I went to Ado Ekiti for the burial of a friend’s mum. The friendship goes way back to our days in boarding school in Ikere Ekiti more than 35 years ago. Back then, Ekiti was part of Ondo State. After the burial ceremonies in Ado Ekiti, we decided to drive to our school in Ikere Ekiti, just a ten minute drive away. We wanted to see our school again after more than three decades. When we drove into the school, we spent the first ten minutes wondering whether we had missed our way. We were beyond shocked at the state of the school. One of the guards on duty conducted us round what used to be a well laid out beautifully landscaped learning environment. We were too sad to even cry, seeing what had become of our once beautiful boarding school. Most of the buildings were in ruins. The whole place was so overgrown with bush we couldn’t even access many parts of the school. We were appalled to behold the carcass of what was once our dormitory. This is just one of many examples of what became of some of our best secondary schools simply because a bunch of morons decided that missionary schools should be taken over by the State without any feasible plan for sustaining standards and running the schools as efficiently as they were being run before. Yet, Ekiti State prides itself as “The Fountain of Knowledge”. When the state embarked on some sort of branding a few years ago, it came up with the slogan “Land of Honour”. Whichever slogan is used to describe Ekiti State, the fact remains that the state is a sad illustration of failed leadership.
As a boarding school student I enjoyed the Free Education program of the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, with Adekunle Ajasin as the governor of Ondo State between 1979 and 1983. While our school was a “missionary school” we still enjoyed the state’s Free Education Program. Ours was a comprehensive school that combined academic and vocational training. In that school, we were trained to be self-sufficient and independent. We were served bread baked by fellow students in the school and when you needed a haircut, a fellow student did it for you at the school’s barbing salon. You needed to mend your shoes and it would be done by student cobblers. Today we can no longer find educational institutions of that quality in Ekiti State. Worse still, there is no state owned educational institution that meets today’s global standards. After decades of systematically destroying the educational standard we grew up knowing, the state now calls itself “Fountain of Knowledge”. I don’t understand it.
Meanwhile, as we drove through the state, we saw the same old Bedford trucks used to ferry timber more than four decades ago still being used. How those trucks had been kept running remains a mystery to me. But even more mysterious is how successive governments in the state have somehow failed to build a massive industry around the forest resources of the state. The state could implement a program for sustainable forests, with the timber feeding a thriving furniture manufacturing and real estate sector, creating hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect employment as well as much needed Internally Generated Revenue. And of course, the rocks! Ekiti State is blessed with humongous rocks. But successive administrations only enjoy romanticizing the rocks while the locals have given different names to these rocks. They take delight in telling folk tales and singing about the rocks, instead of building a solid industry that produces all the granite for our real estate sector. We have been importing granite and marble forever, while Ekiti State alone has the potential to produce all the granite we need. What can Ekiti boast of today? Put a giant microscope on the state and you are not likely to see anything worth boasting about.
Oyo State calls itself “Pace Setter”. This is not surprising as the state is associated with a number of historical firsts. Founded in 1932, University of Ibadan is the first university in Nigeria. When it was completed in 1965, Cocoa House Ibadan was the tallest building in tropical Africa and its construction was mainly funded with proceeds from Cocoa, Timber and Rubber. The first television station was established in Ibadan and began broadcasting in October 1959 under the name WNTV. But sadly, the days of visionary leadership are long gone, and what we have witnessed in recent decades is a swarm of parasites parading themselves as leaders. With these historical firsts, Oyo State has a proud legacy to build on. So why aren’t the leaders committed to a continuation of that tradition? When in recent memory has Oyo State achieved any first? In what way is Oyo State setting the pace? And what sort of pace, if one may ask, is it that they are setting? A city that once had the tallest building in tropical Africa now struggles to build ordinary flyovers and good roads. The state has long descended into filth and shame. Yet, it is called the pace setter. I am yet to hear the current state governor say any tangible thing about setting any pace or about achieving any first. On the contrary, he has struggled to make the state viable and achieve rapid development. He should rediscover the vision that made those historical firsts possible and return the lost glory of that great city called Ibadan.
We have had too many people getting into government without a sense of history and no sense of purpose. They have no vision other than to enrich themselves and enjoy the privileges of office. We can no longer afford the costly error of allowing these criminals get into public office. We must collectively raise the bar and insist on very high standards of leadership. And to those planning to get into public office, if your predecessor’s shoes are too big for you please, for posterity’s sake, step aside.