Ekiti State and kalokalo Democracy
For those who do not understand its meaning, ‘kalokalo’ means gambling or betting. With gambling, there are no guarantees. No assurances. You are simply taking a risk. The level of risk you take depends on how much you are willing to stake, relative to your means. Unfortunately, gambling is most popular amongst the teeming lower income masses, many of whom are constantly praying, seeking and hoping for miraculous breakthroughs. No thanks to our multitude of prosperity prophets who have since turned this illusion into Nigeria’s most vibrant thriving economic sector, further impoverishing the poor. It is this same mass of poverty stricken Nigerians who are most affected by the perennial leadership crisis that has been our nation’s natural disaster. How the political class feels comfortable living with this infamous label beggars all comprehension.
And so, as Ekiti State goes to the polling booths to elect a new governor, the people must chose to either continue with the vicious circle of purposeless governorship or make a lucky break from these past years of shame and poverty. One of the reasons we have remained in poverty lies in the way we have managed to make poverty look good. There are certain ways in our cultural profile and behaviour which tend to glorify poverty. It appears the majority of our people have accepted poverty as an inalienable right and one to be proud of. This mentality has been constantly exploited by greedy, selfish and callous politicians who feed ravenously on the commonwealth of our people while presiding over an ever worsening poverty index. Unfortunately, this group of people has mastered the criminal manipulation of the democratic system and electoral process to tighten their satanic grip on power, making it ever more difficult for the people to remove them through democratic means. It is an irony, that the same democracy which promises the people the best form of governance has been contrived to keep our people in perpetual poverty.
It is only a few days to the 2018 Governorship Election in Ekiti State, but I am struggling to decipher what each of the leading governorship candidates has to offer. I am unable to put a finger on any tangible value proposition at the heart of the campaigns of the various candidates. It has been all noise but little substance in their campaigns. With 39 aspirants to the office, is this democracy or one big expensive joke? The candidates of APC and PDP are obviously the most prominent of the lot. Dr Kayode Fayemi of APC has been governor before and later a Federal Minister. A very articulate, intelligent and cerebral person, I am surprised that his campaign doesn’t have a tangible value proposition. As I write, his website is offline. And this is just a few days to the election! His counterpart in the PDP, intends to promote himself from the office of Deputy Governor to that of the State Number 1 Citizen. Or, rather, he intends to persuade the people to promote him. Looking at his website, I am unable to pick any meaningful message, except the time worn vague clichés about continuity, building a better future and making our country great. This is why I think, for the people, it is merely another time to gamble with their votes and hope for the best.
I have a soft spot for Ekiti State. I spent the five years of my secondary school education in Ikere-Ekiti, at one of the nation’s best boarding schools at the time. Ekiti State is one of the smallest states in the Federal Republic, with a population of less than 4 million people. Like many, (if not all) of the states in Nigeria, Ekiti is naturally blessed and generously endowed with abundant resources. And like other states too, Ekiti has constantly failed to produce that special governor to turn these natural endowments into abundant prosperity for the benefit of the people. The state is rich in granite, kaolinite, iron ore, gemstone, phosphate, limestone, baryte and gold. Dr Kayode Fayemi’s background as solid minerals minister has not even been played upon by way of a master plan on what to do about the state’s solid minerals. In terms of agriculture, Ekiti was known to have contributed more than 40% of cocoa products in the old Western Region. As secondary school students in Ekiti State, we grew and harvested maize twice a year, in addition to other food and cash crops. The state is rich in forest resources, notably timber, as well as water resources. The famous Gossy Table Water is bottled at one of the natural springs in the state. The natural endowments are such that highly viable tourist attractions abound.
Sadly, Ekiti State is famous today for being bankrupt and unable to pay salaries. Successive governors have failed to transform the tiny city of Ado Ekiti into a tourism and industrial hub. Neither the granite nor forest resources have been transformed into industrial clusters producing granite and furniture for the thriving real estate sector as well as for export. The state potential for becoming one of the world’s leading producers of cocoa has been largely neglected. I am yet to see any master plan or clearly articulated value proposition from any of the governorship candidates that gives me hope that this state can begin to truly realize its huge potential as a major economic powerhouse in Nigeria.
I know Ekiti people as hard-working and principled. What they need is a visionary leader who will lead them to the proverbial Promised Land. But is that leader amongst the 39 candidates vying to lead them forward? I have not seen any strong indication to suggest so. I have not heard any inspirational utterance from any of them and I am yet to decipher or comprehend any compelling and engaging brand promise from them. Rather, what has dominated the media are controversies that lack substance as well as mud-slinging. Is this the level of politics we should be practicing in the 21st Century? And in a country so desperately in need of purposeful and visionary leadership?
Strategic Brand Management is seriously needed in our politics and governance. This is the way you harness your unique attributes to build competitive advantage. In similar manner, governance must harness the unique resources of states to build economic advantage and prosperity for the people. If you go to Ekiti today, you will still see the types of Timber Lorries used in the 60s and 70s. Those archaic Bedford and Austin trucks long forgotten by their manufacturers. How they keep these things moving remains a mystery to me. But sadly, it shows the backwardness of our leaders. It shows failure to advance the situation of the people and elevate the living standards of the populace. It shows failure to turn economic potential to competitive advantage. This is the situation Ekiti’s new leadership must change. Anything less will be the continuity of hopelessness and failure.
• Muyiwa Kayode is CEO at USP Brand Management and author, The Seven Dimensions of Branding. Brand Nation is a platform for promoting national development based on the