Kudos, knocks as Oyebanji hits 200 days in office
Gov Biodun Abayomi Oyebanji, fondly called BAO by Ekiti residents, received exceptional electoral mandate from the people, signaling a new era in the political trajectory of the state. For the first time in the history of the state, power transited from the same political party since 1999. Before him, the ruling party’s bid to retain power had remained unsuccessful because the opposition usually clinched it.
Sworn in on October 16, 2022, Oyebanji showed his willingness to govern the ‘fountain of knowledge’, as he hit the ground running immediately he assumed office.
About 200 days in the saddle, opinions are divided about his performance. While some residents said he started well, others believe there is no significant achievement on ground to assess him.
To some residents, the greatest idea that the governor cultivated and which stands him out from his predecessors in office, including Adeniyi Adebayo, Ayodele Fayose, Chief Segun Oni and Dr. Kayode Fayemi, is his decision not to inherit their enemies. He was clear from the outset that everybody matters to his government.
Barely one month after the Supreme Court decided the Ekiti governorship election in his favour, Oyebanji proceeded to the country home of his main challenger, Chief Segun Oni of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), in what many described as a masterstroke, and pleaded with him to join hands with him in moving the state forward. Oyebanji said the visit was in fulfillment of his pledge to personally call and visit Oni, whom he described as a brother and leader for whom he had great respect.
“I am here to debunk the notion that you don’t return from court and become friends. He is my senior brother and leader whom I have great respect for. For me, I believe litigation is part of electoral process and I appreciate His Excellency for pursuing the electoral matter up till the apex court and not recourse to self-help,” Oyebanji said.
The governor, who expressed appreciation to God for making the meeting possible, described Oni as a role model who had contributed immensely to the development of the state and needs to also benefit from the fruits of his labour. He urged him to return to the All Progressives Congress (APC), where he truly belongs and join in the race to reposition the state as well as support the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to develop the country.
He said: “We belong to different political parties, but when it comes to Ekiti development, God has put you as pathfinder and you are an Ekiti man to the core. You love this state. And sir, we campaigned on a mantra of prosperity, and you just spoke that we need to develop the state to a point where every indigene of this state will be prosperous, irrespective of where they find themselves. We can only do that by creating development centres in our local governments and communities.”
Oni, who said the meeting was the best he had attended this year in view of the sincerity of the governor, stressed the need to build a virile Ekiti State based on unity of purpose because the state has been left behind among comity of states and all hands should be on deck to reposition it by making all communities development centres to engender true development.
Though, the challenges before BAO are very daunting, especially the dearth of infrastructure, the challenges in the education sector, the urgent need for improvement in the health sector, epileptic power supply that has remained a nightmare, and human capital development challenges, many residents in the state believe the governor is on track to provide solutions to these challenges.
In tackling these seemingly difficult challenges, the governor came up with the six-pillar development agenda. They are youth development and job creation, human capital development, agriculture and human development, infrastructure and industrialisation, arts, culture and tourism.
The Guardian sought the opinion of some residents of the state on BAO’s performance. Mr. Oluyemi Christopher, a retired civil servant said that he was impressed by the governor’s decision to embark on the tour of Abuja after just a few days in office, visiting some strategic Ministries, Departments and Agencies that could facilitate developmental projects to the state, saying that the governor has equally met some Chief Executives of some development partners, who have been helping the state under the previous administration.
Christopher noted that prior to his assumption of office, the roads in Ado Ekiti, the state capital, had become almost impassable leaving the residents in agony. He said, however, that nearly all the roads have received government attention.
He said: “Also, within the period in the helm of affairs, Oyebanji has brought a new lease to the nightlife in the state capital, with massive deployment of streetlights under the “Operation Light up Ekiti.” Those in the hospitality business and those doing businesses at night now do their trade without fear of molestation or attack from criminals.
“My concern is that when the governor eventually gets full complement of his cabinet, he won’t be distracted or slowed down by the commissioners and other aides that he may appoint. I also hope and pray that he will not appoint too many aides, given the lean resources available to the state.”
Another resident, Femi Olajide said that Oyebanji has not fared badly in the area of security. According to him, before he was sworn in, insecurity had become a nightmare for residents of the state. He noted that kidnapping, armed robberies and other social vices were rampant, especially in the Ekiti North senatorial districts where he hails from.
“With joint efforts of his administration and the security task force put in place to rid the state of these criminal elements, residents are now sleeping with their two eyes closed. In fact, the state was recently rated as the most peaceful in the country. Kidnapping is gradually becoming a thing of the past. I think he deserves a pat in the back for his efforts in this regard.
“Also, the salary arrears, deductions from workers salaries and leave bonuses that his administration inherited from two successive governments are being paid. Within just six months in the saddle, the governor has paid two months salaries arrears and some deductions. The pensioners are not also left behind in this display of good governance. This is good development for the state. However, it is too early to conclude that he would end at this pace. I can only hope that the accolades by the people don’t get to his head so that he can finish well.”
For Prof. Gbenga Jegede of the Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti, two major issues endeared the governor to him. People thought that the leadership crisis that broke out at the state House of Assembly, which led to the election of two speakers within one week, would consume the state legislature and by extension create a crisis for his government.
“I was surprised that the festering crisis was nipped in the bud within a few days, and normalcy returned to the legislative arm. In fact, important bills, including the 2023 budget were passed and signed into law by the governor.
“Also, before he became governor, the State Council of Traditional Rulers had been bedeviled by intractable crises. Today, Oyebanji has been able to calm frayed nerves and cement the relationship between the monarchs.”
Professor Jegede said that the only challenge he thinks could slow down the governor could be the overbearing attitude of some past governors, who have assumed the position of godfathers. He urged Oyebanji to manage them without creating acrimony that could distract him from governance.
In her assessment, Mrs. Lydia Oladele, a market woman in Ado Ekiti, said that she was not surprised by the performance of the governor because of his antecedent as one of the people that midwifed the creation of Ekiti State even as a young man. She said: “Don’t forget that this governor has served under three administrations in different capacities, and has learnt the robe of governance.
“I can only pray for him to finish well, because the starting well does not deserve kudos until he finishes on good record. I pray sincerely that he will not let down the elites and the ordinary people of Ekiti who repose confidence in him, by providing them with a good dividend of democracy.”
The Southwest Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chief Sanya Atofarati, scored the governor low, saying that there are no available parameters to assess him so far. He urged him to concentrate on governance, instead of going to visit people in their houses.
“He has performed below expectations. I have not seen anything he has done to warrant being assessed or praised. Is it in the area of infrastructural development? The only thing we have seen is patching of roads within the state. In the health sector and in education, what has he done significantly? In agriculture where the state is blessed with the advantage of good soil and by which the youths can be gainfully employed, what has he done in that area?
“You can attest to the number of graduates who are in the labour market. What has he done to take them off the streets? There are many graduates who are okada riders in the state today. He should concentrate on governance because people expect much from him having been part of government since 1999. Oyebanji is expected to perform well as the first indigenous governor. He runs the affairs of the state without commissioners but as sole administrator.”
But underscoring his determination to excel in office, Oyebanji during the event to mark his 100 days in office said: “I don’t have any excuse for Ekiti people not to perform, for this reason, at 26, I was part of the people that fought for the creation of the state. I worked with two governors, Otunba Niyi Adebayo and Dr. Kayode Fayemi. That is why, in terms of intense pressure, I am taking my time to see that we do the right thing for Ekiti people.”
Oyebanji told the massive crowd that the “outlook of his government is that of a government of the people, for the people and by the people through active involvement of the people in governance. Our manifesto is anchored on six pillars, which have been carefully designed to position Ekiti State for peace and prosperity despite the challenges of this season.”
On gratuity for retired workers, Oyebanji said, it is his desire for them to collect their money when they are still alive, describing it as unacceptable even as he just approved gratuity for some retired judges in the state, adding that it is very painful.
The governor added that he had made-up his mind to prioritise workers’ welfare. According to him, his government will do roads, lights, other things and those that will support productivity and the economy of the state to develop.
He said his government paid over N300 million for the 2023 West African Examinations Council (WAEC) fees for students and N600 million counterpart fund to State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) for local contractors to be paid in the state and approved the recruitment of 1,000 teachers to the system.
According to him, what the government is doing is to make school very attractive for teachers and students and to stop capital flight in Ekiti State. The governor equally vowed to provide security and other social facilities, with flexible tax policy to propel investment and encourage investors, to boost the economy and business development.
He also promised to launch an innovation grant facility to reduce youth unemployment in the state. He, however, pleaded with Ekiti people to love and share together, saying whatever “we are, is by the grace of God,” urging them to put smiles on the faces of those who do not have.