By TESLIM SHITTA-BEY
Ekiti state’s newly elected governor Kayode Fayemi is a brilliant conversationalist and an engaging debater. Nevertheless, with the state he is about to take over as governor locked within a time capsule of slow growth; the usually voluble gentleman will have no time for banter. According to Emmanuel Aremu indigene of Ondo but a commercial bike rider at the old garage park in Ado, ‘’The new governor will have more to chew than he can swallow. Governor Fayose put in a sterling performance but as several people have rightly noted the water for the meal was far in excess of the garri (cassava flakes) he was trying to prepare’’. Aremu was alluding to the fact that the states relatively low internally generated revenue (IGR) and its mounting debt profile. Fayose attempted to fast-track growth in the state without the required funds to prosecute the agenda. This may be true but only in parts.
Between 2013 and 2017 the states internally generated revenue (IGR) rose by 21 per cent on a five year compound average annual basis, with IGR rising from N2.34 billion in 2013 to N4.97 billion in 2017. Nevertheless, the state did have trouble with federation account allocation (FAAC) over the period as recession and falling international oil prices took its toll on the state’s FAAC allocation which dipped by -12.77 per cent from N44.27 billion in 2013 to N25.63 billion in 2017, with the worst allocation experienced in 2016 when a looming recession shrunk the states federal allocation to a droopy N18.77 billion. According to a senior public servant who did not want her name in print because she was not authorized to publicly speak on the matter, ‘’salaries suddenly disappeared before our very eyes as the state’s treasury found it impossible to cope with the size of worker’s total salary payments and emoluments not to talk of pensions’’. As far as she is concerned, ‘’if federal allocations had not gone up in 2017 by 36 per cent a bad situation could easily have become worse or indeed worst. It was gradually becoming a day of long knives’’, she observes.
But as far as Aremu, and a few of his fellow commercial bike riders operating at the old garage park are concerned, ‘’Fayose was a gem that needed the polish of finance to make him glitter’’. The feelings expressed by the commercial bikers are rather surprising given the difficulties that the immediate past government had in the regular payment of civil servant salaries and the accusation that the governor had taken advantage of his special relation with then President Good luck Jonathan to feather his own nest as he became the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP’s) voice of fire and brimstone, bashing the then opposition party, All Progressives Congress (APC), consistently and unrelentingly despite financial problems in the state. Interestingly, however, the Ekiti bikers expressions of understanding of the outgoing governments challenges with finance is a dominant theme in the state as many low to middle income workers, especially those in the private sector seem to have developed a sense of loyalty to the immediate past governor, perhaps both for his grass root political and economic antics and his various attempts at infrastructural development, particularly in the state capital and places like Iyin Ekiti, Aramoko, Igede and Oye Ekiti where road infrastructure has opened the communities up to increased commercial activities. Places outside Ado have gradually but visibly received shots to the arm as they increasingly boast of modern primary healthcare facilities (PHCs) and improved rural road networks.
Indeed entering Ado Ekiti, the state capital, from the relatively smooth Ibadan -Akure highway feels like breaking through a dense jungle of trees and hills into a modern oasis of brick and mortar. The capital of Ekiti state in the brief period of a decade has gradually been transformed from an old pasty backwater city with rusty corrugated roofs and lacquered mud houses to an upscale urban metropolis. Barely ten years ago, Ado Ekiti had no vehicular fly over or even a modern library, and to be sure it had no fashionable traders’ complex or triple-star hotel. However, today things are very much different. The state capital proudly wears the toga of an urban metropolitan area with upgraded hotels that make earlier rivals like ‘Spotless’ (owned by outgoing governor Ayo Fayose) and ‘Friendlies’ (owned by a former commissioner under the Niyi Adebayo administration) look like grand old ladies chaperoning their prettier daughters. The newer and snazzier hospitality spots in the state’s capital include KSSD hotel, Prosperous hotel, and Splendor hotel all clustered within a five kilometer radius.
When night time comes
The emergence of more hotels in the capital city has ignited a vibrant night economy that has become a blessing as well as a curse. Time was when Ado Ekiti went to sleep at dusk. Children were tucked into bed by 7 O’clock as their parents wrapped up the last vestiges of the days gossip. Shop owners hurriedly pulled down their roll up metal doors with the decisive orderliness of catholic priests. 7 O’ clock was Ado Ekiti’s witching hour when everything stopped. The city went comatose, and the sheer idea of a night-side economy was ridiculous. But those days of innocence are over. Ado Ekiti’s night economy is alive and well. It takes only a slight scratch at the social skin to reveal the soft night time underbelly of the Ekiti capital.
A visit to the serene NTA road off bank road with its towering hillside peaks from 8 pm a surreal picture gets painted. Girls in skimpy skirts, form fitting trousers and skin molding jump suits pour into the hotel as they head straight for the poolside bar. Girls ranging from the ages of 16 and 24 dangle cigarettes from their lips as their slanted eyes scour the environment for a ‘score’. Strobe lights flicker playfully over the scene creating a vision of excited expectation as the girls wriggle their slim waists and taunt male patrons to a dance floor duel. By this time the air is already building up with thick bellows of cigarette smoke with what appears to be a tinge of something stronger. Marijuana is a free circulating aphrodisiac as the girls now obviously ‘high’ do the ‘shaku shaku’ and ‘dab’ dances while seductively eyeballing their male admirers.
This is where the innocent part of the night ends. Stealthily lounging in darkened parts of the poolside those willing and able to pay for stronger items of pleasure get dutifully served by bleary-eyed muscular ‘go to’ boys scattered casually around the pool furtively sizing up potential customers. The ‘senior’ girls can be seen taking a long drag of spiff as they equally take a brief swig of ‘squishes’, which our reporter discovered was a chemical concoction of marijuana soaked with a pinch of cocaine and other herbs in straight gin. Ado Ekiti’s rapid urbanization is coming with its own urban nightmares. Young Ekiti indigenes are interpreting their newfound ‘hustle’ as freedom to rave and ‘hammer’ (make money). The young ages of the girls camping out at hotels and their total lack of self-consciousness raises issues of mental and moral preparedness of Ekiti’s sprouting army of millennial labour for the new-economy. The rave junkies of today may perhaps, over the next few years, end up becoming major health liabilities to current tax payers as the need for psychiatric care centres grow incrementally at the time the state’s baby boomers (those born between the 1960’s and 1970’s) begin to retire. Besides, low productivity that accompanies a young population plagued by years of drug abuse could compromise the opportunity of the state to increase its revenues by way of increased tax income. One of the obvious challenges the incoming administration of Kayode Fayemi, Ph.D, will face is to fashion out an urban and rural economic environment that creates opportunities for the young people of the state to fulfill their financial yearnings and career potentials without resorting to mind-adjusting quick fixes and the dangerous trading of sex for money. Kemi Akeju, Ph.D, a spirited demographics expert and lecturer in economics at Ekiti State University, is inclined to believe that, ‘’the youthful demography of the state is, potentially, a powerful pivot for both economic growth and development, however, the darker issues going forward is making this groundswell of human resources productive’’. According to Akeju, a die-hard pro-fiscal policy believer of the neo-Keynesian strand argues that, ‘’across the federation we are heedlessly increasing our numbers without improving labour skills. This will lead to double trouble. Demand for menial labour will decline progressively while the demand for skilled technical labour will increase geometrically. The internal logic of the situation will suggest that while lower cadre workers will earn less as supply exceeds demand and marginal productivity declines, skilled labour will earn more (and become wealthier) as their supply becomes inadequate relative to demand and their marginal productivity increases. The consequence for social income distribution and poverty reduction is staggering’’, she notes.
On the growing night economy in the state Akeju believes, ‘’the twenty four hour economy in the state will increase statewide gross domestic product (SGDP) through the increase in value added and other sundry taxes, but much of that growth could be hauled back by way of a rise in healthcare needs, a fall in youth productivity and a general inability to capture the night economy income beyond hotel room patronage and increased revenues from alcohol and other beverages. It is difficult to see how government will capture an ‘asun’, ‘bush meat’ or ‘suya’ tax’’, she adds half jokingly.
Politics and pain
The euphoria of winning the last governorship election is yet to die down. Ekiti state’s incoming governor, Kayode Fayemi (Ph.D), beams with confident smiles everywhere he goes, he understandably glows with the satisfaction that comes with winning. In two words Fayemi is a man ‘on fire’. The incoming chief executive of Ekitit State has had to battle a bruising election by defeating PDP’s Olusola Eleka, the anointed successor of his perennial nemesis and the state’s outgoing governor, Ayodele Fayose. In beating down Fayose’s entrenched political machinery, Fayemi’s troubles, seem to just begun. The incoming executive will take over a state in such complex social and economic twists that untying the proverbial ‘Gordian knot’ of development looks like child’s play compared to the incoming executives tasks at hand.
View from the hill top
The trouble with Ekiti state is not its star but in its typography, economy and geology. Landlocked in the North by Kogi and Kwara States; in the South and East by Ondo State and in the West by Osun State, Ekiti the state with a land mass of 6,353 km2 (making it one of the smallest states in the country) holds very slim opportunities for economic sustainability in the absence of major fiscal changes. ‘’You get the feeling that the state was fashioned to be a poster boy of the impossible shaking hands with the improbable’’, says Rahman Akinsemoyin, Ph.D, a political scientist and public administrator who notes that, ‘’Ekiti State is like tea without sugar, it has a large number of top drawer professors in different fields of human endevour, but equally displays a resolute lack of mental rigour and disciple at the level of governance’’.
Akinsemoyin’s cynicism is not without justification. Ever since 1999 when Niyi Adebayo became governor of the state with his pleasant mien but poor vision through to 2003 when Ayo Fayose first became governor under the clever guise of grass root populism and seedy capitalist opportunism and on to Fayemi’s first shot at governorship in 2007 when he showed an embarrassingly ponderous and uncoordinated approach to statecraft, Ekiti has been a poor man’s apology for progress. In 2015 when Fayose beat Fayemi to return to the governorship saddle, his theatrics as governor and his mercurial role as an opposition leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), prepared to apply a lancing tongue and wild allegations when expedient, has been of small, if any, benefit to the overall social and economic wellbeing of the state’s citizens. In almost twenty years of uninterrupted civilian administration the states socio-economic progress has been at best sketchy.
Dayo Olanipekun, Ph.D, a lecturer in Economics at the Ekiti State University notes that, ‘’beyond politics the real work now begins for the new administration. The state needs to bootstrap development and extend its recent small gains in a meaningful manner’%