By Femi Esan
Barely a year and four months ago, many Ekiti residents found themselves ensnared in a dilemma, grappling with a pivotal choice as they approached the gubernatorial poll held on June 18, 2022. Three major contenders vied for the State’s Governorship position: Mr. Biodun Oyebanji of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who concurrently held the distinguished position of Secretary to the State Government; Former Governor Engr. Segun Oni of the Social Democratic Party (SDP); and Chief Bisi Kolawole of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
The election was keenly contested and debated, leaving many with doubts about the aptitude of Governor Oyebanji, who was, to some, an enigmatic figure, unfamiliar and untested in the realm of state politics. Meanwhile, this perception was based on a lack of familiarity with Governor Oyebanji, who had been a diligent actor in Ekiti’s political affairs for decades. His involvement as the Secretary of the State’s creation in 1996 and his continued contribution to the development of the State had solidified his presence in the State’s political sphere, albeit unbeknownst to many who were not closely attuned to Ekiti’s political landscape. The proof of the pudding in the eating, and contrary to initial skepticism, history took an unexpected turn, and Oyebanji emerged victorious.
Former Governor Kayode Fayemi’s decision to endorse Oyebanji as his successor faced resistance from a cadre of party members. Presently, a substantial contingent of these dissenters not only acknowledges the wisdom of the former governor’s choice but also extols his decision. This profound transformation vividly echoes the age-old biblical verse (Psalm 118:22): “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”
Governor Oyebanji has indeed, proven himself to be a capable and transformative leader since his assumption of office in October 16, 2022. What seemed like an uncertain choice then has ultimately evolved into a point of reference, a font of blessings, and a wellspring of inspiration to many.
In the span of a single year, Ekiti has borne witness to a deluge of transformation under his stewardship, marked by visionary leadership and enduring impact. His transformative approach has left an indelible imprint on the state’s socioeconomic and political landscape. Oyebanji’s brand of leadership is characterized by inclusivity, ensuring that no sector or demographic is excluded from the ambit of development. His visionary prowess is exemplified by his six distinct development pillars covering: youth development and job creation; human capital development; agriculture and rural development; infrastructure and industrialization; arts, culture, and tourism; and good governance.
Today, Ekiti citizens, both young and old, are well cognizant of his indomitable influence which has gained widespread recognition and also put Ekiti on the global map. His unwavering dedication to progress and transformation is reconfiguring the trajectory of Ekiti State, unequivocally affirming the dictum that extraordinary leadership can emerge from the most unanticipated quarters.
Despite foregoing the popular customary monthly ‘Meet Your Governor’ media interaction, he has adeptly fostered continuous engagement with the citizens through a series of more strategic communication channels. Notably, he initiated the establishment of the Ekiti State Bureau of Community Communications, a visionary move aimed at invigorating grassroots involvement and reconnecting his administration with citizens who, at times, may have felt marginalized or overlooked in the governance process.
In his steadfast commitment to inclusivity, he introduced a distinctive stakeholder engagement programme, organized every 100 days. This initiative serves the dual purpose of providing citizens with updates on government progress and actively soliciting their valuable insights on areas that warrant attention and redress.
Furthermore, Oyebanji recently launched an annual stakeholder engagement forum, designed to ascertain the specific needs of the citizenry in preparation for the 2024 budget. This innovative approach is geared towards fine-tuning governmental priorities, ensuring that projects are aligned with the pressing needs of the people and fostering a direct and meaningful impact on the lives of the citizenry.
His first year in office has been marked by a myriad of remarkable achievements spanning across the six pillars of development, transforming Ekiti State in numerous ways.
In the area of Infrastructure and Industrialization, the Governor’s vision for a more electrified State materialized with the installation of a 3.5MW Independent Power Plant (IPP). He has also reconnected Ekiti East, Gbonyin/Aiyekire, Erijiyan, Ikogosi, and Ikogosi Resort to the national grid, thereby improving power access and enhancing the State’s tourism sector. This milestones portend a more reliable and robust power supply, laying a solid foundation for the State’s overall development. Also, the replacement of conventional streetlight lamps with solar lamps in the State aligns with the Governor’s renewable energy roadmap, signaling an innovative and sustainable approach.
In an astute recognition of the perennial threat posed by flooding, a common issue in the State, the government initiated a strategic dredging of flood-prone areas. This proactive measure not only mitigates the risks associated with heavy rains but also serves as a safeguard for the lives and properties of residents.
Similarly, the comprehensive de-siltation exercise conducted throughout the State’s capital contributes positively to environmental sustainability. The meticulous removal of silt from water bodies is indeed, promoting a cleaner environment, thereby reducing vulnerability to inundation.
Demonstrating a commitment to good governance, Governor Oyebanji, within his one year in office has reached out to the vulnerable by distributing Palliatives to cushion the effect of the fuel subsidy remover by the Federal Government. This exemplified his dedication to effective governance, especially during challenging times.
Furthermore, his recognition of the critical role of quality education led to the recruitment of Teachers into both secondary and primary schools, thereby enhancing the State’s educational capacity. The spirit of inclusivity was further exemplified by the recruitment of sign language interpreters into special schools and public institutions, especially benefiting those with disabilities.
The healthcare sector, too, experienced a significant boost with the establishment of two Cholera Reference Laboratories and the procurement of medical equipment at 13 secondary health facilities.
Meanwhile, as the government places strong emphasis on agriculture, various initiatives aimed at empowering Farmers were launched. These encompass the distribution of cheques to Agric cooperatives and communities in the State, distribution of essential tools, seedlings, and other intervention programmes, significantly bolstering the agricultural sector. Similarly, in the domain of agriculture and rural development, the government provided substantial subsidies for seeds to rice, maize, cassava, cocoa, and cashew farmers, reinvigorating the agricultural sector. Simultaneously, rural infrastructure was addressed with the rehabilitation of farm roads and the enhancement of wet markets.
In addition to the noteworthy accomplishments of his tenure, Governor Oyebanji has underscored his dedication to astute fiscal management and an all-encompassing approach to governance. Recently, he presented the meticulously crafted 2024 Budget Estimate tagged “Budget of Sustainable Growth and Development” of N159,572,481,915.61 to the State House of Assembly, a culmination of extensive deliberations with key stakeholders across the state.
This budget serves as an eloquent representation of the governor’s vision for fostering the continual growth and development of Ekiti State, in line with his six strategic pillars and a bold step towards the realization of his administration’s shared prosperity agenda.
Reflecting on Oyebanji’s remarkable journey in his first year in office, it’s vital to recognize that the achievements highlighted in this article are but a portion of the milestones his administration has recorded. His first year in office has firmly established the stepping stones for the journey ahead. With his one-year giant strides, Ekiti is unquestionably a domain in progress, and the assurance of shared prosperity is undeniably on the horizon.