It is now 100 days since the inauguration ceremony that heralded Dr. John Kayode Fayemi’s return to power as Governor of Ekiti State took place, after what now looks more like a divinely orchestrated interregnum of four years. At a well-attended inauguration ceremony that was witnessed by a festive crowd of joyous Ekiti people and other well-wishers from different walks of life, the governor and his deputy, Chief Bisi Egbeyemi, were sworn-in by the Chief Judge of the state at the iconic Ekiti Parapo Pavilion, one of legacy projects of the governor in his first tour of duty, on October 16, 2019.
In his inauguration speech, Dr. Fayemi announced the policy trust of his administration and left no one in doubt as to what his priority would be. In his first coming, he had adopted an eight-point agenda which was to mirror the millennium development goals which served as a development template for developing nations.
As a development policy operative himself, he saw it a duty to use Ekiti as a model for the policy actualization. He was very successful in the meticulous implementation and the visible outcomes that testify to his capacity to implement development programmes for the benefit of the ordinary persons.
Indeed, his social investment and human capital development policy strategies became an instructional manual for other states and countries in African. In fact, his conditional cash transfer, social welfare for the elderly and the youth empowerment programme have now become a critical policy directive of the governing APC at the national level. It would be recalled that APC appointed him the head of the policy and research directorate because of his expertise and valuable experience.
So, many including the writer, had thought he would continue the eight-point agenda with some inconspicuous modifications. We were wrong! This time, the governor has decided to refocus and to be more laconic in policy priority without abandoning the central objectives of the previous policy dictums. Chief on the priory list this time, are social investment, infrastructure development, agriculture and the knowledge economy. The four cardinal programmes are to lead the directives of government actions in the next four years.
Of these four critical cardinal policy agenda, the one that is of contiguous interest to this writer is the ‘knowledge economy’, a phrase which now rightly interprets education sector as an economic sector with high propensity to bring about multi-faceted socio-economic dividends. This should be understandable. I not only operate in the education sector, I am an education enthusiast. It is highly delightful to state that this sector has received the most concentrated attention in the last 100 days of this administration.
Immediately after the inauguration, the first policy pronouncement made by the governor was the abolition of all manner of fees paid in public schools in the state. This is consistent with the free education policy of the administration. The governor also abolished the education tax imposed on children in private schools. These announcements were well received by the poor parents who had been belaboured with a raft of payables in public schools since the coming of the administration of the government of Mr. Ayo Fayose. Even though there has been spirited efforts by some heads of public schools to circumvent the directive, the government has sanctioned some school heads to prove its readiness to courageously implement the policy with an uncompromising commitment
Similarly, the governor picked up the payment of external examination fees hitherto paid by the students. It would be recalled that Ekiti State Government under Dr. Kayode Fayemi in his first tenure, undertook payment of WAEC exam fees but this policy was jettisoned by the immediate past administration of Mr. Ayo Fayose. In addition to the payment of WAEC fees, the governor has now introduced free JAMB UTME examination for students of public schools who obtained the required credits pass in their O’ Level papers to pursue a tertiary education. The state government has also paid its counterpart funds to enable it access its share of the Universal Basic Education commission (UBEC) funds.
Furthermore, the government has outlawed every trace of examination malpractice and special center racketeering within the state. In fact, schools indicted by WAEC recently have been sternly warned by the government never to allow any examination infractions in their vicinity. Similarly, the governor has approved the establishment of six new secondary schools in Ado-Ekiti to meet the ever expanding needs for more access to quality public secondary schools in the state capital.
The three tertiary institutions namely, Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti, College of Education, Ikere-Ekiti and College of Health, Science and Technology, Ijero-Ekiti were on tenterhooks and rendered prostrate when the JKF administration took over on October 16, 2018. The schools have witnessed a series of instability as a result of months of unpaid salaries as well as the perpetuation of strange anti-academic practices in the school.
College of Health, Science and Technology, Ijero-Ekiti had virtually been destroyed beyond repair as lectures and examinations time-table were routinely suspended to allow students to compulsorily attend political rallies which were made compulsory by the former provost of the College. The College had been thoroughly factionalized between the major leadership of the College, yet the College lacked some of the smallest facilities it needed to function. In EKSU the story was the same. While College of Education Ikere-Ekiti posted the same sordid testimony. Politicization, victimization, nepotism, indolence, intolerance and other shameful practices were rife in all the schools. Many academic programmes had been denied accreditation by the regulatory bodies, just as students were made to pay through their nose without improved services in any way.
The barrage of the problems were a deluge if you ask me! Because of the importance and centrality of education to his vision, Dr. Kayode Fayemi set up Visitation Panels to visit the schools as demanded by the laws setting up the higher institutions of learning. The governor instructed in separate Executive Orders that the Panels should look into the corporate governance, institutional structure, adherence to establishment law, financial management, academic programmes, and relationship with major stakeholders among other terms of reference. After 45 days of highly the tasking job, the Panels submitted their reports to the governor on December 15, 2018. This writer was privileged to have served in one of the Panels. Many panelists were justifiably pessimistic that governments were found of setting up panels but hardly had the courage of implementing the recommendations. I always held the view that why this might be true, it is even truer that Fayemi would not set up a panel for the fun of it without acting on the outcome.
It was therefore not surprising that within days after the submission of the reports, White Paper Drafting Committees were speedily set up to look at the key findings and recommendations and proposed to government what actions to take immediately. By mid-January, the Drafting Committees had concluded their work. They advised government to accept all the far-reaching recommendations and to start with the reconstitution of the governing councils of the institutions. Within days, again, the governor approved this through a state executive council decision and promptly appointed people to serve in the governing councils of EKSU and College of Education; while a Sole Administrator was appointed to oversee the running of the College of Health, Science and Technology, Ijero-Ekiti, ostensibly to allow for the general review of the College Laws before a new Council and College Management could be put in place.
It would be recalled that a major recommendation of the Panel that visited Ijero-Ekiti was that the Law establishing the College needed to be first amended before anything else. Strategically, the governor appointed one of the members of the Visitation Panel to the College, a distinguished nurse and a retired Permanent Secretary who is well aware of the challenges in the College, to serve as the Sole Administrator in the meantime. To halt the already bad situation, the governor sent parking, the heads of EKSU, College of Education and EKSUTH; he appointed acting leadership for the schools and instructed that criminal charges be filed against any of the sacked heads who had been found culpable of financial mismanagement. The governor has also personally visited the institutions to access the level of rots in the schools. He has vowed to cause a major change in the schools as they are critical to the ideals of his government.
Going forward, the governor must consider the creation of a new model secondary school in each local government or at least, a federal constituency. The schools should be a template for what secondary school and indeed, education would look like in the year ahead. The school should be patterned after the Federal School for Special and Gifted student Suleja, Niger State. Students get into this school through highly competitive examinations from JSS 1. Ekiti is in desperate need for a new orientation, vision and learning culture which the existing schools might not be able to sign-post. Such schools will partly help to actualize the dream expressed by Prof. Niyi Osundare in the inauguration lecture delivered last year and the passion of the governor in his generational leadership development strategies.
The governor should revisit the knowledge zone idea that was botched because of the visionless successor that did away with the revolutionary effort. The plan to create Ekiti Knowledge zone, tech hubs and Wi-Fi facility for ICT innovation and revolution should still be pursued with determination. This, I believe should form the central strategy for actualizing the knowledge economy idea. The governor may also consider the floating of education development fund to raise money for the physical revamp of the existing schools and the building of the proposed Model Colleges.
If morning shows the day, we can confidently say, Dr John Kayode Fayemi is making the hays while the sun is shining in the knowledge economy strand of his four cardinal points. His dossier in this sector in the last 100 days has shown how passionate and committed he is in the transformation of the sector to an economy that brings prosperity and social development to the state. May I say congratulation Mr. Governor! More power to your elbow.
. Dr. Aniyi, a university teacher, writes from Erinmope Ekiti and can be reached on [email protected].