Ekiti: The long road to 20

Ekiti is the youngest of the six states that make up the South West geo-political zone of Nigeria. The state was carved out of the old Ondo State on October 1, 1996, by the Provisional Ruling Council (PRC) headed by the then president and commander-in-chief of the Nigerian armed forces, General Sani Abacha. Ekiti was among the six states that were announced during the 36th Independence Day broadcast by the late General Abacha.

The announcement of the state: ‘Ekiti’ was a culmination of sustained lobbying and of a well-structured struggle led by a number of prominent sons and daughters of Ekiti. Following the announcement by the Head of State, Ekiti State came into being and thereby capped the meticulous struggle by a people who had, in a number of years before then, joined their efforts with people from Akure, Owo, Ondo, Akoko, Okitipupa, Ilaje and others from the old Ondo Province, to demand their own separate state, Ondo.

The struggle for the old Ondo State, which was carved out as a separate State from the Western State in February 1976, was led by the late J. B. Akinyede, a Lagos-based lawyer of high repute, who hails from Ode-Ekiti. However, a number of years after the successful struggle for Ondo State by the people of the old Ondo Province, the people of Ekiti within the same creation, still were not quite satisfied with the aftermath of the struggle. The Ekiti people complained of numerous things they viewed as being lopsided in the scheme of things in the new Ondo State. Thus the struggle for a state for the Ekiti was conceived.

A frontline Ekiti indigene, Chief Deji Fasuan, on why the struggle for Ekiti State began, noted that after the creation of Ondo State, “there soon grew up some uneasiness arising from the different sub-ethnic groups that made the new state.” Chief Fasuan explained further that “notable of these were the Ekiti (believed to be more than 50 per cent of the population), Akure, Akoko, Owo, Ondo, Okitipupa, Ilaje, Ese-Odo among others.”

Fasuan, in his book, “Scaling Accidents of Life, an Autobiography plus Political Gladiators of my Time” said: “While the military administrations of Squadron Leader David Ita Ikpeme  and his successor, Brigadier Etsijolomi Tuoyo lasted, much of the grumblings were contained. The contentious issues were appointments in the public service and the siting of economic of capital projects in the component parts of the new state.”

Chief Fasuan added: “Things got somewhat out of hand starting from the civilian administration that took over power in 1979. The civilian governor, Adekunle Ajasin, an Owo indigene of modest means, presided over a turbulent administration. This administration made substantial progress in the area of employment, especially of youths with tertiary education.  But for financial handicap, it could not do much in providing infrastructure such as roads, which were sorely needed in the much neglected area.

“Education made some noticeable advancement as new schools and teachers’ colleges were set up with the cooperation and participation, in many cases, of local interests. In the long-run, however, all schools were ‘nationalised’ and taken over by government purely on ideological, not altruistic reasons.”


The actual struggle for Ekiti State

Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital, Ado Ekiti.
Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital, Ado Ekiti.

The excerpts from Chief Fasuan’s book stand to reason because he mooted the idea for the demand for Ekiti State from Ondo State for reasons he stated in the same publication. Chief Fasuan’s bully pulpit on the creation of Ekiti State even flows from an idea he said he mooted in a submission to the the military administration of President Ibrahim Babangida, which led to the creation of Irepodun/Ifelodun Local Government Area of Ekiti State. According to him, “after the Confab of 1989, I settled down finally in Ado Ekiti and started thinking on how to get our people to believe that their political salvation lay in a new state to be carved out of Ondo State.”

He noted that “at first, the idea was greeted with bemusement with many people, including genuine patriots, thinking it was an idle dream. How was it possible for an Ekiti State to survive in a desert of poverty and non-identifiable natural resources.” Despite the pessimism, he pressed ahead with the idea of “Ekiti State” and wrote a letter to 24 other people with whom he hoped to build a platform to bring others on board and make the dream a reality. Chief Fasuan started with what he called : ‘The Wednesday Group’ and in a letter dated May 29, 1991, he suggested meetings of the like minds “to fashion a modus operandi for a Wednesday Group as it were.”

He noted that while those he contacted dragged in their initial pessimism, including a failed inaugural meeting in Lagos (attended by two who were pessimists out of the 18 invitees) the then federal government announced the creation, of Kogi, Osun, Anambra, Abia, Imo, Adamawa, Edo, Delta and Taraba states. Ekiti was left out.

He said: “These two episodes and more convinced my committee which has now changed its name from ‘Wednesday Group’ to ‘Committee for the Creation of Ekiti State’, to believe that we should modify our method if we were to achieve our goal.”

The elders statesman also explained that monarchs were also enlisted in the struggle, noting that “the Obas led by the Ewi of Ado Ekiti, Alaaye of Efon and Obanla of Ìjèsà Isu played prominent roles in these exploits.”

Thus, with the success of the struggle came the announcement of Ado Ekiti as the state capital and the administrative areas are 16 Local Government Areas namely: Ado, Ekiti East, Gbonyin, Ekiti Southwest, Ekiti West, Efon, Emure, lse/Orun, Ido/Osi, ljero, Ikere, Ikole, Irepodun/lfelodun, Moba, llejemeje and Oye.

Indeed, in the simplest of terms, what led to the agitation by the Ekiti people for their own state, was also the same reasons for the call for the creation of old Ondo State. Chief Fasuan, who retired as a permanent secretary in the Ondo State public service, observed that the Ajasin government ran into problem in the administration of the public service. He alleged favouritism in government and public appointments; ‘God-fatherism’, nepotism against the Ekiti folks in the service of old Ondo State, among other ills  as some of the reasons the people felt they neede their own state.

He said: “The culminations of our vicissitudes in the old Ondo State were the series of events that flowed from the internal politics of the ruling party. The convulsion affected the political, administrative and legislative functions of the state government. The series of problems and experiences naturally led to reactions and frustrations, first among Ekiti public servants in Ondo State and among the general population of Ekiti in the new state.”

“Today, Ekiti State is situated entirely within the tropics. An online source said it is located between longitudes 40.51 and 50.451 East of the Greenwich meridian, and latitudes 70.151 and 80.51 north of the Equator. It lies south of Kwara and Kogi s states; East of Osun State and bounded by Ondo State in the East and also in the south.”

According to the 1991 Census, the population of Ekiti State was put at “1,647,822 while the estimated population upon its creation on October 1st 1996 was put at 1,750,000 with the capital. Mainly an upland zone rising over 250 metres above sea level, Ekiti has a rhythmically undulating surface. The landscape consists of ancient plains broken by steep-sided outcropping dome rocks. These rocks may occur singularly or in groups or ridges and the most notable of these are to be found in Efon-Alaaye, Ikere-Ekiti, Erio, Okemesi-Ekiti and many other Ekiti communities.”


Ekiti State in the growth of South West

Ekiti State may be the newest in the South West geo-political zone, but the entity called ‘Ekiti’ has eternally been known to have contributed to the growth of the region, nay humanity in various ways. And since Ekiti State was created 20 years ago, those contributions have not ceased, in both human and economic endeavours, which have aided the growth of especially, the South West region.

It is trite when it is stated that “Ekiti State is the home of professors.” This axiom is because indeed, Ekiti is the home of education. The people know that their biggest industry remains education and that is why its alias is “Fountain of Knowledge.” The “fountain of knowledge” appellation sums up what the state has contributed to the region in its 20 years.

Thus, apart from the array of successful academics Ekiti is known with, the state is also endowed with successful men and women in business as well as notable politicians. For instance, in the recent past, Professor Bamitale Omole, Professor Biyi Daramola and Professor Bolaji Aluko (all from Ekiti State) were Vice Chancellors of various federal universities at the time in the country.

Ekiti citizens also have successful businesses in and outside the state. In the glorious era of the Western Region, farms in Ekiti State were top of the range in cocoa and timber produce, two of the commodities that contributed immensely to the economy of the region.

Since the creation of the state, Ado Ekiti, the state capital has been growing tremendously in terms of infrastructure and human capital development. The Ewi of Ado Ekiti, Oba Rufus Adeyemo Adejugbe, Aladesanmi III told newsmen recently that the town had become one of the targets of criminals because it had assumed a new status as a state capital. Oba Adejugbe raised the issue of land speculators whom he said bough land from the indigenes at high amounts and reconstruct the old structures to suit their modern day needs.

The monarch had pointed out that when the prominent sons and daughters of the state succeeded in the struggle for the creation of Ekiti State, and Ado Ekiti was announced as the state capital, he had hinted the people of the community that the privilege would also come with its cons, as the town frowns and transforms. Thus, he attributed some of the societal ills witnessed in Ado Ekiti to its status as the capital of Ekiti State and said it was one of the prices to be paid as a transformation from a local government headquarters to the state capital in 1996.

The Commissioner for Information, Youths and Sports Development in Ekiti State, Mr. Lanre Ogunsuyi, was of the opinion that in terms of infrastructure, Ekiti had developed in leaps and bounds compared to when it was not yet a state.

Ogunsuyi said: “When the state was created, the military administrator had no place to stay. So the chief judge then, His Majesty, Oba Ajakaye, the Oluyin of Iyin-Ekiti, Had to vacate his quarters for the administrator to stay there. But today, the state has no such problems. So, in the area of infrastructural development, Ekiti has grown well.”


The new challenges

Production at Clay Products Limited, Ire Ekiti, which is one of the manufacturing companies partly owned by the Ekiti State government.
Production at Clay Products Limited, Ire Ekiti, which is one of the manufacturing companies partly owned by the Ekiti State government.
Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital, Ado Ekiti.
Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital, Ado Ekiti.

However Ogunsuyi regretted that it was worrisome that some of the governments that had ruled the state had deviated from what he referred to as “the Ekiti Agenda.” According to him, “elder statesmen Chief Deji Fasuan, Chief Afe Babalola, the Ewi of Ado; Obanla of Ìjèsà Isu; the Alaaye of Efon and all the others who struggled for the creation of Ekiti State had a dream of a state that would, among other virtues be united and grow together. But politics of hatred is what plays out most of the times.

“We’ve had a time in Ekiti State when we had a governor for one day and there was a time a man from Ògùn State was the governor, a man from Ògùn State was also the president of the country. When national issues were discussed, Ekiti had no form of representation. We had Ògùn State deciding for us. It was that bad. So, for whatever it is worth, that is injustice.”

Ogunsuyi said it should be viewed as “utter lack of patriotism” for some indigenes of the state to turn politics in the state into an avenue of dragging the state back. “Our people should learn to play politics with tolerance because in the end, it is our people that suffer the consequences. For instance, when a project is conceived by the government, the House of Assembly would have also looked at it before it is executed. But some people would go to the extent of even going to court to stop government from executing projects. Imagine that the market under construction in Ado Ekiti, some people were going about in the night maligning the person of the governor on why the project should be rejected. They even went to court to stop the project. Meanwhile, this is a market that was a total slum, which didn’t have access to fire fighting vehicles when a fire incident occurred there.”

To further buttress the need for unity among Ekiti people Ogunsuyi said the Funmi Adunni Olayinka Women Development Centre constructed by the Fayose administration “in memory of his political opponent” and his “rehabilitation of former Governor Segun Oni, who was rejected by the previous administration” but regretted that “instead of forging unity, they are rather fueling the fire of disunity in the state.”

Also regretting the lack of unity among the political elite of the state, Chief Fasuan regretted that the state was yet to fulfil the dreams of its founding fathers. Particularly, he also lamented the perennial political instability in the state which has seen it produce eleven chief executives, and adding that the people have not enjoyed the best of governance. He however expressed fulfillment that Ekiti was created as a result of an epic struggle of patriots who came together and worked hard to see the dream fulfilled.

The elder statesman advised Ekiti people to shun what he called “childish views and pedestrian thinking” and gravitate to higher climes in their thoughts and vision saying envy, character assassination and destructive tendencies have drawn back the state’s development. He said: “We have not had the best in governance in Ekiti; within a space of 20 years, Ekiti had 11 chief executives, some phoney ones, some ruling for 20 hours.

“There was a day Ekiti had three pretending governors, the one who had been illegally dismissed, the deputy who said she was acting in that capacity and the speaker who by the Constitution should succeed him. We have not had the best in Ekiti in terms of governance. Each of them has tried in the light that they saw it but they did not epitomize our vision.”

For Ogunsuyi, however, “we must work hard to improve on our level of political unity for the benefit of our state. We should support the government because I. Supporting the government. We support our people. We are always better together not apart. Let us go to election not as war but as a contest.”

The Ekiti people at home are ready to invest their energy in the state but the Ekiti people in the diaspora must also bring their expertise not as a tool of division, but as a tool of unity for the benefit of a state. “That is our dream Ekiti in the next 20 years,” Ogunsuyi stated.