On 1st October 1996, in a national broadcast to commemorate the 36th anniversary of Nigeria’s independence, the creation of six additional states to the existing thirty states that constituted Nigeria was announced. Ekiti State was one of these new states.
Agitation for the creation of Ekiti State had been pronounced for many years prior. Indigenes of the area, which was a part of the old Ondo State, argued in different fora that their homogeneity and history of mutual understanding and cooperation would afford them the opportunity to take their destiny in their own hands, determine the course of their future, and expedite their socio-economic development. Hence, there was jubilation upon the announcement of the creation of the state.
However, today, twenty-four years later, despite various programs to bring to actualization the state’s enormous potentials in terms of economic growth and development, Ekiti State has continually underperformed in all indicia of development, with its estimated 2.5 million population, an annual GDP of US$2.9 billion, and a per Capita GDP of about US$1,000.
Ekiti has also consistently been in the national news, but rarely on the positive side. Successive gubernatorial elections have not just been controversial but also of national security concern. That the state’s governorship election is one of the few being held outside the national elections timetable is not accidental, but a result of electoral irregularities in a recent past. Neither has the declining state of regional security eluded the state, with Ekiti experiencing insecurity like never before. The prized legendary values of Ekitians are rapidly becoming history, and their once admirable principled character is hastily becoming moonlight fable.
Another challenge is the alarming rate of unemployment and underemployment amongst youths. One of the formidable comparative advantages of Ekiti State is in its human resources. Ekiti is famed for its constant pool of educated-above-national-average population. However, successive governments are lacking the knowledge and capacity on how best to harness the talents and energies of this demographic.
Economic activity in the state is dominated by agriculture and forestry, providing over 80 percent of the state’s internally generated revenue. However, successive governments have not discovered the right strategy to make it attractive to the younger generations despite the state’s estimated 4,500 square kilometres of arable land. At the same time, there has been no meaningful success in the diversification of the economy to harness the capabilities of those with skills or interests outside of these industries.
As a result of the absence of significant other commercial activity, the state government is the highest employer of labour. This results in a pyramid of challenges that include a backlog of unpaid Civil Service pensions, gratuities and salaries, and a cycle of borrowing and exorbitant debt that compounds the state’s fiscal woes. While the current government has made more progress than its predecessors, the indisputable fact remains that Ekiti State is chronically ill.
Ekiti State, at this juncture, needs new ideas rooted in multidimensional competency to considerably arrest the situation, and must thus be intentional in the efficacy of its effort to produce the right leadership. Ekiti has had enough of the recycling of the same old faces with stale ideas in the State House. We no longer need a political thug, or “kick-and-follow” or “where-belle-face”, or “my-oga-at-the-top-said” kind of leadership. On the contrary, Ekiti needs a bold and sophisticated governor who has the required intellectual firepower, temperament, energy and focus to proactively maintain a rigorous daily schedule of targeted solutions to the challenges on the ground.
Therefore, as a new opportunity approaches for the state to go into another governorship election, it is not at all surprising that the people are yearning vociferously for a new face, and a breath of fresh air in governance. Thus, like I have previously posited, the next governor of Ekiti State must unequivocally be an E.K.I.T.I. By this, I mean that he or she must be:
EDUCATED: A well-rounded embodiment of intellectual and native intelligence. A cosmopolitan and enlightened individual who knows how to balance the prescriptions of the technocratic elites with the recommendations of everyday people. He must be well-versed in his understanding of how great nations build and sustain their economies, and cognizant of trending economic mobility and development strategies.
KNOWLEDGEABLE: Conversant with contemporary ideologies of socio-economic development, yet acquainted with cultural issues hindering the progress of the people. A person of little rhetoric or theatrics, with a realistic development blueprint, the wisdom to quickly discern failing policies from ineffective implementation, and who will dwell less on trivialities, but hit the ground running on his first day in office.
INSPIRING: A dynamic and visionary leader who can adequately motivate the current mass of discouraged and long-suffering youth, who are yearning to be rescued towards a better and more rewarding future; one who has the courage to lead the state out of its doldrums and set it on the path of sustainable development.
THOROUGHBRED: who has lived in Ekiti, understands the Ekiti mindset, and imbibes the Omoluwabi qualities of an Ekiti indigene; a respectable pedigree, an effective communicator, an empathetic voice for the voiceless, who would consistently speak and behave in accordance with the values they aspire to promote.
INTEGRITY: A trustworthy man or woman of unblemished character. We do not need a controversial personality who will spend a good part of his tenure attending to court cases to clear his or her name, or past; but who will innovatively harness the resources of the state to aid its inclusive development.
This is the panacea that Ekiti State needs at this crucial stage of history. Indeed, there appears to be more hope than despair on the horizon. Recently, my attention was drawn to an exciting and notably potentious gubernatorial aspirant; a cerebrally-talented, globally-minded, yet natively-conscious Ekitian who meets these aforementioned criteria for Ekiti’s highest office: the inspiring candidacy of WALE AKINDE, 42, who is campaigning, befittingly, with the slogan: OJÓ ÒLA ÈKÌTÌ meaning – The future of Ekiti. This, after all, is literally what is at stake.
A scholar, humanist, corporate administrator, and catalyst for action, Wale Akinde‘s visceral connection to Ekiti manifested fortuitously when his Ekiti grandmother suggested before his scheduled travel from Nigeria to America for his secondary education, that he consider attending her preferred school at Ekiti for a few years. Akinde fatefully agreed. Little did he know that this was destiny preparing him for a future mission greater than he could comprehend.
Akinde would exhibit a rare combination of academic excellence and precocious leadership qualities during his time in Ekiti, leading to his near unanimous selection by the faculty, staff, and a two-thousand student body as the Senior Prefect. His performance in this role endeared and earned him name-recognition amongst youths from across the state, from a young age.
Academically, Akinde attended Norwich University, Vermont USA, where he obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics (Summa Cum Laude); Brown University, Rhode Island, USA, where he studied in the Master’s Degree in Development Economics program, and was an Ivy League Scholar; Columbia University, New York, USA, where he received a Master of Public Administration in Economic Policy, earning the designation of a United States Presidential Management Fellow; and Cornell University, New York, USA, where he was conferred with a Master of Business Administration, with the distinctive designation of an Emerging Markets Fellow.
Professionally, Akinde is a Six Sigma Master Black Belt in Operational Excellence, with 16 years of diverse international experience in Investment Management, managing Private Equity-held portfolios encompassing Commodities, Energy, Infrastructure and Technology, holding executive positions including Managing Director and Partner, with experience leading the resurrection and growth of ailing companies, and serving on a variety of Advisory Boards in the USA.
Akinde’s commitment to Social Enterprise also yielded an invitation to the Sustainable Development Working Group of the World Economic Forum. Additionally, in the spirit of social responsibility, and noblesse oblige, he established and chairs the AKINDE FOUNDATION which assists indigenes of Ekiti in professional, personal, and community development initiatives.
Akinde evidently possesses the multifaceted combination of international experience to attract the much-needed foreign investments for the growth, development and diversification of Ekiti’s economy; the technocratic competence, the scholastic merit, and the native intelligence to formulate and implement transformative policies to tackle the substantive conundrums of the state, and to gainfully harness its resources to their economic and providential potentials.
A consequential governor in the direction of WALE AKINDE is what we need to administer the prescriptive medication necessary for Ekiti’s healing. It is incumbent therefore, upon we the people of Ekiti, to take our destiny into our hands, and choose our next governor wisely and deliberately. Posterity will thank us for it.
Deji Adeniyi, a writer, community organizer, and social entrepreneur, is a native of Ijero –Ekiti