X-raying the future of Ekiti.

Biodun Oyebanji

Never at any point in the annals of Ekiti State’s political history had a sitting governor influenced positively the victory of his successor since 1999, the beginning year of the Fourth Republic. The successes recorded in the June 18 election symbolise a pact amongst Ekiti people to destroy the encumbrance on the path of the progressive course. Aside from this, it also represents a formal treaty among Ekiti people irrespective of political inclinations, geared to snowball into future greatness.

But coming from the recent electioneering victory of the new Governor-Elect, Mr. Biodun Oyebanji, one can easily make a valid case that the successes recorded at the poll, where the All Progressive Congress candidate scored 53 per cent of the valid votes cast, present a huge burden of responsibility and expectations. It is so because the standard of good governance the outgoing governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, has institutionalised across the nooks and crannies of Ekiti State is enough reasons for an average Ekiti person to see Oyebanji as a ‘Joshua’ who is ready to further Ekiti’s odyssey into an Eldorado.

A close examination revealed that Oyebanji’s manifesto shares in the aspirations of every Ekiti people, which include job creation and human capital development, Agriculture and Rural Development, Infrastructure and Industrialisation, Arts & Culture, and Tourism and Governance, among others.

While it is apposite to interrogate the array of promises, it should appear to every discerning minds that Oyebanji’s manifesto is a pool of wealth if proper mechanisms are in place that will drive home the essence and rationale for the agendas.

Ekiti’s imperative, to me, is the advancement of our educational system. Our theory-based system of learning should incorporate, as a matter of urgency, research and innovations in order to solve practical problems and carve out practical ingenuity on a larger scale.

Singaporean Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, opined that “research and innovation support industrial competitiveness.” He added that it “generates new growth and reshapes our economy”. It is Loong’s belief that “intellectual capital would become increasingly important for our next phase of economic development because of its attendant capabilities to solve humanity’s problems.”

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As a matter of fact, the Knowledge Zone economy concept of Dr. Kayode Fayemi somewhat captured Loong’s philosophy—its determination to create a smart economy and creative paradigm to solve the most complex problems around us; its penchant to turn Ekiti into a solution arena driven by innovations and new discoveries. It bears repeating that the only sure way to economic prosperity is the right conversion of our citadel of learning into solution arenas, innovation abodes, and a resort of liberation that would have multiplier effects on agricultural development and industrial growth, scientific and medical breakthroughs, economic prosperity, and massive wealth creation.

Singapore, just like Ekiti, shares a comparable geographic attributes in terms of smaller landmass. But the former with about 750 square kilometres was not limited to breaking the shackles in its path of progress. Even as the small country stands as a sovereign state, this should not stop Ekiti from tapping into the mechanisms that led to economic prosperity after 57 years of conceiving the dream.

What Singapore did was a holistic government-led effort at domesticating research through the National Science and Technology Board (NSTB) established in 1990, and the first five-year National Technology Plan introduced in 1991. These events marked the beginning of the government’s considerable and organized input in research and development with its attendant massive investment of several multi-billions of dollars. The Singaporean government also does not see the private partnership as mutually incompatible but ensures openness in its research and innovation drive to tackle scientific, medical, and urban sustainability problems.

The giant strides of Singapore have positioned the small country as top 10 globally ranked innovative countries in Global Innovative Index with its attendant multiplier effects in terms of job creation. Its gross domestic product per capita has improved significantly from $516 in 1965 to over $50,000 in 2022, making it one of the most promising smaller nations in Asia. What then is the stake of Ekiti amidst future uncertainties?

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Nevertheless, hope is not lost in Ekiti. Despite our overarching challenges, and calculated efforts to break the Curse of Sisyphus on the path to greatness, the State still has one of its promising sons doing great. He is Aare Afe Babalola. The Afe Babalola Industrial Park which was conceived in 2021 and worth over 50 billion is a perfect example of how the State can drive research and innovations to put food on the table of thousands of people. Aside from Afe Babalola University being the best university in Nigeria in latest ranking, it represents an emerging ingenuity centre that can influence the state’s Knowledge Zone.

According to the founder of ABUAD, the industrial park, represents the most promising and doable attempt at economic growth made by any group since the establishment of Ekiti State in 1996 with an estimated annual revenue ranging from N7 billion to N10 billion as well as the capacity to create over one thousand jobs.

This scenario poses a clear instance of Public Private Partnership that has the capacity of creating not only wealth, but serves as a bastion of hope for a tremendous knowledge economic revolution and a breeding ground for talents that can help catalyse the economic development of Ekiti State.

While it is crucial to make economic plans for holistic development, what matters most is the government and political stability which are instruments that shapes policy for overall development. This essayist believes Lagos State remains the only State in the South-West that has benefitted immensely from a single-party system in the state, and catapulting the state GDP from N14.6 billion in 1999 to over a N535 billion in 2021. This is a challenge to Ekiti now that the State has formally embraced a single-party governance system which Lagos conceived about 23 years ago.

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Ekiti’s development plan, therefore, appears affirmative as the one that would chart a clear-cut progressive course. The essence of this essay is not to distort the Apple Cart, but rather to chart a course around the viability of research, innovation, and development. While serving as an eye-opener, it is a reflection which the pillars of  Ekiti Knowledge Economic Zone should rest.

Even though the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo has affirmed that Ekiti State has a promising future ahead some African countries with an estimated GDP of $3 billion and per capita income of $840, it appears more daunting. The task of building Ekiti in a well-coordinated manner can be herculean, yet not insurmountable.

In Oyebanji’s acceptance speech, the governor-elect acknowledged the giant strides of his predecessor, and remain confident that through synergy, Ekiti’s Masterplan can come into fruition. The vision which Dr. Kayode Fayemi incubated in 2018 may in years to come crystalise Ekiti into a Silicon Valley, a haven of the solution, and breeding grounds for talents. Just like the State of California account for 25 per cent of jobs in US, via Research and development, Ekiti can stand the chance to move from a Civil Service state to what the former US President, Barack Obama described as a “Smarter State.”

Adeagbo can be reached via [email protected]

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