Every Nationalist, the world over, is usually driven by a vision to make a mark on the sands of time. It is this power of insight that sets him apart from the ordinary being. Strategic vision and foresight are critical leadership competencies that empower leaders to take decisions that influence, shape or determine the future of a people. Strategic foresight concentrates on anticipating those forces that may come into play to assist and/or detract from a desired outcome. Without strategic foresight, we steer into the future blindly; unable to visualize the total picture and the possible consequences of our actions or inactions. For instance, we see the outcome of poor strategic foresight every day at that crazy intersection we navigate, while holding our breath and praying fervently. We complain that a traffic signal would certainly solve the problem and mumble to ourselves that nothing will happen until a serious accident occurs. Then a serious accident does happen and pronto, a traffic light shows up. Good leaders are proactive in thoughts and actions, and do not lead by happenstance, but rather by strategic planning and foresight. While strategic planning is a vital competency for today’s leaders as they craft a vision for the future, an equally important leadership competency is strategic foresight to anticipate how this future might unfold. The combination of strategic planning and foresight must have informed the decision of Dr. John Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State to embark on the construction of Agro Cargo Airport and various other legacy projects scattered all over the State.
Lagos is the richest State in Nigeria today not because of any significant strategy, but because of its location and previous status as former Federal Capital Territory, the combination of which now makes it the economic nerve centre of Nigeria. Over the years, Lagos has continued to record significant increase in its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) through aggressive blocking of tax leakages, but the fact remains that you can only block leakages where they do exist. The template used in Lagos has not worked anywhere else, because in some States, there is nothing really to be taxed not to talk of blocking tax leakages. Ekiti is tagged a Civil Service State because a chunk of its IGR comes from Pay As Your Earn (PAYE) and the other chunks from informal sector. Therefore, to enjoy and experience robust IGR increase in Ekiti, successive governments must make deliberate efforts to sustainably industrialize the State.
In his first term (2010-2014), the incumbent, Governor Kayode Fayemi made spirited efforts to reduce the total dependence of Ekiti State on Federal Allocation for survival. The strategy then was to transform Ekiti State through its natural endowment of vast arable land and tourism potential. Ekiti was in the limelight of tourism business back then, as Ikogosi Warm Springs was transformed and became the destination of choice for local and international tourists. The introduction of Youth Commercial Agriculture Development (YCAD) was a turning point in Ekiti State, as hitherto unemployed educated youths became agro-allied business owners. The focus of the Fayemi-led government back then was to make tourism and agriculture the mainstay of Ekiti economy upon which a sustainable IGR increase was envisaged. Unfortunately, these were truncated by the change of government and all the policies, programmes and projects abandoned. Kayode Fayemi came back in 2018 to meet a dilapidated tourism industry and a disoriented unemployed youths.
Government, they say is a continuum, unfortunately that is not always true with some of our leaders in this clime. Rather than building on Fayemi’s modest, but highly significant success in tourism and commercial agriculture, the government that took over in 2014 turned its back on the laudable projects, in its warped wisdom to spite Fayemi. Therefore, in 2018 Fayemi inherited a State that was worse than he left it in 2014 and yet the task of boosting its IGR to reduce its total dependence on allocation from the centre must be done. In his first term, Governor Fayemi had a vision of where he wanted to take Ekiti and he strategized on how to actualize it. However, because his successor didn’t key into the vision, the process was truncated. Once bitten, twice shy, they say! When Fayemi came back in 2018, he didn’t just reactivate his vision of a prosperous Ekiti State; he backed it up with a purposeful zeal and, today Ekiti State is in the news every week for positive reasons, contrary to the expectations of naysayers and faultfinders.
The full manifestation of the ongoing agribusiness revolution in Ekiti State will not only sustainably boost our IGR, it will also create many employers of labour as a pinnacle of job creation for our teeming unemployed youths. Imagine the fate of thousands of tonnes of rice from the various Rice mills, ten thousand litres of daily milk production from Ikun dairy farm, end products of the various cassava mills, outputs from poultries, maize farms, and other agro-allied industries scattered across Ekiti State now. For these business concerns to thrive sustainably and serve their full purposes of providing jobs for our youths and boosting our IGR, deliberate efforts must be made to ensure their survival and growth. In its quest to avoid the story that touches the hearts like the one that birthed the mantra, ara Ikoro o ki n j’eyin (People of Ikoro Ekiti do not eat eggs), Governor Kayode Fayemi must find a way to connect Ekiti State agro-allied industry to the global market.
One of the foremost Professors from Ikoro Ekiti, my hometown, thought it wise to invest in his hometown in the late 80s. He established a poultry in Ikoro Ekiti back then, which provided job for some indigenes of the town. He was well celebrated. However, after about eighteen (18) months of running the poultry, he sacked all his staff and relocated the poultry to Ibadan, Oyo State. The community expressed displeasure and summoned the Professor to explain why he sacked his staff and closed the poultry. He told the gathering of community leaders that he moved the poultry to Ibadan because the poultry couldn’t sustain itself and that he ran the business on deficit for almost two (2) years. He was told that, ara Ikoro o ki n j’eyin (people of Ikoro Ekiti do not eat eggs). Hence, the poultry didn’t break-even for once, all through the time. Contrary to the submission of the erudite Professor, ara Ikoro n j’eyin (people of Ikoro Ekiti do eat eggs) but the daily output of the poultry was many times higher than what Ikoro Ekiti and its environ can consume in a week. That was the major problem and unfortunately the business couldn’t survive.
There is a sharp difference between vision and foresight. “It was vision that inspired the invention of the automobile. It was foresight that anticipated traffic jams, accidents and pollution” (-Bill Barton). In the same vein, therefore, as Governor Kayode Fayemi is planning and strategizing to industrialize Ekiti State through agribusiness, he is also thinking of market and survival for the various agro-allied industries and their outputs. This necessitated the ongoing Agro Cargo Airport being built in Ekiti State by the Fayemi led government. “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow, do it now” (-Mark Twain). Like other legacy projects of his government, Dr. Kayode Fayemi promised to complete and commission the Airport before the expiration of his tenure in Office.
Ekiti State keeps recording first in several sectors, against all odds, courtesy of the Kayode Fayemi strategic thinking and planning. How he is able to do so much with so little resources, deserves accolades than baseless criticisms. Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools speak because they have to say something. A critic recently said he can only acknowledge Fayemi’s performance when all the roads in Ekiti State are tarred, all hospitals upgraded and all schools renovated. Even Lagos State with all its resources has not been able to do what is expected of Fayemi in Ekiti State, whose total budget is less than 10% of Lagos’ budget. Despite Ekiti State economic realities, Fayemi constantly reminds us that Ekiti State of our dream is in focus with the assurance to complete and commission the ongoing Cargo Airport and other legacy projects before the end of his tenure. May God lead Fayemi aright to fulfil his ambitious dream as envisioned and strategized.
Gboyega Ajayi, writes from Ikoro Ekiti.