I got an invitation to a 3-day social media/bloggers forum in Ekiti state which would include a state tour and a ‘no-holds barred session with key social media actors (bloggers, activists, factivists and influencers’ although I was not quite certain how I fit into any of these categories but I honoured the invitation and here’s my attempt at a review of the events.
Day 1: Thursday 6th February
After a 3 hour-wait at the bus park at New Garage, Ojota Lagos, our 7-seater Sienna bus, left Lagos at a few minutes to 1pm. In a mad dash which had me scared for my safety and questioning the driver’s sanity, we arrived Ekiti a record 3 and half hours later. On the bus, I had met Jude Egbas, an editor/contributor on Ekeekee.com and general troublemaker on twitter, we had a long discussion on, you guessed it, the price of fish in the market. I kid, I kid, we talked about Nigerian politics and feminism.
Anyway, after the bus stopped us at Aramoko in Ekiti we were supposed to take another cab to Ikogosi or Ikangosi as the locals call it, Jude (yes Jude, I blame you) decided we should take motorbikes instead. While Jude’s bike sped off, mine coughed and spluttered up and down the winding hilly road from Aramoko, finally barely halfway through the more than 30 minute journey and in the middle of nowhere, the bike coughed and came to a stop. Apparently, the genius ‘okada’ man did not have enough fuel to go down the road not to talk of going to Ikogosi.
Day 2: Friday 7th February
After a shocking 5am wake-up call (I didn’t realize I was going to bootcamp), we set out by 7am on a gruelling tour of Ekiti state that took us through 12 local governments. From Ikogosi to Ilawe to Ado-Ekiti through several other communities and towns, we saw completed road project after road project after road project and a few capital projects, like the New Civic centre and Pavilion in Ado. There were tour guides in both buses on the tour who sometimes left us confused with the discrepancies in the figures they bandied around. I can state categorically that Ekiti state renovated 135 schools, no it’s 183, sorry 185 erm, I’m pretty sure it’s 189. Ok fine, I’m not sure about that but the state’s monthly federal allocation is 2bn, 2.6bn, 3bn, 3.2bn, in short pick any figure you like, what does it matter anyway?
Anyway, it was refreshing to see that there were no abandoned projects (at least as far as roads are concerned) from previous administrations as the Fayemi administration took it upon itself to see any such projects to completion, not by re-awarding the contracts to new contractors but by insisting that the old contractors finish them at no extra costs to the state. The new Civic Centre, the New Diagnostic centre and other such projects code named ‘Legacy Projects’ are funded by a N20bn (or is it N25bn? More discrepancies) loan that the state raised through bonds.
We arrived back at Ikogosi 12 hours after we left and after we made a stop at the palace of the Owa of Ooye in Okemesi, where a slightly inebriated man tried to pick me up with the opening line, ‘I am a chief…’ Oh alright then, that’s exactly why I came to Ekiti, to be picked up by a drunk village chief.
Once we had had dinner back at the hotel in Ikogosi, it was time to unwind at the poolside with some alcohol, swimming and dancing. I won’t be a tattler or anything so I’ll just say whatever happens in Ikogosi…well you know the rest.
Day 3: Saturday 8th February
Saturday morning came bright and cheery, although I cannot say the same for some of the participants, myself inclusive. Friday night was rather ‘hectic’ at the pool side, you see. Anyway, as I was getting dressed for the conference with Governor Fayemi and other members of his cabinet, a young lady knocked on my door and handed me 2 t-shirts for me and my roommates with express instructions to wear it to the conference. Of course, I wore the t-shirt and pigs flew in Ikogosi.
We made our way to the Conference hall around 10am as we had been informed that it would start at that time but it didn’t start till about an hour later. The commissioners for Budget, Justice, Agriculture, Education and the special adviser to the Governor on the Millenium Development goals all gave speeches about the beautiful work they are doing in Ekiti state in a bid to engage the audience and also to distract us from the fact that the governor was running really late. In my opinion, the commissioners for Justice and Agriculture, and also the SA MDGs seemed the most informed about their ministries and MDAs and I would have really loved an opportunity to ask them questions about their presentations. I particularly like the fact that Ekiti state has a sex offenders register.
Mr Governor eventually came around 1pm while tea break was being served and even after he had been ushered in, people were still queuing up to get their tea, you could almost hear them say, ‘Governor or not, no one is stopping me from getting this tea!’. When participants eventually settled down, we went straight into a presentation from the Commissioner of Finance ( yeah, I thought it would be the Governor too), after a 30 minute speech which had nearly everyone yawning and I think I saw even the governor nodding off for a bit, it was finally time to listen to Mr Fayemi.
Less than an hour after he arrived, perhaps because he was bored by the quality of questions being asked by some of the participants who got a chance to ask (Moderators did not let us all ask our questions), Mr Governor was getting ready to leave. I cannot say I blame him, the least you can do when you have an audience with someone of that calibre is to have done your research and then ask questions based on policy. Not something like, ‘Sir, I heard you went to Okija shrine to get power to become governor, how do you respond?’ No, nobody asked that, but I bet it was only a matter of time.
Anyway, we got to learn how much the Governor earns, N549,000 monthly and that although 80% of the state’s monthly income goes towards paying the salaries of about 60000 people in a state of about 2 million people, the state is not a business and will not be run like a business. Well, all I can say is, dear 1.9m remaining Ekitis who are not employed in the state civil service, kindly wait for your turn.
Day 4: Sunday 9th February
The people at the lovely Ikogosi resort had had enough of us and sent us packing as soon as it was morning. I came back to Lagos with people who had by now become friends from our time in Ikogosi. As we left, I reflected on what it must have cost the state to have hosted about 80 odd people for such a programme and I hoped that someday governance would advance so much that no one would need a state tour to tell if an elected official is truly fulfilling his or her mandate.
Chioma Ogwuegbu is a freelance researcher based in Lagos. She tweets at @Africanceleb.