By Femi Odere
Rendering an account of a job or responsibility by the person to whom the job or responsibility was accorded—one must admit—may not necessarily be the best option because it stands the danger of being misconstrued. While it can be dismissed as nothing but grandstanding and, therefore, an exercise in self-glorification, it is important that a report card should be given by public servants because—-if truth be told—-their jobs or responsibilities are held in trust. One therefore has the fiduciary responsibility to render an account, for whatever it is worth, for his principal (also a public officer) whose job is in turn held in trust for his own principals—-the general public. It must be stated that if the principal has made it a ritual of rendering an account of his own stewardship to his principals at every turn, it goes without saying that others under his employ should strive to do likewise. And it shouldn’t matter if the public is uninterested. One, therefore, hopes that this self-assessment will instigate further assessments by others who are on the outside looking in—-with suggestions so that one may be better.
Aside from the aforementioned, it is also important to render an account of this stewardship not only because of one’s belief in documenting his activities so that they can be referenced at a later date but for others who will take the same job or responsibility to build upon in the future. Equally important is the fact that this scorecard can be the yardstick with which to measure subsequent engagements in subsequent years. It is a veritable way, it seems to me, to keep in focus those tasks that were started but yet to be concluded or brought to fruition or may need reevaluation with the current reality—-as the case may be.
It should be acknowledged from the outset that being saddled with a job of this kind and its attendant responsibilities—-as an aide to Governor Kayode Fayemi on Diaspora Affairs—-is, and should be seen, as a rare privilege. It is, and should be seen this way because there are hundreds of people out there who are not only better qualified for this job but whose scorecards are likely to dwarf, if not incinerate a hundredfold what one is able to record as accomplishments.
By convention, submitting a report card of a job that began effectively on *April 11, 2019* should have manifested itself before now. But it was deliberately held back because I am of the considered opinion that it should be anchored, if not coincide with an important aspect of my life in order to create a holistic evaluation and/or interpretation of life and its trajectory. It should also be stressed, however, that this scorecard contains nuggets of what can be termed as the defining moments in the course of trying to add value to the Fayemi administration through the job that one is privileged to have been given.
EKITI DIASPORA SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP (EDSIG)
Realizing the special peculiarity and the distinctive nature of a constituency whose people are widely dispersed (which is basically how the word “diaspora” came about) and are far flung into the four corners of the world, coupled with the fact that there was an absence of a predecessor whose remaining rope (no matter how short) could have been transferred with which to start my own climb from the preceding administration in that continued quest to add value to Ekiti State, there was no question in my mind that networking and utilizing all available technological tools would be critical in harnessing the human and material resources of this critical mass for the socio-economic development of Ekiti state, in accordance with the 5-point agenda of the administration of His Excellency Governor Kayode Fayemi.
The networking component of this dual strategy began in earnest with what can be described as the “low hanging fruits” approach, beginning with those diasporic Ekiti indigenes with whom I was already familiar not only to intimate them with my new portfolio in the then new administration, but also that I could be connected with others. However, special mention must be made at this juncture of Prof. Bolaji Aluko who, almost immediately, furnished me with the contacts of those diasporic indigenes from Ekiti state, most of whom are high end professionals he believed would be willing and ready to assist me in my new assignment.
On June 5, 2019 a WhatsApp platform known as “Ekiti Diaspora Forum” was created. The enthusiasm that trailed the appointment of a governor’s aide on Diaspora Affairs among a significant segment of the Diaspora community to network and integrate them into the developmental paradigm of the Fayemi government, and the intensity of quality debates on the platform subsequently birthed what’s now known as the Ekiti Diaspora Special Interest Groups (EDSIGs). Two SIGs has since emerged from this platform who are working on two agricultural projects. One group is working on Oil Palm processing while the other focuses on Cattle Ranching. It is important to mention here that these two groups of Ekiti indigenes in the Diaspora are from diverse professional backgrounds but whose overarching objective is not only to be direct partakers in the development of Ekiti State but working to generate jobs and create wealth in the state in the process.
EKITI DIASPORA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
On October 2019, the Ekiti Entrepreneurial Week (EEW) premiered. It was a weeklong entrepreneurial event that showcased the resilience and ingenuity of Ekiti youths with their different products and services and with which they have created employments for themselves. The grounds of Fountain Hotel and Resorts, the event venue, was a beehive of economic activities as buyers met sellers of products from Aso Ebi, locally-made shoes, cosmetics to packaged edibles. Considering the quality of these products and the enthusiasm with which these entrepreneurs told anyone who cared to listen about their products, it quickly dawned on me at this event that one of the main impediments to the growth of our local entrepreneurs, aside their access to capital, is their inability to access the international markets where their products can be sold. And I decided to do something about this, using my office as a catalyst to connect Ekiti entrepreneurs with the outside world for increased patronage and market share.
For example, I am of the view that if an entrepreneur who specializes in producing, say, roasted groundnuts in Ado-Ekiti can be connected to the outside world where his/her roasted groundnuts are distributed in African supermarkets (which are in their hundreds) in the UK and North America alone, the tremendous increase in revenue and subsequent business expansion, the new entrants into the business as a result of increased demands, employment generation and other multiplier effects, not to talk of an expansion in the state’s revenue base, would go a long way in resetting and reinvigorating the state’s economy. So, “Ekiti Diaspora Chamber of Commerce” was created. The aim here is for the chambers in their respective localities to not only link business entities in their domains with Made in Ekiti products, they are also to become channels through which these products are distributed to the different market outlets in their domains. With the support of Ekiti diaspora indigenes with whom this idea was mooted, there are Ekiti Diaspora Chambers of Commerce in London and Texas in the United States. In order to strengthen this initiative, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between my office and Ekiti Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture on Friday, January 31, 2020.
EKITI DIASPORA BUSINESS REGISTER
One unfortunate takeaway from my trip to the United States in September 2019 was the disappointments and frustrations expressed by some diasporic indigenes of Ekiti State I met either collectively or individually in that country. While quite a significant number are satisfied with Governor Fayemi in turning Ekiti around for the better, some of them expressed their disappointments not at his administration but the people with they came into contact. These diasporic indigenes claimed that their investments were either truncated or did not yield the desired results due to frauds and other sharp practices by people who were entrusted with these investments. This particular idea of a business register was inspired when someone in a group with whom I was having a conversation about how they could assist in moving Ekiti State forward said with a straight face that he had already given up on the State. But why,” I inquired. “I have no business again with Ekiti. I couldn’t complete my house in Ado because I was defrauded,” he said with utter disgust and disdain. Again, I said to myself that something must be done. After all, government exists to solve the problems of its people and create the enabling environment for them to thrive. With the “Ekiti Diaspora Business Register,” the Office of Diaspora Affairs will play oversight functions on behalf of Ekiti indigenes in the Diaspora whose businesses or economic activities are listed in the register because they want their business interests inn Ekiti State to be monitored to discourage fraudulent practices, among other things. This initiative is to encourage more investments in the state. No one should be discouraged from coming to live or invest in Ekiti state because of a problem that can be solved or reduced to insignificance.
EKITI DIASPORA HOMECOMING
On Saturday, December 21, 2019, the maiden edition of Ekiti Diaspora Homecoming was held at the Abiodun Adetiloye hall of Fountain Hotel & Resorts in Ado-Ekiti. The event was in collaboration with Ekiti State branch of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN). This Homecoming event was conceived as one of the ways to acknowledge and emphasize the importance of Ekiti indigenes outside the state in the socio-economic development of the state. It was also to celebrate Ekiti indigenes living outside the state (Internal Diasporans) and those living around the world (External Diasporans) who has made their marks not only in the development of the state, but has been good ambassadors of the state and its people through their various positive contributions to their host countries.
Associations and individuals that received awards at this event were: EkitiParapo Lagos for the “ *Most Impactful Association of Ekiti Indigenes in Nigeria,”* Ekiti Kete Canada for being the *“Most Impactful Association of Ekiti Indigenes in North America,”* Rtd. Major Olajide Ijadare, Chairman/CEO Mesmo Africa Limited, an edible oil refinery-fractionation factory in Ijan-Ekiti in *“Recognition of his Contributions to Ekiti State economy,”* Mrs. Susan Fajana for being the *“Most Outstanding Ekiti Woman in the UK,”* Chief Esan Ogunleye as *“Most Impactful Contributor to Ekiti Youth Development”* and Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM) chairman/CEO for being an
“Outstanding Defender of Nigerians in the Diaspora.”
This maiden event was witnessed by more than 200 people from within Ekiti State and Nigeria as well as Europe and North America. It should be emphasized here that it was on the strength of this Diaspora Homecoming event and other engagements by the Office of Diaspora Affairs that Ekiti State was accorded the status of the *“Most Proactive”* state in the federation for the engagement of its Diaspora indigenes by NiDCOM during its inaugural summit of State Focal Point Officers (DFPOs) on Diaspora Affairs in Abuja on February 4, 2020.
THE EXTERNALLY GENERATED REVENUE (EGR) INITIATIVE
Like the much familiar Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), this concept is to look for ways that the revenue base of the sub-nationals can be expanded through the revenue streams (by way of the huge Diaspora remittances) coming into the country. For instance, there’s no reason why the states cannot get a percentage of what the money transfer companies levy their customers for engaging their services. After all, these Nigerians are primarily from the states in the federation before they are identified as Nigerians. Therefore, the states should benefit from the fees that their indigenes are charged. The remittance companies should also be compelled by law to furnish the states with the data of their indigenes that uses the services of these companies every fiscal year as this willl go a long way in helping the states to effect proper policies and planning for their diasporic indigenes. Realizing that this initiative would need laws to be passed by the National Assembly to bring this to fruition, plans were already in the pipeline to meet with Ekiti State lawmakers at the National Assembly not only to intimate them with this initiative, but also to stress the need to craft a comprehensive bill towards its realization. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic happened on the polity just when my meeting with the lawmakers in NASS, through the efforts of Hon. Steven Olusola Fatoba, a member of Ekiti State House of Representatives, was about to take place. This EGR concept was also mooted at the virtual meeting of the state’s Diaspora Focal Point Officers (DFPOs) and Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM) on Saturday, May 16, 2020 where it was unanimously adopted as an idea worth pursuing towards turning into law. My hope, therefore, is to be a catalyst in initiating an aggressive and sustained campaign around this EGR idea from this year and in subsequent years until it is brought to fruition.
From the foregoing, one would see that a common thread runs through these defining moments, which is that these are platforms upon which the overarching job generation and wealth creation objectives of the Fayemi administration can be enhanced. It is my hope that these templates would be effectively utilized in such a way that it would affect in real terms the economic growth of Ekiti State in the second leg of this assignment.
So, help me God!
Senior Special Assistant (Diaspora Affairs) to Ekiti State Governor
PS:This note was written in commemoration of my birthday on June 26, 2020.