One of the things I love doing is driving through the streets and towns of Ekiti State. It was a dream when I was a boy with no hope of ever getting behind the wheels of a car. It’s a hobby now that I am an adult.
I love to drive as the soft morning breeze wafts through the air. Ekiti is a small state blessed with green vegetation. The morning air is pure and does wonders to the soul. Our elders used to say if you listen well, you could hear the voice of the angels whistling through the winds.
You can drive the length and breadth of my beloved State in an hour. If you’re an indigene of Ekiti or a resident of the state or someone who has had the good fortune of visiting with us, you will know what I mean. You think better driving the length and breath of the state as the sun rises over those glorious hills and mountains. Our towns have different names, from Omuo to Efon, from Emure to Iye but we are one.
I enjoy the easy banter with folks in the towns and villages. Our people are welcoming and prosperous. All they need is a chance, an opportunity. It takes me back to a time not too long ago, a time when boys could dream of bright futures and girls shaped their destinies.
I am a poster child for what is possible in Ekiti. I was born with little. Try hard as my parents did, we couldn’t afford much. But, we had something money couldn’t buy. We had hope. And, it wasn’t just me. It was most of the kids I know on the streets and in school. We knew if we kept good grades, we will keep moving forward.
But, those days are long gone. These days, driving through the streets is not the joy it once was. You have to cut through the cloud of gloom and doom that hangs over the state. Then you have to deal with the hopelessness etched acronyms ss the faces of the children, youth and elders.
This is not the Ekiti of my youth. It is not the Ekiti of my dreams. And, we don’t deserve to live in this Ekiti fostered by a man who forgot the spirit of brotherhood that moved the state to the cusp of greatness before the vultures came.
The future of any society lies in its children and youth. Sometimes I wonder what sort of future are we leaving to them. Our fathers laid a great foundation for us to build a better future. That future is today. But, has our leadership in Ekiti laid a good foundation for the children and youth of today? Can the emperor really say he’s leaving the leaders of tomorrow a fair legacy?
I talk to a lot of the youth. A lot of times they seek me out – all over Ekiti and outside the state. I get tons of emails from many outside the country. Sometimes I seek them out. And they all have two questions – how did we get here? How do we get away from here?
How do you sow hope in the midst of crushing bleakness? How do you tell a child to hold on a while longer and that better days are coming? How do you convince the youth that there’s something at the end of the dark tunnel and it’s not the brainless insanity of the last few years?
It’s tough to preach hope when the emperor who specializes in doom snatches opportunities provided to the youth and children and dump them in his basket of failures. Take the case of the Home Grown School Feeding Program of the federal government for example. This was a no-brainer. The federal government had designed the programme to encourage kids to go to school by providing them a free meal, nourish them and improve their performance. It was designed to increase school enrollment and encourage local farmers to go back to farm and increase food production.
Our kids in Ekiti were denied that opportunity until I started screaming for all to hear. I had to challenge the Governor in the presence of the Vice President about it for reason to sink into him. And, it’s not just our children that were losing out. The entire state was. We have lost dozens of months where our farmers could have earned income providing the food for the children, our caterer could have been employed cooking the food and the lives of the people would have been tremendously better.
I often wondered what would have happened if I was born into this age of gloom, when the only thing that seems waiting at the end of the tunnel is doom. These kids know leaders who are everything but leaders. I knew leaders who were men of honor. Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Pa Adekunle Ajasin. Profs Sam Aluko, and Banji Akintoye. Lady Jibowu. Funmilayo Ransome Kuti . Ewi Aladesanmi Anirare.
These kids these days have not been that lucky, especially in the last few years. So, when some kids came to me the other day lamenting our great State and the future, how they love the State but don’t like the way it’s been dragged through the mud, how they’re tired of being the laughing stock of the nation my heart bled for the State. But, that wasn’t all of it. One of the kids asked me, what would I tell the children of Ekiti. How can I convince the youth that tomorrow will be better? It was a question that gnawed at my soul. These are kids who just want their state and their leadership to do right by them. They don’t want too much. They just want to be able to live in a land of opportunity because they know when there is hope, with their sweat and determination they will create plenty.
I told them what my father once told me. That when all the chips are down, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and go to work. I am rolling up my sleeves and getting ready to go to work. With our sweat and determination we will make Ekiti great again. I told them to spread the news – tell every kid in Ekiti it is time to roll up their sleeves and sing songs of freedom. Hope is coming to Ekiti.