Growing up in Ekiti, we didn’t have much. But, we had one thing. HOPE
We could dream. We were inspired to aspire. We sat on the wings of hope and allowed it to carry us into a future that was far beyond our dreams. It was a different time. A time Ekiti men, women, youth and children marched around the world with pride. It’s different today. It’s night in Ekiti and you must wonder -how do we escape this maddening darkness that the emperor has dragged us into? At times like this, it’s easy to give up hope.
But, it is at times like this also that we must reach back and hold on to that proud heritage of our past, that history that we will take into the future and pass on with pride to our children. It is what I learnt from my father. He was the embodiment of hope and faith. For six years after his marriage to my mother, they had no child. At that time, and sadly even today in some parts, that was the death knell of any wedlock. The woman would be tagged barren and another woman shipped in to do what the wife could not do.
But, my father persevered. He had hope and he had faith in God almighty. He looked around the vast land that was Ekiti, at the development engineered by Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the Action Group. He told my mother not to worry, that one day God would bless them too and their children will take advantage of the free education Awolowo and his party had blessed the Western region with. My father had hope. He had a leader who cared about him. There was a system for children unborn. Our society had a plan.
And sure as day comes after the night, I was born. I was born into a land of hope. We were blessed because we had leaders that had foresight. Their planning encouraged business leaders and government to dream and hope that they can establish businesses that will thrive. In Ado Ekiti, one of such businesses was a textile mill – the first of its kind in our parts.
Many of the men abandoned their craft and trades and opted for jobs in the mill. It was a heady time. It was a time when men and women did not have to worry if they would be paid their salaries. It was a time when children did not go to hospitals to die. It was a time when the leaders did not loot state funds and build properties in distant countries. It was a time when we had true leaders, not emperors who use the state funds to buy mansions in Asokoro and more fancy cars than they can ride. My heart bleeds every time I walk through the streets of Ado Ekiti or drive around our great state of Ekiti. I see the poverty and I see the dying hope in the eyes of the people. Our people are not beggars. They are not mendicants. Begging is anathema to their culture. They expressed contempt for beggars from distant lands. They want to work. They want to be paid. They want to take care of their families. They desire a fair shake in life. They want a future.
Is that too much to hope for?
I remember that time not too long ago. Of the men in Ado Ekiti riding their Raleigh bicycles with pride to the mill every morning at dawn and riding back just before dusk. It was magical and impressive to my young mind. I can still see the column of their bicycles as they rode back home. They wore their pride on their faces. They knew with their sweat, they will feed and cloth their families. They knew come payday, their salaries will be waiting for them.
My parents didn’t have much. But we were happy. My father poured all his hope in me. Parents invested their hopes in their children. Hope had come to Ekiti, not just with the mill but with other companies and with a government that had a plan for the people. Some of the nice homes in Ekiti today were built back then. Our golden heritage took root in that loving past. Back then, work meant something. A honest month’s job was rewarded with a prompt salary.
Sometimes when I see the growing number of destitute in the state, I wonder how different my life could have been. With my father’s salary, I was able to go to Ado Grammar School. The school ,a proud community initiative. He couldn’t pay the fees all at once so he made an arrangement that the fees be deducted monthly from his salary. He did that because he knew at the end of every month there would be a salary waiting for him. Imagine that today in Ekiti. It hurts just thinking about it. I cry when I realize how many of our brilliant youth have been denied a chance in life. Our emperor has murdered hope on the altar of greed, lack of foresight and brigandage. How do families survive when the state has not paid salaries for months? How do people eat? How do a man and his wife plan for a future when today looks so bleak? How does a father look his hungry child in the face and tell him I love you? How does a mother put a sick, malnourished child to sleep? How does a child hope? How does our beloved Ekiti survive?
The emperor has reduced our proud state to a Nollywood C movie. He thinks of himself a famous director and Ekiti people are poor extras that must be toyed with at his behest. One day, he’s a DJ. Another day, he’s busy passing handouts on street corners, even pieces of cake in the mouth of excitable citizens in the market place. At other times, he’s handing out cheap Ankara to folks to come cheer him in the stadium. And, when he’s not making a mockery of the people, he’s busy fighting any and everyone. All this in the land of our great intellectual and academic heroes: in a part of the land where Chief Obafemi Awolowo once held forth.
Our emperor has not only destroyed the spirit of our great state, he has also turned us into a pariah state!
The time has come for us to come together and say NO MORE!
IT IS TIME TO SAY YES TO A BETTER EKITI!
It’s time to restore our lost glory! Our teachers and workers come from a rich and proud ancestry. Yes, it’s raining now and its raining insults and poverty. But, we must all rise as the freeborn that we are and fight off this rain. We must make Ekiti great again!!
My father and mother had a dream. Jimoh Afolabi and Raliat Boluwade Ojudu were simple people with a simple dream and hope. They knew if they worked hard their child would have a better life than them. They had hope because they lived at a time when the government had a plan that was not just looting the state treasury and passing out handouts of insults on street corners.
My parents didn’t ask for much. The folks at that time didn’t ask for the world. They worked hard and they got a just pay at the right time. The government gave them and their neighbors and everyone their rights – education, health care, security and shelter. If Awolowo could do it many decades ago, why can’t we? Why is it that our standards must always get worse?
I know you’re tired. I know your hopes have been raised and dashed, raised and dashed, time and time again. But, you can’t give up. You owe yourself the best. Your children expect it from you. The future demands it. I am what I am today because my parents never gave up. You must do the same for the future.
Not too long ago, our country faced a challenge of grave proportions. We had a dictator who wanted to eviscerate the opposition. He had guns, bombs and all sorts of torture chambers. All we had was our voice and pens. And, we fought Sani Abacha to his grave. Yes, I was tortured. Yes, I was marked for death. Yes, it looked hopeless. But I couldn’t let the people down. I had to fight for my future and our futures. I did just as my grandfather TK Owolabi Ojudu did when he fought the enemies of progress in the early 60’s but paid dearly for it with his head unbowed. I had hope even on the darkest days that we shall overcome the dictator. It was the hope my father and grandfather planted in me. It was the hope that built Ekiti. It was the hope that if we work hard and fight injustice, tomorrow will be better. We fought a dictator and we won. This one is a pretender to dictatorship. We shall win again. You must wonder, in this bleak season when hope seemed drowned in a river of waste, how do we change today? How do we remove this odious stench from our state? It’s very simple. It’s all in your thumb. With your vote, you can change the past. And, you must. There is no other choice.
You have the power! And, with your power you must move Ekiti away from poverty and diseases.
A new day is coming. And on that day, hope will be re-born. And, we will be free. We will be proud. We will all stand and shout to the world proudly – WE ARE EKITI.