Innovation, according to Merriam Webster, is introduction of something new. It also connotes new idea, something that is novel or the act of doing something differently. Apart from this literary meanings, innovation has been identified as a potent force and driver of any society. Great political economist and former Special Assistant on National Security Affairs to US President, Professor Walt Whitman Rostow, in his model on economic growth placed high premium references on innovation as an impetus to economic viability of our nation.
Though Rostow, in his well-researched model recognized traditional society, pre-conditions for take off, drive to maturity and high mass consumption, as critical stages to economic growth, but he never forgot to hint that economically advanced nations like Britain, United States of America, China and Japan, grew through the economic ladder to mass consumption level via series of political and economic innovations to engender stability and prowess.
Proponents of economic theory, like Marquis de Condorcet, Emile Durkhelm, David McClelland, Talcot Parsons and others agreed with the fact that the lack of innovations could pose a serious constraint to the economic development of any nation. Innovation according to these scholars and experts is like the power house of the economy and a guide to relevance based on the position canvassed by a motivational speaker and economist, Stephen Shapiro.
Without sounding immodest, lack of socio-economic and political innovation has been the bane of Africa nations, especially Nigeria, which was widely regarded as the giant of Africa with most viable economy in the continent. Available studies had revealed that every successive government had failed in its onerous task to think outside the box and did something novel to rejig the economy. It has always been business as usual and running of stereotyped economy powered by norms and belief. This illness has also percolated down to all states, where governors now depended solely on monthly subventions from the federation account to propel the economy that was heavily straightjacketed due to the fact that the leaders have refused to bring a paradigm shift through critical thinking.
By its nature, inventive or innovative thought requires breaking away from the status quo. This is doing something that is unanticipated, which will bring about the phasing out of the old methods and the starting of new paradigms to usher in prosperity in all spheres of life. By actions and deeds, Governor Kayode Fayemi had acted like great inventors in the likes of Marie Curie, Galileo Galilei, Cai Lun, Lun, the Wright brothers, Leonardo Da Vinci, Ada Lovelace and others, who decided to defy the protocols and did things the different ways to achieve desired results knowing full well that innovation rules the world.
Upon mounting the mantle of leadership in 2010 for his first term, Governor Kayode Fayemi was not oblivious of the fact that the expansion of any economy is a function of artificial and innovative thinking. He encapsulated his policy thrust under the 8-point agenda with well spelt interest to expand the economy through human capital development. He acted as having the deep knowledge that Ekiti has a strong comparative advantage in the area of agriculture but such naturally endowed benefit had been eroded though poor policies anchored on subsistence operation of the sector thereby reducing productivity and gains that could have accrued to Ekiti. Even, the education where the state had garnered national and international recognition was not properly run due to lack of vision that was in tune with the 21st century economic fashion.
To correct the forgoing , Governor Fayemi introduced the Youth in Commercial Agriculture Development (YCAD) to bring a paradigm shift in the sector. Before then, over 60% of the Ekiti populations estimated at about 1.2million were into agriculture without commensurate gains. But the governor broke away from the norm of primitiveness by assembling 1,500 graduate youths and empowered them with money, trainings, modern facilities and lands to turn around the fortunes of the state and it worked out. Within two years, Ekiti yam, poultry products, cassava and other agriculture products took over the market in the southwest. Apart from employment generation, the agriculture value chains raised the bar and attracted investors to see the state as veritable destination for existence of raw materials for the establishment of industries. The ongoing bio fuel company at Iyemero was a product of this lofty dream.
It is no gain saying the fact that Ekiti has education as the most thriving industry. But Governor Fayemi knew that education without Information and Communication Technology (ICT) won’t bring the desired goals. To start the radical change, the governor changed the acronym of the ministry and was to bear Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. Realising that for students to be technologically savvy the teachers must first be exposed to the use of computers .With a strong partnership with Samsung Company, the governor donated over 18,000 set of computers to all primary and secondary school teachers across the state. Students in secondary schools also benefitted from the gesture and this helped in strengthening the education sector and raised students’ performances in the external examination like Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) .This time even coincided with the time the JAMB introduced Computer Based Test to examine students seeking admissions into tertiary institutions in the country.
Governor Fayemi also swiftly understood the structural defects in Ekiti’s education, which was majorly built on studies without skills. Student being tailored toward studying and passing examination was no longer a good catalyst to economic development . To reverse these ugly trends, the Governor wooed the World Bank to invest on the state-owned technical schools to give the student the required skills that can make them economically relevant, competitive and bring radical change to the system. The huge investment in Ado Ekiti Technical School as a pilot scheme is gradually changing the face of education in the state .The laying of fiber optics cable across the sixteen local government areas of the state , where people can automatically connect to internet has also began and this will launch the state to the radar as an ICT compliant environment. The introduction of rural teachers allowance and core subjects’ allowance in public schools are also gearing up the teachers to give their best in service delivery to the students.
Experiences have shown that innovation in education, agriculture and other sector might result to naught in the midst of hard-biting and preponderant poverty. The pandemic of poverty and its endemic nature had held the nation down since its independence in 1960, and Ekiti as an offshoot of the nation has been under intense heat. To break the vicious poverty, Governor Fayemi introduced Social Security Schemes, where elderly persons received a sum of N5, 000 stipends monthly to meet their daily needs. About 25,000 individuals benefitted. To back up the novel scheme, the government also introduced the village kitchens in all the Local Governments and food banks to take care of the vulnerable groups and liberate large Ekiti population from poverty. The Multiple Births Trust Fund was also another innovation put in place to redirect the economy of the state to the right path of growth, development and full recovery.
The 2014 to 2018 interregnum in Ekiti State greatly affected the advancement of these highly innovative programmes. Before Governor Fayemi’s returns on October 16, 2018, some of them were either dead and those claimed to be retained were poorly funded. The governor was abreast of the fact that continuity of policies and programmes of government, regardless of political differences is pivotal to the success of any nation. To break this by encumbrance, the governor has mooted the idea of criminalizing the abandonment of policies and programmes of a preceding government by any leader through a Transition Law that will curtail the seemingly unbridled tendencies of political leaders who fondly perpetrate this act. Governor Fayemi said the law will soon be sent to the State House of Assembly for passage, so that Ekiti can enjoy progressive governance and has a clear-cut policy direction.
In conclusion, innovation in the development of any nation can’t be underestimated because doing things the same way won’t bring different results. It is the pathway to prosperity, growth and development. Any debilitating economy can only recover when the divers are innovative and believe in the power of progress thinking. With the innovation being built into the policy direction of Ekiti under the present administration, poverty will be alleviated in Ekiti before 2030, in line with the World Bank projection.
The viewpoint was written by Dalimore Aluko, Assistant Principal, Ikere-High School, Ikere-Ekiti, Ekiti State. Tel: 08066181583, 08032712451