In the court of public opinion, Chairman, Ekiti Local Government, Kwara State, Comrade Yinka Ayeni Dallas is enjoying favourable feedback as he has been getting things done. In an almost unprecedented vision of a future Ekiti local government, the former student union leader has been reviving the physical structures that got deadened resultant from long time abandonment. In this interview with AKINLOLU ABAYOMI, Comrade Yinka Dallas spoke on issues of interest.
What do you think can be done to address the challenges faced by the third-tier level of government in the country?
The powers in the hands of the Federal Government are too many, there are too many powers at the center, there is the need for fiscal devolution, more power should rather go to the states and it will trickle down to the local government level. The local governments are close to the grassroots, once you give more power to the local governments, the problems facing the country is already half-solved because we have 774 local government areas and it spreads across the country if anything is channeled through the 774 local governments, it must have touched people’s lives in an unimaginable way within two days, people can have access to the local government headquarters with ease whereas it will take someone six hours to get to the state capital in some states while it may take 15 hours before you can get to the federal capital. You may spend as little as N100 as transport fare before getting to your local government headquarters while it costs a fortune to move from Maiduguiri , Lagos or Port Harcourt to Abuja.
Are there ways you think the nation’s economic problems can be addressed?
Yes. We must get the economic policies right and avoid policy somersaults, we must also go back to the basics, there was no oil money when the Cocoa House was built, we must encourage farming through the third -tier level of government, we must encourage modernized and mechanized farming, the Federal government must make agriculture attractive to the youths, young graduates must be provided with the needed funds, the government must also take other necessary steps in collaboration with the technocrats and the economic experts. In our local government, we acquired 500 hectares of land for a programme known as ‘Back 2 Farm’ and we are doing everything possible to encourage our people, particularly, the youths.
What about the education sector?
Well, personally, I am of the opinion that the problems facing the education sector can be addressed by taking practical steps rather than dissipating energy on ‘Committee’ talks, it goes beyond that, it requires crusade, we need to devote attention to the welfare of the teachers. For example, on assumption of office as the Chairman, we came up with an education revival crusade tagged ‘EDUREC’ . What we did was to ensure that we made it known to the teachers that we care for them and that we want them to live a good life. We provided learning materials for the students, we repaired school structures and made mattresses available for the school clinics, we also felt it important that the teachers must be empowered and we made sewing machines available for some among them which will make it easy for them to have extra source of income, we are still working on other ways of getting them empowered and all these were done through the NUT and not through any external person or individual’, he explained. What efforts has he made to attract investors to the local government and are there challenges? ‘Investors can only be encouraged to come to an area where there are good access roads, the Federal Government roads in our local government has practically collapsed and it has discouraged potential investors from coming but we are doing everything possible to encourage the few existing ones which are mostly agricultural ventures. We have refurbished the grounded vehicles and got the security arrangements in the local government overhauled. The soil texture geographical rating done in 2014 and 2018 actually rated our soil as the best for soya beans and cassava farming.
It is a common feature for the government at different levels to accumulate debt, would you be willing to disclose the debt portfolio of Ekiti local government?
There is no problem about that but God has been there for us, we have not accumulated any debt and the last tranche of the debt we inherited would be cleared this month by the Grace of God, we have also had out of court resolution of the inherited court cases.
As a popular student union leader who for a good number of years was used to the idea of leading the people to demand for one thing or the other and now holding a political office, how easy has it been for you adapting to the new status?
Well, it was not difficult adapting to the dictates and the demands of the new office and status because I consider my roles as a student union leader and that of being a political office holder as having same features, there is really no difference, it is a familiar terrain, it is all about focusing on the affairs and the welfare of the others, you would not believe it that politicking in both the students and the youths movement is equally deep and full of intrigues as obtainable in the larger society.
There must have been instances where you, having forgotten that you are the chairman had almost called for Aluta action on some issues?
Thank you for that particular question, it is funny though but sometimes when something has become part of you, shaking the traits off may not be that easy. It actually had happened in several instances that I cannot mention here. I will temporarily forget that the buck stops on my table and would almost say ‘let us…’ (laughs). It is actually like that because for a good number of years, struggle had become my day to day activities.
What are your plans for the people of Ekiti local government?
It is not by might but I know that with God on my side, I will get things done in Ekiti local government. I want to ensure that an average Ekiti son and daughter who is based home will have regular access to the Chairman, I will always be there to identify with them during the moment of joy and grief. I want to ensure I live among them and have first-hand information about their challenges, problems and their needs. There are a lot of programmes in the pipeline but I actually want to open Ekiti local government to the whole world in such a way that such efforts will attract rapid developments and significant growth to the local council’, he pledged.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I will like to be remembered for recording positive impacts in the lives of the people of my community, Kwarans, Nigerians and the whole world. I will also like to be remembered for showing the world how government can be run effectively such that in spite of the economic challenges one will still put a smile on people’s faces.
Have you been putting smiles on people’s faces or you have the intention to start doing it?
To the Glory of God, we have had cause to make positive interventions, you will find it difficult to believe that the local government secretariat had been disconnected from the national grid for a long time, when we came, we got five poles installed, fixed the transformer and paid the outstanding bills, an intervention that had electricity restored to the secretariat after 4-year and eight-month of getting the staff and the political office holders denied such a basic social amenity. We also introduced a N100 million-naira loan scheme through which the sum of N100,000 was made available to each of the lucky beneficiaries. We equally made cash donation of N10,000 each to indigenes of the local government that were recently posted to the northern part of the country for the mandatory one-year national service programme, by the National Youth Service Corps, those are the ones that can go for public consumption and we are hoping to do more.