Interview with Seun Fakuade

Since the Governor inaugurated this office on the 18th of November, 2022, what we have done is to put structures in place towards catalyzing innovation in Ekiti State; visiting national centers of innovation and conducting learning based exchanged to deepen our understanding of innovation towards contextualizing our policies and support programmes.

In a recent interview, Seun talked about his efforts and approach to growth through innovation and sustainability.

Q: Since your appointment last November as Special Adviser on Governance, Reforms and Innovation by Governor Biodun Oyebanji, what has been your impact as it relates to the agenda of the Governor?

A: Let me say that governance is an evolving and continuous process because government itself is a continuum and what you expect is that there will be continued improvement in reforms in the affairs of the people and by extension the State. It is the State that administers citizen-led programs and the civil service is central to improvement in the society. I believe very strongly that the benefit of cordiality that has been enjoyed for the past four years in this state is manifesting under Governor Oyebanji. The government for the past eight months for instance has made new laws to improve the welfare and administration of people. The overarching goal of Mr. Governor, set in his six-point agenda, is towards shared prosperity. The Ekiti Wealth Bill, for instance, is the first of its kind in the country by a sub-national government, put in place as a saving mechanism for the State that whilst we have limited resources, we are judiciously saving for the needs of our people, for their welfare and to enable the State provide infrastructure and economic opportunities for Ekiti’s continued growth and development. The Governor has taken the welfare of the people as a priority, and here you will find projects being carried out to advance the welfare of the people across the State, urban planning initiatives are being introduced to improve liability conditions for Ekitikete; and through the ministry of education, you will find employment opportunities for citizens in the recent and continuing recruitment exercises for teachers so that we can improve our education standard.

Q: Looking at some of these efforts you have mentioned and the status of the State, what are those areas you think there should be reforms or improvement towards the delivering of more dividends of democracy to the people?

A: As thinkers in government, it is very important to stress that government, in addition to helping to stir investment in critical areas, should be directly involved in setting favourable business environments that lead to economic opportunities for investments by individuals and private organisations. Thus, part of the conversations in the last few months led by the office of the Governor and the Head of Service has centred on how best to make the civil service more efficient in delivering its services. There is no way any State across the country can better perform its service of governance if the civil service is not constantly improving itself to become a 21st century driven and highly sophisticated entity. This involves utilising technology in streamlining bureaucratic processes and therefore improving systemic activities that directly have impact on citizens and businesses in the state. Let me give this example, under Innovation and Governance, we are working on digitisation of public governance towards fast-tracking our processes so that citizens can better access and process information and services at the speed of light; so that someone does not need to come to Ado-Ekiti which is the centre, before they can access a service which they could do anywhere in Ekiti or even anywhere across the country and the world. We believe when these are implemented citizens’ ease of doing business will significantly improve. If we have 5,000 people it will require them money to transport themselves to Ado-Ekiti to access a service. Now using their own devices, they can do that same service anywhere across the world. Same way, we are hoping to see how we can improve the mechanism of government across the Ministry, Department and Agency (MDAs), and how we can utilize the technology to make the work of the MDAs faster and more efficient. The ability to use technology to simplify their processes, to make sure they are more efficiently carried out. At the same time, we are looking at innovation acculturation - how we have done things and how to catch up with the rest of the world, for the State to become not only the Fountain of Knowledge by name but by actions and behavior.

Q: At several events, you have continually harped on the opportunities and potentials in the technology world. How do you think the government can help the people especially the youths in tapping these potentials for economic development?

A: The task for us to unleash the potentials of Ekiti state is always there and we are grateful that the continuation of reforms and governance under Governor Oyebanji has been very remarkable. There are skills development programs and capacity development that are critical to our existing and emerging investment programs include the Knowledge Zone which are critical to ensuring that Ekiti State remains a pivotal centre for knowledge acquisition. From our study, we have realized that citizens don’t have the require skills to compete with their colleagues across the world and for us education is useless unless we consistently improve the curriculum and learning market friendly and industry aligned skills, useful for the future. We will be embarking on a very serious skills development programme that improves the talent skills of our youths to ensure that on their own they can create jobs and also when job opportunities open in their industry, they can favourable compete. Part of this is the conversations with our universities because we want to ensure the formalization and improvement of the curriculum on learning of technology. The Governor is keen to how we can help attract incubators and accelerators to Ekiti, as well as help technology companies in the State; how we help our citizens and ensure that local content is part of our problem solving, how do we open our challenges to them so they can help us solve these problems, instead of outsourcing and buying softwares outside the State. So talent development and problem solving is critical to our plans. We want to get to a stage in Ekiti state where what we need is produced by people of Ekiti, companies in Ekiti, by doing so we can attract more investment in the tech world and make sure they stay and thrive in the state.

Q: Generally speaking, what impact do you think technology can make in the economy of the state ?

A: I will just give a basic illustration. Ekiti State is potentially more than a $1billion economy in terms of technology and services if we can develop skilled talents in Ekiti State. If we have 20,000 techies doing remote work in Ekiti State earning $65,000 a year; that is $1.3 billion market, not to talk of the investments that are attracted to the State and the EKZ because of the availability of highly-skilled tech talent in the State. The implication of this for revenue for tax and job opportunities is huge. But 20,000 people cannot earn this amount unless they have the skills to be able to earn that in the state and that is why we are concentrating on skills development from secondary schools to universities so that when they have those skills, they can work with companies anywhere in the world, create jobs for Ekiti people and the rest. The service industry is a very important sector for Ekiti and that is why the knowledge zone is the centre for ensuring that Ekiti becomes the economic hub with high skills and potentials. These skills development objective will however require significant investments in infrastructure, curriculum reform, pedagogy approach, and a collaboration between industry and the academia to ensure that citizens are equipped with industry-relevant workforce-ready skills.

Q: You are now a commissioner-designate having been confirmed by the House of Assembly, which ultimately means higher responsibilities. What should the people of Ekiti be looking forward to in terms of reforms and innovation from your office ?

A: In all the roles I have been appointed, it is to consistently execute, implement and of course keep supporting and advising the governor on his vision towards making Ekiti a centre of shared prosperity. I will continue to execute his vision for an Ekiti where anybody regardless of their background or upbringing can become a successful individual equipped with the right skills; can thrive and maximize their potential for the benefit of mankind. My mantra before coming into public service through former Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi was to work for the benefit of the people, improve lives and ensure the prosperity of the people. Whatever portfolio, role or responsibility I am saddled with in this new role, I will continue to support the Governor’s vision on making Ekiti State the epicentre of skills development, and ensuring that our public policy initiatives and programmes will lead to better economic outcomes and towards shared prosperity for Ekitikete.

True innovation arises from the courage to challenge the status quo and the curiosity to explore the unknown, creating a future where impossibilities become possibilities.