No! Congressman Bimbo Daramola you got it all wrong……….
I recently read Hon. Bimbo Daramola’s comments on Ekiti Cargo Airport that went viral. I felt compelled to respond because he was speaking for a lot of people. He was quoted as saying “You are building a Cargo airport and we have not seen the cargo.” A careful read of the interview strongly suggests that he, as many critics, is not privy to the integrated development plan propelling the airport as a relevant and priority project.
I am not in position to hold official brief for JKF2 administration, seeing that I’m not part of the present government. I am, however, qualified to speak on the cargo airport, given the pivotal role I played in JKF1 as Coordinator of Technical and Financial Feasibility Committee to revive interest in the project. And I remain convinced that the airport is a key infrastructure for the development of Ekiti in the hands of a visionary governor.
What Hon. Daramola really needs is the integrated plan and the facts on the cargoes that the airport will facilitate. Then, he will better appreciate the strategic and ultimate development value of the airport. As with any development agenda, execution is in stages and there is still time to unveil the stages, before completion of the airport, that will mobilize the cargoes and the producers and to establish other supporting infrastructures.
Hon. Daramola also assumed that the airport is being funded from Ekiti “scarce resources”. This would seem to suggest that the money being spent on the airport can be used for other worthwhile projects. From what I know, that assumption is false. The Federal Government is responsible for 50% of the cost of the airport. The balance 50% is funded by development partners who, as we all know, would never advance such funds unless they are convinced of the viability of the project. Besides, we have notable Ekiti individuals ready to share the funding of the airport. I am told that Aare Afe Babalola has made commitment to build a terminal at the airport. So, the funds committed to the airport cannot be applied to other projects.
It is also important for anyone arguing for the use of Akure airport as an option to note a few points. Given the key strategic value of this airport, it is vital that such infrastructure be under the control of Ekiti than being physically controlled by another political jurisdiction. Otherwise, the development agenda of Ekiti will be vulnerable to any hostile policy of that other jurisdiction.
In addition, as noted by Hon. Daramola himself, the deplorable conditions of the routes connecting Ekiti to Akure airport will affect such development plan. Even if these routes are passable, they do not provide the same ease, direct access and convenience of an airport. Besides, cargo is just one aspect of the use of the proposed airport; it is expected, among other things, to propel the Ekiti tourism industry and support Ekiti Knowledge Zone.
Moreover, most people do not know that the Akure airport was built on old technology that will not allow planes to land or take-off in poor visibility because equipment landing is not possible. Hence, planes cannot operate in the dark or in foggy weather in Akure airport. Why should Ekiti tie her development plan on such airport? A critical point often overlooked by many people is that it is a policy of the Federal Government to have an airport in every state of Nigeria. Why should Ekiti say NO to that?
One subtle but very key point in Hon. Daramola’s submission is that there are immediate low-hanging transformational projects that can yield quicker fruits in Ekiti than the airport. I cannot argue against that except to say that so far as the funding for the airport is not competing against that of the low-hanging opportunities to impact the lives of Ekiti people, then, it is not a case of either/or. We should grab both the immediate low-hanging and long-tetm development opportunities in both hands since we lose nothing thereby. We will continue to contribute our ideas and think through the execution and funding plan for those ideas. And we will share those ideas with relevant authorities for consideration and prioritisation. That’s constructive engagement framework.
I greatly admire Hon. Daramola and his 22 years in politics is a great asset for Ekiti State. The development of Ekiti is a collective responsibility of Ekitikete within and without government and it requires continuity. By the time JKF2 delivers on the airport, it is hoped that a committed and visionary successor will move forward with the plan to realize the agenda for the airport. Ekiti is on the right path of development under JKF2.
I am Debo Ranti Ajayi (DRA), aspiring to be given the chance to take over from JKF, protect the gains and investments made by his administration, and further advance Ekiti toward our dreams of a “go-to” state in Nigeria. May the Lord help us.
~ Debo Ranti Ajayi (DRA)