To a Very Good Man



A basic tenet of a healthy democracy is open dialogue and transparency – Peter Fenn, a Democractic Party strategist

I don’t personally write tributes for serving public officers lest I cross the line when I begin to praise a public officer for doing his/her job, like adulating a postman for handling letters. My recent profession of leading a professional organization does not allow me to do such with so much emphasis. Folks are quick to confuse my personal thoughts and opinion with the non-partisan stance of BudgIT . I had to do disclaimers in certain times. However, I have to do this for John Kayode Fayemi, for the sake of posterity.

I will not whine that tonight is the final curtain of his recent span in governance and the Ekiti people spoke so loudly to reject him in the June 2014 elections. Today, I read Ekiti State half-year financial reports (ending June 2014) in Guardian Newspapers and it left me with giant thoughts about what true leadership is all about.

A leader feels the pulse of the people but his critical role is to also damn the inconvenient and show the glorious way. Truly, he had a weak feedback from those that surrounded him. Possibly, he would have made certain adjustments but I will allow you to think about that in Akin Oyebode’s takeaway.

When Obafemi Awolowo was imposing tax of One Pound on Western Region to fund free education, it was not easy task. Generations have come to cast the ICON in gold for this priceless initiative that gave the West a huge headstart.A leader must lead and most times it ties into building aspiration rather than regressing to the mean.

In these days, dividends of democracy, is tied to roads, schools and hospitals. We quickly forget that this democratic experiment has done nothing closer in terms of infrastructure to Third Mainland Bridge. So, if it is about roads, bridges, hospitals and schools, why not bring the military back? Has any state government matched the feat of the Awolowo/Akintola regime that built Cocoa House?

John Kayode Fayemi was aspirational and that probably his crime. He gave his people a chance to ask questions by signing off legislations in the tyrant in Nigerian leaders won’t allow. I will not talk of Ikogosi Springs, 300-bed hospital nor the Ifaki-Ado Ekiti road. I will pay my respect to him for imbibing the right values of a transparent leadership. Ekiti allowed his financial books to be published online, its budgets were available to the citizens in the simplest detail and the entire contract records were available upon request.Infact, having seen over 25 state budgets, I can conviniently say that Ekiti State budget leads the pack.

Ekiti applied e-tax system, an approach not easy for the middlemen who siphon the state dry. He was there priming the state for tourism, re-working procurement laws, passing the Equal Opportunities Act to fill up the gender gap, legalizing payouts for the elderly and so on.

Imagine how hard it is taking citizens to ask Lagos State to provide information on how public resources are spent? That was what John Kayode Fayemi’s leadership did in easy swoop and that’s what democracy is all about. It might not affect what how Ekiti people decided but that is what leaders do. I do not say that Ekiti State Government of John Fayemi closing down tonight smells of roses but for taking the bold above steps, he gave us an opportunity to ask questions – the reason why we will mostly agree that this democracy is worth more than the tyranny of the khaki boys.

Whatever the imperfections of JKF, he gave the citizens and the civil society a chance to tear down the thick curtain most State Governors wrap around public finance. I did not expect less from someone who came from civil society – a core pillar in a democracy that points the society to the ideal. History will be kind to him for that. I wish him and the Ekiti people the best on the road ahead.

Give It Another Throw


Risk is what is left when you think you’ve thought of everything – Wesley Vaughan, Wutang Finance 

Recently, BudgIT failed to win the Civicus Award for Innovation and it felt like an issue that ticked off my mind quickly. Certainly, one will ask why will I just move on so fast when the BudgIT team invested time and energy to ensure that people voted? Why will it be hard to get us to win with over 15,000 followers while I also used my Facebook page on my birthday to harness votes? It feels like a setback. It can’t be.

Seriously, you might heard about Omidyar Network investing $400,000 into BudgIT. That’s part of the story. This is an example of the few pieces that strike the bulls’ eye. A lot of arrows stay outside the target but we can’t stop striking the next throw. Many times I have failed to convert opportunity, applied for grants got no response and sometimes I have cried why did this not just happen to us. An example was when I went to Tanzania to apply for the ANIC grant and after a good time in breezy Zanzibar, pitching hard and finding new partners, we did not win the grant. I have spent nights being hopeful, throwing punches in the air, ran the arithmetic in my head but only to get “we are sorry email”. I remembered how Seye (my younger brother) and I longed for the ANIC grant but watched the list of winners that excluded BudgIT.

I have tried to get support from the following and it has not worked yet – UK High Commission, Tutu Fellowship, Aspen New Voices, Echoing Green Fellowship, Making All Voices Count, Harvard Executive Education, Hivos, USAID Project, Huford Fellowship, App4Africa and many more if I take a proper look at my chain of emails.

 So if we despair at every turn, how are we going to ever hit the mark? We just have to keep striking and keep hoping that we will hit the mark with every strike at the bull’s eye. Gradually, I see a trend that we can keep a small circle of clients/partners .I have seen that in our work with Open Society for West Africa that has supported us thrice, MacArthur Foundation that we are working hard to impress and DFID-FEPAR project currently funding us for the second time.

Here is what I learn. Make the small circle of clients extremely happy and keep striking at other potential partners till you find them. When you find them, be stunning and provide them immense value and make sure they are always delighted to come back.

 There is no reason to despair, being rejected is part of the journey. Likewise, being hopeful is part of the race. When you have thought of everything, maybe why it has never worked or won’t work, give it another try. Risk it. Risk is what is left to proceed from fear to ‘greed’.