By Nkannebe Raymond Esq.
Four years ago when he re-emerged onto the political firmament of Ekiti State, nay Nigeria, through the instrumentality of the now infamous “stomach infrastructure” philosophy and aided by a compromised electoral process orchestrated by security agencies posted to the state to ostensibly ensure peaceful conduct of the polls, Ayodele Peter Fayose “The Rock” as he likes to call himself, had the rare privilege of repairing whatever damage that was inflicted by his reign at his first coming in 2003, after defeating the then incumbent Niyi Adebayo, until his infamous impeachment three years later in 2006. With the gamut of goodwill that earned him a second bite at the cherry, one would have thought the 57 year old would hit the ground running in delivering to the people of Ekiti, a ‘State-of-the-art’ governance that had eluded them for some time. But that was not to be as events turned out.
As against this, Fayose in apparent obliviousness of his primary assignment which was the welfare of the people of Ekiti state was rather drawn into the politics of his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). At the height of things, it was difficult identifying who actually was the spokesman of the then ruling party. Apparently opposed to the emergence of the then candidate Muhammadu Buhari, Fayose made it his life ambition to de-market his candidacy at the electoral market and before the entire world. As garrulous and cantankerous as he can be, Fayose rained fire and brimstone. He quoted the scripture. He took on the status of a prophet of doom. He said Buhari would not live through 2015 as according to him, the man was diseased of some cancerous ailment. He called the bluff of former president Olusegun Obasanjo when the old war horse tore his party card and ended things with the then ruling party. He loomed larger than life and sold papers for the media houses on account of the controversies he spurned effortlessly.
With the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in power after the 2015 general elections, the man seemed to have become more emboldened contrary to what many analysts thought. He dared the presidency. He called the bluff of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). He told the world that he was God-sent, and thus can be undone by no Man. When his party lapsed into an internecine leadership crisis following the embarrassing outcome of the 2015 election, Fayose and his Rivers State counterpart, became the de-facto chairmen of the factionalized opposition party. But unlike his counterpart Nyesom Wike who understood the terms of his engagement with the indigenes of Rivers state on the strength of his developmental strides which earned him awards from both near and wide, Fayose was swallowed by the party politics of the opposition party. We got a picture of where he was driving at with that, when he declared his intention to run for the presidency under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) when the dust of the leadership crisis within the PDP had settled with the stamp of the judgment of My Lord, the Hon. Justice Rhodes Vivour in a well considered decision. How much he still wants to push that ambition in the light of the developments of the last 48 hours would be anybody’s guess.
Suffice it to say that while Ayo Fayose entertained the whole world with theatrics and megalomania, pundits both at home and abroad struggled to decipher the socio-economic thrust of his government. Whereas states like Anambra, Lagos, Kebbi had become popular for its giant stride in the areas of Agricultural revolution and other index of economic growth, it was difficult to identify what Ayo Fayose was doing in bettering the lot of the people of Ekiti state apart from daily joining issues with the Buhari presidency. It was said that governance took a back seat under his superintendence while political chicanery became the order of the day. Until this day, it appears the sole stamp of his second-coming would be the newly built governor’s office, and the 1.3 kilometer Fajuyi-Ojumose overhead bridge that cost the state some 6.4 billion Naira. In about three years of his superintendence, the debt profile of the state jerked up to some 56 billion naira as reported by the Debt Management Office (DMO) in a 2017 bulletin, thus setting backward the developmental clock of the state.
On account of what would pass for low performance in key areas of economic growth, the civil servants of Ekiti state, famous for its marginal FAAC allocation, paid dearly with withheld salaries (that at some point extended for as long as seven (7) months); and unremitted pensions for retiring members of staff. A master of the art of dramatic governance, Ayo Fayose found a way around his woeful performance however. He somehow found a connection with the people of Ekiti, not on the sheer size of the goodwill earned by his stellar performance, but for the uncanny ability to be involved in their mundane lives and circumstances. He roasted bole on the streets of Ekiti; he hobnobbed with the market women; he ate amala ─the local Yoruba delicacy at local bukas; he wore jean trousers, polo shirts and palm sandals to state functions; he made frequent stops at the agbojedi sector to have a drink with the men, and so on and so forth. Somehow, this endeared him to the people who found a contrast in this behavior from those of many elitist Nigerian politicians who related with their subjects in rather formal manner. Ayo Fayose knew this, and he seemed to have exploited it to his advantage. And so while other governors who owed salaries were pelted with stones and what not, Fayose struck a relationship with the people even in the face of their glaring misfortune of which he was a factor. Such was the mystic if you like, of this interesting character.
Perhaps conscious of the fact that he had not lived up to the minimum expectations of the people, Fayose sought a successor in a character whose loyalty he could vouch for, as his time in the helm of affairs in the state drew close. He found this in his deputy, the soft spoken Professor of Building, Kolapo Olusola Eleka. A man who contrasted the character of his boss in many ways. As controversy trailed the choice of his successor, Fayose in his now familiar antic of going spiritual, told a beleaguered press and anybody who would listen, that the God he serves revealed the choice of his successor to him in a dream. His larger than life status dominated the whole process leading to the election. He visited nearly every media house to sell the candidacy of Kolapo. He was visible in all the campaigns─dancing, cursing and throwing tantrums at the ruling party that were never in short supply. As activities leading to the elections climaxed, it was difficult to decipher who was actually the PDP candidate between Fayose and his ‘political son’ on account of how much he domineered the entire process.
However, while saner minds waited for a strong and convincing reason while Kolapo should be his successor, Fayose could not muster anything convincing but to spew blackmail and propaganda at will. He claimed that the Federal Government was billed to rig the process; that INEC had been briefed to carry this into effect and that the security agencies drafted to the state were to make this possible. Only few days ago, he appeared with a cervical collar and addressed a press conference telling the world that his life was under threat and that the police chief be held accountable should anything happen to his person. “I am in pains!” “I am in severe pains!” he cried. And as he casted his vote at his Afao polling unit on Saturday morning, he appeared with the cervical collar, apparently to rub things in. he must have hoped to curry the sentiments of the Ekiti indigenes with all the drama that was deployed into that. The jury is still out on how much that theatrical showpiece affected the whole process.
Until their job is done, what cannot be contested however, is that Fayose made a caricature of governance in his second coming as the governor of the state of about 3 million people. This much was seen in his response to a question put to him at an April 2018 edition of the popular Tv program─ “Politics Nationwide” anchored by the fine Seun Okin of the leading Channels Television. Asked what he has done for the people of Ekiti state to enable them heed his call of voting his preferred candidate, Fayose went about telling lame duck story of how he was seen frying garri with the local women in the streets of Ekiti, and dared the opposition in the state to do same. It was a response that purports to make a heavy weather of his popularity. At different times in that interview, he claimed that he is the most popular Ekiti son, and went about reeling out his political CV of being the only son of Ekiti to have defeated two incumbent administrations in the state, and at the same time telling his stunned host that it may not surprise him, if he becomes the first governor of the state to install his successor in office. Such was the height of his braggadocio. He must have underestimated the intelligence of the people of Ekiti with the way he made a show of his popularity. At different points he played God, and carried on with the swagger of an aristocrat perhaps suffering under the illusion that he’d not be defeated by the opposition. Not least Kayode Fayemi of the APC.
But all of that ended yesterday. With the result of the election returning the former governor and until recently the minister of solid mineral, Mr. John Olukayode Fayemi of the Radio Kudirat fame, as the governor-elect having swept 12 out of the 16 local governments of the state after a keenly contested polls, governor Ayo Fayose must be coming to terms with the harsh reality that may hit him soon. He must henceforth deploy his spiritual clout to make sure that his opposition PDP unseats the incumbent administration come 2019, otherwise, he must brace up for the political storm he’ll be made to contend with. Without prejudicing the man, there is no question of him having not compromised the resources of Ekiti in his sworn ambition to install his deputy as his successor. Already, the EFCC has made statements suggesting resuming prosecuting him for his involvement in the infamous Ekiti integrated Poultry fraud, now that his days of immunity are numbered. Another way out for the man is to mend fence with his successor, the gentlemanly, John Kayode Fayemi in a political settlement that may have all his “sins” forgiven to afford him a quiet life out of power.
Whichever way the man’s fate would turn out, will be shaped by events to come. In the mean time, he must carry on with his tail in between his legs as with the proverbial tale of the tail wagging the dog with the bitter pangs of not joining the pantheon of governors who saw their preferred candidate succeeding them. He may now go and attend to his “pains”, and while at that, live with the sad reality of having inflicted even more pains to the people of Ekiti while he carried on with his leadership style that lacked grace and panache. He’ll be surely missed for the humour he brought to governance which was in itself, a therapy to the psychological wounds wrought by the four years of his clueless governance to the people of Ekiti. Barring other reported ugly factors that determined the outcome of the ballot, which by the way does not form the crux of this article, the truth remains however that the people have spoken. And their voices have been heard. And the whole world is not under any form of misapprehension as to the greatest loser of the events of last Saturday in Ekiti. If Ayo Fayose was a mystic, the events of the last 48 hours have left him utterly demystified. As at the time of concluding this article, some 30 hours or more after the announcement of the results of that election, the once garrulous and loquacious Fayose, has since gone taciturn; he has neither congratulated the winner of the polls nor berated the conduct of the elections as is quite uncharacteristic of him.
He must be under the shock of his life. And one can only hope that the boarding pass linking him to France is nothing close to the truth.
Raymond Nkannebe, a legal practitioner and public interest analyst wrote in from Lagos. Comments and reactions to firstname.lastname@example.org.