by Olusegun Adeniyi
Like Mr. Mbu Joseph Mbu, Nigeria’s most CONTROVERSIAL police officer (deliberate emphasis as I await my arrest!), Mr. Peter Ayodele Fayose is one man who should constantly ask himself the Mario Balotelli question: Why only me? For those who are not football followers and may not be conversant with that phrase or what it means, I am sure a Google search would help. The bottom-line, however, is that Fayose, who will be sworn in today for a second time as the Ekiti State Governor (after an interval of eight years), needs some serious introspection if he is not to repeat the same mistakes that made him end his first term in ignominy.
Indeed, it is all the more instructive that Fayose will be taking over from Dr. Kayode Fayemi who can leave office today with his head high, having acquitted himself very well both in terms of performance and also by his conduct and comportment throughout his tenure. As I had cause to point out in the past, and will do so in future, Fayemi has proved himself as the quintessential Yoruba “Omoluabi”, no matter the histrionics that will follow his exit from office (and one can be sure of the usual fest of muck-raking by the new people in power). The challenge now is whether or not Fayose will continue on the same path of peace and progress and that perhaps explains why many of the people who love Ekiti State seem apprehensive about the days ahead.
Following his impeachment as Ekiti State Governor in 2006, I wrote a piece about Fayose and what he represented at the time. Published on this page on 18th October 2006, I think it is still relevant, especially given all the news coming from Ekiti State in recent days. While it tells more about our country and its system of justice administration that a man who was impeached from office could still contest election, to the extent that Fayose now has the mandate of the people, and a popular one at that, I do not know what end all the court cases against him would serve. However, I leave readers with the flashback of what had been published on this page that I still consider very relevant today as it was exactly eight years ago…
I am worried by the manner in which Governor Ayo Fayose was taken out, almost like a coup d’etat, though from the recollection of my encounters with him I am not surprised about developments in the state. After all he admitted so gleefully last week that he never bothered to read the Constitution until he had problem with the lawmakers.
After writing two highly critical columns about the goings-on in Ekiti State, when he appeared to be at war with virtually everybody, I was invited to meet Fayose. That was early in 2004. It took me a while to accept the invitation because I had almost concluded that the man had no redeeming features given the controversies surrounding him. On D-Day, however, when I arrived the meeting venue (the Abuja office of Bashorun Akin Osuntokun at the News Agency of Nigeria where he was then Managing Director), Jide Ajani, the Vanguard Political Editor (now the Sunday editor of the newspaper), was already there and it turned out to be fortuitous.
Five minutes after my arrival, the Governor came in, greeted us and began to chat with his friend, the meeting facilitator whose office served as the venue. From all that Fayose was saying, it was evident that the post-election exuberance was still very much in him and when we were introduced he said,”Ah, Mr. Adeniyi (Fayose hardly calls people by their first names) I know you have been attacking me because we have not met and become friends. I know you don’t attack your friends.”
I considered the remark rather ridiculous: “Yes, Your Excellency,” I replied, “it is true that I don’t attack my friends but that is because they don’t misbehave. If they do, I will flog them publicly and they know that.”
The Governor of course got the message hence his response was rather swift in coming: “Well, I am not misbehaving”.
To my astonishment, Jide Ajani retorted: “But you are misbehaving!”
In retrospect, I thought that was too harsh to say to a Governor but it worked because at that point Fayose, who took the rebuke calmly, sat down as he began to tell us his story. It is irrelevant here to recount how the embattled Governor said he came to power without the support of some critical members of the Ekiti elite many of whom he claimed could just not accept the fact that “the most intelligent man in the village is not necessarily the king”. While he had a point in that regard, and I am aware of people who fought Fayose from day one on account of his educational qualification and pedigree, he has also, by conduct and utterances betrayed the fact that he was ill-suited for the office of a governor. This becomes very evident when you interact with him.
If you spend just ten minutes with Fayose, he was likely to tell you almost ten times that he is the Governor of Ekiti State as if he needed to keep reminding himself. There are stories of him staying in front of the mirror and hailing himself as “Your Excellency!” aside going to address rallies at the University of Ado Ekiti campus, telling students he is ‘the boss’ of respected Professors like Akin Oyebode. Ordinarily, all these should not matter except that the serious personal complex (which the Yoruba people would call ‘oju o r’ola ri’) responsible for such dispositions is at the root of the crisis in Ekiti State and the tragedy of Fayose’s administration…
ENDNOTE: In life, only few people get a second chance to make a first impression. Fayose is evidently one of those lucky few as he returns today to the same office in Ado Ekiti from which he was forced out eight years ago. However, notwithstanding what many pundits were writing after the Ekiti State gubernatorial election won by Fayose, I am one of those people who believe that the voters were rational in their choice. For me, the people of Ekiti State knew about the shortcomings of Fayose but nonetheless voted for him because he connected with them while many may also believe in the power of redemption. But now, they have to live with the consequences of their choice.
As we are constantly reminded by my big brother and sage, Dr. Eddie Iroh, at THISDAY editorial board sessions which I am privileged to chair, in dealing with many of life’s issues and challenges, it is often helpful to remember the aphorism of the Asaba woman. As he is wont to recount the profound Igbo saying which many wise heads have come to regard as the end of discussion, well before Honda produced a car of that name; according to the Asaba woman,“ife onye cho, k’ofu”. The translation: “What you bargain for is what you get”.
However, this second chance is an opportunity for Fayose to learn the ways of decent leadership. Converting the existential desperation of the people to electoral advantage may be politically expedient in the short run. But it does not invalidate the developmental strides made by his more enlightened and refined predecessor in office. Fayose should have the humility to learn from Fayemi’s legacy while seeking to improve on it. Turning Ekiti into a battle field state is not the best way to step into office on a second chance ticket. Similarly, storming court rooms to inflict corporal punishment on judges does not justify the confidence of the ordinary Ekiti man that their mandate should buy them peace, civility and some modicum of progress. Even as I hope he will learn from his first misadventure in power, I wish Fayose a successful tenure as Ekiti State Governor.
Yakubu Gowon @ 80
Although I have had opportunities to see former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, (who will be 80 on Sunday) at close quarters, I have never had any personal interactions with him. Yet he remains one man for whom I have great admiration and tremendous respect. Even from a distance, Gowon radiates three attributes that are in scarce supply among his peers in Nigeria: Humility, simplicity and contentment.
However, because Gowon led our country at a most difficult period in the course of which we fought a three-year civil war, it stands to reason that he would definitely represent several things to several people. I am also aware of the charge against Gowon, especially with regard to some of the choices he made as a leader the repercussions of which we are still grappling with today. While those are legitimate issues that deserve interrogation, they are not the essence of this intervention which is about the person of Yakubu Gowon.
For a man who ruled this country for as long as nine years and has been around in Nigeria for more than three decades after he returned from exile abroad, it is amazing that there has never been any scandal (financial, political or moral) around Gowon or members of his family. In the particular case of his wife, you hardly see her in any event except those attended by her husband and we are talking of a woman, if we believe all that are in the history books, who once commanded the attention of our nation by her beauty and grace.
In a milieu where the ethos of the leadership elite is that enough is never enough, the Gowons are in a class by themselves. In all the stories of fuel subsidy payment scams, there has not been a Gowon involved and you will not find that name among the private jet owners. In none of the public enterprises that have been privatized has the name of Gowon (or his children) ever been mentioned as one of the buyers or promoters of the bidding companies. I am also not aware of any big edifice anywhere in Nigeria to which someone would point and say “Gowon owns it”.
As a former leader, Gowon carries himself with so much dignity that you cannot but admire him while he lives an almost-perfect family life that you wonder why he chose the military rather than follow his parents into the Christian missionary field. Whatever may be anybody’s misgivings about the stewardship of Gowon as Head of State, what is not in doubt is that he commands respect by the exemplary manner in which he has lived his life outside public office. Therefore, all factors considered, he deserves a big celebration as he clocks 80 on Sunday. I wish him happy birthday in advance as we Go On With One Nigeria!
– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Olusegun Adeniyi/Thisday