Time was about 11.45 pm in the sprawling Ekiti state governor’s office, which he derisively calls a football field, which he does not require to function effectively or efficiently, and quipped his friend of many years, the witheringly brilliant political scientist, Dr Abubakar Momoh: “Kayode, little did we know that God was preparing you for these days when we would, during our activist days in London , work until the wee hours of the following morning, quaffing coffee like it was going out of fashion.” I remembered Abubakar’s words sometime later after observing at close range, Dr Fayemi’s methodical and focused approach to governance, electing completely, not to be bothered with what the Yoruba would call the suffocating ‘ariwo oja’ –the market place noise, that the political opposition was spewing.
How miraculously God restored his Ekiti peoples’ mandate back to him, whilst the Obasanjos of this world were breathing down on all institutions of state, elicited indescribable joy, not only in the state, but across the length and breadth of Nigeria. But without a doubt, it equally brewed bitterness among the little colony of poll robbers who never thought the day would ever come when his mandate would be restored. Thus began a massive campaign of calumny, not much initiated by his main opponent at that election, but by a coterie of hangers-on, who, for reasons singularly unconnected with the welfare of our people, but their belly, embarked upon a proxy war to which the governor, characteristically, refused to invest even the minutest notice. The war has become largely muted today even though there was a time it looked like the demagogues were going to have it their way, given their cacophony and dexterity at concocting and weaving all manner of lies, even going as far as master-minding workers’ union revolts as we recently saw in the arrest of a lout who doubles as Press Secretary. Thanks largely to the incomparable, multi-sectoral achievements that have earned Dr Fayemi the prestigious ‘Leadership Governor of the Year’ award, an award for which many a state governor would have declared a state holiday to celebrate.
And they have not seen anything yet.
Back then to how his past, his multi-dimensional experiences, have served as the linchpin, the furnace and the crucible through which the peoples’ governor, was prepared for today. And there is no better place to go than OUT OF THE SHADOW’S, Dr Kayode Fayemi’s own book; his testimony and elegant historical capture of the events which shaped him at various stages of life up until he threw his cap into the political ring in his native Ekiti state. The intention here is not to re-write a book in which you have the author ‘writ large’ by our one and only Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka. Rather, it is to showcase how very small, almost insignificant events, a nice word here from a father when merited, a flagellation by mum when necessary and the whole idea of not sparing the rod, if that is what the moment deserved, as happened when his father gave him 12 strokes of the cane for not meeting him doing his home work, all cumulatively molding the total person; one who from the unsparing but loving hands of Pa and Mama Fayemi of Isan –Ekiti, would later be divinely thrown into public service to make life meaningful and better for the greater majority of Ekiti people. Had I, indeed, been minded, to re-write the book, this entire newspaper would hardly provide the space.
OUT OF THE SHADOWS, a book which in the hands of Bishop Felix Ajakaiye, the Catholic Bishop of Ekiti, has since become, besides the bible, a standard reference book for sermons about sacrifice, hard work, the value of education, perseverance, the role of parents and calls to service, among many other lessons, is replete with examples of how the governor’s home training, in a committed Christian family, – his own father had barely missed being a Catholic priest – his education and background in general, taught Dr Fayemi great lessons on how to be prepared to stand up, stand firm and control his own destiny.
I recall for instance an occasion well ahead of the serially rigged Ekiti gubernatorial elections, when three of us, in company of Dr Fayemi visited a distinguished Lagos-based Medical doctor of Ijesha extraction who truly loves the candidate and was willing to be part of his preparations. The host decided to first treat his visitors to dinner at a high end Chinese Restaurant. In the course of dinner, and knowing the PDP as I do, I chipped in by predicting that they would rig the election and ask us to go to court as the ‘one-minute heroine and next-minute villain’ of a onetime Ekiti INEC Commissioner, would later contemptuously advise. The candidate’s short response was: “Then they will come to know that I am a long distance runner.” I soon got confirmation of how the governor’s past must have informed this response when, in his Foreword to OUT OF THE SHADOWS, Professor Wole Soyinka wrote as follows about the monumental struggle in which he had Fayemi as one of his most trusted young intellectual combatants, I quote him: “It is my hope that this –the book –has opened the way to the records of infamy that internal democratic movement had to overcome in its pivotal struggle –the betrayals, repeated and repeated betrayals (note the repetitions by the master), campaigns of discouragement and so on – by some of those who supposedly occupy leadership positions in society, be they crowned heads, prelates, business moguls, professionals, politicians, intellectuals or whatever.” Fayemi’s own list of caterwaulers will include even a head of state and judges who were bought for nothing more than mere pittance. But he was completely unfazed, and from court to court, from one tribunal to another and from there to the Appeal Court, he went serially and when ignoramuses sang songs to the effect that he should be going to court while they govern, he still treated them with benign disdain, paying them no attention, whatever.
For the umpteenth time, many have had running bellies over my writings on Dr Kayode Fayemi but not only has he justified my implicit confidence in his ability to run an efficient government, I can say proudly that in all that I write, I testify only to the evidences of my very eyes. The entire Ekiti road network may not have all been paved yet –he has done two years of only a first four – and you may actually not be picking money on Ekiti streets, but for a fact, Fayemi is fundamentally changing the face of Ekiti. No longer do you have T V pictures of a hungry-looking people at state events, surrounded every inch of the way by gun-totting police and soldiers in defence of a stolen mandate, nor do you any longer have un-cared for elderly citizens who haven’t the slightest idea where help will come from since Fayemi’s monthly social security money will come as certainly as morning follows the night.
Today, work is going on at a frenetic pace on the Rehabilitate All Ekiti Schools Project which saw 100 schools rehabilitated in the first phase as well as on roads – both by state and local governments, water projects, re-industialisation i.e resuscitating dead and moribund industries and enterprises like the Ire Burnt Bricks industry, ROMACO which is about being concessioned and the Farm Settlement at Orin which is now a beehive of activity after decades of total abandonment. The educated youth are aggressively being introduced into commercial agriculture through the Y-CAD programme which combines training with financial mobilization through the provision of seed money, farm implements and agro-chemicals. Even with all the opposition-induced teachers’ intransigence, revitalizing the state education system remains a core area of Dr Fayemi’s programmes. Only this past week, the SUBEB Model Nursery and Primary School, Ado-Ekiti was rated as the best school nationwide in the year’s 2012 President Teachers and Schools’ Excellence Awards just as Mrs Oluwafemi Olusola of St John’s Primary School, Erinmope-Ekiti won the 3rd best teacher in the country.
His love of education and single minded determination to leave it better than he met it in Ekiti derives from his home background where his parents taught him the value of education and sent him to the best schools. That will subsequently influence his own choice of higher institutions to attend.
At his present duty post, this arduous, work-in-progress of taking Ekiti out of the shadows, his past has been a constant companion. He had, in fact, been born during the tumultuous NNDP’s short-lived ascendancy in the Western Region, a period which so presaged the PDP days that the governor has very readily acknowledged a causality between the events leading to and during the year of his birth – 1965 -and the subsequent trajectory of Nigerian politics which has since been dominated by those the Nobel Laureate describes as ‘brigands, parasites and unworthy custodians of power and authority.’
At age 5, the young Olukayode made his first ‘political outing’, joining in welcoming General Yakubu Gowon to Ibadan and the fact of his father being an Information officer in government soon exposed him at a very early stage in life to newspapers, many of which he read daily, thus imperceptibly learning and internalizing lessons in current and public affairs, especially politics that today stand him in good stead as they all combined to shape his career choices.
Parental guidance and early public awareness together with sound religious upbringing combined to inculcate in him discipline ,steadfastness ,compassion, vision, and focus. However, while the place of home training may have been totally incomparable in this discuss, the role of education peerless, and his entirely risky RADIO KUDIRAT exertions occupy a pride of place, what seems to me to have best prepared the governor for today was his matchless experiences in the UK, especially as a young, newly married man, studying and working; a period that left him with multiple life experiences not available in white collar jobs or acquired through reading books. This period saw him exposed to the variegated danger workers, especially blacks, got exposed to in what he describes as ‘the London underground job market, as typified by his two robbery attacks at dagger point by purported passengers and to one of which he lost, not only money but his wedding ring.
In terms of developing empathy, love and compassion for the other person, indeed for humanity, the leitmotif for his social security policy to cater for elderly citizens in the state, I do not think that anything, apart from his wife’s towering and ever constant positive influence, would compare in the governor’s past to the experience he garnered in the course of his active engagement, during this period, in local political organisation and, particularly, his involvement in the regeneration of the then completely run down Milton Court Estate and the entire Deptford area in South-East, London.
Of the people living in the area, wrote Dr Fayemi in OUT OF THE SHADOWS, ’ close to 60 percent were on housing benefits from the government and over 50npercent of school age kids were on meal subsidy in schools. Drug abuse was rife and crime among the idle youth was commonplace; deprivation, he wrote, was simply staggering. So touched, and concerned was he that he immediately joined a minority of individuals working towards ameliorating these extant conditions and ended up serving as Chair of the neighbourhood tenants and residents’ association whose duty it was to tackle the social, economic, environmental and physical problems through not just improving physical conditions but also ensuring improving housing management, diversifying tenure, attracting private investment and creating opportunities for training and enterprise.
Without a doubt, all the experiences gained in that project must have coalesced in all we see today in his midterm report card as governor of Ekiti.
Not just in Ekiti, but all those who followed from far and wide on television networks, online and through newspapers, must have marveled all this past week, watching governor Fayemi commission one project after the other. He inaugurated ten major roads spread all over the state as well as five water treatment plants just as he laid the foundations of truly millennial projects such as the Samsung I C T Centre, the new Government House and governor’s office, the State Pavilion amongst many others. He also did not only sign the Memorandum of Understanding with the Grand Towers Group of Companies but presented to its Chairman, the company’s Certificate of Occupancy at the signing ceremony. Among the enterprises the company will bring into Ekiti is the popular Shoprite Shopping Mall. He exuded such unbelievable vigor that all Chief Dele Falegan, a distinguished Ekiti elder and Chair of the state’s SURE-P Committee could do was pray that the good Lord ill continue to renew him. I simply crumbled, the only day I was on his all-week frenetic tour and that was when he visited my 2-part Local Government Area, having to address an appreciative and hugely turned out crowd at both Igede and Igbemo. As should be expected, both sides of the Local Government Area pleaded with the governor to split us into two local government areas.
This profile is, at best, a miniscule part of how Dr Fayemi’s past has shaped his persona; a decent, disciplined, caring, calm, focused and highly organized personality that Ekiti state could not have asked for more.
It is the reason he has aptly been named ‘THE ILUFEMILOYE 1’ -the chosen one -of Ekiti.
By Femi Orebe
This article was first published in The Nation on 14 October 2012.
Last modified: October 14, 2012