It seemed like a reckless boast when Mr Peter Ayodele Fayose declared few hours to the Ekiti gubernatorial polls last weekend: “He did it before, he is set to do it again. He left office on October 16, 2006, and will surely return on October 16, 2014, by God’s grace.”
Did Fayose eat too much pounded yam, and it was doing something to his mind? How could he be so confident when he was going into an electoral battle against an incumbent, and not just an ordinary sitting governor but Dr John Kayode Fayemi? The latter had everything going for him. He is an APC (All Progressives Congress) governor, the party that virtually has the entire South-west (except Ondo State) firmly in its control. He has the power of incumbency going for him (we know what that means in Nigeria), and again, Fayemi has a Ph.D, a very important factor in Ekiti, where every family has at least three or four professors. Was Ekiti not just like a ripe cherry, waiting to be picked by Fayemi? So, where was this Fayose coming from?
Yes, Fayose had everything standing against him. He had not been able to complete a tempestuous term in office, after he got elected in 2003. By October 16, 2006, he had to flee, when an armada was unleashed against him. He was beleaguered on all fronts. Ekiti elites were up in arms against him, he was accused of violence and murder, disrespect to elders, particularly traditional rulers, and even corruption. The presidency, led by Olusegun Obasanjo, equally moved against him, recruited the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which got Fayose impeached. Eventually, the man melted away miraculously, just like a spirit, from Government House, and a State of Emergency was declared in Ekiti.
Where then did he get so much confidence to declare that he would return to Government House on October 16, 2014?
Too much of everything is bad, particularly too much pounded yam. Fayose has had a surfeit, and he is hallucinating, APC members felt. What else does Ekiti need other than an urbane governor like Fayemi, who is also doing wonders on almost all fronts, particularly infrastructure?
However, Fayose hinged his confidence in God. “He left office on October 16, 2006, and will surely return on October 16, 2014, by the grace of God.” But why should God leave Fayemi for Fayose? Feyisetan, the devout wife of the latter had long prophesied it. She said her husband would not finish his first term in office, it came to pass. Again, she declared sometime last year that he would return to office this year. If the first prophecy came to pass, why should the second one fail? (Mrs Fayose, please tell us where the Chibok girls are, and whether they would all return alive or not. We now have a national prophetess here, don’t we?).
Like I said, Fayemi had everything going for him to win a second term in office. Performance, charisma, urbanity, suavity, grace, civility, and good education. Fayose had a lot of question marks, including an ongoing trial for corruption. How then could he win?
But two factors made a difference. The people, and fate. In democracy, the people will always matter. That was what Fayose had going for him. Have you seen the man in a public place anywhere in Ekiti before? In his first incarnation as governor, I’d gone with him round the state, riding in the same vehicle. Wherever we stopped, there was bedlam anytime Fayose stepped out. The people simply loved him to bits. There was a restaurant where we went to eat pounded yam in the afternoon. The entire area came to a standstill. Everyone wanted to see Fayose, talk with him, discuss their problems, and he listened to as many as was humanly possible. Simply amazing. And eight years after he had been driven from power, the passion of the people did not wane. If anything, they loved him even more. And that made all the difference in the election last Saturday.
There are people called David’s mighty men in the Holy Bible. But, they did not start as mighty men. Rather, they began as dishonourable people, the flotsam and jetsam of society, miscreants. When David was fleeing from Saul, and was hiding in the wilderness, it is recorded that those who were owing people money and were not able to pay, those running from the law, those who had rebelled against their parents, outcasts, all sorts of rascals, joined David in his stronghold . They were his first army. They flocked round him, became a bulwark, till David became king. Years later, those outlaws had transformed into mighty men. Their exploits are recorded in II Samuel, chapter 23, from verse 8.
Who are Fayose’s mighty men and women who made the difference last Saturday? The okada riders. Taxi drivers. Traders. Teachers. Local government workers. And many other people of modest stations in life. They were the army that brought Fayose back. Yes, Fayemi had more factors going for him. But he was backed largely by the elite. And what do elites do on election day? They sit at home, watching television and making permutations. They possibly don’t even have voters’ cards, or most of them are away in other cities, throwing verbal missiles from there. They cover the ground with their mouths, speak grammar, and expect their man to just coast to victory. They do not realize that democracy is a game of numbers, and that the will of the people is expressed through superior number of votes. Fayemi himself said as much during a meeting he held with Fayose on Monday. “The will of the people is the wheel of democracy, “ he declared. How very profound! In Nigeria, though we pretend to practice democracy, the will of the people had been subverted for too long. It had been clobbered, crushed, pulverized, at the local government, state and national levels. In our elections, the people never mattered. Their will was never the wheel of democracy, because their votes were never counted. The powers-that-be would simply write results, conjured from God knows where. Votes were never counted, nor made to count. Ekiti people changed that last weekend. Just as Imo people did in 2011. And that gives hope that gradually, the people will regain their pride of place in this democracy. By our will, we can change any leadership we reckon is due for removal, at any level. But that will must first be respected by those in charge of electoral processes.
Fayemi has been widely applauded for bowing to the will of the people. I join that applause. I doff my cap for him. He is a hero of democracy, and I’m sure we will hear a lot more from him in future. Losing an election should not be the end of his political career. He is among the best specimen of public office holders we’ve had, and what he has experienced should only be a temporary setback. The future would still be written in gold.
Now, to the fate factor. Fayose said he would return, by the grace of God. It has happened, simply because God ordained it. Who can do anything if God has not allowed it? “No man receives anything, except it is given him from above,” says the Good Book. Fayose was divinely ordained to return, or what we can call fate, in simple terms.
“It is the stars, the stars above us govern our conditions,” wrote William Shakespeare in King Lear. Yes. What some people call stars, I simply call Deus ex machina, the invisible hands of God. Last week, I had written on ‘Ekiti and the Hand of God.’ That hand was evident in the election.
Can man master fate? Not wholly. William Henley wrote: “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” True, to an extent, but not absolutely. The stars above us (read as Deus ex machina) govern our conditions. We cannot master fate, if the stars above are leading in another direction. Fayemi was in pole position to win handsomely, but the stars above decided otherwise.
“Men at some times are masters of their fate,” wrote Shakespeare in Julius Caesar. True. But mark the words: “At some times.” Not at all times. There are certain things in life that you can control, determine, and orientate. But not all things. The Deus ex machina determines the rest. I like the way Shakespeare again puts it in Henry VI: “What fates impose, that men must needs abide. It boots not to resist both wind and tide.” The wind and tide went Fayose’s way in Ekiti, and nobody could resist it.
Let me inflict another Shakespearian quote on you, this time from Hamlet: “There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ‘tis not to come: if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all.” What does that really mean in everyday language? The Good Book tells us: “Even the very hairs on our heads are numbered. And not a single strand can fall without the permission of God.” Nothing happens to us outside the will and program of God, including victories and failures.
Fayose is the one who is to come, from October 16. I believe he will be a better governor this time, as he must have learnt tons of lessons from his first outing. Ekiti should enjoy him. He must fight less battles, but those who arrayed themselves against him the last time should also let him be, for the sake of the larger number. He won the elections through a coalition of forces, however, those forces must not attempt to lead him by the nose. Fayose is a strong character. He has a mind of his own. Those who teamed up to get him into power should get rewarded (as is the manner of politicians) but they should not constitute themselves to godfathers and godmothers. Fayemi has set a standard, the incoming governor should just continue the momentum. Ekiti can only be the better for it. Development of physical infrastructure must continue, while not also neglecting ‘stomach infrastructure,’ an area in which Fayemi reportedly fell short, and which made the people to rebel with their votes.
Fayose should look forward, rather than backwards. It is not the time for vendetta, either against those who got him out of power in 2006, or against the APC government he dislodged. Ekiti should rather be taken to the next level.
Should the PDP gloat that it has won Ekiti? I don’t think so. If the party had fielded anybody apart from Fayose as its candidate, the failure would have been resounding. In other words, PDP won Ekiti because of Fayose. They should, therefore, not interpret what happened as necessarily a resurgence of the party in the South-west. Wherever else they would win in the region would depend on the candidate. He would run on his own steam, the party will only be secondary. Didn’t Mimiko beat them silly in Ondo State? It was more of Mimiko’s person that did the trick, just as has been done by Fayose’s person in Ekiti.
Sure, APC has to beware. The battle is being taken to them. If they don’t build battlements, their kingdom may be overrun. Fayemi was a Grade A candidate, he lost. Anything can happen anywhere else. “There is no armour against fate.” (Shirley James). When the will of the people teams up with fate, anything can happen. Just about anything.
Lest I forget, kudos to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the outing in Ekiti. Attahiru Jega may yet become a hero.
By Femi Adesina
This article was first published in The Daily Sun on Friday, June 27, 2014.
Last modified: June 27, 2014