At a time like this, we need leaders not looters, leaders, not rulers. We need leaders with the fear of God; those who will not lie; leaders who will accept in public what they can accept in private; leaders who are not corrupt; leaders who will not steal; leaders who look in the eyes of the common man with compassion and not eyes of the privileged few. May I congratulate you on behalf of the nation because the nation needs leaders like you” –Elder statesman, Alhaji Maitama Sule, former Nigerian Ambassador to the United Nations, congratulating Dr Kayode Fayemi, the Ekiti state governor and this year’s winner of the prestigious Leadership newspaper’s Governor of the Year award.
While dignitaries, far and near, have since been celebrating the quietly efficient governor of Ekiti state, a man not given to empty self-glorification, some, especially nearer home, have left nothing undone in trying to equate the award to the likes of ‘honour’ a segment of the Nigerian students union once bestowed on a professor who conducted the worst ever election, not only in Nigeria, but the world over as was eloquently attested to by the foreign election monitors amongst who were former Heads of State. Like the latter, they even have the temerity to suggest that it was bought.
Questions, largely out of ignorance and an unbelievable insularity, if not self-inflicted limited choices of what they choose to read, have been asked, for instance about Leadership Newspaper which they claim they do not know. I have elsewhere lumped those who ask such questions with those whose newspaper choices most probably do not go beyond the soft sell magazines.
Also, in an attempt to square up with those of us who criticize undiscerning recipients of just any ‘honour’, some have laid us up to charges of political partisanship whereas what underpins our abhorrence of ‘honour’ for honour sake, simpli cita, is the sure knowledge that there are too many such ‘honours’ being peddled around the country today that a governor Fayemi will not as much as touch with the longest pole. Of course we could not have so easily forgotten awards of ‘Best Banker in Africa’, Banker of the Year and such like ‘honours’ whose recipients were, within a year of such awards shown for what they truly are. The lesson we preach here is: let would-be awardees beware.
A word or two then about the three most critical elements in this discourse since we must not attach any undue importance to the critics who may have been motivated by whatever considerations: political, an eagerness for a pound of flesh or what former President Obasanjo would rather describe as ‘bad belle’. They will always be entitled to their self-inflicted grumbles.
Of the three, Sam Nda Isaiah comes first.
After reading his ramifying 50th birthday anniversary interview sometime around May, 2012, I tried never to miss his weekly column and when I got news of this award, I reached out to my good friend and University of Ife contemporary, Dr Femi Adebanjo, who not only taught Sam Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Great University, but was his Project supervisor for the B.Pharm degree to validate what things I knew about him. It was a learning curve..
Hear Femi Adebanjo: Sam Nda Isaiah was an exceptional student. Son to a former editor of the Nigerian Herald, he came from a journalistic background; a fact which helped him perform brilliantly as the youngest ever Editor-in-Chief of the Pharmaceutical Association in the 81/82 session. He graduated in the 2nd class (Upper) Division and although he subsequently went to read Law at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Sam refused to defend his project, strictly on principle.’
Continued Dr Adebanjo: ‘Mr Nda- Isaiah has been a phenomenon since leaving school. A complete tee-to- taler, Sam buys books like Nigerians buy recharge cards and has several thousand volumes in his library. Sam, he says, is bolder than bold itself, and is hugely respected throughout the length and breadth of Nigeria. Concluding, Dr Adebanjo said ‘both Sam and Kayode Fayemi are two stars born to shine, and shine they always will.’ Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, former Health Minister, who also knows Sam very well, would later confirm Dr Adebanjo’s views of the publisher. You do not come from such a laudable background to join the crowd of award hawkers.
The Leadership newspaper worships no creed, race, or persons, and, had late President Yar Adua had his way, the publisher and his editors would probably still be in jail for the paper’s objective assessments of that lacklustre administration. Nothing demonstrates the paper’s single-minded uprightness than its credo which reads as follows: ‘Leadership is not a regional or sectional paper. It is a national paper symbolically embedded in the nation’s capital. We shall stand up for good governance. We shall defend the interests of the Nigerian state even against its leaders and we shall raise our pen at all times in defense of what is right. These are the values by which we intend to be assessed and we shall never, ever, for any reason forget the noble reason of our coming into being. For God and Country.’
The paper has studiously been honest to its raison detre.
The third, and most critical in this discourse is governor Kayode Fayemi. For me, writing about him, as regular readers of this column must know by now, is like eating eko with akara –two popular Yoruba foods.
A few weeks ago on this page, I treated readers to the efforts of a highly concentrated mind, and his enormously committed team, in turning around the fortunes of a beleaguered state which, for nine cheerless years, was in the throes of some thoroughly vacuous PDP governments, one of which lasted all of one day. That article was in continuation of the series I called: ‘FAYEMI’S QUIET REVOLUTION IN EKITI’, a subject which the Leadership award has further confirmed. Ordinarily, one will expect most people to see and appreciate his yeoman’s efforts in transforming a once beleaguered state but we must be gamely enough to concede that some are so occluded they will deny the evidence of their very eyes. It is permitted. But for the honest and objective observer, it should be about the easiest thing to conclude that in two short years, Dr Fayemi has permanently changed the face of Ekiti. The Ekiti of his dreams, no doubt, remains a work in progress as no one man will ever be able to do it all.
Dr Fayemi is a far cry from the types who will not only accept but will luxuriate in cheap awards, the kind being marketed around political office holders and which many are eager to sign up to. In contrast to those, the Leadership awards are very credible, the process of award transparent and the criteria independently verifiable. The cheer calibre of eminent Nigerians who graced the occasion is proof positive of how highly Nigerians rate the Leadership awards and that, in itself, should be enough to shut up busy bodies.
In conclusion, and paraphrasing Hakeem Jamiu, ‘the governor’s Senior Special Assistant on Research and Documentation, governor Fayemi was the first to sign into law, the Freedom of Information Bill, after it had been domesticated by the state House of Assembly, sign the bill against gender- based violence as well as the Social Security bill courtesy which Ekiti elderly citizens now receive N5, 000 monthly support. In spite of the state’s meagre resources , and a debt overhang of N42 billion from the immediate past administration, Fayemi has embarked on a massive transformation of the State through road construction, urban renewal, provision of pipe-borne water, streetlights, traffic lights and the general beautification of the state capital. He has done a lot to improve the quality of education and the administration is currently renovating 100 schools in the first phase of the Operation Renovate All Ekiti Schools. Health care delivery is in top shape with children and the elderly enjoying free health and old, moribund industries to which the last two regimes paid no regard are now being aggressively resuscitated just as agriculture and tourism are receiving appropriate attention’
Need I say more?
By Femi Orebe
This article was first published in The Nation on 23 September, 2012
Last modified: September 23, 2012