Beyond Fayose and Abati: The future of Ekiti
By Femi Odere
As one of Nigeria’s brilliant minds in the Fourth Estate of the Realm whose credibility with his readers was built largely by several years of expressing their true feelings about their governments and speaking truth to power through his weekly column in the heydays of The Guardian newspaper, Dr. Reuben Abati was not only considered a class by himself but a colossus in the pantheon of public intellectuals and opinion molders this country has ever produced. The respect people had for him then was almost boundless. But this rightly deserved credibility and respect that took several years of hard work to earn came crashing down like a pack of cards when—-as if under some inexplicable spell—-he suddenly began writing gibberish and defending the patently undefendable as the Special Adviser (Media and Publicity) to Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the immediate past Nigerian president who was universally known not only as an “ineffectual buffoon” but the man who gifted and presided over the worst corruption never seen anywhere in the world on the Nigerian nation.
And when—-in their astonishment—-Nigerians asked what could have been so irresistible in the Jonathan government for Abati to have risked his hard-earned iconic personality that almost made him one of the moral voices of the nation, he dismissed them as “children of anger.” But the Nigerian people later found out—-thanks to President Muhammadu Buhari—-his other side that Abati will sleep with anyone, no matter how reprehensible his person or despicable his act if the price is right as revealed by Dasukigate. In climes that lives by professional ethics and moral values where egregious acts have consequences, Abati and his writings would no longer be touched even with the longest pole. And he most likely would still be in the penitentiary serving time now. What is more, he would have been stripped of whatever laurels he may have been adorned prior to when he willfully went bad.
One would have been justified if he had decided not to waste precious time in dignifying someone whose credibility have been sullied by his own acts of commission or omission with a response. But when it comes to Abati’s attempt to misrepresent facts and salient points in the inauguration speech of Governor Kayode Fayemi, which may have either been deliberately intended or inadvertently maligned him as well as the mischaracterization of the First Lady Erelu Bisi Fayemi, talk not of nauseatingly holding brief for the disgraced former Governor Ayo Fayose in the piece which he titled “Beyond Fayose: The future of Ekiti” then it is time to not only push back what seems to be testing the waters for a probable image laundering and glorification of an “error” in governance (Fayose) but to also set the record of his deceptive review of the governor’s inaugural speech straight.
That Abati started the rehabilitative narrative of probably the most repressive and profligate governor in Nigeria’s democratic history by questioning the appropriateness of lack of invitation of “members of the opposition party” that Fayose represents in Ekiti as he wasn’t sure why “they were not invited” or whether “they were invited and they chose to ignore the ceremony” speaks to a confused state of mind that may have been the end result of what can be described as Acquired Intellectual Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) from too much exposure to the clueless and daft former President Jonathan. What could have been the purpose of the invitation to Fayemi’s inauguration is better imagined. And to what end is better contemplated. As someone who is considered a friend of the First Family whose calls they would have been glad to take for whatever reason, one wonders if Abati’s statement was not intentionally garnished with mischief when he said that the inaugural speech “was a brilliant, thoughtful speech but [rather] fell short in one major regard” as “it began on an evocative note with a prefatory poem written by Erelu Bisi Fayemi, the Governor’s wife and Chair of the Ekiti State Transition Committee.” Just in case Abati did not know, or knew the genesis of the poem under reference but thought it would be better to ignore this important piece of information because it doesn’t fit into his preconceived narrative, it should be pointed out that “This Land Is Ours” by the First Lady was written as far back as April, 2010 in honour of Odia Ofeimum (another friend of the First Family) for his 60th birthday in that year. Abati should also be reminded that Erelu Bisi Fayemi was not the Chair of the Ekiti State Transition Committee but Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi. What is more, if the First Lady’s poem served as the introductory phase of the “brilliant, thoughtful speech” as Abati opined, it is because of its aptness to the suffocating socio-political and economic condition to which Fayose subjected Ekiti and its people several years after Erelu’s authorship of that poem hence its usage. And there are no apologies nor regrets.
Abati’s seeming tone of condescension, if not his cleverly disguised male chauvinistic predilection in the way he surreptitiously dragged some non-existent people of Ekiti as cover to express his personal opinion that the people are “likely to be getting two Governors for the price one” because of “something called the doctrine of the unity of spouse” stands condemned. Again, just in case Abati may have chosen to hide behind selective amnesia, it must be pointed out that Erelu Bisi Fayemi has proven, in her own right, and beyond a shadow of doubt to be a one-woman army who packs so many incredible talents and professional competencies inside a petite frame from where ten African presidents can easily be produced. What this awesome personality with some Clintonisque and/or Michellean semblance represents was better captured in the testimonial of Mrs. Bamidele Ademola-Olateju. Hear her: “I was disarmed by the simplicity” of a woman with “the most intimidating profile of an African woman I have ever read. In leadership circles, we respect leaders who have taken time to write about their thoughts. When it comes to women and gender issues in Africa, Erelu Bisi is an AUTHORITY. She is one of the foremost female thinkers on the continent. Her feminism is persuasive and nurturing. The rabid, misandrist, twisted, sisterhood that is slowly but surely colonizing the brains of many angry women is alien to her world. She stands up fair and square for equality and fairness. In Dr. Fayemi and his wife, I see a true power couple. A union, a team, a partnership that is more powerful than the sum of its parts and bound in each other’s success and failure. I see them living in two worlds effortlessly; the political world they are committed to shape, in their own image and the intimate world, they share. I see political roles in this woman’s future. She has what I have come to know as the secret men use to build power. She is also a people’s person. A perfect complement for her husband’s famed detachment. The women who were at her husband’s inauguration were there on her invite. She is an incredible organizer.” Need one say more.
Abati should, perhaps, be forgiven for probably being in haste as he added the “restoration of values” to the “governance agenda” of the new Fayemi administration. Social Investments, Knowledge Economy, Infrastructure and Industrial Development, and Agriculture and Rural Development are the four areas through which the governor will pursue his developmental objectives and deliver his promises to the people. While the restoration of values is not time-bound, it can, however, be quickened through maintaining the highest fidelity to the implementation of these four areas. These are some of the things that can prevent another ‘Fayose’ from emerging in the future. His assertion that the words of the First Family “gave them away” despite the fact that “the governor made it clear that he is not on a revenge mission” because Abati believes that “his entire speech…was packed full of bitterness” cannot be farther from the truth. While the governor’s inaugural speech can hardly be described as “packed full of bitterness,” it would be very remiss of Dr. Fayemi whose life have always been all about service to state and nation as attested to by even his ardent and vociferous critics by way of his superlative accomplishments in his first coming not to feel ‘pained.’ This is because his works and labour on behalf of his people was virtually destroyed intentionally by his predecessor. It also would have been irresponsible of him as a true leader not to remind the people of Ekiti in particular and the nation at large about the need “to work together to ensure that never again shall [they] be deceived into making such a grievous mistake that has set [them] back so steeply on the development curve” and that “the reins of leadership in Ekiti State must never again be allowed to fall into the hands of those who do not understand what governance or development is all about.” It is not surprising that Abati would misconstrue the aforesaid and other similarly forceful statements as “bitterness” since sharing the people’s collective patrimony and merrymaking as evidenced in the drunkenness of his erstwhile boss (and probably him too) while the world waited to hear from them at the UN. For him, this is the definition of service of the political club and party in which he is now a prominent member.
Abati’s regret that “the governor wrote off the last four years of Governor Peter Ayodele Fayose in Ekiti state, in words delivered with stinging brutality” and that Dr. Fayemi for once, did not “mention Fayose by name” but rather stressed at his inauguration that “our reputation as a people [have become] sullied and [Ekiti is now] the butt of jokes due to the crass ineptitude, loquacious ignorance, and ravenous corruption masquerading as governance in our state” cannot be regretted by the governor as there was nothing enduring, people-centred, economically sustainable to have written home about in the Fayose administration. Pray, which of the adjectivized phrases cannot be said to apply to Fayose that would have warranted his name being mentioned and applauded in the inaugural speech? Abati’s suggestion that Governor Fayemi “should place greater emphasis on healing, reconciliation, forgiveness” and that he “should be magnanimous and extend his call for support and collaboration, not just to the ordinary people of Ekiti, but everyone, including those he may consider his arch-enemies” was indicative of the fact that he may have turned a blind eye to the final lap of the inauguration speech which the governor captioned “LET US COME TOGETHER.” There was nothing uncharitable, it seems to me, in Fayose’s brutal dismissal in the speech. For Abati to have suggested that Peter Fayose shouldn’t be probed after an “independently verifiable preliminary findings indicate that [the state] have been plunged into a debt abyss of over N170 billion was not only Dead On Arrival (DOA), but a pointer to the lack of seriousness with which governance is taken in this clime that encourages—-wittingly or unwittingly—-impunity that has impeded the growth and development of the nation and its component parts since flag independence. This must change.
While it should be emphasized here that Dr. Kayode Fayemi does not have all the answers to the myriad of problems—-most of which were deliberately and maliciously created by Ayo Fayose—-the governor is, however, open to suggestions and constructive criticisms that will point the way in which the state can truly move forward. A governor who has demonstrated, beyond all doubts, that his desire for public office is all about service already takes it as a given that it is a part of his fiduciary duty to explain his activities and actions to the governed since he has nothing to hide, having proven this fact in his first outing. But the Fayemi administration will not hesitate to call up those whose cardinal objective and directive principle are to cause needless disaffection in a state that has been badly battered.
Femi Odere writes from Ado-Ekiti. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org