I doubt if there has been any other Nigerian beside Mr. Ayo Fayose who has beaten two incumbent state governors in two different governorship elections. Some governors have left and come back, like Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State, but I can’t remember any Nigerian that beat an incumbent governor the first time, and came back the second time to beat another incumbent governor. Please, if anybody knows any other person who has achieved this feat, let the person school me.
One sign of such show of love was the immediate calling off of the strike by Ekiti workers on the day Fayose was inaugurated as governor on October 16. Fayose is dismissed as the leader of labourers, artisans, okada riders and thugs. One then wonders if workers in the employment of the state government also belong to this low socio-economic class. These were workers who refused all entreaties from the former governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, to call off the strike. But on October 16, 2014, they did not even wait to have a meeting with Fayose as governor before calling off their strike.
It is easy to blame “stomach infrastructure” for this love for Fayose, but one wonders if a Fayose who was kicked out of office on October 16, 2006 (a date which coincided with the date of his 2014 inauguration) would have a deeper pocket to “settle” the masses of Ekiti than an incumbent governor, who had access to the treasury. For the purposes of argument, let us assume that Fayose stashed away an amount of money that cannot be depleted, or that he got immense help from the Peoples Democratic Party-controlled Federal Government, but why did that “huge PDP support” not work for Iyiola Omisore in the Osun State election in August, or for Charles Airhiarvbere in Edo State in 2012, or for the Ikedi Ohakim in Imo State in 2011, or Ade Dosunmu in Lagos in 2011, and other PDP candidates in other states?
Now, let’s go back a little to a period when Fayose was not known beyond Ekiti and when he had not had any access to the government treasury. In 2001, I visited Ekiti State on a project for some days. Niyi Adebayo of the Alliance for Democracy was the governor. The AD was in control of the six South-West states. In spite of President Olusegun Obasanjo, the PDP had virtually no influence in the South-West. The PDP was so unpopular in the South-West that Obasanjo was said to have even lost election in his polling unit, ward, LGA and state in 1999.
But given the lack of transparency in the 2003 elections conducted during the presidency of Obasanjo, one cannot be too sure of the genuineness of the victories that the PDP recorded in many states that year and in 2007. It was that same 2003 that the Anambra State governorship election in which the PDP came fourth and the All Progressive Grand Alliance came first but was declared as won by the PDP. If not for the doggedness of Peter Obi, the fraud perpetrated in Anambra State in 2003 would have stood, just as some people actually ridiculously quote that “Obasanjo defeated Ojukwu in Anambra State in 2003” or “Umaru Musa Yar’Adua defeated Ojukwu in Igboland in 2007”. So, for the purposes of argument again, let us assume that perhaps the 2003 victory of Fayose was concocted. Was his 2014 victory concocted too? No. Once may be luck, but twice is what?
In 2003, Fayose did not have all the negative press he had in 2014. He had no controversy of whether he was impeached or not, whether he abused any oba or not, whether he fought with anybody or not, or whether he under-performed as governor or not. 2014 was tougher. He was contesting against an incumbent who was adjudged as transforming Ekiti; he was contesting in a zone where the PDP is seen as the wrong party; so it looked as if Fayose’s ambition was dead on arrival. But on June 21, 2014, when results from individuals began appearing on social media, I was shocked that Fayose was winning by a wide margin in virtually all the polling units.
I decided to speak to some Ekiti people I know, especially those based in Ekiti. “What is it that he does for you guys to love him like this despite all the bad press he gets?” I asked them. “He cares about us, bonds with us, speaks for us, fights for us,” was the reply.
The outpouring of goodwill on the day of his inauguration bore testimony to this. And Fayose knows how to fan this relationship by his utterances and actions. First, he drove to the inauguration venue in a dinosaur of a Mercedes Benz (1965 model) to show his closeness to the ordinary people. Rather than the usual ceremonial agbada, he wore a danshiki whose sleeves stopped just below the shoulders. He invited the people to the Ekiti Government House to eat, swim, play and spend the night. He then made a mockery of “stomach infrastructure” that has been used ad nauseam against him by naming a personal assistant on “special duties and stomach infrastructure.”
There are strong forces that are not happy with Fayose’s return as governor. They and their allies will do everything to frustrate his tenure. And Fayose supplies them the ammunition through some things he says or does. As a governor, he needs to have a team that will guide him on what to say and do to avoid controversies. But it may be hard for him to stop being Ayo Fayose in his adulthood. People hardly change. But he must know that now that he is in office, again, the people would be impatient to start seeing changes in their living standards. So if he throws away his goodwill, he will have himself alone to blame.
I envy Fayose. But I believe that he can still be popular without all the controversies. Like Fayose, I would like to be a leader that bonds with the people, a leader who is loved by the common people, a leader who has the back of the people and the people have his back. That, to me, is leadership. I need to enrol in Fayose’s academy of grass roots politics.