Anyone meeting Dr. John Olukayode Mofolorunso Fayemi, the Governor of Ekiti State and Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, for the first time will no doubt take him for a very quiet and innocuous person because of his unassuming appearance and simplicity. The truth is that his gentility and simplicity, which, most times, are taken for granted by the people, are his virile weapons that he employs as missiles of resilience and persistence to always emerge as a trailblazer in his undertakings, particularly in the murky water of Nigerian politics.
The series of victories that Dr. Fayemi had in the month of May this year alone has really confirmed that he is serial winner considering the manner of his emerging victorious in each case. In the month alone, Fayemi started with an unanimous judgment at the Supreme Court over legibility litigation instituted by his close rival at the governorship primary of the All Progressives Congress, Engr Segun Oni. This was a matter which the elders of the party waded into and enjoined Oni to withdraw, but which he preferred to pursue to the apex court, and at each stage of the matter, Fayemi won landslide.
Barely two weeks after this Supreme Court judgment on legibility, Ekiti State was in the news again as the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate Prof. Olusola Eleka’s case was sat upon at the Supreme Court, where Fayemi again won in a unanimous judgment within 24 hours after emerging as the Chairman of the Nigerian Governor’s Forum, again in an unanimous decision of all the 36 State Governors in Nigeria! How else could one have been labeled a Serial Winner?
To say that Dr. Fayemi has fought many fierce battles in Nigerian politics is to repeat the obvious, but one thing which many people do not realize is that his emerging victorious at the end of each battle is not just because of his intellectual capacity or his pro-democracy antecedent. Rather, this is traceable to destiny and the circumstances of his birth, meaning that whosoever wages war against him only fights the invincible hands of God.
As Yoruba people will say: “Oruko Omo Niiro Omo,” which literarily means: a child’s name is symbolic. Therefore, it is not a surprise that Fayemi is winning many battles today because the circumstances of his birth show that he was born into this world for a purpose which is more or less to serve as a Pathfinder like John, the Baptist did for the whole world in serving as the frontrunner for our Lord Jesus Christ. So, it is not out of place to refer to our own John here as the touch-bearer in Nigerian politics. Dr. Fayemi’s parents did not just wake up to name him Olukayode (brought the family joy). It was because his mother already had four female children and in Yorubaland, we attach great importance to a male child. His other name, Mofolorunso (I give this one to the Lord for protection} was because his parents lost three older children in quick succession before him. He was therefore specially put in God’s care.
Will it not be surprising to find out that his mother never believed he would survive until after five good years? We can therefore see that with his birth, the Lord has not only brought joy to his family but in deed to the whole world and for him to have been winning the many struggles of his life, is because he is indeed, the Pathfinder who has been put in God’s protection at birth – Mofolorunso.
A peep into the many battles Fayemi has fought and won shows that he is definitely a serial winner. Is it the three and half years long drawn battle he fought between 2007 and 2010 to reclaim his mandate in Ekiti that one will talk about or the reclaiming Ekitiland from misrule in 2018 in the face of many gang-up and unprecedented political blackmail? Not only was there a conspiracy against him within his political family but there was also a serial blackmail against his person by the government of Mr. Ayodele Fayose whose daily shout of “Fayemi je gbese L’Ekiti (Fayemi plunged Ekiti into debt) became deafening.
As if this wasn’t enough, Fayose established an incongruous Panel of Enquiry which came up with a dubious “White paper” just to nail Fayemi and prevent him from contesting the 2018 governorship election in Ekiti having sensed that only Fayemi was the most formidable candidate of the APC who could dislodge his deputy, Eleka, foisted on the PDP as governorship candidate. Competent courts of law threw away the so called white paper into the legal dustbin, declaring it null and void and of no effect in its entirety.
Was this enough for Fayose and his co-travellers? No! after suffering a monumental defeat at the April 14, 2018 election where Fayemi beat PDP’s candidate silly in 13 out 16 local government areas of Ekiti State, Fayose propelled his candidate to head to court. They lost at every stage of the legal battle starting from the appeal Tribunal to the Supreme Court on May 24, 2019, two days after Fayemi historically emerged the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum by unanimous votes of both PDP and APC Governors! Not until after this defeat from left, right and centre did erstwhile Governor Ayo Fayose see Fayemi as a round ped in the round hole. Anyway, we thank God for making our maverick former governor to think straight this time around for whatever reason it may be.
Just as Fayemi was fighting Fayose/PDP’s battle on one hand, he was also fighting another battle orchestrated by Oni, his closest rival in the APC governorship primaries, who felt that Fayemi ought to have resigned his federal appointment as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria before coming to contest for the governorship seat under APC. Hence another legal battle bothering on eligibility ensued even after the general election when Fayemi has emerged victorious at the poll and Nigerians felt that everybody in his party should be happy that at last the inglorious regime of Fayose would end in Ekiti. On May 17, 2019, the Supreme Court, in groundbreaking judgment delivered by Justice Aminu Sanusi affirmed Fayemi’s eligibility and threw away Segun Oni’s appeal.
Another secret of Dr Fayemi’s victory all the time is that despite all humiliations he suffered from his traducers, he always has a forgiving spirit. From day one after his re-election, he made it clear that he had committed his predecessor, Fayose, into God’s hands for all his treacheries and brigandage. Same thing Fayemi did after his primary election where he was nearly slapped by one of the aspirants, right in the full glare of the whole world that watched the election live. After emerging the APC flagbearer, Fayemi went, one after the other to all the aspirants appealing to them to cooperate with him in entrenching good governance in Ekiti. When he was moving from one aspirant to another, many cynics believed that Fayemi was a pretender who was only trying to curry their favour so as to win the election and later revenge. But what happened after Fayemi was sworn in? The first sets of beneficiaries of his government were the die-hards of his opponents and while picking his cabinet, he appointed five of his co-contestants as Commissioners and Special Advisers. What a magnanimous leader! John C. Maxwell, in his book: “The 360 degree Leader,” said: “If you make it your goal to reach out to others and build relationships with them, you will derive fulfillment wherever you are.” This, Fayemi did and he succeeded.
That Fayemi today is a human activist, a political juggernaut, numero uno among Nigerian governors, should not be a surprise to us. He was a child of the “Pekelemesi” years, “born into a city in crisis, a city already poisoned by anarchy and mayhem, which had resulted from the political killing and maiming that engulfed Ibadan as the regional capital of the then Western Region of Nigeria” (an excerpt from his book: “Out of the Shadows”). Little wonder he was a dodged fighter who detests violence that can lead to shedding of blood. Throughout the three and half years of the struggle for his stolen mandate in Ekiti between 2007 and 2010, he was always warning his supporters against anything that could lead to loss of lives.
What do Fayemi’s serial victories portend for Ekiti State and Nigeria as a whole? If God in his infinite mercy could be giving him victories from all angles at the State and national levels, does it not go to say that God himself is preparing a role for him in the transformation of our dear nation? Ever before Fayemi came to government and while in government, he is always hammering on national development. In defining development strategy for Nigeria, Fayemi, in a lecture titled; “Strategy and leadership – Panacea to our National Malaise” delivered at the 10th anniversary of the Institute of Strategic Management in Lagos on Thursday July 11, 2013, suggested that “we must look for an overarching conceptual framework that unites development theory and praxis with civic orientation, national values, resource management, policy architectures, political consensus and performance mentoring.” This is contained on page 168 of his book: “Reclaiming The Legacy.”
As the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum now, first of his kind in the South West, all eyes are on Fayemi now as Nigerians are now expecting him to answer many of his questions in his writings about good governance and quality leadership. In the introduction to another of his book titled: “Legacy of Honour and Service,” Fayemi posited: “For Nigeria, momentous change seems inevitable and immanent. The pressing issue of the day is not whether significant change will come. The question before us concerns the type and quality of that change.”
Fayemi went further opera citato to ask some fundamental questions such as; “will it be reform that propels us forward into the positive fate and future of our better dreams and aspirations? Will change be such that it will cure the disease of our body-polity so that a healthy and sound nation can finally realize the great potential of her diversity by unleashing the vast heretofore pent-up ingenuity of her many daughters and sons? Or will the change be retrogressive, pummeling us backward, seizing our best dreams and forcing us to perpetually relive the nightmares of division, bankrupt governance and galloping poverty, that we steadily become or own worst fears? These and many more questions were asked by Fayemi, which Nigerians will expect him to find answers to in the years ahead.
. Akogun Oguntayo is the Senior Special Assistant (Media) to the Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi.