Ayo Fayose: Salutes to a quintessential political general at 60
Without any shred of doubt, Ayodele Fayose remains the most discussed personality in Ekiti State politics since the return of democracy to the country in 1999.
A quick question: has the state produced any Governor from 1999 till date who is as colourful, down-to-earth and hugely popular with the grassroots people than him? Your answer is as good as mine, warts and all.
At the same time, Fayose, popularly called Oshokomole by his fans and admirers alike, a two-term Governor of Ekiti State, created in 1996 by the administration of the late General Sani Abacha, has been a recurring decimal on the country’s political landscape for close to two decades now.
There must be something that makes him thick which is why he has remained constant in our physical space and as well as our consciousness like the Northern Star.
There’s honestly a need to take a critical examination of the man called Fayose, who, without any godfather anywhere prior to his entry into politics, took the political firmament of Ekiti State by storm, initiated a paradigm shift, birthed the Ayo Fayose Movement, and before anyone could say, Jack Robinson, he was already in the Ekiti State Government House as the second democratically elected Governor of the state.
The emergence of Fayose as Governor of Ekiti State, the way and manner he defeated a sitting Governor, Niyi Adebayo, who was in the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD), the darling party of the Southwest as of that time, in the 2003 governorship election, confounded as many political observers as it astounded many. Only a political genius could have done that and that’s exactly what Fayose is.
To those who felt they were the traditional political kingmakers in the state and hence should always determine who should be Governor, the coming of Governor Fayose was a massive disruption to the status quo and the demystification of their pseudo influence, thus, their steely determination to edge him out of power at all cost.
They finally succeeded in doing the unthinkable in October 2006, using the instrumentality of federal power and coercion with strong assistance from the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidency to impeach him. But the temporary darkness was only to last for a while.
Many had thought his political end had come with the impeachment. His army of admirers ached and mourned the transient departure from power the man they had come to admire as a great friend of the hoi polloi. And he truly was a friend of the masses while in power as Governor! He remains so to date.
Well, those who thought he would never rise again made a terrible mistake. Like the phoenix, Mr Fayose rose again, in fact, in a more dramatic way, defeating another incumbent Governor, Kayode Fayemi, in 2016. In fact, so resounding was the victory that Fayose pummeled Fayemi in all the 16 local area councils of the state never before experienced in the political annals of the history of the nation of Nigeria.
Truth be told, the first coming of Fayose to power in 2003 and his resurgence in 2014 all bear the imprimatur of an unusual man who carries a celestial grace no mortal can decipher. Till today, he carries the singular honour of defeating an incumbent Governor twice, in both cases as a political outsider. Again, this exemplifies the brilliance of his political networking and capacity.
As much as he has fought several political battles within the space of time he hugged political limelight in the country, he has won as many as several of them. Yet, he has never alienated his base – the common people – which explains why he continues to be essentially loved by them and hated by the elites who feel it’s a cardinal crime to identify with poor people.
It’s Fayose’s contention that once the real grassroots people love him for his straightforwardness, there is no political battle too big that he cannot win. Courted by the masses, some sections of the Nigerian political class continue to hate his guts, eccentricity and candour. Why always Fayose, they continue to ask rhetorically.
In spite of the love-hate relationship, Fayose, even though he is out of power now, remains a formidable voice in the opposition People’s Democratic Party where he has continued to agitate for reforms that will place the party in good stead ahead of the 2023 elections.
With his many signature projects in Ekiti State during his terms as Governor, he remains, without a debate, the modern architect of the state and a pathfinder to a coterie of people who ordinarily would not want to contest elections because they have no godfather but seeing the example of Fayose, are now inspired to do so.
He may not have higher degrees like his critics but the projects of this populist litre the length and breadth of the state, far more than what his transducers could offer the people. The Lady Jibowu Hall, the Trade Fair Complex, the Fountain Hotel, the Goodluck Jonathan Bridge (first In the state), the High Court Complex, the old and New Governor’s Office, the Osuntokun Pavilion, the Funmi Olayinka Women Center, the Ado-Ikere dual Carriage Way, the Ikere Township Dual Carriage Way, the Afao, Ise, Ijero, Emure, Ikole and seven other township roads, the entire Ado-Ekiti metropolis dual carriageways, the long-abandoned Adehun-Onala road in Ado-Ekiti, the Awedele – Bank dual carriageway, the Ikere-Igbara Odo road, Igbaraodo to Ikogosi road, Ikogosi – Erinjiyan – Aramoko Road, the Ifaki – Esure- Eyio road, the Afao-Iworoko road, Afao -Ado road, Afao -Ire road, Afao -Igbemo-Iluomoba Road, the Fayose Market, the Ado Ekiti Central Market, the hundreds of kilometres of asphalted community roads built from scratch, among others, are what can never make Ekiti people forget Ayo Fayose.
He might be 60, which is even the statutory age to bow out of the Nigerian army, Fayose, at 60, a political general in his own rights, is not quitting the stage anytime soon because he still has a lot to offer the country in political leadership.
A society is blessed with an unusual leader at every epoch. Fayose remains the unusual, atypical and non-traditional ruler Ekiti State, and by extension, Nigeria is endowed with at the moment. The more you study to unravel him, the more loads of assignment you have to go through for he remains materially undecipherable.
As a person born in his Afao-Ekiti community, I join his kinsmen to say happy birthday to this man of unusual grace.
Adeleye and Akomolafe wrote from Magodo, Lagos.