“The forest was shrinking, but the trees kept voting for the axe because its handle was made of wood and they thought it was one of them.” – Anonymous
I have been waiting for the auspicious time to comprehensively interrogate Governor Ayodele Fayose’s “Continuity Agenda” which—-for all practical purposes—-the only pillar upon which his support for Prof. Kolapo Olusola (his deputy) in the July 14th governorship election in Ekiti state is anchored. While waiting, I have also been thinking about the appropriate angle from which—-for all intents and purposes—-to approach this last scam on Ekiti people should his deputy be elected, until I stumbled on the epigraph above on one of the Ekiti-focus social media platforms in which I am privileged to be a participant. For me, this epigraph, as we shall see presently, is a true depiction of Fayose with Ekiti people that he claims to love so much on one hand, their material deprivation and state degeneration in his hands on the other. While we may never know where and how Fayose honed his skills as one of Nigeria’s greatest scam artists who intimidated, bullied, lied, charmed, maimed and even killed his way into the state’s highest political seat as a governor not once but twice, the fact remains that his name would not be forgotten in a hurry not only in Ekiti State but in Nigeria as a whole as that enfant terrible who represents everything ignoble in a political leader. So, as a governor who has exhausted his constitutionally mandated two terms in office, it is natural, and expected, of Fayose to be interested in who succeeds him. This is a legitimate desire. And he has not committed any crime.
But the criminality that is undoubtedly inherent in Fayose’s continuity agenda in both his person and governance style can, perhaps, be better understood if one takes a quick excursion into how the man happened into the people’s consciousness as well as the state’s political landscape.
Traditionally a close-knit people, it was natural for them to welcome and embrace Fayose not only because he’s an Ekiti indigene who has made good (however dubious) for himself in his sojourn in Nigeria’s metropolitan city of Ibadan, but also to have displayed a generous spirit with his truckloads of water and kerosene—-very important commodities for the survival of the locals—-he dispensed free of charge before the 2003 general elections. It was also natural for them to think that his generosity was altruistic. Having warmed his way into their hearts with this largesse, Fayose succeeded in securing the ticket of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) as its governorship candidate with the connivance of then President Olusegun Obasanjo (another “ogbologbo” scammer) and his rigging electoral umpire who was also another crook by the name of Maurice Iwu. Ekiti people were satisfied with Fayose’s ‘victory’ in the 2003 governorship contest because he was just as ordinary as themselves. They probably thought that if he could be so generous with his personal wealth, and having demonstrated that he was one of them, he would equally be sincere in extricating them from the shackles of poverty with his policies and programmes as their governor. But if the people never heard of Babangida’s “subversive generosity,” they wouldn’t have been able to fathom that Fayose had already perfected his own subservient generosity which later metamorphosed into “stomach infrastructure” which they took with relish.
From the foregoing, the above epigraph, therefore, serves as an excellent metaphorical representation of Ayodele Fayose in the lives of Ekiti people as their governor in which the forest in this instant is the state and the trees the people. The axe exemplifies Fayose’s policies and programmes while the handle embodies the man himself. No sooner did he mount the governorship saddle in 2003 than Fayose began to cut down to size—-both literally and figuratively—-the people he swore to elevate their material conditions. After figuring out the modus operandi with which to enthral and hoodwink the people, Fayose started with the demystification of the exalted Office of the Governor by eating and drinking alcohol at roadsides. “What a terrific guy?” they chorused. “He’s definitely one of us,” they hailed. While they hailed him everywhere he went, he was at the same time stealing them blind. Before long, a spotless and odourless Poultry Farm owned by him, and ironically exposed by then President Obasanjo during a visit to the so-called chicken farm had gulped more than N2 billion of the people’s collective patrimony. It was the biggest scam at that time. But the people, in the main, thought nothing of it. After all, he was a member of the ‘trees’ family who was lucky to have been fashioned into a handle of an axe. He was one of them.
Not long into his administration the axe started to swing ferociously in every direction. People started to fall down. Some well-respected members of society started to fear for their lives while some were declared persona non grata to the state of their origin by the governor because they criticised him publicly. Others simply packed up and left the state. Some others who dared to contest against him and his party during elections lost their lives. Traditional rulers were cowed. Those who were audacious enough to question his policies and programmes on behalf of their subjects were subjected to all kinds of indignities by Fayose. Yet, the accolades continued because they believed he was one of them. He didn’t finish his term because then President Obasanjo at whose behest he became the chief of state got tired of him and ‘engineered’ his removal from office. Fayose became an embarrassment even to the man who had proclaimed to the world that nothing embarrasses him. He made his escape outside the country in the trunk (booth) of a car with a vow to fight another day. And he did.
Entered President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. The “shoeless boy” from Otuoke may not be as crude as Ayodele Fayose, but he was just as reckless with the people’s collective patrimony. Because Jonathan was very naïve and never really understood what governance was about other than an opportunity for primitive acquisition and grabbing power for its sake, Fayose talked him into fielding him again in the 2015 governorship contest of the state because he told the former president that he’s the only one in the state with the audacity to maim and kill—-if necessary—-to win the election for PDP. The party also knew he has a long track record in political thuggery and avarice. So, they could do business with him. He was the ‘perfect’ candidate. Just like his political godfather before him, Jonathan did everything within and outside his power to pave the way for the second coming of this con artist.
When he was asked in the aftermath of the 2015 election if he was going to repeat the atrocities he committed against the people and the state in his first coming, he responded that he had “learnt his lessons” and that he’s now a “matured” man. One would have thought that there would have been some kind of resistance from a people who went through hell in his first outing. But all they did was shrug. It was as if they were under a spell.
Like the Bourbon monarch who had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing, Fayose became more virulent, if not psychopathic, in his avarice that he now taxes school children for their education. His subservient generosity has come full circle. With his axe (stomach infrastructure policy) the people are intermittently given small bowls of raw rice with about N1,000 to cook stews with. The children are given “Ankara” during festivities as a measure of his love for them. But the governor is owing pensioners, civil servants and teachers several months of their legitimate earnings despite the unprecedented accruals from the federal government since the state’s creation with N56 billion external loans to boot—-with only a bridge constructed on a dry land and for no particular purpose except its aesthetics—-to show for all these monies. You can call it madness but there’s a strategy to the ‘madness.’ And the strategy is, simply put: Deprive the people jobs and legitimate incomes, subject them to all forms of indignities and the little you give them intermittently would be so appreciated and they would be grateful to you. They would be beholding to you and you can exercise hegemony over them into the foreseeable future. This is one of the main pillars upon which Fayose’s continuity agenda rests.
Aside owing several months of salaries those that are lucky enough to still have jobs, Fayose’s second coming has left the people worse off as he deliberately closed all job-creating, wealth-generating, human capacity building projects and programmes of his predecessor. He never had any manifestoes in his two forays into governance of the state. He governs on impulse. What’s more, Prof. Kolapo Olusola, the PDP candidate has said he would simply continue where Fayose left off if elected. It is therefore no surprise that the PDP candidate has started frying bean cakes (akara) for the people at roadsides. This is also what to expect as part of the continuity agenda
Fayose’s continuity agenda took its source from Lagos state. Recall what he said that he wanted to replicate the continuity put in place by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the architect of modern Lagos—-in Ekiti state. But what Fayose doesn’t seem to realise is that he doesn’t have what it takes to be like Tinubu who groomed and raised an ‘army’ of bright minds in the public service, some of whom are in the top echelons of the country’s public sector, including our current vice president. Unlike Tinubu, Fayose didn’t have the appropriate upbringing to understand what continuity entails as can be attested to with his crude treatment of traditional rulers, elders and everyone in-between that disagrees with him. He didn’t have the educational wherewithal to be able to nurture continuity as indicative of the half-baked and intellectually-challenged coterie of lawmakers and other public officials he places at different levers of power and surrounds himself with. Neither does Fayose have the requisite skills set that can bring about the kind of continuity he craves as exemplified by his crude approaches to governance. He probably knows he cannot have the seamless continuity like what prevails in Lagos. This idea of continuity is just another scam to hoodwink Ekiti people.
“But Fayose is no longer running for office,” you might be saying. True. His Deputy Governor Prof. Kolapo Olusola, has never run for anything. He is a deputy that knows next to nothing about governance and that’s how Fayose wants it. He kept Eleka in the dark about governance (not that he himself understands governance) for him to continue ruling Ekiti as the de facto governor. He would decide who to appoint and who to elect into elective offices. He would decide what would be done to the state revenues; who gets paid and who is given contracts. Eleka (if elected, but heaven forbid) would not be able to question him because he would be impeached by his hand-picked legislators he had proclaimed their Speaker. This is the main crux of Fayose’s continuity agenda.
It is already a tragedy that a people that are domiciled in a state known as the “Fountain of knowledge” have allowed one man to fool them for so long. It would be a tragedy of monumental proportion if the people thinks that Fayose is still one of them when he is, in actuality, the handle that makes it possible for the axe (his policy of stomach infrastructure) to keep cutting down the trees (the people), thereby shrinking the forest (Ekiti).
Femi Odere is a media practitioner. He can be reached at [email protected]