Not many people insult former President Olusegun Obasanjo and get away with him ─ but Peter Ayodele Fayose, the former governor and now governor-elect of Ekiti State, successfully did that.
It was in December 2010 in Okuku, Osun State. Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola had been deposed as governor of the state by the Appeal Court and his community decided to welcome him back home with a thanksgiving service.
Fayose, who had been “deposed” as Ekiti governor by Obasanjo in 2006, arrived the venue of the thanksgiving reception and saw former military president Ibrahim Babangida, the then Governors Adebayo Alao-Akala (Oyo) and Gbenga Daniel (Ogun).
Obasanjo was there, but Fayose did not see him as he greeted everyone except the former president.
Perplexed, Obasanjo asked Fayose if he did not see him. Oh, Fayose actually saw him.
“I won’t greet you. You are bad person! I don’t greet bad people!” Fayose said.
“You are a bastard,” Obasanjo fired back.
When Obasanjo says things like that, people normally cringe, while anyone at the receiving end would bow and say “sorry” or keep mute in reverence.
Not Fayose. He shouted back at Obasanjo: “You are a father of bastards!”
He did not stop there. He moved menacingly towards Obasanjo and warned the former president never to talk to him again.
“You created all these troubles in the south-west,” Fayose said.
Still fuming, he released one more bullet: “And for your information, I did not come here as a member of your party. I am no longer a PDP member.”
With the atmosphere polluted, Fayose left the reception prematurely, despite entreaties by Oyinlola who begged him not to “spoil this great occasion”.
It is only those who don’t know Fayose ─ or those who forgot how he was removed as governor in 2006 ─ that will be baffled by his reaction to Obasanjo. He was humiliated out of office when Obasanjo was at the height of his powers in Aso Rock.
Two of Obasanjo’s major weapons in those days were the EFCC and state of emergency. Anytime a governor fell out of favour with him, he usually deployed one or the other to get him out of power.
On October 6, 2006, the drama started with the impeachment of Fayose and his deputy, Mrs Biodun Olujimi, and the assumption of office by the state speaker, Friday Aderemi, as the new governor. But that was not where Obasanjo was going.
As it turned out, Olujimi was also encouraged to declare herself governor ─ and the full script unfolded. With “two governors” in place, Obasanjo declared that there was a breakdown of law and order in the state and quickly declared a state of emergency, promptly appointing Brig-Gen. Adetunji Olurin (rtd) as the sole administrator of the state on October 19, 2006.
Fayose fled the country as he was removed from office. With his impeachment, he had lost constitutional immunity ─ paving the way to be arrested on charges of corruption and murder. His exit from Nigeria was said to have been facilitated by two top police chiefs, and he was in exile until Obasanjo left power in 2007.
Fayose returned to the country in December 2007 and was well received in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital. That was clearly a signal that he had not lost his support base, which he amazingly built to unseat Chief Niyi Adebayo as Ekiti governor in 2003.
Fayose told the large gathering at his reception: “Today, my joy knows no bounds as I return home into the warm embrace of you, my good people, and admirers in Ekiti. Life away from home was never the same, going by the affluence and influence associated with the office of a governor.
“On the other hand, my wilderness experience has offered me enough opportunity to reflect on my ordinariness as a man, as the way up might be the way down, because nothing they say lasts forever. I was made to suffer for what I knew nothing about. Rather than being honoured, I was humiliated. Rather than being promoted, I was persecuted. You are all living witnesses of how I turned around our non-existent social infrastructure, empowering you, putting smiles on your faces and touching your lives individually.”
His attempt to run for senate in 2011 on the ticket of the Labour Party failed, and he returned to the PDP. He had been expelled but he got his readmission backdated by two years, making it possible for him to seek an elective post immediately.
Fayose was born on November 13, 1960 to parents from Afao-Ekiti ─ although he grew up in Ibadan and attended Olivet Baptist High School, Oyo. He was Ekiti governor from May 29, 2003 to October 16, 2006.
He will now be sworn to take over from Dr. Kayode Fayemi on October 15, 2014.