Those who believe in him, who swear by his name, would readily die for him, would give whatever it would take for their man to retain his gubernatorial seat, will strike innumerable blows to thwart his traducers. Others who hold Fayose to be beneath contempt, who proclaim that disdain expended on his account amounts to vital energy exercised in obedience to barrenness, people who abhor all that the man stands for, and who stand eternally against his regular ventilation of contrary opinion, would yearn for a cudgel – and a chance to bring the deadly weapon hard down on his head, to shatter his cranium, to finish off everything for the first-and-final time.
Yet, there is something to say for Ayodele Fayose. If the country ever had an autonomous Governor, the accolade belongs to this occupant of the Ekiti Governor’s Lodge. Leftwing ideologue Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa, tried his hands at autonomy as Governor of the old Kaduna State during the Second Republic. He waged a determined war against the behemoth known otherwise as feudalism.
He got impeached in less than two years. Even though the exercise that moved him from office was unwarranted, unjustified and shameful, the Federal Government then run by the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) sanctioned it. He went. Balarabe may have had a chance to bounce back to the governorship seat but a second, protracted military interregnum killed and buried the possibility. He still lives though – with his integrity intact – while very little is today heard of those who abused democracy to get a blameless leader off the principled path.
Fayose is empathetic to Balarabe’s experience. On October 16, 2006, he suffered a similar fate when into the third of his four-year tenure as Governor of Ekiti State. He was impeached, not necessarily because he was a wolf among the sheep, but largely because the top leadership of his political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), found him expendable. But age was on his side. Only a month shy of his 46 birthday when he was impeached, he bided his time. He switched parties. He contested other elections. He ultimately returned to the PDP. Then he strode back to Government House, Ado-Ekiti!
Peter Ayodele Fayose has soared to the zenith. He has plummeted to the nadir. The extreme experiences have fashioned and sharpened his choices. It is said that a man who moved forward, and then moved backward, stood in a proper stead to contextualize positioning, in order to determine the best of options at all times. Fayose has seen it all. Like gold, he has been tempered by the alchemist’s unrelenting fire. If he professed half measures previously, the Fayose of the Second Coming has shed kid gloves for iron fists in the fight against chicanery. He has effected an adamantine repudiation of fear. He now has little problem glaring at the lion and spitting in its face. Like a Shakespearean scholar, he has taken to heart the immortal words of Caesar in Julius Caesar:
Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear,
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
Fayose has left many disconcerted and scandalised. Coming from Ekiti, a state reputedly peopled by professors, he wasn’t even counted in the ranks of academics. So, what business had he being the tenant at Government House, Ado-Ekiti? Those mouthing this question forget that professorship and leadership stand in distinction. They take no account of the fact that Ekiti indigenes appear infinitely more interested in those who care for their very existence than the rest who are interested mainly in stuffing their brains with the contents of the fattest tomes.
They are becoming wiser, or are they? They had impeached Fayose in 2006. When they tried a reenactment of the absurdity last year, the people refused and said No! They demonstrated their preparedness to die for the one unafraid to die. Thus, they worsted undemocratic elements. At that time, all members of the Ekiti State Assembly were of the opposition. They commenced a fresh move to impeach Fayose this year, when all members of the State Assembly are of the Governor’s party! The Honourable members went public, disavowing inducement with filthy lucre, opting instead for long stretches behind bars or worse! They would never abide by the disgraceful plot to impeach the one that led from the front.
Whatever his political adversaries and opponents mete out to him today or the day after today, (And only what the Lord sanctions can happen to him), Fayose has become a star. He will, like Balarabe Musa, shine over the dulled and dying ends of the political Lilliputians wielding political power tyrannously; politicians in opposition to the contentions and contretemps that add colour and vigour to democratic culture and texture.
The critical cannot but be sorry for the pathetic lot against Fayose because he is sometimes clad in T-shirts and jeans pants, and rides on Okada motorbikes, and eats in open spaces and bukaterias with society’s flotsam and jetsam. Fayose only borrowed from Fela who, during the 1970s craze for the Mercedes had purchased one such German limousine and used it to carry firewood through the streets of Lagos. Fayose has demystified governance and shamed those that confuse the hood for the monk. He has exposed the ludicrousness of fops invariably turned out in what a well-known teacher once memorably described as the Garment of Stupidity.
In the sense of embodying free speech, Fayose is currently an Epitome of Democracy. He never shies away from the right to pronounce in mediation of contemporary challenges. His interventions should keep any true leader on their toes. He has advised President Buhari to shun globetrotting and settle down to some work! He has questioned Buhari’s physicality for the onerous job of directing Nigeria’s affairs. He has condemned the political leadership’s indifference to the marauding massacres by Fulani herdsmen. He is, therefore, more patriotic than hypocrites and sycophants who would tell a leader that the stench of his fart wafts like lavender.
Only last week, the Ekiti chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) spectacularly claimed that Governor Fayose’s conduct was a threat to “national security.” If they got a chance, they would probably recommend that he hangs. Since I have written, not about a saint, but on a voice against the crowning of unworthy heads with the halo of sanctity, I align myself with the metaphor of hanging. But, say I, Governor Fayose is not a candidate for the noose. Rather, his official portrait should hang prominently on a wall in the nation’s Hall of Fame.
Mr. Chuks Iloegbunam, an author, wrote from Lagos