Back in recent time, when gubernatorial mandates were brazenly stolen in broad daylight under the watch of the imperial presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo, I once saw Dr Kayode Fayemi at poet Odia Ofeimun’s book launch at MUSON Centre, Lagos, and grandly greeted him thusly: “His Excellency, Sir!” Fayemi whose mandate was then in cold storage had his trademark hearty laugh as he shook hands with me. When I was summoned to the high table to read my poem “We Shall Vote With Stones”, dedicated to General Babangida, I extended the “His Excellency, Sir!” compliments to Rauf Aregbesola who was sitting by the side of Fayemi. An elderly man in the hall warned me that I could be arrested by then President Obasanjo for addressing as “His Excellencies” men not yet sworn-in as Governors.
I told the old man that I was much larger than Obasanjo’s arrest because General Abacha who in his time had arrested Obasanjo was not large enough to arrest me; so why on earth should I fret about being arrested by a man Abacha once put in the cooler? I do know I am worse than useless in Mathematics, but it simply did not add up that I could be worsted by Obasanjo who had been worsted by Abacha – a man who was unable to worst me! Of course the old man dismissed me as a madman, not minding my logic that stood as clear as calculus!
Be that as it may, I was idling away the other day when my phone rang. The voice at the other end introduced itself as that of “Kayode”. I answered back with a poser: “Which Kayode?” The voice lingered for a split second before spilling the beans: “Kayode Fayemi, your friend.”
“His Excellency, Sir!” I screamed, nearly making a double take. I had not been in contact with Governor Kayode Fayemi ever since he reclaimed his mandate from the goons of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It’s my bounden principle that one owed it as a duty not to disturb friends who had been elected into high offices, because asking for favours and suchlike almost always derailed the men in power.
It was therefore surprising that Governor Fayemi could personally place a call to me out of the blues. He told me he was then reading my tribute in the newspaper for a fallen colleague Ashikiwe Adione-Egom, the celebrated Motor-Park Economist. A man of ideas, Dr Fayemi always enjoyed the contestation of issues with fine minds like Adione-Egom. Over the phone, Governor Fayemi thrashed out issues on the passing of Adione-Egom in a manner that clearly showed that he was still abreast of all the matters at stake not minding his high office.
It is our forte in these shores to always look abroad for politicians with fine minds such as America’s Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama, not realizing that we have our own examples such as Dr Kayode Fayemi, the Ekiti State Governor. Dr Fayemi’s grooming stands him in good stead to elevate the art and act of governance to the humanizing levels celebrated in the exploits of the likes of Clinton and Obama. Incidentally Governor Fayemi equally has a formidable spouse in Erelu Bisi just as Bill Clinton has his Hilary while Obama boasts of Michelle! I remember once running into the couple in London, England, and the very personable Bisi talked of making arrangements for me to visit with the many Nigerians in British prisons so that I can bring the news in bold relief back home. The couple started out with rendering service long before becoming Governor and First Lady.
For a champion of democracy who took all of three-and-a-half years to reclaim his stolen mandate, Governor Fayemi has taken to governance as fish to water without showing any bitterness over his erstwhile travails. A very consultative leader, Dr Fayemi has doggedly tackled issues of education, healthcare and poverty with consummate application. His social welfare policy to the elderly folks has endeared him to the rural and urban masses who daily hail him across the myriad routes of Ekiti State that he has onerously lifted through intertwining tarred roads.
His 2005 autobiography, Out of the Shadows: Exile and the Struggle for Freedom and Democracy in Nigeria, lucidly portrays Dr Fayemi as a fervent defender of democracy who staked his life for the restoration of democracy following the annulment of the June 12 1993 presidential election won by Bashorun Moshood Abiola. It is indeed remarkable that Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka wrote the foreword to the book, asserting to the clout of Dr Fayemi. He played a pivotal role in the establishment and running of the opposition radio station, Radio Kudirat, with which the democratic struggle came up trumps.
The humanization of governance by Governor Fayemi is an object lesson to all who see power in the sense of overbearing bossiness. The common touch is what makes Governor Fayemi to stand out as the way to go. He is ready-made for higher spheres.