He exemplifies the agelong virtues of Ekiti people which are decency, honesty, hardwork and integrity. Fayemi is that governor that Ekiti home and abroad deserve. He is humane, urbane, scholarlistic and decent. As this enigma turns 55 today, it is our prayer that his star continues to shine as we pray God to grant him many more healthy years in the service of our country.

The governor of Ekiti State and chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Dr. Kayode Fayemi turns 55 today. Celebrating birthdays is not new but it is significant to note that the personality being celebrated is like a book to read and learn from. The life trajectory of the activist, scholar and politician is worthy of analysis.

Nobody gave him a chance when he transformed from a scholar-activist to a politician in 2005 but he proved naysayers wrong as he clinched the gubernatorial ticket of the then Action Congress (AC) in the 2006 primaries. In the general election that followed in 2007, he was robbed of victory and had to wait for 42 months before he could recover his mandate through the courts.

His first tenure as governor was remarkable in the annals of Ekiti, although some have described it as a learning curve. Apart from being a lucky man, he is an enigma who has a knack for making things happen.

Fayemi’s first tenure in Ekiti was such that projects were executed in all 133 towns and communities in the state. His first tenure witnessed the renovation of both primary and secondary schools, and of hospitals; the reconstruction and rehabilitation of roads, including federal roads; free education for pupils up till junior secondary school; and a free healthcare programme for pregnant women, children below five and vulnerable people. Laptops were distributed to secondary school students and teachers in the state long before the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) made its examinations computer based.

During the tenure known as JKF-1, Ekiti became an investors destination as many private organisations partnered with the state government. There were investments in the hospitality business and other sectors because the environment was conducive for investment. Ironically, Fayemi lost his bid for a second term in office, despite having worked so hard to make life better of his people.

In defeat, after the gubernatorial election of June 2014, Fayemi, though human, did not betray any emotion but rather the spirit of sportsmanship and statesmanship took the better part and he conceded defeat in a moving but philosophical speech, which became clearer four years later. Fayemi said, “if indeed this is the will of the Ekiti People, I stand in deference to your will.” He also challenged scholars in that speech to research into the new sociology of Ekiti people regarding their voting pattern on the election, which gave a landslide victory to Ayodele Fayose who was impeached in 2003 and whose only manifesto and slogan was “stomach infrastructure”. This simply means he would ensure Ekiti people’s main priority will be food and this he did by periodically asking people to queue up for less than a cup of rice and N200 in most cases.

Conversely, during JKF-1, Fayemi, apart from all the projects and the programmes mentioned above, implemented the social security for the elderly, whereby over 20,000 elderly people above 65 years were paid N5,000 monthly in a most dignified manner and this was documented and opened to accountability processes. Fayemi also paid N10,000 stipends to unemployed youths, who were later trained and paid off to start small businesses. There was the Oodua Skills Acquisition Trainings, which produced many skilled youths who are doing well in their chosen vocations today. Despite the mentioned interventions above, Fayemi still lost the election in controversial circumstances. Later events revealed that there was more to the outcome of that election than met the eye. Some senior army officers who engaged in intimidation and subtle electoral malfeasance were later given various punishments, ranging from compulsory retirement and caution.

Fayemi’s challenge to scholars may have been accepted as a group of scholars have taken up the academic challenge of critically interrogating his first tenure and trying to provide answers to so many puzzles, especially the emerging sociology of Ekiti people. In the book titled, Swimming Against The Trend: The Kayode Fayemi Administration in Ekiti State – 2010-2014, which will be presented today, effort was made by the scholars in one of the chapters to provide explanation for the voting behaviour of Ekiti people during the June 2014 gubernatorial elections on what they called ‘the paradox of plenty and the contradictions of choice’ in Ekiti.

Fayemi moved on after that loss, even though the period immediately after October 2014 and November 2015 when he was appointed minister of the Federal Republic was another learning curve for him. It was then he understood the nature of man more. Many who served in his cabinet, and members of the national and state assemblies who owed their positions to his goodwill turned their backs on him. It was at this period when he was down that those he trusted most decided to ditch him, not only through their actions but by openly saying to his hearing that he was finished politically! He took his travails with philosophical calmness and carried on. In fact his detractors marvelled at his large heart, as many of them are occupying one position or the other in his government presently. It is worthy of note that in all of these, his soul mate, Bisi Fayemi remained his pillar of support, standing by him through thick and thin. When he became minister, he learnt another lesson and he garnered more experience as a player in national politics. He became a favourite of President Muhammadu Buhari, whose primary election he conducted without rancour. The Mines and Steel Development Ministry, which he superintended over for more than three years, was transformed from a dry ministry into a juicy one. The sector grew by 6 per cent quarter-on-quarter in the last five quarters, despite the recession and Professor Yemi Osibajo alluded to this when he said that the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development under Dr. Kayode Fayemi was performing.

Apart from performing as a minister, Fayemi became a bridge builder and rallying point for so many interests and tendencies across the nation. He became Mr. Solutions to many intractable disagreements and problems.

Ayodele Fayose succeeded Kayode Fayemi and thus gave Ekiti people the opportunity to compare the duo. Even though the Ekiti electorate was assumed to have taken their decision in preferring a Fayose to a Fayemi, they were left to live with their choice but later events followed a natural order that mistakes could always be corrected.

The opportunity for Ekiti people to correct their mistake of 2014 came in 2018 when Fayemi again threw his hat in the ring to reclaim the seat he lost in not-too-fair circumstances in 2014. The opposition against him was massive when he first hinted that he would run and this was mostly from within the party. However, as as the campaign for the primaries progressed, there was a 360 degree turn of the table in Fayemi’s favour, such that his acceptability shot from about 40 per cent to about 75 per cent within three months and, predictably, he won the primaries of his party with a landslide and he went ahead to win the general election of July 14, 2018 by defeating Fayose’s protege, Professor Olusola Eleka.

Again, many obstacles aimed at disqualifying him were put in his way by his predecessor, Ayodele Fayose, who knew that the only way to stop Fayemi from becoming governor again was to disqualify him through a predetermined white paper report, which was later quashed by a court of law.

Hardly had he become governor that another responsibility beaconed at the national level in respect of who becomes the chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum, which is a very influential position. The lot fell on him again as his emergence as the chairman of the exalted forum was almost a fait accompli as he enjoyed tremendous support among his colleagues. He presently occupies that position and he has been managing the affairs of that Forum well.

On the home front, Fayemi has lived up to his electoral mantra of ‘restoring our values and reclaiming our land’. His predecessor owed workers between five and eight months salary and imposed heavy taxes on all including school children! Fayemi, through executive order 1, abrogated the payment of school fees in the State and this has brought a lot of relief to many parents and pupils, many of whom have dropped out of school. making Ekiti one of the states with a high number of out-of-school children. Workers salaries and allowances are now paid regularly, while the social security for the elderly, earlier stopped by his predecessor, has been revived with modifications. The Ekiti International Cargo Airport is under construction; Ado-Iyin dual carriage way road project, abandoned for ages, is also under construction; a plan to make agriculture fully commercial by improving on the gains of Youth in Commercial Agriculture Development (YCAD) is in place; while the knoweldge economy shall be fully institutionalised to make education functional and productive, in accordance with global best practices.

Unlike in the past, one can now boldly and proudly claim to be an indigene of Ekiti because Fayemi is a national pride and a governor who is proper and fit for the position. He exemplifies the agelong virtues of Ekiti people which are decency, honesty, hardwork and integrity. Fayemi is that governor that Ekiti home and abroad deserve. He is humane, urbane, scholarlistic and decent. As this enigma turns 55 today, it is our prayer that his star continues to shine as we pray God to grant him many more healthy years in the service of our country. Happy Birthday Oni Uyi, Oni Eye.

Hakeem Jamiu, the deputy speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, wrote from Ado Ekiti.