Love him, hate him, the fact remains; one cannot easily ignore Ayodele Peter Fayose, the Governor of Ekiti state. At once verbose and with a sense of self-adulation, Fayose, like the mythical bird, phoenix, seems to reinvent himself and stay in the imagination of the people despite not being governor of one of the most prominent states.
History has it that the one who is referred to as the Oshokomole 1 of Yorubaland is the only Nigerian that have had the enviable record of defeating two incumbents at different times. Fayose first did it against the debonair Niyi Adebayo in 2003, and again in 2014 over fluent-speaking Kayode Fayemi in controversial circumstances in 2014.
One intriguing aspect of the Fayose story is that despite having suffered an impeachment on October 16, 2006 and fled following attempts by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to give him the Diepreye Alamieyeseigha treatment of having him flown to Abuja in handcuffs, his relevance and connection with the people was never in doubt. Well, the rest, like the say, is history.
As July 14, the date fixed by the Independent National Electoral Commission for the Ekiti governorship poll inches nearer, Fayose, despite not been on the ballot, is evidently dictating the race which brings me to the issue of his politics.
Without a doubt, the governor has ‘commonised’ governance and in the process, feasts on the ignorance and gullibility of the people through the maximum deployment of ‘Stomach Infrastructure.’ Though the governor is not the purveyor of the false charity which politicians use to leave the people doped, he has mastered the art such that it has become his appropriation. It is a common sight to find Fayose in amala joints eating ponmo (cow hide), riding okada, and or playing with kids and sharing sweets and biscuits. When he started his street politics, many sniggered at him and wondered how ‘low can a governor go!’ But the reality of our country’s political space is that the electorate, especially in semi-urban and rural areas, are not inherently sophisticated. They are usually over the moon for the little Greek gifts which most politicians have come to capitalize on.
It is not just a matter of conjecture, but empirical evidence that the common man feels ‘belonged’ when the ‘big man’ stoops to his level and fraternizes with him. To the man on the street who has a chance to sit same place with a governor to eat and even have a handshake, it is a story that has no ending. The tale is told and retold with all the embellishments such that others of his rank who were not so ‘fortunate’ to have shared in the moment begin to dream and wish for their time.
And this is exactly what Fayose as governor of Ekiti state has been leveraging on to gain electoral credibility. This is, however, not to say that he has no development agenda. After all, only a few days ago, he unveiled a fine piece of architecture of a Government House and a 1.2 kilometre road which drew the most of the governors of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) controlled states as well as former President Goodluck Jonathan.
But more than whatever infrastructure he has put in place, actually, he boasted that over 75 per cent of amenities in the state bear his signature, his bond with the people.
He has come to master the art of political chicanery, while the opposition flounders and engage in sophisticated talk. Last week, the social media went haywire over statement credited to Minister Fayemi, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the July governorship election. Fayemi is alleged to have ridiculed Fayose over his dalliance with the common people, the very bulk of voters. “As a governor, you need to be decent, you can never see me mingle with Okada riders like Ore wa (our friend) Fayose ebi Olokada,oko awon Iya loja,” the APC governorship candidate was claimed to have said. It is inconceivable that throughout last week, Fayemi did not bother to give clarity to this obnoxious statement. Or does it mean he said it and finds the commoners of Ekiti state so distasteful? Is it not the same Fayemi and his wife, some mischief makers say, turned to ‘mama put’ at the 2014 elections?
The superior political tactics of Fayose is better taken in the tale of the rat which eats the sole of the sleeper while blowing air on the spot. Take for instance his recent poker move of withdrawing murder charge against the chairman of the Ekiti State chapter of the APC, Chief Jide Awe. While morally it is reprehensible, politically it draws capital which the governor could exploit for his advantage. Before the withdrawal of the case by the state government, Awe was on a three-year exile for the alleged murder of late Mrs. Julianah Adewumi and Mr. Ayo Jeje at Erinjiyan Ekiti, all of Ekiti West Local Government. Both were murdered prior to the 2014 governorship election allegedly by the accused.
It is common sense to know that Awe and the other accused are now in debt to Fayose and whether they decamp or not, they are constrained not to overly work against the interest of the man who has shown them charity. If the APC is serious of wrestling the state from the Oshokomole in a free, fair and credible process and not just on federal might, then people like Fayemi needs to start demonstrating the underlying commitment that the people are first, develop affinity of shared humanity with the electorate. If Fayose is leveraging on the incentive of coming down from the palatial pedestal of being a governor and identifying with the people, the APC candidate needs to prove that he cannot only engage the people in their rustic environment, but can offer a better deal.
But as things stand, Fayose is dictating the pace and probably has read much of the literature of the Chinese philosopher, Sun Tzu, especially his, The Art of War, to know that “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
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