"O thou Othello that was once so good, Fall'n in the practice of a cursed slave, What Shall be said to thee?" (Shakespeare Othello, Act V, Scene ii)
eading up to his accession to power on October 15, 2010, after a protracted legal battle, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi was no doubt a phenomenon in Ekiti politics. His progressive resume spoke volumes. The people cued into media representation of him as the Martin Luther King of Ekiti. He was constructed as the Omoluwabi of Ekiti politics. The people believed his type had been in short supply in Ekiti for a long time, where it had been, in his own words, "one week one trouble." Many saw him as the Obama, the Mandela, and the MKO of the people. Rumors were also making rounds that President Barack Obama of the US would attend his inauguration, as many in Ekiti were under the impression that Fayemi was schooled in the art of progressive politics by President Barack Obama of the US. These discourses of progressive enigmatic Fayemi easily resonated with the people who had been longing for good leadership. Fayemi became the avatar of that struggle for ethical and good governance. Since the most recent democratic experiment in1999, in Ekiti, one government after the other had been performing worse than the one before it. To say that it had been the race to the bottom from Adebayo's administration to Oni's is no exaggeration. That is, each successive government (Adebayo-Fayose-Olurin-Oni) tried hard to perform worse than the one preceding it. Fayemi's entry into partisan politics gave the people of Ekiti hope. Fayemi became Ekiti's synecdoche, for his enviable and humble background, scholarship, sense of justice and ethical activism. There was no iota of doubt among the people that Fayemi would take them to the Promised Land. His populist appeal was not in dispute. When he was declared by the court as governor on October 15, 2010, the whole of Ekiti, especially the state capital, Ado-Ekiti, erupted in jubilation to the extent that the collective effervescence that ensued led to the tragic death of a young man who fell off a fast moving commercial motorcycle popularly referred to as "Okada," in celebration, and his head shattered. The media portrayal of him was so effective that people began to believe that he was the redivivus of the legendary Awolowo. All this was pre-2010.
Fast forwarding to the afternoon of June 8, 2014. I was observing siesta in my father's home in Ado-Ekiti during my usual annual research visit to Nigeria when I overheard a woman crying and yelling in the Ado Ekiti dialect: "Fayemi ni o! Omo komo ti oleko, ugbeyin re asuan lekiti...Adoju tini omo...!" (It is Fayemi! A mannerless hooligan! Your end in Ekiti shall be melancholic! A shameless idiot!) (I have censored other unprintable names that she used to qualify Fayemi, to maintain some decency). On this particular Sunday, members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) party had embarked on what some called the "Cleansing" exercise, in reaction to the rousing welcome given to President Jonathan and PDP stalwarts during their visit to the state the day prior for the campaign of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), preparatory to the June 23 gubernatorial election. It was my belief that the APC wanted to energize its political base and neutralize the effect of PDP's mega rally the day before. Symbolically, they aimed to sweep off with their brooms the "debris" and the "filth" that the PDP had brought to Ekitiland. The Vice-President had not departed the capital, and so there was some tension in the air with the presence of his security personnel all over the city. I believe things got out of hand a little bit with the crowd. In the ensuing higgledy-piggledy, an innocent bystander was shot dead. There were different accounts of how the young man died. One account claimed that he was shot to death by some PDP members because he was a member of the APC; another version of the story was that he was shot dead by a member of the APC because the decedent was a PDP member; yet another one claimed that he was an unlucky bystander felled by stray bullets from unknown hands and was forcefully robed in the APC Tshirt, to make it look like the PDP was the aggressor, by members of the APC as he lay on the ground fighting for his dear life. One account that I found astonishing and hard to believe was that Governor Fayemi was at the scene of the incident holding or brandishing a gun. Some even attributed to him the shooting to death of the young man. The woman cursing Fayemi either believed Fayemi assassinated the innocent bystander or was responsible for the melee that terminated the life of the man. Some were quick to point out that even though Fayemi held a gun, he did not shoot. What piqued my interest after feeling sad for the victim was the emerging discourse on Fayemi. Fayemi a gun-wielding governor! Fayemi shot an unarmed citizen! How could one reconcile the two representations of the "Good Fayemi" who was a continental African Obama and the "Bad Fayemi" who had become an "omo komo" thug?
I hardly write for the popular media because of time constraints. As a traditional intellectual, a la Antonio Gramsci, I have written a number of academic papers for the academic audience. In times like this, when people are fragile and are susceptible to misleading information by those who think they know the "truth," I like to get out of my shell and share my thoughts in writing. I did this a few years ago in a piece, entitled "Between Ajebota" and "Ajepaki": Adebayo, Fayose, Fayemi, and Ekiti Politics," published on the "Nigeriaworld" website. I am alluding to this particular piece to show that I was a big fan of Dr. Kayode Fayemi when many had not known him. Not only that, I am making reference to the piece to show that I was diametrically opposed to the vision of people like Fayose and his type (I am still opposed to the vision of Fayose unless he has changed as he had claimed in his campaign). Obviously, I lost interest in Fayemi and my abhorrence for Fayose has not diminished. It is not fortuitous to make the foregoing point, as some people are wont to equate my opposition to Fayemi to my support for Fayose. I hasten to add, too, I consider my support for Fayemi as rare because I stopped admiring any politician since the exit of the Great Awo, Chief Ajasin, Chief Onabanjo, Alhaji Lateef Jakande and other associates of Pa Awolowo of that generation. Until Fayemi came to the political scene of Ekiti, I was never in support of any politicians talk less of these opportunistic parasitic charlatans calling themselves progressives or Awoists in the Southwest. In 2007/2008, I favored Fayemi's candidacy for Ekiti governorship over other contestants because of certain conviction. With the benefit of hindsight, I think I was overtaken by sentiments partly because we belonged to the same academic constituency-we were both students of society. Part of this sentiment might have been induced by the fact that we shared two post-secondary institutions, Federal School of Arts and Science, Ondo (FSASON) and the University of Lagos, as Alma Mata. In both places, Fayemi studied History and I too studied History. Fayemi was admitted to the University of Lagos a few years before me to study History through the Direct Entry, I too also gained admission to that prestigious institution to study History via the Direct Entry route. These are all excuses. I was overwhelmed by emotion. I was too sentimental. Period!
The social and economic life of the people did not improve as I had expected back in 2010 when Fayemi became the governor of the state. As a result, back in 2013, I had seen the handwriting on the wall that Fayemi was no longer electable. I told one or two people close to him that he would have a hard time convincing the people to re-elect him in 2014. At that time, I do not think Fayemi and his close associates ever thought they could lose a re-election. They thought they would receive one on a platter of gold, perhaps, they felt they could pull it off because Ekiti had always remained in opposition to the federal government. I do not usually drive in my personal car in Ado Ekiti, my home town. I take the taxis cramped with others to places. It was in the taxis and the markets that I knew a lot about people's position on Fayemi's administration. In my discipline, mixing with people is a way of "knowing" about the world and people's intersubjective lifeworld. Because I study and teach "everyday life" for a living, I am able to know the "human," who Dennis Wrong describes: "that plausible creature whose wagging tongue so often hides the despair and darkness in his (sic) heart." If Fayemi and his associates had taken the ordinary people seriously and interacted more with them at the quotidian level, they would have probably seen what I saw coming and averted the humiliation that befell them in the June election.
Over a period of three years or so, I saw the administration of Fayemi unwittingly undermining the ordinary men and women of Ekiti, in deed and action. Fayemi's government had a penchant for subsidizing the acquisitive life style of the elite, to the detriment of the masses. I cannot still wrap my mind around a progressive government giving new vehicles to each and every one of the Obas in Ekiti State more than once, especially when they already had fleets of cars in their palaces, at times when small businesses in the markets and in kiosks all across the state were closing down due to a lack of soft loans and opportunities.
During Fayemi's re-election campaign, the state radio was hijacked by the APC which oversaturated the airwaves with the propaganda of the party. The discursive space was totally hijacked by Fayemi and his supporters, and there were very few announcements or political adverts from the opposition. Propaganda could become annoying if they are not in moderation. These misleading and fabricated messages by Fayemi's supporters and sycophants probably turned some voters against Fayemi. Some of the messages were not carefully thought-out. They were full of deceit, lies, and manipulation. For example, one advert continuously said Fayemi had turned Ekiti into a "Little London," Ah, Ekiti a little London! Fayemi! This was when it was obvious that Ekiti was becoming a quasi catacomb. I meant to say that there was not much human development, even though you saw a few roads here and there, the population was financially and economically depressed.
Personality-wise, it was noticeable that Fayemi did not feel comfortable among the poor or ordinary people. It is understandable that he was a private and reserved person prior to a political life. However, I do not think it was too much for him to go to the market place, joints where ordinary folks hang out, and on the street and talk to the people to find out about their problems. Fayemi did not have to drink "paraga" (unrefined hard liquor) or eat "boli" (roasted plantain) like one of his competitors, during these encounters. All he needed to do was to connect with the people (I was aware that Fayemi consulted communities when planning on budgets. Here I meant unstructured or scripted interactions). Instead, Fayemi associated with members of his elite class: the societal literati, the intelligentsia, and the comprador bourgeoisie within and outside the country. I do not see why he should not interact with these people, after all, they shaped his verstehen and lifeworld; however, he should have realized that non-elites are citizens of Nigeria too. They also matter. I was quite disappointed because I wrote in that 2006 piece that he would address the class war that had percolated Ekiti since the time of Governor Adeniyi Adebayo. In that 2006 piece, I referred to Fayemi, in a Gramscian sense, as a hegemonic force, that would end the contradictions between the haves and the have-nots in Ekiti society. Unfortunately, Fayemi will exit government in October 2014 and leave Ekiti in a more polarized state than he met it.
There are times I felt Fayemi seemed to have good intentions for the masses. He has often touted it that his government was the first to introduce the first social welfare program for senior citizens in the whole of Africa (or West Africa). This good intention was undermined by the deceit that accompanied it. For example, the seniors' allowance of 5,000 naira a month is for people of 65 years and above, even though no one was sure how his government determined people's age in a society where there is no systematized and documented birth registry. My pet peeve is that there are many households in my hometown where people above 70 years of age are not receiving the allowance. In a particular household I know with over ten people above 70 years of age, only one person was receiving the allowance. I have read and listened to so many laudatory remarks about this program in the media, and I am yet to see any media or members of the civil society organizations calling them out on this inconsistency. Philosophically speaking, I think this policy was another form of monetizing the lifeworld of our people. Why did they choose to give money out to a segment of the seniors' population instead of creating special clinics for age-related illnesses? Why not create clinics in different places across the state for the treatment of gender-/age-specific illnesses, especially arthritics that has made many of our elderly women house-bound and bed ridden?
Fayemi's government often claims that health care is free in government hospitals and clinics, and that elementary and secondary schools are tuition-free. I won't spend my time over-flogging this blatant misrepresentation. Hospitals and schools are not free in Ekiti. Besides, readers may be curious to know that there is no running water in any of the public hospitals in the state, even in a jurisdiction that has been under a progressive government of the ACN/APC for over three years. I do not need to tell anyone that patients are required to bring their treatment appurtenances to the hospital. Should a woman require a caesarean operation for child delivery and does not have a minimum of 80,000 naira for deposit, God bless her and her family. Why would these people in government bother? They do not even go to public hospitals, anyway. Do not be surprised that many houses in the state capital lack toilet facilities; ditto other towns and villages in the state. In similar vein, there is no free education. Why should they bother? Their wards do not even attend these schools.
On accession to power, Fayemi in his 8-point agenda promised a fair and better society. The growing disparity between the rich and the poor in Ekiti is inconsistent with this promise. Fayemi's administration actually contributed to this condition. One of the tirades of the indigenes against Fayemi was "decapitalization" (in fact a protest group or party, "Ekiti Koya," emerged in reaction to this phenomenon. Members of the "Ekiti Koya" later allied with the Accord Party) to the metropolises of the world. The agitators made claims that major contracts were awarded to non-residents based in Lagos, New York, London, etc. They made things sound like in the Marxian dictum, thus: in Ekiti Labour speaks the Ekiti dialect while Capital speaks the Yoruba language, English and some foreign languages. The crux of their agitation was that "outsiders" controlled the capital while the "natives" were manual workers or laborers in their own state. I do not have any evidence to support this allegation, but if this is people's perception it is serious. As the saying goes in the social science, if people perceive situations as real, they become real in their consequences. The people making these allegations purported to imply that Fayemi turned his own people into factotums of outsiders. You can feel that air of xenophobia in Ekiti. Fayemi never addressed this political economy issue throughout the campaign.
A commentator once said to me that Ekiti State was undergoing an "internal colonialism" under Fayemi. There is strong suspicion among members of the public that those who worked with Fayemi used his government to enrich themselves. One agitator directed me to Bank Road in Ado Ekiti, an elite upper class area, to see where some of those close to Fayemi had acquired choice properties. I am not sure about the veracity of this allegation or accusation, but I know one thing. I know some who were connected to his government riding in new and fairly used Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) given to them by the administration. I am not talking about his advisers, commissioners or bureaucrats who worked in different ministries or directorates. I am talking about the uneducated or semi-educated (some would call them thugs). These men and women have never contributed anything positive to society; call them "parasites" if you want. They were those who "refused" to go to school to learn a trade or dropped out of school to participate in politics. I know some of these men and women in my home town. I grew up with some of them. I understand these folks take an average of 250,000 naira to 350,000 naira as a monthly salary, in a state where teachers of many years make less than 50,000 naira a month. Someone expressed this to me jokingly, that Ekiti had become a society where "Man dey work, baboon dey chop." Here is a state where artisans, civil servants and small business owners are heavily taxed while a host of layabouts are riding in exotic cars. My pet peeve about this is that we are building a society where hard work does not pay off, a society where people are rewarded for doing nothing!
For many of the political functionaries in Fayemi's government, like those before them, Ekiti is their fiefdom. I do not think it was necessary for Mrs Bisi Fayemi to accept an "Erelu" (whatever it means!) title. Many of us in the progressive camp were not comfortable with that. We loved her so much that we were anxiously expecting her to use her exposure, skills, and education to contribute to the transformation agenda of her husband. We believe such a primordial title was not only retrogressive but a distraction from delivering progressive programs to the people. We all know that most traditional rulers belong to one party, Any Government in Power (AGIP). They give titles to public figures for attention, favors, and pecuniary gains. Mrs Fayemi should not have fallen for that. Being a "Mrs" was more dignifying than being an "Erelu."
During the campaign, I noticed that the two major parties (APC and PDP) did not use corruption as a campaign issue. I wondered if corruption was no longer a social problem in Ekiti. I had a theory, though. Neither of them wanted to open the cans of worms because of fear of reaction from the opposing camp. It would have been laughable if the PDP had talked about corruption in Fayemi's government because the former has been a party with a strong label of corruption. That the PDP is corrupt is not a construction, it is real! The APC was mute on this because members of the party were not sacrosanct, either. Members of both parties might disagree, but they are all bound together by their desire for corrupt power for corrupt wealth; that is the power to use the state resources to their personal enrichment. Fayose once "worked" with Fayemi against Oni, and Oni decamped from the PDP to the APC. In all these, one must be naive to think money did not change hands among the troika. You now know why we are in trouble in this country.
Let me conclude this piece with reference to this discourse of stomach infrastructure that has gone viral. The whole discourse around the "stomach infrastructure," i.e., that the masses put their immediate gratification above infrastructural development, being peddled by some is disingenuous. Crudely put, commentators assert that voters put today's basic needs, such as food, ahead of the long lasting human and infrastructural development programs of the Fayemi administration. In other words, Fayemi stands for tomorrow and eternity, Fayose stands for the moment. By the way, in Nigeria, nay Ekiti, everyone is fighting for their stomachs. Without any fear of contradiction, all the major political parties involved in the Ekiti gubernatorial election distributed rice, salt, money and all sorts of sleazes to entice voters. An American public intellectual of the 1960s, Professor C.W. Mills, was very livid about how the American "power elite" manipulated the American masses or the "mass society" with their wealth, influence, and ideology. In the end, the entire society became morbid. He attributed the power elite's portion of the rot to "higher immorality." I witnessed "higher immorality" among the "power elite" in Ekiti. Seeing how notable politicians, top bureaucrats, leaders of faith, business people, and monarchs carried themselves during the campaign and the election convinced me that shame had left Nigeria. All the major political parties used money and food to influence voters. They treated the masses like stupid miscreants. For example, there were instances where the wife of the incumbent governor visited the markets and "sprayed" the market women with money. She would exchange an item of say 500 naira with 5000 naira. During the election, some unscrupulous elements representing the major political parties offered amounts ranging from 200 naira to 5000 naira in exchange for votes. So, why are the elites blaming the poor for taking the money they offered them? The discourse of stomach infrastructure reminds one of vulgar Marxism, whereby the masses made a detrimental choice because they lived in a state of false consciousness, as if the consciousness of the elite was "true." Many elite commentators in different fora insulted the poor by questioning their verstehen and their quality of mind to discern development from de-development. It is quite unfortunate that this discourse gains mass contagion of believability among the elites of society. Have we thought for a moment that Ekiti people's response might simply be an epi-phenomenon of the corrupt political economy of the elites that has provided the people with "bads" instead of "goods"? I must commend Fayemi, though, for dissociating himself from that denigrating discourse by coming out to deny that he lost the election due to the "stomach infrastructure." There were material bases to why the masses voted Fayose en masse, even though I did not think the people made the right choice. I cannot overemphasize the point that it was the role of Fayemi as a self-proclaimed revolutionary activist to ideologically neutralize Fayose's relevance, ab initio, and convince the electorate that he deserved a second term. How could Fayemi make this happen when there was a huge gap between the material well-being of his associates and that of the ordinary people? Same Professor C. W. Mills reminded his fellow American citizens in the "Power Elite" that the individual is a reflection of the larger society. In his words:
A society that is in its higher circles and on its middle levels widely believed to be a network of smart rackets does not produce men with an inner moral sense; a society that is merely expedient does not produce men of conscience. A society that narrows the meaning of 'success' to the big money and in its terms condemns failure as the chief vice, raising money to the plane of absolute value, will produce the sharp operator and the shady deal. Blessed are the cynical, for only they have what it takes to succeed (Mills, 1956: 347).
Fayemi was an honorable man compromised by a bad system. Rather than blaming the masses for their "choice" of Fayose, Fayemi and his organic intellectuals should go back to the drawing table and find answers to what went wrong. If they do, they might find out that he lost power for a reason more complex than the infrastructure of the stomach. They may also find, as I have found, that Fayemi was a captive of power. He was a captive of typical Nigerian politicians within his own party (ACN/APC), technocrats, sycophants, monarchs, and bureaucrats who were opposed to his vision of society with their retrogressive agenda. These people concealed their true intentions from him. What hubris! You then ask me who the "cursed slaves" are. Fayemi knows them.