By Jude Ndukwe
The day was Wednesday, October 19, 2016. The venue was the Democracy Park at Akure, Ondo State. The occasion was the much anticipated flag-off of the Eyitayo Jegede SAN governorship campaign for Ondo State. I was there even as the arena was filled to capacity with dignitaries and admirers. Speaker after speaker eulogized the current governor, Olusegun Mimiko for the good job he has been doing in the State and for finding a worthy successor-in-waiting in Eyitayo Jegede SAN. The atmosphere was charged as songs of praise accompanied by thrilling drumbeats rent the air at measured intervals.
Finally, the flag-off was over or so it seemed as everyone started leaving the arena after Governor Mimiko’s inspiring speech. Then the announcement came: Governor Ayodele Fayose was on his way to the arena from Ekiti State. The announcement spread into town like wildfire. Those who already left the arena trooped back; those who were not there in the first place also joined. With irrepressible wild excitement, everyone awaited patiently the coming of Fayose.
His eventual arrival was heralded by shouts of oshokomole as the crowd went gaga in jubilation. It took about another thirty minutes for him to get to the podium which was just very few steps away and which also served as the sitting area for dignitaries, because of the surge of the crowd. Everyone wanted to either just touch him or hug him. Every of his speech was punctuated with an effusive show of love expressed in one form or another by the people. His presence electrified the arena all over again.
The essence of the above narrative is for one to appreciate the fact that governor Fayose’s popularity among Nigerians, the common people and even the elite, transcends geographical space and any other colouration. Although his views have pitched him against the tyrannical federal government, he has nevertheless remained fearless and unrepentant in speaking for the voiceless and defending the vulnerable wherever they can be found in our country.
In the wake of the unprecedented upsurge in the senseless and unabated attacks of communities by suspected terrorist Fulani herdsmen in different parts of the country, Fayose went beyond just speaking by acting against those who invaded communities in his state. The law he set up against nomadic grazing of cattle in Ekiti State despite high-powered opposition to it has restored peace there to the envy of other states with similar misfortunes.
A highly detribalised leader, Fayose has spoken up against the injustices meted out to Sambo Dasuki, Nnamdi Kanu etc. He has vehemently criticized the federal government and security agencies for their alleged deliberate murder of Shiite Muslims in Nigeria just as much as he has condemned them for mowing down peaceful IPOB/MASSOB supporters in cold blood.
Apart from some governors who have expressed solidarity, Fayose is the only governor, like Bishop Hassan Kukah, who braved the odds and visited Fani-Kayode while in the illegal custody of EFCC and spent more than two hours with him encouraging and praying for him while describing the former minister’s ordeal as nothing but persecution.
Oshokomole is not only about defending the oppressed and victims of tyranny, he is also well loved by his people for providing dividends of democracy to them. Apart from bringing the State up from the woes of abysmal performances to the heights of colourful successes, Ekiti State was recently adjudged the best performing state in the federation in NECO exams. This was a result of the governor’s deliberate and painstaking total action plan for education in the state.
The projects currently being embarked upon by the governor in Ekiti among others include a new and more befitting government house, high court complex and a flyover that may be the longest in Nigeria after completion. These are only the latest among the legacy projects of his administration in the state. For those who might be criticizing the governor for embarking on a new government house project at a time of economic recession, what such people do not know is that the source of the funding was tied to that particular project without which the money would not be released.
A survivor of high-wired persecution himself, Fayose is a symbol of strength and an example in perseverance, self-belief and faith in God.
Born on the 15th of November, 1960, into a strong Christian family of Pastor Oluwafemi Oluwayose and Prophetess Victoria Olufunke Oluwayose, governor Peter Ayodele Fayose became the first governor to contest against and defeat incumbent governors twice.
A man of destiny, he was governor of Ekiti State between 29th of May 2003 and 16th October, 2006, when he was impeached. However as God would have it, Fayose returned to be governor on the 16th of October, 2014, the day it made it exactly eight years he was first impeached. This, to the discerning, is not a mere coincidence. The full meaning of that cycle is still unfolding gradually.
His abilities to speak truth to power without flinching, defend the vulnerable of the society without stooping or stopping and surviving every form of underhand tactics meant to cow him without bowing are all part of what makes this man the Rock of Nigeria’s heartbeat. The future does not forget; it shall certainly place on his thick shoulders higher responsibilities in the future.
Congratulations to the titan of our time.
—Jude Ndukwe is the Speacial Adviser (media) to Chief Femi Fani-Kayode
—[email protected]; Twitter: Stjudendukwe