Somehow, I had come to develop a profound interest in Ekiti and this dates back to my early university days at the University of Lagos. Then, my sister was living in Ado Ekiti. On my first visit to that sleepy, sedentary state, I fell in love with it. The serenity, the calmness and the amity Ekiti enjoys with nature matches my own personal preferences. I was to visit the state many more times while still a student and I must confess, the state’s diametrically-opposite ambience with the combustible and chaotic Lagos really appealed to me.
I was to know that Ekiti is home to a huge density of educated Nigerians. In fact, the state is fabled to have the highest density of university professors in Nigeria so a state with such huge cache of human resources strikes a chord with me. I am from Imo, a state that boasts of similar pedigree that obtains in placing education at the apogee of human civilization especially in a nation where materialism and the pursuit of mundane interests have manacled the soul of its citizens and made beasts of people that should treasure values and mores.
I read that Ekiti is the home of the legendary Col. Adekunle Fajuyi who was then Military Governor of the Western region and who, when a band of mutineers led by the now-sulking Theophilus Danjuma stormed the state on July 29, 1966 to capture and murder then Head of State, Gen. JTU Aguiyi Ironsi, who was Fajuyi’s guest, decided to be killed alongside Ironsi rather than surrendering him to the blood-thirsty ghouls. For this, Ekiti has a special place in my heart. I know that Ekiti is home to such other revolutionaries like Femi Falana, Alao Aka-Bashorun and erudite scholar, activist and now Catholic Bishop of Ekiti, Bishop Felix Femi Ajakaiye. These deepened my love and respect for the state.
It was therefore understandable that I felt sorely pained when the PDP conquistadors rolled into Ekiti and laid bare all the values that made the state thick. When then marauding Olusegun Obasanjo overran the entire South West, removed its governors and imposed a crop of PDP governors in 2003, the amiable, gentle and urbane Niyi Adebayo was a casualty. Not because his people in Ekiti did not want him to continue but because he comes from the opposite angle of roiling Obasanjo’s political spectrum. Other casualties of this blitzkrieg include Aremo Segun Osoba in Ogun, the good old teachers, Lam Adesina in Oyo and Adebayo Adefarati in Ondo as well as the graceful Bisi Akande in Osun. Obasanjo had his kowtowing menservants to replace these governors in their respective states in compliance to his idiosyncrasies and elephantine ego and whims. The only state that never fell for his all-conquering do-and-die battle was Lagos under Bola Tinubu and with time, this proved his albatross which today has consigned Obasanjo to the valley of Nigerian politics where he bites his thick finger in pain and misery.
In Ekiti, the man Obasanjo put forth to replace Adebayo was the direct opposite of him. Tempestuous, crude, brash, ill-tempered, puerile and repelling, Ayo Fayose was the first direct assault that Ekiti and its age-old values faced. Not blessed with much education, which remain the prized heritage of Ekiti, Fayose was a self-fulfilled prophecy that violated and impinged on all that Ekiti people pride themselves for. Such values are the reason why they treasure education over the mindless pursuit of wealth and other cravings. Fayose was, to all intents, a rebuke on Ekiti and its foundation and for the nearly four years he was in power, the state witnessed a grand reversion of fortune and came to be known for all what it stood against.
Fayose was to run foul with Obasanjo, his godfather’s interests and this ensured he was impeached in such ugly manner that befits his ascendancy. In the subsequent 2007 election, Obasanjo was to put forward, Segun Oni who was of a more refined and nobler birth but still a stooge of the byzantine Obasanjo order. He contested against erudite scholar, activist and redoubtable strategist, Kayode Fayemi who was coming from a rich activist and anti-military struggle that midwifed the democratic dispensation in Nigeria. Ekiti people saw it as the right time to assert their preference for all that is noble and valuable as they voted for Fayemi but Obasanjo, who deigned the election as a do or die battle, would have none of it and tele guided the defeat of Fayemi. A tortuous journey to the courts and a macabre supplementary election that saw all the ugliness of PDP in display at the polls, however ended in returning the stolen mandate to Fayemi in October 2010 thus re-establishing an order that conforms with the desires of Ekiti and the core values the state and its citizens pride themselves on.
Fayemi, knowing what the people desired from him, went to work to not only re-create Ekiti but also re-impose those values that had given Ekiti its place in pride in the nation’s history. Education, health, infrastructure, social welfare, agriculture and urban refurbishment were hitherto neglected areas that received heightened attention when Fayemi was in his first term. What was even more pronounced was that the state went back to its natural order that was violated when the PDP and Fayose rumbled into the state with a queer regime that flaunted its control of power and its apparatchiks as dividends of democracy. The people of Ekiti once more relished an ordered and normal flow of life and governance where things happened in such sequence as they had been used to. They recovered their lost gait in the comity of states and held their heads high in the larger Nigerian space.
But this was to be crudely interrupted when the erstwhile Jonathan regime exhumed Fayose and deployed every crude force and tactics it can retch up to impose him on the people once again during the farcical 2014 election. Fayose was not the choice of Ekiti people in that election and faced with the paradoxical case of a notorious ex-governor, defeating a preforming incumbent Governor that had stamped his imprimatur in various critical sectors of governance in four years, the PDP came up with the anomie of ‘stomach infrastructure’. In this quaint philosophy, the party said it was able to scoop victory by attending to the stomach needs of Ekiti people against a Fayemi that was building urable, life-changing infrastructures. As strange as this was, it was chorused by the party and its supporters who had no credible explanation to justify the electoral heist it carried out in Ekiti in 2014 and which is still ricocheting today as Fayose risks jail for the huge money the Jonathan government leveraged to his government to rig the election.
The stomach infrastructure cliché finished what was remaining of Ekiti values and as Fayose resumed as Ekiti governor, it played out in a governor that was outstanding for his nuisance values. For the four tortuous years he was in power, Ekiti people suffered the meretricious degradation of having a government that was prominent for negative values, truants and stunts. For a state with a hefty chunk of educated people, a governor that courts cheap street popularity by storming drinking joints, beer parlors, amala and gbegiri joints, selling fish and ponmo in the market was a huge aberration. Simply put, Fayose forced Ekiti to share in the vicarious wreckage he was as governor. While this parody lasted, Ekiti State, her people and her age-old values became butts of unending ribaldry and scorn. There was no escaping this humiliating downturn as the proud Ekiti man buckled under the weight of Fayose’s crass pranks to become objects of jest and scoffs The State became one huge reference case in anomie and what more, the huge fireballs of crime, violence, protests, unpaid wages and salaries that marked Fayose’s first term, came back in full swing and overwhelmed the state. The developmental strides Fayemi charted were halted and in their stead, reigned an era of masking and reveling on the streets in abject search for transient cheap plaudits and street acceptance.
It was therefore understandable why Fayemi was to anchor his comeback bid n reclaiming the values of Ekiti State and in this loaded statement of intent lies the rediscovery of the soul that had been battered and laid bare by pedestrian governance since 2010. In the cerebral thinker’s mind, Ekiti needed its values to take its place of pride in Nigeria for the values are the undergirds for its noble heights in education and human resources. His message resonated with the traumatized and serially abused Ekiti people who returned their votes for his re-election in October and since he came, Ekiti has harvested the fruits of the investment they made with their votes.
The state has returned to its serene and orderly form. Workers have been paid the huge backlogs they were being owed, education has resumed in its rightful place as the number one priority of Ekiti state, health is receiving needed attention and infrastructural expansion has restarted. What more, the agricultural sector has been reflated and an expansive social scheme that targets the elderly, the weak and the vulnerable has resumed. These and many more have gone to rebuild the values the people cherish for ages and have lowered discontent in the state. Ekiti people have an idea of where they are and where they are heading and with such, the pride of the Ekiti people have been restored because the people feel proud with a governor that knows the needs, the priorities, the values and more of the state and how best to attend to them. The task of restoring what was damaged is great but it is a winnable battle as Fayemi has succeeded in little time to re-set governance to emphasise on what Ekiti holds dear and what gives the state its proud mien among states in Nigeria. There is no doubt that in the remaining parts of his government, Fayemi will succeed in etching back Ekiti to its hallowed place amongst Nigerians and he will surely succeed if he continues with the way he is going.
Peter Claver Oparah
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