Open Letter to Dr. Kayode Fayemi By Dr. Olubunmi Aborisade “It is never too late to pull out of the race.”
Dear Dr. Fayemi Compliments of the season to you and your family.
This is not one of those letters or write-ups that castigate or rebuke you for what you did not do right when you were governor. It is a friendly letter, borne out of genuine love for you, and our long-standing relationship which dated back to the days of our political struggle in our beloved country Nigeria.
I offered you series of advice when you were governor, and I never deceived you. I visited you once when you were governor; the second visit was in your country home at Isan after your defeat to show my solidarity. I made sure through your four years as governor that I did not cross the line, which was why I never solicited any contract from your government.
So, the advice in this letter is from the bottom of my heart, borne out of love, and I hope you will treat it as such. When I returned to Ekiti after about 15 years in exile, you welcomed me back home. You asked me about housing and transportation to move around, and I told you I took care of all that before returning to the country. You promised to offer me a political appointment, but I never asked you when you did not. Yet, I went ahead to spend my time and limited resources to campaign for your second term. Just because of the love I have for you and our relationship. This is another reason why you need to take my advice seriously.
Now my advice: Please do not run for governor again. Those asking you to run do not mean well for you and your family. What do I mean? I have followed with keen interest, the developments in our dear Ekiti State, and I realized that our people are still very angry with you and your administration. The people will remain angry as long as they believe that you want to be back as their governor. Those milling around you are only interested in your money. Anytime you give them money, they always turn around and pooh-pooh at you. At Isan, I learned you gave five thousand nairas to every local delegate, and they were disappointed because they were expecting ten thousand nairas. These are the vultures milling around you shouting “Olori Oko de”. Very wicked people!
When you came into Ekiti politics, I was excited and hoped that you would help instill some sanity into our polity, but the situation is worse than you met it. Names like Jaru and Mentilo suddenly came from nowhere. I was shocked when I read the petition by Hon. Taiwo Olatunbosun (Ekiti APC Publicity Secretary) to the Commissioner of Police in the State that, Mentilo publicly threatened to kill him and the Chairman of the party, Chief Jide Awe because of you.
Comrades, please, distance yourself from these killers. I know you cannot kill; I beg you, do not accommodate thugs. Has Mentilo forgotten that the same people he is threatening to kill were on the streets with you fighting for your mandate before you became governor? If he threatens to kill members of his party, what will he do to the opposition and the rest of us in Ekiti State? Please call Mentilo and his hit squad to order before they wreak havoc on our people. Anyway, it is not too late to redeem your battered image by bowing out of the race honorably.
In advanced democracies, as you know, responsible aspirants bow out of the race when public opinion is not in their favor like you. Some bow out in order not to jeopardize the chance of their party at polls or to allow peace to reign. This can be done anytime; even on the day of the primary. It was reported that your deputy, Professor Modupe Adelabu met with your commissioners and advisers to intimate them with your interest in staging a comeback as governor, and they all rejected the idea. They told her point blank that you are not a sellable candidate to the people of Ekiti. I want to believe that these people spoke the mind of the majority of our people. These are people who served under your administration for four years. With their rejection of your candidacy, I think that is enough for you to know something is seriously wrong.
It was also reported that your wife went to our party secretariat to intimate the party with your interest to vie for the governorship position and this was rebuffed by the Ekiti people as if it is a crime to do so. Some even called it declaration by proxy while some believed it was cheer lack of respect for the people for you to declare your intention to contest for governorship through your wife. Not too long ago, you met with different groups of APC members in Isan, your country home and people left the meetings confused as to whether you will run or not. It was reported that you told the different groups you met with different things.
However, when notes were compared by the various groups, they realized you were not sincere with any of them. They see this approach towards your declaration of your intention to contest as weird. Well, the only reason that I can phantom for this “maradonic” approach is that you are trying to feel the pulse of our people which makes sense. But if the people around you tell you the truth, which I believe they don’t, they would have told you that Ekiti is not prepared for Fayemi governorship at the moment. Even members of our party now see you as a liability that the party’s ticket cannot be entrusted with.
You would agree with me that every attempt made by some of your “boys” to sell your candidacy is always rebuffed by the Ekiti people as if you are not the same person they fought for to reclaim your mandate as governor. I still remember how old women went half naked on the streets of Ado Ekiti before you became governor. There are several other people who worked for you to become governor and even served in your government who no longer support you coming back as governor. Not because you are such a bad person, but because of people’s opinion about you. The teachers, local government workers, and civil servants are there waiting for you to run for governor so that they can go out again and vote you and our party out as they did before. Please take this serious because the people are still hurting about you and your government. They believe you and your government contributed immensely to the pains they are going through right now.
Your problem with Fayose is still there. The panel of inquiry that found you guilty of defrauding the State is another embarrassment that you and some of us in the party need to contend with. Instead of the party defending you and standing by you as their own, members have almost joined the PDP to affirm the recommendation of the “Kangaroo” panel and the white paper on it. As you know, regardless of what we call the panel of inquiry, it has come to stay for now with the force of the law, and Fayose will ensure he uses it to bring you, and APC down in the state. Those of us who pride ourselves as human right activists have now become a laughing stock in Ekiti State because one of us erred in government.
One thing I enjoyed as a journalist and with my involvement in our democratic struggle in Nigeria is the way my childhood friends in Ekiti hailed my activities those days whenever I came home. I know you enjoyed the same among the Ekiti people too. You will agree with me that Ekiti people embraced you when you declared your intention to run as governor of the State not because of any other thing, other than your human rights record and involvement in the June 12 struggle. There were other better candidates then, but your human rights records and involvement in our political struggle overshadowed them.
Otunba Niyi Adebayo, the first executive governor of the state, enjoyed the same goodwill because of the role his father played in NADECO. You will recall that his father hosted the first meeting of NADECO and when it was time for politics, it was easy for his father to reach out to his old NADECO folks to consider his son for the governorship position in Ekiti State. The reality on the ground in Ekiti today is that human rights credentials no longer fly as it used to be. Ekiti people now see human rights activists as not different from those they are fighting in the society. I was surprised when some of my friends in Ado began to call me “human wrong” just because of the hatred they have for human rights activists. Some even call us fake activists. These are friends who saw us like stars in the days of our political struggle.
Nevertheless, I loved your programs when you were governor because I have seen them work elsewhere, but unfortunately, our people kicked against them. At the beginning of your administration, I knew there was going be resistance from our people because of the general pain in the country. I still remember my numerous discussions with our friend, Professor Bolaji Aluko on this, but we believed by the time the people began to see your performance, the resistance to the programs would mellow down, but we were wrong.
Let’s look at your problem with the teachers. In the US, you cannot teach in secondary school (Junior High School or High School) without taking the required education courses. With a master’s degree, I applied for teaching in New York, but I was asked to go back to the university and take some undergraduate credits in Education. When I considered the number of years I would spend taking those education courses; I opted for a Ph.D. Even with a Ph.D., I am still not qualified to teach in secondary school. If I want to teach in secondary with a Ph.D., I still need to take the required undergraduate courses in Education.
In your case, Ekiti teachers refuse to take a test, and that almost brought your government to a standstill. There are refresher courses for workers all over the world. Some even conduct a test at the end of the course to be sure that participants have learned something. In academics, it is necessary for you to publish journal articles if you want to earn a promotion, and you can even be fired if you fail to publish. That brought about the popular saying in academics that you either “publish or perish.”
The multi-campus system you introduced in Ekiti State University system is working very well in the US. In New York, there is the City University of New York (CUNY) and the State University of New York (SUNY) with many colleges, and they are fantastic institutions. But the system failed in Ekiti State. These are very good programs which angered our people because of our peculiar situation.
Back to why I think you should not contest for governor again. I see public office as service to the people, but it is not by force to serve the people. One thing that we enjoyed in the days of our political struggle and as activists is the support of our people. So, I believe any public servant who does not enjoy the support of the people needs to retrace his or her steps. With the level of hatred for you among our people today, the honorable thing to do is to retrace your step. I did not realize our people hated you and your government so much until the day of the election when you were voted out 16-0. At my polling booth, I was so sure that I was going to deliver the polling booth for you because of what I have done for the people in the area and my mother’s reputation. I prepared for a big celebration after our expected victory. Shortly before voting started, three women walked into my apartment to inform me that what the people of the area have decided was not to vote for you. According to them, you are not a good person. I thought it was a joke, but when they told me the story of how they suffered under your administration, I became helpless. I pleaded with them not to disappoint me, but they beg me not to be annoyed and that they came to inform me of their decision as a sign of respect for me because of my contributions to the community. Immediately these women left, news came from the next polling booth to mine that a childhood friend of who was overseeing voting for our party was working for PDP. I didn’t believe this, but when I later met the childhood friend, he told me how civil servants planned to vote you out and that all civil servants in the state had informed their family members not to vote for you.
Earlier on, some colleagues at the Federal Polytechnic Ado told me a similar story which I did not take seriously. I am telling you these stories to let you know the level of hatred that our people have for you because of politics. For you to think the same people will vote for you again as governor is like chasing shadow. Even if our party gives you the ticket, will the people of Ekiti who hate you so much with passion vote for you? If you emerge as our party’s flag-bearer and you lose the governorship election again, how will members of our party take it? If you win against all odds, will Ekiti people accept your leadership? You really need to answer these questions.
Do you even need to put yourself through all these because you want power? You have done a lot for the people of this country, and it will not be wise to rubbish yourselves because you want to be governor again; a position you held four years. You should count yourself lucky; thousands of Nigerians who participated in our political struggle like you are either dead or wallowing in abject poverty today. Our return to democracy which would have been the only consolation is nothing to write home about. Anytime I look back at the risk we took during our struggle, I always thank God for His grace and mercies.
Just because of your experience, I decided to hang any political ambition for now. You will recall that I wanted to contest for the House of Representatives after my return from exile in 2012, but with your defeat and all the hatred that trailed you and our party, I decided to retrace my step. Even when a political caucus in my constituency met and wanted me to run, my response was that I had not recovered from the devastating blow of your defeat. I know people have argued that if Fayose with all his atrocities in his first term could come back as governor, that there is nothing wrong about your second coming. They have forgotten that you are not Fayose and that you cannot do most of the things he did to come back.
Will you be able to frequent the “paraga joints” like Fayose? Will you be able to eat on the streets like him pretending to be a friend of the poor? Can you go on all fours and apologize to the people that you messed up in your first term as governor? Will you be able to tell the people of Ekiti that you offended them because you were childish? These were some of the things that Fayose did before his second coming which I believe you cannot do. With what you have gone through in life, I think you deserve some peace of mind. You don’t need to inflict further pains on yourself and your family.
When the chips are down, all the hangers-on around you will disappear. You have a lot of experiences around you to learn from. Senator Gbenga Aluko gave you his(Gbenga Aluko), but as usual, the sycophants around you rebuffed his wise counsel. You are very much aware of how my mother was bathed with acid because of politics in Ekiti, and she died. Who did I see after? Our people will desert you when the chips are down. However, I am not saying you should quit politics, but you need to be careful with the way you approach public service. You need to study our people very well to know the best way to serve them.
Most importantly, you need to work on yourself; your relationship with people is the biggest issue the people have with you. They believe you are proud, full of ego, and that you use and dump. The latest rumor now is that you want to throw your weight behind one of the aspirants in the party’s primary. This will backfire on whoever you support in the primaries. If this is true, I advise you remain neutral as a leader of the party until after the primary when you are free to support any candidate that is chosen as the party’s Flag-bearer.
As expected, I know the vultures around you will dismiss this open letter with a wave of the hand. Nonetheless, I will not be bothered by their reactions because the letter is not for them, but for you as a friend. I hope I have not bored you with my long essay.
Please don’t run for governor again because those asking you to run don’t mean well for you and your family. It is not too late to retrace your step as recommended.
God bless you.
Bunmi Aborisade, Ph.D., a journalist and human rights activist lectures at the College of New Rochelle, New York.