Profile: Ayo Fayose remains the most relevant avatar of what it means to politick in Nigeria

Ayodele Fayose

In one of the most bizarre political dramas to play out this year, outgoing governor of Ekiti state, Peter Ayodele Fayose, sporting a neck collar and a sling on his arm, accused policemen of physically attacking him. According to Ayo Fayose, this happened as the policemen, acting on orders from Abuja, attempted to put a stop to a political rally by Fayose’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ahead of the Ekiti gubernatorial polls, “I was slapped and beaten by mobile policemen in my own state. They shot at me. As I speak with you, I am in severe pains, I am experiencing pains.’’ Fayose wept while addressing supporters later in the day.

Having completed his second (interrupted) term of four years as governor of Ekiti, a state billed as Nigeria’s most literate geographical area, Fayose is no longer eligible to contest at the guber polls. He retains a dog in the fight however as he singlehandedly rode roughshod over party guidelines and transparency to ensure that his erstwhile deputy, Kolapo Olusola Eleka, a professor of building, emerges as flagbearer of the Peoples Democratic Party.

Only few who have followed the political career of Ayodele Fayose would be surprised at this dramatic turn. Indeed no one does political drama quite like Fayose.

On Sunday, 15, July 2018, Kayode Fayemi of the All Progressives Congress (APC), himself a former governor, prevented from scoring a second term by Fayose back in 2014, was announced winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) after polling majority of the votes.

But this was not before Fayose as reported by The Punch newspapers, had hit the airwaves, earlier to announce that his candidate, Olusola Eleka was winning. The National Broadcasting Commission promptly sealed the Ekiti Broadcasting Service, the platform Fayose had utilized to make his own announcement. For the kind of scorched earth politics that Fayose embodies, everything is fair game and these kinds of antics have simply been normalized.

One of the most colorful figures to ever hit the political space, Ayodele Fayose inspires extreme emotions from friend and foes alike. Fayemi, a former Minister of Mines and Steel Development who has been locked in a bitter rivalry with Fayose for the better part of the last four years, wasted no time in outlining his priorities for Ekiti state. The plans include Fayose. Fayemi told Channels Television shortly after his win, “Definitely I want to look at what transpired from the period I left office in October 2014, call it a probe if you like but obviously, that I will do.’’

The presidency seized the opportunity to quickly dispatch a gloating statement penned by Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity. In the strongly worded missive, Shehu dismissed Fayose as a ‘’street-type thug’’ and urged him to ‘’reconcile himself to the imminent political extinction he faces, his political career sealed for good.’’ The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was also out for blood, going on its Twitter handle to announce a revisit of the 1.4 billion Naira poultry scandal in which Fayose has been unable to shake off since his first term as Governor. That tweet has since been deleted.

Peter the Rock

Born on 15, November 1960, Peter Ayodele Fayose hails from Afo Ekiti in Irepodun/Ifelodun LGA of Ekiti state and received both his primary and secondary education in Ibadan, Oyo state. He earned a Ordinary National Diploma (OND) in Science Laboratory Technology at the Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro before obtaining a higher diploma in Biological Sciences in 1987.

After completing his national service program, Fayose traveled out of the country where he picked up interests in business. This led to the establishment of Spotless Investment Limited, a holding company for a range of interests including real estate and hospitality where he served as Chief Executive Officer.

In 2003, as a direct result of Olusegun Obasanjo’s South West political offensive, in which all states except for Lagos were swept under the umbrella of the PDP, 43-year old Fayose was elected only the second executive governor of Ekiti. Fayose had achieved the unthinkable by sweeping aside the incumbent, Otunba Niyi Adebayo whose single tenure was largely unimpressive.

Fayose’s leadership was far from ideal though and it soon became obvious that he was a disaster. His regime was marked by violence, intimidation and blatant displays of impunity. Among other misdemeanors, Fayose was accused of complicity in the murders of political figures, Tunde Omojola and Ayo Daramola. He was eventually absolved of any complicity.

Obasanjo then at the height of his influence, decided that Fayose’s position was no longer tenable. Abuja orchestrated an audacious impeachment move that had 24 out of 26 state legislators voting in favor of getting rid of Fayose and his deputy, Senator Biodun Olujimi. The basis for impeachment was the alleged embezzling of about 1.3 billion Naira belonging to the Ekiti State Integrated Poultry Scheme. Fayose was accused of benefitting illegally from the project. To escape the long arm of the EFCC, Fayose fled the country to an undisclosed location.

After Obasanjo left office in 2007, Fayose returned to the country and was received, triumphant entry style in Ado-Ekiti, a sign that the years had been kind, and he retained much of his popularity. “Today, my joy knows no bounds as I return home into the warm embrace of you, my good people and admirers in Ekiti. Life away from home was never the same.’’ He said while addressing a crowd of well-wishers.

Fayose made a feeble attempt to run for the Senate in 2011 on the ticket of the Labour Party. He wasn’t successful. In politics there are no permanent friends or enemies and a humbled Fayose was soon courting the PDP, the same party that had expelled him from its ranks. Fayose even managed to get his acceptance backdated by two years. With that in the bag, according to party rules, he was able to run for governor once again. The Supreme Court eventually set aside Fayose’s impeachment in April 2015 after a lengthy and troubled process that decided that the process was not valid.

Stomach infrastructure

When in 2014, Ayodele Fayose decided he was going to run for Governor once again to complete his aborted tenure, not many took him seriously. Hardly surprising as Ekiti state had manage to achieve relative stability since Kayode Fayemi successfully reclaimed a hotly contested mandate in the courts. Fayose persisted, insisting that he could feel the pulse of his people and they were clamoring for his return.

He quickly went to work, demonstrating his expertise as a strong grassroots mobilizer capable of relating directly with the masses and pulling out the vote. In an interview with Channels Television’s Seun Okin in June this year, Fayose boasted about his peerless operations on the ground. ‘’I am a politician of note. Yesterday I was frying garri with some women. Let them (my opponents) go and meet people now,’’ he thundered. Even as an elected Governor, Fayose took pride in his grassroots reach and routinely made out time to share meals and drinks in local bukkas with regular folks.

Fayose also popularized what has come to be known as ‘’stomach infrastructure,’’ a problematic and perhaps, illegal part of election campaigning that essentially mobilized votes to be delivered to the highest bidder. Fayose and his team spared no expense as they disbursed cash, food items and other sundry materials to a receptive electorate, particularly those in rural and less privileged areas.

Voters inducement has always been a part of Nigerian electioneering but Fayose institutionalized it and took the process to a whole new level. By the time 2018 rolled around, Fayemi and the APC had learnt from the best. In securing a second term for Fayemi, the APC learnt to outspend Fayose’s PDP Naira for Naira. Like all elections, determining factors were multifactorial but stomach infrastructure played a huge part in the PDP’s candidate loss. For Fayose, it was the case of his own demon coming back to haunt him.

A most scandalous reign

During his second stint in office, Ayodele Fayose was the antithesis of decency and good governance. The 4th republic hasn’t exactly been a showcase for brilliant state administrators but Fayose crouches somewhere at the bottom of a very mediocre pile. For company, he has Imo’s Rochas Okorocha, Zamfara’s Abdul’aziz Yari and Yahaya Bello of Kogi state. Oh! Throw in Osun state’s Rauf Aregbesola for good measure.

Fayose showed zero interest in forward thinking and preferred to spend his four years as the star of a long running distasteful comedy show. The Fayose show, in all its low brow outrageousness would have been funny if it weren’t so pitiful. Milestones which Ekiti state recorded in the four years of Fayemi were slowly eroded until there was nothing left but a corpse where a living breathing thing used to exist.

Fayose’s mandate came under heavy scrutiny when an army captain, Sagir Koli, leaked the recording of a discussion involving Fayose and some prominent citizens, apparently plotting to rig the 2014 Ekiti state election. A former Fayose ally, Temitope Aluko admitted his complicity in rigging the polls after falling out with Fayose but the matter was never investigated as President Jonathan dismissed it as mere fabrication.

Fayose remains the only Nigerian to defeat two incumbent governors at different times but his administration showed a total disregard for the rule of law. Shortly after Fayose assumed office, he and the APC led state house of assembly were locked in a bitter struggle for control of the legislature. He eventually got his way when he oversaw a process that led to his party winning all the seats available. To achieve this goal, Fayose drafted in elements like Temitope Fasanmi (Paso Osoko) who ordinarily would have no business making laws for anybody. Fayose was responsible for selecting majority of the legislators and tolerated no grievances.

A man with large appetites, Fayose created a bloated government while he struggled to pay salaries. Civil servants were owed for months on end while the governor treated their cries like trash, opting to promote some 37,000 workers months before the election. Fayose once infamously declared that it was better for him to owe workers than sack them. He made good on this promise as he went into the elections owing state and local government workers.

If there was one aspect where Fayose found favor with the people, it was with his populist approach to addressing the protracted herdsmen and land owner clashes that has claimed thousands of life across the country. He banned cattle grazing in the state, signed an anti-grazing bill into law, and urged his people not to hesitate to attack if provoked.

But populism can only go so far in the face of underdevelopment and an environment hostile to letting institutions thrive. Fayose, the first person to win a second term in Ekiti state, proved to be no different from his first outing as he discontinued social programs started by Fayemi and failed to come up with any palliatives. Instead he increased the tax burden even on children and vulnerable populations.

All Ekiti state got from Fayose was drama, of the cheap, bizarre kind. For his inauguration in 2014, he invited clergymen and juju priests to cleanse the Oke Ayobo government house. He was involved in public spats with the EFCC and Zenith Bank over accounts frozen by the financial watchdog. In a move taken straight from banana republic central, Fayose attempted in January to eliminate Fayemi from the political equation by accepting the recommendations of a suspicious Judicial Commission of Enquiry barring Fayemi from holding public offices in Ekiti State and other parts of Nigeria for 10 years. The white paper arrived dead in the water.

The price of infamy

Fayose’s recklessness and highhanded behavior would alienate many allies from his camp. Top shelf politicians like the Ekiti state senators chose not to associate with him in his moment of need. He lost the active support of local players like Tosin Aluko and Dayo Adeyeye. Traditional institutions were not pleased with his roughshod handling of the fallout with the Olukere of Ikere-Ekiti. The Catholic diocese dragged him to court at some point over the introduction of education levies in schools. Enemies to the left. Enemies to the right. These avengers came together under one opposition to deal Fayose’s candidate a rough hand at the polls.

It was the ultimate humiliation.

Notwithstanding all of this, for his next act, Ayodele Fayose wants to be president of the federal republic of Nigeria. Who can blame him though? Nigeria has had Jonathan and Buhari in quick succession.

Fayose has for the longest time, styled himself as the chief antagonist of the Buhari administration. Such a role isn’t particularly challenging as error prone Buhari, continuously hands out damaging material on a daily basis. .

Who can forget Fayose’s irresponsible front page election hate campaign of 2014 predicting the death of a President Buhari? Unfortunately, Fayose has always met an unyielding barrier in the president’s affect towards him. He changed strategy at some point and targeted Aisha Buhari, accusing her of money laundering practices as specified in the Halliburton scandal papers. The wife of the president, usually a model in poise, fired off on Twitter. Her since deleted tweets branded Fayose as a ‘’mad dog that isn’t chained.’’

It is going to be difficult taking Fayose seriously anymore and most persons in his position would simply disappear into the good night. Ekiti people may have through the rejection of Olusola Eleka, also put a final nail to the coffin of Ayodele Fayose.

Just don’t expect him to go away easy. Or totally. Fayose is devoid of shame, or dignity, or emotional intelligence. It is likely Nigerians haven’t yet seen the last of him.

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