Having failed to scale the Ekiti governorship election hurdle, the question for Governor Ayodele Fayose is what next if he is to remain politically relevant postgovernorship era? Felix Nwaneri reports
Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose, is one politician many have come to love or hate. The reason is not farfetched. He has been able to navigate the murky waters of politics, weathering the storm associated with the power game, and in most of the cases, emerged unscathed.
For a man, who was elected governor in 2003 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before he was ousted through an impeachment on October 16, 2006, Fayose has remained a recurring decimal not only in Ekiti, but the national political space. He made history, when against all odds, he returned to power in 2014 after defeating 18 other candidates including the then incumbent, Dr Kayode Fayemi of the All Progressives Congress (APC). That was the second time he would defeat an incumbent for the Ekiti governorship.
He defeated Niyi Adebayo of the then Alliance for Democracy (AD) in the 2003 elections for the Ekiti plum job. On his return to power, he endeared himself more to the people of Ekiti through his “Stomach Infrastructure” ideology.
While Fayose is the only person, who can give clarifications to what inspired the concept, which has received wide acclaim; one point that must be noted is that his electoral victory in 2014 was partly driven by this political philosophy. Though some analysts have over time derided the maxim, the truth is that the concept focuses on the people’s immediate needs: empowerment programme for unemployed youths and widows; maintenance assistance to the aged, among others. In summary, it is about giving governance a human face.
Beyond the stomach infrastructure initiative, Fayose has remained vocal when it comes to national issues and has been critical of the APC-led Federal Government. Unlike some of his colleagues, who respond to issues diplomatically, apparently not to offend the powers that be, Fayose is blunt to a fault.
There is hardly any week that passes without the governors being in the news and this has earned him both friends and foes. Most importantly, the conviviality he enjoys among the masses is not in doubt. Unlike most public office holders, the Ekiti governor is easily accessible. He jettisoned the life of protocol, ceremonies and courtesies that come with the position he occupies and at the same time displayed the humility of dinning with people of the lowly trough of life. As leader of all men, he seems to appreciate the varieties of common humanity.
The man popularly known as Oshokomole by his admirers has equally been the polished cosmopolitan man of the polite society as well as the rugged personality of the jungle. The ruggedness was put to test at the weekend during the governorship election in his state. Fayose did not contest the poll as candidate, but through a proxy. He had single handedly anointed his deputy, Prof. Kolapo Olusola, as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and possible successor. While his choice did not go down well with some members of the party in the state, Fayose was determined to see it through.
He contended with 35 political parties with the APC as the closest rival. He had not enjoyed the best of political relationship with the ruling party at the centre and it was against this backdrop that most analysts foresaw a rough road for the Ekiti governor.
The belief ahead of the poll was that powers that be in Abuja, will leave no stone unturned in muscling him out as he has more stakes in the election that Olusola. The signs became clear, when on Wednesday, the governor claimed that he was tear-gassed and rough handled at the entrance of Government House Complex, Ado-Ekiti, by policemen deployed in the state for the governorship election. While his critics were quick to dismiss him, saying he was acting a script, his supporters remained upbeat, insisting that he (Fayose) will not give up.
Their hope was however dashed in the early hours of Sunday as the candidate of the APC, Kayode Fayemi, was declared winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The question over this development is: What next for the Ekiti State governor, who also doubles as chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum? Many had expected that Fayose will head to the Senate, which has become a nest for former governors after leaving, but he rather declared his presidential ambition despite the party’s position that ticket is zoned to the North. He told the nation on September 28, 2017, that God told him that he would lead the country. He also vowed to defeat the Buhari in a free and fair contest if the APC picks him as its candidate.
His words: “My party leaders, standing before you is Peter (The Rock) Ayodele Fayose, the man already destined by God to take Nigeria out of the present political and economic stagnation. I do not stand before Nigerians to present myself as one with the answers to all our national questions. Rather, I present myself as one with the required knowledge, understanding, competence and, above all, the political will to coordinate the human and material resources that we have in abundance to achieve national greatness.
Therefore, I can say expressly that I am well equipped in terms of knowledge, experience as well as physical and mental capacities to hit the ground running as soon as I assume office as president of Nigeria in 2019.” While some analysts have suggested that Fayose may be selling a dummy to test the political waters ahead of the general election to possible land PDP’s vice presidential ticket given the PDP’s zoning arrangement, which favours the North to produce the party’s presidential candidate, a political school opined that it would be fool-hardy to dismiss him as those who did so in the past regretted their actions.
Members of this school pointed to Fayose’s ability to read political situations to know when to throw his hat to the ring, but now that he has failed the Ekiti hurdle, it is left to be seen whether he will revive his political machinery to realise the presidential ambition or opt to lie low for a moment to mourn his loss. Whatever option he decides on will determine whether he will remain relevance, politically, after leaving office as governor on October 16.
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