Fayose, Melaye and politics of self-help
This dispensation of democratic governance was enthroned after a stretch of military interregnum, during which political activities were outlawed. In the years when former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida toyed with the idea of establishing his own brand of political system, he did establish the Centre for Democratic Studies (CDS), now defunct. That idea of a CDS was manufactured in IBB’s political laboratory. He had convinced himself that politicians of the generation before were not good for his experimentation. He needed a new breed that was corruption free. So, he assembled eggheads to help him groom a new set of politicians. The CDS was to be his grooming laboratory. Unfortunately, that did not work out because the man had ulterior motives that dogged his transition programme.
That was however a clear attempt to groom players for the task of democratic governance. By the time the military was finally pushed out in 1998/99, however, there was no time to groom anybody. In fact, if there was any grooming at all, it was the same military that processed those who became flag bearers for the elections. Is it any wonder that the electorate did not know many of those who became governors and legislators in 1999? The few of them that had some pedigree were not particularly fantastic with regard to professional suavity and personal integrity. Some were ‘boys’ to former military rulers. And that reflected in their delivery and actions in office. In the records of Independent Corrupt Practices and other Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), many of our former governors have been investigated, tried and a few of them convicted. Some are still undergoing trial more than 10 years after they left office. Smart guys.
That remains clear evidence that there was no grooming for those leaders in 1999. Some of them just got enlisted because that was what was in vogue. Those who actually fought for the return of democracy were nowhere to be found. Some were too self-conscious to trust the transition programme. So they stayed away.
Today, I just want to talk about two players in today’s democracy who are everyday in the news. They force attention on themselves and it is difficult to ignore them. Some would not touch them with a long pole, because they feel everything about them is contrary to rule and practice of the game. I’m referring to Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti and Senator Dino Melaye.
Fayose is a brand. His style is very different and it works for him. Before he became governor, we didn’t know much about him on a national scale. But like a bolt from the blue, he bestrode the Ekiti firmament and has since become a colossus. Some said he did remote philanthropy by supplying water to indigent communities that had no water to drink. To them, he was caring and was one they could rely on. So, when he dabbled into politics, he became the rallying point for grassroots populism. That was how against popular calculations, he defeated then incumbent governor Niyi Adebayo of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in the 2003 governorship. The AD is now defunct, but before it did, you did not dare to contest and win election in the Southwest unless you have obtained clearance from Afenifere, a sort of politburo in the zone. If you did not, you were strictly on your own. Fayose contested and won the governorship on his own terms and he sent Adebayo home; and there was no whimper from anywhere. Meaning that he won so convincingly that Ekiti people, well celebrated for political activism did not see any reason to doubt Fayose’s victory.
Now, was Fayose prepared for the challenges of governance that was surrendered to him? The verdict cannot come from here yet. But suffice to say that his first term as governor was one hell of a term. There were many issues he had to deal with. As leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in his state, he needed to show leadership, the type that will have everyone queuing behind him in orderly and peaceful manner. It was actually the reverse that we saw, as those who had issues with him were members of his own party. There was malevolent rancor all over the place. Violence crept in and when matters got to a head, the party leadership at Abuja had to step in. Whether Abuja was neutral in that intervention is a different matter, which also depended on whether Fayose played ‘good’ politics with the powers that be. Former President Obasanjo ensured that Fayose was sent home six months to the end of his first tenure. Fayose was impeached.
He returned to office as governor in 2014, after he again defeated another incumbent, Kayode Fayemi of the All Progressives Congress (APC), in an election that was adjudged free and fair by those who gauged with what they saw physically on Election Day. Fayemi himself conceded defeat in a manner that was unprecedented. There were later confessions regarding vote inducements and all that. The point is that Fayose returned to office, despite his previous losses.
In the last two years he has been the most vocal opposition governor and the inescapable nemesis of the ruling party. He has done very well in that regard. The latest we hear from Ekiti is that he wants to recover the six months he lost during his first term impeachment. Lawmakers of Ekiti Assembly are supporting him to contest the matter at the Supreme Court. We also hear that Fayose wants to contest the 2019 presidential election. He is rallying his people towards achieving that end. Meaning that, if the Supreme Courts gives its nod, he wants to contest the 2018 governorship election. He also wants to be presidential candidate in 2019. Quite a handful!
From this distance, I’m imagining that Fayose’s antics are deliberately orchestrated to enable him cast his net very wide, so that he does not return dry at the end of the day. It is like a political gamble, so that he does not retire too early. I don’t know how much support base he has to achieve either of the two, but I know how far an incumbent can go to extract sizable following. But he should spare a thought for Ekiti and himself. God has been fair to him, which he acknowledges. Being a prophet, he has admitted severally that with what he passed through in his troubled first term, he could not have returned for a second term, without divine assistance.
In his political journey, I want to believe that Fayose has applied self-help and God’s grace, to attain this height. Perhaps, he would have done more if he had opportunities for a higher understanding of democratic governance and its principles, prior to 2003.
Dino Melaye is another political petrel. He barely left high school when he catapulted himself to Nigeria’s Lower national parliament. No grooming, apart from years of campus politics, which were largely sophomoric and self-serving. Yet, he was visible and highly voluble on the floor of the House. His capacity is huge, but his convictions are not thorough, and his alignments hopelessly blurred by personal foibles.
Now his people want him sacked from the Senate, whether by inducement or self-help. Fayose and Melaye are young politicians that are well loved in their constituencies. They have the gift of mobilization, but without the sobriety and patience to deepen their knowledge and practice of democracy. We count on them to help sustain this democracy.
And that is a challenge to all of us, to commence a grooming process that will enhance participatory governance. I do not advocate that we throw away both bath water and baby. For Fayose, after two terms of eight years minus six months, he does not need to play God. If he has a chance to go to the Senate, fine. Otherwise, he can take a democracy course at one of several institutions here or abroad.
If Melaye’s recall by his constituents sails through, that’s his nemesis. He too needs a refresher. Enough of self-help!