His Excellency Dr. John Olukayode Mofolorunsho Fayemi turns 54 today. Without a doubt he is an Akanda – a person who according to Yoruba mythology is unique and a possessor of a special purpose in life. A person whose destiny is linked to that of countless others, and who is imbued with special graces and qualities that helps him/her in attaining greatness. One of the distinct qualities of Akandas is that from a very young age, they display rare traits of self-awareness and intelligence, and are sometimes involved in supernatural occurrences that cause the elders to take notice and pay special attention to nurturing them.
This concept has parallels in other parts of the world. In ancient Israel, about the time of Jesus’ birth, events in the heavens conspired to tell the famed wise men from the east that a King had been born, causing them to diligently follow the stars till they arrived at the birthplace of Jesus to pay homage. Furthermore, it is recorded that Jesus as a child displayed such wisdom beyond His years and a huge sense of responsibility for the things of God, that it got Him in the cross-hairs of the religious authorities of the time.
In the same tradition, Kayode Fayemi from a very young age showed exceptional intelligence and appreciation of the world around him. Born the last child of seven children into the Francis Falade Fayemi family of Isan-Ekiti during the penkelemesi years, he was reportedly introverted as a child, spending hours on end reading newspapers and other informational materials which were never in short supply in his house, as his father was at the time an information officer with the old Western Region’s government.
He was outstanding amongst his peers as a student in Christ School Ado-Ekiti. He not only excelled academically, but was tops in extracurricular activities such as debates and quiz competitions. By the time he got to the University of Lagos, he was well grounded in his sense of purpose and mission in life, spending most of his days as an undergraduate participating in student unionism – leading protests and advocacies, and supporting liberation movements all over Africa. Long before he became a regular fixture on Nigeria’s official delegation to annual editions of the United Nations General Assembly, Kayode Fayemi had horned his talents in international diplomacy in ANUNSA – a student and youth association devoted to promoting the goals of the United nations through its activities.
Speaking on his time as an undergraduate in UNILAG, Kayode Fayemi was to say “I can share categorically, that there is almost nothing I have found myself doing in my life and professional career that I did not first experiment during my time in UNILAG. As a leader, activist, writer and academic, I cut my teeth right here in UNILAG. I was exposed to leadership by serving as the Secretary of the great Eni Njoku Hall, which also made me a member of the Students Representative Council. I also served as the Secretary of the Youths United in Solidarity for Southern Africa (YUSSA), as well as the Secretary-General of UNILAG’s chapter of the All-Nigeria United Nations Students’ Association (ANUNSA).
Following his Ba. in History from the University of Lagos, he went on to earn an MSc. in International Relations from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, before proceeding to the United Kingdom to pursue a doctorate in War Studies from Kings College London. His time in London was defining as he got introduced to a greater theatre for participating in the causes close to his heart, becoming a leading figure in the struggle against military rule. He is credited for establishing several platforms for the opposition in exile to marshal their positions, including the famous Radio Kudirat. It was during this time as a young post-graduate student in his twenties, in the course of the pro-democracy struggle of the 1990s side-by-side much older legends such as Wole Soyinka, the late Anthony Enahoro, e.t.c., that he would build an incredible network of friendships and alliances, earning the trust and respect of highly placed individuals, governments, think tanks, and multilateral agencies all over the world.
It was therefore no surprise that when he was to transition from civil society to politics, he was bold enough to aspire to the highest office in Ekiti state. Defying conventional wisdom to start out aspiring to lower offices, he contested the gubernatorial primaries in the now defunct Action Congress, emerging the unlikely flagbearer amongst 27 other aspirants who all decamped from the party in protest. As an Akanda, this was to become a constant feature of his political trajectory – nothing he has attained politically so far has ever been handed to him without stiff opposition. It would take another three and a half years for his mandate to be validated through the courts, thus assuming office as Governor of Ekiti State on October 16, 2010.
As Governor, Kayode Fayemi finally had the executive powers to put to practice all he had advocated, implementing a well thought out social-welfarist blueprint known as the Eight-Point agenda, which concentrated on Governance; Infrastructural Development; Modernizing Agriculture; Education and Human Capital Development; Health Care Services; Industrial Development; Tourism; and Gender Equality and Empowerment. His administration was widely adjudged to have performed creditably which was why the outcome of his first re-election bid came as a surprise to many.
The 2014 elections in Ekiti state was historic. It was to define who we were as a people, or better still redefine who we had become when faced with a choice between Kayode Fayemi an Omoluabi who had done well beyond the limits of the resources available in the state on one hand, and the garrulous self-styled apostle of stomach infrastructure on the other. Not a lot has to be said about the characters and public records of both individuals to make this point, but it is fair to say the Ekiti people took a wrong turn in 2014, and paid dearly for it with the untold hardship that befell the state between 2014 and 2018. Off course, sordid details have been revealed of how the 2014 election was rigged, but I dare say it was not without the complicity of the people ourselves who needed to learn a lesson.
That;m is how the fate of individuals – Akandas – are linked to that of peoples and nations. It was all part of Kayode Fayemi’s destiny to go down that path, and experience the seeming momentary rejection of his people. But that was not the end of the story. He was to glean valuable lessons and restrategise to regain the mandate. In the interregnum, he was appointed Minister of Mines and Steel Development by President Muhammadu Buhari, which was another case of story before glory. He faced a very bitter opposition to his confirmation as minister, in the media and behind the scenes, because many were hell bent on relegating the civil-military relations and democratisation expert to the dustbins of history. But he was victorious, going on to achieve several feats in restructuring the sector in less than three years.
But Kayode Fayemi was not done with Ekiti state. Again, destiny beckoned, and he answered the call to run for re-election as Governor. This was not to be a stroll in the park, and those familiar with the man’s public service trajectory could see a familiar pattern of very heavy opposition before the glory that lay ahead. This time, Kayode Fayemi had to contend with 35 other aspirants within the APC to earn the party’s ticket, before going on to win the general election.
The road to triumph in the re-election bid is a lesson in several human virtues such as perseverance, forgiveness, fortitude, and courage. More so, it is the ultimate fulfilment of this Akanda’spurpose, which goes beyond him as an individual but affects all Ekiti sons and daughters. Today, his election slogan“Reclaiming the land; Restoring our Values”, has become the central philosophy of his administration – the rallying cry for Ekiti to return to the pristine values we were known for, which had been despoiled by vagabonds who exploited the naivety of the people in the previous election. Kayode Fayemi’s re-election as Governor can therefore be seen as the people’s act of repentance from the mistake of 2014, and an affirmation that never again shall our electoral choices be determined by deceptive retail politics.
Nevertheless, as it is written in the holy scriptures, when a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. Many detractors that fought him bitterly have come to realise and affirm like Nichodemus in the bible speaking of Jesus, that no man can do these things except God be with him. Following his re-election, many former enemies have been reconciled to him, and he has been magnanimous in accommodating all and sundry in the task of rebuilding the land of honour Ekiti state. Responsible governance has now returned to Ekiti and the welfare of the people is once again the duty of the man Kayode Fayemi who has done it before, and has vowed to do it even better this time.
Several prophesies have been fulfilled in the life of this passionate patriot who sees public service as an extension of activism. A man of faith who takes his calling to politics and governance as seriously as he took his time of service as an altar boy growing up in Church. A man of courage, yet meek in spirit and deeply respectful to all. Sadly, this is often taken advantage of by some acting on his authority, who misrepresent him while advancing their personal agendas. This, his spiritual mentor and advisor, Catholic Bishop of Ekiti Diocese, the Most Rev. Felix Ajakaye warned him sternly to be watchful about when he assumed office.
Nevertheless, as Kayode Fayemi turns 54 today, as one of the leading transgenerational icons of values based leadership in Africa today, I am sure he would take time to reflect on what lies ahead, especially the urgent task he has often spoken about of actively empowering a new cadre of young leaders – a new breed that would break boundaries and bravely go beyond dallying along the borders of morality and political expediency that ethical leaders today are constrained to do in order to bring about change from within a depraved socio-political establishment.
Kayode Fayemi, my Oga – Akanda Eniyan – Ilufemiloye – loved by the masses; a detribalised nationalist with an enviable track record and an extensive network of friendships and alliances globally. Clearly, your best years are ahead, and I remain solidly behind you. For you, it’s not just about personal ambitions, it is about God working in and through you to bring about a positive impact on a greater multitude.
Happy Birthday Sir.
Akin Rotimi, a media and communications professional writes from Lagos, Nigeria