The big issue is that our politicians shut themselves in from the people, once elected or selected. Many commentators felt it was an odd thing to do to ‘stoop so low’. Yet Nigeria is where such one-on-one interaction is most desirable. The effect of such interaction is to give hope and confidence to the people and keep them going. Also to get them to support government policies.
I have much cause to be totally irritated by him. In fact, so do many Nigerians. Fayose it was who published a sort of advanced obituary of our beloved president. He used Ekiti’s money to sponsor the wrap-around advert in a number of national newspapers, projecting that the president would be dead in two years. What an abomination! Fayose went ahead to make an example of his own mother, when he revealed that she had been wearing diapers – being incontinent – since she was 70. The old lady is now 74. If that was all, we could have forgiven him, but even as I type, Mr. Ayo Fayose still takes time to take potshots at the president, mocking Buhari’s anti-corruption war, and sometimes, he takes delight in traumatising Nigerians who don’t quite understand what he is on about, as the British would say. How much madder can someone be?
But no matter how much one would like to castigate any individual, at some point you start to run out of ammunition. When you criticise a man’s every move, at some point you must begin to recognise his good sides too. Our people say ‘Omo buruku l’ojo tie’. In other words, even the rascal child comes in very useful on a few occasions. In spite of Fayose’s madness I think he has a very crucial message to tell Nigerians, through his many outside-the-box interactions.
I had cause to take note recently of Fayose’s visit to a local market, on his way back from inspecting some road project in his state. The Governor of Ekiti State, as he is wont to do, went into the market to buy a few ounces of pepper and tomatoes from local market women. He bought some ‘kpomo’ too. Of course he had his cameramen in tow and the pictures soon made it to social media. Many of my friends on social media saw it as showmanship and misgovernance. But I choose this time to see it differently. When Fayose shared half-grown chicken to his constituents few months ago, I felt it was nonsense too. But when a man consistently does things like this, it is important that we take notice; if not for anything but the fact that the electorate is surely taking notice.
There must be a method to Fayose’s madness.
Many who commented referred to Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and asked if Awolowo was seen in the dirty markets of Ibadan. Others went abroad and compared Fayose with the presidents of America and Britain. Others stayed closer home, comparing Fayose with El-Rufai. A popular picture on the internet showed El-Rufai poring pensively over a map of Kaduna, or some proposed development project. Side by side that picture was Fayose’s, holding a piece of ‘kpomo’. Most citizens of Ekiti, especially the ‘modern’ ones who live virtually on the internet, had no kind words for ‘Boda’ Ayo.
I once say a picture of former Governor Shema using one finger to greet cheering Katsinawas. Infrastructure is important, so also is a great vision, and big, articulate grammar. But in this stead called Nigeria, I wager that it is criminal for politicians to constitute themselves into demigods and cease interacting with those whom they pleaded with for votes, just yesterday.
In the first place, I was in Kaduna about three weeks ago, and I may not know a lot about public governance, especially the Nigerian hue. But right at the entrance to that city was a mad man, in the middle of a heap of refuse that he, or someone else gathered there. Posters still litter Kaduna, and Kawo Road was the usual bedlam. Kaduna, like Abuja, was full of people urinating by the roadside, and pockets of filth everywhere. I had thought that the ‘action-men’ we had in government will bring very swift, visible change. But again, what do I know? What is worse, the beggars who El-Rufai gave ultimatum to quit the streets because of terrorism, were still there. Dozens of Almajiri children were everywhere having the time of their lives. To me, the real conversation about reinventing Kaduna State hadn’t started. Even though last week, we saw Governor El-Rufai pushing a wheelbarrow, and participating in the city’s cleanup.
Back to Fayose. It is true that a people need tangible infrastructure. It is true that the mere symbolism of showing up in the market is not enough. But the truth is that hardly is any other Nigerian leader doing what Fayose is doing today. If they were, we would be seeing the pictures everywhere, for they never miss any such photo opportunities. I had cause to call up the pictures of our Vice President, the Honorable Yemi Osinbajo, when he went inside a Lagos market for campaigns. There was also a time he rode in public buses, preaching the gospel of change. I supported it then. I know it will be impossible for him to do so now; well, almost. But what about the other rank and file?
How come no state governor visits their local markets. And where they will, it will be further symbolic and remarkable if they buy one or two things from those selling in the market. I can imagine the elation of those traders if such a big man or woman suddenly showed up in front of their stalls. Some may not believe their eyes. Abroad, such things happen and people pass out, out of pleasant shock and surprise. I certainly wouldn’t mind such a visit if I were a trader.
The big issue is that our politicians shut themselves in from the people, once elected or selected. Many commentators felt it was an odd thing to do to ‘stoop so low’. Yet Nigeria is where such one-on-one interaction is most desirable. The effect of such interaction is to give hope and confidence to the people and keep them going. Also to get them to support government policies. Looked at more deeply, we should note that that segment of our economy is threatened – by big supermarkets and other agents of globalisation. More and more, their margins are being eroded and many are just barely surviving. Our leaders are faced with two choices; either to distance themselves from these people and watch them being crowded out into despair, want and desperation, or to identify with them, encourage them and give them hope; hope that perhaps there is a chance that such businesses may still be sustainable; hope that they are doing something worthwhile and of significance to society; hope that they matter at all.
Again, by visiting his workers and laying the rule on latecoming, Fayose has occupied a space that none of them dared.
Fayose is becoming a master of a game. The other day, I heard he was stuck in traffic going for the inauguration of the State House of Assembly. Being the maverick that he is, he hopped out of the car and rode the next ‘okada’ to the venue, being cheered and hailed all the while. It’s about effort sometimes, and a little humility. Fayose is an extremely rich man, but I don’t think he holds his own people in disdain. I once say a picture of former Governor Shema using one finger to greet cheering Katsinawas. Infrastructure is important, so also is a great vision, and big, articulate grammar. But in this stead called Nigeria, I wager that it is criminal for politicians to constitute themselves into demigods and cease interacting with those whom they pleaded with for votes, just yesterday. The people are watching, and another election day is coming, when they will give appropriate feedback. Or it could be worse. For one day, the frustration of the people of this country may just bubble over, claiming with it any collateral damage. Those who hold the people in disgust, should ‘kontinu’. Apologies Mama Peace!
The latest of Fayose’s forays is still trending on Sahara Reporters as I type. The same man went to the state Secretariat and caught 31 latecomers. He locked them out. Some were seen, in the usual mannerism of Yoruba people, kneeling down and prostrating to him, pleading for forgiveness. SR chose to caption the news as Fayose dehumanising his own people. I wondered whether Nigerians really want change or whether we just love the sounds of our voices. How many of our governors have bothered to visit their state secretariats since the resumed? Most of them prefer sitting in their plush multi-billion, ‘befitting’ state houses, signing off fictitious contracts, usurping local government funds, and paying hundreds of billions to marabouts and fire-spitting pastors for ‘protection’.
Again, by visiting his workers and laying the rule on latecoming, Fayose has occupied a space that none of them dared. Not even Fayemi was shown visiting the state secretariat and catching latecomers. I would love to see the president do the same, as he did in 1983, and as Murtala Muhammad did before him, but maybe old age is catching up.
There is a limit to which we can keep hating someone. Let us ignore the messenger, and face the message. Nigerians need examples, guidance, action, change…and we need all of those and more, immediately!