Fayemi and Oyebanji: Lessons in mentorship, By ABIODUN KOMOLAFE

Fayemi and Oyebanji

Let me start by saying that I am not an indigene of Ekiti State but Oluwafunmilola, my beloved wife, is from the famous Awosusi family in Aramoko-Ekiti, which, by the by, is only a stone’s throw from Ijebu-Jesa, my Native Nazareth in Osun State. So, apart from being a stakeholder in the Ekiti project, so keen has my interest been in the ‘Fountain of Knowledge’ that I authored a touching tribute, ‘Funmi Olayinka: Yes, I knew her’, to Olufunmilayo Adunni Olayinka, the late Deputy Governor of the State, who died on April 6, 2013.

That said, there are basic principles about social ties and development that help to stabilize and ensure the growth of a society. A cardinal principle out of the lot is apprenticeship. Insignificant as it might appear in these modern times, apprenticeship holds the key to the substantial stability of the society, especially, within the political landscape. Within the hierarchies and the Modus Operandi of the political parties, seamless office distribution is also central to the continued sustenance of party organization. During succession time, internal dynamics and power play, this reflects in all kinds of pranks, machinations and deliberate manipulations, which become overtly manifest, obviously, with unintended consequences. However, such albatross could be avoided if the principle of mentorship and apprenticeship is embraced by all. By this, the question of competence and experience is being adequately taken care of; and, afterwards, stability is ensured. Intractable conflicts are avoided and internal wrangling is eliminated. In the end, the political party is stronger for it.

A case in hand is between former Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and Biodun Oyebanji, his successor in office. Well, one cannot but notice the smooth sail of the party machinery during the electioneering and the general elections. And Oyebanji is not just learning the ropes because he has been part of the system from the outset. So, while Fayemi should be commended, other political parties should learn from the ‘Maturity of Ekiti.’ For instance, to say that political parties that are now in crises did not get the dynamics of change right cannot be too far from the truth. Is it any wonder therefore that such conflicts have become open-ended in shape and size? For reasons best known to them, certain individuals have created power blocs, expecting that their demands must be met; otherwise there would be no solution. Not unexpectedly, it is an opportunity for some people to become rich. Yes, they are being mischievous! But unless their bidding is done, achieving peace becomes a very risky and costly business. Whereas if we had heeded the advice of our ancient fathers, the man who’s to become the next governor would have been adequately prepared for the office! So, everybody would have known that he’s the governor-in-making; and all internal strife would have been settled even before presenting him to the electorate.

In 1979, the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), under the leadership of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, presented political candidates – men of impeccable character and credible pedigree – for governorship positions. Bola Ige (Old Oyo, now Oyo and Osun States); Olabisi Onabanjo (Ogun State); Lateef Jakande (Lagos State); Adekunle Ajasin (Old Ondo, now Ondo and Ekiti States); and Ambrose Ali (Bendel, now Edo and Delta States). There was no acrimony or bickering because these were not only very solid people in the society but also leaders who had passed through the furnace of mentorship since the Action Group (AG) days before getting to where they were at the time. In other words, they didn’t just wake up one day, wanting to be governor. So, the electorate voted for them without any hassles.

But what do we have these days? The nouveau riche, the impious cabal and the man with the seeming power and control of violence now crowding together and scheming dangerously to become governors; plus a society that delights in justifying bad behaviors with sentiments! In the olden days, debates were used as a tool for picking credible leaders. Democracy came to Nigeria and debates were introduced to help ascertain competent candidates for political offices. But it was ridiculed! Remember the ‘bo o tie s’oro, o ti wole’ of the University of Ibadan (UI) fame. It’s showing up again! But, again, that belonged to the ancient times when the Remi Fani-Kayodes dominated our political space like a plague. It only manifested itself at the UI some three decades back.

It is unfortunate that ours has become such a dangerous society that, if care is not taken, a thug can become governor. A complete fool can demand to have a shot as Nigeria’s first citizen. In fact, Nigerians will just wake up one day and find a man without sound pedigree at the helm of the country’s affairs. And who will stop him, once he has the backing of the moneybags? The more reason society should strive to return Nigeria to sane times. Those who want to play politics or participate fully in political affairs must make a commitment to public life. They must also live their lives in accordance with that commitment. A man who has never been elected even by his own colleagues, either in school or outside the school environment, can hardly become a successful politician.

One thing about Fayemi’s case is that he did not support Oyebanji’s emergence for the purpose of superintending his successor’s actions but to save the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ekiti State from headaches. One other thing that’s working for JKF, as Fayemi is fondly called by his admirers, is that Oyebanji went through mentorship. Otherwise, the story would have been different! Of course, that’s why the former governor is now at peace even as the state looks forward to experiencing sustainable development. The governor will be able to build on his predecessor’s foundation, which is a plus for the ruling party because a new government would have started all over again, abandoning what his predecessor has done. The irony of it is that, eventually, nothing will be achieved, since nothing is coordinated.

From the look of things, Fayemi is a very good mentee of President-elect Bola Tinubu. Unlike others who were also mentored by Tinubu, Fayemi remains a leading star. The more reason his altruistic step should not be misconstrued for one who wants to exert undue influence or control over Ekiti State. The truth is: JKF has left! However, he ensured that he did not leave the party in tatters. He also ensured that there’d be continuity of development in the state.

With regard to Oyebanji, that he has started on an excellent note is no longer news! Discreet investigations have shown his administration as prudent and driven by basic urges and desires for institutional changes. He is not an ‘Owambe’ or ‘Awa la wa n’be’ leader. Instead, he is a seasoned technocrat who has a good grasp of the sociology of Ekiti State and the chemistry of its people. It is also on record that he has been tapping into the windows of international opportunities as a significant step in bringing back the agrarian heritage of the state.

While Nigerians wish the governor well, he should focus on development projects that will further endear his administration to the hearts of the good people of Ekiti State. To this end, if he needs to get thinkers, let him pay for them so that they can come up with brilliant ideas that will sincerely address the needs of the people.

May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Ekiti State!*Komolafe wrote in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria (ijebujesa@yahoo.co.uk)

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