By Ayo Badmus
Mixing theory with praxis (the practical) has always been a difficult, perennially daunting proposition. When he is on the outside looking in, the intellectual has well defined targets. In this position he or she is like a football fanatic on the stadium stand criticizing the team coach or the referee. When the same person is landed the manager’s badge or the referee’s whistle it suddenly becomes a whole new ball game.
For the intellectual the cold hard reality of praxis is always going to be problematic. For a start there is always the question of time. He has only a ‘limited amount of time upon which to impart his own agencies’. In addition issues relating to morality, responsibility and history will often come up to the fore in an often contradictory manner. Quite often the question of whether the baby of principle should be thrown out in a conflict with the bathwater of practice comes up.
Many intellectuals on the inside have so often fell down at the hurdle of praxis. A good example from the United Kingdom is the puzzling case of the late Labour politician Anthony Crosland. Crosland a former Oxford don was arguably the most cerebral mind of a generation. His landmark analysis published in 1957 ‘The future of socialism’ defined the social democratic project for generations.
Those influenced by this seminal work include Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Pandit Nehru, Lee Kwan yew and the West German social democratic party amongst many others. Paradoxically Crosland had a disappointing ministerial career during the labour government 1964-70.
In Nigeria public office has so often been the elephant’s graveyard of the intellectual class. The litany of failure is too painful to recount here. Which brings forth the proposition of how has our own intellectual on the inside fared so far? After a three and half struggle to get his stolen mandate back, Ekiti state governor Dr. John Fayemi is on the hot seat. How has he fared after a hundred days as the helmsman? Fayemi comes across as a policy junkie who is not awed by the temperature of the gubernatorial seat.
His social and intellectual confidence clearly helps. It also helps that he has a well defined road map. It is worth remembering that he once proclaimed that “My politics is an extension of my activism, because I have spent a greater part of my life fighting injustice”.
This defining statement now has to be translated to fighting injustice in Ekiti state, if it is to add up. Dr. Fayemi in my observation is actually quite an old fashioned Fabian type social democrat, just like, well Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Pandit Nehru and Dr. Michael Okpara when he was premier of the Eastern region.
Much of the 100 days in office has been a practical demonstration of his eight point roadmap. The prophet who is now armed if we may pinch from Isaac Deutscher’s biography of Leon Trotsky has cleverly used Quick wins to establish his imprimatur. The quick wins are not just cheap populist tokenisms, below the surface they actually have deep significance. For example the initiatives in the health sector cannot be tagged as cheap populism. To elaborate, quality healthcare was placed as the fifth pillar in the eight-point agenda.
It is also a critical point of the Millennium Development Goals. Having as it were boxed himself in by declaring free health services in his inaugural speech he has had to deliver. The response of the ‘free medical mission’ to the grassroots communities has started to make an impact on the various health problems confronting the populace.
It was designed to treat patients from a gamut of ailments such as hypertension, diabetes, eye and dental problems, antenatal care for pregnant women and treatment of people suffering from HIV. The target is to treat at least 100,000 people within the first 100 days of the administration.
Apart from signing eight important bills into law, the hundred days has also seen the purchase of a hundred transformers in the state. A very laudable initiative and quite a relief for anyone who has had to suffer the bizarre PHCN.
It also highlights the contradictions of Nigeria’s laughably skewed up ‘federalism’. On this score demand far outstrips supply and Fayemi has opened up a hornet’s nest as every community now wants a transformer. The Ekiti state government now has to do the job of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (a federal concern). What manner of federalism is this?
Nothing shows the social democrat in Fayemi more than the fact that he has prioritized the passage of a Freedom of Information (FOI) bill into law. FOI’s are usually the preserve of the opposition. For Fayemi to send a FOI bill to the State House of Assembly means that he is prepared to walk the talk. Even Tony Blair baulked at this and had to be prodded to get on with the business of placing a FOI before parliament.
It is a truism well worn from Islamic writings that the prophet unarmed comes a cropper. It is a fact that all armed prophets have conquered and the unarmed ones have been destroyed. In this instance the prophet armed has demarcated the terrain of debate very well to his own advantaged.
Armed with the legitimacy of a real mandate Dr Fayemi has used the first 100 days much in the same way that Franklin Delano Roosevelt who popularized the phrase from Napoleon Bonaparte did. The 100 days has been used as a marker to define the rest of the tenure. Everyone has had something. Potholes have been filled in the state capital and students have received succor with the merciful downward review of tuition fees.
The marker set during the 100 days has been invigorating. In a good University Fayemi will have earned a good 2:1. What happens next is crucial, for a four year tenure is a marathon.
Henceforth Fayemi has to be cold and calculating. He should take to heart the admonition of Machiavelli in chapter 6 of The Prince “… there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.
Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new…”
Very sensibly he has promised to use agriculture and solid minerals to boost the economic profile of the state. This proposition more than any other position will define Fayemi’s tenure in office.
As a committed federalist Fayemi knows that unless the internally generated revenue profile is raised he will fight with one arm tied to his back.
To achieve his transformational agenda he has to raise his own revenue, a lot of it. In this way the prophet will be armed to slay the poverty dragon. It’s still early days but in a sure_footed confident sort of way, Fayemi is showing that the intellectual can succeed in government.