By Dele Sobowale
“The “Yes-man” is the enemy; your best friend will argue with you…” Aleksander Solzhenitysn, Russian author and human rights activist.
It was like a thunder bolt. I supported Fayemi; but, I had reasons to believe that he might not win the election. Still, I was prepared for a very close contest. The result, confirming the overwhelming preference of the people of Ekiti State for Fayose, was stunning and totally unexpected. So, let me start by extending my congratulations to Governor-elect, Ayodele Fayose – whose election has, at least, blown away one long-held myth. We now know that the people of Ekiti State don’t respect scholarship any more than other Nigerians. Here, we were living witnesses to a mere HND holder taking two PhD holders, one of them a Professor, to the cleaners. It was not just a victory for Fayose; it was an emphatic rejection of Fayemi. I cannot remember an election in which the losing candidate lost in every Local Government – including his own. For once, the APC (ACN) was so thoroughly thrashed; there was no chance for anybody to claim the election was rigged. Even the excuse of intimidation of voters sounds puerile as to leave observers wondering if these “progressives” intend to learn from their mistakes. They have lost three contests in a row – Ondo, Anambra and Ekiti.
The obvious question is: what went wrong? Let me start with a personal experience with regard to the debacle at Ekiti State to provide some of the answers from which APC and Fayemi (he still has a political future despite this loss) might learn.
The first and most obvious weakness of the “progressives” in the South West is the almost total domination of the party by one person. In fact, it had reached a stage when it could be regarded as hero-worship of the worst kind.
“When all think alike; no one thinks very much.” Walter Lippmann, 1889-1974. (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS p 245).
It got to the point when all everybody had to do was to wait for directions from “the Leader”. Even the media organizations established to support the political movement suffered from the same fate. Individually brilliant, all the columnists were forced to tow the line. Once you read the heading, you know what the conclusion would be. The APC and its leader are always right and PDP and Jonathan are always wrong. Shockingly, some of the people writing the nonsense are also PhD holders and even professors.
Group-think, as this phenomenon is called, had largely contributed to the delusions which led to the Ekiti disaster; and it may not be the last such embarrassment APC will suffer in the South West or beyond. But, let me now point out how this political culture had undermined Fayemi in Ekiti – because I was involved.
There has not been a single year in the last thirty during which I have not traveled to Ekiti State at least six times. Half of those trips invariably involve passing through the state capital – Ado-Ekiti. The last three years and nine months were not different in that respect. Thus, in 2012, I was in Ekiti for five days, on three occasions, on fact finding for a potential investor in that state. It was a very good opportunity to discover how people in various communities felt about their governor. What I found out was disturbing; very disturbing. Contrary to the propaganda which the party’s media organs and their best and brightest columnists were feeding the public, there was an almost total disconnect between the government and most of the people. Ekiti is a one industry state; and that industry is GOVERNMENT. Within that “conglomerate” teachers can be regarded as first among equals within the government establishment. Once teachers rightly or wrongly feel aggrieved, the government is in trouble. Somehow, in his desire to upgrade teaching services, Fayemi had antagonized the teachers and they were waiting to take their pound of flesh.
On reaching Lagos I sent a letter to Fayemi through one of his top officials requesting for an appointment. After a week a call came through telling me the Governor was out of the country but I will be contacted later. Till today, nothing happened. Undaunted, I sought out a mutual friend who was/is very close to Fayemi. One day the mutual friend invited me to a wedding where he was sure Governor Fayemi would be present and a meeting would be arranged. It was perhaps the worst day for me to go out of my house. With arthritis on my right arm killing me and severe gout on my left wrist hurting like hell, on a day with heavy downpour and no driver, I still went to the venue of the reception at UNILAG – all in a bid to warn Fayemi that he was not being told the whole truth. Unfortunately, the Governor, at the last minute, after church service, departed for Ado-Ekiti. It was the most painful outing ever in my life; it was all in vain.
Meanwhile the “Yes-men”, including my friend who turned his formerly interesting column to a series of Ekiti/Fayemi propaganda pieces, kept on peddling the things which must have been music to Fayemi’s ears – while keeping from him the unpleasant truths he should have known at least a year or two ago. If Fayemi is in search of reasons, he should look his “friends” in the face and tell them off.
Four months ago, on another visit to Ekiti, I was stunned by how what started as mild resentment had congealed into outright rejection of Fayemi’s second term quest. By then, I had also concluded that I will still support him for reasons I mentioned about four weeks ago; but, it was clear to me that the people had turned against him. I still strongly believe for the wrong reasons. I also believe that two years from now, if not sooner, the people of Ekiti will wake up and wonder if they were under a spell for voting out Fayemi. Fayemi, I hope, has also learnt a lesson. Court jesters and praise singers do more harm to public officials than his opponents. Flatterers never tell the whole truth.