By Rotimi Fasan
AYO Fayose, governor of Ekiti State, for more than a year now has been spoiling for a war with President Mohammadu Buhari who he has subjected to all kinds of verbal assaults. The attacks got more personal as the last presidential election drew closer and finally lost all pretence to decency when the PDP hierarchy called Buhari brain dead on account of his age.
Patience Jonathan was at the centre of the baiting, wondering what business an ‘old man’ of Buhari’s age had with ‘dragging’ the presidency with her husband. In all these attacks, Fayose seemed to lead the charge against Buhari. This he did alongside a Jonathan that was desperate to be re-elected but who must have been convinced of defeat and had therefore bought into the mudslinging his party members had apparently urged him on.
Rather than challenge Buhari or his party to an issue-based debate in the months leading up to the election, Fayose took up the role of an attack dog. His snarls initially looked like a desperate attempt at catching at straws, one that was bound to fizzle out with the end of the election. And it did look like that was the case as Fayose took a breather after his candidate lost the election. He even made a statement that sounded like a vague gesture of reconciliation to Buhari after he had been declared winner. But this was for a short while as his resentment ran deeper than his generousity of spirit. His reconciliatory tone must have been prompted by the sudden awareness that a President Buhari would wield immense power which he could deploy with the same reckless unconcern with which Fayose had attacked him. His reputation as a former military leader, if nothing else, must have been sufficient warning. But like the revamped rascals that are many a Nigerian politician, Fayose would soon go back to his vomit attacking Buhari from all sides.
Buhari himself invited some of the attacks to himself as he went about making a series of ill-advised decisions, especially in the appointment of his personal staff in a way that portrayed his administration as sectional. He either ignored comments that called his attention to some of these false steps or dismissed them brusquely. Buhari for a short while after his election indeed appeared deliberately disdainful of opposing views including those of members of the alliance that brought him into office. His determined and unbending pursuit of his own agenda and the manner those closest to him appeared to tiptoe around him, as if afraid to draw his ire, was all many Nigerians from the south needed to take him on. It was apparently this leeway Fayose needed to resume his attacks of Buhari.
Members of the PDP were cowed by the investigation of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the unearthing of massive corruption against many of them, and the prospect of more exposures forced many of them into frightened silence. Until his arrest for corrupt enrichment, Olisa Metuh effectively rose to the challenge of taking on the APC. But following his arraignment in January this year, the rank of the opposition party was left without an effective spokesperson. This was all the opportunity Ayo Fayose needed to move into his self-appointed role as opposition spokesman. During this brief spell his was the most vociferous voice against the APC even when most of his attacks were directed at Buhari or his office. Yet, he made critical interventions that neither the APC nor the Buhari administration could wave off perfunctorily. Quite a number of his criticisms were both so timely and on point that no objective reading could describe them as lacking in merit. One of his most effective outings in my view was during an appearance several weeks ago on Channels TV Seun Okinbaloye’s ‘Politics Today’. He spoke boldly and intelligently.
But Fayose in the last few months has so much deviated from what could be considered the important watchdog role he played during the absence of Metuh. He seems now to launch his attacks in the fashion of a common rabble-rouser that many took him for, and apparently for the visibility it gives him as the only notable person in the PDP that has consistently called out Buhari. He now enjoys the attention so much that he has cast himself in the role of an opposition leader. Not even if this was a parliamentary administration and he the leader of opposition could he be more resolute in his attack of Buhari. He has consistently pitched himself in the role of a Buhari opponent and obviously wants to be seen as the fearless underdog standing up to a bigger opponent. His latest attack is his letter to the Chinese embassy in Nigeria advising them against granting a loan to a Buhari just back from China on a business mission. Fayose really wants Buhari mad.
But much to his disappointment, it would seem, Buhari has wisely not been obliging. Unlike an Obasanjo that would have responded with a cutting broadside of his own. Buhari has so far maintained a dignified silence which ought to make a more reasonable person not out for mere histrionics to reconsider the timing and manner of his criticisms. Fayose would however rather continue to play to the gallery, making his attacks much in the character of the unprovoked outburst of a street urchin than the sober interrogation of the reflective opposition challenge it could have been. His constant badgering of Buhari makes one wonder what he is up to or if he has nothing better to do with his time in a season when his over-valourised but long-contested defeat of Kayode Fayemi is again under renewed charges of fraud.
With backlogs of unpaid salaries in the public service, with resident doctors embarking on strike, Ekiti needs Fayose’s attention more than ever. But he is too far gone in his grandstanding that is clearly, for him, an extension of the mindless populism that has seen him buying bananas on the streets from children who ought to be in school, bantering with artisans, munching booli (roasted plantain) in dinghy corners and leading a procession of okada riders on narrow roads. His criticism of Buhari may be his own way of preparing an alibi of a witch-hunt in the event he is one day called upon to account for his stewardship of Ekiti. Then he would claim it was his fearless attack of Buhari that has brought the law after him. He won’t be short of supporters though. But until then, Fayose should get on with the business of governing Ekiti, stop being a nuisance. And get a life!