“Silence can never be quoted.”—- A statement by the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, during a private meeting at his office.
I decided to use this phrase by the Honourable Minister as an epigraph not only because it was what triggered my desire to write this piece in the first place, but I also felt almost immediately these 5-words were uttered that it offered a significant window through which Dr. John Kayode Fayemi can be better understood as a politician who, ironically, feels at home with the “sound of silence” than being voluble which is the trademark of politicians not only in Nigeria but the world over. There’s also this feeling that it’s probably because of Fayemi’s knack for calmness in the face of unwarranted political onslaughts and propaganda that contributes to his being misunderstood. From this foregoing, I therefore thought it would be fitting to bring a statement uttered during a private conversation into the public domain with the hope that readers of this piece in particular and Nigerians in general may have a better understanding of the true essence of the man.
My meeting with Dr. Fayemi was not to pry anything out of him in order to find something to write about him, neither did it have anything to do with looking for information to launder about his present national assignment as a Minister of one of the key ministries of the Buhari administration that has been strategically positioned to drive national economic rebirth and growth since crude oil is inevitably on its way out.
The above statement was triggered by the question I had asked him after discussing the primary issue that brought me into his office, which was what he would do about what seems to me to be the new and insidious narrative that has begun to cast him in a bad light, a destructive narrative that started probably since he became the minister of the federal republic. It’s a narrative that now unsavourily describes him in such terms as a “sell out” and ascribes to him such reprehensible name calling as a ‘mini Akintola’ (a reference and a throwback to Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, the Premier of Western Region in the First Republic and Obafemi Awolowo’s trusted lieutenant who preferred a political alliance with the North in defiance of the counsel of the late sage, his political leader) of the Southwest.
While I agreed with him that silence may be the best answer under a given circumstance, I also quickly reminded the Honourable Minister that silence can also be misconstrued to mean acquiescence on the part of the accused or convey a feeling of I-do-not-care-what-anyone-thinks, both of which are capable of conveying the impression of guilt even when the accusations are nothing but blatant lies and negative insinuations that stands the truth on its head, however temporal.
One would have been unperturbed if this insidious and odious narrative that describes Fayemi in such pejorative terms as an ungrateful ingrate who revels in biting the fingers that fed him are issued from the camp of opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP). But for this nihilistic narrative to be emanating from within members of his political family in the All Progressives Congress (APC) particularly in the Southwest smacks of the most despicable low that some people would rather go in giving the dog a bad name in order to hang it to achieve their inordinate ambition for recognition and relevance within the same political party. And that’s why this unfortunate situation must be interrogated and addressed by well meaning progressives in the Southwest before it gets out of hand.
Perhaps the efforts to cast aspersions on Fayemi’s person probably commenced almost immediately after his invitation by Buhari to serve in his government, an invitation now believed not to have had the blessing of his political mentor, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu. These efforts gathered more momentum in the governorship election of Ondo State in which Fayemi played a major role as a consummate strategist who may have taken after Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu himself (his first boss under whom he was an apprentice and through whose source he undoubtedly came into political reckoning in the nation’s political landscape) that culminated into the electoral victory of Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) of All Progressives Congress (APC). One can then reasonably infer that the drive to cast aspersions on Fayemi by his political traducers was probably predicated on two main arguments; one of which was an assumption as far as I am concerned while the other was an undisputable fact that couldn’t have happened any other way.
The first argument that probably necessitated the unfortunate name calling by those who would rather fan the embers of discord for whatever reason(s) is that Fayemi is one of the Southwest leading lights in the Buhari administration who are now derisively referred to as the “Abuja Boys” and are perceived, for the most part, to be at loggerheads not only with the “Lion of Bourdillon,” but are also hand-in-glove with the Northern hawks to whittle down his political influence in the Southwest and across the nation.
As much as one can admit that this argument has gained enough traction most particularly in the Southwest where Asiwaju is still largely the region’s foremost and undisputed political leader, there’s no credible evidence to suggest that any serious ‘war’ is underway between the Jagaban and Fayemi and the “Abuja Boys.” And as long there’s no official or public statements from either Fayemi or the “Abuja Boys” on the one hand, and Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu on the other that the centre is no longer holding, it’s pointless to dignify what is at best an assumption, and at worst a mischief that serves no useful purpose for anyone with any commentary in this piece.
Fayemi was further pilloried for casting his strategic political skills behind Rotimi Akeredolu despite the controversial APC primaries that produced the senior lawyer as the party’s candidate, an outcome that infuriated the National Leader so much that he publicly called for the resignation of the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun. As if he did not see that filing behind his party after its primaries was bad enough, Fayemi was picked, and accepted, by the national leadership of the party to coordinate the Ondo election, thus becoming the face of the party’s national secretariat with which Asiwaju had crossed sword. As much as Fayemi’s key role in the recently concluded election in Ondo that culminated in the electoral victory for Akeredolu was a fact that cannot be disputed, it still borders on mischief that anyone would see anything wrong with Fayemi’s role in winning an election for a party in which he’s not only a major stakeholder, but also through which he became a minister of the Federal Republic.
It bears mentioning here that a rancorous seed of discord was inadvertently planted, ab initio, in the APC Southwest family when some of the region’s key players who are members of the inner caucus of Asiwaju’s political family supported other aspirants who were different from whom the Jagaban himself had endorsed prior to the party’s primaries. For instance, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the governor of the State of Osun supported Chief Olusola Oke all the way until the conclusion of the election on November 26th while Baba, Pa Bisi Akande covered Sen. Ajayi Boroffice’s back. It matters very little to these key leaders in the Southwest that the National Leader had publicly endorsed Chief Olusegun Abraham.
From the foregoing, one cannot but wonder why Fayemi was being blamed for working for the electoral victory of his party’s candidate.
Aside the fact that the national leadership of APC, if not also the presidency saw Fayemi as fitting enough to superintend the Ondo State election assignment having had the proven record as a consummate political strategist, it’s an height of political naiveté for anyone to think that Fayemi should not be interested and not be actively involved as to who becomes the next governor in a state that shares kinship and common boundaries with his own state in which he was its immediate past governor. Although the ignoble role that the Jonathan administration played in Fayemi’s defeat in his re-election bid is now known and well documented, the erstwhile governor (now a Minister) cannot—and should not—forget Governor Olusegun Mimiko’s perfidy in the Ekiti State election abracadabra.
I do not expect Fayemi to forget so soon how Mimiko it was who invited Opeyemi Bamidele (who was vehemently opposed to his re-election bid) to the Alagbaka Government House from where he was taken to Aso Rock for a meeting with Jonathan just to make sure that he never realised his ambition to be re-elected for a second term. Nothing exemplifies the throwing away of the baby with the birth water than the egregiousness of the October 2014 on the part of Opeyemi Bamidele. Thus, Fayemi became beleaguered on all fronts for no reason other than his audacity to ask for a second term even when his political enemies admitted that his first term had recorded remarkable achievements.
The APC primary that produced Akeredolu may not have been perfect, but any committed member in the hierarchy of the party couldn’t have done anything otherwise than to support the party’s candidate once the party took an official stance as to who its flag bearer should be. More importantly, anyone with the acute understanding of what a political party should be and its role in properly navigating the polity in a representative democracy cannot help but act in the way Fayemi acted by supporting his party in its quest for electoral victory during elections.
The Nigerian nation would move forward only when major actors subsume their egos and their narrow primordial interests for party supremacy. But the party must also not only play by the rules, but it must be seen to play by the rules of the game. Fayemi should be thanked for setting a good example and maintaining fidelity to his party, not to talk of his strategic role that helped in bringing Ondo State into the progressive column rather than being excoriated.
Perhaps what the people who coined the “Abuja Boys” moniker for a segment of our leading lights from the Southwest in the Buhari administration in which Kayode Fayemi and Babatunde Fashola seems to have been squarely placed with unjustifiable disdain is their failure, if not their inability to recognize the emergence of a New Left in the region’s dominant progressive ideological spectrum.
These “Abuja Boys” have established such noble and envious pedigrees in political leadership such that their collective trademark is that they’re relatively young, urbane, intellectual taskmasters whose overarching purpose in governance is probably their disdain for how things has been, and still are, and it would therefore be to their eternal collective delight if they can subvert the archaic but dominant political paradigms for the greatest number of Nigerians. Rather than being vilified, what should be our main concern in the Southwest is whether Fayemi and the rest of the so-called “Abuja Boys” would be able to find their match across the Niger to move the Nigerian nation towards the path of sustainable liberal democracy, as we’re beginning to find out to our chagrin that those of their contemporaries whom we thought are in the same intellectual and ideological pedestals with them from the arid regions have started to buckle under the weight of religion-propelled conservative politics of their own environment that has chained them down for so long, and by extension the entire Nigerian society. The “Abuja Boys” as exemplified by Fayemi and Fashola are our assets. They should be seen as adding feathers to our region’s political hat.
Their standing in the nation’s body politic should be encouraged, nurtured and emulated by up and coming leaders in their primary political constituent. It’s high time this “destructive pettiness” is promptly discarded.
A process for genuine reconciliations must be set up by our progressive Yoruba elders if there’re sufficient and reasonable reasons to suggest that a schism truly exists between our region’s political pathfinder and some of his lieutenants for the greater good of the Yoruba nation within the context of that time-tested Together Everybody Achieves More (T.E.A.M) spirit.
Femi Odere is a media practitioner and a member of All Progressives Congress (APC). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By By Femi Odere