By Akin Rotimi
His Excellency, Dr. John Olukayode Mofolorunsho Fayemi turned 54 recently. Without a doubt he is an Akanda – a person who according to Yoruba mythology is unique and a possessor of a special purpose in life.
A person whose destiny is linked to that of countless others, and who is imbued with special grace and qualities that help him/her in attaining greatness.
One of the distinct qualities of Akandas is that from a very young age, they display rare traits of self-awareness and intelligence, and are sometimes involved in supernatural occurrences that cause the elders to take notice and pay special attention to nurturing them.
This concept has parallels in other parts of the world. In ancient Israel, about the time of Jesus’ birth, events in the heavens conspired to tell the famed wise men from the east that a King had been born, causing them to diligently follow the stars till they arrived at the birthplace of Jesus to pay homage. Furthermore, it is recorded that Jesus as a child displayed such wisdom beyond His years and a huge sense of responsibility for the things of God, that it got Him in the cross-hairs of the religious authorities of the time.
In the same tradition, KayodeFayemi from a very young age showed exceptional intelligence and appreciation of the world around him. Born the last child of seven children into the Francis FaladeFayemi family of Isan-Ekiti during the penkelemesi years, he was reportedly introverted as a child, spending hours on end reading newspapers and other informational materials which were never in short supply in his house, as his father was at the time an information officer with the old Western Region’s government.
He was outstanding amongst his peers as a student of Christ’s School Ado-Ekiti. He not only excelled academically, he was also tops in extracurricular activities such as debates and quiz competitions. By the time he got to the University of Lagos, he was well grounded in his sense of purpose and mission in life, spending most of his days as an undergraduate participating in student unionism – leading protests and advocacies, and supporting liberation movements all over Africa.
Long before he became a regular fixture on Nigeria’s official delegation to annual editions of the United Nations General Assembly, KayodeFayemi had horned his talents in international diplomacy in ANUNSA – a student and youth association devoted to promoting the goals of the United Nations through its activities.
Following his B.A. in History from the University of Lagos, he went on to earn an MSc. in International Relations from the ObafemiAwolowo University, Ile-Ife, before proceeding to the United Kingdom to pursue a doctorate in War Studies from Kings College London. His time in London was defining as he got introduced to a greater theatre for participating in the causes close to his heart, becoming a leading figure in the struggle against military rule.
He is credited for establishing several platforms for the opposition in exile to marshal their positions, including the famous Radio Kudirat. It was during this time as a young post-graduate student in his twenties, in the course of the pro-democracy struggle of the 1990s side-by-side much older legends such as Wole Soyinka, the late Anthony Enahoro, e.t.c., that he would build an incredible network of friendships and alliances, earning the trust and respect of highly placed individuals, governments, think tanks, and multilateral agencies all over the world.
It was therefore no surprise that when he was to transition from civil society to politics, he was bold enough to aspire to the highest office in Ekiti state. Defying conventional wisdom to start out aspiring to lower offices, he contested the gubernatorial primaries in the now defunct Action Congress, emerging the unlikely flagbearer amongst 27 other aspirants, many of who decamped from the party in protest.
As an Akanda, this was to become a constant feature of his political trajectory – nothing he has attained politically so far has ever been handed to him without stiff opposition. It would take another three and a half years for his mandate to be validated through the courts, thus assuming office as Governor of Ekiti State on October 16, 2010.
As Governor, KayodeFayemi finally had the executive powers to put to practice all he had advocated, implementing a well thought out social-welfarist blueprint known as the Eight-Point agenda, which concentrated on Governance; Infrastructural Development; Modernizing Agriculture; Education and Human Capital Development; Health Care Services; Industrial Development; Tourism; and Gender Equality and Empowerment. His administration was widely adjudged to have performed creditably which was why the outcome of his first re- election bid came as a surprise to many.
The 2014 elections in Ekiti state was historic. It was to define who we were as a people, or better still redefine who we had become when faced with a choice between KayodeFayemi an Omoluabi who had done well beyond the limits of the resources available in the state on one hand, and the garrulous self-styled apostle of stomach infrastructure on the other.
That is how the fate of individuals – Akandas – are linked to that of peoples and nations. It was all part of KayodeFayemi’s destiny to go down that path, and experience the seeming momentary rejection of his people. But that was not the end of the story. He was to glean valuable lessons and re-strategise to regain the mandate. In the interregnum, he was appointed Minister of Mines and Steel Development by President MuhammaduBuhari, which was another case of story before glory.
But KayodeFayemi was not done with Ekiti state. Again, destiny beckoned, and he answered the call to run for re-election as Governor. This was not to be a stroll in the park, and those familiar with the man’s public service trajectory could see a familiar pattern of very heavy opposition before the glory that lay ahead. This time, KayodeFayemi had to contend with 35 other aspirants within the APC to earn the party’s ticket, before going on to win the general election.
The road to triumph in the re-election bid is a lesson in several human virtues such as perseverance, forgiveness, fortitude, and courage. More so, it is the ultimate fulfilment of this Akanda’s purpose, which goes beyond him as an individual but affects all Ekiti sons and daughters.
Today, his election slogan “Reclaiming the land; Restoring our Values”, has become the central philosophy of his administration – the rallying cry for Ekiti to return to the pristine values we were known for, which had been despoiled by vagabonds who exploited the naivety of the people in the previous election. KayodeFayemi’s re-election as Governor can therefore be seen as the people’s act of repentance from the mistake of 2014, and an affirmation that never again shall our electoral choices be determined by deceptive retail politics.
Several prophesies have been fulfilled in the life of this passionate patriot who sees public service as an extension of activism. A man of faith who takes his calling to politics and governance as seriously as he took his time of service as an altar boy growing up in Church. A man of courage, yet meek in spirit and deeply respectful to all. Sadly, this is often taken advantage of by some.
Nevertheless, as KayodeFayemi turns 54 today, as one of the leading trans -generational icons of values based leadership in Africa today, I am sure he would take time to reflect on what lies ahead, especially the urgent task he has often spoken about of actively empowering a new cadre of young leaders – a new breed that would break boundaries and bravely go beyond dallying along the borders of morality and political expediency that ethical leaders today are constrained to do in order to bring about change from within a depraved socio-political establishment.
KayodeFayemi, my Oga – AkandaEniyan – Ilufemiloye – loved by the masses; a detribalised nationalist with an enviable track record and an extensive network of friendships and alliances globally. Clearly, your best years are ahead. For you, it’s not just about personal ambitions, it is about God working in and through you to bring about a positive impact on a greater multitude.
Happy Birthday Sir.