“Leadership is not a person or a position. It is a complex moral relationship between people based on trust, obligation, commitment, emotion, and a shared vision of the good,” – Joanne B. Ciulla
Last Wednesday, Ekiti State governor, Dr John Kayode Fayemi, was unanimously elected the chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF).
It was one election totally devoid of the intrigues and theatrics of the past. Kaduna State governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, long touted as Fayemi’s main challenger, was the one that nominated the former minister, supported by the Delta State governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okonwa of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Sokoto State governor, Malam Aminu Tambuwal of the PDP emerged the deputy chairman.
Expectedly, Fayemi has pledged to be irrevocably pan-Nigerian in his handling of issues within the forum. He vowed to build on the commitment of his predecessors by ensuring that the states, as federating units, do have a strong partnership with the Federal Government. He also promised that the states would be strengthened to get them more dedicated to the citizens and beneficial to the country.
“We promise our colleagues that we will step into the big shoes that Governor Yari will be leaving behind and build on the success story of this forum right from Governor Abdulahi Adamu through Governor Victor Attah, Lucky Igbinedion, Bukola Saraki and Governor Rotimi Amaechi before Governor Yari who so selflessly served this forum in the last four years,” Fayemi asserted.
In truth, not a few people would have been left astounded at the governor’s soaring public profile in the past few years. Just five years ago, many had thought that the cerebral development expert with a PhD in War Studies had descended into a permanent political abyss. In June 2014, his second term ambition had suffered a technical knockout after Ayodele Fayose of the PDP was declared winner of the governorship election of that year. Fayemi thereafter became an object for perennial vilification by several players in the new administration. He was continually pilloried for allegedly committing a myriad of iniquities while he held sway as governor between October 2010 and October 2014.
Even though Fayemi had always insisted on his innocence, his demonization persisted all through his tenure as Minister of Mines and Steel Development.
When Fayemi indicated interest in running for the Ekiti State governorship again last year, the antagonism mounted against him was massive and potent. At the primary of the All Progressives Congress in Ado-Ekiti, about 30 of the 33 aspirants were united against Fayemi. When his victory became obvious, a truckload of thugs suddenly truncated the process. And when he won the primary, against all odds, his predecessor, Mr Segun Oni, dragged the former minister to court, insisting that Fayemi was not qualified to contest the primary in the first place.
Thus Fayemi won the governorship polls last July, but that has not won him the war. The legal battle between the governor and his main opponent, Prof Olusola Eleka of the PDP continued up to the Supreme Court, which on Friday upheld the ruling of the election tribunal and the Court of Appeal that declared Fayemi winner.
But all these momentary distractions should not prevent Fayemi from making a success of his new assignment. It is believed that at these critical times, when a number of economic and security challenges are bedevilling Nigeria, and issues between the Federal Government and the states, including financial autonomy for local governments, demand urgent constitutional interpretations, a temperate man is needed to coordinate the governors. Many will concur that Fayemi eminently fits the bill.
Since he assumed power in Ekiti, the scholar from Isan-Ekiti has brought considerable tranquillity to the state.
Unlike his predecessor who is known more for his daily diatribes against President Muhammadu Buhari than for his developmental interventions while he ruled, Fayemi has been consistent in the payment of civil servants and pensioners, and the many histrionics around the Government House in Ado-Ekiti seem to have evaporated. Moribund industries are springing up, and infrastructural is being rebuilt.
For him to have a smooth sail as NGF chairman, Fayemi has been advised against donning the partisan toga in matters affecting his fellow governors. In spite of his perceived deep affinity with President Buhari, he has been counselled to stick with his colleagues whenever issues between the Federal Government and the states are on the front burner. He should ensure that the forum boosts the promotion of public policy discussions, inclusive governance, sustainable development and collaboration between the governors and the Nigerian society.
Born in 1965 in Ibadan, Fayemi was educated at the popular Christ’s School, Ado-Ekiti. He holds degrees in History, Politics and International Relations from the Universities of Lagos and Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in Nigeria. His doctorate in War Studies was obtained from the King’s College, University of London, England, where he specialised in civil-military relations.