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Watch out for Fayose

I hesitated between three possible titles before settling for the one here. “Fayose: The man and his politics” was one.  I decided against it because not many people can speak authoritatively about a leader and his politics. True, I have a better understanding of Fayose’s person and politics today than, say, in 2014, when he made his come-back bid as governor of Ekiti State and I stood resolutely against him. I was not a supporter and friend of Fayose and I did not hide it. Readers of this column will attest to that. His winning the election did not change anything; neither the persistent pleadings of Michael West, one of the “Bola Bolawole Boys” or “BB Boys” during my days as editor at The PUNCH newspapers. Mike would say, “Oga, also look at the other side of Fayose; the man has his good sides.”There are those who, even if you eulogise them in a full-page write-up but makea single statement critical of them, would tell you that, that single unfavourable statement ruined it all. And they would never forgive you. You have become their enemy. There is the other group that prefers to turn adversity into blessing; misfortune into fortune; and a foe into a friend. Fayose appears to me to belong in the latter category. Still, Peter Ayodele Fayose is such an enigma that I do not want to take the unnecessary risk of sounding authoritative about him or his politics. Besides, as a restless politician in the fiercest part of Nigeria’s political battle-field, he is still unravelling; in fact, he unravels daily.

“Fayose: The Donald Trump of Nigeria” appears futuristic and may, in fact, be too far-fetched to manyat the moment. Very few people gave the Republican Trump the chance of winning the primary of his party; he did. Not many thought he would run a good presidential race, least of all winning –he did. He was the unusual man who did the unusual, whipping bookmakers and standing conventional wisdom on its head. He was Bohemian and the ultimate Rebel. He was unconventional. His campaign “died” many times but resurrected again and again, waxing strong all the way. We have seen Trump and we know our own Fayose: there are too many convergences between both that need not detain us here. It is too early to say, however, whether Fayose will follow Trump’s lead. The objective conditions have always been there; only the subjective is now needed to catalyse and activate a Trump-like revolution in Nigeria in 2019. The Ekiti State governor last week celebrated his 56th birthday in an unusual way; his peers would have flown to a paradise island but Fayose celebrated in the streets of Ekiti. For others, it would have been an occasion to merry but Fayose chose to fast. Like Trump, Fayose’s messages resonate with the people. He also is charismatic and theatrical enough to cut the image of “a man of the people.”He has charm. In today’s Nigeria where opposition to the APC\Muhammadu Buhari administration is under stricture, his voice is the loudest and most potentagainst the powers-that-be.

Watch out for Fayose! I have seen that heis street-wise and has a deep sense of history. He is a man on a mission.I would have sworn he did not know a line of scriptures, but I found to my consternation thatFayose hardly speaks without veering into the bible, quoting and claiming God’s promises; and he never tires to return the glory of his political victories unto God. A man such as that is hard to fight. As 2018, the year that he will step down as governor draws nearer, Fayose appears to have set his gaze on higher grounds. The fireworks during his birthday reveal something. Fayose is now “President, Take Back Nigeria Movement.” That is fully loaded. Take back from whom? We have heard of “Occupy Nigeria” and how it forced the hands of a dithering political class to make then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan president through a so-called “doctrine of necessity.” We have also heard of “Bring Back Our Girls” and how its ceaseless advocacy gave the Presidency sleepless nights and troublesome days, leading to the limited success that has now been achieved in the rescue of the Chibokgirls. But for BBOG, Chibok and its girls would long have become a forgotten issue.

Watch out for Fayose! On the heels of“Occupy Nigeria” and “BBOG”, the “Take Back Nigeria Movement” is coming. I suspect it will be fashioned along the line of Donald Trump’s “Take Back America” and “Make America Great Again”. If it resonated well with the people in America; it will also be a huge success here. Tighten your seat belt! The issues to trash out are many, no thanks to a wobbling and fumbling Buhari\APC administration.So much hope was invested in Buhari\APC but the yield, so far, has been paltry. The major battle ground will be the economy. Before Buhari\APC, our economy was one of the best performers in the world. In the last one-and-half years, however, we have gone from positive growth to negative and are now in a recession. One of the practical effects of recession is a collapsed national currency. It exchanged N187 to the US$ last year but now hovers around N400 to the dollar. The effects on the escalating costs of goods and services are better imagined than felt. Just one example, though: A bag of imported rice that cost between N8000 and N10,000 last year now costs between N22,000 and N28,000. The national minimum wage is N18,000 and not everyone is even paying as much. Buhari\APC had promised to bring about parity in the Naira\US$ exchange rate! Fuel prices jumped from N87 per litre to N145 per litre in a government that said there was nothing called subsidy and that it would crash fuel prices! Rumours of another hike foul the air. The recession has led to the loss of jobs at an alarming rate. Crime rates have shot up and the time bomb that this situation portends had better been addressed earlier than later. Industries are relocating from Nigeria as a result of hostile operating environment. Buhari\APC have found it hard to add to the megawatts of electricity generated or sustain the momentum they met on ground. Companies are divesting from the country and new Foreign Direct Investment is rare to come by. Under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the country paid humongous amount in an effort to exit the debt trap. Now Buhari\APC want to take our country and people back into a worse indebtedness. The administration is going after a loan of US$30billion, more than our entire foreign reserves!They promised diversification but almost two years on the road, there is nothing on ground to show for it.Worse is that falling crude oil prices has negatively affected our foreign exchange earnings while the intemperate, high-handed, and uneven politics of the Buhari administration has thrown the oil-producing Niger Delta into turmoil again, shutting in a sizeable quantity of crude oil production. Principally as a result of falling crude oil prices and the restiveness of the Niger Delta, funds available to the three tiers of government have dwindled drastically. Thirty-three states of the federation owe their workers and pensioners months of salary and pension arrears. Subventions to agencies have suffered; so also the provision of infrastructural amenities called the dividends of democracy.

Other sore thumbs include the rolling back of the carpet of credible elections; INEC is not independent again. A certain “powerful” woman in INEC is said to breathe down the necks of everyone. The much- advertised war against corruption will, no doubt, come up for scrutiny. It is too one-sided for comfort. The scantily-concealed assault on the Judiciary; culminating in the insulting “acting” appointment of the new Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen; the needless war in the Niger Delta and against resurgent Biafra, in regions that had been peaceful before, are causes for worry. With the exit of Obasanjo, an air of freedom began to blow across the country. This “wind of change” is at risk today. A culture of impunity and intolerance is creeping in on Nigerians; the DSS and EFCC beingwilling tools in thehands of persons bent on taking the country back to those ignoble and despicable years of military dictatorship.

Before Independence in 1960, the National Question had been a vexed issue that attracted the attention and consumed the energies of the founding fathers of the nation. How to mesh the hundreds of ethnic nationalities and forge out of the melting pot a vibrant and prosperous nation was herculean and daunting. In the wisdom of our forefathers, true federalism was the most assured vehicle for forging unity while at the same time preserving and advancing the diversity of the various nationalities, hence the adoption of the statement “unity in diversity”. The incursion of the military into our body-politic, however, destroyed that and imposed, instead, a “Big Brother” Central government that wields enormous powers while also maintaining a vice-like grip on the country’s resources. Buhari\APC through wilful acts of commission have further accentuated ethnic acrimony in the land. The lop-sidedness of their appointments in favour of one section of the country to the mindless marginalization of the other rankles. At no other time in the history of this country had any administration been this divisive, sectarian, sectional, bigoted, insensitive, and discriminatory or had a president been so reckless as to sectionalise the country into “us” and “they”. It is to the grotesque partisanship of Buhari\APC that we owe the resurgence of ethnic agitation and resource-control demands and violence in the South-South and South-East.

Like Trump flogged Hillary Clinton with one issue after another, there are a million and one issues with which Buhari\APC can be flogged into a stupor in 2019. We only need a Donald Trump to throw his hat into the ring. Watch out for Fayose!