Ekiti State governor Ayo Fayose was a guest on “Politics Today” on Channels TV yesterday and it turned into a case study in the elevation of motor park touts to the highest levels of governance in Nigeria.
This wasn’t really an interview. It was more like a shouting contest in a beer parlour. Fayose was loud, aggressive, combative, kept interrupting Seun Okinbaloye, the interviewer, and unloaded a pile of manure that viewers would have to dig through to find any nuggets of wisdom. At one point, the governor seemed to forget where he was and started speaking Yoruba. It was like the old grandfather of “amala politics” Lamidu Adedibu used to flow.
Watch the encounter below:
He claimed that the likes of Bode George were too old to lead his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and they should “take the back stage” because people are “tired of seeing the same faces”. You know Nigeria is in trouble when age is the only thing that concerns Fayose about Bode George, who was found guilty of inflating contracts worth 84bn naira ($421.6m) when he was Chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority.
This type of talk resonates in Nigeria with all the noise about giving “youth” a chance. But, as typical with many ready-made Nigerian “solutions”, it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. While there should be no room for tried and failed old stagers like Bode George and co, youth does not by itself, mean better. After all, the same President Muhammadu Buhari, that Fayose, later in the interview condemned his rule as a military dictator in the 1980s, was just 41 when he became Head of State then. His relative youth then didn’t stop him from being a disaster.
Incidentally, Fayose referred to himself as a “young man”. This is not quite accurate. He will be 56 in November and he was 23 when Buhari came to power in 1983. Fayose was a young man then, now he is well into middle age and just a few years short of pensionable age. Maybe he thinks wearing a polo shirt makes him a “young man”.
Fayose claimed that previous president Goodluck Jonathan “did well”. He failed to tell his viewers what Jonathan did well.
The governor then said he stood by the controversial PDP Chairman Ali Modu Sheriff and that linking Sheriff to Boko Haram were lies from “the pits of hell”. Sheriff has long faced allegations that he helped arm and fund the militants as a tool for fighting (s)elections and intimidating opponents. Fayose preferred to dismiss those allegations and was willing to work for Sheriff. He rather unconvincingly dismissed claims that he was positioning himself to be Sheriff’s running mate when the former Borno State governor runs for the presidency.
Fayose made more sense when he attacked the current president. He said the same reasons for Buhari’s overthrow in the mid 1980s were being witnessed in Nigeria now. He described the current government as “packaging, packaging, packaging, lie, lie, lie”. He also called them a “government of propaganda” and made a good point on the PDP’s chances of winning the presidency in 2019 depend on “what the party in government fails to do”.
Right now, the country is suffering and “at its lowest ebb” due to fuel scarcity, the exchange rate affecting business, the failure of the ruling party to keep their promises, the menace of herdsmen, etc.
Fayose acknowledged that progress had been made in the fight against Boko Haram, but said this had been undermined by the security threat posed by herdsmen. He suggested that “some people are behind them” and that the violence from herdsmen could be a “strategy for 2019”. He also wondered why no owners of cows had been arrested.
The Ekiti governor admitted he owed state employees four months salary arrears. This is a severe indictment on his own abilities as a governor. He blamed this failure on his predecessor’s borrowing, which is a bit hypocritical of him because he continues to criticise the Buhari government for blaming all Nigeria’s current woes on the previous government.
This interview demonstrated why the likes of Fayose do well in Nigeria. He is prepared to make more noise than the next man, he will say it in a very uncomplicated way, with the mannerisms that ordinary folk can relate to, but he is not bothered in the slightest about intellectual rigour or whether what he is saying makes much sense.