Where Do We Go From Here? – Travails Of A Returning Ekiti Diaspora

November 22, 2018 Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , POLITICS

 

By

Durodola Tosin

 

 

“This revision of history will not stand. We shall not tone this down. You want us to turn blind eyes towards the devastating conditions that forced us into exile? Never! It is our duty as progressives to let Ekiti people know the true state of things; poor state of infrastructure, socio-economic insecurities, lack of basic amenities and distortion of values. What happened in the last four years is part of our past that still haunts the present. The tragedies caused by the era of demagoguery and crass opportunism under the previous administration shall be uncovered. We will not bury anything. We will talk about it and we shall fix it”Tosin Durodola.

 

 

I believe that many people who relocated away from Ekiti between 2015 and 2017 would agree with me that, whether or not we were directly affected by the travails at home, they negatively affected our exquisite hopes that sanity would someday return to our state of origin. Worse still, every time depressing reports came from home, it was difficult to evade a certain sense of guilt about the fate of those we left behind. Rise in poverty and despair, hostile political climate, poor state of infrastructure and working conditions led to our dispersion to neighbouring states. But while we were not directly liable for those sheer displays of social and political misconduct by which the previous administration denied our people good governance, enabling environment, knowledge economy, social investments and development, we could not help feeling that in fleeing our state we left our relatives and friends to their devices in increasingly unbearable circumstances. No doubt that some among us lost hope, expunged all memories and links to the homeland for a new life. But those of us that remained optimistic and later returned for a collective rescue mission in the last election, need to re-examine the events that forced us into exile, and see what we can do to avoid another homeland quarrel that can lead to a permanent dispersion.

 

Compartmentalizing time in order to engage with specific historical epochs and how they shaped our present socio-political climate, this paper turns to Ayo Fayose’s sardonic and vicious entrance and re-entrance into Ekiti politics, in order to explore the ripple effects and exilic implications of the state of neglect of cherished values, distinct culture and knowledge economy in Ekiti State. My exilic experience calls for a total reflection on the conduct of affairs in Ekiti by Ayo Fayose who twice plunged this state into abject poverty, economic frustration, jaundiced perspective of democracy and citizens’ apathy with the democratic process.

 

A few decades ago, I could pride myself in the distinct culture and progressive traditions that set Ekiti apart from other societies. Ekiti was known for its Omoluabi values, rich culture and inimitable intellectuals. The socio-cultural and political values entrenched in her progressive traditions became the focal point for subsequent social and political developments. They were also adopted to prevent the issue of dictatorial, tyrannical and selfish rule by leaders. Power traditionally was not personalised, in Ekitiland, political power was regarded as sacred if not mystical. Power was conceived essential in non-material terms. It symbolised the unity of the people and was held in thrust. The ruler was not regarded by the people as a person who can impose rule on them but the anchor of political relations – a symbol of unity and the embodiment of essential values.

 

Unfortunately, Ayo Fayose’s entrance into Ekiti politics in 2003 truncated the socio-political norms and values that were predominant in the state. Like the old Oyo Empire, it only took the inordinate ambition and recklessness of two people – Aare Ona Kakanfo and Bashorun Gaha to speed up the collapse of the largest empire in the history of West Africa. Fayose’s thirst for power resulted in the introduction of thuggery and hooliganism as a new socio-political order in Ekiti. To Fayose, power is personalised and should not be held in thrust. Hence, the bond of unity that once existed between the ruler and the people ceased.

 

During Fayose’s first term, elections were not genuine but mere camouflage to extend power. Free and fair elections were inconsequential in the quest to attain and sustain power. To him, elections meant war; battles that must be fought by all means. Consequently, hooliganism and thuggery became rampant in the democratic enterprise. Through unholy methods, oppositions were intimidated while election results were manipulated. Thugs and bandits became tools in the hand of voracious politicians as they battle to secure power. In a democratic society, Fayose is a villain, an unprincipled politician, kleptomaniac and crass opportunist. The rule of law is eccentric to him and strong oppositions are nightmares to his political longevity. Since he conceived power as nothing but a tool, he wielded it against the principles of governance and the ideals of democracy.

 

The tales of the 2004 LGA election still linger in the minds of Ekiti people. It was the year Fayose’s gangsterism and banditry reached its climax. His detest for healthy politicking and strong oppositions influenced him to mobilise his footsoldiers and mobile policemen to intimidate oppositions and complement his rigging plans. Prior to the Election Day, soldiers under the directives of the “petty tyrant” invaded the home of Ex-Governor Adeyinka Adebayo in Iyin-Ekiti and placed Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Chief Olusegun Osoba and Otunba Niyi Adebayo under arrest with restricted movement in and out of the house. As if this was not enough, Fayose allegedly marched to the polling units in broad day light, to disperse the electorates who were determined to vote despite the heavy presence of the military. With the aid of armed thugs and bandits, ballot boxes were destroyed while agents of political parties that resisted were beaten. (Source: All Africa & Vanguard).

 

This anti-democratic conduct set the tone for electoral malpractice and political intolerance in Ekiti state. Ekiti that once saw the duties of citizens as above ritualistic and humanistic level began to fade away. Rights and duties were no longer perceived in communal terms but in personal terms. By the summer of 2005, Ekiti State was purged of its identity; norms and values that once existed declined while her external image became a negative one. With the support of Political warlords, thugs and cultists embarked on rampage, violence, murder and assassination.

 

The death of Tunde Omojola, a Netherlands-based Nigerian on May 28, 2005 while allegedly being beaten by Mr. Fayose and his thugs remains an unforgettable tale. According to various news outlets including Sahara Reporters, Mr. Fayose led a group of political thugs to Ido-Ekiti in an attempt to rig council elections in the city. The 31-year old Omojola, who was visiting home to prepare for his wedding billed for November 2005, accosted Fayose when the governor personally seized ballot boxes from the polling booth. Mr. Omojola who was embarrassed by Fayose’s action expressed dismay that the governor was participating in election rigging. Fayose, who had known Omojola in Ibadan, capital of Oyo State, was enraged that the brilliant young man dared to question his shameful act. Then, under Fayose’s watch, his army of thugs wrestled the young man to the ground and beat him to a coma. A bank manager, Mr. Tunde Bakare, wanted to take the comatose Omojola to a hospital, but his effort drew the anger of the governor, Fayose and his untiring thugs allegedly pounced on the banker and broke one of his legs. A few hours later, Tunde Omojola was confirmed dead at the Federal Medical Centre, Ido-Ekiti. (Source: Sahara Reporters, New York).

 

As if to reward Fayose for his brutality against Ekiti indigenes, former President Olusegun Obasanjo openly adopted Mr. Fayose as his “political son” during a state visit to Ekiti. He later defied the report presented by the State Security Service (SSS) which indicted Fayose for murder and operating a killer squad to appoint him as the head of PDP presidential candidate search committee. Fayose ruled Ekiti fiercely to suppress the voice of the people. Since he enjoyed immunity and backing of the presidency, he purged the state of democratic norms and progressive ideas. He fought those who opposed him and intimidated perceived threats to his political ambition. While Femi Falana and Chief Afe Babalola lived to tell the tales, Ayo Daramola was not lucky. The controversial death of this man was the height of an unending war against intellectuals between 2003 and 2006 in Ekiti State.

 

Since Fayose is unintelligent and vacuous, he easily gets intimidated by cerebrals and intellectuals that have proven themselves at the biggest stage. Due to his low self-esteem and ironic egotism, he tagged successful academics and professionals as enemies and intimidated them. Unfortunately, Ayo Daramola fell into this category. He was not part of the crowd that wanted the job of Fayose, the governor of Ekiti in 2007. Yet, he was sort after, begged and wooed into the political race by his admirers. While Fayose was increasing the yoke of poverty, Daramola was committed to providing essential services which addressed the issues of poverty affecting the locals in Ekiti. His unprecedented achievements as the General Manager of the Ekiti State/World Bank joint venture – Ekiti Poverty Reduction Agency (EPRA) endeared him to the locals. The more Daramola performed diligently and credibly on his assignment, the more his cultlike followership increased but also his hatred by the regressive. To the grassroots, Daramola was the de-facto governor while Fayose was the de-jure governor. Since Daramola was incorruptible and an embodiment of the “omoluabi” values, it was unsurprising that he suffered persecution and intimidation till he was controversially assassinated on August 14, 2006.

 

Though Fayose was exonerated of the allegations linking him to the crime, his suspected involvement in the murder of the gubernatorial rival, Dr. Ayo Daramola, in the night of August 14, 2006 almost sent Ekiti into anarchy. The locals, who saw Daramola as an alternative to the dispensation of tyranny and dictatorship chaired by Fayose, went on rampage and destroyed properties of PDP leaders in the town. They saw the murder of Daramola as the climax of madness and recklessness by a regressive government. To them, their benefactor and messiah had been murdered and the hope for a progressive future was dim. The violence and riots that greeted Ekiti fuelled the calls for Fayose’s impeachment in late 2006. (Source: Arabian Journal of Business and Management Review).

 

By the time Fayose was impeached in 2006, Ekiti had become a laughing stock while the socio-political values had ceased to exist. Violence and thuggery had become the new order. The populace started perceiving rights as privileges. However, the remaining guardians of the “Omoluabi” values rallied the locals to embark on a collective rescue mission to release Ekiti from the grip of poverty and violence. It was a long journey spearheaded by Dr. Kayode Fayemi whose mission in public life centres on transforming the material conditions of the people and also revolves around three imperatives; “breaking the yoke of ignorance keeping Ekiti people down; liberating them from ill-health and other limitations that restrains them from achieving their potentials. While the third one is breaking the stranglehold of poverty which keeps people from living full creative lives.” In practical and policy terms, this for him has always meant prioritising social investments in education, agriculture, healthcare and other social interventions that reduce the cost of living, while raising the quality of life. This was why on assumption of office on October 16, 2010, He immediately assembled a competent team and aggressively pursued the achievement of these objectives.

 

However, the second coming of Ayo Fayose was not without controversy. Since he personalised power and conceive elections to be nothing but war, he approached the 2014 election with the most shocking methods ever witnessed in Ekiti since 2004. The tales of how Ekiti 2014 election was systematically rigged cannot be easily forgotten by the entire populace. The period the Federal Government under the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan massively deployed soldiers to unlawfully arrest and intimidate supporters of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Ekiti State. The voice of the masses was suppressed and through intimidation and victimization, the election result was manipulated. Thanks to Sergeant Koli, the tape of months of conversations and planning by Fayose, Obanikoro and others was leaked to the whole world. While the soldiers involved in this act have been sacked, Dansuki is currently facing charges of diversion and corruption in court, and the EFCC recently secured a court order to freeze billions of naira that was diverted from the National Security’s account to fund the 2014 Ekiti Gubernatorial election. However, like they say, the rest is history.

 

On assumption of office, Fayose distorted the socio-political values in Ekiti through his demeaning conception of “Stomach Infrastructure”. To him, the only way to emaciate the people was to starve them and make them beg for resources. He ultimately turned rights into privileges. He impoverished his subjects, manipulated and financially induced them. Within three years in office, Fayose turned many Ekiti locals into scavengers and hungry buffoons. He made them thirst and beg for resources that was exclusively their rights. On a single line, able men and women queue to collect 1kg of rice and snacks occasionally. Like the dogs scramble for the leftover in the rich’s plate, the downtrodden populace scavenge for economic survival. Since they barely enjoyed dividends of democracy under his government, their perception of the whole democratic process has become cynical.

 

The sense of entitlement amongst some of the youths at home is alarming, debasing and unacceptable. The situation has worsened to the point that even children in rural areas are not left behind. It was sad to watch two toddlers, perhaps between the age of 5 and 6, chant “e ju le” (meaning; Throw money for us) as my team toured some towns in Ekiti in September 2018. In a decade what will become of these children? What will become of those youths who believe that public office holders perform only when they dole out envelopes, share money on the street, buy bole and roast corns at junctions? The sheer exhibition of unprincipled behaviours by these children shows how our once revered values have been distorted and how the older generations have failed to live up to their responsibilities. But can we blame them? Disgraceful incidence like this can only manifest in a state where unprincipled government, crass opportunists and charlatans were at the corridor of power for four years. In a society where able-bodied adults live below poverty line and young graduates remain unemployed, they will invariably develop a jaundiced perspective of democracy and its processes. In summary, economic frustration typically breeds citizens’ apathy/aversion with the democratic process.

 

The ultimate goal of democracy should be the optimal use of accessible human resources for the overall development of the society. Instead, Fayose’s brutality, premeditated ignorance and naivety on governance caused untold hardship, abject poverty, and rise in unemployment in the state. His government cancelled the social security scheme that cushioned poverty and provided monthly allowance for 25,000 elderly and 10,000 youths in Ekiti. His government did not only sack over 800 youths employed under Ekiti State Transport Management Agency (EKSTMA), about 1000 Youths trained and employed by Dr. Fayemi under the Youth-in-Commercial Agriculture Development (YCAD) were dismissed. (Source: Tuck Magazine).

 

Despite receiving bailouts and refunds, he owed civil servants and teachers many months of salaries while gratuities and pensions were left unpaid. Scholarships and bursaries that gave young intellectuals and brilliant minds resources to afford tertiary education were cancelled by the state government. For the first time, free primary and secondary education was abolished and taxation was introduced for all students in Ekiti state. Apparently unperturbed with this vicious act, Fayose’s government denied Tertiary institutions subventions and consequently, school fees skyrocketed and the less privileged students dropped-out from school. In Debt Management Office’s bulletin, it disclosed that he had another application of N25 billion in 2017. It is dreadful and inhuman for Mr. Fayose to borrow a total sum of N120 billion (domestic loan) between 2014 and 2018 with no socio-economic impact in the state. The number of economically displaced persons in Ekiti rose, while the democratic order breathed laboriously due to the economic burden.

 

Incongruously, the campaign of the former Governor, Mr. Ayo Fayose was centered on continuity? Continuity of what? Rise in poverty and despair? Unemployment and crass opportunism? Oppression and dehumanizing circumstances? Economic and social insecurity? Reduction in agricultural productivity? NEVER! Ekiti people understood what was at stake and collectively halted his continuity agenda on July 14. It was a decision that moved beyond individual agendas. It was devoid of self-aggrandizement and crass opportunism. It was a collective mission to revive the socio-cultural values, pride and knowledge economy of the state. They showed concern for the future of the state and the greatness that beckons under the right leadership. The electorates’ decision has restored the hopes and prospects of socio-economic revival in Ekiti State. (Source: Tuck Magazine).

 

Now what? Where do we go from here? The designation of the present Ekiti as a “site of neglect” is evident in many ways across the state, but it is perhaps best validated in the tragic surge of displaced persons in the last four years and the devastating conditions the previous administration left the state. Against this backdrop, this paper calls for nothing short of an ethical change in our nostalgic feelings and survivalist cosmopolitanism. For those of us in the academic sector, this will mean that we retreat a little from our arm chair criticisms and pen collections that may have earned us media visibility and plaudits but that have proved woefully incapable of creating the atmosphere for good conduct of affairs in Ekiti State and Nigeria. In my more recent study of the political history of this state and Nigeria, I have taken a close look at the pseudocrats and demagogues we have grown so used to celebrating that we are unaware to what extent they have woven themselves into systems of political engineering that are responsible for much of the instability that plagues us today.

 

In my own reflections of exile, I have dared to suggest that we move away from the complaints centre and participate in governance process, to find cure to those cancers that have become part of our political canon and that might be the template of political conduct by future leaders. However, even if we cannot directly influence the conduct of affairs in Ekiti State and Nigeria, we need to start developing the kind of initiatives and advocacy that may not always have been part of the rules of our civil engagement but that may help lay the foundations for a morally responsible order of existence in the future. We should begin to nurture through education, training, mentorship, grassroots empowerments and engagement, a new generation of leaders who will not baulk from challenging conventional knowledge, the way their predecessors were seldom inclined to do.

 

The problems we all face, whether we are returning diasporas reflecting on the travails that forced us into exile or downtrodden populace on whom the cost of our leaders’ whims rests far less easily, are too real for us to pretend that non-participation in politics and governance process have no effect on our present condition. This does not mean we should all aspire for public offices. It only means that, by being active in politics we can strongly participate in electioneering process, policy formulation, and ensure transparency, accountability and responsive administration from public office holders. This will help us understand existing realities, sustain gains and leverage on structures that are capable of solving socio-economic problems confronting this state.

 

I began these reflections by lamenting the conditions that forced many of us to leave Ekiti State and seek refuge in neighbouring states and elsewhere outside Nigeria. But I really should acknowledge that it is precisely this condition of exile that has enabled me to see the last few years in a broader perspective, especially in terms of appreciating the essence of participation in elections and governance process. I believe I can say, with some degree of certainty that many elites and scholars in a country like Nigeria rarely participate in local politics or engage in grassroots mobilization for good governance. The consequence of this apathy is the periodic enthronement of demagogues and political brigandage as elected officials.

 

The point I am urging here in conclusion, is that, however unbearable the conditions might have been for returning Diasporas or stay-at-homes, we cannot justly ignore the political issues that breed such frustrations. If we can only recognize that there has been something fundamentally wrong in the conduct of affairs in Ekiti in the last four years, we should commit our intellectual and other energies to an agenda of restitution. It is not enough to write articles and publish journals or even tweet and trend on social media. Nor is it enough for the diasporic organizations to make periodic summits and exchange resources with the homeland. We need to go further by building synergy, actively lending our support to initiatives undertaken, at various levels including the grassroots, whether by the Federal government or State government or by NGOs or community organizations, to hold our leaders down to their obligations to create a healthy climate and enabling environment for people and professions in Nigeria, and through active participation in electioneering process, ensure that charlatans, kleptomaniacs, crass opportunists and political brigandage are never at the corridor of power.

 

If we continue to pretend it is not our business that our homeland lacks infrastructure and basic amenities; that some public office holders are not responsible, accountable and responsive to the people; that corrupt individuals aspire for public office without restrictions; that public funds are embezzled and perpetrators are allowed to move about without prosecution; that the sense of entitlement of many youths is at its climax and the jaundiced perspective of democratic process is increasing; that demagoguery, that cheap and hallow populism manifests itself in various dramatic ways; –if we as returning diasporas and stay-at-homes let these gross misconducts pass without loudly challenging them, then what is the real goal of our interest in Ekiti? Perhaps we are waiting for another “Fayose” to cause this state to self-destruct before we leave that fence and take a stand?

 

It will be clear, from the above reflections, that I am the kind of exile Senayon Olaoluwa (Ph.D) recently described as a nostalgic diaspora forced into exile against his own wish and existing with the guilt about the fate of those I left behind and many things left unattended to at home. The great mystery inflicted by Fayose’s crass opportunism should not be left to the new Governor – Dr. Kayode Fayemi to solve alone. Whether we are Diasporas or stay-at-homes, if we are not part of the solution, we are clearly part of the problem.

 

 

 

 

Durodola Tosin

Tosin Durodola is the Editor-in-Chief of Core Magazine Africa and LJCMA.

He is a former Broadcast Journalist at the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Benin Zonal Network Centre. A former News Correspondent for Bloomshire Media Nigeria. A former Director of Communications, Centre for Media Integration and Social Development (CEMISIOD). He is the Lead editor for IAMBNP Foundation.

He has written and published over 20 research essays on African history, politics, foreign policy and international relations in National and International periodicals. He is currently writing a book on “Nigeria and the UN Security Council: A Critical Analysis of her Quest for a Permanent seat”.

He holds a Bachelors degree in History and International Studies from Bowen University. He is a Masters candidate of Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the University of Ibadan.

Contact: oluwatosinduro@gmail.com

 

 

References

 

 

1 – Safran , W., 1991 . Diasporas in modern societies: Myths of homeland and return. Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies, 1 (1).

2 – Senayon, S.O., 2017. Uneasy double attachment: Homeland and exile in Olu Oguibe’s A gathering fear. Journal of Literary Studies 33(2).

3 – Quayson, A and Daswani, G. (eds), 2013. A companion to diaspora and transnationalism,” Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

4 – Senayon, S.O., 2015. Travel gone awry: Cosmopolitan love and female ordeals in Games women play (2005). Journal of Film and Video 67(2).

5 – Okpewho, I., 2006. Home, exile, and the space in between. Research in African Literatures 37(2).

6 – Senayon, S.O., 2009. Where do we go from here? Niger delta, crumbling urbanscape and migration in Tanure Ojaide’s When it no longer matters where you live. Nordic Journal of African Studies 18(2).

7 – AllAfrica.com. Nigeria: Armed soldiers arrest Gov Tinubu, Osoba, Adebayo <https://allafrica.com/stories/200404050687.html>

8 – Sahara Reporters, New York. Fayose to face trial for murder, <https://saharareporters.com/2007/12/20/fayose-face-trial-murder>

9 – Durodola, T.S, 2018. The rise and fall of Ekiti agrarian revolution. <tuckmagazine.com/2018/07/10/rise-fall-ekiti-agrarian-revolution/>

10 – Debt Management Office, <https://www.dmo.gov.ng/debt-profile/sub-national-debts/2476-states-and-the-fct-domestic-debt-stock-as-at-december-31-2017/file>

11 – Leadership Newspapers. Fayemi signs order abolishing levies, dues in school. <https://leadership.ng/2018/10/25/fayemi-signs-order-abolishing-levies-dues-in-schools>

12 – Durodola, T.S, 2018. The future of Ekiti and the greatness that beckons under the Fayemi. <https://tuckmagazine.com/2018/08/06/future-ekiti-state-under-fayemi/>

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