By Jerome-Mario Utomi
It is in the public domain that the members of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, recently, endorsed the 2023 presidential ambition of Dr Kayode Fayemi, despite that he has not openly declared his intention for the top seat.
Speaker of the House, Mr Funminiyi Afuye, who spoke on behalf of the 26-member Assembly, gave the endorsement verdict at the Assembly Complex while receiving a group under the auspices ‘Our Belief Project’.
Expectedly, the resolutions by the lawmakers coupled with similar positions in the past have elicited reactions.
To many, the development did not come as a surprise as the interest subjects take in their leader is not in absolute terms predicated on the leader’s physical and intellectual abilities; but, rather in what he can add to their lots in life. ”Feyemi, in their objective estimation has done well as a Governor. He placed the economic interest of the governed at heart and, therefore, should be entrusted with a higher office.
For others, considering the timing, the development came with a bit of surprise as such early and open support is capable of getting a leader that is not firm derailed.
Having acknowledged that fact, they, however, argued that the early endorsement is in line with, and remains a strategic plan of action for maximizing one’s strength against the forces at work in any given environment.
Indeed, without minding the fact that Fayemi’s endorsement came at a time when the whole system in the country appears dysfunctional, the latest support/approval in the opinion of this piece says something different.
More than anything else, it signifies that the race for the 2023 general election has graduated from mere speculation to reality. And so, shall the responsibility before Nigerians morph from peripheral conversations/debates to asking solution-oriented questions.
Fundamentally, before we elect a president that will arrest the drifting situation and reform the system, we must, first of all, know what the overriding goals of reform are all about?
Other questions include but not limited to; who will be the most capable hand to pilot such responsibility? Will Kayode Fayemi be in this bracket if elected president? Can he manage/handle the spiralling security challenges in the country? Will he initiate, implement or allow individuals; groups, communities and states to have a right in decision-making, planning and implementation of programs that affects them and their resources?
Or allow states and people affected by a development activity to participate in ways capable of transforming their social, political and economic conditions rather than merely using them as an instrument to legitimize predetermined goals and priorities? Will his development initiatives accord priority to human rights and press freedom/free speech? What is his academic cum professional background? Can he manage a geographical entity plagued with development challenges such as widespread poverty, insecurity, corruption, the gross injustice and ethnic politics? Above all, will he view and approach governance from a development perspective as currently preached by the United Nations Independent Experts on the Right to Development?
Providing answers to these questions in ways that will make the 2023 general election rewarding will demand taking politics out of the way, in order to understand the basic reasons why the existing system in the country is currently made possible and challenge these fundamental assumptions.
As incentives to further appreciate the leadership challenge we face as a nation, it is public knowledge that throughout the early decades, successive administrations in Nigeria and some other countries of the world paid little attention to what constitutes development. Such conversation, however, gained global prominence via the United Nations introduction, adoption and pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, which lasted between the year 2000 and 2015. And was among other intentions aimed at eradicating extreme poverty and hunger as well as achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, among others.
Without going into specific concepts or approaches contained in the performance index of the programme, it is evident that the majority of the countries including Nigeria performed below average. It was this reality and other related concerns that conjoined to bring about 2030 sustainable agenda, another United Nation initiative and successor programme to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with a collection of 17 global goals formulated among other aims to promote and cater for people, peace, planet, and poverty.
Even now, the ongoing 2030 agenda is equally threatened by failure.
Looking at the above realities, one may again be tempted to ask; will the coming of Fayemi and his likes bring a change in narrative and usher in growth and structural change, with some measures of distributive equity, modernization in social and cultural attitudes, bring about a degree of political transformation and stability, an improvement in health and education so that population growth stabilizes, and an increase in urban living and employment?
Essentially, while it is not the objective of this piece to say what is right or wrong with his coming or determine the answer to his capacity, Fayemi’s personality profile, track records and achievements affirm him as a personality laced with competence for the task ahead.
Let’s look at his particulars.
Starting with his age, he was born on February 9, 1965. Such an age in absolute terms cannot be described as too young or too old for the position of the nation’s number one job. Also working in his favour is the consciousness that before vying into politics, where has served as Federal Minister for Solid Minerals and now in his second term in office as Ekiti state Governor, John Olukayode Fayemi, as a well-educated Nigerian achieved a global reckoning in development/civil society world. He served on numerous Boards including the Governing Board of the Open Society Justice Institute, Baobab for Women’s Human Rights among others.
As we know, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are reputed for promoting peace and fighting infrastructural decay, insecurity, unemployment and economic stagnation.
Analysts believe that the ‘transformational leadership” currently enjoyed by the hitherto ‘war-torn’ Nigeria Governor Forum (NGF), an umbrella body of the 36 states governors in Nigeria, where Fayemi presently functions as the Group’s Chairman stands as an example of how his association with development/peace-building organizations has impacted in his leadership and peacebuilding acumen. We must commit to memory also the current and sustained peace in Ekiti state.
Away from peacebuilding to security issues, a new understanding/indications that the nation will be in safer hands under his watch emerged recently with the disclosure by security experts across the world that to quell the challenge of insecurity is no longer about government holding all of the powerful weapons but a function of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of unstable individuals. And using research on issues related to terrorism and extremism for informed policy decision-making/roadmaps.
Examples of such new development they argue are; the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Pakistan’s National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) in Islamabad, to conduct joint research on issues related to terrorism and extremism for informed policy decision-making, to create public awareness, and build a counter-narrative in the country.
As a researcher/scholar, development/security expert, many consider him (Fayemi) conversant and one of the best in the areas of fighting insecurity with modern security innovation and roadmaps.
As the piece continues in subsequent parts to methodically beam searchlight on leadership qualities on Fayemi and other presidential hopefuls in order to educate Nigerians, two things stand out; First, Fayemi, from available records is a dynamic national leader exceptionally good at painting a clear vision that inspires and motivates the populace.
Secondly, he is among the few politicians and public office holders in Nigeria that have “demonstrated a passion for their purpose, practised their values consistently and led with their hearts as well as their heads.’
Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via email@example.com/08032725374.
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