Ayo Fayose, the freak of nature that is the Governor of Ekiti State, last week perpetrated his most outlandish joke yet.
He installed a self-confessed illiterate, one Olatunde Afolayan, in the vacancy of the caretaker chairman of Moba Local Government Area. And the joke stood!
Fayose pulled the stunt at the inauguration of Boards of Commissions and Governing Councils. But not before admonishing President Muhammadu Buhari for appointing an ‘’ineligible’’ Amina Zakari – a pharmacist, technocrat and former Senior Special Assistant to President Obasanjo – the acting chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission.
The political poseur was blind to the irony that he was querying Zakari’s qualification as a prelude to handing over a local government area to an illiterate.
Fayose, it must be noted, was sober at the occasion. He was clear-headed enough to discern the need to explain his bizarre choice to the bewildered audience that witnessed the drama.
He rationalized: “Some of us used them [illiterates] to get to positions and forget these people. In my government, whether you are educated or not, you will get something. The vote of a professor and an illiterate is the same. So, under my administration, those who are not educated can rise to any level they want.”
So he was, as far the eyes could see, in control of his mind when he miscast Mr. Afolayan. It was not a sudden brainwave. Fayose had ruminated over what would be a reward commensurate to the illiterate’s electoral contribution.
And he indicated he had a motive beyond settling one resourceful election laborer. All illiterates in Ekiti ‘’can rise to any level they want.” They don’t need an education. All they need is to haul in votes for Fayose.
The results of this motivational temptation may begin to speak in the next elections in Ekiti.
Fayose projects himself as a populist leader. He rode to the venue of his second inauguration in a quaint Mercedes Benz that had auto historians debating whether the relic was the 1957 or the 1965 model. He insinuated that the curiosity of his official car sustained intimacy with the commoners.
After he was sworn in, he flung the gates of the Government House open and bid his horde of supporters to dive in and enjoy the swimming pool. To date, no Governor has deigned to replicate that orgy of mass baptism.
But this joke of segueing an illiterate from pathetic ignorance to local government chairmanship is an insane overreach. Fayose could have found or created a work environment that fits Afolayan’s craft and proficiency. Fayose didn’t have to imperil Moba, a constitutional entity, for political patronage.
Unsurprisingly, non-Ekitis have not missed this umpteenth Fayose absurdity. They have long wondered about the impact of Fayose’s tomfoolery. They have resolved, as a token of contempt for the man, not to waste outrage on him. He has increasingly overleaped himself since he placed a Buhari death wish adverts in newspapers.
Moreover, people think it’s pointless censuring Fayose when a dominant majority of Ekiti locals approve of his ways and and seem sworn to remaining perpetually infatuated with him.
Other Nigerians, looking in from outside, figure that they need not cry on behalf of the bereaved. It’s a blissful marriage: The people are as pleased with his streak of oddities as Fayose is proud of the people’s unflinching loyalty to his person.
We accept that, in most parts of Nigeria, local government councils have fallen into disuse. The Governors appoint their cronies the caretaker chairman or conduct sham polls that return them as validly elected. The chairmen serve no nobler purpose than being conduits for the monthly allocation from Abuja.
Yet, the Governors manage to respect the sensibilities of the despoiled. They present chairmanship candidates with passable credentials.
Fayose did due diligence and satisfied himself that indeed Mr. Afolayan was an illiterate and appointed him.
This is an offensive oddity. And it rankles that Fayose is empowering illiteracy in a State that styles itself the Fountain of Knowledge, a State that is said to have the highest number of professors in Nigeria.
Moba may be a far-off location. But it has a human population that would be impacted by Fayose’s toxic recruitment. We shouldn’t watch this ridicule of the local government system like a movie.
Annoying as this is, nonetheless, Fayose could have put a positive spin on the scandal. He could have termed it a research into the measure of disaster the worst possible hiring can wreak on the third tier of government. This would have diluted the scandal and communicated that there was method to the madness.
Fayose insists that gifting the illiterate the local government was right. The carpenter had earned the appointment by the sheer dint of his electoral contribution. Mr. Afolayan deserves the chairmanship…even if he is certain to bungle the job.
Fayose reasons that all voters are created equal. The illiterate and the professor are equal at the polling booth. The illiterate and the professor are interchangeable equals elsewhere.
That’s not correct. Suffrage is different from competence. The principle of one man, one vote is not an absolute leveler. It doesn’t elevate the capacity of the illiterate to that of a professor.
Fayose himself betrayed his lack of confidence in his appointee. He had to appoint a graduate to be the Personal Assistant of the illiterate caretaker chairman. It was a gesture of help to an intellectually handicapped, Mr. Afolayan.
Mr. Afolayan would be the figurehead, eating the fruit of his electoral labor, as part of Fayose’s stomach infrastructure scheme. The graduate would be the de facto doer of things. And Fayose would be the brooding spirit over the pair.
Of course, it is fair to expect that Fayose would not abandon Mr. Afolayan. The illiterate has a steep learning curve. So Fayose would necessarily be the novice’s guide. Including, as you would expect, in the small matter of council funds!
Which is why this appointment looks suspiciously like an arrangement to hijack Moba monthly allocation.
There was a multitude of eminently qualified people. But the lot of chairmanship had to fell on an illiterate. He was the ideal candidate. He would be unquestionable pliant because he owes his quantum leap to Fayose.
Note that Fayose abused his gubernatorial powers in the people’s business. Not in his own business. Fayose, for all populist posturing, would never surrender his private investment to an illiterate. Fayose, the equal opportunity employer, would not put the management of his commercial interests at the mercy of an illiterate.
Mr. Afolayan admits that he was leapfrogged out of niche. His ultimate ambition had been ‘’for the Governor to make me a ward chairman’’ of PDP. This was the illiterate's modest estimation of a placement that have would suited his managerial capacity.
But man proposes; Fayose disposes.
And so it happened that the investiture of the office boosted Mr. Afolayan’s confidence. ‘’I may not be educated or certificated, but I have the brain and experience to pilot the affairs of the council. I promise to surpass the records left behind by my predecessors to justify Governor Fayose’s assertion that local people are intelligent and visionary.’’
It is not impossible that an illiterate may become the best local government chairman of all time. A grateful Mr. Afolayan might feel challenged to prove the naysayers wrong. He could, indeed, prove that the common sense and skill set needed to run a viable carpenter’s shop in the village could be successfully parleyed to administer a sprawling public institution.
Miracles do happen, however, this is far-fetched. This is because Mr. Afolayan’s ability to master the lowest common functions of his office is literally nonexistent. Fayose made clear that Mr. Afolayan’s brief was to leverage the appointment for self-enrichment.
Not long ago, during the controversial disappearance of candidate Buhari’s credentials from the files of the Nigerian Army, Fayose mounted the podium of a campaign rally and pronounced the former head of state, an illiterate unworthy to stand for election. Fayose waved a sheaf of his own original certificates and taunted Buhari to produce evidence of schooling.
Fayose also judged Buhari unfit on account of age. He declaimed that Buhari, at 73, was too old to bear the burdens of the Presidency. And he used his mother’s struggle with senility to bolster his case.
The illiterate Fayose appointed to head Moba Local Government Area is 72 and experienced only in the art of carpentry!
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu