Fayemi: celebrating a bridge builder at 57 - By: . . | Dailytrust

Fayemi: celebrating a bridge builder at 57

Gov. Kayode Fayemi
Gov. Kayode Fayemi

By Yinka Oyebode

Jos, the capital of Plateau State, played host to an unusual gathering of top government functionaries and frontline religious and community leaders on September 6, 2021. These include the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, Co-chairmen of Nigeria Inter-Religious Council, Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar, and Rev. Samson Ayokunle; Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Governor Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto, Governor Sani Bello of Niger and Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State, who was the host of the peace-building meeting convened to resolve the ethno-religious crisis that had threatened the peace in the North Central State. The meeting was frank and decisive as the SGF, who represented President Mohammadu Buhari at the parley, hinted on the federal government’s commitment to resolving the crisis.

The second half of the meeting featured presentations by leaders of the various religious and ethnic groups. An octogenarian Islamic cleric, Imam Abdulahi Abubakar from Barkin Ladi Local Government Area, spiced up his presentation by recapping how Governor Kayode Fayemi awarded him an honorary doctorate degree of the Ekiti State University in recognition of his peace initiatives in the northern state some years ago. The celebrated cleric who is a chief imam in his mosque had saved the lives of over 200 Tiv Christians by hiding them in his mosque and feeding them throughout the period of the crisis. Imam Abubakar told the cheering audience to appreciate the governor for his gesture. “I have never met the governor before. I was invited by the university for the award. I hope I can use this opportunity to thank the governor for recognising my little effort”, the octogenarian cleric said as he made his way to the high table to have a hand shake with Dr Fayemi.

Fayemi’s penchant for peaceful resolution of conflict as a precursor to development made him come up with policies that addressed some inequalities and lopsidedness in the mining sector during his stint as Minister of Mines and Steel Development between 2015 and 2018. Key among these was the win-win approach he engineered to address the contentious issue of land ownership. Through the right mix of policy, advocacy and consultation with critical stakeholders, the exclusive right of the federal government on minerals and mining was retained, but a creative way to enable the 36 states to benefit from the resources in their domain was charted, while the host communities also got their deserved compensation.

It is generally believed that the Nigeria Governors’ Forum under Governor Fayemi’s chairmanship has become a vehicle for bridge-building and peace initiatives. What with many interventions on issues bordering on workers’ welfare, women and children, sharing formula of the commonwealth as well as ethno-religious crisis. Back home in Ekiti where he holds sway as the “Ilufemiloye” (the people’s governor), his bridge-building efforts have made the adherents of the various religion live in harmony. Opposition parties  are also able to ventilate divergent views on state matters and hold political activities without any fear of molestation. His administration is reputable for effective handling of knotty traditional and chieftaincy issues through alternative conflict resolution methods. His annual meeting with communities for their input into the state’s annual budget preparation has been applauded by development partners and international donor agencies as a good model for development.

Former External Affairs Minister, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, remarked on Fayemi’s bridge -building efforts during a lecture marking the 60th anniversary of the Nigeria Institute for International Affairs (NIIA) in Lagos recently, and urged him not to relent. “The country needs these types of interventions at this critical period. And I am happy you are one of the respected voices preaching peace,” he said.

The Ekiti State governor had emerged on the peace-building scene at the beginning of the Fourth Republic when he served as Technical Adviser to the Justice Chukwudifu Oputa-led Human Rights Violation Investigation Commission Panel that looked into cases of human rights abuses under the then military regime. Prior to that time, he had joined forces with an army of pro-democracy agitators outside the shores of the land, working for the revalidation of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election won by the late Chief Moshood Abiola.

As Dr Fayemi turns 57 today, the question is no longer about what he is capable of doing as a leader, peacemaker and bridge builder. He has been able to demonstrate his capability as an imaginative, innovative and exemplary leader. Instead, the question will be about what he would not do as a leader as many have come to believe that his past adequately prepared him for the present and the future.

Born on February 9, 1965, John Kayode Fayemi received his first degree in History and Politics from the University of Lagos in 1985, a master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Ife, Ile-Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), in 1987 and a doctorate in War Studies from the King’s College, University of London, UK in 1993. His research and policy development interests include: Natural Resource Governance, Democratisation, Constitutionalism, Security Sector Governance, Civil-Military Relations and Regionalism in the Global Context.

He was inaugurated as Governor of Ekiti State on October 16, 2010 and was named Minister of Mines and Steel Development in 2015.  However, he resigned his ministerial position in 2018 to contest the governorship of Ekiti State. He won and was inaugurated as governor for the second term on October 16, 2018.

Today, I join millions of admirers to present 57 garlands to this exceptional leader, reliable mediator, bridge builder, change agent, thinker and innovator as he takes the fifty-seventh step in his untiring service to our dear state and country. The journey is just about to begin.

Oyebode is Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Ekiti State

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