When he was born on February 9, 1965 to the illustrious family of Falade Fayemi, the information officer extraordinaire, the family did not think twice to decide his name. He was christened Olukayode Folorunso. The two names signify the mood of the family. He was the one who has brought a redemptive joy, especially to a boy-seeking mother after a row of beautiful girls before him.
He grew up in wisdom, and more sagely than his peers. Right from his adolescence, he had the comportment of an elder and the intellect of a scholar. Rather than mingle with boys to have a taste of boyhood, young John Kayode Fayemi dedicated himself to the catholic alter where he diligently assisted the priests in their ecclesiastical Eucharist and other pastoral duties. At Christ School, Ado-Ekiti, he was the mobile encyclopedia of current affairs. He was indeed nicknamed “Current Affairs” because of his indomitable capacity to precisely recall current affairs issues of profound political significance globally.
Even as a teenager, his words were seasoned with insight and his conduct draped with maturity. He was never frivolous and was ever serious with everything he chose to do. These traits are still indubitably present in him today. As he grew older he began to pick his way to where his passion was greater: the desire for social justice and egalitarian society. He was already becoming radical in his conviction that oppression of any kind ought to be vehemently resisted by those who want to live in a just society. Dr. Fayemi was well persuaded from an ideological stand point to pursue social justice in every ramification he finds himself. Even though he has a gentle mien that betrays his radical disposition on social issues, he is one man who is single-mindedly and irrevocably focused on his passion and commitment. This virtue was already getting on a high steam when he left the iconic Christ School, Ado-Ekiti.
At the University of Lagos he found an even more arable ground to cultivate his passion. He joined a group of radical student-journalists to publish The Watch magazine which was dreaded by the university management because of its critical and acerbic position against the management, especially as it concerned the students. Of course, he and his colleagues regularly got threatened with rustication and expulsion. But, he remained unwavering and somehow, miraculously and against the fear that he might lose his studentship, he pulled it off.
At the University of Lagos, he was deeply involved in the students’ union activism. JKF was not only one of the radically ideological students, he was the secretary of Eni Njoku Hall and member of the Senate of the Students’ Union where he was a major integer in the political calculus of the students’ union politics. He was also involved in the liberation movement to get the South African people free from apartheid and colonialism. Dr. Kayode Fayemi was wrought in the furnace of struggle for social good and human development. By the time he left the university, his leftist political tendency was no longer in doubt. Some years later, during the Babangida junta, the interminable transition to democracy got underway but at the climax of the serpentine electoral journey, the process became jinxed as the military administration of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida did the unthinkable by annulling the results already announced at the state level, awaiting only national collation and declaration.
The whole nation was jolted and flames of anger burnt on the streets in the spontaneous protests that the greeted odious decision. It is said that people do not make history, history make people and circumstances define them. This moment brought out the character of many. It raised a new set of heroes and villains in same measure. One of the young men that the moment threw up was Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, who though had very little to personally gain in the revalidation of the presidential election, threw everything to the fight for the actualisation of the June 12 election. This moment was a defining moment in the life of John Kayode Fayemi. He was there with MKO Abiola in London organizing media events, networking with other like-minds and went every itch to see that he got his mandate back.
Young as he was then, he was one of the people on the wanted list of the Abacha junta. He earned this unenviable enlistment in the black book of the devilish regime because of his activities as one of the major diaspora exiles who were absolutely committed to the end of military rule in Nigeria. Working with the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka of the NALICON fame, Kayode Fayemi traversed different countries of the world to mobilise the diplomatic world against the military terror gang the Abacha junta was. It is to his credit that the first ever experiment at a citizen radio station to mobilise the citizenry against the murderous government, was established
Along with other patriots including his wife, the beatific Erelu Bisi Fayemi, Kayode Fayemi was in the barricades in the streets of London to protest against the tyrannical regime. They formed the New Nigeria Forum and published the Nigeria Now newsletter among other efforts. The couple were relentless, sacrificial and single-minded in the struggle for democratic enthronement in Nigeria. They did this selflessly, I am doubly sure that the least thing in their imagination would be a JKF becoming a governor, this is because their trajectory after the end of military rule showed that they were absolutely least concerned about the political benefits to their struggles.
In 2005, when the search for a competent, well behaved, well resumed, well exposed and highly urbane personality was made, to be the candidate of the Action Congress, Kayode Fayemi became the ideal candidate. He won the primary of the party and clearly won the governorship election that followed but then he was rigged out and he had to fight up to the final court of jurisdiction on governorship election before he eventually became the governor in October 2010.
As governor of Ekiti between October 2010-2014 and since returning after the interregnum, Dr. Kayode Fayemi has demonstrated commitment to ideological fidelity in the direction of state policies. He has made social justice the focus of his government’s enunciation and implementation of policy. Fayemi started the first social welfare package for the elderly, provided the vulnerable with food, and declared education free to ensure the poor have access to education. He is currently working on locally inspired old people’s resort center for the elderly. He provided every senior secondary student with a laptop, gave them books and bags, paid their WAEC fees and renovated all public secondary schools in the state under Operation Renovate All Schools. He gave scholarship to Ekiti indigenes in tertiary institutions and sponsored many abroad for post-graduate education.
Fayemi made health care for age one-five free and provided basic health care for those above 65 years. He transformed some general hospitals to specialist hospitals, got the college of medicine established, before he left in 2014 but unfortunately the students could not graduate because of lack of accreditation which the regime after him neglected. It was in 2019 after his return that he got the courses accredited and the Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital graduated its first set of doctors. It is no wonder that during his first tenure, Ekiti always had highest life expectancy in Nigeria and low poverty index far below the national average.
Fayemi acknowledged that infrastructure was critical to the development of the state, so, he embarked on unprecedented capital projects that totally modernized the capital city of the state and saw the rural areas transformed. He aggressively pursued investment and rejuvenation of the economic property of the state. He totally revamped the popular Ikogosi Warm Springs and embarked on the construction of a civic center with shopping malls as part of effort to make Ado-Ekiti a modern city. Just recently, his administration just flagged major economic roads of the state for rehabilitation.
They include Agbado-Ode-Isinbode-Omuo road, Oye-Isan-Iye-Ikun-Igogo-Otun road, Aramoko-Erijiyan-Ikogosi Road. Works on the total overhauling of Ero, Ureje and Egbe dams and the reticulation of pipes across 9 local government are nearing completion. Just as urban and rural sanitation and environmental reclamation of the erosion devastated areas have begun through the NEWMAP programme.
Fayemi’s administration is also pushing aggressively, investment drive in infrastructure and economy of the state. The state is about securing an infrastructure development facility with the African Development Bank for the development of the Agro-Processing zone, Akure-Ado Road, Ekiti Smart City called Knowledge Zone and the cargo airport.
The governor has just got the Dangote Group and Stallion Group to establish big rice mills in Ekiti. He has already got Promasidor to take over the moribund Ikun Dairy Farm. As at now, the diary giant has moved in with cows and the repositioning of the place ongoing. The World Bank is also in the state to help in the urban water improvement scheme and the New Environment and Water Management Programme among other social-economic repositioning strategy for the state.
There is no doubt the some people are born to serve and that Dr. John Kayode Fayemi was a special breed among this specie of human being. He is always on the move, and while in the office, he won’t leave his table until 3 am sometimes. He has this inexplicable energy to work round the clock without getting tired. Dr. Kayode Fayemi is a workaholic extraordinaire, a public intellectual of a special class and an unassuming gentleman. He represents one of the best of the political brands that have come out of Nigeria in recent. Happy birthday dearest boss and mentor.
Dr. Sunday A. Aniyi is the Principal Private Secretary to Dr. Kayode Fayemi, CON, he writes from Ado-Ekiti and can be reached on [email protected]