By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
Ekiti State Governor John Kayode Fayemi has remained an ever-present at every stage of Nigeria’s democratic drive. He was on the frontline in the fight against military rule. Unlike the activists who stayed away from jostling for power when civil rule arrived, the man fondly called JKF dared and damned all dangers to throw his hat into the political ring. He won a popular mandate to become Ekiti State Governor, and then was controversially bruised when he lost power. So many naysayers were bragging that there are no comebacks in politics, but JKF came straight back to reclaim his seat as Governor of Ekiti State. He has ever since gained cubits when he was unanimously elected by his peers as the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, to wit, the Governor Governors.
JKF has a new book entitled Unfinished Greatness: Envisioning a New Nigeria which is a sure pointer that he stands solidly to be counted in the drive to finish the battle for Nigeria’s greatness.
Back in 2005, at the age of 40, JKF had published his memoirs entitled Out of the Shadows: Exile and the Struggle for Freedom & Democracy in Nigeria. The 436-page book was graced with a rare Foreword by Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka.
Born in Ibadan in 1965, at the height of the “Wild, Wild West” period, JKF was educated at the famous Christ School, Ado-Ekiti before taking degrees in History and International Relations at the University of Lagos and the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) respectively. He would eventually earn a doctorate degree in War Studies from King’s College, University of London, specializing in civil-military relations. He was the founding director of the Centre for Democracy & Development (CDD).
JKF was born in special circumstances. The only son of his parents had been lost to measles in 1958, and the couple needed a male child after the birth of two females. The prayer of the couple was answered with JKF’s birth on February 9, 1965. He was born a Catholic and cherishes the Catholic training he got.
A brilliant and committed wordsmith from the very beginning, he was determined to make a career in journalism after meeting the celebrated Nigerian journalist Sonala Olumhense. He joined up in Lagos with Sonala who was starting up a new newspaper, City Tempo – this writer was involved! The newspaper floundered because of poor funding and JKF alongside the other journalists were thrown into joblessness.
He successfully weathered the storm, and left Nigeria for further studies in England in 1989, that is, following his university heartthrob Bisi Adeleye who had left a year earlier. The couple would eventually form a formidable team of enlightened fighters of dictatorship. From battling for council flats in England to doing torrid battle with Babangida and Abacha, JKF and Bisi excelled prominently.
The annulment of the June 12, 1993 election won by Chief MKO Abiola brought out the warrior of democracy in JKF as he joined up with Soyinka and a coalition of other activists to rouse the international community.
With Babangida stepping aside from power, and the lame-duck Ernest Shonekan Interim Regime being shoved aside by Abacha, JKF and other compatriots upped the ante in principled opposition. The forming of NADECO and the joining of forces with younger elements led to JKF publishing Nigeria Now out of London to enlighten the world on the goings-on in his dear country.
JKF played a pivotal role in the emergence of Radio Freedom Frequency to press the democratic rights of Nigerians. Soyinka who had in the First Republic used the radio to rattle the SL Akintola government in the Western Region found in JKF a dependable ally for the radio project aimed at the Abacha terror machine. From FM the radio went to short wave and became renamed Radio Kudirat after the assassination of Abiola’s wife, Kudirat.
JKF made very important contacts in the international media, NGOs, foreign governments, and thus started the esteemed CDD. Abacha’s killing of the mourned Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa of course shocked the world into multi-faceted action. Abacha’s eventual death, and that of Abiola, paved the way for Obasanjo to be released from prison and made the Nigerian President.
JKF has seen it all, and he is now braced up for the way forward with his new book, Unfinished Greatness: Envisioning a New Nigeria. The book has an invigorating foreword written by former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, the man who made the 1999 civil rule handover possible.
The former President of Ghana, Dr. John Dramani Mahama, celebrates JKF’s Unfinished Greatness thusly: “Nigeria remains central to the vision of an African renaissance. In Unfinished Greatness, Fayemi reminds us of the power of unity in nation building. The ideas in this book encapsulate the roadmap for peace and sustainable development in Nigeria, and indeed the rest of Africa.”
According to former Education Minister, Prof Tunde Adeniran, “Unfinished Greatness convincingly challenges false narratives about our trajectory as a country and offers profound historical insights to prove that there is more that unites us than our differences.”
There is no doubt whatsoever that JKF stands out as a bastion of hope for the beleaguered nation. Leadership ought to be bestowed on someone who clearly knows the roadmap and conscientiously follows the road. The time to make a new beginning for Nigeria is now.