LOUD WHISPERS: The Day After

Let me first of all apologise for my late postings over the past couple of weeks. There has been a lot going on. For those of you who have been following political events recently you would have heard that my husband Dr John Kayode Fayemi (JKF) is running for Governor of Ekiti State again. The elections are on July 14th. On Saturday May 12th JKF was declared the winner of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Party Primaries after a fiercely contested election. There were 33 aspirants in the race and some of them had been ‘on the field’ for a while. The race featured accomplished sons and daughters of Ekiti, many of them veteran politicians. I will skip all the details of what at some point turned into a nasty street brawl, particularly on social media. Most of those who vote in party primary elections are not on social media. Yet supporters of all the candidates set up shop on Facebook and WhatsApp, running daily commentaries twisted every which way to suit agendas as required. Everyday there were new accusations, claims and clap backs. Two weeks ago I dropped my phone and it was damaged so badly I had to get a new one. I had to wait for my old phone to be repaired before I could sync it with the new one. This meant I could not access Facebook or WhatsApp for a few days which was a blessing.

I often say that to survive in leadership positions, you need the skin of a rhinoceros.  However, I also believe that if your skin gets too thick you run the risk of becoming inhuman. My article last week, ‘Letter to a Former Friend’ was my way of reminding myself and others that I have blood running through my veins and not ice. A good friend of mine called me after reading the article and wanted to know if I was writing about someone real or if it was one of my fiction/’faction’ pieces. I told her that everything was real. If there is any leadership or business school that is still teaching young leaders that they can go through life acting like unfeeling robots, they are doing the next generation a disservice. Having said that, you cannot afford to let negative stuff get to you. We are always lamenting that ‘good’ people shy away from politics and we often end up with questionable choices. When I hold sessions with aspiring politicians, I usually ask them, ‘Who does not want to be called a thief, liar, prostitute, stupid, imbecile, wicked and so on’? If anyone puts up their hand I say to them, ‘You had better leave right now. If you are not prepared to be called any of these names, politics is not for you’. This sounds melodramatic, but it is true, and judging from what my husband and I have experienced over the years, it is a miracle that we are still sane.

The Ekiti State APC Primaries had been scheduled for May 5th. Unfortunately, the process was aborted when some political hoodlums took advantage of the rain and started destroying the ballot boxes. The primaries eventually took place on May 12th under very tight security. I had my first good laugh in days when I saw the photograph of a thug who had tried to sneak into the venue. He was caught and searched and there was a red necklace of charms around his neck. The image was so hilarious, with the unfortunate fellow looking very scared as two security officers stood over him with their hands on his head. It was alleged that the charms had been prepared for him to be made ‘invisible’ so he could get into the venue undetected, what the Yoruba call ‘Afeeri’. Perhaps one of the churches should use the photograph with the tagline, ‘God sees Everybody. Even the most foolish of sinners’, or something more to the point, ‘This is what happens when your Babalawo dupes you’.

I have spent the past two weeks hosting hundreds of visitors at our country home in Isan-Ekiti. During times like this, a politician’s home becomes a hotel, restaurant, concert venue, church, mosque, security post, you name it. The two consistent headaches I had to contend with had to do with the endless catering and the ‘spiritual merchants’. I have written about spiritual merchants in the past. It is at times like this that they believe their services are indispensable. Every other hour I had to listen to or read a message about an urgent task that needed to be done to ensure victory. These tasks ranged from the benign (read this Psalm or that) to the strange (buy 40 bibles and white cloth) to the absolutely bizarre (bring the liver of a cow). I have dealt with them long enough to know how to keep the peace. I listen and promise to take action or assure them that someone else ‘has already done it’. If you dismiss them outright, you will be accused of arrogance. If you tell them what they are asking for sounds crazy (that is what I really think) they will think you are the one who is insane. When one of my husband’s distant cousins insisted that he had been told that my husband had to walk the length and breadth of Isan-Ekiti town to ‘appease the ancestors’, I said to him, ‘You know JKF is too busy to do that right now. If I give you money, can you walk on his behalf?’ His face lit up and he enthusiastically agreed to do the silly walk.

I of course was relieved beyond words when JKF won on Saturday night. Electoral victory is sweet. Some other time I will write about what it means to lose, but let me ride the victory wave for now.  A large crowd followed us all the way from Ado-Ekiti to Isan Ekiti at 1am in the morning, and there was a massive crowd waiting for us at home. There was singing and drumming till the early hours of the morning. I slept at 5am and was woken up by the music of a brigade band at 7am. All day people trooped in to celebrate. JKF left home early in the morning to visit the other aspirants and seek their support, which meant I had to attend to all our guests. I had an impromptu praise and worship session with the brigade band for over thirty minutes and it was really nice. The joy and hope on the faces of our people was very heart-warming. Even though this was just the primaries, people celebrated as if we had won the election itself. As the day went on, party members who had supported other candidates also came around to celebrate. JKF had appealed to all his supporters to be magnanimous in victory and not disrespect any of the other aspirants or their supporters. I too sent a message round on all the political WhatsApp groups I am on, appealing for peace and unity. I received everyone warmly and assured them that we would all work together. I also took some of our supporters who were giving the ‘Deserters’ funny looks aside and appealed to them to forgive and move on.  I have learnt several lessons from our political adventures, and recent events have served to affirm them. I will summarise the lessons as follows:

  1. Politics should be for everyone. People often tell me, ‘JKF is too much of a gentleman to be in politics. People like him should be in a University or Think Tank’. The political space should be broad enough to accommodate all schools of thought and temperaments. If there is space for the loud, brazen and rambunctious, there should also be opportunities for the ‘gentlemen’ and ‘gentlewomen’, the scholars and the thinkers.
  1. There are no votes on Social Media. This is what I said to my younger sister who woke me one morning, alarmed at the way JKF was being bashed on Facebook. There is a lot of excitement on social media, and reputations can be made or ruined online. However real politics happens where the people are. And these people are not on social media.
  1. We need to change the face of local politics. Groups who usually find themselves disenfranchised such as women and young people will be the ones to change the face of local politics. Their faces and voices are critical. It is local politicians who determine the fates of the big men and women who take leadership positions at the local or national level.
  1. You cannot lead a community you have not served. A lot has been said about how our politics has been heavily monetised. Money does play a major role in our political affairs. This is why we all need to invest in the political structures in our communities over time. The most successful politicians are not those who land from nowhere with huge amounts of money to spend. People will take their money and still not vote for them. To be politically relevant, people need to see that you have been there with them and for them. They should be able to count how many people went to school because of you, how many businesses you helped people start, how you attended their milestones such as funerals, weddings and so on. The key word here is community service.
  1. No one is politically indispensable. It is very painful when trusted friends and allies dessert you for one reason or the other. However, for everyone who leaves, there are ten willing and able to take their place. I observed the men and women around us right now, who worked their fingers to the bone for the primaries. It was an inter-generational mix of old and new faces, quietly going around their tasks with minimal fuss, without the high maintenance and entitled attitude of former associates. This is the time for new stars to shine.

The next few weeks will be extremely hectic, but I promise that I will not be too busy for Loud Whispers, even if it is late a day or two. I thank all those who have sent warm wishes of support, I am very grateful. Have a great week.

 

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com

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8 Responses to LOUD WHISPERS: The Day After

  1. Shina Dideolu May 17, 2018 at 8:27 am

    I was expecting this o. I have been waiting for you to share your experience especially when the first one was scattered. I am happy that he won and sincerely, social media politics is time wasting! I wish you victory for the journey ahead. Please, stay strong!

    Reply
  2. veronica Imaseun May 17, 2018 at 8:34 am

    I knew he would win and I know by his grace, he will win the big race. Well done for being such a dynamic woman. You are indeed dynamic and the love you have for the people, is beyond words. God bless you and your husband.

    Reply
  3. Olakunle Olajide May 17, 2018 at 3:21 pm

    Congratulations on winning the primary election. I hope the gubernatorial election would be peaceful and end up in your favour.

    Reply
  4. Femi Diipo May 17, 2018 at 6:05 pm

    Congratulations on wining the primary elections. I have closely followed the recent developments in Ekiti, my home state politics and all things been equal I believe that the next governor of this great state will be JFK. During your first tenure as, I barely know much about you ma’am but in the last couple of years I have developed a great interest in you and as a result in your husband as well and how innovative and forward thinking you both are. There is no doubt that you’re the best candidate to lead this state and by July we shall be celebrating this achievement.

    Reply
  5. Dom Dom May 17, 2018 at 6:14 pm

    I have always been skeptical about politics and politicians in Nigeria and I’ve mostly been a passive observer; the gullible electorate vs the sweet mouthed politician and a politic that remain predictable and underdeveloped. You may even understand this better if you grew up in Ekiti like I did, but JFK brought a change in this status quo during his first campaign, trial and eventual administration. After all these years in the wilderness, there’s hope for Ekiti people again.

    Reply
  6. Bolanle Olatan May 18, 2018 at 8:26 am

    All I know is, No matter what they do? We must win this election. Nothing will stop us from winning because even God knows that the time has come for Ekiti to be liberated and see the good of the land. The only thing is, I implore JKF to be seen as human friendly, because that is what they are using against him and he should also let them know that the second will be greater than the first.

    Reply
  7. DSEED May 18, 2018 at 9:45 am

    Congratulations ma for the primarily election. And this is the confidence that we have in him, if God be for us who can be against us. Keep winning.

    Reply
  8. Eric Onuoha May 30, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    Congratulations on winning the primaries. I will say that leadership is all about service. Anyone who isn’t ready to serve shouldn’t aspire for a leadership role

    Reply

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