•‘You are too audacious to walk to a whole sitting governor of a state for an interview.’ –Fayose
By Samuel Ogundipe
Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose is a man who thrives in controversy, which is why the following narration will strike most as unsurprising.
On Monday afternoon, I received an SMS invitation to cover the PDP Governors’ Forum scheduled to hold same evening at Eko Hotels & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos. I had other plans in place but I must jettison those, this is a far bigger story, especially as we’ve been hearing that the governors are plotting to reject the use of card readers in the upcoming elections.
By 5 p.m., I had arrived at Eko Hotels for an event scheduled to begin at 8:00 p.m. At the underpinning of my early arrival is an elaborate attempt to gather information that I could use as a prelude to the big event. And I was lucky, or was I?
After about 20 minutes of doing a pirouette over a parking space, I finally found my way to the Signature Lounge, the reception of Signature Suites, which is usually reserved for the high-end individuals.
On arrival at the lounge, I cited my colleague from The Punch, Eniola Akinkuotu, he’d earlier called me to find out if I’ll be at the event.
After exchanging pleasantries with Eniola, we wanted to take a seat when we cited a 6.1 man who placed a multi-coloured long-sleeved shirt on a ‘dirty’ sky blue jean fiddling with a smartphone. That’s Fayose, we said in unison. Then my colleague suggested that we should approach him to see if he would give us an update that can quickly get published for our online audience. Deadpanned, I agreed with him, after all, this is why I came early.
So, the two of us, bold journalists (we thought) in our twenties, walked up to Mr. Governor.
After exchanging pleasantries, I noticed the governor couldn’t recognise neither me nor my colleague. So, I decided to (re)introduce myself and my colleague to The Governator. Oh! He nodded like his memory was refreshed. “Okay, you people want me to say something?” To which we gave an affirmative yes, cheerfully.
“We’d like you to just sound off on the big event you and your counterparts across the country have put together for this evening Sir,” I inquired. Then our governor fired back, scolding us without mercy that we “are too audacious to walk to a whole sitting governor of a state for an interview.”
“It’s very bad that both of you refused to respect a whole governor,” he repeated just in case we didn’t hear him the first time. “If you want an interview, come to my office and I’ll attend to the both of you. You know your way to my office.”
Really? When Swedish P.M. was accosted by journalists on the streets of Stockholm just the other day? I wanted to reply him, but I noticed his fury was gathering momentum so I decided to play it safe lest we get tossed around by his security detail.
The contempt Governor Fayose has for those of us in the media is so thick one cannot cut through it with a chainsaw. He would repeat something similar around 1 a.m. when the meeting was still underway, but by then we were many.
Governor Fayose used his toilet break to scold those of us waiting at the lobby of the conference room where the governors were meeting. Accusing us of being “hopelessly biased” while narrating how he’d helped most of the big players in the media, like John Momoh, Chairman of Channels Television. He walked away when he noticed that none of us was ready to respond to his harsh criticism.
“This is vintage Fayose,” we murmured after he left.
I called his media aide, Lere Olayinka, to see if he could rationalise his principal’s severe mood swing, and he didn’t disappoint.
“Samuel,” he called out, “you know this people work very heavily under intense pressure, he may have gotten too tired.”
Olayinka apologised on behalf of his principal but not before noting that “Governor Fayose is amongst the most enlivened individuals you can ever come by, don’t be surprised if you see him tomorrow and he greets you very jovially in a way that even yourself will be surprised.”
I’ll cut Olayinka some deserving slack by recalling my first meeting with Governor Fayose during Buruji Kashamu’s Sallah bash at Ijebu-Igbo last October. He came in his capacity then as the governor-elect of Ekiti State, having shellacked Governor Kayode Fayemi in the June elections.
I had written a piece (not on these pages) in May in which I predicted Governor Fayose’s victory in the then-upcoming gubernatorial elections in Ekiti. He told me he saw the piece and found it “fantastic.” We had a brief discussion afterwards and I left him elated.
My colleague, Eniola, also said he was attached to his press crew for 27 days preceding the June 21 elections during which they criss-crossed the length and breadth of Ekiti State. Hence, Mr. Fayose is more likely than not to have known him.
Governor Ayo Fayose is a politician whose unique approach towards populism remains unmatched in Nigerian contemporary politics, but journalists who may want to have an impromptu tête-à-tête with him might want to pause and reflect, especially when there are no waiting cameras that could further project him to the world as a man who mixes with the common fellas.