Monday, February 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Dokita

In 2004 long before the now celebrated speech of President Obama at the DNC in Boston, I was with Dokita (as I call him) in the middle of one of our debate sessions where we take a subject completely apart, boiling it down to the raw essence. As is usual I took a disruptive thought and turned it into my platform, while he built a simple idea into a powerful iconic bridge ( memories are now vague). I do not know how but he raised the prospect of a man called Barack Obama who he had recently met and disagreed with but for whom he saw a great future. As is usual I came away with much more than I brought to our conversation. Dokita is Dr Kayode Fayemi and he had just come back from Sabbatical at NorthWestern University. In his usual unassuming way had opened up a world of possibilities that the rest of the world is now belatedly recognising. In fact in that year he wrote an article about Obama for one of the Nigerian dailies. I wish then his perspective and truly caught on and that is far more true now that it has ever been.

I have had the fortune of working with many people from many different backgrounds and with may different qualities but Dr Kayode Fayemi stands out as a truly cultured, sophisticated and intellectually astute person. As a social entrepreneur he took risks for transformation as he did with the Centre for Democracy and Development from inception through building its institutional capacity to the total transition from the United Kingdom to Nigeria. The higher level risks that he took against the Abacha regime are already a matter of public record whether with Radio Kudirat or his ‘diplomatic mission’. So when he decided to respond positively to the call of political office I initially thought it was one risk too far although I never told him. I worried about his somewhat shy and calm personality and I reasoned that he did not exhibit the common touch that often leads politicians to be all smiles but little substance. In fact I loved him as a ‘policy wonk’, I worried that the tricky nature of our politics would devour a man of integrity and he would suffer greater betrayal than he faced as a community organiser or as a social entrepreneur. He once again surprised me.

Dr Kayode Fayemi at 44 is the possibility that a truly nationalistic Nigerian prays for in the 21st century. A politician who is an independent intellectual, curious , considerate and committed. An eloquent global citizen whose world class capacity is sought across the major capitals in the world not just as a truly accomplished African mind but also as a serious thinker on the issues that affect all human beings. From the challenge of treating citizens with dignity to the focus of providing them with life opportunities, this is a man who has chosen to serve something greater than his appetites. At this time in the history of Nigeria, in this moment of our collective aspiration, in this period of unfulfilled promise Dr Kayode Fayemi stands as one of the few real transformational characters from the post independence generation. Whatever the decision of the Appeal Court in Ilorin on his application for recognition of his election as the Governor of Ekiti State, we must recognise who he is and want he stands for. Kayode Fayemi is an answer to the that which makes us constantly rebrand our country , he is the solution that we seek in the many presentations for Foreign investors, he is the response to the persistent power outage. Dr Kayode Fayemi is a Nigerian citizen at his best, genial to strangers, caring to dependents yet masterfully in the pursuit of excellence. Happy Birthday and Good luck Dokita.


Tunji Lardner said...

Wale, I also want to toss in my hat in support of Kayode Fayemi. As I write this, I do not yet know the outcome of the judgement concerning his bid to be governor. But I agree with you, Kayode is truly one of the most credible and inspiring politicians to emerge from his generation. In addition to all the nice things you have said about him, I also believe that he represents the new face of possibilities of a certain kind of National political leader. I suggest that instead of us all working at cross-purposes, we should identify people like Kayode, line up behind them and support and push them to the places where they need to be, to help us transform Nigeria in the 21st century. Kayode, whichever way the chips fly, we are behind you. Remember the journey is the "thing"

Tunji Lardner said...

Okay Stop the Presses! The courts have declared a re-run of the Ekiti Elections. Good news! "Kayode se Ekiti"
Kayode Fayemi all the way! And now for something completely different! Na small, small.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Kayode Fayemi represents the hope that would bring Ekiti State and her people back from the dark dungeons of past administrators.
Knowing Kayode Fayemi as a friend or acquaintance is akin to having knowledge in one’s pockets. And the beauty is that he teaches through his conducts, his manners, his style- not through words per se.
It fills one with joy, almost to the point of exhilaration that Ekiti is about to have a real gentleman at the tops of affairs. Education will once again come to prominence and decency will be the order of the day.
I support Kayode Fayemi in the re-run of the elections in Ekiti. I support progress.