By Bisi Fayemi
Sunday June 22nd 2014, I woke up at 7am. I had gone to bed at 3am but did not drift off to sleep till 5am. It was no surprise that I had a dull ache in my head. JKF was already up and getting dressed. I picked up my phone and saw the large number of missed calls and text messages. I put the phone down and called for my morning coffee. I was told that visitors were waiting to see us. I nodded my head but made no move to leave the bedroom. I looked at my phone again and saw that I had just missed a call from Erelu Angela Adebayo, the wife of Otunba Niyi Adebayo, former Governor of Ekiti State, who is one of our political leaders and mentors. If anyone knew exactly how I was feeling that morning, it would be Erelu Adebayo, because her husband also lost his second term bid in 2003.
Saturday June 21st 2014 was a very bad day, one of those days that I referred to recently as Ojo buruku esu bu omi mu -The day the devil came to drink water’. That day, my husband lost his re-election bid. Even though we knew there where disgruntled interest groups and some political associates had left to join another party hereby splitting some of our votes, we did not see a loss coming. JKF worked hard during his first term in office and his administration had a lot to show for it. When he ran for re-election in 2014, he ran on the basis of what he had accomplished and the promise of continuing all the great initiatives that had been started. Even the worst critics of his administration admitted that he accomplished a great deal. However, there was a disturbing narrative that no amount of logic could dislodge. JKF was described as ‘too academic, aloof, stubborn, disconnected, stingy’ and so on. He was not the kind of political leader favoured in our environment. The June 2014 election was like a war in Ekiti State. The election was heavily militarized and many of our party officials were arrested or hounded out of town before the election to prevent them from leading party members to the polls. Through a combination of the role played by the heavy-handed security agencies, the intimidation of voters, and the shady activities of some of the officials at the electoral management body, the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), there was a perfect storm that cost us the election.
That Sunday June 22nd, Erelu Angela who I call ‘Big Sis’, comforted me and as I listened to her kind words I started to cry. I told her that there were a number of visitors out in the living room and I did not want to go out and face them because I did not know what to say to them. She told me to go out and raise their spirits with a song. And that is exactly what I did. I showered, dressed up and walked into the living room looking smart and all smiles, singing a popular Yoruba Christian song, ‘Awa ju asegun lo’ – We are more than conquerors. When the visitors saw that I was not downcast or looking miserable, they attempted to hide their own misery and the atmosphere of gloom improved a bit. As I tried to comfort the women who had come to visit on Sunday June 22nd 2014, I said to them, ‘Our assignment in Ekiti is over. We would have liked to spend 8 years, but now God has told us that we are done for now. He will show us the way. Take heart, God knows best. We have carried out our assignment to the best of our ability. We have a lot to be thankful for. We will not mourn’. I knew I needed to be strong for my husband’s sake, so even if my heart was broken, my spirit was not.
Throughout the day visitors trooped in, and even though I knew they were coming to show solidarity, I did not like the fact that some of them would burst into tears the moment they set eyes on me. The visits continued throughout Sunday and Monday. By Tuesday I could not bear the thought of more delegations coming to ‘mourn’ with us, so I left Ekiti for Ghana and switched off my phone. While I was away, the creepy spokesman for the other side spread a story on social media that I had collapsed and was in hospital. When my friends could not reach me, they panicked. It was a terrible time.
I have alluded to some of the things that transpired after JKF lost the Ekiti election in 2014. Losing an election was not the end of the world as far as I was concerned. What came after was more devastating. People often say failure is an orphan. No, failure is not an orphan, failure is a bastard. People take pity on orphans and offer help and have a sense of obligation towards them. No one pities a bastard, the usual treatment is scorn, derision and ridicule. Trusted friends and colleagues decided to dissociate themselves from us and seek political fortunes elsewhere. That in itself was not a bad thing, but the lies, distortions, character assassination and revisions of history were almost unbearable. The message from all this was clear. JKF was now irrelevant, finished, a persona non grata. Or so they thought. Shortly after, JKF chaired an excellent party convention in December 2014 that produced the Presidential Candidate for the All Progressives Congress (APC), he played a key role in the 2015 Presidential Campaign, and he served as a Federal Minister. Not bad for a persona non grata.
Sunday July 15th 2018, I went to bed at 4am and fell asleep at 6am. I was too excited to sleep, but I knew the next day would be a very long one. By 8am our country home was full of guests, including three Governors and their entourages. Everyone was smiling broadly and there was a lot of hugging and back-slapping. By the time JKF was officially declared the Governor-Elect of Ekiti State by the Independent Electoral Commission that morning, there were at least 2,000 people in our compound and the field right beside the house.
There was a wonderful celebration, and as we all sang and danced, the lessons were not lost on anyone. No one knows tomorrow. We don’t know what a new dawn brings, so we should be mindful of our words and actions. Every community has their own version of the story about the pauper who became a prince and the Prince who became a frog. There can be no contestation for power without subversion or disruption. However, it does not mean we have to lose our humanity. When mere mortals forget that they were created by a superior being, they get very forceful reminders. Last week, there was a lot of drama involving the current leadership of Ekiti State which has inspired a range of hilarious memes and videos. They all had the same theme – ‘How are the mighty fallen’. Even if some of us are bad at Arithmetic, we all know 1+1=2. And even if we have never been to a farm, we should know that you can’t plant cassava and harvest yams.
Two Sundays. Two major events in my life. Two totally different outcomes. How do I feel? There are not enough words to describe how I feel, but let me throw out a few -thankful, relieved, grateful, tired, excited, vindicated, forgiving and hopeful. I give thanks to God Almighty for his mercy and favour. I would like to thank all those who provided financial, material, technical, moral and spiritual support. I wish our political space was not as toxic and chaotic as it is now. This needs to change. Meanwhile, let me now take a break and sleep well for the first time in a long time. Tell yourself, ‘I am more than a conqueror because I have faith’.
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