Kayode Fayemi, other politicians lack proper upbringing, intellectual rigour to develop Nigeria: Prof. Oguibe

Kayode Fayemi, other politicians lack proper upbringing, intellectual rigour to develop Nigeria: Prof. Oguibe

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Olu Oguibe and Kayode Fayemi

Olu Oguibe and Kayode Fayemi

Olu Oguibe, a Nigerian-born scholar in the United States, has said Nigerian politicians like Kayode Fayemi lack the requisite upbringing and intellectual ability to improve Nigeria, saying they’ve long been condemned to do things the wrong way. He made the remarks in the online interview programme 90Minutes Africa hosted by Rudolf Okonkwo on Sunday.

Mr Oguibe, an award-winning artist and professor, said that, unlike the late Chinua Achebe, he does not belong to the school of thought that believes Nigeria’s problem is entirely about leadership. He argued that the character of Nigerian politicians is shaped by the environment they were brought up in, and thus, they are the product of the malaise of Nigerian society.

“The present crop of Nigerian leaders are from the generation that fought the military,” Mr Oguibe, a leading pro-democratic fighter in the 1990s London, said. “One would therefore think that for a generation that waged the pro-democracy struggle and saw for itself the damage that bad leadership was doing, they would grow up and do things differently.”

“But the fact of the matter is that what they are used to was doing things the wrong way. They can theoretically articulate what is the right thing, but their training, their upbringing, and their socialisation were in doing things the wrong way. There is this dissonance of knowing what should be done and doing what should be done,” the art historian said.

The recipient of the Arnold Bode prize further accused his comrades in the progressive movement who joined politics of abandoning the progressive tenets and embracing the practice of doing things the “Nigerian way.”

“An example is my friend Kayode Fayemi, who was like a brother to me in the progressive movement,” said Mr Oguibe, the author of The Gathering Fear” which won the Christopher Okigbo Prize. “You look at Kayode, you look at Ekiti, you look at Nigeria, and you wonder the kind of role he has played as a person coming from a progressive background.”

Mr Oguibe, whose contemporaries are the current crop of Nigerian leaders, like Governor Charles Solido of Anambra, continued. “In many instances, some of these people just abandon their progressive background and do things the “Nigeria way.” 

One of the arguments that Kayode made in the very beginning, when he was first contesting to become governor of Ekiti State, during an interview with the New York Times, was that in order to change politics in Nigeria, you have to do it the Nigerian way. What is the “Nigerian way”? It is basically buying votes.”

“And that’s the tragedy of my generation – we all went into politics and continued to do things the Nigerian way. It is not a Nigerian way, it’s just the wrong way. We haven’t been able to move in the direction of the right way,” Mr Oguibe said.

Mr Fayemi, a former two-time governor of Ekiti, was a frontline pro-democracy activist against years of Nigeria’s brutal military junta in the 1980s and 1990s. He served as a minister under the erstwhile administration of Muhammadu Buhari, known largely for corruption and brutality. 

Mr Fayemi, who is speculated to take a position under the current Bola Tinubu government, has been facing charges of looting billions of naira that further impoverished his home state of Ekiti. He strongly denied all allegations and did not immediately return a request seeking comments about Mr Oguibe’s remarks against him. 

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