Just as his most recent lecture “The Successor- Generation: Reflections on Values and Knowledge in Nation Building”, delivered at the 49th Convocation ceremonies of his alma mater, the University of Lagos, has become a subject of diverse interpretations, analyses and appraisals, Dr Kayode Fayemi, Minister of Mines and Steel Development, is seen by many from different perspectives.
While some see him as an ever smiling and easy going man, some see him as one stubborn, ex-NADECO chieftain. Yet, for some, he is simply that tough and principled administrator with very rigid stance on issues of integrity and due process. And while some see him as that deep and diplomatic fellow, others see him as somehow too forthright and unable to hide his feelings. To some, he appears too refined for the murky waters of Nigerian politics, while some see him as a dogged fighter able to play on any turf.
But whichever way one considers his politics and administrative style, Fayemi’s principal concerns centres round effective leadership, integrity, excellence and provable result. He is ever concerned about how transformational leadership can replace transactional politics. How institutions of state can be strengthened and positioned for effective service delivery. To him, public service is about trust and a leader must necessarily earn the trust of the people and should never trade it for silver or gold. He believes an activist in government must make a difference.
Needless to say Fayemi’s principled stand on matter of governance and public policy has earned him friends and foes alike. Those who know him well would attest to the fact he is not likely to slow down on this, even as he turns 52 today. He believes that a man must stand for something, otherwise, he falls for everything. As a leader, he believes truth remains a necessary ingredient of justice, and that justice must be done (always) “though the heaven falls”.
Fayemi subscribes to the school of thought that believes that leadership is not a popularity contest. He believes that a leader must be courageous enough to tow the path of truth- which he says is the path of honour.
These are some of the philosophies that define JKF, as he is fondly called by his teeming admirers. And these are the principles that sometimes make him a complex book devoid of easy comprehension. But therein lies the strength and courage he brings to bear on every assignment given to him. Consequently, the success he has recorded in his private and public life, so far, can be traced to the effective application of this philosophy.
It is in this context that many have come to see the current growth being experienced in the mining sector since he took over the leadership of the Ministry of Mines and Steel development in November 2015. The National Bureau of Statistics attested to this when it declared recently that there has been a record of consistent and remarkable growth in the mining sector. The NBS, in its last quarterly publication, put the growth in the mining sector at 7 per cent.
What is now known as the “Fayemi magic” in the mining sector started when the Minister ordered the application of the “use or lose” clause in the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007, early last year. The enforcement of the directive increased activities in the sector as many dormant mining licences were revoked while the serious ones got theirs revalidated with payment of appropriate fees. Also, Fayemi, through collaboration with relevant security agencies and the Ministry of Interior took the issue of security of mines a step further. Today, operatives of the Nigerian Civil Defence Corps are being deployed for better security surveillance of mines. This, coupled with the current ease of doing business in the ministry, have helped in restoring investors’ confidence in the country’s mining sector.
The strategic manner he got the state government to embrace mining as a sure way to take advantage of the mineral deposits in their domain is seen as a master stroke, a win- win situation for both the state and the Federal Government. Apparently wearing his conflict management cap, Fayemi worked out a strategic partnership arrangement with the states, which encourages state governments to set up special purpose vehicles to invest in mining without violating any of the existing laws. This has helped in no small way in resolving the age-long acrimony between the two levels of government regarding who owns what and where.
And through constant strategic engagements with various stakeholders in the sector, he has been able to get their support for the several innovations that are being put in place.
Based on demonstrated seriousness and commitment, several doors of funding have been opened for the sector. For the first time in recent years, the ministry got N30 billion intervention fund from the solid mineral component of the National Resource Fund. It also received a World Bank support for $150 million, which would provide funding for artisanal and small scale miners. Added to this is the technical partnership with some frontline mining nations, including Canada, Australia, China and South Africa, which has been of tremendous boost to the sector.
Getting the work done without any excuse remains the hallmark of Fayemi’s public service right from his days as governor of Ekiti State between 2010 and 2014, where he pioneered a lot of developmental projects including the now famous Social Security Scheme for Elderly citizens; free and compulsory education for children from primary to junior secondary school; the computer-per- child initiatives in secondary schools; free health services for the vulnerable citizens (i,e pregnant women, elderly citizens above 65, physically challenged citizens.), and the community participation in budgeting process through town hall meetings, among others.
It was during his tenure that investors were attracted to the Ekiti State in view of the state’s rating, then, as “investor friendly”, based on its level of peace and security as well as the relevant laws put in place to protect investments. Many believe that the high level of prosperity recorded in the state during his tenure is in sharp contrast to the crass poverty and economic woes that currently stare the citizens in the face.
Whereas critics of his administration faulted some of his policies then, paradoxically, the results of those policies are now earning the state accolades from many institutions, including the National Examination Council (NECO).
Regarded as a workaholic, by his close associates, JKF has a knack for working quietly, conscientiously and strategically. His belief is that there is no place for excuses, especially in assignments that would lead to the public good.
To Fayemi, it does not really matter whether the assignment is a community issue in Iropora-Ekiti or a mining issue in Muye Kafinkoro, Niger State. It does not matter if the task is about leading government delegation in an investment meeting in Johannesburg or coordinating his party’s strategy session in Akure or attending to some developmental matters in Okposi Okwu. In as much as it will be beneficial to the people, it must be done with every jolt of his energy, and with outstanding result.
Born on February 9, 1965, Fayemi earned degrees in History, International Relations and War Studies, which adequately equipped him with the intellectual skills needed to proffer solutions to life’s hydra-headed challenges. But of great significance to him, also, are the trainings he got outside the confines of the classrooms.
As a little lad, he served as an altar boy in the family Catholic church. As a student activist, he was secretary of the Eni Njoku Hall, at the University of Lagos, which also made him a member of the Student’s Senate. He also served as Secretary of the Youths United in Solidarity for Southern Africa (YUSSA) as well as the Secretary General of UNILAG’s chapter of the All-Nigeria United Nations Students Association (ANUNSA). He was also a volunteer in the Lagos, Nigeria office of ANC/SWAPO liberation movements.
As an activist, he was involved in a number of social causes, notably as a leading member of the opposition to military rule in exile, where he ran the opposition radio: Radio Kudirat and Radio Freedom. A detribalised Nigerian, JKF maintains a network of friends that cut across many strata.
Today, as he clocks 52, this outstanding scholar, public servant, activist, intellectual, politician, innovator, strategist, loving husband and devoted father, can look back and count his many blessings. It is indeed a toast to fifty-two impactful years.
- Oyebode is Special Assistant (Media) to the Minister