The dire need for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Ekiti state to unite to fight the common enemy and opposition to genuine progress and development in the state is an open book. You don’t have to be a genius to know this. You don’t even need any access to brilliance at all.This is not only imperative but a task that must be accomplished, at all costs! By this I mean real reconciliation and unpretentious unity. Not smiling for the camera.
In that case, the party leaders must take deliberate steps to consciously bring the warring factions together and plant a germinable seed of cohesion, whose radicle grows to produce a viable victory, in next year’s governorship election.
One fact that no one is willing to challenge with facts in Ekiti today is that the present All Progressives Congress (APC) government has failed to deliver on its campaign promises. That has prepared a well-founded ground for the return of PDP, come 2022.
Everyone with a sound mind in and around the state, irrespective of party affiliation, is a living witness to the abysmally poor performance of APC in the last three years. The devastation that has befallen the people is simply exceptional. I have listened to sad and shocking comments by staunch APC supporters and financiers who could not hide their frustrations and regrets.
Since the birth of the state in 1996 under the military regime of late Gen. Sani Abacha, Ekiti has had four duly elected governors, starting with Otunba Niyi Adebayo, an urbane and cosmopolitan politician and lawyer, currently serving as minister of Trade and Industry, to the present governor, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, (JFK), a purely cerebral and elegant politician, both of the APC.
The two others(of the PDP) are Dr. Ayodele Fayose, the inexorable and intelligent political master-planner and Chief Segun Oni (CSO), a brilliant chemical engineer whose academic, career and leadership records reign above easy comparison among his fellow compatriots who have been privileged to run the affairs of the state in the last 25 years.
These four gentlemen have made records and Ekiti people are in dutiful custody of those records. As such, a secondary school student can list the achievements of each of these governors with a scientific accuracy.
Incidentally, the two elected PDP governors, going by visible evidence, are today rated the best in the state’s democratic experience.
Like him or hate him, Fayose’s accomplishments as governor are unshunnable in every area he chose to direct his energy. Not only did he manage the economy of the state to the best of his own ability, he was able to maintain peace and security during his two nonconsecutive terms. It is to his eternal credit that he effectively curtailed the menace of the Fulani killer herdsmen throughout his second four year tenure.
Oni, on his own part, consciously raised the bar of governance, leadership and public service to a model plane during his three and half years in office, between 2007 and 2010, a feat that has endeared him to all Ekiti sons and daughters, home and abroad.
Teachers, civil servants, retirees, the youth and the elderly now reminisce over the Oni years and how he positively touched virtually every aspect of every Ekiti life.
They speak of his unmatched prudent management of the lean resources of the state with an animated nostalgia. His foray into politics, they say, is totally devoid of personal enrichment in a country where public office is seen as license to loot.
I worked closely with Oni throughout the period he held sway as governor and I write from my head without consulting any literatures; because I saw it all. I have also been sufficiently close to the state and the former governors, all of who have been my personal friends, for over 20 or so years, to competently comment on their individual performances.
Meanwhile, whatever I claim to have on these gentlemen- Adebayo, Fayose, Oni and Fayemi are also available to all natives of Ekiti, including ardent external watchers of the calculus of events in the state.
Like I always say, the public office is like pregnancy. No matter how smart you are, to sweet-tongue your way, no matter how strong your control of the media space is, to peddle propaganda and spread falsehood, my Ekiti people know the truth. And that is unassailable; you cannot take it away from them. Ekiti people are highly educated, critical and suave in every sense. I can also bet they know their onions.
I challenge all the former governors including the incumbent, who previously had a four year reign, to come out and list their major achievements for public scrutiny. The result, I believe, will be humbling. Though I do not expect an honest self-appraisal, except they have ceased to be politicians, each one of them knows the truth.
Oni’s uncommon prudence may have however, earned him different appellations associated with stinginess especially from those who had a wayward notion about public service. But the past 11 years have taught them a new lesson and they have come to appreciate him for what he represents. How many of our political office holders can publicly declare their assets? That is story for another day.
Oni is probably the only former governor in Nigeria who does not own mansions in Abuja and Lagos or any foreign country.
That brings to mind my encounter in December of 2010, with a former governor (not Ekiti) shortly after Fayemi used the court to bulldoze his way to office following a jaundiced judgment.
We met at a Nigerian restaurant in Johannesburg while covering an assignment for Thisday newspaper where I resumed my job after leaving Ekiti. As soon as I walked up to him and introduced myself, his face lit up.
“Where is Segun Oni, your oga, now?
Me: “he should be in Lagos, Ekiti Abuja”
“You mean he is in Nigeria?
Me: “Where else will he be?
“What do you mean; he doesn’t have any residence abroad?
Me: (laughing almost hysterically) Residence abroad?
“Wetin you de talk na?, he asked.
When I finally recovered from the refractory laughter that ached my ribs, I told him that apart from the modest four bedroom bungalow in his home town of Ifaki, I was not sure he owned any other residence. When I told the stupendously rich former governor how that Ifaki home itself came about, he gazed at me for several minutes with eyes and mouth agape, unable to speak. He nearly abandoned his banga soup and garri in amazement.
“O’boy, so na true all I don de hear about this man? Chai, na wah oh!
Me: Na so we see am o.
Soon after, my pounded yam and sizzling hot efo riro arrived. I doubt he enjoyed the rest of his meal after the strange revelation.
Five days later, he invited me to his rich hacienda in an exclusive part of the city. The conglomerate of mansions, which defiantly displayed an obscene opulence, had white men as security guards, all armed to their chins. There were about nine swimming pools, each catering to different needs (as he explained to me), an exotic outdoor bar, in addition to those in each of the mansions, carefully couched on a classy, exquisite stage for his private band, replete with modern musical instruments.
It was a weekend and the band was on hand to entertain him and a few of his friends, which now included me. Practically all the expensive brands in liquor were there to wash down the various cuisines. Each guest had a chef and a drink connoisseur (white, black and mixed ladies) at a wink’s distance.
There were several other beautiful entertainments of various shapes that night which prevented me from going round the massive ranch of many recreation centers as we all had a very busy schedule.
He told me he had similar ones in certain other cities in Europe and the United States.
Such is the life of a former Nigerian state governor or something near it. Unlike Oni.
Now that the length and breadth of Ekiti are yearning for the return of Oni to rescue the state from complete collapse, the task before the PDP is how well it organizes itself.
I personally like Fayemi and I suspect he knows. But his highly engaging commitments outside Ekiti which has made him a roving governor in the last three years, has created a seeming indelible distance from the people he swore to govern. It has also alienated tangible and visible development from his government.
But despite the large window this has thrown open for the PDP, the party must come to the reality that whosoever Fayemi anoints as candidate remains the man to beat, considering the power of incumbency which most Nigerian politicians are addicted to exploit to the extreme.
No one should be under the illusion that every Nigerian leader would be like President Goodluck Jonathan who lost an election and shocked the world by relinquishing power and willingly walking away.
PDP must be reminded that APC will do anything that you and I know to hold down power in that state.
Not because they have given a good account of the mandate given to them, but because the party has its own peculiar definition of democracy, the nuances of which only a small mafia and proven election strategists and magicians, at both the state and national levels, understand. Any opposition party willing to wrest power from them must know where to wear their own daggers.
One strategy the PDP leaders need, more than oxygen now, is to come together, genuinely, and present a formidable candidate whose popularity is capable of knocking down APC’s powerful rigging machines and thuggery at all levels.
In the case of Ekiti, make no mistake about it, Oni is the ONLY person that can hold the light to the face of Fayemi’s candidate in the 2022 governorship election as things stand today. Except PDP is set to forfeit that election.
Fayose’s announcement of my brother and fellow compatriot, Chief Bisi Kolawole as his preferred candidate is ordinarily a good choice. Kolawole and I served in the administration of Oni; he later became a commissioner under Fayose and very recently, state chairman of the party.
With that, he appears qualified for the job. Besides, he has a pleasant and presentable personality with a good dress sense and a soothing, toothy smile.
But, whether he has enough political fiber and strong antecedents to give APC the needed good fight and a run for their limitless funds flowing free from the nation’s commonwealth reservoir is what I know Kolawole himself cannot stamp with his right thumb.
Something tells me that Fayose himself knows, being a master strategist and political genius, that the man in question cannot, at this point in time, turn in the needed heat to unseat the hydra headed and hegemonic ruling party.
There are other credible candidates who until this recent endorsement are more politically weighty and popular than Kolawole. People like Senator Biodun Olujimi and Professor Kolapo Olusola Eleka, both former deputies to Fayose, Dr. Sikiru Tae- Lawal, Oni’s former deputy, are in the race for the party’s ticket.
Also on the list are Otunba Yinka Akerele, a political giant of high pedigree and new entrants like Kayode Adaramodu former Deputy Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB), Wale Aribisala, Tosin Ajibare, Wale Akinde, Opeyemi Falegan and others.
Truth be told, the PDP needs Oni if it is serious about chasing the enemy party away at this time.
It therefore, behooves on the leaders of the party in Ekiti to rescue the state from the current precipice. Fayose, Olujimi, Akerele, Eleka, Lawal, Senator Duro Faseyi, Senator C.K Awoyelu, Hon. Kehinde Agboola, Engr. Alaba Agboola, Hon. Kehinde Odebunmi, Rt. Hon.Tunji Odeyemi and other leaders across the state, the ball is in your court.
You all must shelve the primitive intra-party squabbles and unnecessary showiness to avoid issuing the party a certificate of defeat at the general elections. The primary election, as you know too well, is a mere preparatory battle, but the outcome of this will determine the actual colour of the main contest.
In other political environments where facts win over fiction, Oni would have a walkover given his towering records and intimidating performance in his first outing which now reverberates in all the hills and valleys of the state.
Ekiti leaders need to perish their individual differences, inordinate ambitions and come together for the sake of our dear state. The stage is set for PDP now and the ovation cannot possibly be louder.
If you blow away this golden opportunity of saving the flesh of this state from being further cannibalized, posterity will not forgive anyone of you.
.Jolayemi, former Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief, Newswatch Newspapers and former Editorial Board member, Thisday Newspapers, writes from Lagos.