Two urbane men just alighting from a commercial bus suddenly stopped short. They were attracted by a sea of heads that thronged the popular Ilesa Garage in Akure, Ondo State, where drivers, traders, artisans and other commoners converged to welcome a man they cherished. These two travellers were particularly shocked to hear a leader of the spare-part traders – apparently an Igbo man, enthusing as he said, “We are surprised to see you here today, because you shouldn’t have bothered to come, as we all have taken a common decision to vote for you.”
One of the travellers tapped his colleague on the shoulder and remarked, “Never has a man been so loved this way in Ondo State politics.”
The man, who was on this day endorsed not only by people of his clan but also by the Igbo people, is no other person than Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party.
The immediate past Attorney- General and Commissioner for Justice in Ondo State, Jegede, to amplify his acceptance across ethnic bounds, was at a time the chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, in Adamawa State. To have led lawyers among a predominantly Hausa population in a far-away clime, cannot but rupture thoughts to the effect that there is something unusual in this suave, crowdpulling lawyer.
For over seven years that Governor Olusegun Mimiko has been in charge in Ondo State, an apparently reticent Jegede had been in the background, working assiduously without any inkling that he would be drafted to take a shot at the exalted position of governor. He was much admired at the cabinet meetings of the state by his colleagues as he gathered the reputation of ‘Mr. Perfect’; that is, a man who hangs on to the pristine ideal that ‘what is worth doing at all is worth doing well’. ‘He is never a politician but an unbeatable administrator as he would do a critique of any bill or quotation brought to the cabinet meeting, regarding any project,’ said a serving commissioner who craved not to be mentioned.
“FOR OVER SEVEN YEARS THAT GOVERNOR OLUSEGUN MIMIKO HAS BEEN IN CHARGE IN ONDO STATE, AN APPARENTLY RETICENT JEGEDE HAD BEEN IN THE BACKGROUND, WORKING”
While the PDP leadership in the state was shopping for an acceptable candidate to succeed Mimiko, two parameters surfaced. One was based on the age-long primordial and ethnic sentiment of rotating the governorship position across senatorial districts. The calculation, according to this bias, is that since Mimiko has governed for eight years and he is from the Central District, the contest should be restricted to either the South or North Senatorial District. If this option had eventually been taken by the PDP leadership, there would not have been a Jegede, the governorship candidate.
The other option, of course, was the need to search for a credible, honest, diligent and insightful personality capable of not only sustaining the tempo of work in the state but also improving on it. As for this dimension of thought, a rigorous private assessment of notable figures within and outside the state’s administration was carried out.
But the other political parties, rather than ply this highway to salvation, decided to walk on the low road based on the primordial sentiment of choosing their governorship candidates with the wonky yardstick of senatorial-district sentiment. The competence and pedigree of contestants mounting the stump were apparently brushed aside. A clear example was the recent rancorous primary election in the All Progressives Congress that presented the party as a market place of discord. The APC, though did not officially bar anybody from the race, still effectively gesticulated that anyone from the Central District would not emerge its candidate. In the long run, the Akoko ethnic stock from the North District, which had taken to the dance floor, that it would produce the next governor, felt muzzled out as none of its two major ‘sons’ – Segun Abraham and Senator Ajayi Boroffice – was able to make it. The ticket went to Rotimi Akeredolu, from Owo. At press time, it was rumoured that Abraham was considering defecting to another party.
In the same vein, APC members from the South Senatorial District had placed high hopes on the emergence of Olusola Oke as the party’s standardbearer. But they were crestfallen at the turn of events, a situation that has witnessed the defection of a distraught Oke to Alliance for Democracy.
In all, the grandiose design of the APC and some other parties to build the future and prosperity of the people of Ondo State on the quicksand of ‘senatorial district politics’ has fallen flat on their faces, exposing the naivety that is the entire idea.
With the denouement of things, PDP’s Jegede is now seen as a man keeping date with destiny, as his emergence contradicted all norms in politics. He is from the same senatorial district as the outgoing governor; he is not a politician; he is a quiet achiever that nature has thrust on the podium of politics, and he has been basing his campaigns on ‘service to the people’.
All over the state, artisans who include tailors, timber union members, youths and market women are all for him. And wherever he campaigns, he talks of revamping Ondo State’s economy, creating jobs through agric expansion and new industries. The Ondo people, without doubt, would want these lofty dreams realised, regardless of any dichotomous senatorial district shout.