It began in hushed tones. It later developed into a rumour. By the time the bell tolled, it emerged the reality of the moment, and the momentum has now become unmistakable in the Ekiti political symphony in content, theme and rhythm.
It is all about the ambition and presentation to the leadership of Ekiti State All Progressives Congress (APC) of the immediate past Secretary to the Government of Ekiti State (SSG), Biodun Abayomi Oyebanji (BAO), as an aspirant seeking Ekiti people’s mandate in the 2022 governorship election.
An unassuming bureaucrat, who stands on the pedestals of humility, brilliance, generosity and loyalty to the system that bred him, Oyebanji, from his position of strength of character, climbed to the hearts of Ekiti people who threw him up as a successor to Governor Kayode Fayemi, to erect a firm foundation for a continuity agenda for development; the like of spirit that guides and puts Lagos State in the front row as a model of development in the South of Sahara.
Governor Fayemi has through sheer grit, vision and commitment to Ekiti State’s development moved the state from a notorious crime outpost to a development hub in the South West Nigeria. For him, a well-knit system built on mission and vision must be allowed to thrive to drive a development agenda. He did it through his Eight-point Agenda in his first term, and continues the strides in his second term through his Five-point Agenda.
Fayemi, a stickler for excellence through a system-driven agenda built on collective rescue mission, relied on that system to produce his successor.
And so Oyebanji, who at the onset was far removed from the crowd of protesters to the governorship position of the state, was just managing his official functions as a faithful political servant to Ekiti people where his virtues brightened Ekiti political skyline like a galaxy of stars that sold him to Ekiti people. Never for him the dubious and couching antics of desperate power-seekers. Neither is he a deceiful jade that fawns on his leaders, benefactors, party members and friends and later scandal them. He hates lies. He abhors greedy lifestyle. Unlike friends in hoods with daggers in their smiles, the dubiety of political lechers and staunchless avarice of the unconscionable blackmailers are strange to Oyebanji’s nature. He cultivates true friendship among the high and low. His penchant for problem-solving among the people that come across him earned him the sobriquet “Mr Solution” among the appreciative people of Ekiti State who at one time or the other benefited from his generous heart.
In no time, the Ekiti State political gladiators of the progressives hue, the rich and yokels, coalesced to rally Oyebanji into accepting the challenge in aid of Ekiti’s growth. He reflected on the pressures and accepted the challenge.
And so at the weekend, December 10, 2021, while returning from Abuja after collecting his governorship nomination form, his sponsors, godfathers, godmothers “godbrothers and godsisters” in their large numbers came out in bright colours, cymbals and tambourines, to herald the Ikogosi-Ekiti-born multi-talented politician to the warm embrace of the APC leadership and Ekiti people in general at the party secretariat reception attended by the high and low in Ekiti political and non-political classes.
It was a political outing in recent times that did not attract the usual pay-out to supporters, as self-sponsored groups stormed the road to celebrate the man of the moment, and to task him to help shape their lives for good.
From Ikere end of Itaogbolu, Ondo State border town to Ekiti State, snarling human and vehicular traffic choked life out of that stretch of the road to the state capital where thousands of party leaders and supporters waited to dare the burning shafts of King Phoebus, the god of the Sun, to catch the glimpse of the man waiting in the wings to tame the debilitating want among the people of the state.
At the reception event were notable party leaders, including former State Chairman of APC, Chief Jide Awe; past and newly elected State Chairman, Barrister Paul Omotoso; former Ekiti State Head of Service and current Federal Commissioner in the National Population Commission, Deji Ajayi; Tade Aluko, Folorunso Olabode, Sunday Adunmo Galaxy, Rt Hon Dapo Karounwi, Rt Hon Taiwo Olatubosun, Hon. Febisola Adewale, Gbenga Agbeyo, Engr Muyiwa Fatoba, Gbenga Okito and Femi Awe.
Others included the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Biodun Omoleye; Tolu Ibitola, Ademola Obanise, Mrs Bunmi Obanise, Hon Sola Fatoba, Segun Dipe, Kunle Dada, former APC State Vice Chairman, Chief (Mrs) Kemisola Olaleye, Funmi Adeyemo, Chief Mrs Taye Fagboro, Sheri Ogunsakin and Demola Oosha Adeusi.
Others were Hon. Rotimi Ajidara, Tokunbo Adeparusi, Chief Remi Oguntuase Remog, Mrs. Ajayi Oluremi Babington, Mrs Jumoke Olaniyan, Mrs Yemi Afolabi, Hon. Oluyemi Esan, Odunayo Arinka, Hon. Kayode Olaosebikan, Hon. Abiola Olowokere, Hon Bunmi Oriniowo, Hon. Bisi Adesua, Hon. Gbenga Omole, Hon. Boluwade Kehinde, Hon. Yemisi Ayokunle, Yeyeoge Yetunde, Hon. Kayode Fasakin, Hon. Sikira Apolola, Oska Seyi Ayeleso and Hon. Bayo Daramola.
Present also included Hon. Yemi Alatise, Otunba Femi Ayodele, Alhaji Ayodele Jinadu, Otunba Kayode Fasae Jimlas, Hon. Femi Ajayi, Chief Biodun Akin-Fasae, Hon. Folusho Daramola, Hon. Olusoga Davids, Hon. Sunkanmi Onipede, Hon. Tajudeen Akingbolu, Assembly man Deji Ajayi, Prof Adio Folayan, Mrs Bolaji Egbeyemi-Olagbaju, Mr Ayo Adegbite, Mrs Margaret Fagboyo, Mrs Funke Falodun, Chief Bunmi Awotiku, Otunba Bisi Dada, Victor Irewolede, Michael Awopetu, Mrs Bunmi Agunbiade, Hon Abiodun Fawekun, Hon Toyin Lucas, Chief Mrs Tosin Aluko, Mr Dele Owoju, Barrister Tunji Lawal, Hon Amire Kolade and all local government past and newly elected chairmen, vice chairmen and councillors, among other hundreds of party leaders and faithful across the 16 local governments and newly created local council development areas.
High Chief Awe led the charge at the event moderated by the APC State Publicity Secretary, Segun Dipe, and Taiwo Olatunbosun. Awe introduced Oyebanji to the party’s top echelons as other party leaders, members and supporters hooted, drawing a long applause amid clapping and drumming by the surging crowds of Oyebanji’s supporters.
Awe counselled the opposition parties to look elsewhere for what to do, as APC was poised to win the 2022 poll back to back to sustain the legacy and development agenda of the Fayemi-led administration.
Of note at the rally were the teeming unlikely supporters of Oyebanji who had hitherto been working for other aspirants but who had now read the minds and mood of Ekiti people in their support for the former SSG, and so had decided to join the throng of Oyebanji’s supporters to add filip to the collective efforts to build the state into a model of development.
Oyebanji himself left no one in doubt as to the potency of his energy, competence and readiness for the task ahead. In an urbane air of an accomplished cleric, the seminal former SSG held his listeners captive as he spoke softly and flawlessly in a polished Queen’s English interspersed in Yoruba expressions at the crowded rally.
Narrating his odyssey in the political tram of Ekiti State that placed on him several positions of responsibility and authority, he assured Ekiti people that he would not fail them in the challenge ahead, even as he insisted that his campaign would be issue-based.
Promising to work for the sustenance of the unity of the party in the run up to the 2022 governorship poll, the APC aspirant added that the interests of Ekiti people would rule his mind in taking critical decisions if elected the governor.
He warned his supporters against violence against other aspirants, adding that he would continue with Fayemi’s legacy of non-violence policy that has put Ekiti State in an enviable position as one of the most peaceful states to live and do business in Nigeria, while also pledging to sustain the omoluabi credo for which Fayemi and former Governor Adeniyi Adebayo are renowned.
Also speaking at the reception, Omotoso congratulated Oyebanji for leading the field of other aspirants in the electoral contest, even as he assured other prospective aspirants yet to declare their interest of a level-playing field as campaigns get underway. He urged peaceful campaigns by all aspirants.
Lending support for Oyebanji also were “ara orun kinkin” (masquerades), as they proved that what is goose for the inhabitants of this terrestrial plain is also gander for the heavenly creatures. They entertained as crowds of supporters watched in admiration.
In the days ahead, Oyebanji will hit the roads selling his development agenda to Ekiti people. Good luck to BAO in the task to exploring the course charted by destiny.
* Olujobi (Igirabata) writes from Ado-Ekiti