It is hard to understand the ways of a Nigerian politician. That, he is a complex entity whose actions defy logic, we have the authority of a veteran politician, Ebenezer Babatope, once a fire-eating radical, now a PDP stalwart. He recently said something to the effect that ‘to us politicians, two plus two may not always be four’. He went on to assert that President Jonathan is not just the best Nigerian leader so far, but the one that embodied all the combined virtues of all our past heroes.
I have consulted those who are close to Opeyemi Bamidele to get an insight into the complex character of this daring, self-assured and smart young Nigerian politician without success. But one thing that is not in doubt is that Opeyemi, with a degree in religious studies from our great Ife backed up with a law degree from a foreign university, is an extremely intelligent and smart politician. We need no further proof of this than his membership of the inner circle of young professionals working for Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a leader who worships intellect and surrounds himself with only the best brains available in his environment and reaches out when circumstances demand special experts as he did during his epic judicial battle to retrieve the stolen mandates of Mimiko of Ondo and Aregbesola of Osun from PDP interlopers.
Honorable Bamidele, representing Irepodun-Ifelodun Constituency and until recently leader of Ekitit State caucus in the House of Representatives wants to contest the 2014 governorship election in Ekiti on the platform of his party. The party’s position is that the incumbent should be allowed to go for a second term because of his acknowledged performance in terms of infrastructural development and bringing peace to a state that was for three years, besieged by PDP gangs who settled intra-party feuds through assassinations. But Bamidele is said to be daring his party leaders insisting he would seek accommodation in another party.
He has however assured his peace loving people that he is “a child of God who would never seek power like those who have sold their soul to the devil’ or ‘step on blood to rule’. “God sees my heart”, he recently declared, “the only reason I am involved in Ekiti politics is to serve and help the people; I do not have any reason to be desperate”. He claims he is responding to the pressure from his Ekiti people. He is however yet to say if those who earnestly want him to run include those in Ekiti currently celebrating Fayemi’s achievements or those referred to a few days ago with howling newspaper headlines “Opeyemi Bamidele gets the support of USA based Ekitis”
Contained in his manifesto is his plan to provide water closets for houses that rely on the use of pit latrines and those who still rely on nearby bushes to defecate’, provide ‘Pipe borne water for houses that still rely on well and fetching water from nearby streams’, speed up ‘access to the use of gas and electric cookers for houses that still rely on the use of firewood to cook their meals’. He also intends to come to the rescue of the blind, the deaf and those with speaking defects as well as the disable who will be provided with mobility and the mentally sick who will be taken off the streets.
Part of his argument has not been that Fayemi is not addressing these problems but that he made Fayemi a governor by literarily dragging him down from Abuja where he was busy writing speeches for the presidency to Lagos where he was introduced to Tinubu, his godfather. While we may not be privy to the secrets between him and his friend, there is no doubt that they have been close allies who were in the trenches together for three years fighting PDP mandate-snatchers. They were both victims of violence when the state was besieged during PDP’s illegal occupation of the seat of government by assassins and kidnappers who routinely ferried prominent Ekitis including Obas to adjoining states for ransom.
But today, Bamidele says Fayemi is a man of violence who masterminded an attack on his person in Igede while visiting their common PDP friend whose son Fayemi recently appointed a local council caretaker. And he has found support from of all places, PDP, their erstwhile tormentor. Senator Ayo Arise has decried “spate of political violence in Ekiti state in recent times”, a development he said called for urgent attention”. From Abuja came a press release by PDP’s acting National Publicity Secretary, Barr. Tony Caesar Okeke attacking Tinubu: “it is extremely wicked and undemocratic for Tinubu to order Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele, to forget his governorship ambition”; such “smacks of tyranny and outright disdain for democracy”; “it is a display of despotic tendencies and utter disdain for democratic process”; and finally, PDP is urging the Ekitis “to rise up to the occasion and defend their rights by rejecting the usual practice of allowing godfathers to select their leaders for them”. And for a good measure, they reminded the people that Tinubu is not from Ekiti.
I am not sure if labelling a kettle black by a pot, which is exactly what a fractionalized PDP is doing, will help Opeyemi in his current futile attempt to upstage a performing governor, who also happens to be his close ally. And I also think it is doubtful if the people of Ekiti, who according to Professor Akintoye, are the most educated and informed group in Nigeria and Africa need the help of PDP to identify who their true leaders are. If others have forgotten so soon, it is doubtful if the people of Ekiti will forget so easily how President Obasanjo imposed an Ayo Fayose whose role model was Adedibu the head of Ibadan thugs as replacement for a polished, cultured and well educated Niyi Adebayo, who was rigged out as governor of the state. Obasanjo who introduced the culture of “if a mouse cannot eat the beans, it pours them in the sand” into Ekiti, went on to supervise a flawed election that saw disgruntled members of AC emerge as senators and members of the Lower house.
That is not to say Bola Tinubu is also perfect. Because he loves the bright and smart, Bamidele can do no wrong. When the Ekiti caucus of the lower house, who know those they represent expect them to call a spade by its name, removed Bamidele as their leader not too long ago, they were over ruled. As a very discerning group, the Ekitis don’t hold those who think they are smart in high esteem. The story is told of a professor who became a federal minister and in character with PDP, erected an imposing mansion in his village. The people who know the worth of their “omowe and ojogbon (Doctors and professors) beyond mansions gleefully show visitors a mansion built by a PDP smart professor.
Ekiti is an enchanting land of undulating hills, meandering rivers and waterfalls, a land of honour inhabited by men of character. The Ikogosi spring where warn and cold spring water oozes out of the same source and flowing side by side symbolizes the peaceful coexistence of the people. Of course that does not signify absence of conflict. In fact after their 16 years ‘kiriji’ war of independence, the Ekiti ran a confederacy of 16 kingdoms presided over by the 16 first class Ekiti Obas who met once a month during ‘pelupelu’ to resolve conflicts. And once a consensus was reached, their word was their bond.
Ekitis are known for loyalty to friends. Fajuyi demonstrated that by dying with Ironsi his guest. It is not in our character to be subversive. Ekitis have never been known to be active participants in coups in the country. Ekitis never deny their benefactors. Their love for Awolowo even in death is without measure. We never discountenance the advice of elders because we have been taught to appreciate that no matter the size of a young man’s wardrobe, he can never have as many rags as adorned an old man’s wardrobe.