It is not all the times that history presents a people with the golden opportunity of having leaders who are not rulers, but who are committed to the communal good. Such leaders are the changes they want to see in the world, in tandem with the words of the great Indian leader, Mahatma Ghandi, who said: “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” Unfortunately, such people are scorned by many while they are still playing their roles on the stage and only appreciated when they are no more there. After all, according to William Shakespeare: “All the world is a stage and all the men and women merely players.”
However, the people may be lucky, once again, to have another rare opportunity of having such selfless leaders back on stage for a rescue mission. This is the kind of rare opportunity the traumatised Ekiti people, who self-inflicted unimaginable sufferings on themselves, deserves as another governorship election in the state holds on July 14, this year.
Of the army of politicians who are jostling to rule the state, just a few actually know what governance is all about. Even among these few are some focus-less people and this will baffle any discerning mind why such characters want to rule a state as complex as the “Fountain of Knowledge” that requires the experience of a tested person, not the trial and error, gambling type.
Among the few who appear to be serious; who obviously are not throwing their hats into the ring as bargaining power for other political jobs, Asiwaju Olusegun Oni, an engineer, takes the lead. This is because having ruled the state between May 29, 2007 and October 15, 2010 and garnered wide experience; having come out clean of any corruption allegation; having provided infrastructure in large scale never witnessed before by the people of the state, even till date; having cleared a backlog of pension arrears and having made life worth living for civil servants and other residents of the state, among other monumental achievements of his then administration, it is obvious that Oni is the best man for the job this time.
According to the words of Ralp Waldo Emerson, “Do not go where the path may lead you, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”. In Ekiti political landscape, Segun Oni went to where there was no path in many communities during his tenure, which was truncated by the Appeal Court judgment of October 15, 2010, and left a trail everywhere he went. The trails are only comparable to those of the sages, who changed the lives of their people forever.
Although I am not a politician and I have no sympathy for any political party, I am a critical stakeholder in the Ekiti Project. As a community leader, whoever becomes the governor of Ekiti State should be of great interest to me personally. And having known some of the candidates, while others are unknown to me, I can correctly say that many of them are good citizens of our state who are also looking for its good. But, governance is not about trial and error, the reason experience comes in handy here and the reason the most experienced and urbane man with Spartan lifestyle, who will not fritter away the scarce resources of our struggling state, is deserved as our governor.
However, I must confess that I was initially indifferent to the activities of the Segun Oni administration when it came in, in 2007. I only started developing interest after a visit to the state by senior Ekiti people in the media, of which I was among, where his achievements within a short period of time were showcased. I was an Assistant Editor with the Nigerian Compass newspapers then. I remember vividly his and Deputy, Dr. Sikiru Tae Lawal’s interaction with us late in the night on our day of arrival in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, where they went round to greet and talk to each and every one of us individually. I was thrown off balance by the simplicity of the duo. Before then, I had been informed by my town folks that for the first time ever, a brand new road, which snakes through a virgin forest, a former footpath used by farmers to access their farms, had been built to connect my community directly with other Ekiti communities by the Oni administration and all the farmers adequately compensated. Hitherto, for us and other visitors to access my community from whichever side, we had to pass through communities in Ondo State, as there was no direct link between us and any Ekiti community. But now, I was told, I can drive straight from Ado-Ekiti to my community and reach there in less than one hour. They even sent the pictures of the new road, complete with drainage and other road infrastructure on both sides, to me. I could not believe my eyes that such a brand new road now leads into my community, something we never dreamed of in our life time because we thought it simply was not imaginable. The road is still very solid there till date without a single pothole. Not only that, the Oni administration also reconstructed other roads connecting my community with communities in Ondo State, one of the reasons the succeeding Dr. Kayode Fayemi administration launched a campaign of calumny against Oni, accusing him of using Ekiti money to build roads in Ondo State. Good that both men are today in the same All Progressives Congress. However, I was pleasantly surprised that up until that time, I had never seen any administration in my state build a brand new road through a virgin forest provided with drainage and other road infrastructure.
Globally, any keen observer of Ekiti politics will agree with me that Segun Oni displayed a rare fiscal discipline as governor, the reason nobody could accuse him of fraud during his administration and the reason he has never been a guest of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission till date, unlike many of his contemporaries. In fact, his Spartan lifestyle is legendary and this is what has made me develop an enduring interest and friendship with him. He once told us during another of our visits to Ekiti then that he has nothing to leave for any child except good education, “which nobody can take away from him or her”. He has two children. His houses in Ado and Ifaki, where he hails from, and which he built before becoming a governor, attest to this fact, as they are just simple bungalows. In fact, when he was briefly removed to pave the way for the Election Petitions Tribunal-ordered polls in 11 local government councils out of the 16 in the state, his friends who saw his stellar performance while in office, donated one or two vehicles to him to enable him move out of the Government House.
Specifically, some of Oni’s impactful performances during his tenure are: the release of brand new official cars to all the traditional rulers in the state, the first of its kind in Ekiti; the enactment of a law setting a maximum of two years for any community, which loses its traditional ruler to appoint a successor, failure which the state will de-recognise its regent; prompt payment of pensioners’ 11 years pension arrears, which stood at over N10billion when he assumed office; opening up of so many rustic communities in Ekiti for economic development; construction of the new Governors’ Lodge in Abuja, Chief Judge’s Quarters in Ado, the Commissioner of Police Quarters in Ado and the new House of Assembly Complex, among others; revival of hitherto moribund companies, such as Ire Bricks Industry, Ikun Diary Farm, Igbemo Granite and Asphalt Quarry, among others, which offered thousands of jobs to Ekiti youths; and the unprecedented welfare package for civil servants in the state who, unfortunately, are being owed a backlog of salaries today. The list is endless.
And for a man who did all this to go away unblemished, especially in this clime where politics has become a means of stealing our common wealth, any curious mind needs to want to study such a man. Expectedly, Oni may not be a friend to the army of politicians who want to finish our now and our future because he did not allow them to empty the treasury, he surely is a friend to the masses of Ekiti people and those of us who value the spirit of contentment. And this is the kind of tested man the state deserves as its governor.
. Chief Omolale is the National President, Iro-Ekiti Progressive Union.