By Kayode Fasua
It was like a daze of the locust. From the FUTA Junction major road-stretch of Akure, the Ondo state capital, to its Oba-Ile Road terminus, the joy of the exultant sea of heads that lined the road was boundless. It simply captured the mood of virtually everyone in the Sunshine State: as in the state capital, virtually all communities are represented.
Elsewhere in Ese-Odo, Ilaje, Ikale, Ondo, Idanre, Owo, Ose, and Akoko communities, same scenario of people rolling out celebration drums was simultaneously replicated. All over the state, it was a chummy moment.
What happened? The Court of Appeal, sitting in Abuja, had just ruled that Mr. Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) was the authentic governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ondo State.
The verdict came as a crescendo of laughter to distressing weeks of a legal jigsaw, which was masterminded by a combined team of political conspirators, whose ego had probably been wounded by the unprecedented love displayed for Jegede by the people of Ondo State.
Before the appellate court’s final ruling, a federal high court, also in Abuja, had given the PDP governorship ticket to a candidate of a faction of the party, whose role in the Ondo PDP was somewhat concomitant with the mandate of Biblical Judas. The faction claimed to own the PDP despite its lucid-clear flirtations with the ruling party in Nigeria.
But at the end of the dark tunnel came the roseate glow, which beamed hard and dashed the expectation of the wicked. However, salvation also came at the throes of death, as it were, bearing that the sound judgement from the temple of justice was delivered when the governorship election was only two days away.
Jegede, a natural crowd puller, was effectively restrained by the subsisting judgement of the lower court as he could not campaign for one and half months, but kept having his days in the court before the Appeal Court’s soothing balm. And despite having only two days to campaign in the governorship race, his showing in the final result of the election was as commendable as it was astounding. While Jegede’s PDP scored over 150,000 votes, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) scored a little above 200,000 votes.
All these dramatic tintinnabulations as had formed part of the chequered history of Ondo State played out way back in October/November 2016, about four years ago.
Unfazed by the loss of that election through various conspiratorial gang-ups and the use of brute force by political desperadoes, Jegede took all in his strides by congratulating the winner of the election and even throwing a party to cheer up moody supporters who thronged his campaign office on a ‘sympathy’ visit.
Now, almost four years down the lane, the badinage had fallen, as all pretensions also collapsed in tow. All that the masses of Ondo State had been promised are now no more than a mirage, as the deity that promised to rescue the people not only whipped them sore, but also took away the little they possessed.
All the legacies of affordable and subsidised healthcare, free bus ride for school pupils, integrated rural transformation, and many other laudable programmes of the past PDP administration in the state have not only been abandoned, the state as a whole has also been worsted by a reign of inertia.
Jegede, a Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General for almost eight years under a PDP administration that took welfarism as its morning creed, from findings, was a quick, quiet achiever. He was a utility player in the then cabinet of Governor Olusegun Mimiko. It would later be known that Jegede was multi-tasking, in that, he played crucial roles in policy formulations for the administration.
As Justice Commissioner, the judiciary of Ondo State bubbled in career fulfillment and infrastructural uplift, along with the entrenchment of Jegede’s well-known belief in, and respect for the rule of law.
While campaigning to be governor, Jegede, fondly called by his first name, Eyitayo or Eyi, had designed various programmes to transform the lives of the people of the state. Principal among them was the grand design to set up industries in cluster formation, by collaborating with credible investors, who must, as of compulsion, employ residents of the state.
This way, massive employment will be achieved and the inglorious acronym of ‘civil service state’ tacked to our Sunshine State, in jocose parlance, will be naturally obliterated.
Again, as a way of boosting food supply and stemming the tide of unemployment, Jegede had projected various agro-allied industries embedded in various farm settlements across the state, which will in turn lead to the opening up of the state’s sea port at Igbokoda.
He also, during his campaigns, told of local investors having high stakes in his projected industrialisation drive, with the foreign investors coming only to complement. This is aside from massive road constructions, enhanced educational facilities and subsidies, and affordable healthcare.
Four years ago when Jegede was campaigning to be governor, tuition payments in government-owned tertiary institutions were in the region of N35,000 per session. But when the APC took over power, things shockingly turned topsy-turvy. Tuition fees were not only outrageously increased to as much as N250,000 per session, the institutions’ running grants are best received in the dreamland.
Indubitably, all can today attest to the fact that stultifying parents are wrenched, pained and stoic, facing the helplessness of watching their children drop out of school, and in absurd cases, their female children forced into the scarlet night, to eke out a living.
But as in the soothing balm of a matador that has come to overpower a rambunctious bull, Jegede has promised to crash the exorbitant tuition fees, and bring about total transformation of the state’s tottering education system.
For Jegede, human empowerment takes precedent above all other considerations, as he is always visibly shaken finding people in abject poverty, hunger and other forms of deprivation. Which is why, at his private level, Jegede religiously hosts the indigent members of the public in Ondo State, who include widows, the physically challenged, and the jobless, at his residence once a week, where he provides them succour.
Jegede’s record in public and private capacities sparkles in cleanliness, as he flaunts the clean bill of health of the incorruptible senior advocate. The little resources he shares with the tribe of the needy are derived from his sweat, being someone who cherishes hard work, ennobled with due reward.
We, the good people of Ondo State, are thus ready to give our all for this human dynamo, the friend of the masses, and the true leader of his people, as he throws his hat in the ring, contesting the governorship position on the PDP platform again, come October 10, 2020.
Fasua is a journalist and public affairs analyst.
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