Ekiti 2014: X-Raying “The Village Boy” Michael Opeyemi Bamidele
By: Julius Toba Jegede
In the words of America's most famous economist and leadership coach, John Kenneth Galbraith “All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership”. Aptly put, these words capture the strength of character and leadership deposits in Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (MOB). A quintessential Ekiti-born politician, lawyer and a global citizen.
Prior to his eventual foray into partisan politics back then in 1991 during the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and National Republican Convention (NRC), the name Michael Opeyemi Bamidele had resounded severally in the political struggle that gave birth to the Nigeria's Third Republic under IBB.
From then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) to University of Benin, Bamidele maintained a record of integrity, service and humility. He used lessons from his humble background to lead children of the high and mighty. Including becoming the National PRO of Federation of Ekiti Students Union at such a tender age. PRO of IFE SUG, President of UNIBEN SUG and President of National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS. All these happened to the son of an Ekiti farmer in the days when students activism were fought with the military junta on a platter of bloodshed. But he survived where others died.
I'm not attempting at image-polishing. I'm only talking of a man who had become an enigma even before the current political unfolding in Ekiti. More so as the June 21st gubernatorial election draws closer. More than any of his peers, he has most grass roots touch and political benevolence. This is the best candidate for the top job at Oke bareke (Government House), come October 16, 2014. In all modesty, sincerity and fair-play, I do not as well intend to engage in mud- slinging or pontificating of any of other seventeen contenders in the race for whatever reason. I will only focus on the selling points of this “typical village boy” as he fondly calls himself. And how constantly and steadily this “village boy” has risen to prominence. To someone that can not be intimidated by the political and business juggernauts of this generation. To someone who is offering himself to serve against the wish of the oligarchy. I could sound a little political, yet I think this should be a food for thought for all upcoming Ekiti sons and daughters and their contemporaries around black Africa that all hope is not lost for them, only if they can be tenacious in hard work.
Through his primary and secondary school days, little Opeyemi had a share of the typical upbringing of an African boy. From farm to farm, from stream to stream, and market to market, he assisted his peasant parents in making a limited fortune out of their farm produce in a rustic community of Iyin Ekiti. The “hurly-burly” of his tender age as Williams Shakespeare will put it in his 15th Century “Macbeth” never discouraged him to forge ahead. His first visit to Lagos as a teenager must have finally sealed his resolve to make it in life. About a decade after that first visit, Bamidele entered into the midst of the political nucleus of Lagos State. Proving his mettle for twelve years, both as a special adviser to then Governor Bola Tinubu and later as a strategic commissioner under incumbent Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola. His relish in the highly competitive Lagos politics was not like eating a piece of cake, it came with all expected challenges. But the egg-head in him stood him out of the crowd gaining so much recognition. This happened in an environment where the original Lagosians were battling for a place. Bamidele is today planning a replica of that episode in Ekiti.
Now that a challenge is staring his Ekiti brothers and sisters in the face; Bamidele is coming to the rescue. He has refused to stay in his comfort zone as a current member of the 7th House of Representatives doing what he knows best. He strongly believes that the future of Ekiti is in our hands. If he could do it in Lagos why can't he do it here in Ekiti? If he could build the multi-billion naira Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos, what stops him in Ekiti? If he could make Lagos Television (LTV) the first state owned TV Station to appear on cable service in Nigeria, what stops him here? If he could build several skill acquisition centres and recreation centres now scattered around Lagos, what stops him here? If he could rehabilitate thousands of area boys in Lagos and give them new meaning to life who says he can't do it here? The list is endless, but the records are verifiable.
Since its creation in October 1996, Ekiti State has not been lucky with leaders. What the state has had were mere accidental state governors who had little or no experience in the business of governance. It is instructive to say here that governance anywhere in the world is a serious business. To pilot affairs of others, you must be in control of your own life. Governance is a business meant for the dedicated and prepared, not for the quasi-democrats in charge of the state today. A tested and trusted hand is a sure bet, I doubt today if any other candidate in this race with the exemption of Bamidele has this record. How many of them could prove to have been a local government councillor or state assembly member before gunning for this tedious task? A task to turn Ekiti around positively for the current and next generations after 17 years of maladministration is indeed challenging. This is a state where 420,000 youths are jobless. This is a state that can not boost of a single cottage industry. This is a state where local government election could not be conducted in almost four years.
A state of our dream is where water will not be an expensive commodity, a state where agriculture will be given its pride of place. A state where civil servant will again experience professionalism. Where teachers will indeed be proud of their calling. These tasks are only meant for those born to lead and armed with rudiment of leading, not a matter of ordinary academic certification or a brandish of PHD.
It is a matter that the typical village boy once passed through and came out stronger. He knows better than anyone in the race. I urge every well-meaning Ekiti voters to see reasons along my line. To listen to voice of reason and wisdom. To see that the better Ekiti we are yearning for beckons again, that MOB is the change we need. And that's the anxiety of Ekiti descendants and lovers that Bamidele will address as initially mentioned in Galbraith's quote.
(Julius Toba Jegede
A public Affairs Commentator writes from Abuja)