By Dirisu Yakubu
His was an ambition steeped in love for the vulnerable lot of the society. From the get-go, he pulled himself by the bootstrap, walking the path that was not only fraught with thorns, but slippery to boot.
Roland Igbadumhe, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, in the recently concluded Edo State House of Assembly elections, lost his bid to represent the Etsako East Constituency following the declaration of Honourable Kingsley Ugabi of the All Progressives Congress, APC, as the winner but for him, a statement has already been written for posterity.
Born to the late James Ebui (J.E) Igbadume, a school principal and an alumnus of the University of Ibadan; Roland started off as a comedian at the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo state, providing top-notch entertainment on campus and neighbouring communities. In no distant time, his talent and impeccable delivery shot him into national limelight as he joined such notable names in the game as Gordons, AY, Basket Mouth, Seyi Law, I Go Dye, I Go Save, Maliki and a host of others to bring sheer excitement to Nigerians across major cities of the world.
With only a few years in the game, his stage name, Youngest Old man literally relegated his first name Roland to the background as his stage delivery turned him into one the most sought-after comedians in the country and beyond.
Such was his popularity that the then Edo state governor and now, national chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole appointed him as Senior Special Adviser on Entertainment; a position he capitalized upon to attract development projects to Ward 9, comprising Itsukwi, Imiegba and Imiakebu communities.
Speaking With Saturday Vanguard on his motive for seeking an elective position, the comedian-turned politician said: “From Oshiomhole, I learned the value of the significance of public power and how best to use it for the collective good. I love my people and it grieves my heart anytime I see most of them struggling to eke out a living. So I felt, why not give it a try and test my popularity at the polls? I am very grateful to the people of Etsako East constituency for the love and support. They demonstrated their support in ways I cannot explain.”
X-raying the factors that cost him the bid to represent his people at the Edo State House of Assembly, Roland fingered vote buying; a vice he described as disgusting and shameful, saying, “I do not believe in vote buying. While voting was ongoing, agents of the so-called big parties were going about offering financial inducement to the electorate. I believe this is why we lost but I am very proud of how we were able to take SDP to the nooks and cranny of the entire Etsako East.”
Roland’s emergence as SDP flag bearer marked the first time in 20 years a candidate from Ward 9 made it to the big stage; a feat he attributed to the tricks he learnt from Comrade Oshiomhole. According to him, “Oshiomhole taught me the rudiments of campaign and how to make a campaign message simple and interesting. In the few months our campaign lasted, we toured everywhere to sell our message of hope and redemption.”
In line with his personal principle and as mark of respect for thousands of his supporters, Roland turned down financial inducement to bow out of the race, preferring instead to test his popularity at the polls, stressing that one of the drawbacks of the nation’s political system is the perennial practice of settling for crumbs at the expense of deep-seated ideas capable of turning around the fortunes of a people and nation.
“I am not a millionaire but no amount of money in this world can buy my conscience. So when they came around, dangling carrots in front of me, I told them to go home because no pounds, euros or dollars can buy the conscience of Roland Igbadumhe,” he added.
So has Roland dumped the SDP now that the elections are over?” asked our correspondent to which the former governor’s aide had this to say: “I am a bonafide member of the SDP. There is no truth in the insinuations here and there that I have left the party. We are here for a purpose and that purpose is to make democracy count for the people. For now, there is no reason to think outside the SDP because we believe it is the platform of the people and for the people. In 2020, we will field a governorship candidate that will succeed Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo state.”
While it may be too early in the day to commence permutations on 2023, the ace comedian insists his future is in the hands of God, noting that at every point in time, “the struggle for a better life for the people is one to which I am irrevocably committed.” In his words, “our people have suffered for too long. Whatever I can do to help, be rest assured I will not hesitate.”
Already, Roland has done his bit to attract national and global attention to his community in a number of ways. Apart from personally building an orphanage at Okpekpe a few years ago, he had on a couple of occasions brought the likes of ace producer, Kunle Afolayan, renowned thespians such as John Okafor (Mr.Ibu) Chinedu Ikedezie (Aki), Osita Iheme (Pawpaw), Charles Inojie and a host of other Nollywood stars home for one development project or the other.
It is left to be seen what becomes of this youthful fellow committed to leaving his imprints in the sands of time.