December 23, 2021

Ekiti 2022: I’ve uncommon exposure to turn state’s fortunes around — Bamidele


Opeyemi Bamidele

By Clifford Ndujihe

Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, a lawyer,  human rights activist, three-time commissioner in Lagos, and a member of the 7th National Assembly, 8th National Assembly and 9th National Assembly, representing Ekiti Central Senatorial District, is a frontline governorship aspirant  in Ekiti State on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC. In this interview, he speaks on why he wants to succeed Governor Kayode Fayemi, zoning and other issues.

On why he joined the Ekiti governorship race

I am renewing this bid because I believe that part of the purpose for which God created me was to serve. My personal life philosophy is that no man owns himself to himself alone, but partly to himself, family, community and largely, the society. I believe that we must continue to strive to give our best, and place at the disposal of our people and community whatever special talents God has endowed us with.

I believe that I have been privileged and opportune to a very large extent to get some unusual exposure. I believe part of what God has been preparing me for is to be able to join hands with other people in Ekiti to provide the kind of leadership that we need to lift that state out of poverty and despair and help take our beloved state to a new level.

I am not saying that I am the only person who is capable of providing leadership in Ekiti. Far from it! Ekiti is a well-endowed community with highly educated people and progressive people. However, I believe that I have something that is not common and I must be ready to place it at the disposal of the people.

I have been privileged to have the necessary exposure in different arms of government, especially in the three arms of government that governance is sub-divided. I have been a lawyer for 30 years, both as a solicitor and advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and as an Attorney and Counsel-at-Law of the State of New York in United States. I’ve spent the last 30 years networking within the judicial arm of government and today, by the grace of God, I am a member of the Body of Benchers, which is the highest decision making body in the legal profession.

So, by virtue of this, I am well exposed within the judicial arm of government and workings of the judiciary and the legal profession at large. If you also take the executive arm of government, by the grace of God, I was in the cabinet of Lagos state for 11 and half years, both as Special Adviser to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu during his first term and as his Commissioner for Youth, Sports and Social Development during his second term. My third term in the cabinet of Lagos State was as the Commissioner for Information and Strategy under Governor Babatunde Fashola.

For me, this was a rare opportunity of also being exposed within the executive arm of government, serving the government and people of Lagos State, apparently the most sophisticated state government in the country, coming next to the Federal Government and actually the third largest economy in West Africa. So, I felt it was an unusual opportunity to serve.

After that, I served as an elected member of the House of Representatives and now currently as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Again, this is quite an exposure within the legislative arm of government and I’m not just in the Senate, by God’s grace, I’m also there as chairman of one of the largest committees of the Senate and the only committee that is in charge of a whole arm of government, which is the committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.

By virtue of this assignment I oversight the entire judiciary, the Federal Ministry of Justice, and the National Human Rights Commission. So, for me, it is like being in government, yet practicing my law as well as being a part of the pro-democracy community in Nigeria and beyond. So, I believe these uncommon exposures I’ve had have positioned me to be able to provide the kind of leadership that Ekiti needs in a peculiar time like this.

Ekiti State is young, but at least 30 years old; a state which is largely a very creative community with a lot of intelligentsia and very dynamic people but having poverty stare them in the face. Today, we are lucky to have a governor who understands the language of democracy and development. I also believe that it is important that such a governor and the administration is succeeded by not just anyhow but a well-focused successor who will not only protect the legacies of the current administration but build on such legacies and also help to take Ekiti to the next level that everyone is desirous of.

ALSO READ: PDP moves to resolve crisis in Ekiti ahead of guber election

Finally, I am also renewing this bid of wanting to be the governor of Ekiti State because I believed that I could have been dead on June 1, 2018 when two bullets went through my body. One was through my thigh and the other one was right through my stomach. Even doctors who attended to me in the UK and US all kept asking ‘who navigated these bullets through your stomach and your liver that would have made you bleed to death instantly? Your lung didn’t get hit that would have collapsed immediately before they even lifted you from the ground.’ Of course, the gunshot perforated my intestine and it took a while to fix but all I could keep telling them was that it was God. Only God could have done it. I believe that I was saved by God to serve. I am not going to abandon that cause because I believe there is so much ahead of us and so much can be done. Regardless of what difficulties had been there staring us in the face, it has become part of our story. As it is said, the past was only a story told, I am convinced that our future can still be written in gold. It is a responsibility for all of us and I am driven by that sense of responsibility.

You are from Ekiti Central and there is a serious clamour by the people of Ekiti South that it is their turn. Do you think their agitation is legitimate?

I honestly believe the agitation by some of our citizens from the Southern part of the state that is the South should be allowed to produce a governor. It is a legitimate aspiration. It is also a moral argument that no one can fault. But the point is who is in charge of taking such a decision? It is the people of Ekiti state and members of the various political parties. It is not within the reach of decision of any particular aspirant either you are from the South, North or Central senatorial districts. It is the people of Ekiti that will take that decision. It is also the card-carrying members of each political party that will have to take such a decision. So, if they buy and go for that argument and they act it, so be it.

Let me recall what happened in 2018. There was this agitation and the ruling party in the state at that point actually went for that argument and brought the then serving deputy governor of the state, Professor Kolapo Eleka as the governorship candidate of the PDP. He is from Ikere-Ekiti, obviously from the South. Ekiti people voted. That was not a consideration to determine who will emerge as governor. That will not be the first time somebody will be contesting from Ekiti South. I feel it is something that goes beyond agitation. It is something that we have to get to the root of in our own democratic conviction.

More networking and horse trading need to be done in trying to convince more people, taking into consideration the demographics of Ekiti State, the voting pattern and where you have the bulk of the votes. A lot will have to take place for that to happen but I don’t believe it is impossible and I’m not opposed to it. Mark my words, I have not seen any serious attempt on the part of any of the political parties to act on this agitation; not even the PDP that picked their candidate before. But time will tell.

Before the end of January, both parties (APC and PDP) would have held their primaries. If at the end of the day, the person that wins the APC primary is from Ekiti South, he would have become the candidate of the party and all of us will have to work for him. I believe that will also be the situation with the PDP and every other political party.

Have you discussed your governorship ambition with Governor Fayemi and what is his disposition towards it?

Yes, I have done that. Is he aware I am contesting? Yes, he has always known that I will contest. What is his disposition towards it? I want to be very fair to Governor Fayemi. We had our disagreement in the past but by the grace of God, we reconciled and I ended up as Director-General of his campaign in 2018. We have had a very cordial relationship. Governor Fayemi knows by the grace of God, I will do well when I become governor of Ekiti State. I don’t expect him to tell other aspirants to back off from the race that he is only supporting MOB. That will be unfair on my part. He still has almost one year to spend in office as Ekiti State governor and he needs the cooperation of everybody to finish strong. He doesn’t need any distraction or make himself lame-duck on the basis of the political aspiration of anyone.

The Governor Fayemi that I know believes in internal party democracy. The implication of that is he cannot at this point stand up and be counted with any aspirant. I want to say that in being fair to him and to our people and the rudiments of democracy, I will not join in any name dropping. I may as well sit down here and say Governor Fayemi is the one behind my aspiration to become governor of Ekiti State. I won’t do that because I know he is not meant to do that and he is not going to do that with anybody. Definitely, those who are spending all their time and resources in trying to make Nigerians believe that Governor Fayemi is the one sponsoring their aspiration are doing that because they need something extra to be able to market themselves and to be able to if possible, browbeat other aspirants and groups into supporting them.

I can assure you that Governor Fayemi knows better. He won’t adopt any particular aspirant at this point. He wants the unity of the party. Fayemi wants a strong party that is united to face the other political parties in the general election. We are the party to beat in Ekiti State and Governor Fayemi knows he will not do anything that will make us defeat ourselves even before the election. I also know that Governor Fayemi will be interested in a candidate that can win the general election for the party. Ekiti people are waiting to vote for me as their next governor. I have no doubt as to the love Ekiti people have for me.

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