As is common with politicians who win elections in Nigeria, many political observers of Ekiti politics had concluded that the state’s Governor-elect, Biodun Abayomi Oyebanji, would travel abroad to rest following the tedious months of campaigns. Surprisingly, however, this was not to be as Oyebanji hit the ground running immediately by coming up with an unusual initiative tagged ‘thank you tour’.
The tour, which was in three phases included visits to prominent indigenes of the state, traditional rulers, politicians and pressure groups. Perhaps to justify his ‘politics without bitterness’ principle, the visit was also extended to leaders in other political parties, including state leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and former governor, Dr Ayodele Fayose, the PDP guber candidate in the June 18 election, Bisi Kolawole and former deputy governors; Chief Paul Alabi and Prof. Olusola Eleka. He also visited prominent indigenes of Ekiti State like the legal icons; Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), Chairman, Body of Benchers, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Human Rights Lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN) and a former National Secretary, of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Dele Adesina (SAN). Others are; Chief Deji Fasuan, the nonagenarian elder statesman who chaired the committee for the creation of Ekiti State, under whom he (Oyebanji) served as Secretary, as well as the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti, HRM, Oba Rufus Adeyemo Adejugbe, Mr. Babafemi Ojudu, Prince Julius Adelusi- Adeluyi and Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Yinka Alabi.
According to Oyebanji, the visit was conceived to unite Ekiti indigenes and rally their support towards contributing their quotas to the development of Ekiti State. He explained further that though he was coming to office through the APC platform; his responsibility is to provide leadership to all, regardless of political leaning.
“To take Ekiti to an enviable height, we must do away with unnecessary politicking in governance. Ours is a unique state and if our human potentials and resources are well harnessed, we can be sure of prosperity. As Ekiti governor, I want to work for the general good of my people without allowing unnecessary pettiness to stand barrier, hence the need to embrace all,” he told journalists.
During his visit to the Lagos residence of former Governor Fayose, the governor-elect said the visit was to extend courtesies to the former governor, who, according to him, demonstrated statesmanship by congratulating him shortly after he was declared winner of the June 18 election. While receiving Oyebanji, Fayose urged him to be magnanimous in victory and to see himself as the Governor of Ekiti State and leader of the people regardless of their political affiliation. He promised to support Oyebanji’s administration in whatever area his support would be needed, adding that the development of Ekiti State is a collective effort.
It must be noted, however, that prior to his visit to the Ikeja, Lagos residence of Fayose, Oyebanji had visited the incumbent Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi in Ado-Ekiti, a day after the Nigeria Governors’ Forum led two other APC governors to visit him at his Ikogosi Ekiti country home. Few days after visiting Fayemi, Oyebanji also visited the first civilian Governor of the State, currently Minister of Investments, Trade and Industry, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, at his Iyin-Ekiti country home. Both Fayemi and Adebayo are regarded as Oyebanji’s mentors in politics.
On his visit to the trios of Olanipekun, Falana and Adesina, all legal titans, Oyebanji said the visit was in continuation of his earlier resolve to close ranks with passionate Ekiti leaders and carry them along as he pilots the affairs of the state. “I have chosen to visit three of our legal icons from Ekiti, who are making us proud. I must confess, each of them made my day through the quality advice they offered and their willingness to support Ekiti State anytime the need arises.
“This is necessary because development and good governance can only be enhanced when every stakeholder contribute to nation building,”
Speaking during the visit to his Ikoyi, Lagos office, Olanipekun said Oyebanji’s emergence as Governor-elect is not by accident, considering his (Oyebanji’s) involvement in the struggle that led to the creation of Ekiti State and his 11 years’ experience in government of the State.
“The Governor-elect is a brother in whom I’m well pleased. He is a rare gift to our dear state and I’m not surprised that God in his wisdom has thrown him up to become our governor. I first met him many years ago, when, at a very tender age, he joined the Ekiti leaders and traditional rulers who championed the struggle for the creation of Ekiti State. I later met him when he was appointed into office by the first executive governor of the State, Otunba Niyi Adebayo. It didn’t take me an hour after the first conversation to know that he would go places.
“He’s intelligent, brilliant, humble and sincere to a fault. Besides, having served in various positions in Ekiti for 11 years, I don’t know any individual who can beat that record today and possess those unique attributes I see in Abiodun. I’m happy for this visit and I have assured him of my support any day,”
Adesina, on his part, said Oyebanji’s decision to consult Ekiti leaders at this preparatory level was the best decision anybody could take. “The first advice I would have given our Governor-Elect is what he is already doing -consultation. He should make it a deliberate policy to bring Ekiti elites together and rub minds with them on what they could contribute. Gone are the days when the government alone can bring about sustainable development. There are many Ekiti people out there who are not pushed over anywhere in the world and could contribute well to the growth of our state. Our incoming governor must involve them to contribute whatever they could contribute.
“The secret of it is that when an idea comes from a particular set of people, they won’t allow it to die. To engage our youths, I want to urge Mr. Oyebanji to invest more in technical colleges so that young men and women in Ekiti can acquire knowledge that can help them establish small scale businesses.” Adesina said.
At the Ikeja, office of Falana, the fiery Lawyer urged Oyebanji to carve a special niche through effective and pragmatic governance that would bring about value restoration and economic prosperity to Ekiti people.
Aare Afe Babalola, who received the governor-elect at the Afe Babalola University Banquet Hall, urged the Governor-elect to take critical steps in industrializing the state, adding that the Ikogosi Warm Spring should also be repositioned to boost Ekiti economy. Babalola advised the Governor-elect to have consultations with elders, opinion leaders, economists and other well-meaning Ekiti people for useful advice on how to make Ekiti great again.
The Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, who tasked Oyebanji on productive economy and youth engagement, when they met in Abuja, urged the Governor elect to run an inclusive government, even as he said he was convinced Oyebanji has the capacity to reposition the state. The former Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria pointed out that one of the major tasks before the incoming Governor was to motivate and facilitate productivity of the residents.
To Ekiti obas, with whom Oyebanji worked to actualize the creation of Ekiti State, the ‘thank you tour’ and the various consultations were regarded as the best move needed to get the state back on the track of development as conceived by the royal fathers at the beginning.
At Ijero local government, the Ajero of Ijero-Ekiti, Oba Joseph Adebayo Adewole during his goodwill message called on Oyebanji to revisit the blueprint for Ekiti development. The royal father expressed satisfaction on Oyebanji’s emergence as Governor-elect because of his involvement in the process that led to the creation of Ekiti State in 1996.
“The emergence of His Excellency, Abiodun Oyebanji as Governor is not only a reward for patriotism but an answer to many years of prayers that a home-grown person, who understands the nitty-gritty of Ekiti creation and how to go about Ekiti Development becomes our leader.
“BAO was with us at the beginning as Secretary of the Committee for the Creation of Ekiti State and he’s well acquainted with the original blueprint on Ekiti Development. On this occasion and as he sets to assume office, I want to advise our Governor-Elect to re-visit the blueprint to ensure spread of development in Ekiti,” Ajero said.
Similarly, at the palace of the Oore of Otun Ekiti, HRM Oba Adekunle Adeayo Adeagbo alongside other traditional rulers from Moba Local government described the thank you visit by the Governor-Elect as something unusual and first of its kind which was greatly appreciated by the traditional rulers.
“Oyebanji is not the first politician that would approach traditional rulers for royal blessings before election and this is not the first time a governor would emerge in Ekiti but this is the first time a politician would come back to show appreciation, after winning an election”
The Olojudo of Ido-Ile Ekiti, Oba Aderemi Obaleye, changed the tone of the tour in Ekiti West Local Government, when he beckoned on his colleagues to pray for revitalization of the country and the world economy to enable Oyebanji achieve his laudable objectives for Ekiti State. “We cannot and should not pretend that we don’t know about the economic crisis ravaging the world and therefore should pray that things improve to allow our governor elect achieve his aims. The reality on ground is that if the economy is troubled, the governor can only do but little. To this end, Ekiti people should not fold their arms; they should strive and pray for economic prosperity,”
Speaking on why he decided to visit the traditional rulers, the Governor-elect eulogised Ekiti Obas for their selfless sacrifice during the struggle for the creation of Ekiti State and for the support given to him during the election.
“My appreciation to our royal fathers is endless. We thank you for your tenacity which yielded into the creation of Ekiti state. I will continue to be grateful to this respected institution for the independence you brought to us. We are beneficiaries of your benevolence and sacrifice. Our second appreciation is your laudable role to ensure that the just concluded election ended peacefully.
Oyebanji assured the royal fathers that his administration would accord them the due respect and prioritize their welfare.
“I made a commitment before the election that as your governor, I would reference you, respect you and take your welfare as top priority. I am here today to reaffirm that commitment. We will reference you as a custodian of our culture and heritage. Besides, we must ensure that the state you fought for becomes the best it can be in your life time” he stated.
As the rallying point for the progressives in the state, the governor-elect concluded the tour with a special visit to the APC Elders’ Forum, where its chairman Chief George Akosile, on behalf of other members, declared that the continuity agenda that has long been anticipated had become a reality with Oyebanji’s emergence. The elder statesman said he was confident that Ekiti would soon record the kind of uninterrupted development being experienced in Lagos through continuity.
“We thank God for answering our prayers and breaking the jinx of continuity in Ekiti State. The continuity that we are witnessing for the first time in our dear state has been a life-long agenda of this forum. We are happy for this and not in doubt that it would be the beginning of greater development in Ekiti”
The thank you visit was also extended to the state chapters of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Council, (TUC), Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ); Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) and National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) among others.