Wole Balogun, Ado Ekiti
Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, (MOB) was a member of the seventh House of representatives from Iyin- Ekiti, in Ekiti central Senatorial district of Ekiti State. He is a lawyer of note and an ex- commissioner in Lagos State.
The state was agog last Wednesday when he formally made known his intention to run for the governorship of the state. He told party executives of the All Progressives Congress ( APC) at the APC office in Ajilosun area of the state capital, Ado Ekiti, that he would never let the party down should the party decides to support him.
This is even as he denied having any pact with a fellow aspirant, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, who declared his intention to run for the Ekiti governorship last Friday. Bamidele also denied being under pressure to step down for anyone.
A huge crowd of supporters and admirers of the politician, many of whom had benefitted in cash and kind from his benevolence came out en mass out in his honour and shut down the state capital, causing heavy gridlock along the popular Ado Ikere road that linked the Ajilosun Secretariat of the APC from Okeyinmi roundabout.
All clad in white T-shirts that bore Bamidele’s bold image, the excited crowd walked for nearly two kilometres from the Okeyinmi roundabout to the APC office.
They sang many love songs for Bamidele who looked resplendent in elaborate white Agbada lace. He also wore the “Awo famed cap” to reveal his identity as a progressive member of the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo’s political family.
Earlier in the day, the supporters had chartered 18-seater buses from all the 16 Local Government Areas of the state and filling up each of the buses to its brim. They bombarded the Ajilosun office of the APC and took over all restaurants and motor parks in the capital city as early as 7:30am to await the arrival of their man.
When Bamidele stormed Ado Ekiti from his Iyin country home, broom wielding supporters came out in their hundreds to the to join him on his way to the party secretariat.
Security operatives and party officials had a difficult time controlling the crowd that had taken over the available spaces at the secretariat by the time Bamidele got there.
Just before he went to declare his intention to the party executives, Bamidele had a brief chat with the newsmen at the office of the party’s state deputy chairman, Mrs. Kemi Olaleye, where he revealed the purpose behind his grand entry into the secretariat.
He said: “To the glory of God, I’m here at the state secretariat of my party, the APC to declare my intention to run for governorship of Ekiti State in the coming primary of our party. I’m looking forward to be the next governor of Ekiti State and it is mandatory for every aspirant to so declare to the party. I have done a similar thing at the ward level three weeks ago and I have also conducted a tour of all the 16 local government in Ekiti. Today I’m rounding up at the state secretariat of the party, to declare my intention and by implication we had also done that through the streets of Ado-Ekiti and the rest is for me to address the state exco.”
Bamidele who also explained his recent rapport with Senator Babafemi Ojudu and former governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi respectively, further said, “it is interesting and I think this are signs of good development, these are also things that should send signal to Ekiti people that it is not going to be the same old story, the party is coming back together and stronger and there is no doubting the fact that it is no longer a war time for us in APC, this is an election that will be conducted and done during a peace time, everybody is speaking with everybody”
He also denied the rumour that he was being pressurised by some other aspirants to step down for them, saying:” yes, Senator Ojudu wrote a letter of goodwill to me and I have been in touch with him and I believe it’s a kind of letter that should go from every aspirant to the other aspirant. What is important is that we all remain sincere about what we profess, so it is a welcome development. But that does not mean we have any pact, he’s also on this race and I’m happy the party is at home with that.
“It is also true that Dr Kayode Fayemi visited my office, when I went to my ward for the declaration three weeks ago and during my tour of the 16 councils, I made it clear that Dr Kayode Fayemi and I was bond together as friends on a personal note and we both remained as stakeholders in APC. He is definitely a frontline leader of the party in Ekiti State and there is no doubting the fact that we all need to work together. I’m in this race and by the grace of God I will work with every aspirant, the fact that Dr Fayemi also came to my office should not give room to any speculation, just like a letter written to me by Senator Ojudu shouldn’t give room to any speculation.
“Dr Kayode Fayemi came to my office two weeks ago but before his visit, Senator Ojudu had visited that office twice, and many leaders of our great party had visited that office. People had reason to visit, either on personal or official to discuss the affairs of the party, it has nothing to do with anyone’s aspiration. It also show relevance both on my part and by God’s grace on the part of the people who are visiting, for me it is a welcome development
“It might interest you to also know that I have as well visited Dr. Fayemi and his family after he visited my office. For us in APC, it is not going to be the same old story. The party is getting ready to take over the state and all of us are working together to achieve this end” he added.
Asked if he would, like it happened in 2014, opt for an option B, if the election did not favour him, Bamidele’s said: “A point of clarification, I never dumped the APC, I was a member of ACN and I was a member of ACN till the last day , and as part of the team of ACN that took the certificate of registration back to INEC, to say we were done with ACN, because it was a condition that the party must discontinue, to enter into negotiation with other political parties, CPC did the same things, ANPP did the same thing, as well as other small parties.
“It was after we were done with ACN, but before the registration of APC, owing to disagreement within the leadership of the party in Ekiti State that I had to go and join Labour Party, I did not dump the APC.
“APC was not even registered as at the time I joined the Labour Party and in any case, these are things of the past, we have moved beyond that, everybody is back in this party, a lot of people who left this party a long time ago are back in the fold. We started as Alliance for Democracy, we became Action Congress and later Action Congress of Nigeria, and today we are APC. During the cause of the journey, as everybody tried to approach his own destination, there have been several bus stops for different people. Before we brought Dr. Fayemi in 2006, after the primaries , a lot of people left us, Senator Ayo Arise left the party for another party, today we are happy that he’s back from PDP into APC and we are all happy together, Yinka Akerele left, today he’s back, Engineer Segun Oni left for PDP, today we are happy he’s back, I left for Labour Party at some point , even though I didn’t not dump the party like I said , neither did I cross carpet, because I was in parliament as I didn’t have to cross carpet and today I’m also in APC. So, everybody will have his own story but what is important centrally is the fact that we are all back to build a united and strong party,” he declared.
Bamidele also spoke on the aspirants’ agitation for zoning to enable a southern Ekiti person take the plum job, saying: “I want to say that zoning is a legitimate issue. It is also legitimate for every district of the state to aspire in line with the constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The constitution of our party didn’t respect zoning and even the constitution, so we are free to contest irrespective of the legitimacy of the agitations” he admonished.