By Femi Adepoju
As the Ondo State governorship election inches closer, the arena is getting prepared, spectators are, with tip-toe expectancy, ready to throw their caps in the air to cheer, even as the gladiators are sharpening their weapons, testing their armours and flexing their muscles…
One of the gladiators is Eyitayo Jegede, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria who was, until recently, the Attorney General and Justice Commissioner in Ondo State. He resigned his appointment on Friday, July 22, 2016 to pursue his ambition in the November gubernatorial election.
That day, Jegede in a statement he personally signed, said his exit was to enable him focus more on his desire “to seek higher office in service of his people which will obviously demand a lot of energy, time and sacrifice.”
There was jubilation all over as the news of Jegede’s declaration of interest that Friday afternoon brought a huge relief as comments about his envisaged candidature on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party suddenly became the most talked about in the state.
Notwithstanding the upbeat mood of a majority of the electorate, such expression of interest in the number one seat in Alagbaka, Akure, where the Ondo State Government Office is situated, cannot but attract condemnation, a disposition that could stem out of mischief or ignorance or a combination of both. In other words, opponents, critics and cynics have started crawling out of the woodworks, engaging in acrimonious debates.
The accusation against the candidacy of Jegede is that his coming flies against the face of zoning principle.
Before Jegede declared his intention to contest the governorship position of Ondo, it was difficult to guess who the cap truly fits among the aspirants jostling for social media space to sell their aspiration, especially from the All Progressives Congress. Identifying a potential governor among the lot was difficult, mainly because the aspirants have no credential to flaunt other than ethnic background.
Before now, the idea was for an aspirant to declare interest in the gubernatorial race because of the need to represent his area as governor of the state. Hence, those who declared their intention to run rely heavily on the zoning card, but the more they declare their intentions however, the more it became difficult to figure who among the lot possesses the required experience, knowledge, exposure and comportment to move the state forward with the kind of expertise being used by the incumbent Governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko.
Little wonder then, that what looked like an unending search for a competent Mimiko successor ended when Jegede, a detribalised Senior Advocate of Nigeria, resigned his position as the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in the state to signify his intention to succeed his boss. Critics would not let go of the zoning mantra, the above notwithstanding.
However, Jegede’s supporters would not allow the ethnic argument missile to hit target before intercepting it mid air! In Ondo State, zoning has never been the basis for electing governor. What has benefitted the people has been the competence of the governor and what he can deliver. Olusegun Agagu was from the Southern Senatorial District. Chief Adebayo Adefarati was from the North. After that, Agagu and Olusegun Mimiko slugged it out and Mimiko triumphed eventually. What has come clear is that beyond zoning, Mimiko’s performance which overshadowed the others has shown that what the people need is service, visionary leadership, a bridge builder and a governor with depth since, according to the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, “only the deep can call to the deep.”
As it is, Ondo is one of the states in Nigeria where governors have been emerging on merit as against zoning being practised by some others as it has been argued severally that zoning only promotes mediocrity. Little wonder that the two major political parties in the state , the PDP and APC, have distanced themselves from zoning their candidate into any particular ethnic area in the state. Not a few have argued that no state would be able to produce its best with zoning even as it has been randomly mentioned that what Ondo needs now is a governor who will see every ethnic group in the state as his own.