Ondo 2016: The case for competence

Politics is in the air again, and in one of the most politically and intellectually enlightened states of the federation. As is usual, a variety of songs are already in the market place of ideas, some monotonous, some tedious and some arrestingly mellifluous. The aspirants to the Alagbaka Government House, Akure, are legion, particularly in the community of the so-called ‘progressives’ who in just one year have unleashed untold hardship and anger on the land, madly intent on returning the nation to the ignoble days of queuing to get essential commodities, memorably tagged essencos. Remember those essenco days? The days are here again, and we need not go into the dialectics of memory and remembrance—Niyi Osundare’s Fajuyi: The Politics of Remembrance handles that so well—but let us just note that those who called Ondo State people fools only four seasons ago, those who said Ondo people did not need the globally serenaded mega schools that have become every citizen’s delight, those who hired hack writers to demonise dissent and crucify the people’s choice, will return to their base once again, not only empty-handed but politically castrated.

The veil has been lifted from the debilitating ordure of political propaganda, and those who schooled in contested varsities and hire Senior Advocates of Nigeria to defend certificates they never earned will shed bitter tears in Ondo State, the state where the revolutionary  and till date unmatched Action Group (AG) was birthed.

The tedious song of uncritical and meaningless ‘CHANGE,’ produced on a daily basis by all sorts of shady characters, is suffocating the songsters themselves, and has furnished the rope with which they must hang themselves. Just ask them how they intend to pay salaries, and they vomit utter banality: “Ondo is rich in human and material resources.” Is Ondo’s resource endowment HOW they intend to pay salaries? How can the intellectually and morally challenged lead the birthplace of authentic progressivism?

Of the monotonous songs, sadly among even those who should know better, the refrain has been zoning, zoning, and once again, zoning. The next governor of Ondo State, so goes a line in the song, must come from Ondo North because only two Ondo helmsmen – Adekunle Ajasin and Adebayo Adefarati – have come from there, and it is time to start afresh. Another line says it must be Ondo South, from where the late Olusegun Agagu came, because it is the powerhouse of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).  Because the zoning advocacy is its own strongest enemy, no one mentions, for instance that, of the old divisions in Ondo State, only Akure division has to date not yet produced the Ondo helmsman. And because aspiration to the Alagbaka House from any quarter is a legitimate enterprise, advocates of zoning conveniently ignore the truism that justification will be found for every predetermined political step. Where there is the will to convict, say the Chinese, there is evidence.

What is more, since 1999, zoning has never been an issue, witness the Agagu (South) versus Adefarati (North) battle won by Adefarati in 1999; the Adefarati (North) versus Agagu (South) battle of 2003 won by Agagu; the Mimiko (Central) versus Agagu (South) battle controversially won by Agagu in 2007 but reversed by the Court of Appeal in 2009, and the  Oke (South) and Akeredolu (North) verus Mimiko (Central) battle won by Mimiko in 2012. More fundamentally, at this period of economic paranoia at the centre, a period of sky-rocketing inflation worsened by non-receipt empty pockets, zoning  is surely a poor parameter for leading an all-important and strategic state like Ondo where the sons of Oduduwa must stand up to be counted among those who insist on the democratic ethos.

Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, comes into the race for the Alagbaka Government House bearing, not the monotonous tune of zoning and mediocrity, but glad tidings of consolidation of the unimpeachable achievements of the past seven years, achievements that have been recognised by the United Nations, and nationally. What the Ondo people are demanding, over and above any other consideration, is merit.  Eyitayo Jegede, if you have listened to him, is a proud purveyor of the Ondo State agenda, uninterested in primordial sentiments lacking any basis in an increasingly globalised world. Before his appointment as Ondo State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, the erudite lawyer had been conferred with the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) award in 2008, a testimony to his hard work, brilliance and dedication to law practice. And in the seven years that he was in the saddle at the Ondo State Ministry of Justice, the state witnessed tremendous transformation in jurisprudence and arbitration.

If anything, the only High Court within the precincts of a prison to fast-track the prosecution of criminal cases in Nigeria was built under his watch as Ondo State Justice Commissioner.  With that court, the issue of delayed trial and justice that had undermined Nigeria’s march towards a reliable justice administration system was dealt a mortal blow, and all that remains is for other states across the country to key into the agenda. The new Criminal Justice Administration Law in Ondo State was enacted and signed into law under his watch, an offshoot of his  review of the laws of Ondo State for the first time since 1976. He also ensured the provision of facilities for the establishment of the Court of Appeal, the National Industrial Court and the zonal offices of the Federal Ministry of Justice in the state. One of the few Attorney Generals that will always go to court to defend the interest of his govt, Eyitayo Jegede brought his wealth

of experience to bear in the various memorandums of Understanding signed by the Ondo State government and other interest groups. The state had profited immensely from his enterprise, and he stands head and shoulder above others in terms of integrity and demonstrable intelligence, humility and, of course, outreach.

Let us dwell on this last quality for a moment.  Appointed a Notary Public by the Chief Justice of Nigeria and a SAN, the highly accomplished lawyer, now with 32 years of practice behind him, worked in the law firm of Murtala Aminu & Co. in Yola, Adamawa State, where he served as chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). After serving for 12 years in the law firm, six as head of chambers, he established his own law firm, Tayo Jegede & Co., in 1996.  With offices in Abuja and Yola, the firm thrived and acquired renown. But then his appointment as Chief Law Officer of Ondo State came and he could not resist the urge to serve the people. He has built relationships across the Niger, towering above those aspirants whose experience after their varsity education has never transcended Ondo State. Having built friendships that will no doubt be of help to Ondo State, Jegede possesses unblemished credentials to take it to the next level.

Chairing the Body of Attorney Generals of the Federation, Jegede is a member of the Council of Legal Education and the Body of Benchers. He was a member of the five-man implementation committee saddled with the responsibility of establishing the American University of Nigeria, an American-styled university based in Yola, and served as the pioneer Secretary of its Board of Trustees. As in law, so in education. Jegede is a shining light, and his song a hearer’s delight. No more the swansong of political beggars sprawled in the brimming gutters of fake progressivism, but a song arresting in its beauty and elegance.

Akinwunmi sent this piece from Akure, Ondo state.