How COVID-19 is redefining Ekiti politics 

‘YOMI AYELESO writes on how the coronavirus pandemic has suddenly united political gladiators in Ekiti Sate in their quest to stem the tide of the disease and how the unity of purpose can be exploited in other areas or the benefit of residents in the state.

 

Just like the idea of the South-West Security Network, popularly referred to as Operation Amotekun, got all round support across political divides, the deadly coronavirus pandemic has also shown that politicians, especially in Ekiti State can put aside politics and join hands to protect and save the lives of their people. The state government announced its index case on March 18, 2020 and the second case on April 2. Both patients had since been discharged and the state has no case of CIVID-19 as at April 15, 2020. However, the various measures declared by the government towards stopping the spread of the virus have ostensibly brought economic hardship on residents.

The state governor Dr Kayode Fayemi announced a 47-man resource committee of successful citizens across all human endeavors with the mandate among others to mobilise and advise on funds and project management, direct funding campaigns for the convid-19 response. Against the usual practice, the committee has the state former governor and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Mr Ayodele Fayose and the Ifaki-Ekiti born former governor, Chief Segun Oni, who, about a month ago, announced his decision to dump the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for the opposition PDP citing an alleged unfair treatment on him and his followers.

Fayose, a known opposition figure in the country, put aside politics and accepted to serve in the committee in the best interest of the state and of course the residents. He said it was not time to play politics with the people’s lives, adding that concerted efforts are needed to defeat the deadly virus.

Speaking through his media aide, Lere Olayinka, the former governor said: “This is not a time to play politics because the issue facing us a people is beyond politics and when it is time for politics we will do it. The Ayo Fayose we know is not an enemy to anybody, though he might not agree with you politically but he is not an enemy to other person.”

On his part, Oni stressed that everything possible would be done for the development of the state, regardless of the differences between him and the governor politically. He noted that the state is greater than any individual or groups, saying that the welfare and wellbeing of the people would always be priority ahead of his political interest. According to the former governor, “Governor Fayemi contacted me and I accepted the offer. Anything we can do to contribute to the development and progress of the state must be done by all and sundry. It is in order, we must join forces together to fight the common enemy (coronavirus), and then we can be talking of politics later. Ekiti State is greater than any individual, group or political party.”

During the first virtual meeting of the committee last week, the 47-man team commended the governor for constituting the committee for the development of the state, which they reiterated would go long way in adding values to people’s lives during and after coronavirus.

The secretary of the committee, Mrs Margret Fagboyo, in a statement stated: “The committee chairman, Patrons and other members applauded Governor Fayemi for the initiative and commended him for putting politics aside and bringing Ekiti sons and daughters in diverse groups to serve the state in the war against the CONVID-19 pandemic. “She added that it was agreed at the meeting that the tenure and role of the committee would be extended beyond convid-19 to address other current critical issues and in the future.

Also, as a way of cushioning the hardship of the lockdown in the state, the PDP lawmaker representing Ekiti South senatorial district, Senator Biodun Olujimi, extended her palliatives measures to members of the APC in the senatorial districts. The palliatives, which included rice , beans, garri, semovita and cash gifts were handed over to the leadership of the party in the state.

Olujimi said she is representing the entire people in the district, irrespective of their political parties, adding that people across the political divides are feeling the impact of the lockdown. She revealed that the outbreak of the virus has brought so much hardship on the people and that as a representative, she must reach out to the downtrodden. A statement by  Olujimi’s  media aide Sanya Atofarati, read: “The people are in need and they must be given something. It is beyond politics and let me tell you that the politics of Nigeria is going beyond the old order, it is going to be by your identity not through parties. The Party is actually not the problem but the quality of the representatives. I hope you aware that Senator Olujimi is representing everybody in Ekiti South regardless of the political parties. This is an usual period in our country and a lot of people are desperately in need.”

Speaking on the new spirit of friendship and accommodation among stakeholders in the state, an elder statesman and chieftain of the PDP in Ekiti, Dr Tae Lawal, maintained that political gladiators must place more emphasis on the interest of the people as against their ambition. Lawal, a former deputy governor, explained that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught Nigerians and, indeed, people of the state the need to collaborate at all times regardless of political differences to the progress and development of the society.

While commending the government and politicians across political parties for their efforts in ameliorating the sufferings of residents with palliatives devoid of political colouration, Lawal said: “Ordinarily that is how it should be; our people across board must learn to have interest of the citizens at heart. It will be better for us in the state and our people will judge you at the right time. History is not respecter of anybody.

“You know a governor is elected by the majority and when he is addressing the state, he will not say I am addressing the majority that elected me or I am addressing my party people. He will say he is addressing the entire residents in the state. If he is constructing road, he is not constructing roads for the ruling party, he is constructing road for everybody in that area. “The former deputy governor advised people in the opposition parties to be willing to offer ideas that would be needed towards the development of the state. “We should be liberal particularly in our act of governance. I don’t belong to the ruling party but if I have suggestions now that could help Ekiti state without making any noise about it, I could send it to whoever that will use it as an elder statesman. That is how it should be. Both sides should know this,” he said.

The Commissioner for Information in the state, Mr Muyiwa Olumilua, applauded the gesture displayed by politicians in jettisoning divisive issues and placed the lives of the people above their political interest and ambitions. According to him, “The point here is that humanity comes first before any other political interest or ambition.  We must know that the virus does not know who you are whether PDP or APC. We are very happy that politicians in the state look at it this way and we are proud of the development.” He expressed optimism that after the pandemic political gladiators would continue to show more passion and commitment to things that would be beneficial to all residents without considering their affiliations politically. “I want to tell you and I believe that what we have seen in Ekiti during this covid-19 will be a template for things to happen in the future; that is, the people first before any other consideration,” Olumilua said.

The Secretary-General of the Yoruba Council of Elders(YCE), Dr Kunle Olajide, said it was patriotism at its peak by the politicians and solicited more of it in the overall interest of the people and the state. He stated: “It is a commendable initiative from the governor to have constituted that powerful committee and I am glad they have set in motion the process of making life more comfortable for the people of the state. Coronavirus does not differentiate between the APC or PDP and we must first be alive before political parties. It is human being that form political parties and not political parties forming human being, the first thing is to keep Ekiti people alive. As for me, they have demonstrated patriotism. I commend the governor for appointing them in the committee and I commend them for accepting to serve in the committee. This is beyond politics and politics should have no place in this matter at all. The lives and welfare of our people should take pre-eminence over any other consideration.”

Speaking further, Dr Olajide noted that, “There is a precedent. In 1967 after Adekunle Fajuyi was killed, it was then Admiral Aduwo, then came Adebayo. When Colonel Adekunle Adebayo was the governor of the old Western State, he convened a meeting of leaders in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, bi-partisan I must tell you. It was a member of MPN that nominated Chief Obafemi Awolowo as the leader of the Yoruba at that meeting. I think our leaders should continue with that spirit. We have had so many parties in Nigeria; they will come and go.

“People cross from one party to the other because there are no strict ideological differences. We should not price political partisanship above the interest and welfare of the people. Parties will come and go but Ekiti State will remain. “

Undoubtedly, the situation at hand in the country and of course in Ekiti State has brought what can be seen as a synergy among the political elites, regardless of their differences to place premium on the lives and welfare of the people. Stakeholders believe if sustain after the pandemic, there will be a turnaround in governance and development in all spheres of the society.

 

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