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 shappening their weapons, testing their armours and flexing their muscles.
One of the gladiators is Barrister 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.” Apart from thanking his boss, Governor Olusegun Mimiko and the people of Ondo state for the unique opportunity to serve, he noted that his appointment gave him an opportunity to “work in various sub-committees of the State Executive Council and effectively and efficiently represented the interest of the State in various Boards as directed by Mr. Governor.”
His declaration penultimate week threw the entire state into a sort of frenzy as wild jubilation broke out across the state from Akure to Owo to Okitipupa. If the jubilation that erupted in Irele in the Southern Senatorial District of the state could be described as spectacular, the mass rally on the street of Akure, the state capital with that of Owo and Ipele in the Northern Senatorial District are better termed ‘wonderful’.
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 state, it was difficult to guess who the cap truly fits among the legion of aspirants jostling for social media space to sell their aspiration, especially from the All Progressive Congress. Identifying a potential governor among the lot was difficult, mainly because the aspirants have no credential to flaunt other than their 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 Mr Eyitayo 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 slogged 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 state 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.
This is one quality which many have advanced, made Governor Mimiko excel, and that it is only normal that the trend should continue, hence, the people’s choice in Jegede who also has the reputation of a silent achiever, a philanthropist whose footprints are across the state.
In fact, Barrister Jegede fits the role. He is not a stay-at-home-village headmaster politician or an anus-scratching community champion who cannot relate with people across ethnic and sub-ethnic divides. Rather, Jegede is a bridge builder. And this did not come out of a vacuum. He started his law practice in the North. He worked in the law firm of Murtala Aminu & Co. Yola. After a 12-year practice in the law firm, six years of which he was the Head of Chambers, he established his own law firm, Tayo Jegede & Co in 1996. He was heading his law firm of Tayo Jegede & Co in Abuja and Yola before he took appointment as Chief Law Officer in Ondo State. Thus, through his professional practice, he has friends across the country.
For instance, he cannot fall into the trap of favouring a particular section of the state above the other as governor because by birth, he belongs to no one but all as he represents more than one of the three Senatorial Districts in the state by virtue of the parents places of birth. One is from the Northern and other from the Central Senatorial Districts.
Another factor that will stand Jegede in good stead is that he is adjudged the only aspirant so far who qualifies to succeed Mimiko on the basis of competence, track record of achievement, integrity and honesty. In fact it is often said at public discuss in the state that, if he emerges governor, Jegede would have assumed office on the same basis of merit upon which Dr Mimiko became governor. He has advantage of continuity, having been working with Mimiko since 1999. In other words, he knows the internal workings of government and will build upon the foundation established by Mimiko.
An advantage of working closely with a political titan like Mimiko is positive influence. In politics, it is a big factor; influence could be by close contact (as with Mimiko and Jegede), it could also be remote. There are examples in history. On July 24, 1963, Bill Clinton shook hands with President John F. Kennedy in the Rose Garden of the White House. Clinton was a 16-year-old attending the American Legion Boys Nation program. Clinton says it was that handshake that inspired his life of public service. Nearly 30 years later, in January of 1993, Bill Clinton was sworn in as the 42nd US president.
Mandela himself, according to a writer, noted that the events of 1957 in Accra which led to the pulling down of the Union Jack of imperial Britain and its replacement by Red, Gold and Green flag of a new Ghana were sources of inspiration for the battle against apartheid, the last draconian face of colonialism. Essential Nkrumah is pan-Africansim. He declared in 1957; “Ghana, your beloved country is free forever”. But he quickly added; “Our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up to the total liberation the African continent.” Nkrumah himself was influenced by Nnamdi Azikiwe while Obafemi Awolowo was fired by the photograph of Hebert Macaulay on political almanacs.
Besides the influence of Mimiko, there are other factors that make Jegede ‘tick’: His achievements. An influential personality, Jegede has been identified to be strategically involved in the almost concluded Omotosho power plant, the Ilaje deep sea port and Free Trade Zone projects as well as the PPP initiative that turned the moribound Owena Motel to a money generating venture in the Akure City Mall.
Jegede said notable achievements of his stay in office include supervision of the review and publication of Laws of Ondo State, the first since the inception of the sunshine state, signing into law the Administration of Criminal Justice Law 2015 by Governor Olusegun Mimiko as prepared by the Ministry of Justice in addition to other novel measures that have helped to revolutionalize administration of justice.
Before him, Ondo State used to lose cases. When Jegede came on board, that became history.
Eyitayo Jegede was born to the family of late Chief Johnson Bosede, the Odopetu of Isinkan, Akure, and Mrs C.O Jegede (nee Asokeji) from Ipele town, near Owo.
He attended St. Stephen’s “SA” Primary School Modakeke, Ife and was at Aquinas College Akure from 5th January 1973 to July 1978 for his Secondary Education. He was a Prefect at Aquinas College and took active part in Sports in the best traditions of the family. He had his Higher School Certificate Education at Christ School, Ado Ekiti and later the University of Lagos where he had his Law Degree Course between 1980 and 1983 and qualified as a lawyer in 1984 after the One Year mandatory programme at the Nigeria Law School, Victoria Island, Lagos.
The One Year mandatory National Service saw him posted to the then Gongola State where he eventually started his law practice. He was a counsel with the Law Firm of Murtala Aminu & Co., Yola for 12 years and practiced extensively in the Northern part of Nigeria where he made a lot of friends and built legal practice with special interest in litigation, Commercial and Cooperate law. He established the Law firm Tayo Jegede & Co. with officers in Yola and Abuja in 1996.
He engaged in extensive relationships. He was appointed a Notary Public by the Chief Justice of Nigeria in 1992 and was elevated to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria on 16th December, 2008. He was deeply and actively involved in political cases and election petition matters, an area of law where his industry and practice is noted and respected. He was appointed the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice under Dr. Olusegun Mimiko’s administration in 2009.
He is married to Eno Jegede and both are blessed with children.
––Adepoju writes from Akure