Ahead of the July 14th, Ekiti governorship election, Otunba Bisi Egbeyemi has been picked as the running mate to Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, the APC governorship candidate, who was the immediate past governor of Ekiti State and the former Minister of Solid Mineral Development. Egbeyemi is a grassroots politician and an indigene of Ado- Ekiti. He is a teacher, lawyer, former local government chairman, former member of the Ekiti House of Assembly, former commissioner and a traditional chief. He was a founding member of Alliance for democracy (AD), Action congress which later changed its name to Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and now APC.
This home-based politician had, in the last 4 decades built his business empire in Law, hospitality, education and property business. Otunba Bisi Egbeyemi is the only child of his parents and owing to his influence in the development of his community and his people, a street in Ado Ekiti GRA was named after him. City People’s Ekiti Reporter, ADEOLA SHITTU, paid him a visit at his Bisi Egbeyemi crescent in Ado Ekiti but party activities pushed the interview to the APC party secretariat at Ajilosun. Otunba opened up on his life and how his party planned to win the July 14th, governorship election.
Congratulations on your emergence as the running mate of Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the APC’s flagbearer for the July 14th, governorship election. For the benefit of our readers, can you tell me about yourself?
Otunba Bisi Egbeyemi is a legal practitioner, an educationalist and a politician. I am an indigene of Ado Ekiti. I was born on May 8, 1944 to the family of the late Egbeyemi Alade and the late Madam Tinubu Egbeyemi. I started my education at the Holy Trinity Anglican School, Ilawe-Ekiti and Baptist School, Ado-Ekiti after which I attended Harding Memorial Modern School, Ado-Ekiti. I had this passion for education while growing up that led to my private study while I was working as a Laboratory Assistant at Ekitiparapo College, Ido-Ekiti and when I served as a Bursar at Notre Dame Grammar School, Usi-Ekiti. I was a private student when I sat for my GCE O’Level and Advanced Level examinations, which I passed.
I didn’t stop at that as I proceeded to the then University of Lagos College of Education where I bagged my first degree in Biology and Physical Education with distinction. But owing to my passion for Law, I gained admission into University of Ife now Obafemi Awolowo University) where I studied Law and graduated (in 1980).
I proceeded to the Lagos Law School and I was called to the Bar in 1981 as a solicitor and advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, this year marks my 37 years of legal practice. Before I went to study law, I taught briefly at the St Mary’s Girls Secondary School, Ikole-Ekiti and I was later transferred to the Teacher’s College, Oye-Ekiti as a pioneer Physical Education tutor between 1975 and 1977. I have won several awards and I have two chieftaincy titles, one in Ondo State and again I’m the Otunba of Ado Kingdom.
As a young man then, what inspired you to study Law?
Waoh, that’s a long story, but I will make it brief. I didn’t just take the decision, but my late father’s friend who was also a politician like my father influenced me. Though, he used to receive many politicians at his residence back then but he has one particular man called Chief Odeku, who used to come from Lagos to see him and each time he come to see my father he comes with different cars. As a young guy, I did notice him, but on a particular day, he came with one white special car and after he left I was forced to ask my father who the man was and he said “that is Chief Odeku the son of Mama Odeku”. He is not from Ekiti but his mother is a native of Ado Ekiti. I again asked about his profession because I know as a politician then, acquiring such exotic cars means stealing or corruption, I’m talking about the 50’s when we had a few people riding cars. So I asked my father the nature of Chief Odeku’s work aside politics and he said,
“He is a Lawyer”. So I felt, if this man is a lawyer and has all these cars then I want to be a lawyer, that was how I developed interest in Law and maybe not in politics. He really inspired me because he was coming to my father with good cars, well dressed and I loved the way he speaks too. Though I wasn’t thinking about politics at that time, but I later became a politician.
At what year did you now become a politician?
Like I said earlier my late father was a politician, he was the chairman of his party in Ado Ekiti. He was one of the leaders in Ekit state politics as at that time. He was a lover of Awolowo and this made me to develop interest in AG ( Action Group) then, but I was not voting at that time. I started voting in the early sixties (60’s) during the election that caused serious crisis back then.
But I became an active politician in 1975 and as at 1977 my people wanted me to represent them at the state House of Assembly (Old Ondo State) in fact they gave me the opportunity to be their candidate on a platter of gold but I said no because as at then I had not achieved my dream of becoming a lawyer.
At the same time, I was given admission to study law so I felt combining politics and my Law (studies) will not be too good for me so I told them I wanted to complete my Law Course and go to Law School in Lagos before doing anything and they accepted, but in 1983 after I had finished with my Law school programme I was given automatic ticket and I became my party’s (UPN) candidate and I won the election to represent my people at the Ondo State House of Assembly under the platform of Unity Party of Nigerian.
I will say my political experiences have spanned through many fields, I was the Youth Leader of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), I was elected Executive Chairman of Ado-Ekiti Local Government, I was the Leader of the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP) in Ado-Ekiti Local Government in 1996. I’m a founding member of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) where I used the platform to win the House of Representatives election that was cancelled by the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha in 1998 during Niyi Adebayo’s Administration, I was a two term Commissioner for education and Commissioner for Justices and Attorney General of Ekiti State, I was once Director of Oduduwa investment and Director Owena hotels.
You will agree with me that the post of the deputy governor is very tasking, going by your age, do you see yourself coping with the challenge of the office?
(Laughing) Let’s agree that readers might not know, but you (Adeola) saw me when you came in, do I look old? Am I that old. That I cannot walk or do anything? I thank God for giving me good health. Aside the fact that I have the political experiences, when you talk about Ekiti politics, my party knows I can cope and that was why they picked me. I’m blessed with good health and the grace of God is upon me, I believe I will cope.
Sir, your party is one of the major contestants for the July governorship election. As one of the high chiefs in Ado Ekiti and owing to your closeness with the Ewi of Ado Ekiti, HRM Oba Rufus Adejuyigbe, do you See your party winning the election. Come July 14th?
I will like to correct the impression that my King, Kabiyesi Oba Rufus Adejuyigbe is a politician. Kabiyesi is the father of all political parties in Ekiti state and he is not interested in politics, so I won’t want to drag him into this. But by the grace of God, my political party will win the July election with the support of our people who are supporting me, we shall win and deliver all the 16 local government to APC.
It was gathered that you recently went round to solicit for support from some of the Kings in Ekiti ahead of July 14th, did you see them giving your party that support?
Don’t forget I told you, I’m a traditional chieftaincy title holder in Ekiti State. I’m an Ado prince from a royal linage and the Otunba of Ado Kingdom. So as a well cultured Yoruba man I need to inform them officially that I had been picked as the running mate of Dr. Kayode Fayemi who won our party’s primary election and I will be running the race with him as the deputy governorship candidate. In all fairness, I will say I received warm welcome from them.
Few days before you were picked, two or three person’s names were released as the running mate of Fayemi, which was later debunked. How did you feel when your name was finally announced as the deputy governorship candidate?
You see, such things are bound to happen in politics and that is call permutation. Our people will keep guessing. When I heard of the rumour. I just laughed because those names mentioned are not names of people from our party. I saw it as the handiwork of the opposition parties who wanted to throw spanner into our wheels to cause confusion mostly for our candidates but their rumor didn’t work at all. How can they say somebody, who is still in PDP was the deputy governorship candidate of APC, there was no element of truth in that. On how I feel, when my name was picked, I felt honoured and I saw it as a call to serve my people and my party, that made me to accept the offer.
But it was rumored that you lobbied for the deputy slot, how true is it sir?
Who said I lobbied? Those are bad people. Why would I lobby for such? If you know me very well, you will know I won’t lobby for anything at all, I didn’t lobby for it. They came because they feel if my name is mentioned in Ado Ekiti and in Ekiti as a whole that people will support me. They know my political antecedent and they know what I have done as Chairman of Ado Local Government council, they know what I did as a Commissioner, they know what I did as a Lawmaker and they know my capacity and my capability when it comes to grassroots politics in Ado Ekiti. In fact I’m a leader of APC in Ado Ekiti and one of the leaders in Ekiti. As at when the aspirants were contesting for the governorship ticket of my party APC, they were coming to me but in my usual way I asked them to go and work.
These aspirants promised me to make me their deputy governor if they become the party’s candidate but I said to them go and work. So there is no reason for me to lobby for the deputy governorship slot. You see nothing is stopping me from becoming the governor but because the Ekiti Central has produced two governors, that was why I didn’t show interest because they know my capability and they know I have followers. So I didn’t lobby for it, it was given to me on merit.
Your party had done series of reconciliation among all the aspirants who were also eyeing the governorship ticket, but much has not been heard from your political son, Senator Babafemi Ojudu since the primary election and the believe is that he’s having issues with Dr. Fayemi. How do you intend to resolve this crisis before the election?
Since the emergence of Dr. Kayode Fayemi as the party’s candidate for the July election, we met with all the aspirants and I can say we are all working together for the progress of the party. Don’t forget that the election is not about Fayemi but APC and our collective aim is to wrestle power from Fayose and his continuity agenda. As for Sen. Ojudu I’m in touch with him and whenever he comes back, I will personally go to him and we will resolve it. He is one of our sons in Ado Ekiti, who had been making us proud and I believe he has the capacity and he is highly qualified to govern the state, but as it is now, I believe the progress of the party is his priority.
Ekiti APC has picked the deputy governor from the central, the governorship candidate emerged from the North. How do you intend to appease the South that had been agitating to produce a governor since 2014 in order to have their support?
That is political strategy we can’t reveal our plans on the pages of newspaper, but one thing I’m sure of is that we will make them happy.
How do you rate the popularity of your party as the running mate of Dr. Kayode Fayemi?
We don’t need to blow our trumpet, APC is a popular party in Ekiti State. The only issue, which we felt is not an issue is the issue of mass sacking that the PDP is using against us. We have given Ekiti people the assurance that Dr. Kayode Fayemi’s administration will not sack anybody rather we would see to their welfare when they give us the mandate “lekansi” going by our slogan. Some teachers are afraid of sack but like I said, I was once an educationalist before I went to read law and I taught in the teacher training college briefly, so I still consider myself a teacher. And Fayemi has assured me that he won’t sack anybody even if they don’t want to do exam. We are not ready to give them any exam, but we are going to employ more inspectors to ensure they are doing their jobs.
As for the civil servants we have no problem with them. Another issue is the backlog salaries that PDP claimed we were owing then, but an average Ekiti person knows that during Fayemi’s last administration, they were receiving their salary as at when due only for two months that he owed before leaving office, but now Fayose is owing them months, I don’t know the actual month, but I know it is more than six months, that is for only teachers, the same with civil servants and pensioners. One thing that we intend to do is to pay the salary arrears to make the people happy. It is not only the salary earners who are suffering, landlords are affected as tenants don’t pay their rents as at when due and many people are living on rents. Aside paying arrears of salaries, we will also embark on capital projects.
The Ekiti governorship election has 30 political parties but everybody knows that the race is between PDP and APC. Is PDP a threat to your party?
Well, under normal condition, if the election is going to be run according to law without any (wuruwu) without using any illegal thing, without using thugs, I can tell you categorically that PDP is finished in Ekiti State. You ask me how popular our party is, you can see the number of PDP leaders joining our party day by day. Prince Adeyeye came with thousands of his supporters and others like that. Some members of the state House of Assembly are with us now, so I will say PDP is no threat to us, we are going to win hands down, but we want the election to be free and fair.
Talking of the free and fair election, the APC has the federal might, PDP are not in position to use federal might in this election, so what do you think?
How do we use federal might, is federal might coming to vote for us? Human beings are going to vote and not federal might. We can’t do what they did the other time, we opposed it when they used their federal might against us. And I know President Buhari will never do that. He would never do that. He is a man of integrity, who believes in a fair race, so we are not going to use federal might.