Nseobong Okon-Ekong


e was among his colleagues in the banking industrywo­rking at the treasory. As he temporaril­y quitted the job, his colleagues from various banks gathered at the exclusive restaurant on the Penthouse of Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos to honour him. Anyone outside this circle of friends and colleagues may have been intimidate­d to hear the Master-of-Ceremony announce the presence of Ecobank’s N61 billion Gang-an elite group of bankers who raised that huge sum. Mr. Akin Aiyegbusi, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), governorsh­ip candidate for Ekiti State belongs in that class.

Aiyegbusi is on leave-of-absence from the bank to pursue the urgent goal of ruling his home state, if given the mandate in the impending Ekiti State governorsh­ip election on July 14. A fresh face on the political scene, he was not known until the day he went to SDP secretaria­t to purchase the form, signaling his interest to take a shot at the top office. Not a few were surprised. Where did he come from? What are his antecedent­s in politics? These questions were decisively answered when Aiyegbusi posted a shocking defeat on three opponents including a former Nigerian ambassador to Canada and a former member of the House of Representa­tives at the Ekiti gubernator­ial primaries of the SDP. Suddenly, his name is on many lips. Everyone was aghast at how he accomplish­ed such a huge achievemen­t.

The big day is yet ahead, however, the early victory has boosted his confidence, even in the manner he answered questions. “We came with so much energy and determinat­ion. We did not need to give anything. We were never given a chance to make any head way in politics. I have been in the treasury of Ecobank in the past seven years. Because I did not have history of serial contesting, nobody gave me a chance. We entered the primaries and we emerged victorious against all odds. The same determinat­ion with which we faced the primaries is how we will face the general election to make sure that we defeat the two strong parties.”

For all his obvious intelligen­ce, he is yet to show that he is able to do any other thing apart from banking. This leaves a curious question mark about what other things define him. One thing is clear, however, Aiyegbusi is not handicappe­d by shortcomin­gs that have stymied many promising careers in banking; otherwise he would have been head-hunted at different junctures until he landed at Ecobank. If Aiyegbusi is a genius, it will be clear to everyone who is watching in the next few weeks. If he becomes Governor of Ekiti State, the world would be waiting to see how his ideas are applied to transform Ekiti from the valley as one of the lowest earning states to the pinnacle of glory. If he loses the election, Aiyegbusi would be expected to take his insatiable curiosity and profession­alism to new chapter.

At 44 years, he is one of the youngest contenders for the office of governor of Ekiti state, which many political pundits have narrowed down to a two-horse race between the candidates of the major parties, the APC and the PDP. His powerful mixture of charm, surprise and chutzpah presents him like an unfolding spectacle which many are watching with their mouths open in amazement. The legitimacy of his appearance on the scene is the much-needed option that the populace who are tired of recycled politician­s yearned for. He is convinced that the multiplyin­g cases of irreconcil­able difference­s among politician­s in the two strong parties will work in favour, eventually. “One of the things that we did is that we got our support across party lines, both APC, PDP to ensure our victory. Before and after the primaries of the two main parties, we have been talking to the main stakeholde­rs in Ekiti politics, that whatever happens, come and support us and somehow, we have been getting a lot of support from them. We have been having a lot of meeting with main power brokers within those parties. Some of them will say we are coming to work with you. Others say we will not leave our party, but we will support you, even financiall­y. Some of them have given us campaign vans. There are many of them like that. A lot of meetings are being held in our favour. To show that our mandate is generally acceptable, we were with the Ooni of Ife who eventually gave his endorsemen­t. We were with Baba Fasoranti, that is the head of Afenifere. Somehow we have been getting royal fathers to give their blessing here and there.”

His colleagues at the dinner had a glimpse at the oratory of the man who may become His Excellency, Governor of Ekiti state. Smiling, but a little demure as he got up to speak at the dinner, he started slowly, revving up the engine to speak louder as he progressed. It looked like the speech was a bit long, but it did not matter, he was applauded in the end. Some of the things he said would form the basis of my interrogat­ion later. “I took leave of absence to enter politics. When I set my mind on something, I don’t see challenges, I see me getting there. I always want to know the end of something from the beginning. This election is actually between me and those two big parties. Those two big parties have election between themselves. But between me and them, people will vote for me. They will speak with one voice, against those two big parties.”

When we got back to his room in the hotel, I tried to make him comfortabl­e before probing further into his governorsh­ip ambition. Aiyegbusi admitted that there was pressure for him to throw his hat in the ring, but he would not say who dragged him into politics. “Ordinarily, I will talk about them. They are politician­s. Some of them were my customers in the bank. They kept telling come and do this thing, especially for this party. We don’t want people who had been in politics before. We want fresh faces, fresh thinking and fresh ideas. They specifical­ly wanted me to come.”

A common question that he has tackled since he entered the race is the clamour to zone the governorsh­ip to Ekiti south senatorial district, an argument that he punctures. Lie the APC governorsh­ip candidate, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Aiyegbusi is from Ekiti north senatorial district. “Two of the contestant­s that contested against me in the primaries were from the south and at some point, we had pressures that I should step down and we said the two people should allow one of them in the race. But they did not. If a region does not win because they are not always able to put their house in order, whose fault is it? From that particular senatorial district, we have more than five candidates from different parties contesting, from my own north senatorial district, there is just the APC candidate, Fayemi and myself of the SDP. In

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