Biodun Oyebanji, the former Secretary to the Ekiti State government, formalised his intention to run for the for the governorship of the state next June when he picked his nomination form at the national secretariat of the ruling All Progressives Congress, (APC). It was a carnival-like affair but the import of the occasion was not lost on watchers of political events inntye state going by the calibre of hose who followed him to pick the form.
These included the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon. Funminiyi Afuye, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Mojeed Jamiu, Aare Muyiwa Olumilua, Commissioner for Trade and Investment son of former governor of old Ondo State, late Ambassador Bamidele Olumilua, Deputy Leader of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Tajudeen Akingbolu, a construction magnate, Engr Ayodeji Abe, and host of others.
The Coming of the Homeboy
If Oyebanji is able to brace all the odds and become the governor of the state after the June 2022 election he would make history as the first product of the state university, Ondo State University, (now Ekiti State University) to emerge as the governor of the state. Not only that, he would also be the first governor of the state to have had his elementary, secondary and university education in the state.
Speaking to THISDAY after the collection of the form, Hon. Akingbolu, who is also the Convener of Ekiti West for Oyebanji, said it would be a thing of joy if Oyebanji is able to cross the tape and become the governor of the state. He explained that the coming of Oyebanji would put to rest the notion that an ‘homeboy’ has never emerged as the governor of the state since its creation in 1996.
“The coming of Oyebanji to the foray is an indication that a homeboy who lived all his life in Ekiti State and his schooling will become a governor in the state unlike what we used to have in the past. With this, Ekiti people will be happy and have confidence in the system and that one of them would become the governor of the state,” Akingbolu stated.
However, he said it was beyond this. He explained that Oyebanji has distinguished himself in public service and has served in many capacities in the state since 1996.
“If you can recollect, between 1999 and 2003, he featured prominently in former Governor Niyi Adebayo’s government. He was first Legislative Liaison Officer to the Governor and later Chief of Staff to the governor.
He went back to his banking job when Adebayo lost the 2003 election. Between 2010 and 2014, he was Special Adviser to Governor Fayemi and later became Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning during Fayemi’s first term. He was to later become the Secretary to the State governor. From all these, it is clear that Oyebanji has what it takes to step further and become the governor of the state,” Akingbolu said.
Reaping the Rewards of Loyalty
If there is one thing going for Oyebanji and which would play a major role in the battle for the ticket of the party for the governorship contest, it is loyalty. He has been unrelenting loyalist to his political leaders. A source told THISDAY that in 2006, former governor Adebayo, who is now the Minister of Trade and Commerce, had assembled some of his key loyalists loosely referred to as Adebayo Boys.
The aim of the assembly was to look for someone that would slug it out with Fayose in the 2007 governorship election in the state. Adebayo was said to have told them to work for Fayemi (current governor) but many of those who attended the meeting were said to have staged a walk-out; complaining that it was unfair of Adebayo to have bypassed them for a ‘total stranger’ to Ekiti politics. They claimed that he should have picked one of them.
“When they walked out, the only person at the meeting who stayed back was Oyebanji,” the source told THISDAY. “He told them that Adebayo is his boss and whatever he said would be acceptable to him. He added that since he had picked Fayemi, so be it. So if Fayemi is endorsing him today, then it shows that truly, loyalty in politics will always have its rewards.”
Does He Have the Requisite Qualities?
Beyond loyalty is the fact that his loyalists and supporters believe that Oyebanji has the required leadership qualities to serve as the governor of the state. It is good to be loyal and also have the support of the powers that be within the political structure of the state, but since these forces would not be the ones to help run the state if he emerges the governor, there is need for the man in the saddle to have what it takes to be governor.
Engr. Ayodeji Abe, a friend of Oyebanji and chief executive of Patmag Engineering Limited, told THISDAY that the aspirant has what it takes to make a good leader.
“He is listening leader which is key in leadership and and as a homeboy he understand the state inside out. He knows the needs of the people of the state. He interfaces with people in the state and he has met severally with Labour leaders in the state to resolve labour issues.
He was the Secretary for the Creation of Ekiti State. He is a former banker with Omega Bank, now Heritage Bank and he has served as Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning and as such, he knows of the Economic Blueprint of the state from the time of former Governor Niyi Adebayo till date and key areas he has always advocated are infrastructure and rejuvenation of agriculture in the state. Interestingly, he is a farmer and runs a poultry farm in Ibadan which is one the largest in the city. He is ensuring that people take up farm settlements and turn them to food hubs and he is arguably behind the rice revolution in the state,” Abe explained.
Taming the APC Internal Wranglings
While Oyebanji might be cruising home to picking the APC ticket in the state, there are issues he will have to face and also tackle if the party is to present a united front to be able to face the rising Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) challenge in the state. One of these are those who would be naturally angered by his endorsement by Governor Fayemi. These include people like Wole Fapohunda, the current Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in the state, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, serving Senator for Ekiti Central, and Dayo Adeyeye, the state Coordinator of the South-west Agenda (SWAGA). In fact, sources told THISDAY that Fapohunda had always seen himself as the anointed candidate until Governor Fayemi dropped the masterstroke and endorsed Oyebanji.
A close confidant of Oyebanji said this won’t be an issue adding that, it would be out of place not expect that many party stalwarts would have their eyes on the governorship seat.
“Oyebanji is a humble person,” the source explained. “In fact, humble to a fault. He knows what is at stake. He won’t expect these very eminently qualified not to be aggrieved that they didn’t get the ticket. Therefore, he knows what to do to reconcile them and let know that it is in the interest of the party to forget personal ambitions and work together. And I also believe these men are loyal party men. So there should be no cause for alarm.”
The Man, Biodun Oyebanji
Born on December 21, 1967, in lkogosi-Ekiti, Oyebanji began his academic journey at Baptist Primary School, Ikogosi-Ekiti. He attended Awo Community High school before transferring to CAC Grammar School, Efon-Alaaye, Ekiti State in 1979 and later attended the Federal School of Art and Science, Ondo State, and the District Commercial Secondary School, Aramoko-Ekiti from 1983 to 1985. He acquired a Bachelor of Science (BSc.) degree in Political Science from the Ondo State University (now Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti) in 1989 and proceeded to the University of Ibadan, Oyo State in 1992 where he bagged his Master Degree (M.Sc) in Political Science majoring in International Relations and Strategic Studies.
Oyebanji started his professional career as a Lecturer at the Department of Political Science, University of Ado Ekiti, where he worked for four years between 1993 and 1997 and later proceeded to work as Manager, Treasury, and Financial Service at the defunct Omega Bank Plc (now Heritage Bank) till May 1999.
Oyebanji is engaged in the agro-business and is the chairman of Con Dois Farms Limited. As a successful businessman and a devoted public servant, Abiodun Oyebanji has earned many awards including the Distinguished Alumnus Award by Alumni Association of the then Ondo State University, Ado-Ekiti.
Upon joining politics, he was Special Assistant (Parliamentary Affairs) to the Governor of Ekiti State (June 8, 1999 to 2000 and later Special Adviser (Parliamentary Affairs) to the Governor of Ekiti State before becoming the Chief of Staff to the Governor of Ekiti State between September 2021 and May 29, 2003. Chairman, Governing Board, Citizenship and Leadership Training Centre, Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development June 2009 to December 2010; Commissioner, Ministry of Integration and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Ekiti State, December 23, 2010 to December 2011; Head, Office of Transformation Strategy and Delivery (OTSD), Ekiti State, December 2011 to January 9, 2013; Commissioner, Ministry of Budget, Economic Planning and Service Delivery, Ekiti State January 10, 2013 to October 16, 2014 and Secretary, Ekiti State Government October 16, 2018 to December 2021.