By Sheddy Ozoene
I have known Kayode Akinmade since the 1990s. We both picked the Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism from the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Ogba, Ikeja in 1995 and spent a couple of years pounding the streets of Lagos as news reporters, working first for TheNews magazine group and later TheDIET newspapers.
In time, we moved over to other callings of the media profession. I would become the SSA Media Relations to the Delta State Governor while he moved to Abuja, with time, to become Media Adviser to then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole. In the last six years of Governor Olusegun Mimiko in Ondo State, Kayode served his state as Honourable Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism.
It was for him, a defining moment in public service: not only did he distinguish himself in discharging his duties as Commissioner, he showed more than a passing interest in the development of his native Idanre Local Government Area. Idanre has produced a few of Nigeria’s political heavyweights, elite of the professions and captains of industry, but the bulk of its people are mostly farmers who produce cocoa and timber both of which add substantially to the agricultural produce of the state.
A tourist’s delight, Idanre holds a breathtaking scenery of rock formatioms and undulating mountains and is home to some of the historical monuments of the Yoruba nation. It is still a mystery why it lost the name ‘Abeokuta’ to the Ogun state capital.
In spite of these endowments, however, little has been done to give the area any major face-lift until those little drops in those six years that Kayode Akinmade manned the Information, Culture and Tourism Ministry. Not only did he lift the tourism potentials of the area, he intervened considerably in providing succour to the agricultural communities that lack roads for the evacuation of their produce. The ‘roads’ are better imagined, understandably because of the rocky terrain, but he attracted the World Bank’s intervention and in some cases, he intervened from his own pockets. The people appreciated his little efforts.
Last year, two years after he quit office as Commissioner, it was reward time for the young man of vision. As the political parties jostled for candidates for the forthcoming elections, his people in Idanre/Ifedore Federal constituency remembered his strides. Not only was he drafted to join the race to represent the federal constituency in the House of Representatives, they made sure that in the dominant Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Akinmade was nominated unopposed.
Next Saturday, he would face the electorate in the contest which will pitch him against the incumbent who is recontesting on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
If what I witnessed in the past week is anything to go by, Akinmade is already coasting home to victory.
Last Monday, I had made the 400 kilometer trip from Enugu to Idanre to join the concluding phase of his campaign. It was an eye opener, as we traversed the constituency where he was well received at every stop. Particularly for me, the trips to the farm settlements of Omifun, Olowo Ofeariwo, Okolo and Aleepa communities and the peoples outpour of emotions were indeed touching. To say that the road, starting from Legbira down to Oniyewo and Jimgbe were horrible, would be putting it mildly, but we trudged on, encountering only the ‘agbegilodo’ with their logs on the terrible roads. Akinmade and his team moved from one farm settlement to the other, promising that he would use his time in the National Assembly to draw attention of both the federal and state governments to the plight of those rural communities that have over the years contributed to the productivity of the state. I was even drafted, at one or two stops with considerable Igbo farmer-population, to speak in Igbo language on why they should vote Akinmade and the PDP.
From the farm settlements to the city centre of Idanre, to Ifedore on the other side of Akure the state capital, and from the peasants to the educated elite, the Akinmade candidacy is like a hurricane. It sure resonates with everybody, from the youth to the old, from the men to the women and from supporters across political party boundaries.
The area which many say has not enjoyed good representation, may finally find the need to elect Kayode Akinmade, a man who, in his words and actions, has identified with the people and their interests and who shares in their vision and their aspirations.