By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
THE encounter between Rep. Opeyemi Bamidele and a group of newsmen was like a reunion of a fraternity of old.
Even though a lawyer, Bamidele came to public renown as a media man of sorts. Bamidele had distinguished himself as a civil rights activist and subsequently as a media strategist for the Alliance for Democracy in Lagos State before his appointment as a Commissioner in the Bola Ahmed Tinubu cabinet.
He was variously Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Lagos State Commissioner for Youth, Sports and Social Development, Special Adviser to the Governor, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor and before then, Lagos State National Director of Publicity, Alliance for Democracy.
Even though he made his name in Lagos, it was to his native Ekiti State that he resorted to in the approach to the 2011 general elections. His original intention was to run for the Senate, but a huge controversy and the intervention of the party elders acting on the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN’s own unique definition of internal democracy weighed against him.
He was, however, not left completely barren as the party elders handed over to him the party’s ticket for the n Ijero/Ekiti West/Efon Federal Constituency, in the House of Representatives.
Rep. Opeyemi Bamidele So, why did he opt to run for election in Ekiti State and not Lagos where he cut his political teeth was naturally the first question that came up during the interaction in a Chinese eat out somewhere in Ikeja area of Lagos.
“To the glory of God, I wasn’t doing badly in the politics of Lagos. But I got to a point where I said it wouldn’t really matter how much God has promoted me in Lagos, it would also be important that I should also make myself available to be of relevance to the people of Ekiti State, my place of birth,” he said.
“I felt it would be important, that someday, when the history of that small state, where the growth of the economy and of our democracy has remained extremely nascent for such a long time, it would be written someday that my own name will also go down in history as one of those who actually came to join hands to help uplift the state. That was the reason why I decided to go to Ekiti and run for election.”
But after winning the party primaries for the Ekiti Central Senate seat he was passed over. How did he feel?
“All I can say is that the leadership of the party decided that a number of other factors would also come into play. They included issues of age; a lot of the leaders felt age was on my side. Some of them also felt that given the number of us who were interested, I was the youngest. Again, they also felt that looking at opportunities that had been offered, I had more than some other people. So it was a question of just trying to use their own wisdom.”Internal democracy:
Noting his political fidelity, he continued: ”And of course, I am a member of a political party, where there are no pretensions as to where we stand. The party is committed to democracy, but we have our own distinct definition of internal democracy, and a lot of factors go into it, than just being the most popular aspirant among the members of the party.”
“So the leadership of the party decided; it wasn’t particularly an easy decision for me to take, but I had to remain consistent, and again, I wasn’t going to bite any finger that God has used to feed me or to jump start my political career.”
In referring to “not biting the hand that had fed him” was off course not a veiled phrase to watchers of the activist turned politician. He inevitably referred to the ACN political leader, Asiwaju Tinubu who facilitated his political emergence in Lagos.
“It was a decision I had to take in good faith, and I left it in God’s hands. But today, in the House of Reps, I want to say that I do not have any regrets being there. I went there believing that God preceded me to the place, and it became manifest on the very day the House was inaugurated, the man who was chosen as speaker invited me to his office.”
“Rt Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal offered me the position of the Chairman of the House Ad Hoc Committee on Media and Public Affairs, and that was the first committee that would be set up by him, and the only committee for a period of four months that the Ad Hoc assignment lasted.”Constituency projects:
So, what has he been able to do for his constituents? Opeyemi who claims to be feeding off on the law practice he established before going into politics claimed that he has dedicated his total salary from the House to the less privileged in his constituency.
“In the last one year to the glory of God, I can say that my salary has gone into this venture. The first round was to go to widows. We actually empowered 200 widows from within my constituency. Again, I must say that this is not something that I have been handling on my own. We have a Fund Advisory Committee that is headed by a retired Chief Judge, who is also the traditional ruler of my town, he is retired Justice Ademola Ajakaye, the Oluyin of Iyin.
He is there with two other traditional rulers as well as a representative of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties in Ekiti, who is the State Chairman of the CPC.” I was curious to ask why there was no representative of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP on the committee, but I never got the opportunity to ask that.
“Beyond that, at the level of brick and mortar, in the last one year, I have tried to also help with some of our community development projects.
“In the 2012 budget, by the grace of God, I have been able to influence a good number of constituency projects into my constituency, using the intervention fund made available to the National Assembly members by the Federal Government.”
“In the 2012 budget, I have attracted six primary health centres to my community, and they will be spread in six different towns. Also four different 300KVA transformers, and a total of 11 boreholes in different communities in the remote towns and villages of the constituency, and two youth development and vocational training centres among other things.”Lawan saga
Given the oozing odour emanating from the Farouk Lawan saga in the House, Opeyemi was asked his bearing on the issue.
“I will put it this way, the image of the House, I will say has suffered a setback, but the image of the House is not dented.”
“I do not have the illusion that in a house where there are 360 people, and in a senate of 109 people, that we won’t occasionally have situations to manage.
“As much as possible, we believe that whatever happens, if any member of the house is given an assignment, either an ad hoc assignment or as chairman or member of a standing committee, and you go on a frolick of your own, and end up soiling yourself or creating a colour of integrity that could possibly affect the image of the house, then we need to dissociate the house.”
“And that is what we had to do in the matter of Hembe and Farouk Lawan. We have not even condemned Farouk Lawan; he has not been suspended as a member of the House of Reps. You know the rules of the house gives us the power to do that; we can suspend him from coming to that house; we cannot remove him as a member that is why the constitution makes provision for a recall process.
It is only those who elected him that can recall him, if they so feel. If they still feel he has the integrity to represent them, they can leave him.”
“There are moral issues, but we have not come to any conclusion; we have not condemned him. We will allow the security agencies to finish their investigations. We also would wait for the committee on ethics and privileges to finish its work. But it is part of the legislative agenda that if anyone does anything to compromise himself, we will distance the house from him.” Vanguard Nigeria