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PROFILE: Biodun Oyebanji, the long-serving public officer who’ll be next Ekiti governor

PROFILE: Biodun Oyebanji, the long-serving public officer who’ll be next Ekiti governor
June 20
08:00 2022

Like the warm spring running through the veins of his hometown of Ikogosi-Ekiti, Biodun Oyebanji has set a record. The Ikogosi is a bubbly spring that distorts human understanding of nature with its natural gush of hot and cold water. Oyebanji is the first person in Ekiti’s 26-year history to lead a ruling political party to retain power in the state.

On Saturday, the people of Ekiti trooped out, defying the cold and perpetual drizzle, to exercise their franchise at the polling booths. The electoral exercise resulted in a win for Oyebanji and the All Progressives Congress (APC) who polled all but one of the state’s 16 LGAs. Even the accumulation of votes from his two closest contenders dwarfed in comparison to the 187,057 he polled.

Although the election was relatively peaceful, allegations of voter inducement and apathy smeared the exercise. However, these have not dulled that jubilation in the APC camp as congratulatory messages have been pouring in for the governor-elect.

Oyebanji’s trajectory to the gilded governorship seat is a cycle that grew into fruition after a long romance with power as one of the state’s longest-serving public officers. His journey follows the footsteps of a careful planner who kept his eyes on his dreams and patiently ascended the ladder towards them; it conveys resilience but also screams the importance of maintaining proximity to power.

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GROWING UP IN IKOGOSI

On December 21, 1967, Oyebanji was born to Ezekiel Kunle and Esther in Ikogosi-Ekiti. He began his education at the Baptist Primary School in his hometown before attending the Awo Community High School; C.A.C. Grammar School, Efon-Alaaye; and District Commercial Secondary School, Aramoko-Ekiti. He then earned a first degree in political science from the Ondo State University (now Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti) in 1989.

Three years later, Oyebanji added a master’s in political science from the University of Ibadan (UI) to his curriculum vitae.

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With credentials solidifying his knowledge in the field of political sciences, he sojourned into academics. He became a lecturer at the department of political science of the University of Ado Ekiti, where he worked for four years. His next path led to managing the treasury and financial services at the defunct Omega Bank Plc (now Heritage Bank) till May 1999 after which he segued into politics and governance.

ONE OF EKITI’S LONGEST-SERVING PUBLIC OFFICERS

Throughout Ekiti’s 26 years of existence, Oyebanji has been in public service for over 11 of those.

He began his political career as a special assistant on parliamentary affairs to Niyi Adebayo, the state’s first elected governor, in 1999 and then later became the chief of staff in the latter stage of the administration in 2003.

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Then the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Ayodele Fayose came into power, and Oyebanji was on a six-year hiatus from public service. He returned in 2009 but as the chairman of the governing board, citizenship and leadership training centre, federal ministry of youth and sports development — a position he held from June 2009 to December 2010.

After a court ruling sacked Segun Oni of PDP in 2009 and Kayode Fayemi was elected governor in 2010, Oyebanji was first appointed the commissioner for integration and inter-governmental affairs before he was tapped to head Ekiti’s office of transformation strategy and delivery (OTSD) a year later.

He was then named the commissioner for budget, and economic planning in 2013 and held the position till October 2014.

In 2018, after Fayemi was elected for a second term, Oyebanji got back into public service and was appointed secretary to the state government (SSG), a position he held until he resigned to join the governorship race in late 2021.

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THE PRIMARY DRAMA

In his quest to become Ekiti governor, Oyebanji had the backing of Fayemi, which fuelled speculations of an imposition on the state. The claims gained louder decibels during the build-up to the APC governorship primary, where seven aspirants withdrew from the poll over the allegation that the election committee was made up of loyalists of Fayemi.

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The hopefuls — Kayode Mojo, Demola Popoola, Femi Bamisile, Bamidele Faparusi, Dayo Adeyeye, Opeyemi Bamidele and Afolabi Oluwasola — had claimed that the governor attempted to foist the ex-SSG on the party and the state.

Despite their protest, the primary was held, and Oyebanji polled 101,703 votes, with no other challenger crossing the 1,000 mark.

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Reacting to the claims of favouritism, Oyebanji had said all the aspirants are “close” to Fayemi and that he does not have “an exclusive preserve of relationship” with the governor.

FOURTH DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED GOVERNOR OF EKITI

Since Ekiti was fractioned from Ondo in 1996, the state has had nine governors or administrators, but only three were duly elected by the people of the state that prides itself as the “land of honour and integrity”. The rest, except one, were sole administrators or acting governors.

The illustrious rank increased on Sunday when Kayode Oyebode, returning officer for the Ekiti governorship election, named Oyebanji the winner of the contest.

After years of serving the state, moulding policies and influencing governance, the 54-year-old “homegrown Ekiti man”, who is also the chairman of Con Dois Farms Limited, finally has the baton to lead his people. And they are anticipating his deliverables.

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