By Olalekan Waheed Adigun
MANY outside Ondo State may not be too conscious of intense politicking taking place presently in the state because the media has been kept busy with the forthcoming elections in Kogi and later Bayelsa State. In Ondo State at the moment, the two major political parties – People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) appear to be the key centres of activities for now as far as the 2016 gubernatorial election in the state is concerned. With incumbent governor Segun Mimiko on seat, the PDP can loudly boast of the ‘Incumbency Advantage’ since he is a member of the party. He however will not be eligible for the election due to term limit. Regardless, his party members will be relying on his influence to turn around the party’s dwindling fortunes next year.
If the present discontents in the state and the voting patterns in the 2015 election are anything to go by, we can say that smart bets are on the APC to win the next gubernatorial elections in the state provided it fields a candidate that can galvanize state-wide momentum. Many outside the state will doubt this, but if just ‘incumbency’ still wins elections, maybe Dr. Goodluck Jonathan will still be president today. No one should therefore be surprised that the APC has more beehives of aspirants than its rival parties – ranging from serial contestants who are known to contest the governorship at each turn to pretenders who are merely showing face in the hope that they would secure juicy appointments. Of all the APC aspirants, Engr. Tunji Light Ariyomo, popularly known as iMOLE or TLA stands tall. Engr. Ariyomo today appears to be the only aspirant on the platform of the APC in the sunshine state that neither holds an appointive or elective office yet has emerged the serious issue in the APC political space. While it is not unusual to see a bunch of known political hanger-on promoting certain aspirants in blogosphere, Ariyomo remains the only aspirant that myriads of ordinary people in the state with no political affiliation rally round on a daily basis.
Engr. Ariyomo is a youthful infrastructure policy expert and a COREN registered engineer who studied civil engineering from the Federal University of Technology Akure. He obtained a Master’s degree in Energy Engineering from the prestigious University of Sheffield, United Kingdom while he successfully completed a fellowship programme in Science, Technology and Innovation Policy at the prestigious Harvard University in the United States.
A principal attribute that separates Ariyomo from the crowd of APC aspirants are his sterling public service records. Today within the APC cycle of potential candidates, none, absolutely none can match Ariyomo’s verifiable records of excellent service delivery.
From the day Chief Adebayo Adefarati appointed him his Special Assistant on Information Technology to the time Dr. Olusegun Agagu appointed him the Coordinator of the Ondo State Information Technology Development Centre (SITDEC) now known as SITA, Ariyomo has been known to blaze the trail in excellent performances.
On June 26th 2015, at his country home in Alagbaka, Akure, when friends and associates that included top politicians, civil servants, bankers and socialites spoke of him, Architect Abimbola Omotola, a non-partisan professional, regaled the audience with the story of how the trio of himself, Engr. Sola Disu and one Faith Aidamenbor in a team led by Engr. Ariyomo did the thinking and the spade work that led to the establishment of the Ondo State University of Science and Technology Okitipupa. He mentioned to the audience that what stood the man they call TLA out was that “impossible” does not exist in his dictionary. In the words of Omotola “even when the governor pointedly told us he was not approving it and we passed the info to Tunji Light who was then SITDEC Coordinator, he merely said by faith that ‘oga will approve it when he personally makes the presentation to him later on’. To the surprise of everybody, once Tunji Light started marshalling points methodically, the governor said he was satisfied and approved the project”. That was how we came to have it in the strategic approval that was presented by the governor to the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo chaired presidential council on Niger-Delta at the time and to a resounding applause for the governor”.
That university today is a legacy that is both adding value by employing thousands in the state and will soon start turning out graduates in their thousands. Yet, Tunji Light Ariyomo is not from the senatorial district that hosts the university! That is simply a testimony that in TLA the field of contestants as Ondo marches towards 2016 has an aspirant with a clear history of making good things happen in different parts of the state.
The agency that is today known as the Ondo State Wealth Creation Agency (OSWCA) was originally known as the Accelerated Poverty Alleviation Agency (APAA) at its creation in 2003. By December 2008, the scheme was reputed to have provided or facilitated micro-credit and entrepreneurial support for over 7,200 natives of Ondo State under the then governor, Dr. Agagu. What is however not known about the history of the agency was that it existed initially as an idea in the head of Tunji Light Ariyomo as a member of the Poverty Alleviation, Youths and Women Empowerment Committee of the late Dr. Olusegun Agagu in 2003. Other members of that Committee that played crucial roles were the beautiful Princess Oladunni Odu, Mrs. Bike Akinduro (who had earlier rejected a national appointment in protest against the annulment of the June 12 election), Dr. Francis Igbasan with Prof. Duro Adegeye as Chairman while Banji Okunomo (who would later serve as Chairman of Ilaje Local Government) served as the Committee’s rapporteur. Ariyomo in fact went on to have the privilege of coining the original name – Accelerated Poverty Alleviation Agency (APAA) as revealed by Prof. Adegeye to the management of the Federal University of Technology Akure at a gathering chaired by Prof. Bisi Balogun on November 21 2007.
Tunji Light Ariyomo’s exploits has not gone unnoticed by those who matter. The Deji of Akure Kingdom in Council led by then Oba Adepoju Adesina sometimes in 2007 in a creative expression that deviates from the norm of the regular chieftaincy titles honored him as an “IMOLE” of the kingdom which translates “Light” in English and had a light post erected and installed in his honor at the ancient palace of the Deji of Akure. Instructively, what light does is to keep away darkness! Apart from the fact that Imole (or Light) has always been his popular public name, this extraordinary recognition cemented his place among the great and reinforces the notion that those who matter took notice of his service to the people. Till date, Ariyomo remains one of a very tiny category of people that can boast of such a traditional honour in the hundreds of years’ history of the ancient town.
The stories of his exploits with Information Technology are well known in the state. This is however being reserved for another day. The enduring legacies that the agency SITDEC brought unto Ondo State directly resulted in the phasing out of typewriters in the state, led to large scale skill upgrade across strata of the bureaucracy which has now empowered thousands of civil servants to climb past level 14 which used to be a traditional barrier and restriction for career growth and advancement for certain category of civil servants in the state. In similar vein, by 2008, Engr. Ariyomo as SITDEC Coordinator and the then Chairman of the Board of Internal Revenue, Mr. John Adebiyi, had led a team to computerize the activities of the Board of Internal Revenue – a scheme that yielded over N4.72 billion extra revenues for the people and government of Ondo State within 8 months without increasing rates. Payment rates were only increased in Ondo State when the incumbent governor took over. This is also a further affirmation that technology could be deployed for societal advancements without it becoming a punitive tool against the masses, a key mantra of Ariyomo.
In his wonderful work, Power Plays, Dick Morris wrote “History is the study of that pursuit (of power). First in autocracies, then in democracies, men and women have sought power through every manner of stratagems. And the history of their success and failure offers a revealing reference for those who seek power today – whether in politics or in business, in school or workplaces, here or abroad.” Invariably, achieving your life-long dreams to affect the lives of people, especially the poor, is as legitimate as the fish swimming in water!
A key weakness of the APC in Ondo State in the past was that aspirants were not popular in their own names. Analysts have posited for instance that the massive win at the March 28 election which led to many becoming senators was because of the Buhari effect. Many would have been roundly rejected at that poll. The next House of Assembly election proved this right. In Ariyomo, the APC has a potential candidate that is popular in his own name! While many other aspirants have been plotting to silence others with zoning blackmail and ethnic agendas, Ariyomo, a native of Akure, has explained pointedly in published interviews that his is the Ondo State agenda preferring instead to build a state-wide coalition of supporters across political, social and religious divides. This is maturity.
When God created the world, he simply said, “Let there be light…”.
ADIGUN a political analyst and strategist, writes from Lagos.