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The Beauty Of Running For Public Office

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Monday, March 7th, 2016
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My first inroad to the political space was by association. You could call me an accidental politician. Many years ago, the Pastor of my church at the time was running for President and I was made the National Financial Secretary for the Party. Later on in the race, my name was submitted to INEC to run as the Governorship candidate for Ekiti State. I have always seen Political office as that of serious leadership requiring utmost integrity. Do you even know the 16 Local Governments in Ekiti State? –  was the simple question I asked myself and my answer at the time meant I had no business contesting even to be a Local Government Chairman. That put paid to the race for me.

The general perception is that Politics is a dirty game requiring all manner of shenanigans and atrocities. I would say it is the way a few of our politicians play it but generally speaking, politics is very interesting. It involves men and women who would dare to dream and dare to risk a lot for the benefit of getting to serve humanity. It is particularly so when you have had the kind of mentors I have been blessed with. The first person who finally converted me to a bonafide politician is Dr Kayode Fayemi, former Governor of Ekiti State, Nigeria, now Federal Minister for Solid Minerals Development. I was blessed to work with him first as a Commissioner for Education, Science & Technology and later as Commissioner for Environment. This meant I had to participate actively in my Ward and organize events at the State level involving various constituencies as well as colleagues in the State Executive Council.

The second mentor I had was Erelu Bisi  Adeleye-Fayemi with her various advocacies for us women and her actions defending the cause of children and the less privileged within her space. She was the first to hint and encourage me about the possibility of our party presenting a woman for the National Assembly under our Party for the first time in Ekiti State. As God would have it, I was the only one who came from a constituency with a vacancy in our Party for a returning House of Representative member.

The third mentor I was blessed with is having an overall leader in my State, constituency and hometown in the person of Otunba Niyi Adebayo. He had sound counsel for me through the period of my primaries and kept his promise to be an unbiased leader for us all. Having him and other mentors meant that I could navigate the rigours of going through the process of Primaries and ultimately the General Elections with relative efficiency.

Yes, I went through a very tough and intense period leading to the primaries. I am sure you would agree with me that it could not have been easy competing in the largest constituency against four men. One was a former Majority Leader in the State House of Assembly, the second one was the former Local Government Chairman of the largest Local Government within that constituency, the third is the Son of the Oba of my hometown and the fourth is a Medical Doctor from the largest Local Government within that constituency. Here I was coming on the backdrop of being ‘hated’ by Teachers and even within my party for daring to implement our policy on Teachers Development Needs Assessment (TDNA).

This journey became very interesting in several respects for me. I travelled the length and breadth of my constituency comprising 24 wards distributed over 13 towns. I spoke with the executives of these Wards and also campaigned to the Executives of the Party in the 2 Local Government Areas (LGA) and 5 Local Council Development Areas (LCDA). It was really fun speaking my local dialect, showcasing my real person to my people. It was really refreshing to see people converted on coming face to face with the truth. It was even more rewarding to see people who once saw me as an ‘enemy’ become my champions and campaign coordinators. I was particularly delighted to win a free and fair primaries election and become the first female House of Representative candidate for my party in Ekiti State.

I confronted some shocks along the way. The first was learning that the women’s support would not be automatic simply because I am a woman. The next major challenge was being offered spiritual assistance in all shapes and forms from the expected and unexpected sources. Thankfully the grace to learn the answer for each suggestion and the tact to avoid any appearance was available with God’s help. I would have imagined that financing a campaign would be the greatest challenge but this offer of ‘Juju’ was the greatest.

Financing my campaign was most definitely a journey of faith. When I started out, my account was in deficit by over four hundred thousand Naira (N400,000.00). I enjoyed reaching out to several constituencies where I had served before. This experience showed me the value of building social capital, having enough equity in integrity and more importantly having family and friends who believe in you. It was fun receiving alerts on days when we didn’t know how to confront the next day. I got used to the distinctive sound of my SMS alert such that till this day, once I hear that sound, I immediately associate it with a deposit in my account. I really wish it could last forever.

This experience showed me how kind majority of Nigerians are. People sent money to my account without ever having met me. It also showed me that if you lean on the arm of the flesh, it will fail you. I was shocked to find out that people I imagined would naturally support me did not only withhold their support but some had the temerity to send me insulting text messages. I learnt over and over again that help comes only from The Lord.

Prosecuting the election meant campaigning in all the 13 towns and their farmsteads within my constituency. I went from the traditional rulers to ordinary persons on the street. I spoke to Labour Unions, Craftsmen, Artisans, Market women, Students and so on. It was a grueling schedule but, it was fun every step of the way. The dancing and singing was wonderful. The articulation of my plans for the constituency was well received. The traveling from one town to another was truly exciting. I was blessed to have my hometown – Iyin Ekiti rooting for me. The only downside to the campaign was the attack unleashed on my campaign posters, bill boards and my person by the incumbent Governor and his boys. They  even tried to abduct me right up till the day of my election but for God and the support of people around me and protection by my Leaders and Political Mentors.

In spite of the election abracadabra in my State that ensured nobody in my party won a single seat in the National and State Assemblies, I have no regrets for running at all. The experience matured me a lot. I became more tactful and learnt a lot of patience.  It took me to the grassroots and brought me in contact with many wonderful people. I was finally able to rid myself of the tag of being called a foreigner in my own State, where I was born, bred and educated until I went to the University. I was finally accepted as a bonafide politician instead of being called a ‘technopol’ (technocrat / politician). More importantly it afforded me the opportunity of rewriting the narrative about my person. I can confidently say that the only way for me to go is up.

I became understood and accepted as a humble good person endowed with love and a lot to offer my Constituency, State, Country and the World. I am grateful for this opportunity. We should not cede the space of public office to touts and charlatans. As Dr Kayode Fayemi would say, the highest form of service is Public service. I wrote this to encourage others like me to get involved instead of sitting within your little spaces and complaining about being ruled by a mediocre. The political space is reserved for the best brains and  people with the largest heart in the developed nations of the world. Nigeria should not be any different. Politics is a beautiful adventure in understanding human beings within our world and learning to relate with each person. I am a more informed person because I dared to run for political / public office.

Dr Eniola Ajayi is a Consultant Optometrist / Ocular Pathologist, and Managing Director of  Enny Eye Clinic and Optical Services.

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3 Responses

  1. i salute your courage, we need more women in the politics. Am sure if there were more women like yourself what happened in the senate yesterday would not be possible where senators voted against the gender equality bill.

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