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By Segun Dipe, Oyebanji and the politics of inclusivity

May 20, 2024 | 2023 Elections | 0 comments

There are murmurs from certain quarters alleging that Governor Biodun Oyebanji (BAO) of Ekiti State has been sidelining the APC echelons in his selection for appointments, favoring opposition parties over party loyalists.

Critics holding this view appear to be out of touch with modern democratic practices, which have moved beyond the winner-takes-all approach of past elections. In today’s politics, a winner who takes all risks losing political stability and peace.

Those advocating for a winner-takes-all strategy may have missed BAO’s campaign for the 2022 governorship election. Throughout his campaign, the APC candidate pledged to make Ekiti an inclusive state, promising to bring together all Ekitians without discrimination and creating a state where everyone can live and prosper.

After the election, BAO extended a hand of fellowship to all other contestants, their political parties, and their leaders, viewing them as integral parts of his government. He also acknowledged all past governors of the state as his mentors and has since maintained a collaborative relationship with them.

As a proponent of inclusion, BAO believes that “we” encompasses every citizen, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, skin color, or sexual orientation.

Michael Ignatieff, a Canadian human rights scholar, defines the ideal inclusive state as a community of equal rights-bearing citizens united by a shared set of political practices and values. Inclusion within the political system is a natural extension of the belief that every individual holds moral value. The first victory for inclusive politics is the formal right of citizens to influence and be represented within democratic institutions.

BAO practices politics of equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging (EDIB), reflecting his evolution as an unusual politician. Unlike the typical trajectory of politicians, BAO was a statesman before becoming a governor. He played a key role in the creation of Ekiti State as the secretary of the committee advocating for its separation from Ondo State, making him the youngest founding father of Ekiti State.

Contrary to criticisms that BAO was unprepared for governance, he is the most prepared governor Ekiti State has ever had. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science, has taught the subject at the university level, and has served under all progressive governors of the state. He quietly continued building his career in the corporate world until called to serve in the government of Ekiti’s first democratic Governor, Otunba Niyi Adebayo. BAO’s extensive experience in governance and the corporate sector qualifies him uniquely for his role.

Regarding appointments, BAO has kept his promise of returning political power to the party. He empowers party leaders in each of the 16 Local Governments and 18 LCDAs to nominate candidates for government positions, with recommendations coming from leaders in each of the 177 wards. These recommendations undergo screening and shortlisting for various positions at the state or local government levels. Furthermore, BAO consults all former governors on governance matters, regardless of their party affiliations, ensuring they have a sense of belonging. He also prioritizes projects that directly impact the lives of the people, demonstrating empathy for their needs.

If this approach is seen as misgovernance, critics should clarify their understanding of governance. If they lack political understanding, BAO is not inclined to adopt outdated practices. He is a governor for today, not one from the past.

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