By Ebenezer Akano
We are in an interesting time; the greatest football competition on earth is ongoing in Qatar at the exact same time the biggest political contest in Nigeria, the 2023 general election, is taking shape.
On the South African Sports Channel, DSTV, they call this season football’s greatest season. But I would love to call it an interesting season, especially for the people of Irepo/Olorunsogo/Oorelope Federal Constituency, where I learnt that former Member of the Oyo State House of Assembly and House of Representatives, Honourable Jimoh Adelowo Afees, popularly known as Ona-Ara, is contesting to represent the Constituency in the House of Representatives on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Don’t ask why, you will see my point very shortly.
In football, two teams of 11 players apiece compete for victory and the means to that victory is a goal. The highest scoring side is awarded the three points. But you know this already. In order to become the best side, you must endeavour to parade your best legs, comprising the most skilful, the most accurate strikers and the individuals with the greatest stamina. If there is anyone who fits into the bill in one area but is weak in the other, you often keep such individuals on the bench to be introduced later. In football, you need the best 11 to win and achieve your goal.
The theory of the best 11 comes into reality the most at this period in the life of the people of Irepo/Olorunsogo/Oorelope Federal Constituency. The constituency comprises the historic towns of Kishi, Igboho, Igbope and Igbeti. Traditionally known as Old Irepo, having all been under the big banner of Irepo Local Government, these communities have suffered years of neglect, stagnation and hardship partly because of the kind of representation they have been unlucky to have over the years.
But in 2011, just as they say that fortune favours the brave, the Federal Constituency got it right with the election of Honourable Afees, whom we lovingly call Ona-Ara, into the House of Representatives. As a visionary determined to change the narrative for good, Ona-Ara began the huge task of providing good representation to the Constituency quite early.
It didn’t take time for the people of the Constituency to notice the efforts of man who has come as the game-changer, as he began to facilitate projects across different sectors, especially education, health and provision of potable water. With a project distribution that is not only fair but also people-centred, Ona-Ara had won the hearts of Constituents as the man who knew the road and he looked set to break the no-second term jinx in the Constituency in 2015.
But, aware of the zoning principle in the Federal Constituency, Ona-Ara had been reluctant to attempt a second term, before the PDP at the national level insisted on rewarding every lawmaker that stood with the party in its trying times. Interestingly, Ona-Ara was at the front line of those who fought hard and stood solidly by former President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP, even to the point of being assaulted by Mrs. Binta Masi Garba of Adamawa, though he remained unprovoked and made Kishi, Igboho and Igbeti people proud as a worthy ambassador and a good man, who would never disrespect womanhood no matter the provocation.
In the end, the Buhari political tsunami happened; Ona-Ara lost the election but not the will to fight or the love for his people. In his little ways, the former state and national lawmaker had been contributing meaningfully to the uplift of the people in different ways. His last opportunity to do this on a large scale was at the Oyo State Agric Credit Corporation, where hundreds of Constituents benefited from agriculture credits that helped their farming ventures and aid in the sustenance of their households, while some moved on to become bigger farmers.
With the 2023 election drawing close, it gladdens the heart that Ona-Ara is interested in representing his people again. What this means is that the good old times would return and even with better results. Why? Because in Ona-Ara, composite legislative experiences at the Oyo State House of Assembly and the House of Representatives will meet with preparation and a good heart that has the interest of the people. This time too, the zoning debate in the Federal Constituency also favours the former lawmaker, as it is unarguably the turn of the Kishi community to produce the member of the House of Representatives.
However, the residents of Kishi, Igboho, Igbeti must be cautious not to be swayed by political party sentiments or blind loyalty to a party. In presenting a best 11 for a football match, sentimentalities are relegated to the background. If the Federal Constituency and its teeming people are thinking of achieving greater federal presence, then they must think football, present their best eleven. Though Hon. Afees is running on the platform of the SDP, it is unmistakably clear that he ticks all the boxes as the best man for the job, as he not only ranks above other contestants in legislative experience and exposure, he has built bridges across the Niger and would be able to harvest developments for the benefit of his people.
Akano writes from Igbeti, Oke-Ogun Area of Oyo state