It has been a long, dogged walk for Prince Clement Adedayo Adeyeye, Nigeria’s recently appointed Honorable Minister of State for Works. He has been a journalist (rising to become an editor with The Punch), politician (Director of Publicity, Research and Statistics of the old Alliance for Democracy (AD) in its glorious days) and National Secretary of pan-Yoruba socio-political and cultural body Afenifere, again when the group was in its formidable peak early this century.
Adeyeye has also been in thriving legal practice, serving as company secretary to several firms.
He has lately confined himself to the terrain of Ekiti politics where in 1999 he waved the AD flag for a senatorial seat. His accomplishments as a journalist, sales executive and legal practionner coupled with Ekiti as AD stronghold, an advantage it secured from tradition as a rump of the Awoist legacy, ought to have been a perfect setting for success for the Adeyeye camp.
But he lost. Not having reckoned with a system that hardly rates merit, hard work and integrity as built-up requirements for electoral victory, the politician is reported to have blamed corrupt practices at the polls for his defeat.
Analysts said they thought the man of probity that Adeyeye was (and still is) would drop his political ambitions after that debacle, since they did not expect him to make it elsewhere if he failed in such an auspicious area. This is what a writer said: “Prince Adeyeye had immense goodwill and promise in that terrain… He couldn’t have had an easier chance to become a senator of the Federal Republic.”
It was not the first time Adeyeye would come face to face with a setback. Well-known for a great relationship with the respected politician and statesman Chief Olu Falae, the journalist turned lawyer-politician was right in Falae’s camp when the latter lost the presidential bid in 1999. He also played a leading role in the early 1990s during the Babangida era. Falae (along with Adeyeye) was a victim of the distortions and treachery of the politics of the day that resulted in a series of contrived abortions of the military’s political transition programme. The new Minister was also in late MKO Abiola’s winning team.
Adeyeye has managed to pick up the pieces. Part of picking up the pieces saw him abandon his friends in AD for the party of his old foes PDP. In this new ship, the prince maintained his integrity and attempted a shot at the governor’s seat. He failed again. But like Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War President of the United States of America, Adeyeye has converted serial setbacks into building blocks of success.
Adeyeye was among the top candidates of the PDP eyeing the governorship seat in Ekiti at the last poll in June 2014. The divisive rivalry was bitter, threatening to turn into a big weapon the APC could wield to coast to easy victory. If the PDP candidates saw through this latent danger, they did not appear to discern its grave import. All of them stood their ground refusing to go for a consensus candidate.
Then Adeyeye, himself a heavyweight in the tussle, resolved the impasse when he announced he was withdrawing to support Mr. Ayo Fayose as the consensus candidate. This paved the way for others to give up their claim to the ticket.
Simultaneously, Adeyeye’s move strengthened the PDP fold which now rallied behind Fayose and frustrated APC’s plans to exploit the wrangling of the PDP gladiators at the poll. APC was said to be counting on protest or sympathy votes among the supporters of the feuding PDP aspirants had the logjam persisted.
The calculating, selfless, disciplined and party-inclined Adeyeye, would not allow it. Following his spartan disposition, Adeyeye worked silently behind the scenes to eventually ensure resounding victory for Fayose and his party.
This has been the trade mark of Adeyeye. Little known for making noise about his presence or his achievements, Adeyeye would rather want his actions to speak for him. Being a pensive and more of a backroom operator, he devotes considerable time to studying challenges and confronting them with a cheerful outlook. This is the reason he has always bounced back from failures that would break the back of others.
I spoke about the losses he suffered right in his backyard. These could have sent others into political hades. Not Adeyeye, an incorrigible optimist who believes that if you are patient in your just quest and struggle for justice, truth and honour and with God as your Compass, you can’t but make it.
I believe President Goodluck Jonathan took the right decision in picking Adeyeye to be numbered among his Ministers. Adeyeye will make a difference in the strategic Works Ministry, given his well-known knack to introduce changes wherever he finds himself. If the Minister of Works Architect Mike Onolomemen is on record as having improved the state of affairs since he took over, Nigerians should expect a higher level of achievements with the pairing of Adeyeye.
Nigeria is at a point where we need a galaxy of star performers to turn things around. We need thinkers and system operators who would put the country first before their personal interest. We want men and women who would harbor a patient vision and cast their sights beyond selfish desires, compatriots who would not be struck down by challenges and setbacks that ought to spur them on to work for a brighter future.
Akin Owolabi was the colleague of Dayo Adeyeye in the editorial department of THE PUNCH in the 1980s