Saturday, June 6, 2020 11:59 am
By Temitope Ajayi
He was the only Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) Senatorial Candidate who lost his senatorial election to the candidate of National Party of Nigeria (NPN) during the 1983 General Election in the old Ondo State which is now broken into two states.
I heard he took his electoral defeat with equanimity.
Fast forward to 1991 some eight years after. The UPN old guards, mostly banned by the General Ibrahim Babangida’s administration from participating in his transition programme, led by Chief Adekunle Ajasin coalesced behind the then Mr. Bamidele Olumilua to win the ticket of Social Democratic Party (SDP) as gubernatorial candidate in 1991. Chief Ajasin was a very remarkable former Governor of Ondo State between 1979 and 1983. Olumilua went ahead to win the election against Chief Ayo Ogunlade of the National Republican Convention. Chief Ogunlade later became Minister of National Planning in the administration of General Sani Abacha. SDP in all South West states was a kind of reincarnation of the Awolowo’s Unity Party of Nigeria.
Without any knowledge that H.E Olumilua would pass on during the week, Aanu and I were with Mr. Dayo Akinlaja, SAN last week at his Law office in Abuja on a social visit. Mr. Akinlaja is the Legal Secretary of Ikere Development Forum. A very committed Ikere man.
During our discussion on varied topical issues, Mr. Akinlaja veered towards the erudition and oratorical ebullience of H.E Olumilua as a politician and a community leader. He particularly mentioned an experience in 1991 during the governorship campaign in the riverine communities of Ondo State – the Ilaje, Okitipupa, Igbokoda, Igbotako areas.
The SDP campaign team had spent days moving from one community to the other to cover the riverine areas of the state because of their significant votes that could change the electoral map. On the last day of the campaign tour was a list of some communities the campaign team planned to cover to draw the curtain. It was getting late about 7pm and there was the last community to be touched. The campaign team decided that they could do without the remaining community. The team needed to get out on boats before darkness. The candidate would have none of that. He insisted the team must get to the last community because they got the report that party members and supporters were waiting since mid-day inside scorching sun. By the time they got to the community it was about 8pm and less than 20 people were waiting still. Then Evangelist Olumilua did the unthinkable. He reportedly burst into tears. He summoned his legendary oratorical guile and tearfully said, “what manner of love is this. Despite the long wait you people still stayed behind to welcome me and receive my team. I can not imagine we will still meet this crowd of people.” The campaign members had to pinch themselves to be sure if they were not in another universe because they couldn’t understand how about 20 people could be described as waiting crowd. By the time the 20 people were shouting and hailing, those who had left started coming back to the rally ground. Evangelist Olumilua got his crowd.
He won the election with very wide margin. He assembled a very strong cabinet with such people as Professor Olu Agbi as his Secretary to Government, Dr. Segun Mimiko as Commissioner for Health, Chief Wole Olanipekun as Attorney General/Commissioner for Justice among others. Dr. Olusegun Agagu another UPN die-hard intellectual was his Deputy Governor.
Interestingly, two of his cabinet members – Dr. Olusegun Agagu and Dr. Olusegun Mimiko went on to become Governors of Ondo State. That speaks to the quality of the men and women the Late Governor Olumilua attracted to his government. Sadly, his administration was short-lived. The government was in office for just 23 months as Gen. Sani Abacha coup of 1993 brought the administration to an unexpected end. On the performance of the Olumilua-led administration, the jury is still out.
My only interaction with him was through the Ikere Development Forum. I remember a visit to him in 2014 with other IDF leaders. It was worthwhile session on history and politics.
The historian-journalist Mr. Dare Babarinsa in his tribute described late Governor Olumilua as a significant man. He was truly significant in all ramifications as a career diplomat, politician, community leader, a man of faith and a stateman. At 80 years he sure served his time here very well and will be remembered by family, his Ikere community and associates.