Richard Elesho/ Lokoja
These are interesting times in Ondo State. In spite of the Coronavirus pandemic, activities have resumed for the State Governorship election and it is time once again for the political gladiators to don their battle regalia.
Several men and women have signified interest in taking over the job of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu.
Among those who counted sturdy in the number of aspirants dragging the gubernatorial ticket of the All Progressives Congress, APC, with the Governor is his kinsfolk and a mother-figure, Mrs. Jumoke Anifowose.
Akeredolu and Anifowose are both lawyers and hail from Owo town in Ondo North Senatorial Zone. Here, the common factors end.
The story of Anifowoshe’s incursion into politics and her bid for the number one job in Ondo State are legendary. For one, she had had two previous outings as a governorship aspirant.
In 2012, she became the first woman to vie for the number one job of Ondo State in a major political party when she contested for the gubernatorial ticket of the then Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN.
She was the only woman among the 28 aspirants.
She also contested for the gubernatorial ticket of the APC in 2016. She vied along 23 other aspirants then, but lost the ticket to the incumbent governor.
Her current effort to be at the driving seat in Ondo State is the third.
She is from a family with a firm record of public service in Ondo State and the South West in general.
Her father, the late Michael Adekunle Ajasin was the first Governor of old Ondo State and a mastermind of free education policy of the defunct Action Group, AG, in the old Western Region.
Her mother, Babafunke, was a school teacher, women leader and Pillar of the Red Cross Society in her days.
Jumoke is the last of four children in that family. It is instructive that she is trying to be the heir apparent to her parent’s rich political wealth.
Soft spoken, kind and deeply calculative, Mama Anifowoshe, as supporters fondly call her, can not stand the sight of human deprivation, suffering and injustice.
Right from her childhood, Anifowoshe’s disciplinarian parents instilled in her the habits of team work and service to others. “Do unto others as you would want them do unto you,” is a line she would never forget. These values would define her activities in public service many years later.
Sometimes at the risk of self denial, she does not hesitate to place her services, gifts and resources at the disposal of others. Aside regularly picking medical and educational bills for the less privileged and indigent students respectively, Mama has special passion for women empowerment. For instance, she runs a sort of microfinance firm which makes funds available for women to own or recapitalize their small businesses.
Her concern for the well-being of others dictated her membership of many charity organizations. Her days as President of Zonta a philanthropic association in Lagos readily comes to mind. She succeeded in bringing medical and gender issues to the front burner in a manner never before witnessed in the association.
Like other mortals, Anifowoshe has had her own share of challenges in life. Her burdens as a weaker sex were compounded when she lost her husband early and barely after eight years of marriage.
Momentarily, the untimely passage brought her life to a standstill. She however quickly put herself together as an Amazon and has gone on to successfully raise three children as a single parent. All of the three are trained professionals today.
From the very tedious duties of a single mother, Anifowoshe has spared enough time for career growth and political pursuits. She grew through the ranks in both. She studied law in the then University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. She is a senior lawyer, trained mediator with expertise in cyber law, crypto economy and ICT.
Anifowoshe is at home with the man on the street. She maintains strong connections with the grassroots. From being a council member representing Ward ‘E’ Ikeja Local Government Area of Lagos State, she was eventually appointed Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in her home state. She was the first woman to be so appointed in the State.
Mama has also made her mark in party administration. She grew from being a Local Government Chairman of Alliance for Democracy, AD, State Deputy Chairman of Action Congress, AC to State Chairman of Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN.
It is little wonder that Anifowoshe is the woman to beat for the Ondo State top job. An admirer likened her to Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, the former Liberian female President who nursed her country on the path of peace and midwifed crucial postwar reforms in the West African country.
Recently Anifowoshe was reported to be among three leading aspirants being considered for a consensus candidate by members of the Unity Forum, of the Ondo APC.
Her gender is a bag of mixed blessings. Whereas her traducers cite her gender and age as factors that count against her ambition, her fans opine that Ondo State is ripe for a female governor and that Anifowoshe is best suited to complete a second term for her zone, since she is from the same zone with the incumbent Governor.
Meanwhile, the aspirant has said that “the passion to help people is the motivation behind my interest in public service particularly the downtrodden in the society.”
Can she manoeuvre through the landmine to become Nigeria’s first elected female Governor? Only time will tell.