Ondo Governorship Poll: Kingsley Kuku Sets Eyes on PDP Ticket

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The Ondo State Governorship election will be due in about a year’s time. But, the ground work in some of the interested political parties is gradually gaining momentum.

Though Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), is interested in retaining his position on the platform of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), there are other emerging aspirants with the party who are at the moment, engaging key stakeholders in serious consultations.

Like in the APC, the battle for the governorship ticket does not promise to be easy either in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The party’s candidate in the 2016 poll, Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) is busy reactivating his political machinery. This time, he will find in Kingsley Kuku, an Ijaw, a major obstacle to getting the PDP ticket again.

Apart from Kuku, the PDP National Vice Chairman, South-West, Dr Eddy Olafeso is eyeing the ticket. Names like Prince John Ola Mafo, Hon. Banji Okunomo, Barr. Sola Ebiseni, Otunba Bamidele Akingboye, Hon. Adefemiwa Tope, Hon.Erewa Goddy, Sen. Boluwaji Kunlere, Comr. Dayo Fadahunsi, Chief Rotimi Ibidapo, Engr. Ogunwa Oboli, Hon. Saka Lawal, Hon. Kolade Akinjo, Hon. Femi Adekanbi, Mr.Oshin Damilola, Oniya Ajibola, Engr Olanrewaju Oje and Barr. Adebimpe Olatemiju are also said to be interested in governing Ondo.

Of all of them, Kuku appears to be the only aspirant with a revolutionary credential. Based on his political antecedents, this Ijaw activist is seeking the governorship of Ondo as an instrument to revolutionise the affairs of the state for the highest good of the peoples of the state. Immanuel Kant, the 18th-century German philosopher, believed in revolution as a force for the advancement of humankind. Kant believed that revolution was a ‘’natural’’ step in the realisation of a higher ethical foundation for society. Just as this idea helped in serving as a basis for the American and French revolutions, that is obviously what Kuku is seeking in Ondo.

Within the context of the Kuku politics, a revolutionary is a change agent. S/he causes a complete or dramatic change. Kuku was born in Arogbo, the traditional headquarters of the Ijaw ethnic nationality in Ondo, the base of Egbesu as far as the Ijaw spirituality is concerned. He had his early education in Arogbo before moving out of the community to further his study.
Kuku attended Patrick Catholic Primary School, Arogbo (1977–1983). He had his secondary education at Ijaw National High School, Arogbo (1983–1988). He later proceeded for his higher education and obtained a Bachelor of Education degree in English Language at the Ondo State University, Ado Ekiti, now Ekiti State University in 1995; and M.Sc. in International Relations and Strategic Studies at Igbinedion University, Okada, Edo State (2011–2012). He also had a stint at University of Cambridge where he got a certificate in Dispute Resolution in 2008. In recognition of his role in the advancement of Nigeria’s fledgling democracy, Kuku was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate in Political Science – Phd (Honoris Causa) in November 2013 by the Igbinedion University.
The ebullient governorship aspirant  embraced activism early in his university days as one of the socio-politically conscious young Nigerian students who were agitated about the then military rule and dictatorship in the country. He was a student leader and one time National Mobilisation Officer of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) who was active in the campaign and struggle for the demilitarisation of the Nigerian society and absolute return of democratic governance.

His experience in the leadership of the apex students’ body set a platform for him to be at the vanguard of many organisations that were set out to tackle injustice and maladministration within the socio-political structure the country that is today wobbling again. He was a pioneer member and part of the collegiate leadership of the radical Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), and was actually the second spokesman of the group. He was signatory to the Kaiama Declaration, a document that was like a political bible in the struggle of the Ijaw people for justice in the Niger Delta.

While Kuku still has remains a vocal voice and an active stakeholder for the development and restoration of enduring peace in the oil-polluted Niger Delta, after his involvement in the IYC, he  contested and won as a member of the Ondo State House of Assembly and became Chairman of the House Committee on Information for four years. After, he was at various times Special Assistant and Head of the Conflict Management Unit at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC); a member of the Presidential Committee on Amnesty; and Secretary of the Presidential Committee on Peace and Conflict Resolution in the Niger Delta.

In January 2011, he was appointed Special Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan, on the Niger Delta and Chairman Niger Delta Presidential Amnesty Programme. Jonathan reappointed him into the same position in July 2011 after the general elections in 2011. As the Chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme for ex-agitators in the oil-bearing communities, Kuku oversaw the disarmament and demobilisation of 30,000 ex-agitators and he is superintending the skilling and reintegration of these youths into civil society. The ongoing reintegration component of the Amnesty Programme, which is geared towards building capacity in the deprived Niger Delta youths that are enrolled in the Presidential Amnesty Programme, has so far attained considerable measure of its set objectives.

On the third anniversary of the amnesty programme in 2012, Kuku confirmed at a press briefing that the peace being restored to the oil and gas region, through the coordination of the Programme, has significantly increased the production capacity of oil operators in the environmentally despoiled region and saved Nigeria amount running in billions of dollars in oil revenue within just three years.

The ethnic composition of this 43-year-old state that was created on February 3, 1976, is largely from the Yoruba subgroups of the Akoko, Akure, Okitipupa, Irele, Ilaje, Ondo, and Owo peoples. Ijaw such as Apoi and Arogbo populations inhabit the coastal areas, and a sizable number of the people who speak a variant of the Yoruba language similar to Ife dialect reside in Oke-Igbo.

Ondo needs a potential liberator like Kuku to give her economy a shot in the elbow. At the moment, agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, with the chief products being cotton and tobacco from the north, cacao from the central part, and rubber and timber (teak and hardwoods) from the south and east; palm oil and kernels are cultivated for export throughout the state.

Without the doubt, Ondo is Nigeria’s chief cocoa-producing state. Other crops include rice, yams, corn (maize), coffee, taro, cassava (manioc), vegetables, and fruits. Traditional industries include pottery making, cloth weaving, tailoring, carpentry, and blacksmithing. Mineral deposits include kaolin, pyrites, iron ore, petroleum, and coal. There is a textile mill located at Ado-Ekiti and a palm-oil processing plant at Okitipupa.

For now, will the PDP give Kuku its gubernatorial ticket to fight for the liberation of Ondo? That will certainly depend on what the party players will make out of their congress for the recruitment of their standard bearer. Till then, Kingsley Kuku, an Ijaw of Ondo has his eyes on the governorship of the sun shine state.

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