In this feature, the editor, FEMI OGUNLANA, looks at the entry of Femi Onireti into the political terrain of Ogbomoso having grown up in Ibadan and made some fortune in the United States of America.
Partisan politics will never stop in unveiling all shades of men; persons who have attained various degrees of successes especially outside the confines of where they hailed from are often unearthed by politics and some of such personalities in the long run find themselves in the thick of contesting political posts claiming different reasons for their involvement. While there are individuals borne by genuine interest, there are also counterfeits whose only drive is harnessing people’s patrimony solely for personal gains. If politics is an act of spinning something from nothing utilizing common resources, then, Femi Onireti deserves searchlight to unravel his purpose as he struts into Ogbomoso’s political landscape.
Femi Onireti, a US based entrepreneur, who hails from Akinsi compound in Osupa, Ogbomoso, is making inroad into politics not because he desires it but because he is getting drawn into it on account of his eleemosynary strides. The class of selfless people is fast dwindling in politics, and thus, those around him seeing his quiet bearing and unspoken show of compassion feel encouraged to drag him into the venture. Prior his political adventure, he had set up a service organization, a foundation, which he named Femi Onireti Foundation (FOF). This foundation, which began in Ibadan few years ago, has been standing in some gaps as it relates to less-privileged people in the society.
But he doesn’t see himself as a philanthropist; asked what spurred his interest in philanthropic gestures, he told The Insight that he was only giving to the society from what God has given him, moreover he states that he is naturally like that,
He remarks, “I wouldn’t call myself a philanthropist, I will just say that I am giving back to the society, this is whom I have always been in life since when I was little. I can remember when I was seven or eight years old, we were in Ibadan, my uncle was to be wedded in Jos, I was to be part of the wedding train, but I couldn’t make it, they sewed me this suit, and so, a cousin of mine came to Ibadan, and I just looked inside my wardrobe and gave him the stuff. This is whom I am.”
His impact has been well felt in Ibadan where he grew up; his foundation has recorded quite a number of achievements as far as service to the under-privileged is concerned. He has been awarding scholarships, caring for the orphans, making cash donations to the needy and so on. He unbundled himself into these activities, and now, the pull of home, his roots, began to nudge at him. And so, he has returned to Ogbomoso to play his part to the best of his ability.
“Let’s try and see what we can do in Ogbomoso where I came from and stuffs like that, that is the drive,” he began, “And we started at BUTH (Bowen University Teaching Hospital) where we were able to pay some bills, we started about a year ago, we were able to pay some hospital bills, we went to the Lepers’ Colony as well, where we distributed food stuffs and other items, we are going to do more and more.”
Femi Onireti: A peep
By this quiet stride, he registered his presence in Ogbomoso. Then, the questions began to pour in, “Who is this guy? Who is Femi Onireti?”
Now, he unveils a little about his background in a recent interview with The Insight. “I was born in Ibadan, I am from Ogbomoso, Ogbomoso North Local Government. I am from Osupa, Ile-Akinsi.”
He stated further: “I grew up in Ibadan, my primary school was in Ibadan, my secondary school was in Ibadan, I partially went to the Federal University of Technology (FUTA), Akure, before I left for the US and studied Business Management in the US, I have been in the US for about nine years. I am into business.
“My father was born in Ghana, he is John Onireti, he lived in Ghana for about 12years before he moved to Nigeria, he lived in Ibadan, and right now he lives in the States.”
Now, pressure begins to mount that he should consider political participation on a partisan basis, with the hope that being in politics, he would be able to operate on a larger scale with his brand of community engagement. Wealth and riches have not gone into his head, he maintains his meekly disposition, he goes about without an air, approachable, accommodating and tolerant. He is at home with all strata of people and he is passionate about spreading happiness through giving. It is no wonder he is being dragged into partisan politics.
But this is no big deal to him, as he posits all humans are politicians. “Ah, to be honest, we are all politicians, one way or the other.”
Support for Seyi Makinde and interest in politics
His political participation at the party level actually began with his support for the incumbent Executive Governor of Oyo state, Engineer Seyi Makinde, in the months towards the last gubernatorial election. His pace at the time however was part of his passion to see a “good” man assume mantle of leadership in the state, to help enthrone a man whose dream is to redefine leadership and foist a responsive leadership on the people.
He explains his interest in Seyi Makinde, “What made me get more interested in politics is the government of Engr. Seyi Makinde. He has done tremendously well, I was involved in his campaign, I so much believe in his government, and trust me, up till today, I am not disappointed. I have joined the party to see what I can also contribute, to move the state and the party forward.”
His answer to the question, “You are now coming into politics, what is the interest?” wasn’t quite satisfactory and so he was further quizzed, “What motivated you to work for his (Makinde) campaign, after all he has not started a government then; if you are joining the PDP now because of his strides, what made you join his campaign train then?”
His response: “I will say this, I have a friend, an older friend, his name is Hon Stanley Odidiomo (member representing Ibadan North West/South West Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives); he lived in the States then, before coming to Nigeria. I believe so much in him as well, and we started campaigning for him, and then we moved to the governorship campaign as well, we did everything.
“So, at that time, I believe he (Makinde) was a made man, he has money, and I don’t think he was looking for anything personal in terms of money in government. I so much believe he was actually looking honestly to help the people of the state.”
Perhaps he should be more explicit on this because Makinde’s main opponent in the 2019 governorship election, Bayo Adelabu of the All Progressives Congress, APC, was also a made man to use his word. So, why Makinde and not Adelabu?
Onireti simply submits, “Hmmmm! Maybe that time, I know much about Seyi Makinde than Adelabu. And trust me, up till now, I have never been disappointed.”
Femi Onireti has now formally pitched tent with the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. This he accomplished is a colourful, well attended ceremony held at Osupa Baptist Basic School playground last month. Interestingly, he marked the occasion with another round of compassionate gesture, explaining, “We were able to empower some people, gave them some stuffs; the widows, we were able to give them some money, market women. We are looking to do more in the coming months, in the coming weeks, we are going to do more and more and more.”
The programme, which had many dignitaries in attendance such as Prince Dare Adeleke (chairman Trans City Transport Company, TCTC, Ibadan), Alhaji Lamidi Mukaila (head of Oyo state motor park revenue collection agency), Hon George Ogunlade (chairman, PDP, Ogbomoso North local government), Alhaja Fatimoh (chairperson Onireti Foundation Group, Ogbomoso), Alhaji Jimoh Aderemi (motor park manager, Ogbomoso) featured distributions of deep freezers, sewing machines, barbing clippers, pedicure tools, beauty tools and dryers just as widows and market women were given cash donations.
Speaking at the event, Prince Dare Adeleke described Onireti as a very successful person who made impressive achievements in the United States of America informing he had the solid support of the PDP at the state level while appealing to the party in Ogbomoso to back him too.
“I am here because of Femi Onireti; he has achieved a lot in America, we are always impressed by his achievements in America and knowing he is from Ogbomoso is impressive, the party is behind him solidly. I appeal to the party in Ogbomoso to hold him dearly.”
Adeleke, a former Special Adviser Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala, added that they had to encourage him (Onireti) to return home “because he is doing well, he cares for the widows, cares for patients, and we felt he should make his impact felt in Ogbomoso, his hometown, that is why we encouraged him to come back home.”
In his speech, Onireti reiterated that he was joining PDP on account of the good works of Governor Makinde, which are ensuring the state is being moved forward.
“Engr. Seyi Makinde is doing wonderfully well; he is the best governor in Nigeria, he is moving Oyo state forward, that is what encouraged us to join the party, I am joining with members of Onireti Foundation.”
In his own, Hon Ogunlade, PDP chairman in Ogbomoso North, expressed congratulations to Osupa Ward “for having Onireti join the party.”
In a chat with Onireti thereafter, he said of the presence of Auxiliary at the event as The Insight wanted to know the kind of relationship that existed between the duo and whether he was relying on his (Auxiliary) strength peradventure he decided to throw his hat in the ring for a political post. But he remarks, “Like I said, we all campaigned for Seyi Makinde, so, I knew him from there, and he has been a friend, we have been together for a while.
“Noo! We are not thinking of contesting anything right now, what we are doing is basically join the party, honestly, giving back to the society, working hand in hand with the governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde, to make sure we take Oyo state, Ogbomoso to a higher level.”
On joining a faction within the PDP fold in Ogbomoso, he said, “Like I said I am joining the PDP, the governor is the governor of the state, and right now I am not going into the nitty-gritty of politics, all I am doing now is join the party and work for the party.”
Politicians are very funny people, self-interest reigns supreme, and so, he was asked, “You have a foundation meaning you had people working for you before, you are now bringing them into PDP, how are you going to balance your activities between your team and the people you are joining in the PDP so that there won’t be conflict?”
Answering, he retorted, “What I am trying to do is, we will not try to be a regular politician, we are trying to make a change in this country, our party is important, yes, but at the same time, we have to take care of our people. The party is very important.”
“You mentioned a while ago you had no intention of contesting any political post, if peradventure you are pressured to contest in 2023, how are you going to react?” He was further asked.
“Honestly, as we speak, I have had a lot of stuffs about me going to contest for this, for that, but right now, I have only joined the party to see how we can make a change in the party, to make it move forward, go better, go stronger, and how we can help our people.”
“Now, Governor Seyi Makinde, what are the things he has done or he is doing that make you hail him?”
He noted, “We all know it, you shouldn’t have been asking that question, it is obvious, if you talk about projects, if you talk about workers, on the 25th, you receive an alert on your phone and you know it is a good alert. So, he means so well, he means honestly so well, he means honestly so well for the state and we all know it.”
Onireti has an intriguing philosophy of life, he reveals, “Enjoy life, help people,” and he says he is not bothered about the hundreds of people thronging his residence whenever he is in Ogbomoso making monetary demands on him despite not being in office. He goes ahead to describe the people of Ogbomoso thus, “It has been awesome, awesome, awesome! You have good people around, homely, welcoming, I love my people it has been good.
“We all spend money everyday even whether people demand or they don’t demand, we still spend money, if they have they won’t come and demand from you, that is still part of what we are talking about, we need to work more, to empower our youths, if they are engaged in one business or the other, if we empower them they will not have the time to come around to demand, so, we should find ways to improve our youths.”
The Eagle has landed
His joining the political terrain in Ogbomoso has been tremendous perching as an eagle with its impactful, adoring attributes. He is demonstrating his determination to extend a soothing touch to the people. When recently, Jimoh Isiaka was killed in an EndSARS protest at Owode, Ogbomoso, Onireti was one of the early sympathizers to the deceased’s family compound and he later quietly made cash donations to the family. When he learnt of the burning of the motorcycle of one of the drivers of Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Oladunni Oyewumi, Babatunde Odekola, in the palace during an attack in connection with death of protesters, he caused the Onireti Foundation to donate another motorcycle.
The international businessman now commended Makinde for the way he handled the EndSARS protests in the state noting the governor demonstrated sagacity and understanding which he posited was responsible for the non-escalation of the protests in the state and why we did not have another Lekki-massacre in Oyo state. He said this in a statement made available to newsmen in Ibadan.
Another thing about this budding politician is his lack of desperation in the process. He often says, “We are not desperate for anything, we only want to render the little we can render in the name of assistance, we are not in competition with anyone, we do not nurture an inordinate ambition, our passion for the people is genuine.”
As this man entrenches himself as a people-oriented person, he sure will be an interesting political specimen to watch with keenness.