Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu On My Mind


By SHEDDY OZOENE

Before he became governor of Ondo State in 2016, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu had a reputation for taking principled positions on important national issues. He said nd did the right things, and many saw him as the people’s advocate. His leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association was a glorious era for Nigerian lawyers.

His decision to join politics did not surprise many. Politics came naturally to him and those who know about his performance in office say he is not totally a disappointment.

Recent happenings in the state now threaten to negate the reputation he has built over time. They arise from his ill-health, long absence from the state, and the perception that he arrogantly clings to power when it is obvious he is no longer capable of executing the mandate of his office as governor.

Akeredolu is human, no doubt; he is subject to the same vagaries that we all face, and that includes ill-health. He has been so sick that he has spent the better part of the past year in hospitals and under medical care. Since returning from abroad, where he had gone for medical treatment, he has remained in his private residence in Ibadan on bed rest and for continuing medical attention instead of Akure, his state capital.

His consequent inability to attend to his official duties has put the man on the spot. Ondo has been in the news in recent weeks for all the wrong reasons, following the crisis generated by his actions or inactions.

Gov Akeredolu

His ill-health and consequent absence had ignited rivalry within his political family and permutations became rife over his likely successor in office. Naturally, his deputy Hon. Lucky Aiyedatiwa, stood in the eye of the storm and with time, especially during the Governor’s hospitalization in Germany, allegations of disloyalty was levelled against him. The allegation of disloyalty is one that can easily stick on a deputy in the circumstances that exist in Ondo. Whether it is founded is another matter entirely because it is not beyond politicians to seek advantage by lying against one another.

Whoever was feeding Aketi the story about his deputy did a good job of also lacing the disloyalty stories with acts of subversion. And like all mortals, it was enough to trigger suspicion and bad blood between Governor and his deputy.

Anyone who thought a man with a debilitating health challenge like the governor will not have the presence of mind to fight back would be wrong. If Aketi is not fighting, those interested in the imminent political succession have ignited the face-off and are doing the fighting on his behalf.

The simple constitutional matter of such seamless succession has become high-wire politics in Ondo where those stoking the fire of ill-will are allegedly reaping financial windfalls. Stories abound about all manner of approvals and withdrawals from the State treasury with suspected forged signatures of Governor Akeredolu. It is that bad.

One is tempted to exculpate the governor from all the shenanigans and alleged financial heist going on in the state, but that is difficult. Akeredolu is very ill, no doubt, but he has so far not behaved like someone in the debilitating health condition many suspect he is. On his return from treatment abroad in September, he had surmoned his deputy and the Speaker of the state legislature to a meeting in Ibadan where he reportedly announced his resumption of office. By also transmitting same in writing to the House of Assembly, he fully resumed and took back power which he had invested in Aiyedatiwa during his stay abroad. That would be wrong for anyone aware of his health condition.

The battle between Akeredolu and Aiyedatiwa is one the latter will always lose. How can a deputy governor adequately convince anyone that he does not habour the ambition to succeed an ailing, outgoing governor? And the question that arises is: When has it become a crime to aspire to the office of governor?

In normal circumstances, what is happening in Ondo State should not be associated with a man of principle like Rotimi Akeredolu. It is so primitive that it threatens to negate all the legacies he has built over time. It lends credence to the belief that he is unable to act on his own. If he is terminally ill and unable to perform his duties as governor as many suspect, Akeredolu should do the right thing by resigning his office.

It is the principled thing to do, and it is a principled stand he famously took when a similar position arose with late Preside Umaru Musa Yar’adua.

His decision to hang on to power has thrown the state into avoidable crisis, one that has negatively impacted governance and the peoples welfare. It is such that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu had to wade in a few days ago to calm those involved in that undue battle. But to what end?

My prayers are with Akeredolu for his recovery, but he must spare the state the unnecessary crisis his illness and consequent actions have brought on them. When governance and the people’s interests are sacrificed, as is the case in Ondo, the person on whose table the buck stops should be blamed.

Just when he should be receiving public sympathy over his misfortune, Akeredolu’s perceived refusal to do the right thing in the circumstances has projected him as insensitive and arrogant. It is either he is indeed insensitive and arrogant, or he has lent himself to the cabal to use as an excuse to shortchange the people of the state.

*First published in Sunday Telegraph of December 10, 2023.


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