Akeredolu and The Absurdity in Ondo State – By SUYI AYODELE

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The leaders of Yoruba cannot afford to remain silent while this impunity continues in Ondo State. The Yoruba Council of Elders must speak, and speak, loudly now.

“How many governors are in Oyo State?” The question was directed at me by an Abuja-based senior journalist. He is equally a friend. I was confused. Rather than answer, I put a call across to him. “Bros, what type of question is this?” He laughed. He told me that someone played the same prank on him, and he chose me as his own victim too.

Then I understood what he was driving at. We discussed other issues, and I terminated the call. But ever since, the question has refused to go away. How many governors are indeed in Oyo State? You may ask your next-door neighbour the same question.

Oyo State is the ‘luckiest’ state in Nigeria, today. The state has two ‘sitting’ governors. One of the governors was legitimately elected by the people of the state. His name is Governor Seyi Makinde (GSM). He resides in Ibadan, the state capital, carrying out his constitutional duties as the governor of the state. The second ‘governor’ is Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who was elected as the governor of the second neighbouring state of Ondo State.

To get to Oyo State from Ondo State, you must cross Osun State. When Akeredolu adopted the prefix, “Arakunrin” instead of the honourific “His Excellency” that his peers in the remaining 35 Government Houses answer, we all believed that he came with humility.

Akeredolu, for almost a year now, has been in Ibadan, directing the affairs of Ondo State. We must know that the man known as Aketi, is not in Ibadan by his freewill. Circumstances beyond his control and human understanding pushed him to relocate to Ibadan. He has our sympathy for that. Not just our sympathy, Arakunrin Akeredolu has our daily prayers as we wish him well in whatever battle life has thrown at him. That is the best we should, and can, and must do for him, at this most critical period of his life. Anything beyond this becomes an absurdity.

The people of Ondo State elected a governor that would stay in the state and direct the affairs of the state. They did not bargain for a proxy governor. The constitution itself envisages a situation like the present Akeredolu’s debacle. That is why the drafters of the constitution made provision for the office of a deputy governor. In any situation where the governor cannot perform his duties efficiently and effectively, his deputy is expected to take over, either in acting capacity, or as substantive governor.

What is happening in Ondo State between Arakunrin Akeredolu and his deputy governor, Mr. Lucky Orimisan Ayedatiwa, is pure abnormality! There is no other name for it. It is even more unfortunate that Akeredolu is the one at the centre of it all! If gold rusts, what will iron do!

That Governor Akeredolu is not enjoying the best of health at the moment is no longer debatable. That his health impairment is affecting governance in his home state is equally undeniable. Then what is the way out? That should be our concern. We are asking for the way out because we live in a country where everything is upside down. Were it not so, Akeredolu’s case should have been the model, the template that every civilised society should copy.

Here is a man who is bigger than a colossus in constitutionality. In all ramifications of life, Akeredolu has paid his dues. Unfortunately, his antecedents are in sharp contrast to his present behaviour.

Why is his gold rusting? How would a man who ascended to the pinnacle of the legal profession as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and who, at a time, was the number one lawyer in Nigeria as the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) find himself in this situation and would refuse to do that which is right, noble, and just? Why, if we may ask, will an Akeredolu make nonsense of the provisions of the Constitution of Nigeria, the very document that he took an oath to protect, defend and uphold? Something is missing!

The first time Nigerians got to know officially that Arakunrin Akeredolu was not in perfect health was on 13 June, 2023, when the governor sent a letter to the Ondo State House of Assembly that he would be embarking on leave to attend to his health. In that letter, Akeredolu officially handed over power to his deputy, Ayedatiwa, to act as the governor of the state. Not a few Nigerians hailed the move. We all thought that the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel was here with us.

Alas! We were mistaken! Akeredolu was expected to spend 21 days outside the state for his medical leave. Before the expiration of the 21 days, the governor sought and obtained an extension. Then days rolled into weeks, and weeks into months, until the governor, on 8 September, 2023, after almost three months, wrote to the Assembly that he was back to take the reins of power as the governor.

That was when the real crisis started. The pliable Ondo State House of Assembly, for whatever reason, began an impeachment process against the deputy governor. That incident has led to not less than five litigations in various courts of coordinate jurisdiction. And in all the matters before the courts, Ayedatiwa has triumphed. The latest being the ruling by an Abuja Federal High Court, which last week refused to vacate the order it issued restraining the Assembly from proceeding with the impeachment notice until the substantive issues before the courts were determined. The Assembly is on appeal against the ruling. You may wish to ask, as I do: what is the Ondo State House of Assembly after? Whose drumbeats are the members dancing to over the impeachment move?

While the impeachment tango lasted, the party which jointly produced Akeredolu and Ayedatiwa, the All Progressive Congress (APC), came into the matter and initiated a peace move. As matters stand between the governor and his deputy, it appears that the APC peace initiative is a ruse, after all. The governor is as unrelenting as his deputy is perpetually embattled.

I asked an old friend from the Akure axis what the problem was. His response shocked me. Ayedatiwa, the old folk said, “has no manners and is not loyal to his principal.” I asked my friend if that was not the same allegation levelled against Agboola Ajayi, the former deputy governor to Akeredolu during his first term. My friend responded: “Suyi, honestly, Aketi (Akeredolu), has not been fortunate with his deputies.” Really? I was not convinced.

Fortunately, my friend is also a ‘village boy’ like me. So, it was not difficult for me to ask him about the wisdom in the saying of our elders to wit: When a woman lacks manners, she says she has never been lucky with husbands – Obirin so iwa nu, o ni ohun o gbori oko waye. How come it is easy for people to conclude that Akeredolu’s two deputies have not been of good behaviour without paying attention to the character of the governor himself? What do you say of a man whose every wood in the cooking place bellows only smoke (bawo ni gbogbo igi se nse eefin)?

Since the ‘return’ of Akeredolu from Germany on 8 September, 2023, the governor has not been seen in Akure, the state capital. A competent source, however, said that two Saturdays ago, the governor was in his Owo home town to see one of his old relations. The source said that the old relation was worried that he had not seen his cousin, the governor, in a long while; and when told that Akeredolu was in Ibadan, the old man in his late 80s, elected to travel to Ibadan. On hearing that, and in deference to the old man, Akeredolu, the source added, had to travel to Owo and returned to Ibadan that same day.

Governor Akeredolu now resides in Ibadan, permanently. Who governs Ondo State in his absence? He has transmitted a letter of resumption to the legislative arm. By that, the deputy governor reverts to his constitutional position as an assistant waiting for assignments from the governor. Now that the governor is perpetually absent, and his deputy is not only redundant, but has been given a ‘laborious task’, who rules Ondo State?

I hope nobody would come up with the argument that the governor can rule the state from any part of the country. In the rote learning of “states and capitals”, my two-year-old granddaughter knows that Ibadan is not the capital of Ondo State! What is bad is bad; no matter how much we love the man with a gangrene-infested sore, nobody uses the water oozing out of its pores to cook okro soup! Akeredolu and his handlers cannot make Ibadan the capital of Ondo State at the expense of Akure! But that is what they are unwittingly doing!

For whatever anyone may think, the issue of Akeredolu goes beyond Ondo State. That the governor is holding on to power despite the knowledge of his ill health in the public space is a collective shame of the entire Yoruba race which prides itself as the most civilised in the nation. And there is no doubt about that; the Yoruba people are civilised, sophisticated and urbane. What we are experiencing in the region now is the season of the locusts. The current politicians in the zone have become lords over the people. They have turned the once politically vibrant Yoruba people to a conquered race; one at the mercy of those they ‘elected’ to govern them.

This is strange, very strange in all ramifications. The Yoruba are not known to condone impunity. At a time in the history of the people, the womenfolk rose to defend the land. Check the exploits of Mrs. Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti (1900-1978) and how she led the Egba women to fight a sitting monarch in Abeokuta, over indiscriminate taxation. What about Madam Efunporoye Osuntinubu, later known as Efunroye Tinubu (1810-1887), who assisted two Oba of Lagos -Akintoye and Oluwole -to ascend to the throne when they were about to be short-changed?

If Chief Gani Fawehinmi were to be alive today, what would be his attitude to this crass impunity? Where are the Yoruba men and women of honour in this Akeredolu matter? Why is no one of note talking? Why are the nobles of the land not condemning this charade which is an absolute breach of the constitution and a slight on the collective sensibility of the people?

I am not holding any brief for Ayedatiwa. I don’t even know him. I am not in any way defending his ‘good or bad manners’. What I know is that the case of the Ondo State deputy governor is like the proverbial bad onigangan (talking-drum drummer) who was hired for an occasion, and has been paid. Whether he can drum very well or not, he will finish his performance on the occasion he was hired for. You may not hire him the next time.

At his swearing-in in October 2020, nobody asked Ayedatiwa if he would be “mannerly” or not. It is even an aberration for anyone to demand the loyalty of a deputy governor to his principal, the governor. That may be morally fine, but not constitutionally expedient. The deputy governor is expected to be loyal and faithful to the provisions of the constitution and the people of the state only. The same thing is applicable to the governor.

The folly of changing deputy governors like babies’ diapers started with this political dispensation. In his eight years as governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu had three different deputy governors in the persons of Mrs. Koforola Bucknor-Akerele (1999-2002), Femi Pedro (2003-2007) and Prince Abiodun Ogunleye (2007). His new political soul mate, Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State had three deputy governors in his first term namely, Abiodun Aluko, Bisi Omoyeni and Biodun Olujimi, who later became his political nemesis. The same was with Orji Uzor Kalu in Abia State, who also got rid of his deputy, Dr. Enyinnaya Abaribe. For over three months now, Akeredolu and his legislators have been trying to get rid of his deputy, but they have not succeeded. Why?

We need to pay more than cursory attention to the names the Ondo deputy governor answers. Are there hidden meanings to those names? His surname, Ayedatiwa, means: “The world has become ours”; baptismal name, Lucky, depicts one that is favoured; and his middle name, Orimisan, says: “My head is good.” Akeredolu and the House of Assembly may have to do the unthinkable to be able to get rid of the deputy governor. And should that happen, it would amount to another breach of the law.

Lawyers, we are told, are priests in the temple of justice. Akeredolu is not just a lawyer, he is a father of lawyers. It is only impunity that will, in the face of the obvious fact that he lacks the physical and mental capacity to govern, make the former human rights activist-turned politician continue to cling to power at the expense of the people.

Ondo State is the loser in the present situation. The absence of the governor in the state has put the state at the mercy of political profiteers, buccaneers and rapacious locusts, who are feeding fat on the people. Most annoying is the fact that Ondo State is the ‘world headquarters’ of Afenifere, the Yoruba socio-cultural group. If there is any time Afenifere is expected to speak truth to power, it is now.

The leaders of Yoruba cannot afford to remain silent while this impunity continues in Ondo State. The Yoruba Council of Elders must speak, and speak, loudly now. When you have elders in the marketplace, the neck of a baby strapped on his mother’s back should not be bent precariously. The neck of Ondo State‘s baby is not just bent; it is dangerously bent. The goat is about to die in its tether, while the elders look on. The voices that rose against President Umaru Musa Ya’Adua in 2010 are loudly silent on Akeredolu. Why?

The APC, which claims to be the party of our redemption, is also not saying anything. The feeble voice of the half-dead Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), issuing an ineffective three-day ultimatum to Akeredolu to either resume or resign, is like that of the lone voice in the wilderness. Nobody pays any good attention to the PDP and its lethargic opposition nowadays.

Truth be told, this act will never happen if the APC were to be in the opposition. The entire Ondo State would have been on edge by now. But the case in Ondo State has gone beyond political affiliation. Every man of good conscience must condemn the impunity of Akeredolu and his handlers. They should respect the law, respect the people, and respect themselves.


Ayodele is an editorial staff of the Nigerian Tribune.

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