Akeredolu and governance void in Ondo State

The political impasse that has characterised Ondo State in recent months could have been avoided had Governor Rotimi Akeredolu taken the right decision to step down in the face of the ill-health that effectively precluded him from serving the people of the state. By holding tenaciously to power against the dictate of his health, the governor has further narrowed the gap between core professionals in power and career politicians

often reviled for despoiling the majesty of public office and the rule of law. While it is human for leaders to be ill and temporarily indisposed, personal issues should not grind governance to a halt or give an inkling of government on holiday. To do so, as it is the case in Ondo State at present, is a disservice to the persona of Akeredolu and advocates of core professionals onboarding the political space.

Scholars of modern leadership are beginning to choose between populist politicians and those they call ‘more sensible’ leaders with core professional competencies. They blame politicians for socio-economic damages and seek respite from technocrats that have tested their mettle outside of politics. After all, politics is too important to be left to politicians alone. While honourable politicians could not always be trusted to do the right thing, ‘more sensible’ technocrats are expected to know better.

Much more than a hypothesis, that theory is already in practice in Nigerian politics, with increasing emphasis on proven professionals in politics – where it now matters most. And one of those reference points of that experiment is governor Akeredolu of Ondo State. His résumé of a legal luminary of the elite cadre has all boxes of sensible leaders, which researchers want to tick. Akeredolu is not only a lawyer of repute, he also grew through the ranks to emerge as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). Twice elected into office in Ondo, Akeredolu made sweeping reforms to reposition the sunshine state and also impact the region at large. For instance, his bold leadership role in securing the state and the Southwest region against threats of invading herders and terrorists alike is remarkable.

Unfortunately, ill-health has been Akeredolu’s albatross. The loss of vitality for the highly demanding office has rendered Arakunrin more absent than present on his second-coming to the office. After weeks of speculation on his health, on July 7, 2023, he proceeded on a 21-day medical leave in Germany, which lasted for three months. And since he returned early September, he has been sheltering in his private residence in Oyo State, about one-hour drive from Ondo, on the claim that Akure is no longer conducive for the governor.

Curiously, Akeredolu is also fighting on multiple fronts. One is with his deputy, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, who has been ‘nominated’ for impeachment. Being his second deputy governor in less than seven years, Akeredolu is perhaps unlucky with loyal subordinates, or he has least tolerance for potential successors having an ambition to warrant the imperial cronyism that only family members are good enough for prime positions of government. Either way, it is tragic for the people of Ondo State to have their sitting principal office holders – governor, his deputy, chief justice of the state, and others – all at loggerheads and on self-imposed exile from the state they supposedly serve.

Akeredolu and governance void in Ondo State

Similarly, he is fighting oppositions that have started the #WhereIsAketi campaign. Politics aside, their elected governor has been more visible on his wife’s Instagram handle than in the state, and the people have the right to ask questions on the governor’s whereabouts since April. But in a dramatic fashion, the police and the DSS laid siege to the headquarters of the opposition party, to prevent youths from staging a protest!
There are also narratives that Akeredolu could govern Ondo state from anywhere but from Ondo. However plausible such mockery sounds in the ears of the narrators, what is clear is the massive depravity akin to a government in absentia in Ondo. The enveloping darkness around the Alagbaka Government House corridor symbolises stalled development in the state. And routine payment of salaries can hardly compensate for lack of real development or progress of the Redeemed agenda.

The so-called ‘maverick’ politicians may be forgiven for missteps or not knowing when to throw in the towel honourably, but not the more sensible professionals of the elite class like Akeredolu. Arakunrin is the custodian of the law and in his prime, he could hardly have elected to defend such a client he has become. Both morality and the Constitution abhors incapacitated presidents or governors sitting tightly yet idly on the affairs of the citizenry who yearn for hands-on leadership, especially at this time of dire needs for an economic father-figure. To deprive the people does that mirror a good ambassador of the NBA or mentorship of predecessors like Pa Adekunle Ajasin. So, what has changed in the case of Akeredolu? Is it the loss of vitality, pecks of office and its vanities, overbearing influence of wife, family members, hangers-on advisers, general lack of wisdom or latent deficiency in moral empathy for the people’s plight?

For all it is worth, handlers of Akeredolu should be aware that they are doing him no good whatsoever in keeping him as a figurehead and reducing governance to public relations. Inadvertently, they have succeeded in making him an odd replica of President Umaru Yar’Adua’s rancorous episode, which didn’t end well. It is a privilege and honour, premised on trust, to have been elected to the office. We wish Akeredolu well and a quick recovery too. But he should as well be allowed to rest without the burden of governing a state. To do otherwise, is to make a mockery of democracy and rule of law, which Akeredolu had championed in his professional heydays.

Indeed, Ondo State is too intellectually endowed and enlightened to be shoehorned into democratic backwardness of a one-man political circus show. Granted that the ‘more sensible’ professional could also drop the ball, it is most unfortunate that the State House of Assembly shamelessly took sides against probity in this matter. Framers of the constitution had the foresight of situations like this, for which purpose Section 193(2) states that ‘the Governor of a state shall hold regular meetings with the Deputy Governor and all Commissioners of the Government of the State for the purposes of determining the general direction of policies of the state amongst other provisions.’ And where the governor has not performed such statutory remits, it is incumbent on the House of Assembly to invoke sections 189(1), to cause a Medical Panel to be constituted to ascertain the governor’s medical competence to lead the state or not. None of this has happened in the case of Akeredolu, which signposts an incompetent and complicit House of Assembly at the beck and call of the executive. And instead of addressing the elephant in the room, the subservient lawmakers have chosen a lightning rod in the person of an ‘errant’ deputy governor. The people of Ondo State should by now know those that are on the side of the people, truth, accountability, and the rule of law.
Tellingly, only a fit Akeredolu that is on ground in Alagbaka Government House, attending state functions and meeting citizens’ needs is good enough for the people, democracy, and development. Any arrangement to the contrary is an enthronement of illegality and betrayal of public trust on the so called ‘more sensible’ professionals.