Nigeria: Obituary – Akeredolu – Exit of a Man Who Came, Fought and Conquered

Aketi was a dogged fighter and would not be intimidated by any political figure if his convictions were challenged.

Governor of Ondo State, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (Aketi), passed away in the early hours of Wednesday in a German hospital after several months of battle with leukemia and prostrate cancer.

His death came at a time when hope rose for an improved medical situation.

Mr Akeredolu, 67, was born on 21 July, 1957 in Owo to J. Ola Akeredolu of the Akeredolu family in Owo and Grace Akeredolu of Aderoyiju family of Igbotu, Ese Odo, Ondo State.

Mr Akeredolu attended Aquinas College, Akure, Loyola College, Ibadan, Oyo State, and Comprehensive High School, Ayetoro, in Ondo for his secondary and Higher School Education.

He also attended the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) to study law and he graduated in 1977.

He was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1978 and became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) 10 years later. He was elected the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in 2008.

His leadership of the NBA was marked by vibrancy and activism. He was not only forthright, he was also sensitive to human rights abuses.

Aketi’s approach to governance and his commitment to the protection of the interest of the people made him one who could speak to power without fear or doubts. He was dogged in his political pursuit, not for self service, but for good governance.

Former Abia State Governor, Orji Kalu, described the late governor as a bold, courageous, fearless and selfless politician.

While lamenting his passage, Mr Kalu said besides Mr Akeredolu’s contribution to the legal profession, he also contributed immensely to nation building through various platforms, while acknowledging his leadership qualities.

Mr Akeredolu was popular with his call for the transfer of power to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan in 2009 during the crisis arising from the ailment of late President Umar Yar’Adua.

Mr Akeredolu was the the NBA President and was noted to have repeatedly called on the President to resign since he could not longer continue his responsibilities as President.

Ironically, his words calling for the hand over of power to Mr Jonathan given the incapacitation of President Yar’Adua, was deployed by the opposition in calling on him to hand over power to his deputy, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, in the closing days of his battle with his ailment.

Politics

Mr Akeredolu’s foray into active politics began when he was appointed Attorney General of Ondo State between 1997 and 1999, before he became Chairman of the the Legal Aid Council where he served between 2005 and 2006.

He contested the governorship election in Ondo State in 2012 on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria(ACN). That election returned Olusegun Mimiko of the Labour Party, for a second term in office.

Mr Akeredolu was offered the ticket to run for governor in the 2016 governorship election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress. He won and became the governor of the state. He was fortunate to be returned for a second term in 2020, the tenure he could not complete due to his demise.

Political Activism

Mr Akeredolu was one governor who did not mince his words in faulting the current political and economic structure of the Nigerian Federation. His call for restructuring was seen as daring, which was not popular with the most leaders within the APC.

“The need for restructuring has become undeniable. The federal government must relinquish its excessive control over the sub-national entities. It is imperative that security is decentralised to the states. There is no better time than now for the establishment of state police,” Mr Akeredolu restated in June this year while marking the June 12 Celebrations.

Mr Akeredolu did not only mouth the call, he activated it and made efforts to demonstrate the fact that devolving powers to states could ensure a better, richer and safer Nigerian society.

He rallied other states in the South-west to creat the Western Nigerian Security Network now known as Amotekun. This development was in the face of stringent opposition, especially from the northern axis.

Ondo State under Aketi witnessed an effective implementation of the security policy, largely checking the malady of herdsmen and farmers clashes.

Herders and their masters were forced to comply with the laws regulating grazing with Amotekun empowered to enforce the law to the letter. This legacy will not be forgotten by farmers who had continued to rely on the security outfit to help tame the marauding herdsmen.

Amotekun has also recorded significant achievements in the fight against kidnapping in Ondo State. several persons had been arrested and prosecuted for kidnapping and its response to distress calls have also been noted and commended.

Mr Akeredolu’s cry to the Federal Government to allow the outfit handle automatic weapons to enable it tackle violent crimes has yet to be heeded and it was one of his aspirations before he breathed his last.

His leadership of the South-west Governor’s Forum gave a bite to the development drive of leaders of the region. The DAWN Commission received a boost and development plan for the region was begining to gain more attention.

Governance

When he first arrived the Alagbaka Government House, Mr Akeredolu inherited a huge backlog of salary arrears. His predecessor ran into a serious problem of financial crisis when revenues from the Federation account dwindled.

However through frugal management of the state funds, Aketi managed to pay off the debts and ensured salaries were paid promptly to state workers.

Even the opposition could not fault him on his approach to prudent management of resources. Projects were gradually, duly executed across the state.

His approach to the retention of policies inherited from his predecessor was realistic. Mr Akeredolu would not continue what he could not sustain. One of such examples is the free shuttle buses for students, which has to be ended due to it’s growing burden on the government. It was however reintroduced as palliatives following the removal of fuel subsidy.

Political battles

Aketi was a dogged fighter and would not be intimidated by any political figure if his convictions were challenged.

While he sought the ticket to run for governor in 2016, he had to contend with strong political forces following the controversies that attended the governorship primaries.

Olusola Oke, who was aggrieved at the outcome of the primaries, defected to the Alliance for Democracy and was rumoured to have received the blessing of Bola Tinubu, who was then the national leader of the APC.

The APC membership was torn between Messrs Akeredolu and Oke. Mr Akeredolu eventually won the election, and after time went by, the animosity died down and Mr Oke and his supporters returned to the party.

Mr Akeredolu also had to grapple with his deputy, Agboola Ajayi, who wanted to replace him while he sought for a second term in office.

Mr Ajayi eventually survived impeachment and went ahead to contest against Aketi on the platform of Zenith Labour Party. Aketi defeated him and the PDP candidate, Eyitayo Jegede to return to office.

His last battle with his deputy was clouded and hazy as his illness took a strong hold on him. It remains a mystery if Mr Akeredolu actually moved against his deputy or the uproar was a product of the machinations of the “cabal.”

President Muhammadu Buhari, in October 2022, conferred on Mr Akeredolu the Nigerian national honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), an honour well deserved of a man who came, fought and conquered.

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