Mr Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN, was sworn in for another term in office as governor of Ondo State on February 24, 2021. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared him winner of the October 10,2020 governorship election in the state.
But the excitement of his return as governor, especially among APC members, belies the political hurdles Akeredolu had to surmount.
First, the governor who was reportedly suspended by the national leadership of the APC got reprieve when the Mai Mala Buni-led caretaker committee exonerated him of any suspension-related issues.
Next, he faced a gang up by some opposition elements within the APC namely the Unity Forum led by former Deputy Governor, Ali Olanusi and oiled by Senator Ajayi Borofice. They sought to capitalise on the purported suspension of the governor to halt his second term bid. His former deputy governor, Ajayi, also hinged on the alleged suspension to supplant Akeredolu.
Following a strategic diplomatic shuttle by the governor, the Unity Forum rallied round Akeredolu few days after the APC governorship primaries. The governor enlisted the services of APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who was able to cajole all aggrieved party leaders to back Akeredolu ahead of the election.
The likes of Chief Olusola Oke, SAN, Ambassador Sola Iji, Engr Ife Oyedele and many others, took the Aketi battle as their personal project and decimated the south.
Akeredolu also survived a health crisis in late 2019 which kept him away from the state for some weeks. His return to base from Abuja however heightened political intrigues in the state which, at the time, was sharply divided between the Aketi/Ajayi camps.
Upon the governor’s return, talks of Ajayi, who was regarded as a deft politician, dumping the APC became rife. He eventually dumped APC for PDP after weeks of denial on nursing such plans.
While the nation braced for a repeat of the Ajasin/Omoboriowo scenario in Ondo in the mould of a straight contest between Akeredolu and Ajayi, the latter lost the PDP primary election to Eyitayo Jegede.
Although the development was seen as a reprieve for the APC, Ajayi’s realignment with the former governor, Olusegun Mimiko-led Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) opened a fresh chapter of tension and apprehension. Ajayi was touted to have political dominance in the southern senatorial district even as Mimiko’s political maneuvering cannot be ignored.
Surprisingly, Akeredolu, whose dominance in the northern senatorial district was already a given, won the entire southern district. He defeated his erstwhile deputy in his Ese-Odo local government area.
Mimiko was also embarrassed in his traditional areas of strength with the incursion of House of Representatives member, Abiola Makinde. The former two term governor lost Ondo West, East and Idanre local government areas. Thus, Akeredolu became the first elected governor to win 15 local government areas out of 18 with over 50 percent.
Having surmounted these hurdles, the task ahead of the governor he begins his second term is instructive and insightful, as a political analyst, Abiodun Ajibola stated.
But prior to the commencement of the real events ahead of the inauguration, Governor Akeredolu had summoned an extraordinary meeting of the now dissolved State Executive Council.
At the meeting which held on February 18, valedictory speeches were made with cabinet members eulogisingthe virtues of the governor and reflecting on the achievements in the last administration. Responding, the governor thanked the cabinet for their collective and individual efforts.
However, a hint on the policy direction of the administration was revealed during the inauguration which was attended by dignitaries across the country including national leaders of APC Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu,Chief Bisi Akande, former senate president, Ken Nnamani, Senator Iyiola Omisore, among others. Governors ofEkiti, Lagos, Osun, Ogun and Edo were also the event.
A public lecture to mark the inauguration, with the theme “Towards a new Nigeria, From Federal Fatherism to a Commonwealth” was also insightful.
The guest lecturer, president of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina lamented that the Nigerian system is not federalism but “fatherism”.
Adesina said Nigeria’s system is essentially a revenue-sharing system.
According to him, states are “poor in the midst of plenty. They do not maximally explore or leverage what they already have in abundance. The federal system of monthly grants has paralyzed them. This financial pilgrimage creates a sense of helplessness and overt dependency on the centre.”
Akeredolu in his speech, assured that his administration will not depart from the path which has earned him affection and deep reverence from the citizenry.
He stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic had a deleterious effect on the global economy just as he assured that his government will focus on agriculture and youth empowerment through entrepreneurship.
The governor however revealed that he would rejig his administration’s programmes, having painstakingly reviewed JMPPR which guided his activities in the first term.
“I wish to state that we have been reviewing these programmes since our victory at the last election with a view to achieving more improvement in service delivery.
“Thus in the next four years, we will be pursuing a totally repackaged programme christened REDEEMED. R-Rural and Agricultural Development; E- Educational Advancement and Human Capital Development; D- Development through Massive Infrastructure; E- Efficient Service Delivery, Development and Policy Implementation; E- Effective Healthcare and social welfare Services; M- Maintenance of Law and Order for Adequate Security; E- Energy, Mining and Sustainable Industries; D- Digital Revolution and Entrepreneurship.”
He thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for his support and the national leaders of the party among several others.
The next day, the governor commissioned a state-of-the-art molecular laboratory and Public Health Laboratory in Akure as part of his efforts to improve the testing capacity on COVID-19 in the state. He named the facilityafter the late commissioner for Health, Dr Wahab Adegbenro.
He later also commissioned the 16.75Km Akure-Idanre Road with a spur to Oke-Iya and Igisogba roads.
While the immediate past special adviser on Works, Land and Infrastructure, Engr. Raimi Aminu said the road was built to specification, acting APC chairman in the state, Engr. Ade Adetimehin, an indigene of Idanre, added that the governor had earlier commissioned a 7.5km township road within the first 100 days of his administration in 2017.
For the Owa of the Idanre kingdom, His Royal Majesty Oba Fredrick Adegunle Aroloye, the road construction was fulfilment of a promise made to the people of the hilly town.
“While his new strides are commendable, the expectation is that he keeps up the tempo,” a political commentator from the state Akingbola Adeyemi said. To this end, the quality of next cabinet will be key.