Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu was sworn in as the sixth civilian governor of Ondo State on February 24, 2017, following his declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the winner of the November 26, 2016 gubernatorial election in the state.
In the election, Akeredolu, who was the standard bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC), secured224,842 votes to defeat Eyitayo Jegede, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who came secondwith 126,889 votes and Olusola Oke of the Alliance for Democracy who scored 150,380.
On August 30, six months after he mounted the saddle of leadership in the Sunshine state, Akeredolu inaugurated his commissioners and special advisers having earlier appointed the secretary to the state government (SSG) and his chief of staff. The swearing in of the commissioners and Special Advisers completed the process of composing the State Executive Council.
That cabinet ended last Thursday, February 18, 2021, as members of the council exited the stage after about four years of serving the state and her people.
Ondo State has been in the news for different reasons. Besides the governorship election late last year, Ondo was a key stakeholder in the establishment of Amotekun security outfit just as it has been at the centre of the herders attacks.
The recent quit notice to herders to vacate the state’s forest reserves has created more tension. Expectedly, as chairman of the South West governors forum, the last four years has been intense for Akeredolu and his team.
But last week, the governor dissolved the council in an emotion-laden event. But much more, the extraordinarysession which had valedictory speeches, offered an opportunity for stocktaking as well.
The exiting cabinet members commended Akeredolu on the notable feats achieved in his first tenure while offering their views about of his personality.
The secretary to the state government (SSG), Temidayo Oluwatuyi, dispelled an impression that getting Akeredolu’s approval on issues is difficult.
Oluwatuyi however noted that to get the governors nod on anything requires convincing arguments. “Once you are able to prove the altruism of your proposal and how beneficial it is to the state and her people, be rest assured that you would get the governor’s approval,” Oluwatuyi said.
The SSG recalled how as commissioner for Natural Resources, he secured the approval of his boss for 13 out of the 15 files he brought to him.
Also, the chief of staff to the governor, Olugbenga Ale, said Akeredolu is a thorough administration who does not gloss over errors. Ale, a retired permanent secretary, commended the governor for not politicising the state civil service.
Akeredolu, according to Ale, appreciates family values as seen in the way he protects and cares for his family.
The head of service, Oluwadare Aragbaye, harped on the governor’s effort in ensuring that civil service and government workers in the state are well tended to. He also commended the governor for unprecedentedly appointment of 42 permanent secretaries.
Commissioner for Information and Orientation,
Donald Ojogo, who described the governor as a benevolent leader, said Akeredolu’s integrity, honesty,courage and bluntness is rare.
Ojogo said Akeredolu has never regretted any stubborn decision he has taken as governor.
He said: “Office consumes intellectual capital. It does not create it. The best leaders are those who master the act of what decision, the right one for that matter, to be taken at a very critical moment. When you took certain decisions, as politicians, most of us were not happy.
“You made up your mind that you were not going to politicise governance. And one of the ways you did it was not to be frivolous in the award of contracts. You are very strict. Today, we are all happy because it bred good governance. That was a sound decision you took.
“Another critical decision you took was the insistence that Amotekun must be launched. Today, it is a success story and I am happy for you. That was a sound decision that was taken and laced with courage.”
Ojogo said further that he has learnt a lot from the governor’s courage, candour and bluntness, adding: “You can be upright, you can be truthful, you can be stubborn and succeed long as your conscience is free in whatever you are doing.”
Commissioner for Local Governments and Chieftaincy Affairs, Omolola Fagbemi, one of the women in the the cabinet, commended the governor’s wife, Betty for the role she has played in empowering women. She said: “During this four-year tenure, women have had a better time under her. I am already sure this second term, you will continue to provide necessary financial logistics for her to be able to continue her good work.”
Commissioner for Environment, Funso Esan, said: “The encomiums that my colleagues have been pouring on you, I want to say, is not part of eye service. That is what you are.”
“I am saying this because I thought when I joined politics that if you didn’t know anybody or if you did not go and beg, you could not be given any appointment. But you did that without me asking for it.”
On his part, the commissioner for Economic, Budget and Planning, Pastor Emmanuel Igbasan, described the governor as an enigma, adding, “real men are known in the period of confusion and conflict. And you have come up sterlingly as a leader in light of this generation.”
Responding to the accolades showered on him, Akeredolu, in his usual blunt manner, said: “Except you chose to keep some things to yourselves, I am not a perfect man. Nobody spoke about the fact that I am a brash person. Nobody spoke about the fact that I am a very temperamental person. Nobody spoke about the fact that a number of times, my utterances sometimes you don’t like.”
He added, “I know my limitations. I am aware of the fact that I could be temperamental. I am even temperamental. I know that I could run into problems at times. Knowing my limitations as an individual, I will choose this opportunity to appeal to all of you to forgive my inadequacies.”
Akeredolu thanked the council members for their services to the state and people. According to him, the glory of the achievements of his administration belongs to all of them.
He said: “There is nothing we have achieved here without you. Nothing! Take it or leave it. You must take credit for it. Whatever is our achievement, the credit goes to all of you and all of us. Not one person. Everybody here has contributed his own quota in no small measure. Everybody and I mean it.
Akeredolu disclosed that he never wanted to be governor of Ondo State, saying it was providence that guided his steps towards the Alagbaka Government House. He said all he desired to be was the president of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA). The governor told the outgoing cabinet members that he was surprised when he once heard that his posters had flooded the streets of Akure, the state capital.
He added: “If anybody tells you I wanted to be governor of this state, tell that person he is lying. I never wanted to be. I never planned to come here.
“How would I be planning that when I was one of those who fought to install governor Mimiko in government in court. How would I run against him? I wouldn’t do such. When the pressure was too much, I wrote him a little letter, that we would remain friends, that I was only succumbing to this pressure, that if he won, we would remain friends and if I won, we would remain friends.”
The governor declared that he would always express his mind, saying there is no place for fear in his heart.
“I always say to people, I have two heros, Fela Anikulabo Kuti and Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Fela has said so, and I live by it. Fear is not for man. A man must stand. So, fear is not meant for man. If I die now, you won’t say I have not lived. God forbid, if I die now, I will appear on the front pages of all newspapers because I have lived. So, why will I be afraid of dying. I am not afraid of anything any more,” he said.
The change of cabinet which is akin to a change in management team signals a move to re- energise the governance structure in the state. Still, the process of recruiting a new team can be tough considering the enormous political permutations, especially as geo-political balancing is critical to attaining a broad political appeal. However, the task of ensuring robust governance in the state cannot be overemphazised.