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Akeredolu: Courage, justice, truth personified

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Akeredolu: Courage, justice, truth personified

Olusesan Laoye

He fought hard, but at last, Arakunrin Odunayo Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, late governor of Ondo state, finally bowed to the cold hands of death, after a prolonged illness that was trailed by controversies.

Although his death was not likely to be strange to those, who were closed to him, members of his family, as well as many Nigerians, who have been following the trend of events, the political activities in Ondo State and the heat his ill health generated in the last six months, it still came as a surprise to many people, who had hoped for different outcome.

The state of Akeredolu’s health and the clandestine manner it was handled heightened the tension in the state, as government officials, members of his cabinet, the state legislators and politicians, capitalized on it to make several moves, resulting in the planned and nearly executed impeachment of Lucky Aiyedatiwa, the then Deputy governor, who later became the Acting governor and now, the substantive governor of the state.

Akeredolu’s health issues caused commotion between his wife and sone cabinet members, and those loyal to the new governor, which created a sharp division among members of his cabinet.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, sensing that should the situation in Ondo state continue without a clear road map, there could be anarchy, which might affect the party in next year’s governorship, he quickly stepped in to save the situation.

Tinubu’s intervention nipped in the bud all the intrigues, maneuvering and power play centred on self interests, that could have brought, political chaos, and calamities. Relative peace was, however, installed with his peace agreement, which made Aiyedatiwa to be in full control of the State, as the Acting Governor.

Just as he was settling down, the demise of his boss, whose critical health condition informed all the crises, was announced last Wednesday. This eventually put a stop to all the anomalies going on in the state, while Akeredolu was ill.

With Akeredolu’s demise and the assumption of office by Aiyedatiwa as the new Governor, there is no doubt, the tide of events in Ondo state, both politically and administratively, would change and this would also bring a lot of challenges for Aiyedatiwa.

There is no gain saying, Akeredolu lived a fulfilled life and has left his foot print in the history of Nigeria, particularly the South West, and Ondo State, where he governed for over six years, before the cold hands of death, snatched him away at the age of 67.

From the look of things, Akeredolu must have known during the last moment of his ill health, that he may not cheat death, which has kept knocking since the past three months, when, he was said to have been in coma.

There is no doubt he was an statute With time, he grew to be noticed and he became a militant lawyer, who was always standing in defense of the down trodden.

As he was described by one of his colleagues, Barrister Ade Ademuwagun, who was the former chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association Ikeja Branch, “Akeredolu right from the time he started legal practice, he was not caught out for money as his priority in handling cases.He has always been there for the less privileged who needed Justice and he would represent them without any benefit, since they could not afford legal fees.”

This was actually what brought Akeredolu into lime light and it increased his popularity with the masses. This also stepped up his activism. He eventually and naturally became human right activist, whose voice and stands on national issues, always counted.

His death at 67 has now left both his family, friends and the entire people of Nigeria, with a sore heart, which would linger for a long time. His life and contribution to nation building would forever be remembered.

Born to the family of Ola Akeredolu, a Reverend, and Grace Akeredolu, a lady Evangelist, he was the fourth child of his parents, six children, who was noticed to be a very brave and courageous child.

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It was said that his childhood days were characterized with helping out his contemporaries, who were subject of oppression by their co-colleagues.

He was said to be a very strong boy with masculine stature, which made his mates, in school and college, fear him.

Nevertheless, he was being guided by the teachings of God’s words and his actions were always in line with the ways of God, based on his family background, being the son of parents, who served in the vineyard with fear of God.

The late governor happened to be the fifth governor in Nigeria to die in active service, after Shehu Kangiwa, Sokoto State, in the second Republic, Patrick Yakowa, Kaduna State, Maman Ali of Yobe State, and Suntai in Taraba State.

Akeredolu attended government primary school in Owo, then Thomas Aquinas college in Akure, Loyola College in Ibadan, where he was the class mate of Professor Pat Utomi and Comprehensive High School Aiyetoro, Yewa, in Ogun State, for his Higher School Certificate (HSC), after which he proceeded to the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, to read law.

His youthful activism continued as a student union leader, served as President of Law student Society, and he was a member of the National Union of Nigerian students (NUNS).

He started his legal career, at the law firm of Alex Ibru & Co. He was also the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice in Ondo State from 1997 to 1999, Chairman Legal Aid council, between 2005 to 2006 and later became the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) from 2008 to 2010.

He was a Managing Partner at the Law firm of Olujimi and Akeredolu, which he co-founded with Akin Olujimi, the former Federal Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of the Federation.

Late governor Akeredolu was a man who believed in justice and the rule of law and he displayed this attributes, as the governor.

He was also the first interim Chairman of the APC in Ondo State. He had his first attempt to govern the state in 2012 under the platform of the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), but lost to Dr. Olusegun Mimiko.

His send attempt was in 2016 under the APC and he won by defeating his closest challenger, Barrister Eyitayo Jegede, of the Peoples Democratic party (PDP).

He was also lucky to win a second term in 2020, and was on the saddle, when the illness, which he never recovered from, started. As the governor of Ondo State, he was very vocal on account of the security of his people and the entire South West, with his role as the Chairman of the governors in the Region.

He spearheaded the formation of South West Nigeria Security Network , known as Amotekun.

The formation of this security outfit, generated so much heat and tension in the country, as it was believed that the organisation was targeted at a particular section of the country, since it was during the incessant attack of the the people of the region by the Fulani herdsmen.

His courage sustained the outfit. He stood firmly to protect it, despite the threat by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari. He never wavered and not minding that he was in the same Party in the power at the Federal.

As the chairman of the governors of the South west, he fought along with his colleagues to ensure that Amotekun was equipped with arms, saying that if the federal government could allow the security outfit in Sokoto, Katsina and Kano State to carry arms that of Amotekun should not be an exception.

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To show the kind of person he was, he once told a gathering, about what he was made of. According to him, “I have found it difficult particularly, with the political class. I am like somebody, coming from a different milieu and it is not the one they are used to. A few times, I put my feet down and I say, this is what I believe and I think with time, they have just come to appreciate my position, that when this man takes a position, he is not probably going to change and that is probably the lawyer in me and I don’t want to be seen as somebody who flip-flops”

With all the actions of Akeredolu in power and with the way people accepted him as a man who stood for justice and with the fear of God in him, which he always tell people gave him the courage to do what he believed are right, he has, however, left a big shoes for Aiyedatiwa to step into.

His style of governance, it was argued would create big challenges for his successor, who before he fully got into the governorship chair, was enmeshed in controversies.

One of the of challenges which Aiyedatiwa would face is how to pacify and mend fences, which had been broken during the period that Akeredolu was out of office.

He was alleged to be very ambitious and not wanting Akeredolu to recover, so that he can stay till the end of their tenure, as acting governor and now that fate has finally put the mantle on him, he would have to tread softly.

There is also going to be the crisis of who gets what, among his loyalist because there is likelihood of him dismantling the existing structures, which could anger those already there.

It was also said that he must be tactical about the dissolution of the cabinet he inherited. He must also find a smooth way of managing the already polarized State Assembly, as the allegation of his misappropriation of N300 million said to be for the palliatives of people of the State and issue of N7billion allegation, which was used as basis for his botched impeachment, is still hanging with the State Assembly.

His action now should erase the earlier impression created that he betrayed Akeredolu during his travails, as those loyal to Akeredolu, as civil servants, and politicians within and outside government are still very bitter with the turn of events.

As condolences continue to pour in on the demise of the late governor, who was known to be a hat lover, a singer, tennis player, fearless crusader, an advocate of restructuring of Nigeria, devoted Christian, with a warm and accommodating heart for the people of other faiths, lover of football, which made him the patron of the sports writers and football Associations of Oyo State and member of the Red cross Society of Oyo State, it is evident that Arakunrin, Odunayo Aketi Akeredolu would be greatly missed by the entire People of Nigeria. Good Night.

 

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