As Nigerians await new Ondo cabinet

HAKEEM GBADAMOSI reports on glimpses at the extraordinary meeting of the cabinet of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu that was dissolved on Thursday last week.

As the governor of Ondo State, Mr Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, wound down on his first four year in office, last Thursday, he dissolved the state cabinet. It is recalled that he was sworn in as the sixth civilian governor of Ondo State on February 24, 2017, having won the November 26, 2016 gubernatorial election. The candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), he amassed 224,842 votes to defeat Eyitayo Jegede, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who got 126,889 votes, while Olusola Oke of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) secured 150,380.

To rev the machinery of his administration made two key appointments: Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and the Chief of Staff; before inaugurating on August 30 his commissioners and special advisers as other members of the State Executive Council (SEC). So, on February 18, 2021, the curtain was drawn on the cabinet amidst high emotion at an extraordinary meeting as members relived the good moments they had together and extolled the virtues of the former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). Describing Akeredolu as a courageous, sincere and compassionate leader, noting that he had an uncommon fervor for the development of the state, coupled with a rare sense of responsibility and patriotism.

Giving an insight into the personality of the governor, the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Temidayo Oluwatuyi, said Akeredolu was an administrator whose approval is difficult to obtain. He stated:”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.” The SSG recalled how he, as the then commissioner for natural resources, secured the nod of his principal for 13 out of the 15 files he brought to him:”When I came back from the governor with the approvals, some people wondered how I performed the miracle. To them, it was a miracle to have got the governor to approve 13 of the 15 proposals I brought to him. But I told them that all they needed to sway the mind of Mr Governor was the ability to convince him.” .

Olugbenga Ale, Chief of Staff to the governor, who remarked that Akeredolu cherished merit, said he was surprised when the governor appointed him as his CoS because he did not lobby for any appointment. To the retired permanent secretary, Akeredolu is “a thorough administrator, whose eyes don’t gloss over errors”. While commending the governor for being a worthy ambassador of Owo, his home town, Ale praised him for not politicising the state civil service. Akeredolu, according to the CoS, is man who appreciates family values. For the Head of Service, Oluwadare Aragbaye,Akeredolu is a man who enjoys divine mercy. He ascribed the mercy of God to the purity of Akeredolu’s heart. Aragbaye, who described the governor as a compassionate man, said he always has deep feelings for people, noting that Akeredolu is not just loyal to friends, but also always keeps relationships. The HoS thanked the governor for what he has been able to do for the civil service and government workers in the state. He hailed the appointment of 42 permanent secretaries by during the Akeredolu administration, describing it as unprecedented in the history of the service. Aragbaye mentioned regular promotion as one of the gains of the service from the government.

On his part, the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Donald Ojogo, identified grace as the secret behind the string of successes of Akeredolu in life. Ojogo described the governor as a benevolent leader, saying he is one of the beneficiaries of his boss’ benevolence. According to the commissioner, apart from Akeredolu possessing uncommon integrity, honesty and courage, his bluntness on issues is rare in the country. These qualities, Ojogo said, are very difficult for ordinary minds and ordinary eyes to discern, stressing that he counted himself lucky to be part of the modest lifestyle of the governor and the modest but very lasting legacies and successes of his administration. He said: “Mr Chairman, before I say anything, don’t conclude and judge me by the sweet words I am about to say. Draw your conclusion after four years through my conduct and my character. The most costly and most expensive of all gifts of nature is rare grace of God. You possess it. And the grace of God cannot come without personal moderation and God-given wisdom. You are a man of grace. I congratulate you and I confess that grace. 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. Mr Governor, success is what everybody yearns for. The more successes you record, the more challenges surface. The challenges should not be seen as enemies. They have come as very real precursors to further successes. And it means that success has no final destination. Your success shall know no destination in Jesus name.” Ojogo said that he 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.”

Omolola Fagbemi, Commissioner for Local Governments and Chieftaincy Affairs, is one of the women in the cabinet. Fagbemi described Akeredolu as a leader with a sense of humour.  “I will never forget your sense of humour, your unparalleled sense of humour that acts as a soothing balm for us each time we see you,” she said. She commended efforts of the governor’s wife, Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, to change the fortune of women in the state: “During this four years 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.

The Commissioner for Environment, Funso Esan, said: “The encomiums that my colleagues have been pouring on you, I want to say, are not part of eye service. That is what you are. After the election, I was sitting in my house in Lagos when you called me that ‘Mr Esan, can you work with us?’ I replied:  ‘In what capacity, sir?’ You said either commissioner or Special Adviser. Then I said: ‘I can work with you.’ You said: ‘Thank you’ and cut your phone. It was the fourth day I saw my name as one of the commissioners. 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.”  Esan added that Akeredolu is a sincere and trustworthy leader. He desired the position of managing director of the Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC). Esan went to seek the endorsement and support of Akeredolu. But the governor told him that he was already supporting someone. For not deceiving him, Esan said he loved Akeredolu more.  Pastor Emmanuel Igbasan, Commissioner for Economic, Budget and Planning, also spoke, describing Akeredolu as a puzzling personality. Igbasan said: “You are an enigma and phenomenon that no one on earth is still able to decipher or unravel. I need to give glory to God that I have a rare privilege and opportunity to be associated with you at this time.  Men are not known where they stand in the time of comfort and convenience. But real men are known in the period of confusion and conflict. And you have come up a sterling leader in light of this generation. I thanked God for your life. I thank God for the people of Ondo State that God has bequeathed you on our people at this critical and most difficult time in the annals of our history. I need to congratulate the people of Ondo state on all the achievements that have been recorded in the past four years. And as one of your disciples, I will proudly wear the badge of our achievements across the nation with a deep sense of gratitude to God and to you, sir. “

Responding to speeches, 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. I know that there are a number of things I say that you don’t like.

Maybe we are living by the Yoruba precept or adage that you don’t want to talk to somebody even before him or behind him when he has died. I know that I am not a perfect person. I am aware of it myself. 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.”

While appreciating them for their services to the state and people, the governor said the glory of the achievements of his administration belonged to all of them. He said: “I can assure you, whatever it is, I can’t be governor and determine what happens in the ministry of agriculture. I can’t be governor and determine what happens in the ministry of budget and planning. I can’t be governor and manage the ministry of finance. I can’t be governor and manage all the ministries and all the agencies. We must have made a mark. Don’t say I made a mark. We made a mark. That’s why when they write news for me, I change it and put we it is all of us.

“There is nothing we have achieved here without you. Nothing; take it or leave it!  Is it what you are doing in education; am I there? I am not. Kamomi Aketi will I follow you to drink water? I won’t. But somebody was there. He was not just there in the office, he was there on the field as they drilled boreholes. So,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.

“Whatever achievement we have made, it is a joint achievemen; not by Akeredolu alone. Akeredolu cannot be everything and I was never everything. Yes, the bulk has to come to my table. There are decisions you take, you don’t even tell me. Today, we talk about roads; we talk about infrastructure. Can Akeredolu be the one that has done everything? It is not possible. It is because you have the opportunity to have one or two who have experience to know where the needs are. So, will I now claim that I am the one that did everything? I am not making that claim and I will never. I want to thank all the ministries and the departments. I don’t have to mention names one by one. All of you have done very well. I want to praise you for your services. I thank you for overlooking my faults. I am not infallible. I am human. And I am no longer a young man.”

Akeredolu revealed he never planned to be governor as it was providence that guided his steps to the position. He said all he had desired was to the president of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), stating that he was surprised when he once heard that his posters had flooded the streets of Akure, the state capital. “I remember just as Yetunde said; she was the first person that would call me that she saw my posters on the streets of Akure; that I am running for governorship and she wanted to support me.  I told her I was not running for governorship. She said she saw it; that people were there and were happy. I said it was not me. I was not running for governorship. She took the picture and sent it to me.  I was in Canada then. I asked, how? What happened? I had to call some of my friends to check. I suspected a foul play. And that was it! And that was the beginning of the story of my life I never planned for,” Akeredolu said.

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 must continue to thank Chief Folake Sholanke (SAN). She listened to me the few times she came to my office and warned me and said, ‘you should stop saying this word.’  I said what ma?  She said to me that I kept saying I wanted to be the president of the Bar and that I thanked God I was president and that I needed nothing again.  She said I didn’t know where God was taking me. President of the Bar was all for me. And she was right. I never knew that God was going to bring me here at all. President of the Bar for me was just everything because that was all I prayed to be. I never planned to come here. How would I be planning 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 said he would always express his mind because there is no place for fear in his heart. “I always say to people: I have two heroes: 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 anymore,” he said.

 

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