That Ondo State may not burn…

It was with an air of clairvoyance that we started the series on Ondo governorship election 2022! When others still saw the contest as yet to take off the ground, we already saw it at boiling point. Now that others are just seeing it heating up, we already see it boiling over. The deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi, defected from the ruling APC to the PDP, even though it was an anti-climax. Either he over-priced himself or his key backers failed him when it mattered most. Trust the average Nigerian politician. Ajayi had boasted he would literally empty APC of “who is who” on his defection, but not many consequential politicians eventually followed him. The biggest of the fishes, the now ex-Secretary to the State Government, Ifedayo Abegunde, resigned but declined to follow Ajayi to his new PDP home, insisting he would remain in the APC. While Ajayi may rue the turn of events, can someone who betrayed his own boss complain that his own supporters betrayed him? What goes around comes around.

Not only was Ajayi disappointed about the scanty flow of water behind his fish, the PDP hierarchy that thought they had caught a big fish and hit a jackpot were crest-fallen at the defection party. “Where are the Commissioners? Where are the legislators” a disappointed PDP top wig was quoted as exclaiming repeatedly. As if that was not awful enough, the boycott of the defection party by PDP governors was really very embarrassing. And you know why: Which governor will come felicitating with a deputy governor eyeing the seat of his boss? Again, what goes around comes around. Setting bad examples or dangerous precedents that may one day boomerang was not something the PDP governors wanted to be associated with. It is like playing with fire. So, they stayed away from what, ordinarily, should have been a day of celebration and a thing of joy for their party.

As if these were not bad enough bad, Ajayi currently fights for his political life as the state House of Assembly has started an impeachment procedure against him. I would have wished the House did not, despite what appeared as Ajayi’s subtle death wish for his erstwhile boss. No sooner than Akeredolu announced that he had tested positive to coronavirus and would self-isolate than Ajayi issued a statement demanding that the governor hand over to him within 21 days. That statement was morbid and heartless. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth, to quote Wole Soyinka in “The Man Died.”

To be sure, Akeredolu more than deserves his COVID-19 travails if the video of his outing in Abuja where he had gone to submit his governorship nomination form at the party headquarters was anything to go by. He and his supporters violated COVID-19 protocols – no face mask, no social distancing; Akeredolu sneezed into his bare hands and, yet, the same hands were hoisted aloft by some of his supporters in celebration mood, when it should have appeared to the sensible that they still have many rivers to cross before celebration. What is bad is bad – and a bad example was what Akeredolu set. If gold rusts, what will iron do? Has he apologised? It is behaviour such as this that makes the ordinary people doubt if there is coronavirus. It is also this kind of recklessness by leaders that aid the community transmission of COVID-19. Ironically, while the powerful and mighty have all the resources to fight COVID-19 and come out alive, many of the less fortunate members of the society that they so “kobalise” with their irresponsible behaviour end up being victims.

Still, Ajayi should have demonstrated that he had the milk of human kindness flowing in him, for such is needed of anyone who aspires to lead a people, and not a herd of cattle like the murderous Fulani herdsmen do. First thing first, Ajayi should have wished Akeredolu “soonest recover” (apologies, Shina Peters) even if it did not come from the bottom of his heart. Next, he should have erred on the side of caution by waiting for the 21 days to elapse before demanding a hand-over. Did he see a vision that Akeredolu would not survive COVID-19? Those who gave him that advice have done him incalculable damage. And in case that decision came from his own heart, it is a heart of darkness (apologies, Joseph Conrad). Reversing the order of things, would Ajayi have handed over to Akeredolu? Now that Akeredolu is back, we should ask Ajayi: How is business? More so now that Ajayi is the one who has his own back to the wall.

Our people have a saying: “Ma fi e wo’gbo; ehin ara e l’o maa fi l’ana!” Translated, this didactic saying of our people admonishes the braggart who says he will drag another person through the bush to note that he will create the path way with his own back. I am miffed by the very poor decisions taken by Ajayi as well as by his poorer sense of history. The example of Akin Omoboriowo, who trod a similar path, remains evergreen in our memory. And, as they say, you cannot do the same thing the same way and expect a different result!

Ajayi may have put many feet wrong but I would have wished that the Ondo State House of Assembly left him alone. They should not have dignified him with an impeachment process. The assembly men themselves must be men-pleasers, errand boys and little minds to have considered an impeachment process their priority. Idle hands and political jobbers!  Let them avoid heating up the polity. Experience teaches that Ondo State can be very volatile. Do not flog a dead horse or kill a mosquito with a sledge hammer. It is obvious Ajayi boasted beyond his capabilities. I had thought that with his defection, Akeredolu would be the one fighting to escape impeachment and not the other way round. But having been deflated and demystified, they should let Ajayi be or else, if they make him look like a victim, he may unwittingly garner public sympathy. I understand, though, that a snake left half-dead can be very vicious.

We must avoid the debacle of laughable impeachments that hallmarked the tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo when few law makers that did not make up the constitutionally-required number were aided, in some cases, by hired thugs, to carry out kangaroo impeachments. We should be moving forward and not going backward. While the number of Ondo lawmakers that served the deputy governor the impeachment notice met the constitutional requirement, those driving the impeachment process, should they insist on going forward with it, must ensure that the required number to carry out the impeachment proper is secured. The process must not only be transparent but must be manifestly seen to be so. I had crafted this piece a few days before receiving the informed and astutely considered opinion of the Chief Judge of Ondo State picking holes in the impeachment processes so far and, thus, stalling on setting up an impeachment probe panel as demanded by the impeachment seekers. Me Lord, I bow. As I have urged here, this is Montesquieu’s theory of separation of powers in action and I am proud of the Judiciary of my dear state.

Should the Ondo State House of Assembly be wise, that should be the end of the matter.  It amuses me when politicians pretend or purport to fight; people who cross carpet and defect whimsically. Before you say “Jack Robinson,” Ajayi and Akeredolu may emerge again in the same party grinning from ear to ear. When they engage in these their cosmetic and comical fights, it is usually because they are struggling for something. Let them desist from disturbing our peace or setting the house on fire. If you are not so lucky today, wait for tomorrow. And while digging a pit for someone else; be mindful not to make it too deep. The person who laughs today may be the one who weeps tomorrow. As our people will say, “obiri l’aiye”. The late musician, Orlando Owoh, crooned: “Igba o ki n lo bi orere o/Aiye o ki n lo bi opa ibon/B’oni ti ri ola o ri be/L’o mu Babalawo d’ifa ojojumo. O lo’gba lo’gba/Lo’gba lo’gba ye o lo’gba lo’gba/Lo’gba lo’gba e ro’ra o”

But one person I would really have loved the authorities to make an object lesson of is the ex-Ondo State SSG, Ifedayo Abegunde. He quickly recanted his statement that himself and others rigged Akeredolu into office four years ago; saying he was misquoted or was quoted out of context. That is usually their cover after having run their mouth and the implications dawned on them afterwards. Rigging of elections, apart from being the bane of our democracy, has also cost this country a lot in human and material terms. Abegunde sounded so much like erstwhile APC chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, and I was ashamed. Just last November, Abegunde praised Akeredolu to high heavens; today, he calls him unprintable names. It is morally reprehensible that Abegunde made his quarrel with Akeredolu look like a “cash and carry” matter. He said even though Akeredolu performed very well in building roads and schools, he failed to put money in the pockets of people like him. Between performance and patronage, what is the purpose of government? Can this be another case of good governor but bad politician – if we take Abegunde’s words for it? And he should know, being an SSG.

Selfish interests and personal aggrandisement have debased our politics. A civilian governor in one of the South-west states went head-hunting for good hands to help bring development to the grassroots and landed this “Americana” who worked with so much zeal and enthusiasm – constructing roads, equipping hospitals and schools, providing pipe-borne water, etc. But when the time came for a second term, party leaders rejected him! Their complaint was the same as Abegunde’s. He was providing infrastructure but failed to put money in some selfish people’s pockets! Good governance can be sacrificed on the altar of party patronage! But for how long shall we have our cake and eat it?

I never wanted to comment on Akeredolu’s performance or non-performance but Abegunde’s admission has drawn me out. My investigations revealed that Akeredolu brought infrastructural development to many parts of Ondo State – roads, schools especially. I also found that the industrial hub at Ore and the on-going deep sea port project will lay a solid foundation for Ondo State’s industrial and economic development. Human memory is very short, said Adolf Hitler and his propaganda chief, Josef Goebbels but I remember that ex-Gov. Olusegun Mimiko owed seven or eight months salary arrears but Akeredolu cleared it.

Conversely, I found that Akeredolu has a mountain to climb on issues of personal relationship management. He also has not done enough to publicise his government. He must rein-in his family members, rededicate himself to Amotekun, and continue with much more fervour and single-mindedness of purpose the development strides that even Abegunde admitted to.

I cannot claim to know Akeredolu but three of the 12 APC governorship aspirants are known to me – Olayide Adelami, Olajumoke Anifowose, and Awodeyi Akinsehinwa – and one of the three, closely. Nevertheless, may the best aspirant out of the 12 win.



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