The Ondo sun rose on a land shrouded in grief as news of the passing of Rotimi Akeredolu, governor of the state, swept through. Following a protracted battle with prostate cancer, Akeredolu died on Wednesday morning at the age of 67.
His accomplishments, laced with challenges, are intertwined with the harsh reality that no crown or power shields one from mortality.
But Akeredolu is not the only governor in the state whose legacy joins a mournful chorus, as all but one of the state’s democratically-elected governors have passed on.
AJASIN: ONDO’S FIRST ELECTED LEADER DIED AT 78
During the second republic, Michael Ajasin served as governor of Ondo state from 1979 to 1983 under the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). He became the first democratically elected governor of the state.
The then-leader of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), a coalition formed to bring an end to the military government of Sani Abacha, was later arrested in 1995, along with 39 other activists, for holding an illegal political meeting.
Two years later, the former Ondo governor died of “natural causes” in his home at the age of 78.
OLUMILUA: THE FORMER GOVERNOR DIED AT 80
Bamidele Olumilua became governor of Ondo in the third republic from January 1992 to November 1993 on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
However, he was forced to leave office when Abacha took power.
Some of the roles he held after his time in office included chancellor of Ekiti State University and chairman of the Christian Pilgrims Board, and later went on to become one of the founding members of the Action Congress (AC) party, formed in 2006.
In 2020, Muyiwa, the former governor’s son, said he died after a brief illness at the age of 80.
ADEFARATI: THE AKUNGBA-BORN POLITICIAN DIED AT 76
Adebayo Adefarati was among the ‘class of 1999’, the first elected governors who served after the military era was halted and the fourth republic was welcomed on May 29, 1999.
His election into office was not surprising as the politician was a prominent member of NADECO.
After his tenure as governor from 1999 to 2003, Adefarati later became a presidential candidate for the Alliance for Democracy party in the 2007 presidential election. However, a few weeks before the polls, he died from an undisclosed ailment. He was 76 years old at the time of his death.
AGAGU: THE FORMER MINISTER DIED AT 65
Before becoming Ondo’s second democratically elected governor, Olusegun Agagu was deputy governor to Olumilua.
However, the geologist was forced to leave office when Abacha’s regime took power. In 1999, former President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed him as the first minister of aviation in 1999 and later as minister for power and steel.
Agagu became governor in 2003 until February 2009, when a court voided his re-election as governor on account of electoral irregularities. Olusegun Mimiko, his namesake and rival, was sworn in as his replacement.
Four years later, the former minister was said to have slumped and died in Lagos in 2013.
MIMIKO: LAST MAN STANDING
Mimiko, a two-time state commissioner for health, served as Ondo governor from 2009 to 2017.
After the court of appeal decision revoking Agagu’s victory, Mimiko became the first and only member of the Labour Party to win gubernatorial office in Nigeria. After his first term, he sought re-election and won, making him the first governor in the state to win a second term bid since 1999.
After leaving office, Mimiko declared his intention to run for president in the 2019 election. However, a few days before campaigns began, the former governor withdrew from the presidential race and instead, declared interest in the Ondo central senatorial election.
His lofty goals crashed.
STATE GOVERNORS WHO DIED IN OFFICE
Shehu Kangiwa: Kangiwa held office as governor of Sokoto state from October 1979 to November 1981, representing the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in the second republic, but his administration was short-lived.
On November 17, 1981, the Sokoto leader died during a polo game in Kaduna.
Garba Nadama, his deputy, was sworn in as governor until November 1983 when Muhammadu Buhari took over power through a military coup.
Mamman Ali: Ali, former governor of Yobe state, died of Leukemia. Ali, a two-term senator, was Nigeria’s second civilian governor to have died in office.
Between 1999 and 2007, he represented Yobe South senatorial district and was the chairman senate committee on public account. After his tenure, Ali contested and won the 2007 governorship election under the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).
However, the former senator died in 2009, two years after he was sworn in, while receiving treatment for leukaemia at a hospital in Florida, United States.
Patrick Yakowa: He was governor of Kaduna from 2010 until he died in a helicopter crash in 2012.
The navy confirmed that the helicopter which conveyed the governor and Owoye Azazi, former national security adviser, alongside their aides had crashed while going to Port Harcourt, capital city of Rivers. At the time, the force did not give a reason for the cause of the crash.
Rotimi Akeredolu: Akeredolu died of prostrate cancer on Wednesday as a sitting governor of Ondo state.