Almost 80 days after Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, returned to Nigeria from his three-month medical leave in Germany, he is yet to step foot in the Sunshine State, leaving governance on autopilot.
The governor who relocated to his residence in Ibadan has also not been seen in public, except for occasional short clips released by his handlers, especially after governors from the South West visited him.
Akeredolu’s aides claimed the governor resumed office on September 8, a day after returning from Germany, effectively taking over from his deputy, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, who acted during his medical leave.
Daily Trust learnt that the absence of Akeredolu from Akure and the inability of Aiyedatiwa to act have created a vacuum in governance, which analysts said is being exploited by politicians ahead of the governorship election in the state billed for November 16, 2024.
It was learnt that government activities have come to a standstill in the state as there is no clear leadership. Apart from the payment of salaries, Daily Trust gathered that all other government functions have received poor attention.
The state has not been represented at the National Economic Council since August and there is no record of a State Executive Council meeting. State functions and national ceremonies, including the last Independence Day, were not observed in the state.
However, the government has denied these, claiming that Akeredolu, popularly known as Aketi, is in charge and activities of the government have not slowed down.
In 2010, Akeredolu as the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) was among those who called on then-ailing President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to hand over to his deputy Goodluck Jonathan. He also supported the adoption of the doctrine of necessity by the National Assembly as a political solution to the constitutional logjam created by the failure of Yar’ Adua to follow the constitutional process and the lacuna created by his absence from office.
Governance ‘moved’ to Ibadan
Our correspondent who visited the Jericho area of Ibadan where Akeredolu’s house is situated observed no major movement around the house.
An elderly man who lives in the area said he has not seen the governor move in or out of the house since his return from his medical trip abroad.
“We heard that he’s back but we have not been seeing him. Long before he became governor, he was known for walking around the estate as a form of exercise, but since he became governor, we rarely see him but now that they say that he is back again, it is still the same. We can only wish him the best of health,” he said.
However, an insider who craved anonymity claimed that Akeredolu attends to government officials in his office – Olujinmi & Akeredolu Legal, around Ring Road Ibadan.
“What do you people want to know? He is doing well and attends to government people in his office. That’s all I can say,” he said.
‘Ondo has become butt of all jokes’
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, said the state has become the butt of all jokes in the country as nobody is in charge of the state.
The spokesperson of Ondo PDP, Kennedy Peretei, in an interview with Daily Trust, said the poor handling of the governor’s health by his handlers has eroded the sympathy of the people, who are now frustrated by the failure of governance in the state.
“We have asked them who is in charge of Ondo State. We have asked them where is Aketi? They should bring him from wherever they are hiding him. What we see is quite embarrassing and they have made Ondo State the butt of all jokes. In the past, we had a lot of people sympathising with the governor but that empathy has turned to anger and frustration. Even elder statesmen are beginning to put themselves together on how to address the logjam. It is unfortunate and we pray that in no distant time, there will be a solution,” he said.
He lamented that the state is stagnating and can be likened to a ship on the high sea without a captain, stressing that the state capital, Akure, has become an eyesore while lamenting that the battle between the deputy governor and the state assembly has compounded the woes of the state.
He said the PDP will consider approaching the court to compel the state lawmakers to apply the doctrine of necessity so that the deputy governor can act pending when Akeredolu is fit to resume.
“We have written to the assembly to do the needful because constitutionally if the governor is incapacitated as he is now, he should transmit power to the deputy governor to go on with the activity of government but if he fails to do that, the state assembly can do like what National Assembly did during Yar’adua time. But if they fail to do that, we would go to court to compel them to do the needful. What we are asking him to do is what he asked Yar’adua to do. We hope that the state assembly will do something speedily to get us out of this situation,” he added.
A youth advocate, Yemi Fashipe, who noted that the ordinary people are the victims of the continued absence of the governor, said it is unfair that a few politicians are holding the state to ransom because of the power struggle ahead of the 2024 governorship election.
He said the state has found itself in an unfortunate position of not having a leader as the deputy governor who should be acting is battling for survival following moves by the state lawmakers to impeach him.
“It will be very unfair that Ondo people have to suffer this maladministration because of the 2024 power tussle. We still have almost a year. If the governor is incapacitated, he should delegate power to the deputy,” he said
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, who does not want his name in print, said Akeredolu is a victim of some members of his immediate family and politicians who want him to hold on to power ahead of the next governorship election. He said the hijacking of the government is being led by top members of the cabinet from the southern part of the state where the next governor is expected to come from.
“Left to Aketi he would have resigned. In fact, before his health situation got to this level, he offered to resign but some politicians from the South wanted him to hold on to power so that Aiyedatiwa, who is also from the South, would not take over the structure of the party ahead of the primary,” he said.
Akeredolu should step aside — Lawyers
Constitutional lawyer, Ebun Olu Adegoruwa (SAN), said the governor is a human who is liable to fall sick. While noting that Akeredolu’s ill health should not hold the state to ransom, he asked the state assembly to adopt the doctrine of necessity.
“Nigerians have been praying for his quick recovery but the affairs of state have to continue.
“The constitutional principle of the doctrine of necessity should be activated to enable the deputy governor to take over the affairs of the state in an acting capacity pending the safe return of the governor,” Adegoruwa said.
Human rights lawyer, Barrister Abubakar Sanni, said Akeredolu should taste the same medicine he prescribed for former President Yar’adua.
“His chickens have come home to roost. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Let him have a taste of the same medicine he prescribed for former President Yar’adua (‘physician, heal thyself’),” he said.
Akeredolu won’t resign, easing back to work — Aide
The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Richard Olabode, said those calling for Akeredolu’s resignation are wicked and hypocritical because he has not failed in the discharge of his responsibilities.
“Those calling on him to step aside are not only being wicked but very hypocritical because I cannot see why he should resign when he is still discharging the duties of the office according to the dictates of the constitution. Mr Governor returned to the country on September 7 and resumed on September 8 and has been discharging his duties effectively. That is why there is no lacuna in leadership. All the ministries are working,” he said.
He said the governor has continued to give prompt attention to files and documents, including approving funds for projects, including the construction of the first flyover in the state. He added that workers are paid as when due while the government has cleared six out of the seven months’ salaries’ arrears it inherited.
Olabode said upon his resumption, the governor signed into law the bill that created the local council development areas in the state. He boasted that the government has constructed more kilometres of roads than the three previous administrations in the state.
While noting that the constitution permits the governor to work from anywhere, he said Akeredolu is being eased back to work after his medical leave in Germany. He also hinted that the state has been holding council meetings virtually.
“Who told you the state has not been holding meetings? Who says people don’t take advantage of technology? There are means of conducting state executive meetings. And for a fact, a day after the governor returned, a meeting was held with members of the state executives,” he claimed.
Olabode alleged that the call for the resignation was being sponsored by a particular character, whom he claimed also sponsored the obituary of the governor when he was in Germany.
“This person behind the conversation of the governor stepping down was the same person who published his obituary on social media and was praying he should not return when he was in Germany,” he said.
He, however, declined to name the character or admit if he was referring to the deputy governor when our correspondent queried him on the identity.