ADEWALE MOMOH reports on how exiting members of the Ondo State cabinet took turns at an extraordinary meeting last Thursday to eulogize the virtues of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu
Oluwarotimi Akeredolu was sworn in as the sixth civilian governor of Ondo State on February 24, 2017, following his declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the winner of the November 26, 2016 gubernatorial election in the state.
In the election, Akeredolu, who was the standard bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC), clinched 224,842 votes to defeat Eyitayo Jegede, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who came second with 126,889 votes and Olusola Oke of the Alliance for Democracy who scored 150,380.
On August 30, six months after he mounted the saddle of leadership in the Sunshine state, Akeredolu inaugurated his commissioners and Special Advisers. The governor had earlier appointed the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and his Chief of Staff.
The swearing in of the commissioners and Special Advisers completed the process of composing the State Executive Council. As the saying goes, everything that has a beginning surely has an end. Last Thursday, February 18, 2021, at exactly 6pm, the curtain was drawn on the executive council.
It was time for members of the Akeredolu cabinet to exit the stage after about four years of serving the state and her people. Few hours before the governor finally dissolved the council, it was an emotional moment.
At an extraordinary meeting, valedictory speeches were made, with cabinet members eulogizing the virtues of the governor and reliving the good moments they had together.
The exiting cabinet members took turns to pour encomiums on Akeredolu, commend the notable feats achieved in his first tenure and offer their views of his personality.
To all of them, Governor Akeredolu is a leader who has uncommon passion for the development of the state. According to them, the governor ran the affairs of the state in the last four years with a rare sense of responsibility and patriotism.
A view shared by all of them is that Governor Akeredolu is a courageous, audacious, blunt, truthful, sincere and compassionate leader.
The Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Temidayo Oluwatuyi, shattered the impression that Akeredolu was an administrator whose approval is difficult to obtain. Oluwatuyi said to get Akeredolu’s nod for anything, you must be ready to deploy convincing arguments.
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, Oluwatuyi said. The SSG recalled how he once secured the approval of his boss for 13 out of the 15 files he brought to him.
He was then Commissioner for Natural Resources. “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 gotten 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,” he said. In the opinion of Olugbenga Ale, Chief of Staff to the Governor, Akeredolu is a leader that cherishes merit. Ale said he was surprised when the governor appointed him as his CoS because he did not lobby for any appointment.
To him, Akeredolu is a thorough administration whose eyes don’t gloss over errors. He hailed the governor for being a good representative of Owo town, where he hails from.
Ale, who is a retired permanent secretary, commended the governor for not politicising the state civil service.
Akeredolu, according to the CoS, is man who appreciates family values and loves his family so much. He said the way the governor protects and cares for members of his family is worthy of emulation.
The Head of Service, Oluwadare Aragbaye, said Akeredolu is a man who enjoys divine mercy. He ascribed the mercy of God to the purity of Akeredolu’s heart. Aragbaye, who described Akeredolu as a compassionate man, said the governor always has deep feelings for people. Noting that Akeredolu is loyal to friends, Aragbaye said the governor always remember people and keep relationships.
“He said I will give mercy to whom I will give mercy. Check it, anywhere God gives mercy, He will not even look at your sins. And when He gives it, anything you do is ordered by Him. That is what I see that has been working for you, sir.
This is because you have a pure heart which does not harbour malice,” Aragbaye said. 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.
Donald Ojogo, Commissioner for Information and Orientation, identified grace as the secret behind the string of successes that the Akeredolu has achieved in life. Ojogo described the governor as a benevolent leader, saying he is one of the beneficiaries of his boss’ benevolence.
Apart from saying Akeredolu possesses uncommon integrity, honesty and courage, Ojogo added that bluntness of the governor is such that is rare in the country.
These qualities, according to Ojogo, are very difficult for ordinary minds and ordinary eyes to discern. Saying he counted himself lucky to be part of the modest lifestyle of Akeredolu and the modest but very lasting legacies and successes of his administration, Ojogo noted that the governor has never regretted any decision stubbornly taken by him.
Omolola Fagbemi, Commissioner for Local Governments and Chieftaincy Affairs, is one of the women in the the cabinet. Fagbemi described Akeredolu as a leader with a sense of humour. Commissioner for Environment, Funso Esan, said: “The encomiums that my colleagues have been pouring on you, I want to say, is not part of eye service.
That is what you are.” It is the view of Pastor Emmanuel Igbasan, Commissioner for Economic, Budget and Planning, that Governor Akeredolu is 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.”
Responding to the accolades showered on him, Governor Akeredolu spoke in his usual blunt manner. He 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.” Akeredolu thanked the council members for their services to the state and people.
According to him, the glory of the achievements of his administration belongs 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 achievement. Not by Akeredolu alone. Akeredolu cannot be everything and I was never everything. Yes, the bulk has to come to my table but 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.
So, I want to thank all the ministries and all 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 disclosed that he never wanted to be governor of Ondo state, saying it was providence that guided his steps towards the Alagbaka Government House. He said all he desired to be was the president of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA).
The governor told the outgoing cabinet members that he was surprised when he once heard that his posters had flooded the streets of Akure, the state capital.
The governor declared that he would always express his mind, saying there is no place for fear in his heart. “I always say to people, I have two heros, 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.