BABATOPE OKEOWO reports on the controversy over Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu’s appointment of his son, Babajide, as the Director General of the Ondo State Performance and Project Implementation Monitoring Unit (PPMIU)
There is no doubt that Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu’s recent appointment of his son as the Director General of the Ondo State Performance and Project Implementation Monitoring Unit (PPMIU) has attracted commendation and criticisms from different people within the state depending on the political divide they belong to.
To some people, the appointment of Babajide as the Director General of an agency in charge monitoring the projects and appointees of government is not a big deal as governors both in the state and other parts of the country have appointed close relations into their respective administrations in the past.
Before his appointment as Director General of the PPMIU, Babajide had served as Secretary of the COVD-19 Fund Mobilization Committee in Ondo State as well as a member of the transition committee for his father second term in office.
For those in support of the governor’s action, there is no fuss with the appointment as a former governor of the state, Dr. Olusegun Agagu, made his brother, Femi his Chief of Staff as well as later appointed him as vice chancellor of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko (AAUA).
They argued that the younger Akeredolu is from Ondo State and has the capacity to do the job as well. They cited example of a former governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang, who appointed his son as a commissioner in the state in 2014.
The son, Yakubu Jang was previously his father’s Special Adviser on Special Duties before his appointment as the Commissioner for Lands and Urban Planning. Also cited was a former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, who made his sister commissioner for Happiness and Purpose Fulfillment in 2017.
Equally mentioned was a former governor of Nassarawa State, Tanko Umaru Al-Makura, who appointed his son as the Executive Secretary of the Nasarawa State Muslim Pilgrim Welfare board and Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, who appointed one his daughters as Special Assistant on Girl-Child. No doubt, suspicion has been in the air before now given an allegation by the Ondo State government that the opposition wants to blackmail the first family.
This was in reaction to a claim by a group, Concerned Timber Merchants (OSCTIM) that the Akeredolu administration is plotting to hand over the state forest reserve to a consultant company allegedly linked to the governor’s son.
The group, in a statement issued and signed by its state Coordinator, Alhaji Olawole Idris, said the Akeredolu’s family is on a mission to siphon all resources of the state before leaving the state by February 2025. OSCTIM revealed that the state government intentionally placed a ban on all activities in the forests on August 31, 2021, to enable it to perfect all necessary documents before the new consultancy company begins operations. OSCTIM noted that the recent pronouncement by the state government on the lifting of forestry activities pointed in the direction that the new consultant will soon resume operations.
The group also noted that to ensure the smooth running of this new consultancy agency, the governor has allegedly instructed his son to nominate someone he trusted as the new commissioner that will be in charge of the Ministry of Natural Resources. “Enough is enough, we are appealing to all stakeholders in the state to speak up and condemn this criminal act being spearheaded by Babajide Akeredolu and one Ilesanmi Ademola popularly as (Brainbox).
We now ask: What was the offence of the former consultant? “We won’t allow Akeredolu and his son to cripple the Sunshine State. He has given the power to his son to an extent that he (Babajide) now determines who and who would serve in his cabinet. We are aware that the new commissioner that may likely be in charge of the ministry of natural resources has already pledged his loyalty and also keyed into the new criminal arrangement.”
However, the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Donald Ojogo, who dismissed OSCTIM claims, said the planned smear campaign was targeted at the governor’s family with fabricated details and spurious allegations. His words: “It has come to our notice that some unscrupulous individuals have perfected plans to blackmail the Akeredolu administration, using the first family as a target of their smear campaign.
The plan, which was hatched and orchestrated by these individuals, particularly, targeted the governor’s son, Babajide Akeredolu, on allegations of high handedness and interference with serious government decisions, especially as it relates to the economic activities at the government reserves.
Succinctly, the purveyors of this heinous plot have perfected plans to lie against the governor and his son of attempting to take over the management of the forest reserves so as to corner the resources for personal gains.” While the allegation and counterallegation over the takeover of the state forest by a company linked to the governor’s was ongoing, the governor announced the appointment of his son as supervisor of government activities, an appointment that was alien in the state.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Kennedy Ikantu Peretei, described the appointment as a flagrant abuse of office and affront on the people of the state. Peretei in his statement said: “The name Babajide Akeredolu became known in Ondo State, when the state’s funds were used to procure a marriage for him in Colorado, USA, after the same marriage was consummated in Owo, his father’s birthplace. He has since assumed authority as part of the triad of the reign of father, wife and son.
The appointment as DG of PPMIU for Babajide, a young man who carries on as though, he was the person voted for as governor is part of the grand design to finally empty the treasury of the state before Akeredolu returns to Ibadan.
“Last year, Babajide pocketed a princely N433m as consultancy fee on N4.3b on a secret account for more than 10 years. Up till this moment, the Ondo State government under Akeredolu has neither accounted for the money, nor did the 10 years accrue interest. Rather, it was Babajide who addressed a press conference, referring to the Ondo State House of Assembly members as “making unnecessary noise” over money he discovered. Babajide’s conduct is reminiscent of the ignoble actions of Commodus, son and heir apparent of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who at age 12, upon finding out that his bath water was not sufficiently heated, ordered the servant to be thrown into the furnace.
“It thus appears that Mr. Governor and his immediate family are bent on living fat on the lean resources of the people, when poverty has taken over the land, walking in all four legs.
There is no further proof of Akeredolu’s insensitivity to the plight of the people, when within two years of tenure, he organized three lavish weddings for his children, all in foreign lands- In Mauritius, Canada and Colorado, USA. Each of these weddings was bankrolled with Ondo State’s funds. Officials of the state government, family members and friends were in these countries to celebrate with Akeredolu and family.
Yet, this level of opulence and wasteful life style only started when he became Governor. But Ojogo, who hit back at the opposition party in a statement titled “PDP’s uncanny attacks were expected” described the criticism against the appointment of the governor’s son as unsuccessful, saying the opposition was just crying wolf where there is none.
His words: “There is no way such sound appointment as that of Babajide would not have elicited uncanny attacks from the PDP. They were expected.
Ours is to be focused on what we are doing for the good people of the state and not to be distracted by lazy opposition. When Jang appointed his son, Yakubu as a commissioner in Plateau, it was okay for them; what about Okowa who did it in Delta? When their principal’s brothers in Ondo literally did all appointments while they held sway, it was okay. We can only enjoy their gallery-looking dance.
They are hypocritical aside being saddened by their antecedents. “We are more concerned about the deliverables in whatever we do as a government. In this particular instance of Mr. Governor’s decision in respect of the son, it cannot be said otherwise; he made a right decision. This young man has been doing a lot behind scene in the last five years plus, to enhance good governance. He has demonstrated enough capacity in many respects.
Time will tell as we sail along in full steam. I think the problem PDP has is the fact of apparent intimidation that a very sound and balanced second term cabinet has berthed.”