With Aketi, a new dawn beckons in Ondo

Chief Rotimi Akeredolu

“History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats”. These immortal words of Bertie Charles Forbes, (1880-1954) publisher and founder of the popular Forbes magazine poignantly captured the myth behind the new dawn about to be heralded February 24, 2017 as Mr. Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu (SAN), is inaugurated executive governor of Ondo State.

For Mr. Akeredolu, aka Aketi, the beckoning hours and moments of great historical reckoning are not just creations of mere happenstances. Rather, they are captivating climax of a chequered political sojourn that has been fraught with unfathomable fortitudes in the course of human history. Today, the dramatis personae behind the political drama unfolding before our very eyes stands tall as he beholds the threshold of history in less than a forth night to come.

Born 21st July, 1956 in Owo to Reverend J. Ola Akeredolu of the Akeredolu family and Lady Evangelist Grace B. Akeredolu of Aderoyiju family of Igbotu, Ese in Ondo State, Akeredolu started his primary education at Government School, Owo. Thereafter, he proceeded to Aquinas College, Akure, Loyola College, Ibadan and Comprehensive High School, Aiyetoro for his Secondary School education and Higher School Certificate respectively. He attended the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) to study Law, graduating in 1977. He was called to the Bar in 1978. Poised to make a living out of the legal profession, the governor-elect co-founded a law firm, Olujinmi & Akeredolu where he is a Managing Partner with Chief Akin Olujinmi, a former Attorney general and Minister of Justice in Nigeria.

Before venturing into active national politics, he has been involved in human rights movements which enabled him alongside other like mind comrades to resist oppression and repression of anarchist governments. He is amongst the few credible human rights crusaders who used the instrumentality of law to promote the fundamental human rights of the citizens by holding those in power positions accountable for their actions. With his track record as a humanist and a progressive lawyer from the radical school of thought, akeredolu attracted attention to himself globally and nationally. He was appointed Attorney General of Ondo State between 1997 – 1999. In 1998, he joined the prestigious coterie Club of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). He was chairman of the legal Aid Council (2005-2006). He has served in several capacities as an eminent legal luminary and an unapologetic human rights crusader of no mean repute.

Indeed, his first attempt at contesting the governorship election in Ondo State in 2011 did not work out as planned due to a multiplicity of factors. Top most on this was the fact that he was throwing his cap into the ring as a first timer, a neophyte kind of who was challenging an already established opposition in the person of Governor Olusegun Mimiko. Not only that, Mimiko who had hitherto been a strong political player in the state was at the time a political force majueure in the politics and politriks of the state having singlehandedly established Labour Party and forced it into political reckoning by winning Ondo State for the young party. Popularly referred to in those days as Iroko, Governor Mimiko’s political structure and machinery became almost behemoth as they were used to cripple if not suppress opposition.

In 2011, Aketi who rode on the crest of his popularity and high rating as a former president of NBA with outstanding records of achievements in his time had little or no internal resistance in securing his party’s nomination as the flag-bearer of the then Action Congress of Nigeria was passionate about serving his people. The contest was keen and fierce such that the entire ACN political machinery were relocated to akure, the State Capital to fight the battle, but all to no avail as opposition elements as symbolized by Dr. Olusegun Mimiko played on the sentiment of the people by denigrating the ACN political national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as a fortune seeker who would install Aketi as a stooge so as to be able to annexe the oil and other resources of the state for himself. The Labour Party’s campaign of calumny insinuating that Aketi will be a pawn in the political chess board of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu readily resonated with the Ondo state electorates who were not disposed to such tendency in any way.

Rather than assess and rank Akeredolu from his own stand point as a political juggernaut of immense value and professional pedigree, they saw in him the image of an appendage who would be tied to the apron strings of his political godfathers even after winning the election. Consequently, he was denied the mandate as they voted Mimiko for a second term in office making it possible for Mimiko to get a second term of office thereby breaking an old-age jinx. However, as events had later unfolded, the loss of 2011 governorship election by aketi was a blessing in disguise as it led Mimiko to undo himself by alienating the people. He alienated and snubbed the gatherings of those that matter to his continued stranglehold in Ondo State politics. Upon gaining a second term, Mimiko jettisoned most of his loyal faithfuls and become more practically egocentric and despotic.

However, the second attempt by Aketi at becoming the executive governor of the state in 2016 election was a clear departure from the past. This time around, the silk had so much forces to contend with. Some of these forces emerged from the least expected quarters, as ACN one of the legacy parties that formed APC had so many aspirants. Matters were made worse as national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who had in 2011 aggressively promoted Rotimi Akeredolu for the state’s governorship slot had shifted loyalty by backing and throwing support for a younger and newer political entrant, Mr. Segun Abraham for the All Progressive Congress (APC) governorship candidacy. The choice of Segun Abraham by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu pitched the two allies against one another, thereby making them to tactically follow their own different beliefs.

Consequently, Aketi was left on his own to battle with a plethora of gubernatorial candidates within the APC fold. Indeed, it was a trojan battle as the contest was not only fierce but somehow acrimonious between the candidates. Involved in that fierce governorship battle was about 24 APC stalwarts who wanted same ticket Aketi coveted. It was an exercise that bruised the political ego of some party leaders as well as brought out the courage and perseverance in Aketi. In one of his several chats with newsmen, a national newspaper reporter once asked him to disclose what was motivating him to contest for the governorship of the state despite knowing the parlous financial status of Ondo state and the myriads of challenges on his way. Not the one to be caught unawares about his mission, vision and conviction, Mr. Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu has responded “I am a man and I am ready to face anything”. That has been my approach if you recollect my message when I was running for the presidency of the NBA, my campaign mantra was “prosecuting our conviction with courage”. So for me, whatever the problem maybe, it is one that a courageous person can tackle: “A man who has a vision will see beyond today”, Aketi revealed.

Asked why he chose to recontest having failed in his first attempt, Akeredolu the emerging political gadfly had this to say:
“It is necessary to have a change in the leadership of Ondo state. Governance in the state has in the last seven years, which will culminate into eight years before the election, been a waste of resources and one is convinced that the time has come for us to make meaningful impacts in the lives of our people and for them to at least have the impact of meaningful governance. To give the people the benefit of good governance so that they can derive the most which you can get from any government”. With this on his mind, Aketi vigorously campaigned to the electorates going from one nooks and crannies to the other.

With his humble, humane and self-effacing nature, the renowned senior Advocate of Nigeria and a human rights crusader turned politician and a statesman appears to have already had his focus and vision well identified and envisioned. This was perhaps no doubt the reason why Ondo state’s electorates massively voted for him as their governor during the last governorship election.

He proved all book makers wrong having hitherto been classified as a political underdog and an orphan. Rather than losing hope when few gave him the benefit of doubts in winning, Aketi courageously trudged on with sure-footedness, routed in an unexpressed but unhidden philosophical conviction of a go-getter. As stated by Walter Elias “Walt” Disney, an American entrepreneur, Akeredolu was able to prove that “the difference between winning and losing is most often, not quitting”. This precisely was the myth behind the raw courage of the lawyer from the ancient city of Owo.
•Oladele is a veteran media practitioner and brand consultant based in Lagos.

Today, history beckons as plans are in top gear to inaugurate Akeredolu as the next executive governor of Ondo State. More than ever before, Aketi has his eyes set on the horizon and he has over the years prepared and fully equipped himself for this new leadership role.

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