By Richard Olabode Olatunde

By the time Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, will be rounding off his tour of duty as a two-term Governor of Ondo State in 2024, by God’s grace, he would have earned himself a pride of place among the pantheon of distinguished and distinct lawyers who have ever been democratically elected Governors in Nigeria. It’s a growing list, anwyay.

Based on current statistics, Akeredolu, popularly referred to as Aketi by his legion of admirers, may as well be one of those rare breed of Nigerians who excelled in the high wired politics of the Nigerian Bar Association(NBA) and currently distinguishing himself in high voltage partisan politics where every political move is like that of a game of chess. The jury is out already on his performance as a politician.

Before Akeredolu’s entry into Ondo State politics as a greenhorn in 2012, he had served in the State as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice between 1997 and 199(?). The 2012 experience was an experiment for the Ibadan bred boy who had no prior political experience, although he already played the intriguing and complex Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) politics which culminated in his emergence as President of the Bar which he held sway in a manner that earned him an honor that has eternally preserved the name, “Aketi” in the NBA Hall of Fame.

As the President of the NBA, Akeredolu’s leadership engaged the government and other institutions with uncommon vigor and energy with the sole aim of redirecting the polity towards the rule of law, responsible leadership and good governance. His tenure had since been adjudged as the most vibrant of any President of the hallowed association.

Some legal historians may yet write about his leadership of the NBA someday but for now, Arakunrin Akeredolu, SAN, is already holding sway the Sunshine State, his home state, where he has been crisscrossing the socio-political and economic landscape of the State like a gubernatorial colossus in the truest sense of the word.

His election into the exalted seat of the number one man in the State, conducted in 2016, will go down in history as one of the few elections in the State that was never greeted with litigation at the tribunal, since the return of democracy in 1999. One thing is sure: three (3) years have gone and the people can only be the judge on whether the Governor has performed creditably well or not.

Here on the continent of Africa, one of the fairest parameters of measuring the performance of democratic leaders and their approach to good democratic governance is the infrastructural development of their societies. Due to demand for infrastructural development, especially in sub-Saharan African, it has become the main medium of serving the general good of the people.

Quality road network makes a crucial contribution to economic development and growth which in turn brings important socio-economic benefits to the people. Since development is all about the people, road construction is a vital part of growth and development in any given state. According to the World Bank, raising the infrastructure endowment of the state to standards of other neighbouring countries alone could boost the percentage growth of the state by over 20%.

In about three (3) years in office, the Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu-led administration in Ondo State has recorded unprecedented success in road construction and rehabilitation. According to facts and figures provided by the State’s Ministry of Works, the Akeredolu government is on record to have embarked upon and completed in three (3) years three times the number of roads the previous administration handled in eight (8) years. Just like his approach when he served as the President of the Bar, Governor Akeredolu has redefined good governance for the people of the State.

Recently, Ovie Ali Omasaro, an independent analyst and currently the most recognized individual on tracking developmental strides of governors across the country, presented his list of best performing governors in Nigeria placing Aketi in his top three (3). He also ranked Akeredolu the best Governor in the southwest since 2016. In a summary analysis shared online, he recognized Akeredolu as one of the best performing governors of 2019, citing his dedication to promoting private sector investment and championing an infrastructural revolution.

Akeredolu could have been deterred with a backlog of salary arrears he inherited from his predecessor but he didn’t allow it deter him. Instead, he showed that he was better prepared and fired to deliver, not just for the present generation in the State but the ones after. It is nothing short of a miracle that even after being ranked one of the worst States in Nigeria when it came to the ratio of recurrent vs capital expenditure which was 8.6:1, the governor has still been able to achieve much more than was conceivable in four (4) years.

As a development focused person, Governor Akeredolu has been pursuing the Ondo Deep Sea Port which will finally be a game changer for the State and put an end to her low and dwindling wealth. Already, Mr. Governor has received the Outline Business Case which comprehensively states the Project Implementation Plan for the proposed Port of Ondo. With the Port Declaration that is expected soon, Ondo State is on her way back from a squeezed IGR and struggling revenue to a path of buoyant economic prosperity. Aketi is building a State where our children and grandchildren will live a comfortable and better life.

In another unprecedented feat, never as seen before in the annals of history of the State, Governor Akeredolu employed over five hundred (500) youths into the State Internal Revenue Service and over three hundred (300) medical officers, built over eight hundred and fifty (850) public primary schools across the State, rehabilitated and sank new water facilities across the state, promoted agriculture by encouraging farmers, regular payment of salaries and regular promotion for the civil servants as well as raising the IGR of the state from a meager sum of N600Million / N700Million to N2billion in a month and ensuring the Government’s revenue goes to the right place for the benefit of the people. Transparency at its finest!

Governor Akeredolu’s subtle diplomatic engagements with multilateral institutions has led to over $350 Million in funding towards the construction of over 500km of rural roads, rehabilitation of Owena Dam, construction of flood control in Araromi Seaside. These are aside the Governor’s dexterity in managing the crisis bequeathed to him by the previous government which had threatened the much-needed World Bank funding for Primary Health Care. If not for his shrewd interventions, the State would have been blacklisted from the bank’s support. Now we know that even with COVID eroding revenue from the Federal Governmet, there will be a steady flow of developmental projects ongoing in the State.

One pedestrian accusation against Governor Akeredolu is that he is Owo-philic when it comes to project and appointment distribution. Yet, the truth is, after his eight (8) years, Aketi might still have some questions to answer in his home town, Owo, judging from the monumental development witnessed in Akungba, Okitipupa and Ondo towns during the reigns of his predecessors in office, like the late Adebayo Adefarati, late Olusegun Agagu and Dr Olusegun Mimiko. Aketi has refused to give special preference to his hometown, Owo in terms of government presence. Today, Akure, Idanre, Ore, Ikare and a host of others can boast of more government presence in terms of infrastructure than Owo. It suffices to state that Aketi is distributing the state’s wealth equally. He is entrenching the dividends of good governance in the three (3) senatorial districts of the State accordingly.

There is a new teaching hospital, currently under construction in Akure and Ondo towns. What about the Governor’s deployment of ICT to empower the youths with different technological hubs springing up in every nook and cranny of the State. With new partnerships forged with IBM, Facebook, Microsoft and a host of other IT businesses, Akeredolu is indeed, delivering on his mandate. Let us not forget the big masquerade, The Ondo/ Linyi Industrial Hub where five (5) industries have started operations asides a newly established truck assemblage plant as well as the other two (2) emerging Industrial Parks also in the Ore axis.

One of the rare qualities missing in leadership in Africa is courage. Aketi has shown how courageous a leader can be. He has been tested and trusted. He displayed an uncommon courage on the issue of Amotekun to the awe and admiration of the entire southern region of the country. The same Aketi spoke against the Anti-social Media Bill and desecration of the court in Omoyele Sowore’s case. Only a man of steely courage will speak against an establishment he is privileged to be a member of. That is Aketi for you. His identity and nature as a pro-masses advocate is unchangeable.

Another drab lie against him is, not running an inclusive government. These perennial accusers will not mention the complaints by die hard Aketi loyalists of how he gave out their positions to people from other camps. The truth is, Akeredolu has always been running an inclusive government. His cabinet is well rounded, check the list below out:

  1. Mr. Funso Esan (Commissioner for environment) from Segun Abraham’s camp,
  2. Dr. Wahab Adegbenro (Commissioner for Health) from Segun Abraham’s camp,
  3. Temitayo Oluwatuyi (Commissioner for natural resources) from Ajayi Boroffice’s camp,
  4. Fatai Olotu (Commissioner for Lands and Housing) from the PDP,
  5. Tunji Light (Special Adviser Energy) an aspirant who contested the party primary with Akeredolu in 2016,
  6. Rt. Hon. Victor Olabimtan (Special Adviser, Political matters) an Aspirant that contested the party ticket with Akeredolu in 2016,
  7. Kolawole Babatunde Ajayi (Special Adviser Community Development) from Ajayi Boroffice’s camp,
  8. Oyebo Aladetan (Special Adviser, Niger Delta) from Olusola Oke’s camp and
  9. Boye Oyewumi (Special Adviser, Investment and Development) an aspirant who contested in the party primary in 2016.

Regardless of whatever the perpetual naysayers say, the courageous lawyer from Owo, is redefining what governance is all about in Ondo State by running an energetic and inclusive government that places premium quality on infrastructural development and unprecedented human capital development. Like they say: one good turn deserves another.

Aketi leekan si.