Ahead 2024 Ondo guber poll, Akeredolu’s ill health, intrigues paralyse governance
Over the past few weeks, the political landscape in Ondo State has been experiencing turbulence due to the prolonged illness of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, which has forced him to seek treatment abroad. The situation was further exacerbated when the governor extended his medical leave after the expiration of the initial 21-day leave granted by the state House of Assembly.
The letter of extension, which was addressed to the Speaker of the House, Olamide Oladiji, did not specify the exact duration of the governor’s extended medical leave. With the extension, his deputy, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, will continue to pilot the affairs of the state in an acting capacity pending when the governor resumes from his medical leave.
Following the development, the situation has given rise to a series of undercurrents that, at intervals, continue to shape the political setting of the state and its governance.
A few days ago, the tension over Akeredolu’s health status was further heightened following the alleged statement made by the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Abdullahi Adamu, that the governor was in a state of “extreme incapacity.”
However, Adamu, through the National Secretary of the party, Iyiola Omisore, refuted the alleged statement, stressing that he was quoted out of context and that the National Chairman was rather “excited at the reports on the rate of recovery of the Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu.”
Within and outside the state, political observers and analysts have been raising concerns that the situation might detrimentally affect governance in the state as the acting governor struggles to shoulder full responsibility amid political manoeuvrings and power struggles. With the acting governor keen on succeeding his boss in 2024, as well as other power blocs within the government interested in the plum job, their ambitions have triggered covert power struggles, which have greatly diverted attention away from governance.
Following his entanglement in a web of political dynamics as per the governorship race, Aiyedatiwa has no doubt been treading cautiously to avoid alienating any individuals and caucuses, thereby impeding his ability to fully take charge of the state. With the charismatic influence of the ailing governor obviously missing since his absence from the state, Aiyedatiwa has been urged to assume the role of a proper acting governor and navigate the state.
According to a top government source, who craved anonymity, the acting governor had been advised to sack a commissioner who is also seeking to replace Akeredolu in 2024. The ploy, allegedly mooted to Aiyedatiwa by a member of the National Assembly, was targeted at serving as a warning shot to those within the cabinet that were not on the same page with him.
It was, however, gathered that after a careful consideration, the idea was dismissed because it would not only exacerbate the already tensed political situation in the state but would also give credence to earlier insinuations that the acting governor was trying to ease out those that would pose a threat to his ambition.
The source, a chieftain of the APC from the northern senatorial district of the state, added: “All I can tell you is that the idea given to Aiyedatiwa to sack Akinterinwa (the Commissioner for Finance) has been dropped after analysing how the situation will pan out.
“Those who gave him that idea are the real enemies of this state. For me, I don’t think Aiyedatiwa should be scared of anyone in the government. If he wants to assert his authority, all he needs to do is give directives and closely watch who will flout any of them.”
Speaking with The Guardian, a constitutional lawyer and rights activist, Kayode Ajulo, expressed concern over the level of intrigues among the power blocs, saying they were capitalising on the frail health of Akeredolu to tarnish the reputation of the government and indigenes of the state.
According to him, the power tussle among them had become a matter of national embarrassment. He attributed their scheming to an unhealthy thirst for power, which ultimately hampers effective collaboration in the absence of the governor.
Ajulo further highlighted the statement attributed to Adamu and the subsequent rebuttal by Omisore, stressing that if the internal affairs of the government were well managed and organised, such an incident would not have occurred.
“The 1999 Constitution, as amended, empowers the deputy governor to assist the governor in carrying out primary duties and allows for their replacement in the event of the governor’s death, impeachment, absence, or illness. Thus, anyone impeding the Acting Governor from fulfilling his constitutional duties is acting against the law.
“Governor Akeredolu is known for his commitment to scholarship, activism and transparency, and it would disappoint him to witness how some of his appointees have prioritised personal gains over the welfare of the state.
“It is appalling to witness how they scramble over themselves, claiming they are demonstrating loyalty to the governor, while what is paramount is their allegiance to the dictates of the constitution and the people. Even the governor, in turn, prioritises his loyalty to the constitution and people above all else,” Ajulo said.
Similarly, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state believes that the absence of the governor had stalled governance, corroborating that the 2024 governorship race has overshadowed Akeredolu’s cabinet.
According to the state Publicity Secretary of the party, Kennedy Peretei, the people of Ondo State were keenly observing the entire situation and would do the needful at the polls next year.
He said: “It is a known fact that around October 2024, a governorship election will hold in Ondo State. While the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is yet to officially release a timetable for the election, political parties and gladiators who have eyes on Alagbaka Government House come February 24, 2025, are not leaving anything to chance.
“The health status of Governor Akeredolu, shrouded as it were in secrecy, appears to be the launch pad for this epic battle. The people of Ondo State are completely in the dark as to the exact nature of Mr. Governor’s health challenge or how soon he will resume his official duties.
“Perhaps, all these would have been normal if the absence of the Governor had not stagnated government business in the state. The tower of Babel has literally descended on the APC family and the government as individuals and groups perch precariously on a balance of probabilities driven by the myth of uncertainty in what has been famously described by Mrs. Betty Akeredolu as ‘peradventure’.
“I do not intend to dwell on the confrontation and altercation between members of the Ondo State cabinet in an attempt to undo and out manoeuvre themselves in the power play ahead of 2024, because a lot of it is already known by keen watchers of Ondo State politics.”
Peretei noted that a number of aspirants had indicated their willingness to contest the 2024 gubernatorial election on the platform of the APC, adding: “No doubt, the majority of them are pretenders, expecting some godfathers to endorse them, or riding on the back of a non-existent power of incumbency to square up with the major opposition party, PDP.
“But at the end of these hostilities occasioned by Akeredolu’s absence, picking up the pieces will be a tall order. The same people who were abandoned in the course of the supremacy battle will have the last say. And this period, wasted in needless shows of force and cluelessness, will count against the APC government.
“For 2024, what will count is the APC score card. There is a limit to which people can be taken for a ride. In the words of Bob Marley, the legendary Jamaican musician “you can fool some people some times, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” 2024 will not be business as usual. It is a battle for the emancipation of the people from their belief in prosperity.”
Meanwhile, following allegations that a cabal within the cabinet was conniving to deprive the Acting Governor of funds to run the state, a group of public servants in the state has debunked the claim.
The group, known as known Concerned Stakeholders in the Public Service, expressed its unwavering support for the Special Adviser to the Governor on Union Matters and Special Duties, Dare Aragbaiye, who had been mentioned as part of the ‘cabal’.
In a recent statement, the leader of the group, Emmanuel Akinyemi, emphasised that Aragbaiye had consistently demonstrated a commitment to his official responsibilities throughout his career. Akinyemi further highlighted Aragbaiye’s commendable track record of service under various military and civilian governors in the state.
The concerned stakeholders added that Aragbaiye would not deviate from his prescribed duties, given his extensive experience and reputation as a dedicated professional. They argued that the allegations of a cabal influencing the decision-making process within the state administration were unfounded and lacked substantial evidence.
Akinyemi added: “At the centre of this controversy are the deputy governor, who is now acting Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa; Commissioner for Finance, Wale Akinterinwa; and the Special Adviser to the Governor on Union Matters and Special Duties, Dare Aragbaiye.
“There have been protracted narratives from various sources about the happenings inside the Alagbaka Governor’s office. The claim by the opportunists and loyalists of the Acting Governor that Aragbaiye and a few others have constituted themselves as cabals in the government is not substantiated with facts. Those who are familiar with the case of cabals in governments would understand that there are no cabals in the Ondo State government.
“The question we should ask ourselves is what informed the recent hostility in the government. Since 2021, Governor Akeredolu has been embarking on yearly vacations. Each time, he would transfer power to Aiyedatiwa in an acting capacity.
“All these times, we didn’t hear about these cabals in government. What has now changed? Why the sudden rise of cabals in government? What exactly are these people doing that has made them cabals? Is this the first time that Aiyedatiwa will be acting governor?
“The narrative that Aragbaiye is preventing Aiyedatiwa from functioning effectively as the Acting Governor is laughable and ridiculous. How can a Special Adviser prevent a deputy governor from functioning as acting governor? Has Aragbaiye grounded the deputy governor’s office? Has the deputy governor issued any directive to any cabinet member and Aragbaiye asked them to disobey?
“We have seen the acting governor attending events and performing the functions of the governor, including receiving important state guests on courtesy visits. One would wonder how Aragbaiye is preventing the acting governor from performing effectively. It should be noted that Aiyedatiwa and his cohorts have failed to elaborate on this claim.”
He added: “The claim that Aragbaiye and the Commissioner for Finance refused to release money for the deputy governor to perform his duties is preposterous. The absurdity of this claim adds a suspicious twist to the issue on the ground. We know that the office of the deputy governor is established to function effectively in the governor’s absence.
“There are budgetary provisions for travel allowances, gifts, meals and other expenses for the deputy governor’s office. Is the deputy governor’s office starved of funds? Is Aragbaiye responsible for the disbursement of funds to the deputy governor’s office? We should ask Aiyedatiwa if he has requested funds from Finance following due process and has been rejected. He should be able to show evidence of such a letter of request.”
Meanwhile, in an effort to quell the escalating tension in the state, Aiyedatiwa has dismissed rumours about a crisis within the cabinet.
The acting governor, in a recent statement, attributed the situation to desperate political gladiators, whom he described as agent provocateurs seeking to create discord and confusion.
Aiyedatiwa, who refuted the allegations of internal strife within the cabinet, assured the public that the rumours were baseless and without merit, stressing that the situation has been deliberately fueled by individuals with ulterior motives, aiming to undermine the stability of the government.
According to Aiyedatiwa, he has maintained constant communication with his boss. He also stated that Akeredolu would return to office soon and continue his official duties.
“I have been in touch with him, the latest being on Sunday, July 9, 2023, when he expressed appreciation to me and other State Executive Council members for holding the fort while he is away.
“I would like to urge the general public, as usual, to ignore these unfortunate lies and subterfuge as the antics of desperate political gladiators across political divides,” he noted.
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