Wednesday, 4th October 2023

Intrigues, Power play over Akeredolu’s ill-health

By Adewale Momoh, Akure
07 June 2023   |   3:10 am
In the last few days, there has been anxiety over the health of the Ondo State governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), with rumours of his demise making the rounds, particularly on social media.

• Wife, son alleged of running state affairs • Governor not incapacitated, Aiyedatiwa not sidelined – aides

In the last few days, there has been anxiety over the health of the Ondo State governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), with rumours of his demise making the rounds, particularly on social media.

While some unconfirmed sources said the governor has been flown abroad for medication, some said he is currently in Ibadan where his personal doctors are attending to him. But his absence has allowed some individuals and groups to engage in power play to gain influence in politics and governance of the state.

Akeredolu was last seen in public on May 17, 2023, when he played host to the Ondo State Cocoa Council delegation led by its chairman, Dr. Olusegun Awolumate, at the Governor’s Office, Alagbaka, Akure, the state capital.

Since then, Akeredolu has been conspicuously missing at public events, a situation that further raised eyebrows among people, expressing concerns about the governor’s state of health.

As the chairman of Southwest Governor’s Forum, Akeredolu was expected to be physically present at the commissioning of Dangote Refinery on May 22 where governors from the region were fully represented. He was also absent at the inauguration of President Bola Tinubu in Abuja on May 29 despite the fact that he was on the frontline of governors who insisted that power must return to the South.

Shortly after the inauguration of Tinubu, the President met and held a meeting with the Progressive Governors; Ondo State governor was also not present.In 2019, the health status of Akeredolu became a public issue for the first time after he was outside the state for about five weeks over ill health.

Shortly after arriving in the state on November 6, 2019, he revealed that he travelled to seek medical attention, but not as critical as people made it look.With uncertainties about where he is currently receiving treatment, opposition parties in the state said Akeredolu had been incapacitated due to ill health.

The situation heightened following the silence of the state government on the development, which further gave room for another round of rumours about the governor’s health.

The ill health of the governor came to the fore again in January 2023 when his wife, Betty Akeredolu, revealed that her husband is suffering from an undisclosed ailment.

In an audio clip that went viral on social media, the First Lady accused the Special Adviser to her husband on Public and Inter-Governmental Relations, Mrs Bunmi Ademosu, of interfering in the management of the governor’s health.

Mrs. Akeredolu, who also accused Ademosu of giving different herbal concoctions to her husband, alleged that Ademosu was scheming to become deputy governor should the governor become incapable of completing his tenure.

Following the state of the health of the governor, opposition parties are alleging that the wife of the governor and his son, Babajide, who is the Director-General of Ondo State Performance and Project Implementation Monitoring Unit (PPIMU), have been running the affairs of the state.

The mother and son are also being alleged of scheming to ensure that the Deputy Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa did not have a grip on the state in the absence of the governor.

Whereas Section 191 of the 1999 Constitution reads, “The Deputy Governor of a State shall hold the office of Governor of the State if the office of Governor becomes vacant by reason of death, resignation, impeachment, permanent incapacity, or removal of the governor from office for any other reason in accordance with Section 188 or 189 of this Constitution.”

However, a member of the cabinet in Akeredolu’s administration who craved anonymity disclosed that the governor is not incapacitated, as been speculated, but admitted that the governor is indisposed and he has been efficiently piloting the affairs of the state.

The top cabinet member revealed that the developments as regards the governor’s state of health are not unconnected to the 2024 governorship poll, as politicians were behind what he described as unfounded rumours to soothe their own narratives.

She said: “I can confirm to you that the governor is a bit ill but not incapacitated, as they are saying. Mr. Governor spoke to me about two days ago to give me some instructions as per my ministry, and I’m aware that some cabinet members have also been having conversations with him. Even some of them have been having meetings with him.

“Even what people do not know is that it is at the exco level of the state that a governor can be declared incapacitated and the needful will be done. How can you say Akeredolu is incapacitated? Someone who has been functioning as expected? He spoke with the new Speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly and congratulated him immediately after the inauguration of the 10th Assembly on Saturday.

“About eight days ago, his deputy, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, represented him at the induction programme for the new members of the House of Assembly, which was held in Owo. So, I don’t understand the unfounded insinuations that the immediate family of the governor has taken charge of the state.“Babajide (the governor’s son) is the DG of PPIMU, and you expect him not to have a role that he will be performing in the state? He’s been the DG since the beginning of his father’s second term, and you expect him not to be visible in the government.

“Even the wife of the governor is the First Lady of the state. Yes, some people might have something against her, but that does not take away the fact that she will have her own role as the number one woman in the state.

“I advise all those behind this plot to bury the thought because the intrigues playing out now border on the governorship election coming up next year. Many are trying to play God.

“This exact scenario played out when the governor was ill in his first term. They had tried all they could do to scheme him out but he bounced back.”

However, leader of the Aketi Medical Team in 2016 and Vice Chairman of the Aketi-Ayedatiwa Medical Committee in 2020, Dr. Olusegun Akeredolu, has urged the citizens of the state to rise up and put an end to what he described as illegality. He argued that a recurrence of the Umar Musa Yar’Adua situation must be prevented.

He said: “In the same way that President Umar Musa Yar’Adua’s true state of health was unknown in 2010, no one knows the whereabouts of Governor Akeredolu of Ondo State. The signals so far show all is not well with the number one citizen in the Sunshine State.

“The desperation among the political class is a pointer that H.E. Lucky Aiyedatiwa needs the support of Ondo State indigenes, and security must be beefed up. Otherwise, these desperadoes don’t mind destroying the work of our past heroes and turning the state into another theatre of war.

“Ondo State people must stand up and ensure the rule of law prevails. We must see Aketi; his current state of health must be known; and the Sunshine State must not be ruled by Aketi’s proxies like Mrs Akeredolu or his son, Babajide Akeredolu.

“We voted for Mr Akeredolu and Lucky Aiyedatiwa. If the governor is incapacitated, his deputy takes over, according to the Nigerian constitution. There is no provision for his son or wife to rule under our laws; Ondo State is not a banana republic or animal kingdom.”

After weeks of apprehension in the state, the state government reacted to the rumour a few days later when it said the governor was alive and had been attending to state matters, as well as delegating state functions.

A statement issued by the Commissioner for Information, Bamidele Ademola-Olateju, stated that the clarification became imperative due to how the development had created tension in the state and across the country.

She said: “We have been inundated with calls and messages concerning the state of health of the Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN). We had chosen to ignore this wicked fabrication until it appeared that certain people sought to draw political mileage from the disinformation.

“Though the governor has been indisposed, he has been attending to state matters and delegating functions to functionaries of the government when necessary.

“We enjoin members of the public to ignore the rumour. Aketi is very much alive.”

But the Ondo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called for Akeredolu’s resignation and should as well hand over to his deputy, Aiyedatiwa, because of his status.

The Publicity Secretary of the party, Kennedy Peretei, in a statement, emphasised that “the handlers and managers of Mr. Akeredolu, have once again proved that they are not on top of their assignments. They will rather take everyone in the state for granted.

While praying for the quick recovery of the governor, the party said his aides must disclose where he has been to calm fray nerves in the state.

Peretei said Akeredolu has for a while been absent at national events, a situation the party said called for concern.
He said: “The deafening silence from government information machinery suddenly saturated social media space with old videos of Akeredolu dancing and singing praises.

“On the eve of the inauguration of the 10th Ondo State House of Assembly, there were reports of an ‘Owo cabal,’ led by Akeredolu’s heir apparent, Babajide, mobilising members-elect to make a legislator from Owo Speaker, as a fallback position to retain the leadership of the state in Owo, in the event of the worst happening after impeaching the incumbent deputy governor.

“These speculations almost put the state on edge until this morning when the Ondo State House of Assembly retained the present power structure of the Speakership of the Assembly in Ondo Central Senatorial District.

“If Akeredolu’s handlers had done the needful, the state would have been spared of the unnecessary anxiety.

“As mortals, any human being can fall sick. Whether in public office or private life, Akeredolu is employed by the people of Ondo State and maintained with taxpayers’ money. So, it is criminal and a great disservice to keep mum over his health status and his whereabouts.

“PDP demands that those hiding the governor should tell the people where he is to save the state from speculation.
“In 2010, when the then-President Umar Yar’Adua was incapacitated due to ill health, Akeredolu was one of the most vociferous voices, calling for his resignation and allowing the then Vice President to take over. If, for whatever reason, Akeredolu can no longer discharge his official responsibilities, the most reasonable thing to do is to hand them over to the deputy governor, as required by the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended).

“Our party joins millions of Ondo State people in praying for Akeredolu’s quick recovery, but nobody should play politics with his ill health. Nobody should ground the state beyond its present state. Let Akeredolu resign if he is no longer fit to be governor.”

Similarly, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in a statement demanded the true health status of the governor.
While urging Akeredolu to make the situation of his health public, the party, in a statement by its chairman, Stephen Adewale, stated that the people of the state deserve to know developments as regards the governor.

Adewale said: “In the past 24 hours, the rumour of governor Akeredolu’s poor health has dominated the media and spread like wildfire. While it is no longer news that Akeredolu is dealing with health issues, as this was made clear in the viral voice note that was released by Ondo State First Lady, Mrs Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, in recent weeks, the governor’s rumoured battle with blood cancer, his bedridden condition, and his inability to sign documents have taken centre stage.

“While the SDP in Ondo State had enthusiastically and eagerly anticipated that the governor would refute such rumours by presenting himself to the public, the silence from the governor’s camp and the APC in Ondo State is concerning and alarming.

“To us at Ondo SDP, therefore, their silence and failure to deny or confirm the information implies consent. There are now serious doubts about Akeredolu’s capacity to continue to govern the Sunshine State, as his medical conditions remain shrouded in secrecy.

“It is quite disturbing that the state of the governor’s health has become a topic of state curiosity and concern. This situation continues to undermine the ability of the state government to fulfil its obligations and commitments, including those requiring the government to provide economic pathways to millions of people facing absolute poverty and uncertainty in the Sunshine State due to the reckless and insensitive removal of subsidies by the APC-led Federal Government.

“Ondo SDP calls on Arakunrin to respect the good people of Ondo State, who have voted for him twice, by presenting his medical records to the general public. We strongly believe that the good people of Ondo State have the right to know about the medical conditions of Arakunrin Akeredolu.”