The political scene in Ondo State has been tumultuous in recent weeks as a result of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu’s extended sickness, which has compelled him to seek treatment overseas. The situation was aggravated further when the governor prolonged his medical vacation beyond the first 21-day break approved by the state House of Assembly.
The letter of extension, issued to House Speaker Olamide Oladiji, did not indicate the length of the governor’s extended medical leave. With the extension, his deputy, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, will continue to lead the state’s activities in an acting capacity until the governor returns from medical leave.
Following the development, the scenario has given rise to a number of undercurrents that, at times, continue to shape the state’s political setting and governance.
The concern surrounding Akeredolu’s health status was heightened a few days ago when the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Abdullahi Adamu, allegedly stated that the governor was in a position of “extreme incapacity.”
However, Adamu, through the party’s National Secretary, Iyiola Omisore, refuted the alleged statement, emphasizing that he was quoted out of context and that the National Chairman was “excited at the reports on the rate of recovery of the Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu.”
Political watchers and analysts both inside and outside the state have expressed worry that the scenario could have a negative impact on state governance as the acting governor tries to shoulder full responsibility amid political maneuverings and power conflicts. With the acting governor eager to succeed his boss in 2024, as well as other power blocs inside the administration, their ambitions have prompted hidden power conflicts, diverting focus away from governance.
Following his involvement in the governorship contest, Aiyedatiwa has no doubt treaded carefully to avoid alienating any individuals or caucuses, so hampering his capacity to completely take leadership of the state. With the ill governor’s charismatic presence clearly lacking since his absence from the state, Aiyedatiwa has been encouraged to embrace the position of a proper acting governor and navigate the state.
According to a high government source who requested anonymity, the acting governor has been urged to fire a commissioner who is also running for Akeredolu’s replacement in 2024. The ruse, apparently suggested to Aiyedatiwa by a member of the National Assembly, was intended to serve as a warning shot to those in the government who did not agree with him.
It was gathered, however, that after careful consideration, the idea was rejected because it would not only aggravate the state’s already tense political situation, but would also lend credence to earlier allegations that the acting governor was attempting to ease out those who might pose a threat to his ambition.
“All I can tell you is that the idea given to Aiyedatiwa to sack Akinterinwa (the Commissioner for Finance) has been dropped after analyzing how the situation will pan out,” the source, an APC chieftain from the state’s northern senatorial region, continued.
“Those who gave him that idea are the state’s true enemies.” I don’t believe Aiyedatiwa should be afraid of anyone in the administration. If he wants to assert his authority, all he has to do is issue commands and keep a close eye on who disregards them.”
In an interview with The Guardian, Kayode Ajulo, a constitutional lawyer and rights campaigner, voiced alarm about the level of intrigue within the power blocs, claiming that they were exploiting Akeredolu’s weak health to ruin the name of the government and state indigenes.
According to him, their power struggle had become a national embarrassment. He blamed their plotting on an unhealthy desire for power, which hampered efficient collaboration in the governor’s absence.
Ajulo further emphasized Adamu’s statement and Omisore’s following reaction, emphasizing that such an occurrence would not have occurred if the government’s internal affairs were effectively managed and organized.
“In the event of the governor’s death, impeachment, absence, or illness, the 1999 Constitution, as amended, empowers the deputy governor to assist the governor in carrying out primary duties and allows for their replacement.” As a result, anyone who prevents the Acting Governor from carrying out his constitutional obligations is breaking the law.
“Governor Akeredolu is known for his dedication to scholarship, activism, and transparency, and it would disappoint him to see how some of his appointees have prioritized personal gain over state welfare.”
“It is appalling to see how they scramble over themselves, claiming to be showing loyalty to the governor, when what is most important is their allegiance to the dictates of the constitution and the people.” “In turn, the governor prioritizes his loyalty to the constitution and the people above all else,” Ajulo said.
Similarly, the state’s opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) feels that the governor’s absence has slowed government, validating that the 2024 governorship contest has overtaken Akeredolu’s cabinet.
According to the party’s state Publicity Secretary, Kennedy Peretei, the people of Ondo State were closely monitoring the situation and will respond appropriately at the polls next year.
“It is a known fact that a governorship election will be held in Ondo State around October 2024,” he stated. While the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has yet to formally release an election schedule, political parties and gladiators with their sights set on Alagbaka Government House on February 24, 2025, are not taking any chances.
“The health of Governor Akeredolu, shrouded in secrecy, appears to be the starting point for this epic battle.” The people of Ondo State have no idea what Mr. Governor’s health problem is or when he will be able to resume his official duties.
“Perhaps all of this would have been normal if the Governor’s absence had not slowed government business in the state.” The Tower of Babel has literally descended on the APC family and the government, as people and groups perch precariously on a balance of probability driven by the fiction of uncertainty in what Mrs. Betty Akeredolu aptly called 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 outmanoeuvre themselves in the power play ahead of 2024, because a lot of it is already known by keen watchers of Ondo State politics.”
Peretei stated that a number of aspirants have expressed their willingness to run for governor on the APC platform in 2024, 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.”
“However, picking up the pieces after these hostilities caused by Akeredolu’s absence will be a difficult task.” The people who were abandoned throughout the supremacy war will have the final word. And this period, squandered on unnecessary displays of force and incompetence, will be used against the APC government.
“What will matter in 2024 is the APC score card.” There is a limit to how far individuals can be manipulated. In the words of famed Jamaican musician Bob Marley, “you can fool some people some of the time, but you can’t fool everyone all of the time.” It will not be business as usual in 2024. It is a war to free the people from their illusions in prosperity.”
Meanwhile, a group of state public workers has disputed charges that a cabal within the cabinet was conspiring to deprive the Acting Governor of finances to operate the state.
The group, known as recognized Concerned Stakeholders in the Public Service, stated its unflinching support for the Special Adviser to the Governor on Union Matters and Special Duties, Dare Aragbaiye, who had been listed as part of the ‘cabal’.
Emmanuel Akinyemi, the group’s leader, emphasized in a recent statement that Aragbaiye had constantly displayed a commitment to his official responsibilities throughout his career. Akinyemi further emphasized Aragbaiye’s impressive record of service under the state’s numerous military and civilian administrations.
Given his considerable expertise and reputation as a diligent professional, the concerned parties stated that Aragbaiye would not depart from his authorized tasks. They contended that the charges of a cabal affecting state administrative decision-making were false and lacking solid evidence.
“At the heart of this controversy are the deputy governor, who is now acting Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa; the Commissioner for Finance, Wale Akinterinwa; and the Special Adviser to the Governor on Union Matters and Special Duties, Dare Aragbaiye,” Akinyemi continued.
“Various sources have provided lengthy narratives regarding what happened within the Alagbaka Governor’s office. The accusation made by the Acting Governor’s opportunists and supporters that Aragbaiye and a few others have formed cabals in the government is not supported by facts. Those who are familiar with the case of government cabals will recognize that there are no cabals in the Ondo State administration.
“We should ask ourselves what influenced the recent hostility in the government.” Governor Akeredolu has been taking annual holidays since 2021. Each time, he would delegate authority to Aiyedatiwa in an acting capacity.
“We never heard about these government cabals all these years.” What has changed now? Why the sudden emergence of government cabals? What exactly are these folks doing to become cabals? Is this Aiyedatiwa’s first stint as acting governor?
“The narrative that Aragbaiye is preventing Aiyedatiwa from performing effectively as Acting Governor is ridiculous and laughable.” How can a Special Adviser stop a deputy governor from acting as governor? Is Aragbaiye putting the deputy governor’s post on hold? Is there any cabinet member who has disobeyed a directive made by the deputy governor?
“We have seen the acting governor attend events and perform governor functions, such as receiving important state guests on courtesy visits.” One can question how Aragbaiye is stopping the acting governor from carrying out his duties efficiently. It should be emphasized that Aiyedatiwa and his cohorts have not provided any further details on this assertion.”
“The claim that Aragbaiye and the Commissioner for Finance refused to release funds for the deputy governor to perform his duties is ridiculous,” he continued. The ridiculousness of this claim lends a sinister twist to the situation at hand. We know that the deputy governor’s office is set up to function efficiently in the absence of the governor.
“The deputy governor’s office is budgeted for travel allowances, gifts, meals, and other expenses.” Is the deputy governor’s office underfunded? Is Aragbaiye in charge of distributing funds to the deputy governor’s office? We should ask Aiyedatiwa if he has requested monies from Finance in accordance with the proper procedures and has been denied. He should be able to provide proof of such a request letter.”
Meanwhile, in an effort to defuse rising tensions in the state, Aiyedatiwa has denied reports of a cabinet crisis.
In a recent statement, the acting governor blamed the situation on desperate political gladiators, which he described as agent provocateurs aiming to sow strife and chaos.
Aiyedatiwa, who denied accusations of internal cabinet struggle, told the public that the rumours were untrue and without substance, emphasizing that the issue had been deliberately fanned by persons with ulterior interests, attempting to undermine the government’s stability.
He has been in frequent communication with his supervisor, according to Aiyedatiwa. He also indicated that Akeredolu would return to office and resume his formal duties shortly.
“I have spoken with him several times, the most recent being on Sunday, July 9, 2023, when he expressed gratitude to me and other State Executive Council members for holding down 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 said.