Dear Governor Rotimi Akeredolu,

It is highly disturbing that the needless political restless and recklessness in our beloved State has been heightened following the move of the Ondo House of Assembly (ODHA) to petition your Deputy, Honourable Lucky Aiyedatiwa over alleged gross misconduct.

I live in diaspora at the moment, nevertheless, I follow events in Ondo State with keen interest and the recent development is indeed a source of concern for me and other citizens of our dear state who mean well for you and wants nothing, but peace, stability and progressive governance from your government at this crucial time.

As the 2024 Gubernatorial Election in Ondo State draws nearer the cloud gathering around Aiyedatiwa, a man once thought to be favoured by you his principal, for his loyalty becomes heavier and now the wolfs are ready to gather. It is however good to know you are keeping your cards close to your chest and not giving anything away on who get your blessing to be the flag bearer of the ruling part, APC in next year’s gubernatorial election.

In respective of any individual or group’s political permutations on who succeeds you in Alagbaka, it’s no brainer that what the state needs at this time is effective governance, all rounder stability and good leadership from you. These has really been lacking since you took ill, and made worst by political backbiting that hamstrung the Deputy Governor from carrying out his constitutional duties even after you vested power on him to do so in your absence.

The latest sinister move which has culminated in the ODHA’s resolve to petition Aiyedatiwa over alleged gross misconduct is just one of many plots against the Deputy Governor in few months. Similar attempts by the cabals and their collaborators to desperately throw him under the bus with frivolous claims hinged on domestic abuse and lack of loyalty were futile in the past months.

The latest allegation against Aiyedatiwa on gross misconduct bordering on abuse of office with unsubstantiated claim of approving the sum of N300,000,000 (three hundred million naira) to be sourced from state palliative fund to purchase a bulletproof SUV for his personal use while you were away on medical leave in Germany.

While it is difficult to fully vouch for any human due to our imperfections, my experience with the Deputy Governor and his antecedents showed these allegations could yet be another attempt to call a dog a bad name just to hang it.

I was privileged to work with the Deputy Governor between April 2021 and July 2022 when he was the Chairman of the Ondo State Football Agency (ODSFA), Interim Management Committee you constituted to rescue the state owned team, Sunshine Stars FC from relegation in the Nigeria apex league, with Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of the State, Charles Titiloye Esq and Commissioner for Finance, Wale Akinterinwa serving members.

Your decision to saddle Aiyedatiwa with the responsibility of leading a management team to revive the fortune of Sunshine Stars FC proved to be a leadership master stroke at a time there was no seed of perceived discord between you and him.

Under the stewardship and close supervision of Aiyedatiwa, ODSFA and the state owned teams running under the Agency: Sunshine Stars and Sunshine Queens FC recorded remarkable results on and off-the field with unprecedented level of financial accountability and stability.

Before the Aiyedatiwa-led committee took the reign at ODSFA Sunshine Stars were down at the rock bottom of the Nigeria’s top tier league with players and staff owed backlog of salaries, bonuses and allowances. Long story short; Sunshine Stars did not only unbelievably beat the drop against all odds, the Ondo State darling team reached the semifinals of the oldest football competition in Nigeria, the AITEO Federation Cup.

Off-the field, salaries, bonuses and allowances of players and staff were paid as at and when due despite the reduced grant allocation to ODSFA due to paucity of fund. A settlement plan was also drawn and implemented to settle the outstanding wages owed all current and former personnel under the book of the Agency stretching back to the time of previous administration in the state.

ODSFA and its teams never had it so good for years until Aiyedatiwa and its committee stepped in on a successful rescue mission. Good thing is the Agency is doing well to sustain the good legacy under the supervision of the Sports Ministry, superintendent over by Honourable Dele Ologunloluwa, the Commissioner for Youth and Sports in the State.

The Deputy Governor was so frugal and prudent with funds to the surprise of many players and staff of ODSFA during his stewardship, which makes the allegation of financial recklessness at the Exco levelled against him so surprising and hard to believe, and I am very sure anyone that worked under his watch at the Agency will share this sentiments.

Also the allegation of disloyalty brought up against him is really laughable and petty to me at best, given the fact that he is well-known to be respective, fully submissive and careful not to operate without your approval. He is never seen trying to outshine you, his boss.

I was the Media Head of ODSFA before, during and even after the tenure of the Aiyedatiwa-led committee at the Agency, a position I held until I left Nigeria in January 2023 for further study abroad. I wrote quite a lot of reports; statements and press releases attributing certain things and positions to the Deputy Governor as the interim boss of the establishment. I remember he was so mindful of me addressing him as the President of Sunshine Stars FC in my write ups.

Before his time, chairmen of ODSFA from Chief Segun Adagunodo ‘Santana’, Otunba Akin Akinbobola, Prince John Ola Mafo, Prince Dapo Ajibade, Otunba Gbenga Elegbeleye, a former DG of the National Sports Commission now operating as the NPFL boss and second Vice President of the NFF who also did a yeoman’s job as a chairman of the Agency’s Interim Management Committee in 2017, to Otunba Tajudeen Akinyemi ‘Norway’ were all addressed as the president of the teams under the Agency including the now disbanded Rising Stars FC.

There was a time the Deputy Governor was forced to call me around midnight after addressing him as the president of Sunshine Stars FC in my report following a meeting on Sunshine Stars at his office. I can still recall vividly how he spoke and pleaded with me in Ilaje dialect not to address him as the supremo of the Club as he was being mindful of anything that could appeared to be elevating him in anyway, beyond what you sanctioned.

The English translation of what he said during the call: “are you sure that former ODSFA chairmen were addressed as president of Sunshine Stars? Even if it so, me I don’t want to be addressed as such in my time, please I beg you.. I have a boss in government, don’t implicate me.”

Till his committee time was brought to a sudden end at ODSFA I stopped referring to him as the president of Sunshine Stars due to his instruction and plea against it. And many will attest to the fact he is always careful not to be seen trying to outshine his master with his countenance at all fora.

Now, I do not know if you and your family have genuine reason(s) to feel aggrieved by the actions or inaction of the DGov while you were said to be critically ill, after all, if members of your household wield so much influence in the state affairs as widely claimed, then it won’t be out of place to posit that Aiyedatiwa’s emergence as deputy governor in the first place was not without their blessing. So, if he is not enjoying a good relationship with your family at the moment it could mean there are truly issues that need to be resolved or clarified between the two families or offices. We all understand there is no smoke without fire, but likely this has little or nothing to do with gross misconduct or abuse of office.

Hence, the state legislative arm of government under the leadership of Rt. Hon Olamide Oladiji, need tread with caution so as not to be used as pawn in any game to settle political score or personal vendetta. Instead the ODHA should try everything possible to uphold the tenets of democracy and not to amplify any mistake the key players of the Exco are making at this time which could lead to turmoil and instability in the state. After all the different arms of governments are to provide check and balance for one another.

In conclusion, most of us prayed for your full recovery and as such, I want you to know that one of the reasons God granted you healing is to shame and humble some people who thought it was over for you. It will really be wise for you to leave anyone that wrote you off in your darkest hour in the hands of the same God that we all seek mercy and forgiveness from. If truly you feel let down by anyone close you, including Aiyedatiwa kindly forgive and let go, drawing inspiration from Alexander Pope’s famous quote: to err is human, but to forgive is divine which I strongly believe is highly rewarding before God.

Our amiable Governor you are known to be straightforward, largely fair and not vindictive in nature. You will do well to preserve these values of yours and channel your energy, inner peace towards providing good leadership and not allowing political scavengers to pounce on the perceived cold war between you and the Deputy Governor to wreak havoc. History will only be kind to you this way.

Fallout with two different deputies in separate tenures, political abracadabra for petty reasons and the public outcry that has greeted the perceived political persecution of Aiyedatiwa will not be a worthy legacy to be remembered for, but finishing strong in peace, with good act of governance that would supplement your signature initiatives on state/regional security, boldness to stand for what you believe in at the national level, relative regular payment of salaries and some infrastructural gains is what you should be remembered for after your days in office, my dear Governor.

Best rest assured of my best wishes always, sir!

Chris Okunnuwa

22 September 2023
Manchester, UK

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