INEC has announced that the primaries for all political parties in Ondo State must be conducted between the 6th and 27th April 2024. That is effectively the commencement of a new political journey for some in Ondo State. Unfortunately, many of us have come to trivialize this journey because when we consider the length and breadth of Nigeria at Federal and State levels, we discover that several individuals have safely driven 4-year and 8-year journeys as Governors, so we have come to take it for granted. But pause for a moment and ponder on the Ondo State experience and permit me to take you back as far back as 1979 during the second republic. I give you time to reflect, but I we shall return to answer this puzzle later in our discussion.

How many of us can actually conceptualise a 4-year voyage on a ship from any given point A of departure to a point B being the final destination, even though there may be many stopovers during the journey. The answer is probably not many of us are seamen or navy personnel, so let me take try a more practical mode of conveyance like the aeroplane. How many can realistically expect to be in the air on a journey for 4 years, not very many once again. So let me make myself clearer; as long as you continue to listen to me, you are all going on a trip in a car for the next 4 years. Please fasten your seat belts as the road may get rather bumpy and we might be travelling at unpredictably high speeds, regardless the authorised speed limits.

Let us also agree and be clear about the kind of vehicle that we are going to use for the trip without referring this matter to the National Assembly, lest we become bogged down in debates about whether foreign or domestic produce; necessity for bullet-proof; SUV fit for the status and terrain of the entourage; etc. Basically, any 4-door salon durable for 4-years will suffice for the purpose of this simple illustration. The following essential features are of particular interest and should be well noted:

There will be a controlling Driver (in person of the Governor) who will be expected to be at the steering wheel throughout the course of the journey. A clearly defined process, stated by the rulebook, will lead to his selection prior to his appointment as the designated driver and he will swear an oath at the commencement of the journey that he will uphold and abide by all rules and regulations expected of him.

The Driver must have an Assistant Driver (Deputy Governor), chosen by him before his selection process and appointment is completed and they will remain an inseparable ticket throughout the journey. In other words, if the Driver is qualified from driving it will automatically affect his assistant and vice-versa. The customary role of the assistant is to take over from the Driver in the event that the Driver, for any reason, becomes incapacitated or temporarily unable to continue to drive. Ordinarily, you would have expected the assistant to be close by his side, but the conventional practice has been to make the Deputy a spare tyre and keep it either in a concealed compartment under the chasis of the vehicle or deep inside the boot of the vehicle, to be brought out and used on the very rare occasion.

The car must have a robust engine, that will power its movement and this is represented by the Civil Service, which is ever present and usually unseen and unheard. The engine remains a permanent feature of the car and doesn’t usually change even when the Driver or passengers are shuffled or replaced. In order to function very well, the engine should be periodically checked, well-maintained and regularly serviced to offer a high level of performance.

Whilst the engine is a critical part of the automobile, it is not the instrument that makes the vehicle move. The car must have at least 4 wheels carefully fitted, each with correct size of rim and tyres appropriately specified for the car and must be pumped and gauged to the correct tyre pressure to avoid puncture or bursting on the road. All the tyres must rotate in the same direction to create smooth motion. The 4 wheels of the car in this illustration are represented by each of the functional arms of the state government being the, Executive, Legislature, Judiciary and the Workforce. They are symbolised in this illustration by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG); the Speaker of the State House of Assembly; the Chief Judge of the State and the Head of the State Civil Service. Once those wheels are securely mounted we are practically good to go.

As the Driver takes his seat, he will invite 3 or 4 passengers to join him, one in the front seat and either two or three occupying the rear seats. The number will depend on his preference for comfort that he wants each of them to feel and the level of confidence he has in their pedigree, competence, expertise and quality of contributions that he believes they can offer during the trip. These passengers will usually include Commissioners here mentioned in a deliberate order of ranking – the Attorney-General & Commissioner of Justice; Commissioner of Finance; Commissioner of Works and perhaps then perhaps another Commissioner or a Special Adviser, often determined by the Governor’s passionate area of interest. Whilst these passengers are comfortably seated inside the car, do not forget that the spare tyre is still lodged in the boot of the car in the event of emergency.

We are now set to start the journey. All that remains is for the Driver to check that his passengers are wearing their seat belts; set all his mirrors; start the engine; test the windscreen wipers and the horn are in perfect working condition and then proceed to the Petrol Station to fill his fuel tank.

I promised I would revisit the question later about how many Drivers in Ondo State, within the context of our forgone discussion, have started and finished their 4-year drive. Now let us take a closer look since the formation of Ondo State on the 3rd February 1976. We are interested in the civilian governors who were elected by the good people of the state, starting from the Second Republic in 1979, with late Chief Michael Adekunle Ajasin who governed from 1979 to 1983. He tried to secure a second 4-year tenure, it was truncated after 91 days by the inter-play of controversial elections involving his former deputy Akin Omoboriowo, outbreak of civil disturbances across the state and the eventual military coup in December 1983.

During the Third Republic, late Bamidele Olumilua was elected governor in1991 and held office for 1 year and 318 days, from 3rd January 1992 to 17th November 1993 when a military palace coup d’état overthrew the third republic and the civilians were sent packing.

Since the Fourth Republic started in May 1999, Ondo State has been governed by 5 different men who have been in the driving seat for different number of years and days, thereby demonstrating that the constitutionally designated tenure does not always have practical application for several reasons and circumstances. The late Chief Adebayo Adefarati spent exactly 4 years from 29th May 1999 and was succeeded on 29th May 2003 by late Dr Olusegun Agagu who spent a total of 5 years and 270 days until his removal by the Court of Appeal sitting in Benin, on 23rd February 2009. Dr Olusegun Mimiko was immediately sworn-in on 24th February 2009 and governed for two complete terms of four years each, thereby completing his turn as Driver in February 2017. Following his being elected in 2016 the late Rotimi Akeredolu SAN took over as Driver and governed for a total of 6 years and 306 days, until his recent untimely death (due to illness whilst in office) on 27th December 2023.

During Governor Akeredolu’s time at the helm of affairs, on or about the 25th September 2023, the State Assembly confirmed that they had served an impeachment notice on the then Deputy Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa and at the time, it seemed as if only divine intervention could have saved the spare tyre from being dumped completely. However, for the first time in the history of Ondo State, just 93 days later, the uncompleted term of a Driver is now being occupied by his deputy, as Hon. Lucky Orimisan Aiyedatiwa was sworn-in as Governor on 27th December 2023.

The murky waters of Ondo State politics saw various actors playing out real-life scripts as on-lookers watched somersaults resulting from roller-coaster rides, by during the last 6 months. Whoever was writing or editing the script for this epic political drama could not have dreamt of so many twists and turns that eventually played out. The alleged government contraption of “Father, Mother and Child” (symbolised by Labour Party icon) even though former Governor Akeredolu was elected on the platform of the APC was terminated by a saddest turn of events, the Governor’s demise in a German hospital. Those prolonged rumours pervading the corridors of Government House of an overbearing control over the reins of government, in the hands of a highly influential Cabal burst immediately within hours. Not forgetting of course, the different scenes that made up the styled “Aketi-gate” drama.

Indeed, on reflection, previous occasions between October 1979 and December 2023 which we explored earlier, we saw many instances that led to change of the controlling Driver. But this is the first time that the spare tyre has been removed from its concealed compartment in the boot and fully assumed the real purpose for which it was originally designed. All things being equal, Governor Aiyedatiwa will continue to drive the vehicle of government in Ondo State until the constitutional date of expiration on 23rd February 2025. It is also anticipated that as a result of the sudden unexpected turn of events in December 2023, wherein there was a dramatic change of Driver, it has consequently triggered a change of the spare tyre; the wheels and the passengers; all of these powerfully orchestrated by the new Driver of the vehicle.

In just over one month in office, the new Driver has left his mark on the vehicle, passengers and driving conditions which are randomly summarised as follows, the Top Ten note-worthy changes, in no particular pecking order:

  1. Governor Aiyedatiwa has nominated a new Deputy Governor as his assistant in the person of Dr Olayide Adelami whose nomination was last week approved by the Ondo State House of Assembly following successful screening.
  2. Although the engine of the car (represented by the state Civil Service) has not been replaced, the new Driver has summoned and held a meeting with all the Accounting Officers and top echelon of the various government departments assuring them of improved welfare and working conditions, in expectation of their continued commitment and dedication to duty.
  3. As for the four main wheels of the car which will propel the vehicle along, the Driver has appointed Hon. Tayo Oluwatuyi (a.k.a Tukana) as the new Secretary to the State Government (SSG); whilst the Chief Judge and Head of Service, Pastor Kayode Ogundele remain unchanged. It is however very interesting to note that the Speaker of the State Assembly, Right Hon. Mr Olamide Oladiji who supervised the Assembly. which attempted Impeachment Proceedings last September against the then Deputy Governor, is the same gentleman who received and confirmed the Nominee Designate of the Deputy Governor replacement as submitted by Governor Aiyedatiwa. When man proposes and God disposes, to whom will you take your petition? How comfortable is his sitting position right now inside the vehicle under the stewardship of the new Driver?
  4. Shortly after assuming office on 29th December 2023, Governor Aiyedatiwa signed into law the Appropriation Bill, which authorises the budget for this year that has been called the “Budget of Economic Resilience”, in the value of N395.257 billion. This budget portends a financial platform to weather us through the storms of 2024. The 2024 Appropriation Bill marked an increase of nearly N120 billion on the amount earmarked for 2023, which stood at N275.979 billion.
  5. On the 10th January 2024, Governor Aiyedatiwa took an immediate review of the waste management policies and operations in the state. Truth be told, Ondo State particularly the capital city Akure, had become very dirty and unhealthy in recent times and needs remedial attention. The immediate past LGA Chairmen have a significant role to play in this regard, who met with the Governor on 18th January 2024 for a condolence and congratulatory visit.
  6. In an interactive session on 22nd January 2024 with APC stakeholders and party faithful from each of the 18 LGA’s, the new Driver assured all leadership levels of the party – ward, local government and state – that they have a key role to play in the running of his administration. In attendance were two former Deputy Governors of Ondo State, Alhaji Ali Olanusi and Alhaji Lasisi Oluboyo; a former party Chairman Ambassador Sola Iji; and a former SSG Hon. Sunday Abegunde. But that meeting was swiftly followed by an unexpected masterstroke from the Governor with the announcement of dissolution of the State Executive Council. By that dissolution, the Governor has completely altered the dynamics and formation of passengers who will henceforth accompany the Driver on his trips. It is anticipated that the Governor will forward a fresh list of Commissioner Nominees to the State House of Assembly for screening and subsequent approval. It is left to be seen how many of the previous team of passengers are considered credible enough, by the new Driver, to enjoy an extended period of service as Commissioners, Special Advisers, SSA’s, SA’s and other political appointees of the Governor.
  7. There are smiles on the faces of the people on the streets rejoicing in many quarters from the vendors, traders and market women who witnessed the partial breaking down of the proverbial Walls of Jericho at Oba Adesida Road in the heart of the city of Akure; and the residents who witnessed the return of building contractors and construction workers to site for various road completions. During the recent inspection of Oda Road dualisation project and the flyover at Onyearubule-Irese Road axis, the Governor was quick to point out that these are projects initiated by his former boss Rotimi Akeredolu, which were very dear to him and must be completed before the rainy season comes.
  8. To the pensioners who received their November and December 2023 palliatives ordered by the Governor; the pilot project for solar-powered streetlights to illuminate Akure and other major cities; and finding a lasting solution to the incessant ocean surge in the Aiyetoro community of Ilaje LGA it was a pot-pouri of dividends for the masses of Ondo State.
  9. Perhaps most laudable and celebrated was the mood of Ondo State workers who received with elation the announcement of Governor Aiyedatiwa’s approval that their January 2017 arrears should be paid immediately and he ordered that the free shuttle buses should continue to be available for workers. That which some could not do in almost seven years, in spite of their self-acclaimed financial prowess and wealth of experience in public finance, was implemented by the new Driver in less than one month in office, demonstrating sterling leadership that responds to the need of the masses. I submit that this action will most certainly count to his credit in due consideration of who might clinch the APC governorship nomination.
  10. Governor Aiyedatiwa is on record as saying that, “it is important for me to tell you that as leaders of our party, we must put behind us the events of the last few months and come together as one big family for the progress of the APC and the development of our dear state. To me, what happened in the past was just politics. It was not a fight, it was not a battle, it was mere politics and I can say that I did not take any offence from that. The most important thing for us is to remain as one big family. There should be no division in our party.”

These are very strong accommodating words from the Governor and Leader of APC in Ondo State calling for party unity unconditionally. He uses his immediate past personal experience as a graphic reference point, but I still have my own reservations and humbly submit that the politics he refers to is actually yet to commence and those competitors from internal quarters, who used to have the run of the manor and showed their hands before, will certainly re-group and return showing increased zeal and venom in their next onslaught. It is easy to predict, particularly as such traits, trials expeditions and voyages are characteristic in politics.

I conclude by reminding us that the holy scriptures of the orthodox religions are instructive about lessons on HUMILITY and if only man would listen and learn, we will continue to make fewer mistakes in life. Humility in the Bible is presented as the practice of meekness, obedience to God, respect of self and others, submissiveness and modesty (see Colossians 3:12-13). People with humility put others’ needs before their own, sacrificing for the love of others. In each of the political parties various aspirants will signify interest in their party primaries which are scheduled to hold in April 2024. Unfortunately, the voting public will not have the opportunity of seeing all of the aspirants, because they will only be presented with those aspirants who eventually emerge as party candidates for the November 2024 elections. Therefore, we sincerely hope and pray earnestly that all the political parties produce candidates who demonstrate humility, so that we have a reasonably good shortlist to choose from.

This article was written by Gbenga Akinmoyo (Hon GaRo), who is a legal practitioner, political & public affairs analyst, Executive Director of Rebuild Nigeria 360°(Ondo 2024) and Co-Founder/CEO of LeadIFollow Limited (+234 803 660 9090).

31st January 2024

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