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Opinion: The Ondo governorship election By Bolanle Bolawole

 Chief Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN.

Chief Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN.

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The Ondo state governorship election has come and gone but the reverberations will continue for some time to come. This is as should be expected. The winner, Rotimi Akeredolu aka Aketi of the All Progressives Congress, APC, is jubilant, and rightly so, but must quickly settle down to work, for the task ahead of him is arduous. The first thing he must do is set up his transition committee, which will work with the outgoing PDP (?) Gov. Olusegun Mimiko. Aketi’s task in this regard has been made easier with the decision of Mimiko, who has already conceded defeat and congratulated the winner, to make the transition smooth and seamless. Owo, where Aketi hails from, is rejoicing and I am from Owo. So I rejoice with my people! Winning the governorship was a project that the Owo people at home and “abroad” took with passion. Those who had money contributed money; those who had ideas contributed ideas; those who had energy and time made their own contributions. For once, Owo came together as one; overcoming the barricades of old that had kept them in antagonistic and mutually exclusive camps that straddled all spheres of life. As undergraduates at the then University of Ife, my childhood friend, Bimbo, and I discovered to our chagrin that we could not be allowed to have relationship with Ola and Ade, two daughters of the late Olowo of Owo, Oba Olateru Olagbegi, because parents on both sides of the divide, like darkness and light, belonged to two viciously opposed groups. Our parents called the girls “Omo olote” meaning “children of traitors/treacherous enemies”; which was also the name the girls’ parents called Bimbo and I. We held out for a while but eventually had to succumb. The four-some were told it was life or death. I have also recalled in previous articles here as well as in my “TREASURES” column in the New Telegraph newspaper every Wednesday, my eye-witness accounts of the “Operation Wetie” of 1964/65 in the “Wild, Wild West” as it pertained to the looting and burning of the properties/killings of political enemies at Owo. If Owo has now overcome all of that with this election, it is a welcome development. Owo has, indeed, gained far more than the governorship. Important as the governorship is, it pales in significance when compared to what peace and unity of action can bring to Owo. These are very important building blocks of development that eluded Owo for decades. It is the single most important reason why a town that was a leader in the entire Western Region during the First Republic got reduced to a shadow of its former self. I congratulate all those who worked assiduously to make this rapprochement happen; to Akin Aruwajoye, the Ogbeni-Oja of Owo, and his group in Lagos (to which I related in my own little way), I say big congratulations. To all other groups and individuals in Owo and beyond who had differences but buried them in the interest of Owo, you are very much appreciated. Kindly let those differences remain buried forever! To those who did not join the train of Owo unity, let them join now and let no one shut the door in their face.
I do not know Aketi; I have never met or spoken with him. The occasion that I should have spoken with him last month, when I visited Owo for a burial, I was told I missed his call. My classmate at Owo High School, Ibikunle Falana, was passionate that I meet Aketi and made all the contacts. One of those who helped me find my feet as a toddler-journalist at the now defunct Ibadan-based Sketch newspapers, Phil Aragbada, also is a passionate Aketi man. Four years ago and this time out, he never hid his support for Aketi. They are solid friends, he told me, and was bent on contributing “something” to the Aketi campaign. When he turned in his write-up, I helped him get it published. I promise Aketi something: I will hold his feet to the fire! That is how I will help him succeed as governor. That may sound queer but it is the best and most enduring help Aketi needs from anyone who wishes him well. I pray he survives the suits that may be brought against him at the tribunal. We should not ask the aggrieved not to ventilate their grievances. Going to court in this wise is not an act of enmity but has been deliberately designed to make our renascent democracy grow and flourish. Nobody, therefore, should discourage that. It is noteworthy that the election was devoid of violence. That had been a big worry to everyone. We must congratulate everyone who made this possible. Ondo can be volatile politically; I shudder to imagine that we could have relapsed into the orgy of violence of 1964/65 and 1983. We thank God for His mercies. Like I said before the election; it was, ab initio, a win-win situation for Owo. Aketi’s father is from Owo while the mother of Eyitayo Jegede (PDP) is from Ipele and the mother of Olusola Oke (AD) is from Imoru. Both Ipele and Imoru are part of the larger Owo kingdom. My own mother is from Ipele. So whoever of the three that might have won, Owo has a leg in the trousers but it is understandable that Owo preferred to have a larger share of the pie by voting Aketi. I have no problem understanding that. And whoever is aggrieved and wants to recourse to court should understand that they are half-Owo and should, therefore, not be seen to unnecessarily antagonise Owo. Better days, I assure them, are ahead. After all, Aketi lost four years ago but today, he is a winner. It will be somebody else’s turn tomorrow and Owo will be on hand to reciprocate every good gesture that is done to it today.
Owo needs development. Owo wants to regain its lost glory. This is the reason why the town rallied round Aketi and stood solidly with him like one man. I will, however, warn Aketi NEVER to behave like the outgoing governor who concentrated development in his Ondo town to the neglect and chagrin of other parts of the state. Apart from his recklessness in not being able to pay salaries as at when due, despite that as an oil-producing state Ondo earns 13% derivation, the crass favouritism of Ondo town by Mimiko was his greatest undoing. Aketi must be fair to all the nooks and crannies of Ondo state. Everyone must get its fair share – those who voted for him and those who did not. There MUST not be anything like “95%” and “5%” Muhammadu Buhari formula. Take a look at the voting pattern and you will see that if you put the votes of Jegede and Oke together, they surpass those of Aketi. This is not to talk of the votes garnered by Olu Agunloye (SDP) and the other candidates. This was exactly how it played out four years ago when the votes of the two runners-up (Aketi and Oke) put together surpassed those of the then winner, Segun Mimiko. Had Mimiko learned useful lessons from that, his present fate might not have befallen him. Aketi must not fall into a similar error. Like Mimiko four years ago, he is a “minority” governor, so to say. He needs to draw Jegede, Oke, and Agunloye to himself. Thank God, all these political leaders are friends/associates and have more than one meeting point; notwithstanding that they pretend to their supporters as if they are sworn enemies. Aketi, be fair to all in appointments. Be equitable in the way you share development projects. You can and should give Owo a little bit more (laughter!) but not to the total or near-total exclusion of other towns and villages.
Then, please do something about Tokunbo Ajasin’s NDDC Board appointment, which some community are standing up against. That stand is not fair for many reasons. One: When the whole of the Western Region (free education, etc) was being financed with cocoa money, the riverine areas were not excluded. Their children enjoyed and their leaders got top appointments. Two: The memory of the late Gov. Adekunle Ajasin is offended by what they are doing to his son. Ajasin as governor of Ondo state was fair to the riverine area. In fact, those knowledgeable in such matters said it was the senior Ajasin who used his adroit political skills and personal relationship with the then President Shehu Shagari to keep that part of the country in Ondo state and lay the foundations that got them the status they enjoy today. Ajasin Snr. served Ondo state meritoriously; this is certainly not how to reward him. Three: The law they are reading upside down does not say only the riverine area of an oil-producing state can produced the NDDC appointees. There are precedents to point at. All communities in Ondo state are qualified. While I am not opposed to the riverine areas having more consideration, I am totally opposed to their laying exclusive rights to it. I even understand that only a section of the riverine area wants to enjoy this largesse while they frighten away other riverine areas. This is not fair. Four: If push becomes shoving and the other people of Ondo state square up on this issue; if we are forced to bring back the contentious issue of offshore/onshore dichotomy and the provisions of the Law of the Sea, Ondo state as a whole may be the loser. Call the agitators; talk with them; let them reconsider their stance and stand in the interest of Ondo state’s unity and oneness; withdraw their opposition to Tokunbo Ajasin; and support his appointment. Next, use Ondo’s much-advertised new “mainstream” status to get President Buhari to re-present Ajasin’s name to the Senate and for the Senate to overrule their earlier rejection of the appointment. As the newest and latest governor in town, I believe everyone will warm up to you and will not deny you. I wish you and Ondo state well!

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