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The billion dollar question on the lips of many as the Ondo governorship election draws nearer is whether or not the incumbent, Gov. or Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu aka Aketi, should be returned as governor. Akeredolu has declared his interest in second term. Political office is one examination every student seeks to repeat; even ex-Lagos Gov. Babatunde Raji Fashola, who had derided the do-or-die politics of second term, himself later fought tooth-and-nail to repeat the class! Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo reportedly cursed those who asked him to imitate Nelson Mandela and do only one term!
Akeredolu’s fight for second term – which the rules allow him – has raised fundamental questions of performance in office and acceptance by the people. Has he performed well enough to deserve second term? In other words, has he delivered the dividends of democracy to his people? Has Ondo State positively felt the impact of his administration? Dividends of democracy translates into the provision of basic infrastructure such as roads, water, power, good schools and health facilities, establishment of industries, creation of jobs by the public sector, good policies that create an enabling environment for the private sector to flourish and create jobs; building strong institutions of government, respecting and upholding the independence of the other arms as well as tiers of government; good governance culture that shuns corruption, waste, and inefficiency while efficiently and effectively managing the resources of the State to promote the greatest happiness of the greatest number; and, last but not the least, good human relations that shows a government that empathises with, instead of oppressing and brutalising the people in its actions, utterances, body language and general comportment in its dealings with the various segments of society.
Is Akeredolu’s a listening government? Does the governor respect and feel for his people or does he talk down on them? Does he feel or bear the pains of others? Is he accessible? Does he have good and soothing words or is he, like Donald Trump, proud, arrogant and irascible? Does he calm frayed nerves or he pours petrol into raging fire? Does he have or does he lack manners? Is he long-suffering even in the face of obvious provocation, persecution and unjustified maligning by the very people he serves? Does he have thick or thin skin for criticism? In other words, what are Akeredolu’s human relations – good or bad? Is the governor pleasant or unpleasant? Is he fair-minded or arbitrary and perverse? Is he use-and dump or does he appreciate talent and show gratitude to helping hands? Do people work with or for Akeredolu? Do they enjoy or they suffer it? If he leaves office today, what legacy will Akeredolu be leaving behind? What achievements can he point at? What will the people remember him by?
From the avalanche of text and Whatsapp messages and personal calls I have received since I began this self-imposed assignment, I dare to say that the answer dangles in the air! Was I surprised? Not at all – and for two reasons! One: If an angel descends from heaven and sits where Akeredolu sits today, there are those he will not be able to please. Two: The South-West has been very unlucky with governance since 1999. If you look closely, you will see that we live only on past glory, which fades by the day. In every area where we had been the leader, we have been overtaken – in education, in the professions, in commerce, in agriculture, in industry; name it. It is so bad now that we rely on others for tomatoes, pepper, onions, beans, yams, potatoes, fruits, meat; name it. Others are the traders; we are the buyers. Our youths – who are our touted future – are the cultists and area boys whereas Igbo youths learn a trade. Our cities and landed properties are being bought up by others. Like the scriptures say, we earn salary to put it in leaking baskets. Are you a salary earner, calculate how much you throw away monthly as buyer/consumer of goods produced and services rendered by other people; with our own money, we further empower others to dominate, enslave, insult and oppress us. They are the ones that have the cash to pick up any property/land put up for sale in the South-west; and our people have no gumption that they, like Esau, are selling off not only their inheritance but also the future, freedom, livelihood and well-being of their unborn generations. And our governors, like King Nero who fiddled while Rome burned, pursue inanities, getting us deeper into the miry clay with their obscene lifestyle and politics of profligacy, compromise and corruption.
This is not necessarily an Akeredolu issue – but Akeredolu, being a sit-in governor, is, in many ways, part of the problem. But because the rot in the South-west generally is systemic – and Ondo is part of the South-west – anyone jostling to be governor can only sink deeper into the rot and perpetuate the decay unless our mindset changes and the right understanding/orientation comes to the fore. In other words, our problem is not just that of change of baton but of mentality, philosophy and ideology. The pervading and pervasive mentality at the moment is destructive of the values and achievements of our heroes past while glorifying and deifying men and women of little minds and understanding who embark on vainglorious ego trips, subsequently getting lost in no time in the miasma of personal aggrandisement once they come into office.
Ondo State – nay, the entire South-west – needs leaders that will think Yoruba, feel Yoruba, speak Yoruba, and act Yoruba. That is what the Fulani and Igbo have but which we lack: The mentality of a nation within a nation; that places its sub-national interests over and above supra-national interests. Look back and see that every leader from the North has added one critical advantage or another to the North – population figures, more states, more local governments, the federal capital, federal character (when they sorely needed it), favourable revenue allocation, oil blocks, control of all vital positions in government, gifting them our land, even in the distribution of COVID-19 palliatives, etc. Not only do we acquiesce, we also compromise and conform as they enslave us right before our very eyes. Look closely, you will see that we are the ones they always use to get all of these advantages for themselves and their people. All we know is fight-to-finish amongst ourselves; receive crumbs from the master’s table to undo our own people; be afraid to stand up for the same people we purport to represent; and pile misery on them by looting the meagre resources that we should have used for the development of our own space. Our “too sabi” is legendary; our disunity and in-fighting a curse! The same blood of infamy appears also to run in the veins of our Bini cousins. Witness Obaseki run from pillar to post – from the Jagaban in Lagos to Buhari in Abuja! We watched as the Edo politicians washed their dirty linen in public. After ridiculing and messing up one another, and, in the process, mutually politically destroying one another; they now seek outside help to bear rule over their own people! Tell me, whose interest will such leaders serve if not the Caliphate’s?
When shall we begin to sort things out amongst ourselves? When will our people learn? The problem confronting us at the moment is more than mere governorship; we have existential problem of whether we will be overrun and be re-colonised or we will live and be free-born. Who is best placed to lead Ondo, nay, the South-west, in that battle? That is one question that should determine who gets elected in future elections not only in Ondo State but also elsewhere in the South-west. Who is bold and audacious enough to lead us into battle? Who can stand up to Abuja? Who can speak for our people and demand for our rights? No quisling, please! Who will best harness our resources for our own development? You can see how uncaring for the feelings of others the Northerners are once they are pursuing and advancing their own interests: We need governors who will do similarly for the South-west. WE DO NOT NEED GOVERNORS WHO WILL BE ENTHRONED BY THE NORTH TO SERVE NORTHERN INTERESTS AT THE DETRIMENT OF THE SOUTH-WEST. If you are one such person relying on Abuja and cabals anywhere to clinch the Ondo governorship election, kindly drop out of the race! We need “Omo Oko” and not “Omo ale”; we need “Omoluwabis” and not those the Hausa/Fulani hold in derision and ignominy and whom they call “banzas” or bastards. We need Yoruba men and women of uncompromising integrity and uncommon courage to lead us in battle and defend every inch of our land and every atom of our freedoms and liberties because such perilous times are here already!
Who will better harness our resources for the utmost good of our people? If you look closely, you will see that since 1999, the South-west has suffered leadership deficiency; except in smattering instances. Yes, the unitarist federalism that we operate constricts us; yes, the Hausa/Fulani oppression stultifies us; yes, we will do by far better if we have the freedoms and liberties to develop at our own pace. But – and this is a big but – how best have we utilised the limited freedoms, liberties and resources at our disposal? Have we not been squandering our riches? Have we not been neck-deep in corruption? Have we not bastardized or outright ruined the legacies bequeathed to us by Awo and the other legends? Everywhere, not only in Ondo State! We have had leaders who strut and behave like peacock; whose know-it-all mentality has been a drain and a drag; who fritter our resources on white elephants and leave us worse than they met us. How many past governors did not run the South-west aground, leaving it neck-deep in debt, with little or nothing to show for it? Akeredolu alleged that his predecessor, Olusegun Mimiko, left Ondo in staggering indebtedness – In addition to seven or eight months’ of unpaid salaries? Yet, I understand the same Akeredolu and Mimiko are chummy as we speak! Anyone who kills himself or allows his head to be used by politicians to crack election coconut is a fool! Politicians are all birds of a feather! Oppression from outside forces has been reinforced by oppression from within to leave the South-west distraught, prostrate and broken as it were. If you have not seen that we are the least developing region of the country vis-a-vis our immense human and material resources, potentials and capabilities, then, you have not looked hard enough.
Let me end where I started: Should Akeredolu bag second term? I will answer this and many other questions next week, God willing!