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As Ondo governorship race hot up… (1) By Bolanle Bolawole

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“Home is where the hatred is/Home is filled with pain/And it might not be such a bad idea if I nev…” – Gil Scott-Heron.

Some Sundays ago I announced that as the Ondo governorship election draws nearer, I will be taking a hard look at the gladiators with a view to offering an opinion in the understanding that, perhaps, it may help to deepen our democracy, contribute to on-going discussions already heating up the State, and assist our people make an informed decision that will serve our collective best interest. The political parties will hold their primaries and choose their flag bearers soon.

Should the incumbent, Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu, who has announced interest to return for second term, be so honoured but if not, who among the coterie of aspirants from Owo (where Akeredolu hails from) should get the support of the Owo people who worked like ants and voted like one man in the last election to give Akeredolu massive and unassailable support?

At the last count, there were five or six solid aspirants from Owo alone, many of them from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) while one or two notable ones are from the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Will this avalanche of aspirants work for or against Owo? If it works for, who gets the ticket? If against, will the powers-that-be still retain the governorship in the Ondo North senatorial district, which is the zone (of the incumbent) that should still produce the governor for another term of four years based on the rotational principle that Ondo appears to follow religiously?

Barring this, is there any aspirant from the two other senatorial districts of Ondo South and Ondo Central best positioned to wear the crown? It has long been argued that there may be no such thing as absolute reality, absolute truth or absolute objectivity; be that as it may, having purposed in my heart to be as fair as is humanly possible in this self-imposed assignment, I made, ironically, the first subjective decision of recommending that we begin to discourage “professional politicians” in favour of dyed-in-the-wool professionals and accomplished private sector participants.

Politics is not a profession but a vocation; it is public service. It is not, like an erstwhile governor told me, a game of self-interest but of selfless service. These days, every riff-raff is a politician; especially unemployed and unemployable youth who now see politics as easy access to acquire wealth and relevance and get rich quick. If I have my way, no one will be allowed to go into politics that has not attained the climax – or close to it – of his given or chosen profession. Those with no second address, as they are now called, are wont to see politics as a do-or-die affair, which we should begin to move away from.

Successful professionals who have made their mark and name come into politics and, if lucky, into office with a name and reputation to protect. And afterwards or should they fail, they have a second address to recourse to. I am sure you understand that theories that work perfectly elsewhere work haphazardly here, if at all! So we have seen pen robbers who are as educated and as professionally-qualified as they come! That is by choice, not that they have been so compelled by circumstances of original deprivation.

Whichever way we look at it, however, sound education, expertise, exposure and cognate experience have its place and use in whatever post or position we hold in life. There will be exceptions but by and large, we must acknowledge its usefulness and encourage it. Therefore, if you are one of those interested in the Ondo governorship election coming up later this year and you do not meet the criteria stated above, please drop out now; this column will not consider you as eligible!

I had not meant to start the execution of this assignment this way but days ago, a post was forwarded to me by Tunji Dairo, thereby triggering this. Tunji is my cousin. His father, the late Chief Dairo, and my grandma that I am so fond of, hailed from the same family in Ipele-Owo. Tunji had been a respectful, humble and courteous brother, then a politician; at a point he, too, joined them in hugging the lime-light in the corridors of power at Akure but, as you know, politicians are like fashion, they go in and out of season. When he forwarded the post you will soon read to me, I immediately commented and thereafter shared it together with my comments to a few of those on my mailing list, flying a kite and expecting to benefit from the comments of many across party, gender, age, religion, ethnic, etc. lines. Was I disappointed?

First the comments forwarded by Tunji:

“Arakunrin Akeredolu should be reminded his continuous and unrepentant stance on nepotism and impunity would no longer be condoned. Despite having Owo kinsmen as Chiefs of everything, which includes Chief of Staff, Chief of Protocol, Chief of Infrastructures ( Ministry of Works, Lands and Housing, Housing Corporation, Water Corporation, Electricity Board; and now House of Assembly Impeachment Chief), Chief of Forestry/ Natural Resources/all investments and industrial hub, and Chief of IGR/Remitta/SITA/COVID-19, etc!

We were all in this state when over four qualified persons were side-stepped, paving the way for an Owo man to become the Surveyor-General of the state. An Owo man was made the Head of Service at the detriment of all other qualified and more senior men in the Ondo State Civil Service who were made to leave service unceremoniously before their stipulated retirement date. He was recently told to continue his job, even after clocking his compulsory retirement age. He is also currently a Permanent Secretary in the Governor’s Office.

Someone said an Owo person is the Chief Justice of Ondo State. Another person said the Chairman, Local Government Service Commission, is from Owo. The Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General is an Olowomade. The new Ondo Commissioner on the board of Federal Character Commission is from Owo.

They said Tokunbo Ajasin on the Revenue, Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission is from Owo. We have countless SSAs and SAs from Owo who are now more powerful than some redundant commissioners and other appointees. No one is against empowering your townsmen and kith and kin as long as you own your companies and businesses but using Ondo State to empower your kinsmen alone will NOT be condoned anymore.

Dear Arakunrin Akeredolu, all of us CANNOT come from Owo. Ondo State is made up of Akoko, Akure, Owo, Ondo, Ikale, Ilaje, Apoi, Odigbo and the rest. We will not continue to look while Owo people enjoy at the expense of other ethnic groups that make up the state.

The case of Akoko is even worse; the governor’s zero tolerance for Akoko people is very embarrassing; he recently sacked one of his aides who travelled to New York on official duty (United Nations Youth Conference) but was trapped by COVID – 19, making the list of Aketi’s sacked appointees from Akoko region skyrocket to five out of the total six from the entire state within one year.

Someone should remind (Akeredolu) that you are the Governor of Ondo State and not Igboroko or Ehinogbe and we need not learn the Ogho language before you deliver on your election promises.

Enough is enough, try to be Ondo State Governor, and not just Owo people’s Governor”

Then my response: If this is true, it is sad. We cannot condemn nepotism at the Federal level and embrace it right at home. Again, if Owo has been unduly favoured, it is bad. But I do know, though, that Owo had been brutally marginalized in the past. So we should tell the whole story so we can have the true picture. Morals: Do not serve others what you will not want (to be) served in future. Scriptures say: Do unto others…”

Responses have poured in since I flew that kite. Let’s see how many of such responses we can entertain here today:

“I read both the forwarded article and your small rejoinder which, in my opinion, balanced the expose. The irony of it all is that Owo people and politicians feel that the governor has not done enough; hence the condemnation of the governor and the throngs of gubernatorial aspirants from Owo! What else can the poor governor do? In terms of achievements he has done a lot not only for the ancient town (of Owo) but for Ondo State; yet, his major antagonists and critics are from Owo. I don’t mind if the disagreement is on policy and not on personal issues. What is most annoying is that they (the governorship aspirants) – except one – all ran to an association of disgruntled elements. I agree that those (Akeredolu) appointees (from Owo) have not done enough to protect their principal but should that be the yardstick to deprive Owo a second term? The appointees are spread around Owo and Ose local governments but the most strident voice of opposition is from the Owo metropolis. Why? Are we confirming the long-held adage (which we are praying to be banished) that Owo will never appreciate or love her own? – Olakunri.

“As you rightly mentioned, Owo was brutally dealt with in the past, especially during Mimiko’s era. Kindly investigate this and if proven true, seek an audience with the governor. At least, those of us Owo sons and daughters who are non-partisan are his mirror. – Kwadjo.

“I am surprised that, despite this, Owo are the ones agitating that he must not be re-elected. His worst enemies are from Owo. –Pat.

“If true, then, Aketi is in trouble” – Olamiti.

“Very instructive; his case is just too bad but how he was allowed to go this far baffles me. – Arowojolu.

“As you have rightly observed, if this story is true, then, I will henceforth have no moral justification to describe Buhari as ethnic chauvinist and tribal jingoist. – Olanitori.

“Waiting for the rest of the story, Sir” – Olafimihan.

“Which of the divides are you on? – Fajolu.

“Very sad if the story is true. Do unto others what you want them to do unto you” – Agbede.

“It is not new in Ondo State. Mimiko did the same when he ruled for eight years. His second term made Ondo Township a city. He diverted all State funds to Ondo. He built more than 15 mega schools in the town alone. I am not holding brief for Akeredolu (but) Owo should not suffer a second time… Mimiko retired Mr. Isijola (an Owo man) as Head of Service within two weeks that he resumed office and replaced him with his kinsman, who had about 12 Permanent Secretaries (including the present Head of Service) as his senior. Some Ondo town indigenes on Level 15 were made Permanent Secretaries over and above many of us who were Level 16 officers! – Obagade”

True, then, are the words of Scott-Heron that home is where the trouble is! Well, then, this is one instance in which I will have to say more! Next week, God willing!

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