Rotimi Akeredolu was recently sworn in for a second term as the Governor of Ondo State.
The ceremony, at the International Culture and Event Centre (The DOME) in Akure, attracted the leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), including a national leader of the party, Bola Tinubu.
A PDP governor, Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, also attended the ceremony. Mr Obaseki was in the APC before he defected to the PDP after falling out with Adams Oshiomhole, his predecessor in office and estranged godfather.
Mr Akeredolu was on October 10, 2020, reelected on the platform of the APC with a very wide margin, winning in 15 of the state’s 18 council areas. Eyitayo Jegede of the PDP came a distant second, winning in the remaining three LGAs.
Mr Akeredolu had also defeated Mr Jegede in the 2016 governorship election. A Senior Advocate of Nigeria like Mr Akeredolu, Mr Jegede is now challenging the outcome of the poll at the election petition tribunal. The tribunal has fixed April for judgment on the case.
Mr Akeredolu now has a new deputy, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, who took his oath of office before his principal.
The former deputy, Agboola Ajayi, fell out with Mr Akeredolu and dumped the APC for the PDP where he participated in the party’s primaries but lost to Mr Jegede.
Mr Ajayi finally moved to the Zenith Labour Party, a party promoted by a former governor of the state, Olusegun Mimiko, on whose platform he contested but put up a dismal performance.
Following his defection from the APC last year, the state House of Assembly tried to impeach Mr Ajayi but failed, which allowed him to hold the office until his successor was sworn in.
Mr Akeredolu’s second term promises
Mr Akeredolu chose the occasion to reel out what his administration would do in his second term in office.
He also enumerated what he considered his achievements in his first term in office in road construction, security and industrialisation, among others.
Mr Akeredolu, who is from Owo in Ondo North senatorial district, said the promises he made during the last electioneering campaign were fine-tuned by the committee he appointed to midwife the transition to his second term.
Mr Akeredolu said he had also painstakingly reviewed his programmes in his first term. These include job creation through agriculture, entrepreneurship and Industrialisation; massive infrastructural development and maintenance and promotion of functional education and technological growth.
Others are provision of accessible and qualitative healthcare, social service delivery and rural development and community extension services
While addressing the audience at the inauguration, Mr Akeredolu, a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, said: “A lot of dynamics have come into play since we took over the reins of governance in 2017. You will all agree with me that the challenge of security has become more encompassing than it used to be.
“The need to place more emphasis on availability of energy for our industrial development has also become greater. This new focus has necessitated the need for us to review our JMPPR to cater for these areas necessary for our development.
“I wish to state that we have been reviewing these programmes since our victory at the last election with a view to achieving more improvement in service delivery.”
Mr Akeredolu said his focus in the next four years will be a totally repackaged programme he christened REDEEMED where R stands for Rural and Agricultural Development; E for Educational Advancement and Human Capital Development; D – Development through Massive Infrastructure; E -Efficient Service Delivery, Development and Policy Implementation.
Others are E – Effective Healthcare and Social Welfare Services; M -Maintenance of Law and Order for Adequate Security; E – Energy, Mining and Sustainable Industries and D – Digital Revolution and Entrepreneurship.
But Mr Akeredolu did not expatiate how he would actualise the programmes.
Meanwhile, the jury is still out on his performance during his first term in office, though the governor said posterity will be kind to him for his performance which he said cuts across the three senatorial districts of the state.
Critics of his administration and those in the opposition, however, believe the so-called performance was cosmetic with low attention paid to education especially with regards to the recruitment of teachers.
The main opposition party in the state, PDP, also disputed whatever Mr Akeredolu claims to be his achievements. But since he comfortably won reelection, the governor can reasonably claim that the people of the state sided with him in the debate.
As Mr Akeredolu begins his final term in office, some citizens in the state have called on him to focus on strategic areas.
In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES Akindele Omole, a finance expert and chartered accountant, quoting AfDB President, Akinwunmi Adesina, who delivered the inauguration lecture, advised Mr Akeredolu to be tolerant of opposing views as criticisms are a necessity in a democracy.
Mr Omole said the governor’s comment on the roles of the Ondo State House of Assembly in the failed impeachment of his former deputy, Mr Ajayi, was unbecoming of a leader.
Speaking further, Mr Omole advised the governor to pay more than a lip service to the industrialisation of the state as against what is currently obtainable, which he described as ”mere political rhetorics.”
On bitumen exploration in the state and the Ore Industrial Hub, Mr Omole told the governor to handle them with seriousness. He decried the lies being peddled around that over 4,000 workers are currently engaged by the hub as well as the recent pronouncement of Mr Akeredolu that bitumen exploration has reached an advanced stage.
Contrary to the governor’s claim on bitumen exploration, there is nothing concrete on ground beyond the paper works and Memorandum of Understanding on the project, he said.
In the education sector, Mr Omole urged the governor to recruit more teachers, especially into the primary schools which are grossly understaffed.
This newspaper’s finding shows that the last time the state government carried out open recruitment of teachers was 2009 in the administration of the late Olusegun Agagu.
For the eight years of the succeeding administration of Olusegun Mimiko, there was no open recruitment of teachers in spite of several announcements to do so.
Mr Akeredolu made the same promise to recruit more teachers but also did not fulfil it.
“Constructing classrooms without teachers is only feeding corruption associated with contracts at the expense of the education of the pupils,” Mr Omole said.
He also admonished the governor to complete ongoing projects in some parts of the state for the benefit of the people.
On security, he advised the governor to maintain the current momentum of his onslaught on criminal herders and insecurity generally in the state.
In his own contribution, Tolu Babaleye, a lawyer and former chairperson of Akoko South West LGA, admonished the governor to prioritise workers and pensioners’ welfare.
“Please do not forget to continue to prioritise Ondo State workers and pensioners welfare as we progress and I pray our allocation and IGR will improve shortly to accommodate this,” Mr Babaleye advised the governor.
Currently, civil servants in the state are paid half of their monthly salaries, a situation that has generated some dust in the state.
The state government, justifying the half salary payment, through the Head of Service, said it can no longer borrow to pay salaries of workers.
It remains to be seen how the governor will navigate this potential turbulence as some civil servants spoken to by this reporter said they will resort to strike eventually if their full salaries are not paid in no distant time.
Mr Babaleye commended the governor for his position on kidnapping, especially by herders, for his stance on the farmers/herders clashes in Ondo State and for providing leadership in the South-west.
“I appreciate you for your no nonsense approach even when the cabal and oligarchs were trying to tackle Your Excellency, especially Garba Shehu and Bauchi Governor. Looking around and the statistics of kidnapping, it is very obvious that the incidents have reduced in Ondo State due to your approach.
“I must appreciate your adoption of Oduduwa National Anthem in the wee hour of your first term and that speaks volume of how much value you place on our collective interest as Oduduans before we became Nigerians,” Mr Babaleye said.
The Abuja-based lawyer expressed hope that Ondo State will be different in the next four years especially in the areas of infrastructure development and maintenance, agro-business and rural development.
He advised the governor to build a befitting High Court Complex and a separate Ministry of Justice to “make our law officers comfortable.”
“That is where you belong, sir. I wish to demand that you double your energy to develop Ondo State in all sectors and do not forget your promise of building a Sea Port in Ondo State in order to boost and increase our IGR as our people are too impoverished to be subjected to unbearable taxes. You must think out of the box, Sir,” he said.
He also reminded the governor not to forget his Akungba Akoko community.
“Though I am convinced that in four years’ time, Akungba will not remain the same as the Okerigbo hill that causes accidents would have become a plane like Oke Alabojuto in Ikare; another wide lane would have been constructed to the University permanent site; ongoing bridges would have been completed and all streets roads would have been tarred I pray.”
Akinwumi Iwajomo and Goke Olanusi in their interactions with this newspaper want the governor to merge the three state-owned universities into either two or one in order to improve their quality.
The three universities are Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko; Ondo State University of Medical Sciences, Ondo and Olusegun Agagu University of Science and Technology, Okitipupa.
Some senior officials of the universities, who did not want their names mentioned, decried the shortfall in government subventions to the institutions, which they rely on as they hardly generate anything on their own.
But while Mr Iwajomo wants the governor to give priority attention to regular payment of workers salary and recruitment of teachers as well as affordable health care system, Mr Olanusi feels payment of workers salary should not even be an issue as that is the minimum any responsible and responsive government should do.
Mr Olanusi, a farmer, wants the governor to do more than he did in his first term.
“He promised to build deep seaport and bitumen refinery in Ilaje and Irele LGAs during the campaign, though I knew it is a gimmick, I will be expecting him to prove me wrong.”
Governor Akeredolu has been talking about the deep seaport in Ilaje and bitumen exploration in Irele since he came into office over four years ago.
A commentator said the billboard in Ore announcing the government’s readiness to commence work on the deep seaport has been pulled down!
Perhaps the governor’s failure to pursue some of his promises could be the reason Gbenga Ajongbolo, a development enthusiast and activist, believes there is no reason to set any agenda for the governor as he so much believes in himself and his team.
Mr Ajongbolo, however, enjoined the people of the state to keep a tab on the governor to avoid the government taking them for granted.
The expectations of the people across the three senatorial zones are huge so with the promises of the governor.
The governor promised a deep seaport in his first term in office. That remains a mirage till today. He has promised the people again that he will deliver one to them before his term expires in February 2025.
It is the same thing for bitumen exploration. Mr Mimiko, Mr Akeredolu’s predecessor in office, promised heaven on earth that bitumen would be commercially exploited during his tenure in office. The rest is history.
According to some public commentators in the state, from all indications, Mr Akeredolu is toeing the path of his predecessor in office as far as the exploration of this important mineral is concerned.
With his second swearing in, the clock has started ticking for the governor. Observers and chroniclers of events are already marking him against the promises he made to the people of the state. Time will tell whether he delivers or not.
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