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April 16, 2024
State News

Akeredolu’s death and lessons of Ondo political crisis |

 The death of Ondo State Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu is no doubt painful to the people of the state in particular, and the generality of Nigerians who have followed his administration over the years and admired the positive impact on the nation. Akeredolu was not just a profound lawyer, activist, and administrator, who brought the full weight of his experience to governance, he was a dogged fighter imbued with rare courage. While Nigerians and the people of Ondo State mourn him, his prolonged ill health that culminated in his demise certainly brought a lot of political unease to the state. His successors in power, and indeed all politicians and public office holders across the country should take time to learn some hard lessons on how to respect the constitution of the country while governing. Although it is expected that Akeredolu’s death will bring to rest the impasse generated over who should rule during his illness, Ondo politicians should not take peace for granted; they should work assiduously towards it. The failure to adhere to expedient statutory requirement for a deputy governor to exercise power in the event of indisposition of the governor as was the case in Ondo State makes mockery of democracy. Such contravention or needless prevarication over the constitutional provisions despite the long absence from duty by Akeredolu owing to protracted health challenge is patently unwise. Akeredolu could have simply extended his medical vacation when it became clear to him that he was not fit enough to return to work in Akure, Ondo State capital, as expected. His decision to stay back in Ibadan with the intention of exercising executive power outside the state was wrongheaded. Refusal to allow the Deputy Governor Lucky Ayedatiwa to function in acting capacity in the absence of his boss left much to be desired, considering Akeredolu’s knowledge of law and pedigree as an advocate of public good. It turned out that the absence of the governor was exploited by opportunists who embarked on wild goose chase against the deputy governor, whose impeachment became an agenda that some members of Ondo State House of Assembly pursued without restraint and with utter neglect of the statutory responsibility vested on the legislative arm of government in accordance with Chapter 6, Part 2, Section 190 of the 1999 Constitution. In the absence of the urgency needed to persuade the governor and his minders against what turned out a political indiscretion, the business of governance in Ondo State was in abeyance as gladiators engaged in bitter politics. The failure of the late governor to transmit power as expected could not be justified under the constitution. It should be instructive that the agitation of major stakeholders revolved around the need for the governor to transmit a letter to the Speaker of Ondo State House of Assembly so that the deputy governor could act in his absence. Allowing the deputy governor to function in acting capacity shouldn’t have been an issue to be over flogged. Despite the unnecessary long delay, it is a welcome development that the right thing was done eventually, albeit days before Akeredolu’s death. Political actors countrywide should draw appropriate lessons from this episode and not allow a repeat of the recent happening in Ondo State. It is expected that political actors particularly legislators would, by now, have taken a cue from past events by ensuring smooth and unimpeded transmission of power when such a situation arises. The Ondo State experience should be deemed undemocratic, unconstitutional, and unacceptable. The controversies shouldn’t have arisen if the political actors had been guided by the scenario of late President Umaru Yar’Adua when doctrine of necessity had to be invoked as a last resort. The constitution should be allowed to prevail when such circumstances of ill-health and indisposition arises. Governance should be seen as collective responsibility that demands adherence to the letter and spirit of the constitution from political actors. It is evident that the crisis in Ondo State was triggered by entrenched interest fueled by the frenzy of succession. Business of governance in any state should not be relegated to the back seat by gladiators, who may want to further exploit the prevailing situation to assert and position themselves ahead of the impending governorship elections. Whatever the motivation, personal ambition should not be allowed to undermine what the Constitution prescribes under whatever guise. It is therefore in the interest of democracy that stakeholders seeking to invoke Chapter 6, Part 2, Section 189, which is only applicable in the event of permanent incapacitation of a governor or deputy governor should avail themselves of the requirements of law and the process prescribed under in the 1999 Constitution. It is imperative to reiterate that political office holders are humans who are not immune to illness but who should be forthright enough to step aside when the circumstances of incapacitation demand. The constitution already envisages that unforeseen situations like predicament of ill-health should not constitute impediments to governance, which therefore makes the transfer of power to vice president or deputy governor, as the case maybe, inevitable and without much ado. It is also lamentable that Ondo House of Assembly that ought to assert its independence with decorum to be relevant in curtailing selfish or inordinate ambition that may obstruct the wheel of governance also descended into the arena of divisive politics and, by so doing, neglected its much-expected constitutional responsibility of ensuring smooth transmission of power for unimpeded running of governance. It was a disservice to democracy that Ondo State House of Assembly embarked on the process of impeachment against the deputy governor at a most inauspicious time and for reasons that were largely perceived as spurious.  Toying with the impeachment of the deputy governor at the time Governor Akeredolu was unfit to perform the duty of chief executive of the state could never have been in the interest of democracy and in the overall quest to deliver good governance to the people of Ondo State. The bitter politics that dominated governance in Ondo State ought to have been avoided considering that Akeredolu was a respectable legal icon and former president of the Nigerian Bar Association. In view of his personality and contribution to the advocacy for good governance and constitutional democracy, it is regrettable that the event in Ondo State was allowed to detract from the noble stance for which he was reputed. While it is a great relief that the divisive politics triggered by the vacuum in leadership have been resolved following the intervention of President Tinubu and now Akeredolu’s death, such issues that bother on the constitutional requirements and for which public officials are bond by dictates of established statute ought not have been allowed to degenerate to warrant the intervention of the President. We therefore expect all stakeholders in Ondo State, starting from Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa, who was sworn in a few hours after Akeredolu’s death, to shield their swords and work harmoniously towards the progress of the state, while the lessons should serve to guide against a repeat of such distraction in the future.

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