Nigeria: Akeredolu Should Heed His Own Counsel

The governor should resign his appointment if he cannot perform the functions of his office

The prolonged absence from office by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu has become a matter of serious concern for the people of Ondo State. The anxiety has been further heightened by the fact that ever since he returned to the country from his medical sojourn abroad, he has been at Ibadan, capital of Oyo State, rather than Akure. When a sitting governor stays out of his desk for as long as Akeredolu has done, there is an urgent and mandatory need to tell the people the truth. Besides, this unexplained absence from duty is a violation of the constitutional provision. Statecraft is rule-governed and state chief executives whose conduct amounts to arbitrary exercise of discretion, where none is provided, only undermine the rule of law. As a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Akeredolu knows all these too well.

After short-changing the people for months by lack of governance, a semblance of normalcy was introduced last Thursday when the Deputy Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, presided over the executive meeting. But the government is still divided by infighting between the supporters of Akeredolu, and loyalists of his embattled deputy. This is despite the intervention of President Bola Tinubu who summoned the warring parties to a round table in Abuja for some form of agreement. “I pledge to all of you that I embrace every one of you. I put behind all that has happened before now,” Aiyedatiwa told the belligerent lawmakers who still behave like Akeredolu’s enforcers.

The crisis began last August when Akeredolu returned from his medical trip abroad. Instead of going to Akure, the state capital and seat of power, he stayed back in his family house in Ibadan, Oyo State from where he is reportedly treating files and governing with a clique, like he did shortly before travelling out. To make matters worse, there is no indication about when he will return to his state. With a health that is still suspect, and evidently not good enough to withstand the pressure and weight of governance, Ibadan is a safer place as it is also home to the University College Hospital which could be of immense help in case of emergency health complications.

Unfortunately, due to some pecuniary and primordial considerations, Akeredolu’s loyalists, especially members of the state House of Assembly, have been threatening to impeach Aiyedatiwa after alleging that he approved N300 million for himself for the purchase of a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) without the consent of his principal, among other contrived charges. However, Akeredolu cannot have his way, despite the flawed agreement the warring factions reached in Abuja, to the extent that Aiyedatiwa cannot hold the office of governor in acting capacity. This is in addition to another clause that the deputy governor should write and sign an undated letter of resignation. These are reckless propositions that the lawmakers claim President Tinubu sanctioned.

This so-called agreement in Abuja needs updating. Its chief failing is a reliance on politics rather than the law. Section 190 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended clearly states that the deputy governor shall assume the functions of the governor if the latter is unable to discharge the functions of his office. Interestingly, Akeredolu knows the law as well as what to do in circumstances in which he has now found himself. Insisting that “the right thing must be done” during the ill-health saga of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in December 2009, Akeredolu said the president “should recover fast, return to his office, or resign.”

Now that Akeredolu has returned to Nigeria but unable to be at his duty post in Akure, we call on him to take his own counsel and resign.