Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) will begin his second term on Wednesday. Last week, he had dissolved the State Executive Council, signalling the end of his first term. Editor IFEANYI AGUMBA captures the reminiscences by the commissioners, special advisers and other aides about the four year-journey and their expectations about the second tenure.

Oluwarotimi Akeredolu was sworn in as the sixth elected governor of Ondo State on February 24, 2017, following his declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the winner of the November 26, 2016 election  Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) clinched 224,842 votes to defeat Eyitayo Jegede, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who came second with 126,889 votes and Olusola Oke of the Alliance for Democracy who scored 150,380.

On August 30, six months after he mounted the saddle of leadership in the Sunshine State, Akeredolu inaugurated his commissioners and Special Advisers. The governor had earlier appointed the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and his Chief of Staff. The swearing in of the commissioners and Special Advisers completed the process of composing the State Executive Council.

As the saying goes, everything that has a beginning surely has an end. Last Thursday, February 18, 2021, at exactly 6pm, the curtain was drawn on the executive council. It was time for members of the Akeredolu cabinet to exit the stage after about four years of serving the state and her people.

Few hours before the governor dissolved the council, it was an emotional moment. At an extraordinary meeting, valedictory speeches were made, with cabinet members eulogiezing the virtues of the governor and reliving the good moments they had together.

The former commissioner and special adviser members took turns to pour encomiums on Akeredolu, commend the notable feats achieved in his first tenure and offer their views of his personality. To all of them, Governor Akeredolu is a leader who has uncommon passion for the development of the state. According to them, the governor ran the affairs of the state in the last four years with a rare sense of responsibility and patriotism. A view shared by all of them is that Governor Akeredolu is a courageous, audacious, blunt, truthful, sincere and compassionate leader.

The Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Temidayo Oluwatuyi, shattered the impression that Akeredolu was an administrator whose approval is difficult to obtain. Oluwatuyi said to get Akeredolu’s nod for anything, the person must be ready to deploy convincing arguments. Once you are able to prove the altruism of your proposal and how beneficial it is to the state and her people, be rest assured that you would get the governor’s approval, Oluwatuyi said.

The SSG recalled how he once secured the approval of his boss for 13 out of the 15 files he brought to him. He was then Commissioner for Natural Resources. “When I came back from the governor with the approvals, some people wondered how I performed the miracle. To them, it was a miracle to have gotten the governor to approve 13 of the 15 proposals I brought to him. But I told them that all they needed to sway the mind of Mr Governor was the ability to convince him,” he said.

In the opinion of Olugbenga Ale, Chief of Staff to the Governor, Akeredolu is a leader that cherishes merit. Ale said he was surprised when the governor appointed him as his CoS because he did not lobby for any appointment. To him, Akeredolu is a thorough administration whose eyes don’t gloss over errors. He hailed the governor for being a good representative of Owo town, where he hails from. Ale, who is a retired permanent secretary, commended the governor for not politicising the state civil service.

Akeredolu, according to the CoS, is man who appreciates family values and loves his family so much. He said the way the governor protects and cares for members of his family is worthy of emulation.

The Head of Service, Oluwadare Aragbaye, said Akeredolu is a man who enjoys divine mercy. He ascribed the mercy of God to the purity of Akeredolu’s heart. Aragbaye, who described Akeredolu as a compassionate man, said the governor always has deep feelings for people. Noting that Akeredolu is loyal to friends, Aragbaye said the governor always remember people and keep relationships.

“He said I will give mercy to whom I will give mercy. Check it, anywhere God gives mercy, He will not even look at your sins. And when He gives it, anything you do is ordered by Him. That is what I see that has been working for you, sir. This is because you have a pure heart which does not harbour malice,” Aragbaye said.

The HoS thanked the governor for what he has been able to do for the civil service and government workers in the state. He hailed the appointment of 42 permanent secretaries by during the Akeredolu administration, describing it as unprecedented in the history of the service. Aragbaye mentioned regular promotion as one of the gains of the service from the government.

Donald Ojogo, Commissioner for Information and Orientation, identified grace as the secret behind the string of successes that the Akeredolu has achieved in life. Ojogo described the governor as a benevolent leader, saying he is one of the beneficiaries of his boss’ benevolence. Apart from saying Akeredolu possesses uncommon integrity, honesty and courage, Ojogo added that bluntness of the governor is such that is rare in the country.

These qualities, according to Ojogo, are very difficult for ordinary minds and ordinary eyes to discern. Saying he counted himself lucky to be part of the modest lifestyle of Akeredolu and the modest but very lasting legacies and successes of his administration, Ojogo noted that the governor has never regretted any decision stubbornly taken by him.

He said: “Mr Chairman, before I say anything, don’t conclude and judge me by the sweet words I am about to say. Draw your conclusion after four years through my conduct and my character.

“The most costly and most expensive of all gifts of nature is rare grace of God. You possess it. And the grace of God cannot come without personal moderation and God-given wisdom. You are a man of grace. I congratulate you and I confess that grace.

“Office consumes intellectual capital. It does not create it. The best leaders are those who master the act of what decision, the right one for that matter, to be taken at a very critical moment. When you took certain decisions, as politicians, most of us were not happy.

“You made up your mind that you were not going to politicise governance. And one of the ways you did it was not to be frivolous in the award of contracts. You are very strict. Today, we are all happy because it bred good governance. That was a sound decision you took.

“Another critical decision you took was the insistence that Amotekun must be launched. Today, it is a success story and I am happy for you. That was a sound decision that was taken and laced with courage.”

“Mr Governor, success is what everybody yearns for. The more successes you record, the more challenges surface. The challenges should not be seen as enemies. They have come as very real precursors to further successes. And it means that success has no final destination. Your success shall know no destination in Jesus name.”

Ojogo said further that he has learnt a lot from the governor’s courage, candour and bluntness, adding: “You can be upright, you can be truthful, you can be stubborn and succeed long as your conscience is free in whatever you are doing.”

Omolola Fagbemi, Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, is one of the women in the the cabinet. She described Akeredolu as a leader with a sense of humour.

“I will never forget your sense of humour, your unparalleled sense of humour that acts as a soothing balm for us each time we see you,” she said, reeling out examples of the governor’s humourous statements.