Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, while taking the oath of office for his second term, raised the people’s hopes with great promises, but following the harsh economic realities and the deepening intrigues in the politics of Ondo and the state chapter of his party, APC, ‘Carlos Cyprain, Assistant Editor, reports that Akeredolu will need to do more to meet the great expectations

Beginning his second term weeks after he gave an ultimatum to Fulani herdsmen operating in the state’s forest reserves to leave due to increased kidnapping and other criminalities perpetrated there, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu promised to confront some of the most deep-rooted challenges confronting Ondo State and the country with renewed vigour. He vowed to continue fighting the insecurity facing the state and the COVID-19 pandemic in his quest to make life more meaningful for the people of the state.

Akeredolu, along with his deputy, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, was sworn-in at a colourful ceremony in Akure, the state capital. In his speech which he christened “On the path to redemption,” the governor recalled that he assumed office four years ago with the resolve to confront all challenges headlong, listing his achievements in education, agriculture, industrialisation and infrastructural development, among others. He, however, lamented that the COVID-19 pandemic, with its negative effect on the global economy, slowed down his pace to achieve all visions for the state.

“We have had our share of security challenges since our assumption of office,” the governor said in his inauguration address. I have been able to confront this problem head-on. This problem is one of the main issues militating against the development of this country. Apart from COVID-19, the other debilitating issue is insecurity. We are of the firm belief that the police central command be brought so near the federating units for effective monitoring.

Admitting that there are fresh challenges ahead of him, Akeredolu said he would continue to keep expanding the frontiers of his administration’s developmental efforts and sustain the delivery of dividends of good governance to the people of the state in the next four years. He declared that his second term would not be for a holiday as he would not rest on his oars in the execution of more legacy projects, adding that the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and insecurity were still around and in the midst of which all necessary sacrifices and precautions would be taken to keep the state going.

“Do not expect anything less, I must, however, reiterate that the dictates of the current realities call for sacrifice. As a people, we should be prepared to continually bear the sacrifices of our home-grown efforts to generate resources for the overall development of our dear state. We will continue to sustain our efforts at containing the new wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and rise up to the prevailing security challenges, facing us.”

A new opportunity

But many analysts said the expansive ambitions laid out by Akeredolu in his inaugural address stood in contrast to the achievements of his first term, when he grappled with issues, like division in his government and party, that obviously affected and slowed down the administration for a while. Thus, many believe that for him to achieve all he promised to do, he must as a matter of importance, ensure a united administration, and if possible, party, this time around.

Tosin Adarabiokin is the Coordinator of the Civil Rights Coalition (CRC) in Ondo State. An avowed critic of the Akeredolu administration, he however is of the opinion that the governor was able to turn around his administration after about two years in charge and make some impacts. “I am a constructive critic. Akeredolu and his party wasted about two years of his first four years of intra-party squabbles. That affected his delivery of his promised dividends.

“But somehow, he was able to turn things around after about two years, especially in the areas of security and infrastructure. My concern now is that he must find a way of starting well and ending well this time around. To do this, he must get things right from the very beginning. His cabinet must be put in place swiftly and he must ensure that it is made up of people who share his ideals and visions for the state; not just politicians with little or no interest in development,” he said.

For Olaolu Akinmusere, former spokesperson of the Progressives Peoples Party (PPA) in the state, the next four years should be a time for the governor to work for all the people of Ondo State. According to the politician who joined a coalition of political parties to support the second term bid of Akeredolu last year, the first term of the governor was characterised by infightings and distractions from his party men, “and this really affected his deliveries to the people.”

“I am not a member of his party but I worked hard for his re-election as a member of a coalition that supported him. We did that because we felt he is still a better option than what the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) offered. However, he must see the second term as an opportunity to go for gold. I just want for the next four years a government that works for everyone because it has not been easy for the people of the state,” he said.

Analysts believe Akeredolu’s second term will start with his ability to put together a good cabinet in good time. According to Akinmusere, the governor must find a way of rising above political and group interests in the selection of his cabinet. It is widely believed that if he is able to promptly put together a good team, Akeredolu’s second coming will take off on a better footing than his first. And with that, he will be able to give the people more.

“It is a good thing that he has a new deputy, having successfully done away with his former deputy who fought him for the better part of the last administration and divided the team. Now, he must bring together the various groups in his party so as to ensure that a cabinet made up of quality persons, is put together as soon as possible. This is the first litmus test for him. Failure to achieve this will send the wrong signals and the implications are huge.

“I say these because we all know how Akeredolu was able to secure the ticket of his party for a second term. He had to make peace with some forces within the party. And that peace was premised on some promises. I urge the governor to live up to his bargain with these forces so as to ensure that he is not distracted this time around. Once he is able to put together a formidable and united team, he is already halfway to a successful outing,” he said.

But it is left to be seen how easy setting up a united team will be for the governor whose party, the APC, appears to be returning to its crisis ridden self in the state following face-off occasioned by disagreements over the ongoing membership revalidation and registration exercise in some parts of the state, especially among supporters of the governor and those of the current Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Tayo Alasoadura.

Bigger pies for the governor

Following disruption of APC meeting by some angry youths in Akure North Local Government Area, the minister had alleged that the party is once again factionalised in the state. Alasoadura, speaking through his media aide, Dayo Joe, had described the meeting as an assembly of a faction of the party. “It was not an APC meeting. They only camouflaged under the umbrella of APC. This is because some other leaders whom they believe are not loyal to them were not invited to that meeting,” he said.

But Publicity Secretary of the party in the council, Temitope Aluko, maintained that the hoodlums were sponsored by Alasoadura. “The problem is that Chief Alasoadura does not believe in the party structure. That is the truth. He has never once attended a party meeting nor recognised the party structure. The truth of the matter is that the minister harbour grudges against those who did not support him during the governorship primary in 2016 but voted the incumbent governor as the party candidate. He wants to do everything to uproot his perceived opponents ahead of 2023 and 2025 when he would be 75 years of age.

“The party must be one united entity; there must be cohesion. 2023 is still far; only God puts people in power. We must not hide under any ethnicity agenda for 2025 to destroy our party. APC Akure North will stand by the governor in his efforts to reposition the party and move the state forward. This is a democracy where the voice of the people must be heard, not the voice of the oppressor. Things must be done properly. This is the position of the party in Akure North Local Government,” the spokesperson said, confirming the return of crisis to Ondo APC.

Among the promises Akeredolu would be expected to fulfill is the completion of road and bridge projects started in his first term. The governor, while campaigning for second term, amidst accusations that the state is littered with uncompleted projects initiated by his administration, vowed to ensure the completion of all roads and bridges under construction if re-elected. Now, with his taking the oath for a second term, the people will look forward to the completion of these projects.

But with the biting economic recession and dwindling federal allocations accruing to the state, there are fears that it may not be an easy task for the Ondo State governor.

However, during the inauguration ceremony for his second term in office Akeredolu reiterated his promise to complete all the projects and set the state on the path of growth. “We are committed, irrevocably, to setting the state on the path of real growth and development. We are confident that posterity will read about this era and feel proud of our achievements. Our victory at the last election confirmed the love and trust we enjoy from the people. We cannot afford to depart from the redemptive and restorative path.  We shall proceed, with keener enthusiasm, to justify the renewal of our mandate to serve the people,” the governor said.

One issue the governor will have to grapple with on his return to office is the issue of school fees in the state’s higher institutions. Agitations for reductions in the amounts payable by undergraduates remain unending in the state. Parents and students continue to clamour for slashes in the fees payable, but the governor had in the past insisted he cannot grant such request as, according to him, the state cannot afford such.

Speaking on the issue, Adarabiokin recalled a protest by civil society and student organisations in 2018, when the governor increased the fees paid by students of the higher institutions by almost 200 percent. “We protested back then because the decision forced some of the students to abandon studies or leave for schools where fees are cheaper. But the governor stood his ground. The agitation is still on and one will expect that our governor will consider doing something about it this time,” he said.

Also at the top of the list of expectations of the people is job creation. To many observers of the politics of the state, unemployment has become a major source of concern across Ondo State. “And it is one issue needing urgent attention if things aren’t to go out of hand soon,” Akinmusere said. Good enough, the governor has also said his second term will be for the creation of jobs through industrialisation, entrepreneurship development, and seaport and Bitumen exploration.

“What we will be doing in our second term is to establish the Ondo State Youth Entrepreneurs Agency to help raise young entrepreneurs who will create jobs for graduates. We cannot afford to remain a civil service state because the system is over bloated. Youths are the future of tomorrow; it is important that we invest greatly in them. Leadership is not exclusive to governance alone, so when they say leaders of tomorrow, it’s not about politics alone.

“You can be leaders in the agricultural sector, in entrepreneurship, in entertainment, etc. Let me say very pointedly that I am coming back to ensure that the dream of Ondo State to have a sea port becomes a reality. I plan to build an Ondo State that will create jobs through industrialisation, entrepreneurship development, sea port and Bitumen exploration. I am also working very hard to ensure that the Akure Airport is upgraded to an international airport. We can, yes, we can,” Akeredolu, who with his eloquence at his swearing in ceremony for a second term, set an arduous agenda for himself, assured.