By Dayo Johnson Akure
CAN the health of Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, the governor of Ondo state withstand the rigours of a second term in office?. This is the million dollar question agitating the minds of the people of the state ahead of the 2020 governorship election.
The manner in which his undisclosed ailment was shielded in secrecy for five weeks fuelled the concerns of the electorate across the state and beyond.
Why his kitchen cabinet kept his sickness from public domain
The story of his kitchen cabinet who had all along sold a dummy to the people of the state that the governor was in Abuja attending to pressing state matters and would not want to waste public funds shuttling between Akure and Abuja on daily basis fell flat when news of him being rushed to Germany for medical attention was splashed on the various online media platforms.
Vanguard learnt that the governor’s kitchen cabinet popularly known as the “ “Team Aketi “ had wanted to keep the governor’s health condition away from the preying eyes of the opposition parties so as not to use it as a campaign issue against the governor in next years election. But, it became clear the governor needed more rest hence he could not return to the state as planned by them.
The wind finally blows.
Pictures of him receiving visitors from the state but not attending important meetings such as that of the Niger Delta governors with President Muhammadu Buhari on the contention board of the NDDC raised further concern of the people of the state that their governor was actually indisposed hence his absence at such important gathering.
When eventually the governor was able to leave the Ondo state Lodge in Abuja for the Governors Forum meeting and that of the National Executive Council NEC Meeting, the manner his brother governors exchanged greetings with him indicated that he had been sick and that they were happy for him to be back on his feet. Interestingly, the meeting of the state governors presided by their Chairman, Dr Kayode Fayemi was held at the Ondo state government lodge in Abuja. Also the governor in company of his wife Betty received the African Governor for Innovative Leadership Award by the African Stride International, in conjunction with the Centre for Africa Development and International Studies at the same government lodge.
Akeredolu media handlers said in a statement after the receipt of the award by the governor that he ”cut short an official engagement to receive the Chief of Staff, Chief Olugbenga Ale , Head of Service , Mr. Dare Aragbaiye,other Cabinet members as well as the Chairman of the Ondo State Council of Obas, Olugbo of Ugbo, Oba Fredrick Obateru Akinruntan after receiving the award”.
While the governor was on his sick bed, his deputy, Hon Agboola Ajayi held sway in the state representing him within and outside the state.
Agboola and other heads of government parastaltals and boards had to shuttle between Akure/Abuja for five weeks.
Opposition party kicks, wants the governors true health status made public
As the “disappearance” of the governor from the state continued to generate much concerns, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party PDP found its voice.
The opposition PDP through its Director (Media & Publicity) of the PDP , Zadok Akintoye in a statement demanded for the true status of the governors health.
Akintoye said “the Ondo House of Assembly should ensure that the process of governance is not impeded by the Governors’ ill health.
“ The people of the state are worried that the governor and his deputy Agboola Ajayi were absent during last week meeting of the governors in the Niger Delta states with President Muhammadu Buhari.
“The import of the absence of Mr. Governor and/or his Deputy at the meeting of Niger Delta Governors with the President underlines our concern, as Ondo state (being one of the Niger Delta states and a major stakeholder in the happenings at the NDDC) was not adequately represented.
“We take note of a report by an online news medium which published an alleged rumor that the absence of our Governor, His Excellency, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) from public, may be due to ill health.
“If true, we express our concern on the state of health of the governor and do wish him quick and perfect recovery.
“Our party also wishes to request that the true status of the health of the Governor be made known to the public as soon as possible and that if he is incapacitated in performing his duties, the Ondo House of Assembly should ensure that the process of governance is not impeded by the Governors’ ill health.
“Once again, our prayer goes to the Governor and we wish him perfect recovery (if this allegation is true).
But the information and Orientation commissioner Donald Ojogo said that the exigencies of office had kept him in Abuja for a while and would soon return to the state.
” These are insinuations of those that do not mean well for the state. He is entitled to his annual vacation.
“When his daughter was getting married, he had to cut short his annual vacation to attend to domestic issues. His leave ended on October 4. When he came back, series of meetings were already lined up.
“He had to stay back in Abuja to attend the meetings. He cannot just be jetting in and out of the state, hence his reason for staying back in Abuja.
Surprisingly, one of his last visitors during his sojourn in Abuja was the National leader of the party Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and other members of the party NWC.
Tinubu’s visit to Akeredolu further showed cynics that the governor may have won himself back to the hearts of the leader and those who call the shorts in the party at the National Secretariat.
But some leaders of the party not on same page with the second term ambition of Akeredolu punctured this saying “ time will tell where Tinubu belongs as regards Ondo 2020 governorship election.”
Divided executive council members?.
There are insinuation that the exposure to the online media of the illness of the governor was a mischief done by some of the governors cabinet members.
Although this could not be confirmed speculations were rife that the opposition party had infiltrated the state executive members and underground going on to unseat Aketi in 2020.
His triumphant entry after five weeks of his disappearance
Exactly five weeks after his stay outside Ondo state, the governor returned in a chattered flight at about 530pm and was received by a tumultuous crowd of party chieftains, traditional rulers and the people of the state ostensibly to make a political statement and shut the mouths of those who taught the governor was tired and can’t go the hog of a second term.
From the Airport which was jam-packed as early as 6am, the entire Akure, the state capital was locked down for hours as the state chairman of the party Ade Adetimehin led his party members and his executives while the deputy, Agboola Ajayi led the state Executive council members, members of the State House of Assembly were led by the Speaker Rt Hon Bamidele Oleyelogun, Oba Obateru Akinruntan led the state Council of Obas while the National Union of Roads Transport Workers (NURTW) were equally led by their state chairman, Jacob Adebo aka ldajo to receive their governor popularly called “Aketi”.
Traditional rulers at the airport include the Olowa of Igbara-Oke Oba Dr. Francis Adefarakanmi Agbede, Olugbo of Ugbo, Oba Dr. Fredrick E.O. Akinruntan, Deji of Akure, Oba Ogunlade Aladelusi, Osemawe of Ondo Oba Dr. Adesimbo Kiladejo and the Olowo of Owo, Oba Ajibade Gbadegesin Ogunoye amongst others.
Political observers in the state wondered why the governor’s team who kept his absence from the state for five weeks from the people he governs now decided to roll out the drums to celebrate his return.
The manner his return was celebrated showed that the government and the party wanted to score political point that the governor was back and strong enough to administer the state if giving second term ticket. It was to send signal to the opposition not to dare use the governors five week ailment as a campaign issue.
Governor Akeredolu hit this on the head when he told newsmen on arrival at the Airport that “ am back stronger, refreshed and ready to serve the people with full vigour.
He exposed the lies of the “Team Aketi” and governors kitchen cabinet when he openly confessed that he was actually sick and stayed back in Abuja on doctors advise to rest.
Pointedly, he said “ Yes, I needed to seek medical attention. It was nothing so serious because it is routine. But on my return, I needed to take some time off based on advise. It wasn’t as serious as people blew it.
‘’But basically, my stay back in Abuja was indeed not a serious period to even rest because I had to attend to a lot of issues that will move the State forward.
‘’I received in audience a word class Medical Foundation, Medicus International from Germany as I presided over the signing of the MoU for them to build a World class Medical city in Akure.
‘’You are aware that I attended the Governors Forum meeting as well as the National Economic Council meeting and several others.
‘’Of a particular note was the meeting I held with the World Bank that will bring in a capital of about $19 million for the development of the state.
‘’As you can see, I’m back fresher and stronger to continue the work the good people of the state mandated me to do.
Two days after his return, he made a state broadcast.
To further lay to rest the concern over his health governor Akeredolu in a state-wide broadcast two days after his return said “ l therefore wish to renew my vow to you that I will not relent but I will continue to use all my strength,energy and God given knowledge and talent to serve our dear state.
“The task is heavy, the journey is far, the expectations are high while the objectives are clear; to develop the land and the people.
“I believe that the future is bright and all mountains are surmountable if we work together. I therefore wish to encourage us all to work towards the goal by demonstrating unconditional love for our neighbours, diligence,focus, on development and peaceful coexistence”