By Bankole Adeniyi
WHEN falsehood is allowed to fester in society for too long, it wears the garb of truth and may thus end up deceiving unsuspecting members of the public. However, truth is truth and will remain so till eternity, no matter the length of travel of lies.
It’s true that the embattled Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Hon. Agboola Ajayi and his principal, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, had enjoyed the best of principal-lieutenant relationship, which was the cynosure of all eyes, until very recently when things began to go south between them. A part of the cause of the seeming parting of ways will be revealed in the course of this article.
It’s also an incontrovertible fact that the duo had collaborated in 2016 to rescue the state from power buccaneers and their backers within and without on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC. The resultant effect of their efforts was what catapulted the APC to the gubernatorial seat of the state in the October 2016 election. Although there were forces who prevailed on Governor Akeredolu not to nominate Hon Agboola as his Deputy, going by his treacherous and capricious antecedents, the former declined and chose to pick him as second-in-command.
For record purposes, it needs to be emphasized and reemphasized that having taken into consideration the place of unity as a strong enabler of the formidability of a team for the actualization of its set objectives and goals, the Governor conceded so many powers and influence to his Deputy to a level never before seen in the history of Ondo State and that of the entire country, even till now. For those who are familiar with Governor Akeredolu, he likes to carry his subordinates along with whatever he does until a subordinate proves he cannot be trusted like the biblical Judas Iscariot.
The mutually beneficial relationship between the Governor and his Deputy was the talk of the town unlike what it was in the past and, still is, in this clime where deputy governors are mostly treated as mere spare tires by their bosses right from the Second Republic in 1979 till date. Governor Akeredolu decided, in his lawyerly wisdom, to take a radical departure from the norm by carrying his Deputy along in all his gubernatorial assignment in the thinking that they were co-partners steering the wheel of development of the state for the overall benefit of the people.
At a point in their relationship, the Deputy Governor commanded so much political influence courtesy of the latitude of freedom extended to him by Governor Akeredolu that he was misconstrued in some quarters to be the king behind the throne. Virtually all the political appointments in Ondo South were handed over by the Governor to his Deputy to coordinate, first in the annals of history of the state. Several times the Governor was away from the seat of power, several times he handed over the instruments of power to Hon Ajayi in accordance with the spirit and letters of the Constitution in the thinking that the Deputy would extend to him the 100 percent loyalty expected from a well-treated subordinate. How wrong the Governor was.
While the Governor was doing everything he could to tag along his Deputy in the governance of the state, unknown to the Governor, over two years ago, the Deputy had allegedly begun to make surreptitious and subterranean moves to undermine his principal with the sinister intention of rendering him politically useless before the masses of Ondo State so that he could realize his own inordinate ambition of taking over the reins of power either by hook or by crook. He could not just wait for his turn. This act of sabotage was reenacted when the Governor was under the weather and thus could not discharge his governorship duties effectively. But for celestial intervention, Hon Ajayi would have kicked out his boss who was sick at the time from power. How callous! Evidences including video clips of meetings held by the Deputy Governor with the political opponents of the Governor to undermine his principal abound. A time will come when the videos will be relayed to members of the public.
Be that as it may, for members of the public, who are not yet conversant with why the Governor and his Deputy seem to have parted ways, two reasons will suffice, in the interim. In the coming days, more reasons will be revealed so that the reading public can make their own informed judgment of who is the villain between the two.
One is the alleged mismanagement of funds meant for taking care of the welfare of ex-militants in the Amnesty Programme of the State Government and the Federal Government by the Deputy Governor. When the Federal Government defaulted, for whatever reasons, in releasing funds for the former militants, Governor Akeredolu had to step in at a time to provide a financial cushion for the militants who were becoming agitated. The Governor, trusting his Deputy to deliver, being from Ese Odo, the hub of the former militants, entrusted him with the fund, running into millions of naira.
When the Governor confronted him based on the negative feedback he was getting from the ex-militants, Agboola said he had used the money to settle some political scores without recourse to his principal. He thus became worried that the Governor queried him.
Another reason which bears a resemblance to the first one was the way the Deputy Governor handled some urban renewal projects of the Akeredolu-led administration meant to give a facelift to the people of Ese Odo Local Government Area where Hon. Ajayi hails from. Rather than execute the projects to specifications, having been duly financially mobilized, he did a poor job, some he even failed to finish; some he did not touch at all.
For full disclosure purposes, virtually all the capital projects of the Akeredolu-led government in Ese Odo and Ilaje Local Government Areas were awarded to a company.
Again, when the Governor confronted him on the infractions, the Deputy Governor could not provide any tangible explanation to rationalize the shoddy execution of the projects. The Some-Igbotu Road cost the State Government about N600m. The project was handled by the same firm. Ditto for the road linking Agadagbaodon and Amapere running into hundreds of millions of naira, all handled by the firm allegedly belonging to the Deputy Governor. How much more could a Governor concede to his Deputy?
Well, from the foregoing and with what is unfolding before our eyes, it does appear all along that the Deputy Governor, in order to actualize his own inordinate ambition through the backdoor, has been doing everything humanly and inhumanly possible to sabotage the efforts of his principal and the administration he leads. Even at this, the Governor has refused to move against him. And this is in spite of several entreaties to the Governor to wield the enormous powers at his disposal to remove the Deputy Governor. How many Governors in Nigeria can tolerate an inordinately ambitious Deputy? Perhaps only Akeredolu can. The facts of his tolerance of his saboteur Deputy speak for themselves. Interesting episodes ahead in the coming weeks.