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December 29, 2023

Reflections on a dignitary’s death, By Donu Kogbara

Reflections on a dignitary’s death, By Donu Kogbara

Late former Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu

Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, the distinguished lawyer and former Nigerian Bar Association President who became Governor of Ondo State, died on Wednesday. Of prostrate cancer in Germany.

I have discussed Akeredolu with people who knew him. I’ve also checked out some of the online fora in which his passing is being discussed by people who didn’t know him; and I’ve taken note of the fact that opinions are divided about his performance and character. 

In a nutshell, those who interacted with him face-to-face tend to use words like “approachable” and “decent” to describe him, while those judging him from a distance are more likely to be critical. And some of the criticisms – about the way he did his job and about the alleged misconduct of his family – are extremely harsh. 

One Yoruba guy even said, on Instagram, that Akeredolu’s widow, Betty – who is from Imo State – was so busy corruptly acquiring wealth as her suffering husband lay dying that she didn’t bother to take care of him. And he urged Yoruba men to learn from Akeredolu’s “mistake” and steer clear of Igbo females henceforth.   

If that isn’t tribalistic hate speech, I don’t know what is! Even if some or all of the allegations against Madame are true, are there not grasping women in all ethnic groups and some nice wives in Igboland? 

And, for the record, there are onlookers who say that Mrs Akeredolu has been slandered. Here is another side of the story. It was sent to me by someone who claims to have insider information:

“Don’t mind the stupid tribal idiot. That woman was the best of wives, a strong Igbo woman who supported her husband till death. They met as undergraduates in our University of Ife days and remained sweethearts ever after.

“Once the governor took ill, the Yoruba hell was let loose! They fought her with everything. They wanted the man declared dead before he died. The woman insisted on the constitutional requirement that the Deputy can’t take over until the man himself writes to transmit power. That’s what the whole drama is about.” 

ANYWAY, even those who like Mrs Akeredolu and were fond of her husband don’t sugar-coat their legacy. I’ve not heard anyone saying that she was a superlative First Lady who launched impressive sustainable charitable initiatives or that he was a great leader whose state improved by leaps and bounds under his stewardship.

Akeredolu’s demise catapulted me into a deeply reflective mood. Let me share some of my post-mortem musings with you. 

Firstly, while it may be unChristian to speak ill of the dead, I don’t think that it is wrong to be honest if you don’t have a high opinion of the person who has gone to meet his Maker, especially if that person’s actions, utterances or inertia harmed others.

If a leader doesn’t use his or her powers to significantly assist those who depend on him or her, his or her shortcomings should not be glossed over when he or she dies. We should say it like it is and dish out and lukewarm reactions or lacerating abuse to failures. 

Much should be expected from those to whom much has been given. And if they selfishly or incompetently waste the opportunities they got from God or voters, their victims should feel free to say so.

Only heroes (or those who may not be outstanding but still tried their best) should be lauded when they leave us. 

If VIPs don’t possess the ability, conscience, integrity or pride to work hard and focus on delivering solid results, why should they be hailed when the populace is finally liberated from them? 

Secondly, Nigerian VIPs need to stop rushing to foreign countries when they are ill. They should build state-of-the-art hospitals here. 

It’s about enlightened self-interest and basic intelligence. You don’t have to be a genius to see that if there are good medical facilities locally, it is not just ordinary citizens who will benefit from them.  

Big shots will also enjoy the advantages such safety nets can deliver. 

Money is not everything. The Grim Reaper is not impressed by the size of anyone’s bank balance. No matter how rich or important you are, you cannot always buy enough time in which to reach overseas before a stroke or heart attack or whatever kills you. Some VIPs die ONLY because they could not get emergency care at home. 

Long story short, the long journey to Europe, Dubai, America, India, etc, is often enough to finish off someone whose life is hanging by a thread. Instead of being cosily ensconced in a wonderful hospital near your residence and surrounded by everything required to save your life, you are ferried onto an ambulance plane on a stretcher. 

Being sick is stressful enough. Imagine the additional anxiety that travelling for several hours brings into the picture. Imagine the noise of the aircraft, the plane juddering alarmingly if turbulence is encountered, the not being able to guarantee world-class treatment till you get to another continent! The sheer uncertainty. 

Even if you are unconscious or sedated and unaware of what is going on, the longer treatment is delayed, the greater the physical danger. 

I’ve made this point before on this page and I’ll never stop making it until Nigerian VIPs change. My father died the day before he was due to be flown to the UK for post-stroke treatment. There were no adequate hospitals in Port Harcourt. We wasted precious days sorting out his travel documents. I know what I am talking about. 

OK so that’s it for this week. The horizon isn’t looking too bright or exciting. But I pray that all Vanguard readers thrive in 2024.

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RESPONSES TO  donzol2002@yahoo.co.uk  

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