Ondo State bids farewell to a stalwart leader, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, affectionately known as “Aketi,” who passed away in the early hours of Wednesday at a German hospital after a prolonged battle with leukemia and prostate cancer.
Akeredolu, born on July 21, 1957, in Owo, Nigeria, emerged as a resolute figure in Nigerian politics and governance. His journey through life encapsulated a trajectory from the hallowed halls of legal practice, where he rose to the esteemed rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), to the pinnacle of state leadership.
His tenure as the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in 2008 marked a period of vibrancy and activism. Akeredolu’s tenure was characterized by a forthright and sensitive approach to human rights abuses, earning him recognition as a bold and fearless politician.
Akeredolu’s foray into active politics gained momentum when he was appointed Attorney General of Ondo State from 1997 to 1999. Later, he chaired the Legal Aid Council from 2005 to 2006. His political journey faced initial setbacks, notably in the 2012 gubernatorial election, but resilience defined his character.
The turning point came in 2016 when he secured the gubernatorial ticket on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Akeredolu’s tenure witnessed a pragmatic approach to governance, focusing on prudent financial management. Despite inheriting a backlog of salary arrears, he navigated the fiscal challenges, ensuring prompt payment to state workers.
Akeredolu’s commitment to restructuring the Nigerian Federation stood out prominently. His vocal advocacy for decentralizing power and establishing state police demonstrated a rare courage, earning him praise and criticism in equal measure. The fruition of this vision was seen in the establishment of the Western Nigerian Security Network, popularly known as Amotekun, aimed at addressing security challenges in the region.
Under Akeredolu’s leadership, Amotekun became a formidable force in combating herdsmen-farmer clashes and kidnapping in Ondo State. His insistence on the need for the outfit to handle automatic weapons remained a persistent call, reflecting his unwavering commitment to tackling violent crimes.
As the South-west Governor’s Forum leader, Akeredolu played a pivotal role in advancing the development agenda of the region. The DAWN Commission received renewed attention, emphasizing regional cooperation for progress.
In the political arena, Akeredolu faced and overcame challenges, such as the intense rivalry during the 2016 primaries and political maneuvering by opponents. His ability to weather storms and steer the ship of governance through tumultuous waters was a testament to his resilience.
In his final days, Akeredolu’s health struggles brought to light the uncertainties of political transitions, marked by speculations and controversies surrounding his deputy, Agboola Ajayi. Despite the murkiness surrounding this period, Akeredolu’s legacy remains etched in the hearts of those who admired his unwavering spirit.
President Muhammadu Buhari conferred the Nigerian national honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) on Akeredolu in October 2022, recognizing his significant contributions to the nation.
As Ondo State mourns the loss of a progressive leader, Akeredolu’s legacy persists in the policies he championed, the institutions he fortified, and the spirit he instilled in the people. In the words of Dele Alake, Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Nigeria has lost a titan, but Akeredolu’s impact on the nigerian political sand of time endures.