Thursday, 25 February 2021 05:21

Ondo State and the tango of Akeredolus (1) - Bola Bolawole

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Dogs don't eat dogs, they say, and birds don’t eat each other’s intestines – not so in the ancient town of Owo and birthplace of Awo’s Action Group of yore! When two elephants fight, it is the ground that suffers. Again, not so in Owo, the land of my birth, where three – not just two - elephants slug it out at the moment. If the ground suffers when two elephants fight, imagine what happens when three do! The three elephants are the governor, Rotimi Akeredolu; Chief Judge of the state, Olutoyin Olanrewaju Akeredolu (nee Fagboyegun); and Jumoke Anifowose (Nee Ajasin).

Akeredolu heads the Executive or first arm of government, while Justice (Mrs.) Akeredolu heads the Judiciary or third arm of government. Because their surname tallies, many have held the erroneous impression that the two Akeredolus are from the same family – they are not! But both of them are from Owo, Justice (Mrs.) Akeredolu being the daughter of the Owo business magnate, Johnson Olajide Fagboyegun (now of blessed memory). She is, however, happily married to an Ikare-Akoko man whose surname is Akeredolu. So, that she is Akeredolu while the governor is also Akeredolu is coincidental. One Akeredolu is Owo by birth while the other is Owo by birth and Ikare-Akoko by marriage. That the two personalities come from Owo does not also mean that they are related – they are not!

Both have earned their respective high office on merit. Thrice, Akeredolu contested election into the office of governor of Ondo State; he lost once but twice he has won, even if in the manner of politicians “winning” elections here! By dint of hard work, Justice (Mrs.) Akeredolu also rose to the top on the Ondo State Bench; the usual practice in the Judiciary being to defer to seniority. So, this is not a case of an Owo governor unfairly helping an Owo daughter to become the State’s CJ.

The third elephant in this triangle is Jumoke Anifowose (nee Ajasin). She has been Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Ondo State; former chairperson of Ondo State branch of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which later became one of the legacy parties of the APC; she had also been governorship aspirant as well as candidate; and has most assiduously struggled to keep the Ajasin political dynasty aglow.

The late Pa Michael Adekunle Ajasin needs no elaborate introduction. He was the first principal of Imade College, Owo, the first community secondary school in Owo town; he later founded and ran my alma mater, Owo High School; he hosted the meeting where the Action Group was conceptualised at Owo in 1951; in the First Republic he was a member of the Federal House of Representatives; he is touted as the brain (or one of the brains) behind Awo’s free education policy; he was the first civilian governor of old Ondo State (now Ondo and Ekiti states); and the uncompromising NADECO leader that fought the Babangida and Abacha miltary juntas to a standstill.

When the bad-mannered Anthony Onyearugbulem, the then military administrator of Ondo State, dared to beard Ajasin’s lion in its lair, I took him to the cleaners in “Tell Onyearugbulem!”. Many were so impressed with that piece, the Ajasins inclusive, that they began to call me “Omo Baba” (Ajasin’s son). Indeed, I was! For four-and-half years, Pa. Ajasin was my principal at Owo High School. When I passed out in June 1974, one out of four students (out of a class of 107, I think) to make Division One or Two, he asked if I would like to study in Eastern Europe. If I knew what I later knew, I would have accepted the offer.

So, Mrs Anifowose is right if she chooses not to allow such a rich pedigree go waste. In a letter to a rival scientist, Robert Hooke, Isaac Newton wrote in February 1675: “If I have seen a little farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”. It is not contestable that Mrs Anifowose stands on the shoulders of giants.  However, it is unfortunate the type of politics we now play on these shores and the kind of characters – better still, charlatans - that have seized the political space. The labour of our heroes' past are not only allowed to be in vain, they are also disrespected, disregarded, stamped under foot, and marched in the dust.

Anifowose would have none of that – and she is damn right. She is in court against Akeredolu over last year’s gubernatorial contest. She lost at the High court but has vowed to go on appeal. It is her right to do so! But there must be an end to litigation! Said Chief Judge Alex Kozinski: “At some point, litigation must come to an end.” This I respectfully commend to Anifowose. I have heard of efforts by well-meaning people to broker peace between her and Akeredolu, all of which reportedly floundered on the altar of ego trips and relationship issues. But Anifowose need not bother about that any more. It takes wisdom to be magnanimous in victory. Rubbing insult on the injury of others is bad – especially if we say we are family (Owo’s word for it is “omiye”) – but asking the leopard to change its skin may be another waiting for Godot. Pa Ajasin was noted for protecting, preserving and advancing Owo interests. His children should do no less.

Some of the Fagboyeguns I also knew, since I grew up at home. Once in a blue moon, we were privileged to have a glimpse of Johnson Olajide Fagboyegun himself ride past in his immaculate car. In those days when boys were boys and we broke hostel rules to go partying, the boarding House master, Mr. Jacobs (later Mr. Omole), would rise up early and shut the hostel doors to take the roll call. He would later in the day return to parade those found “missing”.

One story Omole was fond of telling us was that of the empty barrel that makes the loudest noise. And the example of a role model worthy of emulation he would give was that of Fagboyegun. He would ask how many times we had encountered Fagboyegun at beer joints and dance halls. Important people, he would add, are not flimsy people found parading all about. Fagbogeun was a business mogul who impacted Owo with his business acumen, providing jobs for the people. Even when those days’ Owo political upheavals affected him and his business adversely, he neither lost faith in, nor broke ranks with Owo. His children have kept it so.

Those who claim to know say a low intensity war had, for quite a while, raged, interestingly, amongst prominent Ondo State officials of Owo origin; not in the least between the governor and the CJ. They say the governor usually loves to have his way but the CJ sticks with principles and the law. Interestingly, both of them are lawyers. Perhaps, as the head of the third arm of government, the CJ believes in the theory of separation of powers as espoused by Charles Louis de Secondat Baron de Montesquieu in his “The Theory of Doctrine of Separation of Power” in his book “Espirit des Louis” (The spirit of the laws), 1747.

Another prominent Owo son caught in the battle of the elephants in Ondo state - and a senior lawyer as well - was the erstwhile Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Kola Olawoye. Akeredolu reportedly wanted his in-law to fill a vacant seat on the Ondo state Bench (some say he is still not relenting). The lady’s state of origin apart (Delta by birth but Ondo by marriage, to Akeredolu’s brother), Olawoye (a year my senior at Owo High School) reportedly disagreed on grounds that the woman lacked two vital qualifications – no experience on the Bench and no recommendation from the requisite number of judges. That triggered bad blood!

However, it was the move to impeach erstwhile Ondo State Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, who decamped from the ruling APC, bounced off PDP before settling down in the Zenith Labour Party where he contested the October 20, 2020 Ondo State governorship election but failed woefully, that blew the lid off the simmering conflicts. After the election, Ondo APC moved to impeach Ajayi. For his vaulting ambition, empty boasts, and heating up of the polity for nothing, I, too, supported - if only to teach Ajayi and his ilk a lesson that acting the Akin Omoboriowo script does not yield good dividends. But I noticed that the Akeredolu faction in the Ondo State House of Assembly did not have the numbers – and I said so.

They went ahead, nonetheless, but met a brick wall in CJ Akeredolu who drew their attention to the requirements of the law. She would have none of “Jankara” or Obasanjo-style impeachment procedure. And so, the impeachment process suffered a premature death. They reportedly never forgave Olawoye who, having reportedly warned about the incurable deficiency in the impeachment process, was seen as a “black sheep”. Olawoye was removed from office in November last year. Despite his reputed closeness to the governor, he was denied soft landing. But even President Muhammadu Buhari accorded his erstwhile Service Chiefs super soft landing!

They never forgave the CJ, too! Like Olawoye, CJ Akeredolu would take her turn! Enter, then, the self-styled Oluwapelumi Akeredolu! Next week, God willing!

  • Bola Bolawole

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