Time Bomb Set Against Akeredolu in Ondo
The city of Akure, the Ondo State capital, was agog on Friday, February 24, 2017, when a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Chief Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), and a former member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Agboola Ajayi, were sworn in as the governor and deputy governor of the state respectively.
Akeredolu, in his inaugural speech, promised to transform the state and work for its people. For example, the new governor promised to provide functional education and technological growth for the people of the state. He also vowed to create jobs through agriculture, entrepreneurship and industrialisation and provide massive infrastructural development and maintenance.
"There will be provision of accessible and qualitative health care and social service delivery, rural development and community extension services," the new governor said.
Incidentally, the people of the state are expecting a lot from Akeredolu's government, especially those not pleased with the performance of the immediate past administration of Dr. Olusegun Mimiko.
Even those who believed that Mimiko did well would like to witness a new positive chapter with the new administration.
One of the major challenges confronting the new administration is how to offset the backlog of salaries of civil servants in the state. As of the time the new administration took over, workers in the state were being owed more than five months' salaries by the immediate past administration.
Currently, doctors and nurses in the employ of the state government are on strike to protest the nonpayment of their salaries.
Most civil servants in the state consider its inability to pay workers as and when due as one of the biggest shortcomings of the past administration.
Some political analysts have even linked unpaid workers' salaries to the failure of the Peoples Democratic Party at the last governorship election in the state, saying the situation cost the party the votes of many civil servants.
It was learnt that the hope of many civil servants in the state was therefore that Akeredolu would find ways to clear all the salary arrears in the next few months, despite the economic recession in the country. Some hopeful civil servants believe that the problem should be easier for the new governor to solve as Akeredolu's victory means that the state and Federal Government are now being controlled by the same party (All Progressives Congress), and that the latter should be able to assist the state to alleviate the workers' suffering.
The governor, in his maiden speech to the workers on his first day in office, had assured the workers of finding a solution to the problem of unpaid salaries. He promised to set up a committee to look into the matter.
Akeredolu said "I am aware of your pains and agony. I feel your pains and what you are going through, and I can see your sufferings. No doubt, a labourer deserves his wages."
Another area that may be tricky for the Akeredolu-led administration is the appointment of political appointees. It was learnt that many politicians, who worked for Akeredolu in the buildup to the election, had been waiting to be called for appointment.
Findings showed that three groups of people worked for Akeredolu and the APC in the last governorship election in the state, which are: APC 'aborigines' (those who have been in the party from outset and have never left); people who defected to the APC from other parties, particularly from the PDP; and professionals in various fields who worked for the party (APC) during the campaign and the election.
A source in the party told Saturday PUNCHthat a cold war has been brewing among the three categories of APC supporters, with the APC 'aborigines' said to be claiming more loyalty to the party than others.
The APC members, who had defected from other parties, were said to have been claiming to have done more work than others to secure Akeredolu's victory in the election while the third group was said to have been bragging that they are professionals and would deliver results for the government.
Akeredolu recently approved the appointment of Sunday Abegunde Ifedayo as Secretary to the State Government, Olugbenga Ale as his Chief of Staff and Jones Ogunmusere as his Senior Special Assistant on Administration.
He had earlier appointed Oluwasegun Ajiboye as his chief press secretary, Dapo Aruwajoye as Press Secretary (Electronic Media) and Fisayo Falodi as Press Secretary (Print Media).
Meanwhile, other core appointments were still being awaited as of the time of filing this report, but sources in the government said the governor was already working on it.
It was learnt from sources in Akeredolu's government that Akeredolu was being careful not to put square pegs in round holes, and so, was looking for good hands to work with.
However, it was also learnt that many politicians had begun to run from pillar to post in desperation to get political appointments in the state.
Another major issue confronting the administration of Akeredolu is infrastructural development. Out of the three senatorial districts in the state, the people of Ondo North and Ondo South senatorial districts are said to be expecting a lot of infrastructural development from the government.
It is the belief of some people in the two districts that the immediate past government favoured Ondo Central senatorial district more than the two others in its siting of infrastructural projects.
For instance, projects like mother and child hospitals, mega schools and markets, and some others were allegedly concentrated in the Ondo Central senatorial district, which comprises six local government areas, namely: Ondo East, Ondo West, Akure North, Akure South, Ifedore and Idanre).
Therefore, Akeredolu might offend the people of the two districts should he fail to live up to their expectations, especially as his hometown, Owo in Owo Local Government Area, is in Ondo North senatorial district.
In line with the aforementioned issues, Akeredolu, the sixth executive governor of the state, had said in one of his speeches that he was determined to perform better than his predecessors despite the current economic recession.
He had said, "All we want to do is to serve this state well. We know it is not going to be rosy but we will not give up."
Meanwhile, some analysts and residents of the state have advised the new governor to live up to the people's expectations and not allow political interests to override their interests.
An Akure-based legal practitioner, Mr. Dayo Akinlaja (SAN), described Akeredolu as having the right temperament and skills to do well as governor of the state considering his good antecedents in the legal profession.
He, however, urged the governor not to lose his focus to move the state forward.
He said, "A lot is expected of him from that office; the hopes are high regardless of the current economic recession. But he should try and make his government to have positive impacts on the people with the way he brings himself down to the level of the masses.
"I have no doubt that he would do well in that office but he needs to be focused and determined to do what is right, regardless of the political consideration and pressure."
A political analyst, Mr. Abel Lawal, said the new governor should continue from where his predecessor stopped and warned that any attempt by Akeredolu to cancel the good programmes he met on ground would not benefit the people of the state.
Lawal said, "Akeredolu should just continue where Mimiko stopped. He should not be political about the development of this state if he really means business to move the state forward. The laudable health programmes of the last administration should not stop for any reason.
"He should do more on infrastructural development, especially in the riverine areas. He should improve on the programmes on education and commerce that he met on ground. Most importantly, he should work on improving security, among other things."
Meanwhile, Akeredolu has on Friday said that his government would recognise and reward dedicated, competent and loyal party members.
He said all members of the All Progressives Congress who worked for the party during the last governorship election would not regret their action of being loyal to the party, saying everyone would be adequately taken care of.
The governor stated this at the swearing in of the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Ifedayo Abegunde, Chief of Staff to the Governor, Mr. Gbenga Ale and other political appointees.
The event was held at the Cocoa Conference Hall at the governor's office, Akure, the state capital.
Other appointees who were inaugurated included senior special assistants, special assistants and chief of protocol.
Akeredolu also promised that more party loyalists would soon be appointed to serve in his administration.
He said, "We urge our people to understand that this state needs help and that as patriots, their sacrifice and service to common good remain the only purpose of their involvement in government.
"While waiting for such opportunities to come, we wish to appeal for patience with the government, renewal of faith in our party and a complete dedication to our promises to the people of our state"
Specifically, the governor described the new SSG as a person who had a pedigree that spoke loud for experience, loyalty and vision.
"Abegunde (the new SSG) is urbane, exposed and loyal. As you know, he is a consummate politician with an enduring and enviable grassroots appeal".
Akeredolu said the new Chief of Staff, Ale, was not only an accomplished bureaucrat but vast in public service experience, saying as an experienced public servant, he was trained to be steady, focused and systematic in finding solutions to difficult challenges.
"In setting out to achieve these lofty goals, our administration is conscious of the fact that change itself is a process. It is a process that must be clearly thought out, clearly articulated and clearly implemented to produce quantifiable results.
"To drive this change process, we believe there is the need for an excellent human resources comprising experience, competence, vision and confidence, " the governor added.