Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu
Governorship candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the October 20, Ondo election, Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, may have learnt his lesson the hard way. With the election, which he and his backers gave their all, won and lost , what does the future hold for him? Olawale Olaleye asks
It’s a new degree on the horizon. They call it BLLB- Bo ti Lo, Lo ti Bo, literally translating- went and returned empty-handed or more explicitly: went and returned the same way. It is a common degree handed people with failed ambition, especially those whose failure had been foretold. BLLB is however not applicable in politics alone.
In the case of Mr. Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, governorship candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the October 20 election in Ondo State, despite having spiritedly prepared for a major test, he was believed to have been tutored by dynamically outmoded teachers whose understanding of the course of politics is not in tune with the reality of time.
Besides, he was also believed to have been taken through the wrong text books; those not included in the curriculum of the particular political session by the management of the new examiner body- the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). To that extent, he failed the test and returned home with the degree available only to poor students of politics. The degree- BLLB- is not issued to anyone based on bias, class or ideological leaning; it is earned too like the dignifying ones.
About four days to the Ondo election, a public commentator and political analyst of sort, Mr. Femi Sowoolu, had come up with an interesting perspective into the tension-soaked exercise. In drawing his inference, he was particularly worried about what would become of Akeredolu after the exercise had come and gone than he was for the party itself. For this commentator, the Ondo election was a forgone issue. But where does the outcome leave the learned Akeredolu?
He wrote: “Although, Akeredolu comes with peculiar pedigree, being the erstwhile Nigerian Bar Association President after years of successful legal enterprise, there appears to be something not quite right about his emerging candidacy. As NBA President, he handled the position quite credibly, often contributing to national and political issues and even openly confronting government when the need arose.
“But one somehow feels that the timing of his political ambition is faulty. One feels, sadly, that the one we fondly call Aketi is being misadvised to contest at this most inopportune of moments. All military strategists know that there is a time to advance as well as a time to retreat. Both positions have relevant advantages based on prior preparation, strategy and planning,” Sowoolu noted.
While concluding, he stressed: “If I were in position to advise Aketi, - and indeed I am as we both shared the same classes at the prestigious Loyola College, Ibadan, in the wildness of our youth; I would have suggested to him to give it another four years. If he had let this one slide by and chose to contest the election on whatever political platform in the next election, I am positive of his absolute success. If he does not win the contest this time around, he could become a political liability in the future.”
As instructive as Sowoolu’s fears seemed, they have eventually come to pass. The Ondo election, like many analysts had noted, was significant in many ways. It was a rejection of ACN’s monolithic leadership. It was a rejection of the party’s dictatorial leaning. It was an overt response to arrogance in power. It was a rebuff of obscene display of tax payer’s money even in the face of squalid life style. And of course, it was an embrace of equity, justice and fair play in a complacently debilitating terrain.
For the analytically minded, results of the election also showed the weak popularity of the governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko. Like some analysts had noted, if the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Mr. Olusola Oke, had come into the race early enough, the character of the results might have been different.
This is because an objective analysis of the results shows that more people actually voted against the governor than they voted for him, that is, if all the votes cast for the other candidates, including the insignificant ones are put together, then, the governor’s votes are not an indication of popularity as many would have thought. The other votes together are twice in excess of what the governor polled. But that the governor was able to pull it through was because the people of Ondo rejected a brazen attempt to impose on them, a choice governor.
Such round and unapologetic rejection, however, could be anyone. It was not because the ACN fielded Akeredolu even though his candidacy came with its own baggage; the fact that there was an attempt to fiddle with their right to choice made nonsense of the Akeredolu candidacy.
No doubt, Mimiko earned his victory, having fought hard and with visible evidence of his testimonial in the last three and a half years; the result certainly contradicted the much avowed popularity and the fact that it could have been anyone, depending on who is able to do more of canvassing for votes and supports.
But that Akeredolu is not the type of person that an average voter can relate with is yet another contributory factor and more of a political liability. That it worked for ACN in Lagos during the 2007 election has no provable process that it would be applicable elsewhere, no matter the prevalent equation. Thus, the ACN calculation failed.
Again, Akeredolu’s selling points also had no direct bearing with an average Ondo voter. Yes, a successful Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), but the party could not convince the voters how his many years of successful law practice had enhanced the socio-political development of the state. In fact, the only thing that readily comes to mind was that as the Attorney-General of the state during the haye days of the military, he kept mute when the junta hounded a former governor, Pa Adekunle Ajasin, out of office. That, certainly, is no plus for an already difficult product.
Or, how does an Ondo voter relate with the fact that in 2012, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) named its new secretariat in Abuja after him. Although, the NBA President cited as reason, the need for “generational identification and recognition of those who had contributed immensely to the development of the association,” saying “everything in the NBA is usually highly politicised. The sheer courage for him (Akeredolu) to go through the rigour is a testimony to his selfless service.” As good as that may sound, how does the woman selling pepper on the street or the vulcanizer across the road relate such with their predicament and the fact that the days ahead are promising? ACN did not just get it and that, without much ado, explains why Akeredolu lost his own polling booth to Mimiko.
Again, the Ondo scenario is believed to speak a lot about the political class’ penchant for not consciously grooming electable persons or in some cases, thinking through ideal successor. The fire brigade approach is, more often than not, informed by the greed to want to continue to have control over a particular system even after leaving office. This attitude or mindset comes with its attendant problems and goes steps further to complicating whatever is available on the turf.
As observers have noted, whether in terms of attitude, carriage and human relation, grassroots politics does not appear a calling for the conceited like Akeredolu who has the tendency to look down on people because of the accomplishments he brandishes as a SAN and a lawyer.
This perception, for emphasis, played out at a recent gathering with reporters about two weeks to the election where Akeredolu went on the offensive with an editor of a national daily and described his mode of questions as confrontational and pre-determined. From all indications, the ACN candidate lacks the temperament to operate in an environment where someone like him would forget ever being a SAN at each turn he comes face-to-face with the people- those they would call the masses and level up. A grassroots politician is one who is down-to-earth and equates himself with everyone, irrespective of class, status and political affiliation even though in reality, everyone knows that they are not at par.
With the bitter experience and discomforting lesson from Ondo last Saturday, the political future of the ACN candidate may have become bothersome and a liability, at least, for his nuclear supporters. Given Ondo’s peculiar politics, he may have been technically knocked out of the equation. Even if the Ondo people reconsider the ACN for another chance come next election, the choice of an Akeredolu might as well create an upset. That he came out at a time believed to be grossly inopportune may have become a stigma and perhaps, in addition to his SAN, he might just have to do with the BLLB and remain content with life as it so seems.
For analysts, this is not to write off the legal luminary as a potential political asset since failure itself is an opportunity to begin again even more intelligently; but such a try may however not bear forth any good fruit. The future, as it were, does not look as auspicious as it should have been all on account of a political miscalculation predicated on politics of hate, vendetta and personal differences.