Rotimi Akeredolu: The Face of the Change to Come


The Ondo State governor-elect, Rotimi Akeredolu, would be expected to drive change in the shape and form of governance when he assumes office next February. James Sowole, in Akure, writes

The governorship election in Ondo State has come and gone, but the complaints that attended the process would rage for some time to come. The objections are mainly from the Peoples Democratic Party and they border largely on alleged refusal of the Independent National Electoral Commission to allow more time for the party’s candidate, Mr Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, to prepare for the election after he was cleared by the Court of Appeal to contest at the last minute.

The other complaint regarding the election, which tends to come from all the major political parties in the election, including the Alliance for Democracy and the Social Democratic Party, was that voting was heavily monetised to the advantage of the All Progressives Congress candidate and the winner, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu SAN.

Inherited Legislature
By the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, only the occupiers of the executive arm of government would change in Ondo State from February 24, 2017, when Akeredolu is expected to take over from the incumbent governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko. All the commissioners would also vacate their offices since they are political appointees of the outgoing governor, just as all chairmen and members of boards of parastatals.

By the time Akeredolu assumes office as the governor and the head of the executive arm of government, the situation in the other two arms of government, the legislature and judiciary, would remain the same, as was the case when Mimiko inherited those two arms from his predecessor, the late Dr Olusegun Agagu. At that time, Mimiko came on board on the platform of the Labour Party while the House of Assembly was under the control of the PDP.

Specifically, the LP at time Mimiko assumed office had only nine out of the 26 members of the Assembly, while the PDP was in control with 15 lawmakers and the remaining one member elected on the platform of the AD but was cooperating with the LP lawmakers.

As it was then, so shall it be by the time Akeredolu assumes office in February. The PDP, which is currently in control of the House of Assembly, would still be in place because members of the Assembly were elected for a four-year tenure, which would lapse in 2019. The APC, whose candidate won the governorship election, currently has only five members in the Assembly.

When Mimiko assumed office, a member of the opposition party, the late Hon Samuel Adesina of the PDP from Odigbo State Constituency, was the Speaker since his party had majority in the Assembly.
In order to get the cooperation of the Assembly, Adesina and some other members that were elected on the platform of the PDP were prevailed upon to defect to the LP while he remained the Speaker.

Teething Troubles
For Akeredolu, getting the legislature to the side of his party would be difficult because of the provisions of the Electoral Act, as amended, which states that an elected officer that defects from the party under which he was elected to another party must vacate his or her seat in Assembly.

This situation would create a new controversy in the state, as the PDP in the state claims there is no faction in the party going by the judgement of the Supreme Court, which made the party in the state to suspend some members of the party last Tuesday. The question is whether the leader of the Ali Modu Sherriff faction of PDP in the state, Dr Jimoh Ibrahim, would accept the claim.
Some people are already alleging that the APC would do everything within its powers to ensure that the party controls the Assembly by ensuring that the controversies at the national leadership of the PDP persist until Akeredolu gains control of the Assembly.

Another major change that is imminent and which would also generate another round of controversy borders on the administration of the local governments. Going by the provisions of the law on the constitution and control of local governments, elected officers in the legislative and executive arms of the third tier of government are supposed to be in office for three years.

The heads of local governments in the state are virtually all PDP members, who were elected on April 23, 2016 and whose terms are expected to lapse in 2019. However, elected officers at the local government level are often dissolved whenever the party that takes over administration at the state level is different from the one at the local government, not only in Ondo State but in various states of the federation.

Mimiko had on assumption of office dissolved the local government administration that he inherited, citing noncompliance with the provisions of the State Local Government Law in the process that brought them in, though, they were elected officials. The dissolution of the local government administration by Mimiko generated controversy, as the affected officers sought legal intervention up to the Supreme Court without success. This had delayed the holding of local government elections for seven years, until April this year when the council poll was held.
While the matter lasted in the courts, caretaker committees were constituted to administer councils every six months with the approval of the House of Assembly, which is empowered by the constitution to legislate on local government affairs.

The APC did not hide its position on the April local government election. The APC directed its members not to participate in the local government election, which according to the party, was inappropriate and would constitute a distraction for it.
Though, the local government election was held without APC’s participation, the government described the poll as legal, saying the process conformed with the provisions of the state’s law on council election and administration.

Legislative Difficulties
For Akeredolu to have his way on issues that require the approval of the PDP-dominated House of Assembly, he would need to do a lot of lobbying. This is important because the Assembly must, among other functions, approve the appointment of commissioners, special advisers, and chairmen of statutory boards. The Assembly must also approve the appropriation of fund for the running of the administration.

Geopolitical Issues
One other change that is bound to happen by the time Akeredolu assumes office is in connection with the head of the legislature. The position of speaker of the Assembly would be expected to align with the zoning formula for strategic political offices in the state.
Since the current Speaker, Hon Jumoke Akindele, comes from Okitipupa State Constituency in the Ondo South senatorial district, where the incoming deputy governor, Mr Agboola Ajayi, comes from. The incoming governor, Akeredolu, hails from Owo local government in the Ondo North senatorial district, his deputy, Ajayi, hails from Kiribo in Ese-Odo local government.
With the present situation, the speaker is expected to come from Ondo Central senatorial district.
THISDAY learnt that lawmakers from Ondo Central were already calculating on who would become the speaker.

NURTW Factor
A major change, which people are insinuating would come, but not easily, is the change in the leadership of the National Union of Road Transport Workers. Already, a group within the union led by Mr Jacob Idowu, a.k.a Idajo, had summoned a meeting of members through an advertorial on a radio station. Idowu had before the election declared himself as the incoming chairman of the NURTW in the state, alleging that his incumbent colleagues have not been working in the last eight years.
Prior to Mimiko’s assumption of office, change in the leadership of the union had always been rancorous, but since he came on board leadership change had been through the lawful process of election. This has been to the admiration of the national leadership of the union and other stakeholders.
It is expected that there would be some resistance from the existing executive of the union, but what may cause problem is the fact that the existing leadership came in less than a year ago. So pacifying those that worked for Akeredolu to be patient may be difficult because waiting for almost three years may be too much for them to bear.

Compromised Neutrality
Ordinarily, the position of the Head of Service of the state should not be affected by the change in government, since the civil service is expected to be non-partisan. However, the principle of neutrality of the civil service has been considerably compromised over the years, particularly, since 1999. This has prompted changes in the heads of the civil service with successive administrations. So people are waiting for who would become the Head of Service.
The expectations of the people from the incoming administration are high. They believe many of the problems confronting the state would be solved once Akeredolu assumes office as governor. And he had promised the people that when he was campaigning for the governorship seat. Akeredolu will now have to prove to the people that he is a man of his words.