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With the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu and his deputy, Agboola Ajayi, slug it out in the media and on the campaign field ahead of Saturday’s gubernatorial poll, we are hearing a lot of tales. Apparently riled by the political harlotry of Ajayi who first moved to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where he failed at the primaries before jumping to pick the ticket of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Akeredolu said last week: “No deputy governor has collected what he was collecting in the history of the state. I gave him N13 million monthly. His predecessors did not collect as much as that. No deputy governor collects as much as that in Nigeria. I gave him enough room to operate, yet he betrayed me.”
Before we examine that statement, it is important to note that the deputy governor has responded that what he receives monthly is not N13 million but N12 million. He also counter-attacked that “Akeredolu and members of his family skim off the purse of our state with reckless abandon.” Ajayi, in a statement by his media adviser, Allen Sowore, gave a breakdown: “The governor gets a security vote of N750 million every month. He, Akeredolu, also gets an imprest of about N150 million. His wife, though occupies no constitutionally recognised position, takes an imprest of N15 million per month. Apart from this, she collects an additional sum of N11 million from the Ministry of Women Affairs, which she runs like a potentate. Babajide, Akeredolu’s son, is also not left out in the pillage that Akeredolu and his family is visiting on Ondo State. He too takes a whopping N5 million monthly and rips off the state by taking unbelievable commissions as a consultant to the State on almost every imaginable area. All these are apart from millions and millions they get from inflated contracts awarded to family members and lackeys.”
While the game of allegations and counter-allegations continues in Ondo State, let us examine two key admissions in Akeredolu’s statement. One, ‘I gave him N13 million monthly’. Here, the governor is talking about public funds. Aside exercising the powers of the purse which ordinarily belongs to the Ondo State House of Assembly, there is an obvious lack of accountability in that statement which he failed to see. And then this: “I gave him enough room to operate, yet he betrayed me.”
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Akeredolu makes no pretense that everything in Ondo State revolves around his person. But what exactly does ‘enough room to operate’ mean?
On the whole, both the allegations of financial impropriety in Ondo State and the nagging criminality of SARS operatives can be located in the lack of accountability that defines public conduct in our country today. When you run a system where officials permit themselves the indulgence of giving others ‘enough room to operate’, it goes without saying that there can be no accountability. Under that situation, it is also easy for public officers to become outlaws. That is a challenge we need to collectively deal with.
Olusegun Adeniyi, Abuja