President Tinubu and NBA Presidents Pay Tribute to Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN

The Nigerian legal community, the people of Ondo State, and indeed, Nigeria, witnessed the passage of the 24th President of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and two-time Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, CON, SAN, fondly called Aketi, who joined the saints triumphant in the early hours of Wednesday, December 27, 2023 at the age of 67. Aketi has certainly left his footprints firmly on the sands of time, both in his service to the NBA and the legal profession, and to his State. The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, HE Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR and the current and Past Presidents of the NBA pay glowing tribute to this Legal Titan. Aketi, may the flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. Amen. 

‘I Mourn My Fearless Brother, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN’: President Tinubu 

It is a difficult task to have to pen a tribute, and sing a dirge for a departing soul. It is a more difficult job in our African culture, when one is compelled to do so for a younger person. Here I am, with the difficult job of singing a dirge for Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, my beloved brother, confidant, political soulmate and Governor of Ondo State. 

I cannot fairly capture in words, Rotimi’s towering figure and his human essence. Rotimi was a man who moved our nation towards equity, fairness and justice, in his strident advocacy against every form of injustice in our country through the instrumentality of the law as a Senior Advocate, Attorney-General of his beloved State, as President of the Nigerian Bar Association and Governor of Ondo State. 

In a challenging moment of our statehood, when marauding agents of darkness spread their tentacles across our country, Rotimi was a strong voice in the wilderness calling us to rethink our security architecture, so we can have a more secure nation. His unrelenting advocacy, led to the birth of the local Police in the South West. 

Rotimi was a man of ideas and action. While he was with us, he taught us the power of action and service. In Ondo State where he had the honour to serve as the Governor in the last six years, he served his people with absolute loyalty, dedication and forthrightness. His footprints dot the entire landscape in the hundreds of kilometres of roads he built, the many schools he built, and healthcare facilities that he provided. During the dark hours when marauding agents of darkness visited the State and killed defenceless citizens, where 40 worshippers in the Catholic Church of Owo were killed on June 5, 2022, Rotimi’s leadership qualities as a true Statesman and compassionate leader, radiated brightly to the world. He was the Mourner-in-Chief who guided his people through an agonising period. Today, I Mourn a fighter and fearless defender of truth and the masses. 

My personal journey with Rotimi, started as joint members of the progressive family. We fought many battles together  to restore progressive governance in the South West, Edo State and Nigeria as a whole. During this uncertain period, Rotimi was resolute and unflinching. He showed uncommon courage as member of our legal team in our battles to reclaim our stolen mandates in Ekiti, Ondo, Edo and Osun States. A gallant Lawyer, and one of the finest of the legal profession. I beckoned on him to contest for the Governorship position of Ondo State in 2012. Even though he didn’t make it in his first attempt, his enthusiasm and determination to serve his people never diminished. He eventually made it to the Alagbaka Government House in his second attempt in the 2016 election. Since he was sworn-in in February 2017,  he has served the people with devotion.

Rotimi has played his role well, but his demise was untimely. We will never see the likes of him again. Let me tell the people of Ondo State that, “I am grieving with you”. We will honour Rotimi’s memory, and make sure his legacy of service is never forgotten.

In my grief and sadness, I have telephoned his wife, Betty, and Acting Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa to commiserate with them, and urge them to take heart over this national tragedy.

Governor Akeredolu was not just a friend, ally and associate, he was a brother and soulmate.

His death is a blow to our governing APC and the progressive family, as we are diminished by it.

I hope that his successor, Aiyedatiwa, will hold steadfast to the vision of governance left by this towering political leader.

His Excellency, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR, President, Federal Republic of Nigeria

It is with a heavy heart that I pay tribute to His Excellency, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, CON, SAN (Aketi), the Governor of Ondo State and Past President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), whose transition took place on 27 December, 2023, after protracted ill-health.

 His Excellency was called to the Bar in 1978, and had served the NBA in several capacities. He variously served as Secretary and Vice Chair of Ibadan Branch, and went on to become the 24th President of the Association from 2008 to 2010 – one of the most influential and courageous Presidents ever to lead the NBA. The late learned Senior Advocate also served the nation in various other capacities at different times, one of which was as Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice from 1997 to 1999 and later as two-term Governor from 2017 till his demise. 

 Aketi, as he was popularly called, was in our lexicon a true Bar man, who firmly believed in the ability of the legal profession to make a difference in our society. It was this belief that led him into politics resulting in his being elected twice as Governor of Ondo State. Aketi will mostly be remembered for his forthrightness and down-to-earth perspectives, especially on matters of national importance.

He will be positively remembered for his several contributions to the growth and development of Ondo State, and the entire region. As Governor, Aketi was at the forefront of the establishment of the regional security network, Amotekun, to address security concerns in the Western region. So far, the network has been effective in stemming the tide of terrorism, armed robbery, kidnapping, banditry, etc., within the region and currently stands as a model for other regions to emulate. For his contributions to the progress of Nigeria, he was recognised by the Federal Government and conferred with the national honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) in October 2022. There is no denying that the learned Senior Advocate left indelible footprints in the sands of time.

I commiserate with the entire Akeredolu clan, particularly his wife, Betty, and children, on this very painful loss. I also extend my condolences to the Ondo State Executive Committee, and the entire people of Ondo State. Aketi’s departure is our collective loss. My prayer is that God Almighty will comfort the hearts of all members of his family, his colleagues, and friends.

 May the peace of God which is beyond human understanding, protect our hearts and minds through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Yakubu Chonoko Maikyau, OON, SAN, President of the NBA

The news of Aketi’s death is indeed, very sad news. He was an excellent President of the NBA, and even now, as Governor of Ondo State, he excelled in his role, in the development of his State and addressing national issues like spearheading the eradication of Open Grazing, advocating for State Police and the Restructuring of Nigeria into a true Federation. These are the things that Nigeria needs now. He was also in the forefront of the establishment of the South West Security Outfit, Amotekun. Aketi was a man of integrity who promoted the rule of law, and spoke the truth at all times. Adieu Aketi. He will be sadly missed by members of the NBA, and by those of us who knew him. May his great soul rest in perfect peace, and may God comfort his wife, children, family and the people of Ondo of State. Amen. 

Dame Priscilla Kuye, 17th President of the NBA

It was very sad and very painful, for me to hear about the demise of my Learned Brother Silk, His Excellency, Chief Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, CON, SAN, who was until his death, the Governor of Ondo State of Nigeria.

AKETI, as we called him, and I first met in the year 1974 as undergraduates studying Law at the University of Ife, now known as and called Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. We graduated together in 1977, and attended the Nigerian Law School (NLS) in Lagos together, where we were called to the Bar in 1978.

Our NLS Class/Set of 1978 is indisputably the most accomplished Set of the Law School, with more Senior Advocates of Nigeria by proportion, than any other Class/Set of the NLS.

At the celebration the 40th Anniversary of our Call to the Bar in 2018, we had produced four Presidents of the Nigerian Bar Association, namely yours truly O.C.J. Okocha, OFR, SAN, Chief Bayo, CON, SAN, Dr Olisa Agbakoba, OON, SAN and Chief Rotimi Akeredolu, CON, SAN.

We had also produced seven Justices of the Supreme Court, including the Honourable Justice W.S.N. Onnoghen, GCON, who was at the time, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, such that Honourable Justice Kashim Zannah, Chief Judge of Borno State, who delivered the Anniversary Lecture, stated that our 1978 Set could constitute a Full Court of the Apex Court, with the ability to change the Law in Nigeria.

We were later to adopt as our name, the Diamond Class/Set of the NLS, and Aketi, who later also adopted the title Arakunrin, was a great Bar Activist, and had previously served as the Publicity Secretary of the NBA in the Administration of Chief Mrs Priscilla Kuye, as the 17th NBA President.

H.E. Chief Akeredolu’s death is a great loss to the NBA, Ondo State and the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He will be sorely missed.

Sincere condolences to his dear wife, H.E. Betty Akeredolu, who he met when he was serving as a Youth Corpsman (NYSC) in Enugu, Enugu State in the 1978/1979 Service Year, and their children and grandchildren.

I pray God to grant Diamond Akeredolu’s soul eternal rest in peace. Amen! and Amen!

O.C.J. Okocha, OFR, SAN, JP, DSSRS, the 19th/Millennium President of the NBA 

Rotimi Akeredolu that I knew, and who I worked with as Counsel in a couple of topical cases, who also was a close friend and one of my successors in office as President of the NBA, was a Lawyer to the core, very dynamic and pragmatic, though at times, on the impatient side. He was a humanist, kind hearted, very forbearing, jovial, peace loving and religious. 

Despite holding the high office of Governor of a State, he was eagerly looking forward to the day he would return to his law office to resume duties as a practicing Lawyer. In and out of court, as well as throughout his stint in politics, he was not given to suffering fools for long; he would say it as it was, not minding whose ox  was gored, always ready and prepared to take responsibility for his actions. My greatest surprise was that he lasted that long in Nigerian politics, as he was not used to deceit and hero worshipping. May his pragmatic and friendly soul, find an eternal repose in the bosom of the Lord. 

Chief Wole Olanipekun, CFR, SAN, 20th President of the NBA

Though Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu had been ill for some time, I was saddened by the news his passing.

 Aketi as we, his Law School classmates fondly called him, was a great Statesman whose legacies will live after him, for a very long time to come.

He was very brave, courageous and forthright in all his dealings. He affected the lives of the citizens of Ondo State and his friends alike positively. His sense of humour was legendary. Above all, he was a consummate and quintessential Lawyer and Bar man, through and through. 

He will be sorely missed. I commiserate with his wife, children, family members and the people of Ondo State over this sad loss. May his soul rest in peace. 

Chief Bayo Ojo, CON, SAN, former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; 21st President of the NBA

The passing of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, was especially hard on me, given our extremely close working relationship as my immediate successor as President of the NBA, and our continuing personal relationship. We all will remember Aketi, as we fondly called him, for his passion and forthrightness, and sometimes very strong views on issues. He will be very greatly missed. We pray that his wife, Betty, will draw strength from the Almighty God, to bear this great loss. May Aketi’s memory be a blessing to all who knew him, Amen.

Dr Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, 23rd President of the NBA

Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN: A Tribute to a Legal Icon

I received with great shock, the news of the passing of my senior brother and good friend, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, fondly known to many of us as “Aketi Baba”, after a protracted illness, in the course of his tour of duty as Governor of Ondo State.

Aketi Baba was a fearless, feisty yet amiable, God fearing and compassionate gentleman. Firm in his beliefs, and resolute in his convictions. He spoke his mind always, and always spoke truth to power. He was a hardworking and brilliant Lawyer, a committed rights activist, a firm believer in the rule of law and a consummate Bar man. He Served the Nigerian Bar Association [NBA] well. He distinguished himself as NBA General Secretary; and when he aspired to be President of the NBA, he was elected unopposed in 2008, a rare feat in the annals of NBA history. This was clearly a vindication of his sterling qualities and dedication to service of the NBA and its mantra…rule of law.

His foray into national politics elicited mixed reactions, given his principled and disciplined disposition. That he was able to make a success in his foray into politics was not a surprise, as I knew him as a dogged fighter who would conquer all before him, notwithstanding the challenges. He successfully completed his first term in office, and was re-elected for a 2nd term. I believe, all considered, history will be fair to him regarding his tour of duty as Governor of Ondo State.

Aketi Baba was always an achiever! He reached the top of his career as a Lawyer, with the attainment of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria [SAN]. He arrived at the apex of service to the NBA, as President between 2008 and 2010. In Politics, he peaked and attained the top status of a two-time Governor of Ondo State. Certainly, he was a successful and fulfilled man. I believe that all of us, who met and knew Aketi Baba, are proud of his lofty achievements in life.

I extend my heartfelt condolences to his amiable wife Betty, his loving children and his entire Family. I pray that God will comfort, protect and guide you all as you deal with this loss. Please, take solace in the knowledge that Aketi Baba will remain in the minds of so many he touched positively in his lifetime.

I also extend my condolences to the people of Ondo State; to the entire legal profession, his primary constituency, and to our Country Nigeria, whom he served till his last breath.

Aketi Baba is certainly irreplaceable, and we will all miss him dearly. Adieu my senior brother and good friend, Aketi Baba.

Requiescat in pace!

Augustine O. Alegeh, CON, SAN FCIArb [UK], 27th President of the NBA 

I am deeply saddened by the loss of one of our outstanding leaders of the Nigerian Legal Profession, Mr Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN fondly called Aketi.

Mr Akeredolu had a very distinguished legal career, culminating in his  leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association as its 24th President. He led the NBA as a dedicated progressive professional. He initiated many progressive reforms, and spoke forthrightly on the burning issues of the day.  He stood up as a defender of human rights in the country, and offered constructive policy suggestions on behalf of the Bar.

When he ventured into politics, he remained in touch with the Bar and always remained accessible. I recall my several visits to Ondo when I campaigned for the Presidency of the Bar. During each visit, and subsequently, when I became President, Aketi would warmly welcome me to his residence and exchange views on the burning issues affecting the legal profession and the country at large.

Aketi will be sorely missed. His death comes at a difficult time for Nigeria, when his wisdom and progressive ideas would have been much needed. He fought many brave battles including the one that he finally succumbed to, but indeed, his contributions will remain indelible. 

Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, the people of Ondo State and indeed, all Nigerians who continue to search for courageous ethical leaders like Aketi. We pray for the repose of his soul. 

A.B. Mahmoud, OON, SAN, 28th President of the NBA

With profound grief, I mourn the passing of my dear friend, elder brother, distinguished predecessor, and the Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu,  SAN, affectionately called Aketi. We have indeed lost a giant of the legal profession,  an unwavering beacon of justice, and a patriotic Statesman. Aketi’s outstanding legal career spanned over four illustrious decades. As a Lawyer, he was brilliant and courageous, and impacted the legal landscape in Nigeria significantly.

During his tenure as the 24th President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) from 2008–2010, he left an indelible mark on the NBA with his bold reforms and advocacy. Despite his busy schedule as the Governor of Ondo State, Aketi remained committed to  the NBA, and also continued to work assiduously for the transformation of the administration  of the justice system. My engagements with him revealed a genuine human being – a man  truly committed to fundamental human rights and social progress. He embodied and personified the highest ethics and values of the Bar – an advocate for justice, a defender of rights, and a true social engineer. 

Aketi’s departure leaves an unfillable void in Nigeria’s legal community. However, I find solace in the fact that he lived a life of purpose, service, and sacrifice for the greater good.

The outpouring of tributes from across Nigeria, is a testament to his outstanding legacy that transcended ethnic, religious, and political lines.

My deepest condolences to his beloved wife, Arabinrin Betty, their children and grandchildren, his Partners and Staff at the law firm of Olujinmi & Akeredolu, and the good people of Ondo State. I pray for God’s strength and comfort, as you bear this monumental loss.

Farewell Aketi! You were an extraordinary Lawyer, leader, and human being. We will sorely miss your larger-than-life presence, but your exemplary life will remain an inspiration. As we grieve, we also celebrate the privilege of your friendship and  your towering legacy. 

Olumide Osaigbivo Akpata, 30th President of the NBA

Adieu Aketi, the Courageous Legal and Political Juggernaut

Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, CON, SAN (July 21, 1956 – December 27, 2023), Governor of Ondo State (February 24, 2017 – December 27, 2023), stood like a colossus over the Nigerian legal and political landscape for many years. You couldn’t help noticing his build, gait, snow-white beard and suave mannerisms. His sterling legal practice in the City of Ibadan in partnership with the former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Akin Olujimi, SAN was not only pacesetting, but a reference point and inspiration to young Lawyers. His astuteness in legal practice and fastidious Bar activities saw him holding various offices at Branch level, and eventually emerging as the 24th President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in 2008, an office he held with candour and integrity till 2010. Returning to legal practice, Aketi’s eyes on the political terrain in his home State Ondo, saw him venture into the murky waters of party politics. After his initial loss at the Governorship polls in 2012, he eventually travailed and emerged as Governor of the State by winning the election in 2016. He was re-elected in 2020, and his tenure as Governor was not only epochal, he had a lot of dreams to take his State to enviable heights in development, and to a great extent he achieved a considerable amount of his goals. His demise therefore, is a huge loss to the legal community, Ondo State and the Owo people. In this Special Edition, Onikepo Braithwaite and Jude Igbanoi reproduce verbatim, Aketi’s last interview in THISDAY LAWYER in 2017, as the issues he raised  in this interview remain germane, even today

Your Excellency, you have always been a very active Bar Man. Now, you are the first NBA President to become a Governor. Yet, with your busy schedule, you are still able to make time for the Annual General Conference. What is it about being a Bar Man?

Let me say this. I think having read law, and I was called to the Bar, I just stuck with Bar activities. People who are close to me will tell you that, all Aketi does is through the Bar. From when I was two years at the Bar, I have always attended NBA meetings.

I was called to the Bar in 1983, and by 1984, when I was barely six months at the Bar, I was campaign manager for a President of the NBA Aspirant, the late Chief Ladapo. We were there at Durbar Hotel, Lagos. We campaigned against Chief Bola Ajibola and we were defeated. I ran back to Ibadan to find out what went wrong, and we discovered that we didn’t have enough support from our Lawyers at Ibadan.

Thereafter, in 1986, I ran for the office of Secretary, NBA Ibadan Branch and they brought out so many other Lawyers to run against me. I won that election.

Since then, there has been no looking back. I was Secretary, from there I became National Publicity Secretary, I became Vice Chairman, Chairman of the Branch, and eventually President of the NBA. Other than football, sometimes I go to stadium to watch matches, I don’t engage in any other activities. I don’t belong to any society or group, I just go for the Bar. As I grew older, I joined Nucleus Club in Owo, so that I could be part of my Owo people.

I remember when I was going to run for the Presidency of the Bar, I said to God and He is my witness, ‘all I want is to be President of the Bar. If I win, that is all. Give me nothing else’. That was all I needed, and when I won, that was more than sufficient for me. I never really desired to be anything else.

I remember when my friends came to seek my consent for me to be Governor, and I told them I did not want to be Governor. I explained to them that, I had asked God that I wanted to be NBA President and God had acceded to my request. But, they went on and on and said ‘you don’t determine for God what He wants to make you. You just allow yourself to be a tool in His hands.’ So, for me, all I have and ever wanted, was to be NBA President. Every other thing, has just been mere ambition. The Bar has always been the main thing for me.

Many have argued that in most of the political parties in Nigeria, there is little or no internal democracy. That candidates are just foisted on the parties by Party Stalwarts and Godfathers. Even in your case, it seemed that some Party Stalwarts had their own favourite candidate for the Governorship election. How do we change that narrative?

You are right, and I agree with you, that internal democracy within the political parties is something that is hard. But, by and by, some of us have forced our way through. We believe in it, and we will continue to fight for it and ensure that things go our way. That is the only way we can lay claim to our legitimacy as a candidate. Let me give you an example. When there was the party primaries that saw President Buhari emerge as candidate, there certainly was internal democracy at work. But, when you talk about influence, as long as those who are expected to vote are allowed to vote, but if they decide to sell their votes, so be it. There is nothing you can do about that. If money played a part, so be it. But, you knew those who under the law are qualified to vote went ahead and exercised their plebiscite, that is what matters.

We have had this over and over. An example is my own case. Yes, our leader preferred one or two other candidates. I made it clear that they were entitled to it. Nobody can deny any leader his choice. But, the moment you make a choice, you have become partisan, and you can no longer lay claim to leadership for that purpose. For other purposes, maybe yes. For the purpose of that election, there is nothing like leader any longer, because you have descended into the arena and have decided to play politics. Whatever comes out of it, whatever mud that comes out from it, will splash on you. It’s like going to the poolside, and say you don’t want water to splash on you. What do you expect will splash on you? Its like going to the stadium where they are playing a football match, and you saying you don’t want to hear shouting. What else do they do at such places?

If you descend into the arena and decide to be partisan, let us be fair to ourselves, then you cannot say you are leader too, for that purpose. I have always argued that point. Our problem is that, we have not yet come to a point where we agree that the party is supreme. There is bound to be justice. There has to be justice. In politics, everybody doesn’t have to support you, but when you go to the grassroots and you get their support and win, we must then come together and make progress.

You have fought so many legal battles to emerge as Executive Governor of Ondo State and litigation is still ongoing, including the dismissal of your appeal by the Court of Appeal over the issue of service of court processes by substituted means by one of your opponents, Abraham. This litigation no doubt, may have impacted negatively on governance in Ondo State. How have you coped with this situation and its attendant distraction?

I am not in the least distracted. What I believe could distract you as an elected Governor, is when your election is being challenged at the Election Tribunal, and it is moving from the Tribunal to the Court of Appeal and then to the Supreme Court. That could be a source of distraction.

But, the litigation we have in place now, yes the Plaintiff, the complainant is entitled to his own belief. This is a pre-election matter. What we are trying to do is to say, ‘let’s find a way to have this matter resolved, since we belong to the same party’.There is nothing to it.

But, as expected, we will take it to the highest level, the Supreme Court. But, where we are now is on the issue of service. If as a Lawyer I am distracted by such things, it means I never knew my onions. It means I never practiced law before. I am not too sure that even a law student, would be distracted by such things. He or she, knows that when you even conclude all the issues of service, you revert to the substantive matters. We have not yet got to the substantive issues. The issue we are contesting, is a very preliminary issue and one of basic jurisprudence.

We all know that service is fundamental. We contended that I do not live in Abuja. So, a court cannot order substituted service and say ‘go and serve on APC Secretariat’. When I am alive? And they know where I live!! They know I am the Governor of Ondo State, and that I can be served in Ondo State. Even before I became Governor, they knew where I lived. When I was contesting, they knew my house. Both of us contested. So, why substituted service on me, through APC Secretariat in Abuja? That is the simple question, and the Supreme Court will determine it for us. If they say it is good service, no problem. I am a Lawyer. We will go back to commence the trial.

Yes, we know that under the rules, there is provision for substituted service. But, under what condition do you effect it? What is the prescription? How do you apply it? If we don’t challenge it now, everybody will take it for granted that, ‘I can go and serve somebody anywhere’.

To my surprise, a few things that they raised in court looked very novel to me. One of the Judges said I have an office in Abuja, but, do I reside in Abuja? That my law firm has an office in Abuja, does not mean that I reside there. I man the Ibadan office of Rotimi Akeredolu & Co, my partner mans the Abuja office. But, even if you want to effect substituted service, why not serve that office, rather than APC Secretariat in Abuja?

The agitations about restructuring. What is it about restructuring? What do we really need? Is it restructuring or good governance? Do we really need to restructure?

We need both. You can’t even restructure, if you don’t have good governance. If you restructure without good governance, it amounts to nothing. And if you have good governance without restructuring, you will achieve nothing. I do not believe in separation, now or tomorrow.

I say in all honesty, that there is nothing wrong with sitting down on a roundtable as we are siting here now, to discuss about Nigeria. Don’t let the polity heat up, so much that what comes out of it, you may not be able to handle. The issue is very simple. Is there any society that is static? What we had yesterday, might not obtain today. So, many things we had in our Constitution yesterday, are not in our basic interest today. Can we sit down to amend it? Simple!

So, restructuring to me is just about, lets sit down and look at where we are, where we are going and how we intend to get there. Can we still remain in the same vehicle? Can we, in this day and age, be driving a Peugeot 404 Car? Can we get into a better-shaped vehicle? Maybe a Mercedes Benz Maybach? So that, we can get to our destination in comfort.

Some people talk about federalism, and the cacophony and hate speech is just too much. They are just causing confusion. They themselves, are not even coordinated. It’s not about hate speeches, it’s not about separation. The idea for me is, are we not in a position, having run a Constitution for over 16 years, to now take stock? Then, we can make amendments where there is the need.

Look at the issue of State Police. Everybody has been shouting about it. People talk about local governments. Is a local government a federating unit of the Federal Government? If it is not, what do we do about it? These are the things, that I believe we should be talking to ourselves about. We cannot shy away from discussing our way forward.

At the Bar Conference, you gave your opinion about State Police. Some believe that if there is State Police, the Governors will abuse it and use it against their opponents. Be that as it may, why are you in support of State Police?

Let us begin with the issue of whether there will be abuse or not. You and I are Lawyers, and we hear people talk about exparte orders. Assuming you want to sell my house and I believe its my house, will it be wrong for me to approach the court to get an exparte injunction to restrain you?No. That is the use of exparte. But, there could be an abuse of it. That is where we are. It is the same thing with State Police. We must look at its use, and not its abuse. I am not saying it cannot be abused. Just like the Federal Government can abuse the use of the Nigeria Police that we have now. It has happened before, in the case of Dr Chris Ngige when he was Governor, there was total abuse. The Police that guard his house were withdrawn, because somebody was in charge.

I am not saying that State Governors won’t abuse State Police, if it is created, but its use should be the primary focus. Can we continue to have this amorphous command in Abuja, that we spread over these 36 States we call Nigeria? Its not working! This is why we need the State Police. So that the majority of them will be moved to their States, and they will know their terrains.

We are One Nigeria. But, to bring  Policemen from the West which is predominantly Yoruba and take them to Sokoto, where do they know in Sokoto? They won’t even understand the terrain. They would not even be able to enter most households, because many of their women are in purdah. They don’t belong. So, if some criminal goes and hides somewhere where there are women, they will not be able to enter there. There is a problem.

Yes, we have insecurity and we have to combat crime. But, let me tell you this, we already have State Police existing in different names and guises. In the whole of the North, there is State Police. They have Hisbah, which they use to enforce Sharia. So, we already have State Police by other names. Why don’t we just allow it? That is my position.

Your decision in the first few days of your administration to dissolve Local Government Councils and replace them with Caretaker Committees, drew the ire of a wide section of the polity and many believe it was politically motivated. What was the reason for the dissolution? What are your next steps to ensure that normalcy returns to that tier of government in Ondo State?

Let me make this correction. I did not dissolve local government councils. At the time I came into office, I was not even aware that there was a pending action in court. So, they had an action filed by one political party, PRP, challenging the local government elections. It was at the High Court. The decision of the High Court was that PRP having not been allowed to participate in that election, that the election was null and void.

The matter was pending and the court found in favour of PRP and nullified the election, and that effectively dissolved the local governments. With that there was a vacuum. Whether the court was right or wrong, is a totally different thing. That would be for the Court of Appeal to decide. They might probably go from there to the Supreme Court, for a final decision.

So, it was not me who dissolved local government councils. Following the court order, I came in and put in place Caretaker Committees. I wouldn’t dissolve local governments. I never did that, until the court’s decision. Before then, I was having meetings with them, even as most of them were members of PDP. We even tried to woo them to our party, and if they had come to our party, some of them would have continued to be there. In fact, some of them in the House of Assembly came to our party. So, that was my own trajectory.

But, going forward, I believe that we must have proper elections. What has delayed that, is that I need to put in place the Ondo State Electoral Commission. I need to get everybody ready politically, because at a point in time, we didn’t have the majority in the House of Assembly. But now that we have that required majority, we will conduct elections into the local governments soon.

As we all know, Ondo State is very rich in minerals and natural resources. Since that is on the Exclusive Legislative List, how do you intend to take your State to the next level in terms of economic development? How do you intend to harness the resources of your State to the benefit of your people, the way the structure is now?

Thank you. You are right, we have vast mineral resources in Ondo State. Yes, God has blessed us. There are areas of our resources that we will need the cooperation of the Federal Government, and we are getting it.

Whether we want to have licences either for bitumen or other resources, we have the cooperation of the Federal Government. The Federal Government under President Buhari has done a lot, not only in cooperating with Ondo State, but with other States. He has done a lot. In my view, that is also what restructuring is all about.

However, a number of investors have had problems coming to us, because of bottlenecks. Bureaucracy has affected and hampered some of our investors from coming to us. Our infrastructure too. The issue of roads, not many investors would want to ply that road, and embark on a journey that they don’t know when they will return. But, thank God, that problem has now been solved, the journey can now be made in less than 30 minutes by air. Air Peace now has regular flights to Akure, and I am pleasantly surprised that the aircraft is doing over 85% on each flight.

So, now that we have cut the journey short, I know a lot of investors will come. We have a Bill which was passed a few weeks ago. We call it ONDIPA, Ondo State Development and Investment Promotion Agency. It’s supposed to be a one-stop shop for investment. This will make the investors come, and there is ease of doing business in Ondo State now.

For example, if I have a company that is interested in drilling Ondo oil or bitumen, you have one of largest deposits of bitumen, how would I go about doing that?

If you come in, there are rounds. There are bidding rounds. We meet with the Minister and say ‘these companies have qualified through the bidding rounds, and they are serious’. So, licences would be given to them, and where we have such companies with licences, we try to interest them in areas that we already have licences, we partner with them. If it is in areas that the State already has licences and we don’t have the money, we partner with such companies. They come around and we facilitate things for them, and they go about their business in the State. In the area of oil, oil blocks are a totally different kettle of fish.

If individuals in Nigeria have oil blocks, do you not think that States should also own oil blocks too, at least those in which is oil is located?

We have. Ondo State Government has oil blocks. Its just that, it’s somehow bogged down with litigation now. But, you see, in matters of oil, it is not what any State can put its head in alone. You need all the technical, financial know-how to work together. Even the bonuses alone, is not what a State can handle alone.

Most people believe the APC has failed the country. Where we had one tuber of yam under Jonathan selling for about N300, it now sells for between N1,200 and N1,500 and people have had to change from yam to sweet potato, which is more affordable. Many are saying that the change the APC government promised, is a change for the worse and that the government is not even feeling the pulse of the people. People are starving. That, two years down the line, there is no point in blaming the Jonathan administration any more.

Well, I don’t agree with you. It all depends. We look at things from different prisms. If you look at things from the prism of the farmer, you will know that they believe in this change, because they are smiling all the way to the bank.

A number of farmers who are Muslims, go and look at the records. There was a sharp increase in the number of them who went for the Hajj Pilgrimage this year, because money has come to them. So, they love the change and they are happy. Look at Cocoa. Cocoa farmers in Ondo State today are the richest, and they are all happy because they have money now, and it is this change that has brought about that.

When you talk about food, you made reference to yam. But, today, we have rice that used to sell for about N18,000 per bag now being sold for N12,000 per bag. There are areas where there have been improvements.

What has caused the issue of increase in the cost of yams, to my understanding is that we are trying export, when we do not have the capacity to meet up with our daily domestic consumption. People are interested in getting foreign earnings. But, now that its there, nothing can stop it. I am sure that by next year, the prices will drop because many people would have ventured into planting more yams, and it will be in abundance.

That is why rice is everywhere now, because everybody has gone into rice cultivation and the Government is interested in it. I have Molege in Ondo State, and you need to drive through that area. You see trailers loading yams, on every market day. I asked where they were taking them to, and they said Lagos.

So, APC as a party has done well, and the people of Nigeria should be grateful to the party for coming into government. We must not forget the fact that, in this same country, before the advent of APC in 2015, the rot was terrible and the stench could be perceived everywhere. I am one of those who agrees with my party Chairman, Chief Odigie Oyegun, that if President Muhammadu Buhari had not come, Nigeria would have sunk deeper. I am not sure if Nigeria would have still been existing by now. Look at the amount of money that is being recovered! Look at the number of houses that are being forfeited!

But, we are not feeling the impact of what they are recovering. Because its one thing to recover and it’s a different thing for the people feel the impact of what is being recovered. I remember that I attended a lecture that former US Secretary Madeleine Albright gave when she visited Nigeria; she said that a lot of countries in Africa shout about democracy, but the people need to see the dividends of democracy. So, people want to see the benefits of this change. Maybe the farmers in Ondo are happy, but the majority of Nigerians are depressed.

I do agree with you. I am not saying some Nigerians are not depressed. I am not even saying that, the depressed Nigerians are not in majority. I am not disputing that fact. But, I am saying that where you want to have gold, you must be prepared to make that sacrifice. If you want to have this change, it is like making an omelette. You cannot, but break the egg. So, when you have to break the egg, in doing that, you have to wait.

This is what is happening. The APC Government has inherited this rot, and nobody knew the extent of rot that was in the system. Everybody was shocked at what we met. It was the same, when I was running in the Governorship election. I made promises, but by the time I got in, and faced with realities, there are many things I cannot do. The reality on ground, is always different from what your perception is. What we perceived was ‘it will be ok, it’s just a little stealing here and there’. But, by the time we resumed office, look at what we met!

Talking about farmers, our farmers today are making money. Look at the school feeding programme where children are fed for free, our farmers also benefit from it. A lot of good things are happening, but, maybe because of things that we have done differently. Why do I say so? When we look at things at times, you want to do some things to satisfy the generality of the people, whilst you are cleaning up the Augean’s stable; the people must be your focus.

I do agree that the people are not happy. We are in a recession, and when you don’t have the money what do you do? The recession is global, its not only in Nigeria. Even if the APC had cushioned it better. If it had been otherwise, it could have been worse.

Your own constituency, the legal profession, do you have a role to play with all these issues of judicial corruption and specifically, in relation to your own Ondo State?

In relation to Ondo State Judiciary, I have a special role to play. There is no running away from that. My ambition is to build that institution, insulate it from partisanship, politics and to make it strong. Luckily for us, we have a Chief Judge whom we can put a lot of trust in, because we know her pedigree. With that, I look forward to working with her to revamp the Judiciary, insulate it from partisanship and make it independent.

I have said to people, that I have been Attorney-General of my State before, and I would be with my Governor who was military. And I can remember a number of instances where the Governor would say ‘how can this Judge be doing this?’ I would say to him ‘the Judge is simply doing his job’. I would tell him that my own work, is to go on appeal and try that judgement at the Appellate Court. He would say ‘no, no! we should sack them!’

There were always such threats. In fact, there was a function which I attended, and the Governor was also there, and I had to address the Judges. I told them that, the Judiciary is the only constant arm of Government. The Legislature, at times would not exist. The Executive, at times would be military. Minus the fact that the Judiciary will remain, it is only Lawyers that can be there. That is why I have always said, that we are privileged in our profession. Except for those who came back with ‘Bade Layo’ which is BL, there is no way you will become a Lawyer without going through the University. All of us are graduates now. Every Judge is a graduate. So, we are privileged.

But, you can have School Certificate and be Governor. Anybody can be a Legislator, even with Primary Six. If we had had committed people, there wouldn’t be anybody throwing any stones at us. Judges were the only ones, even under the military era, that nobody could sack.

Even right now, as Executive Governor, I cannot just wake up and say that a Judge is sacked. Its just not possible. It has to follow a process. Even when that process is followed, the NJC still has to decide whether that Judge should be removed. So, our Judges are secure job wise. I’m not quite sure how many openings are there now, but we will have some nominations, and we will ensure that only the best will be selected to fill the Ondo State Judiciary vacancies, through a thorough selection process, so that we can have people who are worth their salt in our Judiciary.

How about remuneration? Some have said that the remuneration of Judges is rather poor and that this could be the basis for corruption.

I am sure those who are talking about this remuneration, are probably those who were not around when Judges were earning a pittance. The remuneration of Judge is not poor. Those who today commit these offences, could not be because of poor remuneration. We have tried. The Federal Government has tried, and the NJC has tried to make sure that Judges earn above what obtains around them. There is no civil servant today, who earns up to the salary of a Judge. You cannot live outside your society.

What if you compare their income to those of Lawmakers?

A lawmaker? No! which of the lawmakers?

National Assembly Members

No! We just cannot make that comparison. Must a Judge live like a lawmaker? Must a Judge live like a Senior Advocate of Nigeria? No!

There are ways of lives of Judges. Today, you see a Judge who wants to give his daughter’s hand in marriage and would throw a party like a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. It doesn’t make sense! You want to do things, do it with moderation, so that people will know that they are coming to a Judge’s party. They will know that when they get to a Judge’s function, they will not be given anything more than a bottle of Coca-cola. Those who cannot come, let them not come. That is the only way.

We must learn to do things in moderation. Your child can be rich and may decide to throw lavish parties, but for a judge to want to live the affluent life of a legislator, it won’t be right.

If you have a choice of picking the three things that you would amend in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, what would they be?

What comes readily to my mind is, I would look at Section 214(1) of the Constitution which provides for the Police, and I would amend it. I know that it provides for one Nigeria Police Force, and no other Police. I would make sure something is done about that.

That is one. Two, I will look at our fiscal policy. Whether it is popular, or needs to be rejigged. We cannot continue this way.

Number three would be a controversial one. That is that, I would take local governments out of the Constitution!


I believe that the federating units of this country are the States, and that the States should determine the number of local governments that they want to have. But, these ones, we put in the Constitution as listed local governments, so that if Lagos State wants to create new local governments, the Supreme Court said its inchoate until the Constitution is amended. That is just not right! Their hands should not be tied. 

States should be allowed to determine, the number of local governments they want to have. It shouldn’t be a federal matter, except we do not accept that the federating units should be States.

I don’t accept the argument, that it would be abused. Where we copied this from, the States are the federating units. So, the number you want to have in your State is left to you. These are some of the things I would look at, if given the opportunity.

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