I stand here today to read this tribute, for and on behalf of the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN), in this solemn special court session organised as part of the series of events lined up for the burial of our departed colleague, patriot and leader, His Excellency Governor Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, CON, SAN. The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria and the entire body of lawyers have lost one of the most consequential personages in the legal profession in Nigeria and indeed the Commonwealth of nations. The passing of Governor Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, SAN (aka Aketi) is comparable to the removal of a big Iroko tree from a treasured forest.

Governor Akeredolu’s impactful public life began at his time as a student at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife). Those who were his contemporaries in his Ife days between 1975 and 1977 have, in many occasions, testified to the vibrancy he exhibited in Students’ Unionism and campus social life. He was famous among students of his time in Ife such that when he contested for the position of Vice-President of the Students’ Union, he was returned elected with overwhelming majority of the votes cast. His tenure as the Vice-President of the Students’ Union was very remarkable. He was a priest in the campus Kegite Club. To use the words of Chief Akin Olujinmi, SAN, our departed leader’s life-long friend and partner, he was: “An expressive and effervescent personality. Aketi was everywhere on the campus. Active and gregarious, he was involved in some renown student clubs, most notably the Kegite. He looked admirable as he on many occasions led the distinctive renditions of the Kegite Club on their occasional parades round the campus. He discharged himself creditably in that office.  Vibrant and robust in outlook, he waded through the convulsive terrain of student politics without any blemish.”   

Governor Akeredolu studied law between 1975 and 1977 at the University of Ife, where he obtained his Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) degree with honours. He successfully completed his Law School training programme in 1978 and was called to the Bar. He later enrolled as a Solicitor and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. 

After a successful pupillage, Governor Akeredolu set up his own legal practice in 1983. He later went on to establish a law practice partnership with Chief Akin Olujinmi, SAN. Theirs is one of the most admirable and enduring law partnership in Nigeria. The partnership indeed endured up till when our departed leader breathed his last breath.

Governor Akeredolu was a vibrant legal practitioner, who practised law with the highest ethical standards. He was an admirable courtroom advocate, although he could, occasionally, be very combative. But even in combative advocacy, he stood for the truth and justice. In his drive to infuse ethical standards to the law profession, he got involved in the politics of the Nigerian Bar Association. In 1988, he won election as Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Bar Association at the Annual General Meeting of the NBA held in Kaduna.  His tenure as the PRO of the NBA was very remarkable and eventful. He completed his tenure as the NBA PRO creditably. 

In 1996, he was appointed as the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of Ondo State by Navy Captain Anthony Ibe Onyearugbulem, the then Military Administrator of Ondo State. He served in that position with great focus and commitment. In 1998, he was conferred with the prestigious rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), a rank of the highest distinction in the legal profession in Nigeria, in recognition of his exemplary law career, contributions to the development of the law and the legal profession in Nigeria.  

In 2008, Governor Akeredolu contested for the position of the President of the Nigerian Bar Association and was returned unopposed. He served out his tenure as NBA President with iconic landmarks. Indeed, his tenure as the President of the NBA is reputed to be one of the most consequential in the history of the association.

Governor Akeredolu was a devout Christian and a good family man. As the son of an Anglican priest, that should not be surprising. He was a believer of the gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  He was a man of great faith. He served in the choir of his Church, a position that was to have lasting impact in his entire life. Governor Akeredolu loved singing mostly Christian hymns.  He made very impactful contributions to the work of the Christian mission. He built Churches and his commitment to the work of God led to his being appointed as the Chancellor of Owo Diocese of Anglican Communion, a position he occupied till his departure. 

Aketi was a thoroughbred legal practitioner, with the sharpness of mind, and dexterity of arguments throwing him up as a cerebral mind with an indomitable resilience for human emancipation. In league with other silks, he made deliberate contributions to improve the legal profession, with insightful initiatives that birthed sweeping reforms, and enhanced professional practice. His onerous contributions to the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), as a barrister and President, earned him the recognition and decision of the association to name its secretariat in Abuja after Akeredolu in 2012.

Not satisfied with the use of the instrumentality of the legal profession to impact life, and driven by unquenchable quest for improved humanity, he went into politics, made necessary sacrifices, and got elected by the good people of Ondo State as the governor in 2016. Aketi’s entrance into the Nigeria political space was not only positively disruptive but reformative, as he brought to bear in his public life uncommon honesty of purpose, predictable courage, innovative vision and sacrificial truthfulness. He did not just defend his people against marauders, Oluwarotimi emboldened them and generated national discourses that pointed to the direction of a new constitutional order, that would enhance better Nigeria nationhood. It is on record today that his one-time lonely vociferous voice for true federalism and creation of state police has received resounding acclamation, with the recent unanimity between President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and state governors on the latter.

In his time as the Governor of Ondo, a pattern of his love for the people and humanity reflected in several land mark projects that he initiated and completed. A few examples will suffice. One of the greatest challenges facing South West Nigeria when he became Governor was the incursion into farmlands by herders and their cattle, a development which often led to bloody and fatal farmers-herders clashes. To an agrarian state like Ondo, this was no doubt an existential challenge. There were also the problems of kidnapping and incipient banditry. Governor Akeredolu played leadership role to other Governors of the South West in coming up with the formation of the Amotekun security outfit, to address these security challenges. Even the greatest critics of his regime would concede to the remarkable contribution of the Amotekun Corps in warding off attacks by marauders, kidnappers and terrorists in Ondo State and the South West of Nigeria. When in spite of all best efforts, the terrorists struck in Owo at the St Francis Xavier Catholic Church on Sunday 5th June 2022, Governor Akeredolu was at the forefront of efforts aimed at bringing succor to the Catholic community in Owo and Owo people in general. He also led all efforts at bringing the perpetrators of the dastardly act to justice. He raised fund for the support of the victims of the Owo Massacre and the Church. He organised and supervised the conduct of befitting burials for the brethren who fell during the Owo massacre.

Two others of the many people-oriented projects of Governor Akeredolu are worth mentioning. The first is the construction of overhead bridge and interchange at the intersection of the Shagamu-Benin expressway and the Ondo-Ore highway at Ore in Odigbo Local Government of Ondo State. Prior to his intervention, the intersection was a black spot in which many precious lives of passengers trying to cross the road had been lost. There was also the bringing down of the Oke Alabojuto in Ikare. Oke Alabojuto was the steep hill on which the old road that served as the only entry point from the south to Ikare city was constructed. That road on the hill had wrecked a lot of havoc in the past in which many lives were lost. Governor Akeredolu confronted the Alabojuto mountain, brought it down and built a new road that has made entry into Ikare easy and accident free. The list of several other people-oriented and life-changing projects implemented by Aketi in Ondo State is inexhaustible. I do sincerely hope that government’s chroniclers would not miss any one of them out.

Governor Akeredolu was a hero.  He left behind a great name. He will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him. His was a life well spent.  As is often said, a life-well-lived is like a powerful work of art; beautifully created and remembered by all. In the words of Benjamin Disraeli, the legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example. Governor Akeredolu was forthright, truthful, fearless and courageous. He was a fierce defender of the oppressed. He spoke truth to power not minding the consequence, took side with the poor, the underdog and the oppressed. He was the voice for the voiceless. 

We take solace in the recognition that the vibrancy of a well-lived life never fades. The goal in life is not to live forever. Nobody will. The goal is to create something that will. Our departed friend, colleague and leader, Governor Akeredolu created many fond memories and legacies in his professional and political careers that will live forever. As Thomas Campbell puts it, to live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.

Dear Oluwarotimi, this valedictory forbids mourning, not because we are not pained, but because your life was a remarkable page in the affairs of humankind. We shall continue to remember: our toiling in the legal profession while you were here; our quest for better humanity and your uncommon virtuous personality, as that would afford us the opportunity to sustain your good memories. This is more so as it has been anonymously said that “when someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure”.

It may be time to say goodbye, but our memories will forever fit like a key in a lock. The hours and minutes tick by slowly, and it is finally time to say goodbye. Like ocean waves crashing against the shore, the memories remain long after this goodbye. The Body of Senior Advocates and all legal practitioners say goodbye to you, Aketi.

Adieu Your Excellency, Governor Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, SAN.


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