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Friday, 24 February 2017

ONDO STATE: Great Expectations As Akeredolu Steps In


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Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, is today being inaugurated as the sixth civilian governor of Ondo State with huge expectations. Expectations of economic revival are stirred by the fact that the new
governor is a technocrat who will play less of politics with the fate of the people he will be leading. The day will mark the beginning of a new political journey in the state as the former opposition All Progressive Congress APC takes over the reins of power  from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, led by a onetime invisible political strategist, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko.

Mimiko had achieved the feat of being the longest serving governor of the state since the creation of the state but his desire to pass on the political baton to a successor was derailed by the results of the  last governorship election. As Akeredolu is sworn in today, the focus will be on the Akure Sports Stadium as dignitaries from far and wide throng the venue to witness the occasion. APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, is expected to lead other party chiefs, National Assembly members, ministers and no fewer than twenty APC governors to grace the ceremony.


One person that many will look out for today is Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. The APC leader was reported to have opposed the emergence of Akeredolu as the APC governorship candidate putting his presence at the inauguration in doubt. Akeredolu has, however, dismissed such insinuations saying that Tinubu would be at the inauguration if he is in the country given that he has been invited. Akeredolu’s journey to the Government House was laced with controversies, and he would need divine intervention to unite the party which unarguably is factionalised. 
The first runner-up during the APC governorship primaries, Dr. Olusegun Abraham is still in court to “reclaim” the mandate he alleged was taken by the new governor. Sources around Abraham say he is sure of unseating Akeredolu through the court. But political observers see that as a tall dream. As if that was not enough, many members of the APC state executive perceived to be aligned to Tinubu have been sidelined by Akeredolu’s lieutenants. 
However, while Akeredolu battles to heal the state chapter of the party from the internal bruises that preceded the election, the expectation of the people is high that he should deliver as he had promised during his campaign across the state. After today’s inauguration, the new governor would have to grapple with outstanding issues left by his predecessor including the unresolved strike by doctors and nurses; and most painfully, the outstanding seven-month salaries of civil servants.
 The magic of how not to owe workers’ salaries would be an important lesson for the governor, especially given his campaign assertion that “We will not even be afraid to go into debt to ensure that our civil servants get paid.” The joy of the people in the state would know no bounds if Akeredolu builds on the achievement of his predecessor in office and not abandon them, especially in the health and education sectors. Another expectation is how the governor will manage the proliferation of tertiary institutions in the face of dwindling resources. 
At present, the state has three universities and one polytechnic. Also, the deplorable state of roads in the northern senatorial district of the state would require urgent attention from the new governor who incidentally hails from that part of the state. How Akeredolu will manage the divided legislative arm would also interest stakeholders given the fact that the 26 members of the State House of Assembly are divided  into two equal factions of 13. Before the factionalisation, the PDP had 21 members while the APC had five. However, some PDP members had in view of the inauguration of the new governor started hobnobbing with the APC and played key roles in the crisis that led to the sealing off of the legislative chamber. 
It is, however, not clear if the PDP members would finally jump ship now that power has changed hands. Akeredolu may draw the wrath of his party members with his submission that he would appoint only nine commissioners. His vow to have a compact administration may set him on a war path with the party faithful who have been waiting in the wings for political patronage after staying in the cold all the while that the PDP held sway. Akeredolu had affirmed that he was under pressure on appointments but said he was yet to make up his mind because of the desire to be thorough about in the selection of his team. The people of the state would nevertheless remember Mimiko for some achievements he recorded besides his personal triumph of being the longest-serving governor in the history of the state. He would be remembered as a man of political strategies who always kept his opponents guessing. Mimiko fulfilled many of his promises among which were the completion of 51 mega primary schools across the three senatorial districts, the provision of free shuttle buses for students across the state.
 Critics, however, see the projects as a waste of resources and would have preferred the huge amount is used on existing public primary schools across the state. Mimiko’s administration was globally recognised for its achievements in the health sector, especially in making maternal mortality levels the lowest in the country. Mimiko’s eight years were dotted with many achievements, but the nonpayment of seven-month salaries to workers will remain a  sore point. No doubt, workers in the state are not happy with the development which observers believed contributed to the PDP’s loss in the last governorship election. 
The new governor has promised not to probe the former governor, describing such as a distraction. Like him or hate him, Mimiko has become an ex-governor after over three decades of being a political factor that was initially often ignored  in the Sunshine State. The time of reckoning for Akeredolu has started and how he puts his name in history will over time be determined by his actions
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