By: Niyi Akerele
A number of members of the State Executive Council of Ondo State led by the Deputy Governor, Hon. Lucky Aiyedatiwa, were in Owo on Saturday for a Mass in honour of the victims of the June 5, 2022 massacre at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Owo and the inspection of the Memorial Park being constructed by the state government.
Other members of the cabinet in attendance at the two events included the Secretary to the State Government, Princess Oladunni Odu, Chief of Staff to Governor, Chief Olugbenga Ale, Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Wale Akinterinwa, Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General, Sir Charles Titiloye, Commissioner for Women Affairs, Dr. Bunmi Oshadahun, Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Olayato Aribo, Commissioner for Energy, Engr. Razaq Obe, Commissioner for Youth and Sports, Mr. Dele Ologun, Special Adviser on Health, Dr. Jibayo Adeyeye, Special Adviser on Special Duties, Mr. Dare Aragbaye and the Head of Service, Pastor Kayode Ogundele.
If anybody needed any evidence of the sharp division and hostility within the cabinet of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu at the moment, it came in the open in Owo on Saturday with the SSG refusing to give space for the deputy governor to sit properly and the deputy governor later refusing to be railroaded into performing a duty he had no prior knowledge of. It was a display of needless powerplay that has almost rendered the state ungovernable in recent weeks.
As the cabinet members took their front row seats inside the church, the deputy governor, Aiyedatiwa, could be seen not comfortable with the space between him and the SSG, Odu. Aiyedatiwa could be seen asking Odu to shift a bit but the SSG refused to move. An intervention came from the Chief of Staff who asked the other cabinet members in the row to move towards the other end of the long chair in order to create more space for the deputy governor but even when that was done, the SSG refused to move. At a time, Aiyedatiwa could be seen using the event brochure in his hand to create a demarcation between himself and Odu.
Aiyedatiwa could be seen using the event brochure to create a space between himself and Odu after being choked to the edge of the chair
After the church event, the crowd moved to the Memorial Park built by the state government in memory of the victims of the attack. Almost all members of the cabinet and others were already decked in branded black t-shirts and caps for the event but when Aiyedatiwa was asked to perform the official commissioning of the park, he declined. The deputy governor had said that the governor did not give him the nod to perform such official duty and since the governor has not yet seen the park on completion, it would be wrong for him to commission it on his behalf.
After declining the request to commission the park, Aiyedatiwa led other members of the team to move round the park on inspection of the work done, after which he got into his vehicle and left the venue. Some of the cabinet members followed suit. However, some other cabinet members, especially those in the donation committee headed by Commissioner for Finance, Akinterinwa, stayed behind and later addressed the press to say the park would be commissioned by the governor when it’s completed.
As the uncertainty over the state of health of the governor continues, those opposed to Aiyedatiwa succeeding him in office have continued to launch onslaught against him. The crisis within the cabinet, where two other members – Odu and Akinterinwa – are believed to be eyeing the governor’s seat in next election, has almost paralyzed governance in the state.
There had been uproar in the public in recent weeks over the absence of any representative from Ondo State in the two meetings President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has held with governors in the country. The second meeting held last week had two governors represented by their deputies but neither Akeredolu nor Aiyedatiwa attended the crucial meeting. With the governor still on bed rest in his Ibadan, Oyo State residence, the deputy governor was said to have received no official notification or nod from the governor to represent him at the presidential meetings.
When Akeredolu went on official Leave, he had named Aiyedatiwa as Acting Governor.
However, when the governor resumed duties last month, Aiyedatiwa returned to his function as deputy governor. Since that period, the deputy governor cannot perform any official duty of the office of the governor unless delegated to do so by the governor. This has reportedly created a pile of uncleared activities and lull in government business as no one is in charge.
This is just as the onslaught against Aiyedatiwa is not subsiding. Those planting a wife beating allegations against him through an unknown group, the Society for Women Empowerment (SWE), are threatening to protest against the deputy governor even without any cause of action. They are also blackmailing him to be the brain behind the calls for the governor to hand over power to him and also plotting a petition against him over his academic records. This, according to sources, is to lay the foundation for an impeachment move against the deputy governor.
Meanwhile, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state has urged the people to ignore the rumours over the state of health of the governor. The party in a reaction to the call for the governor to step aside by the Social Democratic Party (SDP), said such calls are pretentious and uncalled for.
A statement signed by its Director of Publicity, Mr. Steve Otaloro, read in part: “We find it extremely hypocritical that the Social Democratic Party, which has been silent on issues affecting their party in the state, suddenly found its voice to suggest an impending storm in the state to buttress the figment of their imagination as unnecessary. This kind of pretentious act is nothing but a cheap attempt to score political points at the expense of the well-being of the healing Governor and the people of Ondo State.
“We wish to assure the people of Ondo State that there is no cause for alarm. Governor Akeredolu, although the governor is indisposed, his illness has not out of commission him. As mortals, everyone can be sick. He still delegates duties to his Deputy Governor and gives directives to other cabinet members. We urge all well-meaning citizens of the state to ignore the baseless and unfounded claims of the oppositions and continue to support the Governor in his efforts to move the state forward.”