The phrase “politics without bitterness” remains one of my strongest philosophical standpoints about politics, the widely held belief that the Nigerian brand of politics cannot be devoid of indecorum and incivility must be firmly rejected by all lovers of peace and humanity. Section 176 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as altered provides for the establishment of the Office of the Governor while Section 182(1)(b) creates a constitutional limit with respect to the terms of office of the Governor of a State and as such a person is entitled to be the Governor of a State twice for a term of four years each which may be consecutive or interrupted.
There is no gainsaying the fact that Ondo state, a prominent State, well known for her educational sophistication has been fairly favoured in terms of the calibre of leaders that has governed it since the inception of democracy in 1999. Nobody can ever be in doubt of the statesmanlike leadership that Governor Adebayo Adefarati displayed as the fourth RepublicGovernor of the State, he has to his credit the relocation of the first state-owned University, Ondo State University from its old site in Ado-Ekiti to Akungba-Akoko in 1999. He subsequently named it after Adekunle Ajasin in a bid to immortalize the late Governor Ajasin in 2004 following his demise. Chief Adebayo Adefarati however only served a single term having lost his bid to secure a second term.
Governor Olusegun Agagu, the excellent geologist who took over the reins of power in 2003 demonstrated in no small measure that he was a leader with a passion to address the manpower deficit in the educational sector; this was quite evident in the employment of about 3000 teaching and non-teaching staff by his administration in 2007. It is imperative to state that this was the first and the last type of such recruitment as duly acknowledged by the present Governor who is however desirous of altering the narrative.
The Governor Olusegun Mimiko led administration came on board via the instrumentality of a tribunal ruling in 2009, the highly cerebral medical doctor left no one in doubts as to his preparedness for the job. He bestrode Ondo State like a colossus with his remarkable elevation of the bar of governance in priority areas such as health and education. The establishment of mega schools across the three senatorial districts of Ondo State literally tripled enrolment into government owned primary and secondary schools. The ‘Abiye Safe Motherhood Programme’, a globally endorsed programme pioneered by Dr. Olusegun Mimiko ensured a significant reduction in maternal mortality occasioned by complications of childbirth.
The incumbent government in Ondo State ably led by Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, (SAN) is widely reputed for its massive investment in road infrastructure, workers’ welfare amongst others. It is an incontestable fact that the governor apart from his patent belligerent nature and lopsided distribution of limited state resources and patronage prioritizes the welfare of the entire workforce in Ondo State. It is quite soothing to note that prompt payment of salaries is a prominent feature of this current government in Ondo State. One striking policy I have observed with pleasure is the continuity and sustenance of key projects/programmes embarked upon by the immediate past administration. The understanding according to Governor Akeredolu is that government is a continuum and that the good people of Ondo State will benefit more from the completion of uncompleted projectsinherited by him as well as the sustained development of existing projects/programmes rather than abandoning them altogether.
I must admit that this is quite commendable given the huge costs that the State would have incurred if the projects were abandoned or left to rot away. This government has also showed great deference to Mimiko’s government to such an extent that it openly acknowledged it cannot afford to go below the benchmark set by the Mimiko’s government.
It therefore did not come to me as a surprise that the incumbent decided to rename the Senate building of the State owned and operated University, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko after his predecessor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko in recognition of his impact in Ondo State. The governor remarked in a tweet on his verified twitter account that “we will continue to build on your successes as we strive to #DevelopOndo”
This welcome development depicts the ambience and aura of friendship between these two great leaders; it is reflective of the character of the two leaders which isone that promotes unity rather than division or strife. The State is definitely going to benefit from this kind of relationship as it is naturally expected that former Governor Mimiko will not shirk from his advisory duties and responsibilities.
The spirit of fairness however necessitates that whatever is good for Bala is good for Bolu and whatever is good for Peter is also good for Paul, it is on this score that I must express some of my observations about this state of affairs.
THE NEED FOR FAIRNESS AND EQUITY
Flowing from my last point in the preceding introductory remarks, it is my strong observation and assertion that the first democratically elected Governor of Ondo at Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, Chief Adebayo Adefarati appears to have been left out of the scheme of things as far as immortalization and recognition of past civilian governors of the State are concerned. It is on record that the Ondo State University of Science and Technology, Okitipupa has since been proposed to be renamed after late Chief Olusegun Agagu, Adefarati’s successor, while this is laudable, I cannot seem to situate the probable reasons for the continued marginalization of Chief Adebayo Adefarati, an ideologically balanced disciple of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who ensured the restoration of peace during the Ilaje and Ijaw crisis.
“Baba Peace” as he was fondly called was the first to establish an intervention agency for the coastal areas of the State, he dubbed it Ondo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (OSOPADEC) having received statutory backing in 2001. The other oil producing States followed suit thereby making OSOPADEC a reference point as far as the development of peace centred initiatives for the people of the Niger Delta area is concerned.
This promotion of peace laid the foundation for the progress that is currently being witnessed in the Oil producing and impacted areas of Ondo State. It is therefore imperative for this current government to act in the spirit of fairness and equity by ensuring a befitting immortalization for “Baba Peace”.
This, in my considered opinion will help to shape the perception of aspiring young leaders with respect to theimmortal gains of purposeful leadership as opposed to the prevailing self-centred leadership in virtually all the three tiers of government in Nigeria.
Furthermore, I want to cautiously assume that the renaming of Akungba varsity’s Senate building after the charismatic Dr. Olusegun Mimiko is a sign of things to unfold when the need to properly remember or immortalize him arises. This is my current presumption because of the favourable disposition of the incumbent Governor towards his immediate predecessor.
Nevertheless, I want to canvass at this point that the notion that leaders should not be entitled to an appropriate State recognition while alive by having legacy institutions such as a university or teaching hospital named after them is one that is rooted inobscured logic. This brings to the fore the question-must Mimiko die before he is appropriately “immortalized” by the government?
I know as a fact that the mantra of this present Governor is captured in the words “think anew, act anew”, premised on this, I want to believe that if there is ever a time to make sense out of these words with respect to the issue at hand, I think it is now. I fail to find any cogent reason why the renaming of the University of Medical sciences, Ondo after Dr. Olusegun Mimiko cannot be done at this time.
This piece will however not belabour this point furtherbecause it is secondary when considered within the context of the need to make a case for the remembrance of the ideals and legacies of the late Chief Adebayo Adefarati whose modest contributions to the peace, growth and development of Ondo State cannot be dismissed with the wave of the hand.
There is no gain-saying the fact that we live in a country where the teaching of history is no longer obtainable, the average teenager in Ondo State, for instance may not even be aware that late Chief Adebayo Adefarati was the third civilian governor of Ondo State (and first civilian governor of Ondo State after the creation of Ekiti State from Ondo State) following an end of the military interregnum and Nigeria’s subsequent return to constitutional democracy in May 1999. The earlier two civilian governors, Chief Adekunle Ajasin and Chief Bamidele Olumilua governed Ondo State between 1979 to 1983 and 1992 to 1993 respectively. It is in consequence of this possibility that I make this clarion call to Governor Akeredolu to engrave his name in gold by immortalizing the Late Governor Adebayo Adefarati.
The other side to this issue is the false sense ofentitlement that the ruling political class is well known for. The average Governor believes that he deserves more than the entire citizens of the State, he sees himself as an untouchable demi god. This explains my deep seated reservations for the unnecessary fanfarethat comes with some so called achievements of State Governors to the extent that they enact pension laws to justify their “hardwork and legacies”. This to me is self-serving, ego-massaging and unjust. It is however a discussion for another day.
My earlier point before the digression is that the renaming of any State asset after a former governor should not confer on the beneficiary any unique advantage (save recognition of his good works) over and above that which is enjoyed by ordinary citizens. I mean the people entrusted the Governor with power in the first place and whatever success or achievement recorded in the course of his tenure should stand to the credit of the people who found him worthy of being vested with power.
This is certainly the kind of idealistic instincts and mindset that underscore the social contract principle between leaders and the governed. While I am not one with an aversion for commending good deeds, I certainly know when to draw the line between commendations on one hand and excessive glorification on the other hand.
For proper context, this instant issue of renaming a university Senate Building after former Governor Olusegun Mimiko is not a primed adventure when factored with a more compelling demand of the hourwhich is the recognition of the late Governor Adebayo Adefarati’s good deeds with respect to the primacy he gave the relocation of the then Ondo State University from Ado Ekiti to Akungba Akoko in 1999 after the creation of Ekiti State in 1996 as well as his subsequent renaming of the University to Adekunle Ajasin University in order to immortalize the late Governor Ajasin.
Going forward, it is pertinent to stress that those ordinary citizens who have contributed in no small measure to the growth and development of a State should have their outstanding contributions rewarded by the State whether in their lifetime or after their demise. For instance, I have no vestige of reservation as to the choice of renaming the State owned Polytechnic after late Chief Rufus Giwa, an accomplished businessman and philanthropist whose wealth benefitted the State particularly in the areas of sports development.
The above example is in tandem with the norm obtainable in foremost prestigious Universities around the world.
A few examples suffice in this regard;Harvard University, formerly known as “New College”is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States having been established in1636 by vote of the Great and General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colonyand whose purpose was mainly to educate clergy. According to the university’s website, it was named after the College’s first benefactor, Reverend John Harvard of Charlestown who upon his demise in 1638 bequeathed his personal library and half his estate to the institution.
Also, Yale University, originally known as the “Collegiate School” is the third oldest University in the United States, it is a private Ivy league research University established by Clergy in 1701 to educate Congregational ministers. The University was later renamed Yale University in recognition of Elihu Yale, a successful Boston born businessman who made exceptionally generous donations to the school.
These privately owned institutions are renowned for their accomplishments which have been largely made possible because of key endowments from large-hearted individuals at their formative stage.
The Ondo State Government led by Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, (SAN) is hereby urged to take a cue from the foregoing and name a key government institution after the late Chief Adebayo Adefarati whose foresight of signing into law the bill backing therelocation of the Old Ondo State University to Akungba-Akoko and his subsequent approval of the renaming of the institution after late Governor Adekunle Ajasin can be described as one motivated by statesmanship rather than some cheap scoring of political points which is the forte of most Nigerian politicians.
Also, the late Governor’s commitment to peace in the riverine areas of Ondo State which necessitated the creation of the Ondo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission(OSOPADEC) should not go unrecognized by the State.
I submit by affirming again that what is good for Bala is good for Bolu, what is good for Ajasin is good for Adefarati, Agagu, Mimiko and by effluxion of time, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN).