Tongues are wagging over Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s relocation of Ondo State’s seat of power to Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, after his medical trip abroad.
Akeredolu had left Nigeria for medical attention in Germany where he spent three months, and on his return last week, there were jubilations by his political allies, supporters, aides, traditional rulers, civil servants and members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.
But the governor has been at his private residence in Ibadan since his return a week ago, from where he is running the affairs of Ondo State and reaching key decisions related to governance.
The temporary vacuum created by Akeredolu during the trip caused tension and political bickering among his cabinet members following the handing over of power to his Deputy, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, in an acting capacity.
Mr Akeredolu announced his return officially in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Richard Olatunde. Upon his return, the governor convened a meeting with key stakeholders from Ondo State in Ibadan, where he landed.
According the statement, the governor, during the meeting, formally handed over his resumption letter to the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon Oladiji Olamide, and a copy to the Deputy Governor, Mr Aiyedatiwa, who was in attendance.
At the meeting in Ibadan, stakeholders present were members of the House of Assembly, led by Speaker Olamide; members of the State Executive Council led by the deputy governor; National Assembly members led by Senator Jide Ipinsagba; and members of the APC State Working Committee led by the Chairman, Engr Ade Adetimehin.
Others are youth groups led by the Ondo APC Youth Leader, Comrade Olawande Ayo Wisdom; former local government chairmen led by Hon Augustine Oloruntogbe; and members of the Foundation of Wives of Ondo State Officials (FOWOSO) who were joined by the wife of the governor, Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu.
Akeredolu also held meetings with members of the National Assembly, including the Senator representing Ondo North, Senator Jide Ipinsagba; members of the House of Representatives representing Owo/Ose, Hon Timehin Adelegbe; Ilaje/Ese-Odo, Hon Donald Ojogo, Idanre/Ifedore, Hon Festus Akingbaso; Okitipupa/Irele, Hon Jimi Odimayo and Akoko South West/South East, Hon Gboyega Adefarati.
The governor was quoted in the statement as saying, “So, because we had to land here in Ibadan first, I said I have to meet with House of Assembly members here. We are here, and we are back. I am back, and by the grace of God I will be alive to complete my full tenure in office. I want to tell you that I am back, and I will resume work immediately. This is my letter of resumption.”
But since his return and official announcement of his desire to complete his tenure, tongues have continued to wag over his continuous stay in Ibadan instead of Akure, the Ondo State capital.
So far, the governor has reached two key official decisions binding on Ondo from Ibadan. He has assented to the bill establishing the Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs). He equally sacked the media aides of his deputy.
The development has left residents, political watchers, critics and the opposition parties in the state with no other option than to wonder why the governor has decided to administer the affairs of Ondo State from another state.
Speaking on the matter, a political activist from the state, Jimmy Adekanye, said Akeredolu was elected as the Executive Governor of Ondo State and not Ibadan where he was currently staying and should return to the state capital, Akure.
He further said, “Instead of him to return to the state (Ondo) to address the people that he is back hale and hearty to govern the state, he chose to go to his private home in faraway Ibadan in Oyo State. Akeredolu was elected as Ondo governor and not Ibadan governor.
“The governor has a home in Owo, his home town, which is even less than an hour to the state capital and seat of power, Akure. Rather than governing the state from Ibadan, issuing memos from there to bind on the people of the state, why can’t he come back to the state?”
In his reaction, a political commentator, Mr Ayodeji Abisagbo, said the absence of the governor did not stop him from performing his official duties and functions.
He said, “The governor has never committed any offence for staying in Ibadan, Oyo State capital. What he needs to do he is doing, and there was no vacuum in governance of the state even when he travelled abroad.
“Akeredolu has returned, and we thank God. He is performing his role and has resumed official and executive duty as the governor of the state. So, there is no issue here. We wanted him back and he is back here with us.”
But the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has questioned why the governor has not been physically present in the state since he returned from his medical trip abroad.
The state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr Kennedy Peretei, in a statement, said the continued stay of the governor outside Ondo showed that he was not yet fit to stand the stress of office and was allegedly packaged back to the country.
The statement reads in part: “Last week, we challenged the rationale for Akeredolu calling for a meeting in his Ibadan residence instead of Ondo State where he was elected to govern. Up till this moment, the governor has not been seen anywhere near Ondo State.
“Akeredolu is beginning to fuel media speculations that, against the advice of his doctors, he was hurriedly brought into Nigeria to foil an impeachment process. He also ordered an upgrade of his Ibadan residence to include a replica of the executive council chambers, from where he intends to hold exco meetings.
“Does Akeredolu want to make Ibadan the capital of Ondo State? What is the hurry to resume all about if he cannot come to Ondo State? Would it not have made more sense if he was still attending to his health abroad? Why did he say he had resumed when indeed he has not? Our party wishes to advise Akeredolu to come to Ondo State to complete his tenure.”
However, the ruling APC in the state said the jab on Akeredolu by the opposition party had shown that the PDP never wanted the governor back from his medical vacation.
Alex Kalejaiye, the spokesman for the APC in the state, said the governor had been attending to state matters since his arrival, especially the way he ought to.
He said, “It is unbelievable that the PDP is having a grouse with the location of our governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu. This is a clear indication that the opposition party never wanted Arakunrin back alive.
“The crux of the matter is that Mr Governor has been attending to state matters since his arrival the way he ought to irrespective of location. This is an indisputable reality. I sympathise with the PDP; it is a crisis-ridden political party that is bereft of ideas and no longer coherent and constructive.”