Oluwarotimi Akeredolu is dead. At 67 years old, while a sitting governor of Ondo state, he departed the world to be with his maker. Odunayo, whose birth year filled the Akeredolu household with happiness, has now left them with a sore heart — but his life and contribution to the country and humanity will be a soothing balm to the pain that now lurks in their hearts.
Akeredolu died on Wednesday morning following a protracted battle with prostate cancer.
Aketi, as he was fondly called, was born into the family of Ola Akeredolu, a reverend, and Grace Akeredolu, a lady evangelist. He was the fourth of six children. His early life was shaped by his family’s strong Christian values and commitment to education.
He had his primary education at the Government School, Owo, his hometown. For his secondary education, he attended three schools: Aquinas College, Akure; Loyola College, Ibadan; and Comprehensive High School, Ayetoro, where he obtained his Higher School Certificate (HSC).
He later gained admission to the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) to study law, graduating in 1977. He was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1978 and became a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 1998.
ACTIVIST AND LAWYER
Akeredolu was a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN)
While at the university, Akeredolu was an active student leader. He served as president of the Law Students’ Society and was a member of the National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS).
Akeredolu began his legal career as a junior counsel at the law firm of Alex Ibru & Co.
In 1997, he was appointed attorney general and commissioner for justice for Ondo state. He served in this role until 1999. He was also chairman of the Legal Aid Council between 2005 and 2006.
He was president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) from 2008 to 2010.
Akeredolu was also a managing partner at the law firm of Olujinmi & Akeredolu, which he co-founded with Akin Olujinmi, a former attorney-general and minister for justice in Nigeria.
Akeredolu’s career in law was not just a profession; it was a testament to his unshakeable belief in justice and the rule of law.
Akeredolu during a campaign
Aketi first contested the Ondo governorship election in 2012 on the platform of the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) but lost to Olusegun Mimiko.
He was the first interim chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo (2014).
The senior lawyer ran again in 2016 as the APC candidate and won the election, defeating Eyitayo Jegede of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the governorship election.
He was re-elected for a second term in 2020 despite facing challenges within the party and allegations of ill health.
Until his death, he was the chairman of the south-west governors’ forum.
He led the south-west governors to establish the Western Nigeria Security Network, known as Amotekun, to protect the region against criminality.
‘A THORN IN APC’s FLESH’
Akeredolu in his Amotekun regalia — first south-west governor to inaugurate the security outfit
Speaking on how he married the personalities of a lawyer, an advocate and a governor, Akeredolu said it was a delicate situation for him, especially with the political class.
Oftentimes, he held positions that were contrary to the positions of his party.
The federal government said in 2022 that security outfits set up by various state governments cannot bear firearms.
However, Akeredolu said the Ondo state government will procure arms for Amotekun officers.
He said if the federal government can allow a security outfit in Katsina to carry arms, then Amotekun should be granted the same right.
During the naira redesign saga, Akeredolu asked former President Muhammadu Buhari to allow the old and new naira notes to co-exist.
He said the policy had “failed significantly”, calling on Buhari to “halt this needless drift into the abyss of chaos”.
Akeredolu said: “I have found it difficult particularly with the political class. I’m like somebody coming from a different milieu and it’s not the one they are used to. A few times, I put my feet down, and I say this is what I believe and I think with time, they’ve just come to appreciate my position that when this man takes a position, he is not probably going to change and that is probably the lawyer in me.”
He said he does “not want to be seen as somebody who flip-flops”.
POWER TRANSFER CONTROVERSY: A BLAST FROM THE PAST
Akeredolu with his deputy, Aiyedatiwa, when the relationship was smooth
Akeredolu was not known to bite his tongue and would usually be found when courage was needed to take a stand. However, in his last days on earth, he was caught in a web of controversy, forgetting the moral stand he took in years past.
When the late President Umaru Yaradua was sick and left the country on medical grounds without handing over to Goodluck Jonathan, Akeredolu, then NBA president, was one of those who fiercely criticised the ailing president and asked without mincing words that “the right thing must be done”.
Akeredolu, who was chairman of south-west governors’ forum, shared a group photo with Bola Tinubu and Yemi Osinbajo who were APC presidential candidates.
“The prayer of the association is that the president should recover fast, return to his office, and resign. No matter how much you love your country, it should not be to the detriment of your health. It is not your party or your wife that will decide whether you are capable of handling state matters; it is only your doctors that can decide that. The bar is not asking the president not to come back and take his seat, but the right thing must be done,” Akeredolu said in December 2009.
Fourteen years down the line, a sick Akeredolu, now Ondo governor, made headlines for holding on to power despite being incapacitated.
Akeredolu first left Nigeria in June for medical attention in Germany following a letter sent to the Ondo state house of assembly of his intention to embark on a 21-day leave.
He asked Lucky Aiyedatiwa, his deputy, to act in his stead.
Akeredolu during praise and worship on his return to Nigeria
On September 7, he returned to Nigeria after a three-month medical leave in Germany but settled in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital.
He resumed leadership of the state but continued to discharge his duties from Ibadan — a development that pitted Akeredolu’s loyalists against his deputy, eventually resulting in impeachment moves against Aiyedatiwa.
On November 24, President Bola Tinubu waded into the cold war and rift between Akeredolu and Aiyedatiwa.
On December 13, he embarked on another medical leave as a follow-up to his treatment, but this time around, he handed over the state to his deputy.
He never made it back.
Akeredolu celebrated his wife, Betty, in July 2022, as she clocked 69 years old and promised to be on her side when she is 70.
Aketi was married to Betty Anyanwu, and the couple was blessed with four children. Betty, who hails from Imo state, said they met during the National Youth Service Corps and it was love at first sight. Betty is a breast cancer survivor.
In October 2022, Buhari conferred on him the national honour of the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON). His hobbies include lawn tennis, reading and singing.
As a testament to his simplicity, people-oriented mindset, and deep sense of connection to his roots, Akeredolu adopted “arakunrin” meaning “Mr”, as a prefix to his name in place of his excellency.
The world bids you farewell. Arakurin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu Aketi.