Akeredolu must step aside voluntarily, or face the possibility of being removed from office.

Busy Bee
Busy Bee November 28, 2023
Updated 2023/11/28 at 11:05 PM

Given another opportunity to elevate Nigeria’s democratic governance to global standards, the country’s political leadership has regrettably chosen to further entrench the nation in a state of disarray. The past six months have witnessed a disconcerting lack of active governance in Ondo State, as Governor Rotimi Akeredolu has been incapacitated due to illness, resulting in his absence from duty and the state capital, Akure. Despite the imperative of upholding decorum and respecting the five million residents of the state, the governor’s continued hold on power has persisted, showcasing a prioritization of party camaraderie over the public interest, with party leaders, notably led by President Bola Tinubu, failing to intervene.

This spectacle is not only disheartening but also demands urgent rectification. The governor should promptly relinquish the reins of government to attend to his health. Failing this, it becomes imperative for either the state executive council or the legislature to take decisive action and remove him in accordance with constitutional provisions.

This unfolding drama represents yet another setback for Nigeria’s democracy. Governor Akeredolu has been grappling with a severe illness for over a year, during which he temporarily relocated to Ibadan, Oyo State, where he and his inner circle managed Ondo affairs from afar. Subsequently, he sought medical treatment in Germany, spending three months in Europe. Upon his return, his family and aides continued to orchestrate a facade, positioning him in Ibadan while pretending that he is effectively overseeing the affairs of Ondo State.

The ongoing crisis in Ondo State has intensified, with Deputy Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa facing harassment from supporters of Governor Akeredolu due to internal disagreements, including efforts to impeach him within the Ondo State House of Assembly.

Governor Akeredolu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, is urged to adhere to the rule of law. According to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, he has the option to hand over power to his deputy and formally notify the Ondo State House of Assembly of his medical leave of absence. Alternatively, he could consider resigning to prioritize his health.

The essence of holding a public office lies in selfless public service. A voluntary exit on grounds of incapacitation would be more beneficial for the state, particularly considering the current complexities and administrative standstill amid significant economic, security, and social challenges. It is essential to prioritize the well-being of the state over political intrigues during these times of adversity.

The constitutional provisions outlining the process for the removal of a governor or deputy governor on grounds of medical incapacitation are in place, allowing either the House or the state executive council to initiate such actions.

However, the recent intervention by Bola Tinubu and the ruling party has been criticized for prioritizing party interests over public welfare and global democratic norms. The resolution urging Ondo partisans to maintain the status quo by retaining the absent Governor Akeredolu and halting impeachment proceedings against Deputy Governor Aiyedatiwa is seen as insufficient in addressing the governance vacuum in Ondo.

This situation reflects a failure on the part of Nigerian politicians to learn from past mistakes. The country experienced a political deadlock in 2009 when the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s aides and family members similarly took control during his extended medical absence. The invocation of the “doctrine of necessity” eventually led to the elevation of his deputy, Goodluck Jonathan, to the presidency.

Subsequent leaders, including Muhammadu Buhari, continued the trend of lengthy foreign medical trips without transmitting power to their deputies. This practice has led to instances of extended periods of absence, as witnessed with Buhari’s 171-day trip. Former Governors Sullivan Chime (Enugu) and Liyel Imoke (Cross River) also left their states for prolonged periods.

While acknowledging that illness can affect anyone, there is a growing consensus that Governor Akeredolu should step down from his gubernatorial responsibilities for the benefit of all. Despite the sympathy for Akeredolu’s health challenges, calls for him to relinquish his position echo the principles he championed as a leader in the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), student union, and civil society activism.

The NBA’s past insistence on Yar’Adua stepping down in 2009 contrasts with its recent support for Akeredolu, raising questions about consistency and double standards. The prevailing sentiment is that Akeredolu should voluntarily step aside, and if that doesn’t happen, the Ondo State House of Assembly and the State Executive Council should take the necessary steps to remove him from office.

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