ADIEU, AKETI By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN

ADIEU, AKETI By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN I had known him as a forthright man, down to earth, uncompromising, principled and downright courageous. But sitting there in the courtroom listening to the tributes from various speakers drew tears from my eyes. His Excellency, Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu (Aketi) is no mean man at all, for he had seen it all. He started the journey of life in 1956 in Owo, Ondo State, through very virtuous parents who impacted him with the values of integrity, courage, dignity and diligence. He attended St. Aquinas College, Akure, Loyola College, Ibadan and ended up at the prestigious Great Ife (University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University). Aketi started early and had a very vibrant life experience in Great Ife where he was elected as the Vice-President of the most dynamic body of students in Nigeria. Aketi was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1978 at the early age of 22 and he has had a very flourishing career both in private practice and in public office. Aketi was unanimously elected as Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Ibadan Branch at age 32, he was appointed as the Attorney-General of Ondo State in 1996 at age 41 and he was later conferred with the Rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria in 1998 at age 42. He was very active in the affairs of NBA at the national level, leading to his election as the 24th President of the body in 2008. Aketi so much impacted the legal profession with his robust leadership that the association deemed it fit to name its national secretariat in Abuja after him in 2012. After his successful stint at the NBA, Aketi went back to his private practice, leveraging upon his successful career to mentor young lawyers, including erecting a giant complex in Ibadan as a philanthropic gesture to accommodate young lawyers to start their law practice without paying rent. Like Comrade Adams Oshiomole, Aketi rose upon the goodwill of his successful tenure at the NBA to vie for public office in his home State, leading to his election in 2016 as the Governor of Ondo State. It is on record that Aketi made a tremendous impact on infrastructure, especially road construction, during his tenure. When Aketi became the Governor, the expectations from him were high indeed. But as a typical politician with his eyes on the second term, Aketi maintained the politics of diplomacy, so as not to rock the boat. But that did not stop him from confronting headlong, the security challenges faced by his people, as was earlier done by his fellow Governor then, Ayodele Peter Fayose. In his moving tribute at the special Court session organized in his honour by the Ondo State Judiciary, the Honourable Chief Judge, Hon. Justice A. Olusegun Odusola, summed up Aketi’s legacy in these immortal words: “Arakunrin was a courageous fighter, who faced the serious security challenges in the State with such ingenious courage that his approach has become a national model. He was amazingly down to earth and this great asset is also his major weakness in a society where sycophancy is the order of the day. Whatever he promised to do, he would fight to accomplish it … It is a delight to note that Arakunrin never interfered with judicial activities even when it did not favour his desires. He would always tell us ‘Milord, deliver your judgment in your true conscience, if I am not satisfied, I will appeal’. That is the man we are all gathered here to bid farewell to on his last journey. I am paying tribute to a man who understood the principles of separation of powers and lived it, not only in words, but in action.” At a particular time in Ondo State, criminals masquerading as herdsmen swooped on the State and attacked the former secretary to the federal government, Chief Olu Falae in his farm, set part of the farm on fire and also destroyed the crops therein. Not long thereafter, Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, daughter of Pa Rueben Fasoranti, was murdered in cold blood and the Deputy Registrar of Federal University of Technology, Akure was also killed. The Olufon of Ifon, a first-class traditional ruler, was gunned down, whilst the criminals escaped into the Ogbese Forest. Aketi rose to the occasion by issuing a seven-day ultimatum to all herdsmen to vacate all the forests of Ondo State. Aketi exemplifies the typical Ondo man, very urbane, eloquent and uncompromising, determined and trusting in God as his ultimate power source. This was demonstrated when he openly declared his health challenge and sought for prayers. Aketi would then rally other governors in the South-West region to develop a security outfit to checkmate the influx of criminals. He spearheaded the establishment of the Amotekun Corps, got personally involved in the operations of the outfit by openly identifying with it as the Amotekun General. When his corpse arrived at Akure on February 21, 2024, my hairs stood up on my head to see the operatives of Amotekun Corps arrayed in their official attires line up the streets as a mark of respect for the general. From the tributes pouring in for Aketi from all quarters, it was clear that he lived a good life, for himself and for his people. He was an allrounder, mingling with Kegites, Pastors and Imams. Even though he was raised by a lady evangelist and a reverend father, Aketi did not pursue any religious battle as he was at home with Muslims, Traditionalists and Christians, rallying everyone together to develop the State. According to the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Akure Branch, Aketi “was an early achiever … who excelled in all things. Finally, the true essence of life is not in its length but impact. It is also not about duration but donation.” Aketi was not and could not have been perfect, but please pardon me to dedicate this piece to his praise and honour only. He will account to his maker for all his commissions and omissions, but for now, the good people of Ondo State, the entire nation, the legal profession and indeed the whole universe should stand to salute Aketi a patriotic statesman, a leader loyal to the causes he believed in, who put his life on the line for his people and would always say it as it is not minding whose ox is gored. As he assured the world in his speech during the court session, I urge his successor, Governor Lucky Orimisan Aiyedatiwa, to carry on with the good legacies of Aketi. Rest in power, great mentor and leader. I commend the Akeredolu family, the Nigerian Bar Association and the Ondo State Government for the successful funeral outings. BRAVO, GOVERNOR ADELEKE Sometime ago, I wrote a piece titled “A Governor’s Naked Dance”, calling upon His Excellency, the Governor of Osun State, Mr. Ademola Jackson Nurudeen Adeleke, to put an end to the situation prevailing in the State which has led to the closure of all Courts. Not long thereafter, aides of the Governor went to town in fits of rage, though unwarranted. Basically, I was accused of being an agent of some faceless opponents of the governor and indeed Osun State, paid to discredit the hard-working leader. I did not respond to the said attacks at the time mainly because this was not strange to me at all, being the usual tactics of state actors to silence objective criticisms. When it became clear that nothing tangible was being done to resolve the issues leading to the closure of the Courts and the other two arms of government carried on as usual, I wrote another piece titled “Who Would Save Osun?” I stated therein that going by the express provisions of the Constitution, it would be illegal and improper for a State in Nigeria to function effectively without the third arm of government, which is the judiciary, being in operation. I highlighted the pitfalls of such a fearful scenario of civilian dictatorship, especially as it affects the liberty of citizens who may be arrested and detained in unlawful custody beyond the statutory limit, where laws made by the legislature may become statute barred and policies of government cannot be challenged by citizens from the State. I then concluded that if the governor would not rise up to the occasion to resolve the issues, he was indirectly inviting a situation that may lead to the declaration of a state of emergency in the State, in line with constitutional guidelines. Hardly had the article been published than I was inundated with calls by friends and associates on a rejoinder penned by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, calling me names and making bold but unverifiable assertions that I was on a hatchet job to discredit the governor. I am not a member of any political party and I have no affiliation whatsoever with any group for any reason at all in respect of any political interest. I have written opinions on the situation of things in Edo State, in Kwara State, in Lagos State and in Ondo State, in the way that I considered it fit to do. The judiciary is my constituency and until we achieve true federalism and restructuring to decentralize that body, it is still being regulated at the national level, by the National Judicial Council. So, I have the locus to make useful interventions in my primary constituency to bring sanity at any point when there is a problem, anywhere. That said, I must commend the governor for taking my advice to take up the crisis plaguing the judiciary in Osun State headlong, because I read in the news last week that a committee has been set up by the State to resolve all issues leading to the strike action, with the assurances that the all Courts would soon open. The buck stops at the governor’s table and he will always be held accountable for everything that goes well or goes wrong in his State. In this regard, a million attacks upon my person will not stop me from any intervention that is needful in the circumstances. If the courts in Osun State remain closed for another one month from now, the governor should brace up to face the people of Nigeria to account for his stewardship.


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