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Aketi: The apotheosis of a gadfly, By Doyin Odebowale

Aketi: The apotheosis of a gadfly, By Doyin Odebowale

The foray of the essential Aketi as a brand in the Nigerian politics, especially Ondo State, demands a comprehensive rendition, of whatever version one was privileged to have partaken in. I witnessed history between 2011 and 2023. I participated, fully, and left with undying gratitude for the man who stood by me all through. I hope to write about my experiences at different moments soon.

Nature lulls mortals into a state of complacent amnesia on the inevitability of passing. The belief in the possibility of excelling, within the set precincts of human interactions and reasoned interventions, accentuates this delusional impulse. Man races to outpace his fellow men in presumed competition for survival and attainment of social prominence.

The compartmentalisation of activities into acceptable norms, observances, liturgies, stints at academes, culminating in experiential postulations and robust engagements, predisposes, easily, even the knowledgeable, to imagine existence as separate and distinct, not connected with the essentially integrative and absolute Being. Only a few seem bothered about the impracticability of existence outside Matter and the inevitability of everything dissolving into the regenerating Mass. Coming into being and passing away is illusory.

Nothing is new or old. The fluidity of existence is best captured in the unpredictability of life. A person who struts the landscape, in a moment of grand delusion, induced by a misplaced assumption of relevance, soon discovers the fleeting happenstance representing his/her entire being. Ignorance goads the arrogant to be contemptuous and condescending in his/her dealing with others. No human being is bigger than nature. Social constructs and classifications impel the misbelief concerning the superiority of a class of people or a particular person over others in the same space. Nobody should be treated as unimportant. Every human being lives for a purpose.

The news heralding the arrival of a new born baby presages the very point of departure, the nature of which remains, largely, elusive and continually confounding. It is taken to be predetermined and final. All attempts to escape the inevitable fate propel the movement towards its fulfillment. Nature never ceases to be protective of its regenerative attributes, instinctive and vengeful, standing against aberrance. Its ordinance is immutable, not amenable to capricious preferences. It exacts indiscriminate compliance. Physiology and anatomy are all about strict adherence to the natural precepts. Breaches attract dire consequences. Nature never condones infractions.

Death, construed as a negative cosmic energy, evokes considerable disquiet anytime it discharges its briefs, with imperious finality. Non-discriminatory, with regard to age, sex and status; totally impervious to emotive considerations, with respect to consequences wrought by its clinically efficient delivery, this morbid messenger fulfils its mission as the veritable equaliser, unrelentingly, uncompromisingly and dispassionately committed to maintaining the cosmic balance.

It disappoints, surprises and, sometimes, acts as balm on bruises, releasing the afflicted from the agonising expectations of the inevitable. Dark-skinned, stupid, undiscriminating, this natural equaliser’s strikes are aimed at uprooting the very foundations and expectations of benignity, benevolence, benefaction, joy and, sometimes, oppression. No mortal is spared the rod, from the abstemious to the gluttonous, the ascetic to the prurient, the ostentatious to the modest, very handsome, beautiful to the not-so-comely, young and old, man and woman, kings, princes, plebeians, elected and appointed potentates, knowledgeable and ignorant, smart and moronic, the deeply religious and the free thinker, the patriotic and the apostates, the loyal and the treacherous. All things and everyone shall become history. Nobody is forgiven death. Death itself is gain for a life dedicated to service. The dead are not unfortunate.

I have been unable to get myself together since the unfortunate passing of my friend, brother, benefactor, supporter and boss, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu (SAN, CON), the great AKETI, En’ire, on the 26th December, 2023. I had attempted to scribble words which could convey, aptly, the depth of my sadness and shock since I received the sad news on the 27th December, 2023, from Ibrahim Lawal, the head of Olujinmi and Akeredolu Chambers, even if most of us who were very close and fiercely loyal to him, had waited with disconsolate apprehension, hoping for the best while expecting the worst.

Aketi resisted the attempts by politicians to make him tinker with the organogram of the civil service. He frowned at the practice which ensured that unscrupulous elements in the service flouted the regulations with impunity. He openly discouraged the meddling of civil servants in partisan politics. Promotion was not only conducted on merit, there was also the insistence that no junior officer would be appointed above all his/her senior colleagues in service.

Some beneficiaries of sustained and unmerited benefaction from this very good man had anticipated, just as famished vultures, the morbid trophy. They had wanted his passing to be quick. They wanted power. The moral dwarfs, near illiterates, unscrupulous and rootless elements, converged to create a situation of uncertainty and urgency. The subsequent developments, since his demise, is evidence of their depravity. No tactic of infamy was spared in their attempts to kick a man who was down, undeservedly. His death has revealed the depth of perfidy. It is not surprising that the main beneficiaries of Aketi’s quiet philanthropy, large-heartedness and fairness, including some close associates, kinsmen and women, rescued from penurious mendicancy, joined the “transmit power orchestra”.

I shall not waste the valuable time of readers on a rehash of how and when the meeting between this uncommon human being, Aketi, and I happened. Several years of a relationship, anchored on mutual beneficence, respect, and unalloyed loyalty to true friendship transited into a transcendence above all other considerations. The synergy forged from this symbiosis created myths, rumours and outright lies surrounding our personalities. The curious craved understanding, the mischievous peddled mendacities. I met an emerging brand which symbolised courage, empathy, love for justice, admiration for honesty and unwavering dedication to truth and love for family. There will be more on this assertion later.

Nothing else mattered from the moment of the fortuitous meeting, made possible by his late friend, the veritable Baba Oba himself, Oluwole Aina, till the very end. He took me as one of his close confidants. He related with me more as a friend and brother. He brought me closer to his family. He became one of those to whom people ran to report the High Priest for any perceived wrongdoing. He played the role of the big brother on many occasions for which I remain eternally grateful. We shared many things in common, the most noticeable being obstinacy and an unbending adherence to principles based on conviction.

His service as the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, between 2008 and 2010, announced the brand, which represented courage, patriotism and passionate determination of the law as an instrument of social engineering, to the people of the country. Prior to this period, he had remained the quintessential gentleman of the Bar, a passionate defender of the constitutional order, even if imperfect, and an unrepentant advocate of federalism in its true essence. This was the mindset he took into politics in 2011.

The foray of the essential Aketi as a brand in the Nigerian politics, especially Ondo State, demands a comprehensive rendition, of whatever version one was privileged to have partaken in. I witnessed history between 2011 and 2023. I participated, fully, and left with undying gratitude for the man who stood by me all through. I hope to write about my experiences at different moments soon.

He was not a governor who sat in the office only to award contracts and indulge in issuing platitudinous hypocrisies as messages to the people. He knew the mandate liberally given to him was not that of frivolity. He stood to be counted at critical moments in the state of his primary assignment, Ondo, and Nigeria. He was the spirit behind the establishment of the Western Nigerian Security Network, Amotekun. He did not mind losing his second term bid as governor. And the hawks came after him with all the ferocity of vengeful marauders. He barely escaped losing his seat as governor through legal technicalities. He remained undaunted.

I must not fail to thank him for extending to me unflinching support in many ways. I thank him for the decisive interventions in my life at critical moments. He would want to be sure I was alright always. I thank him for making me an associate of Olujinmi and Akeredolu, against the relentless counsel of some of my adversaries. I thank him for giving me the opportunity to serve the good people of Ondo State.

I was given the latitude to operate unhindered. He gave me the wings to fly. He supported me all the way. I was encouraged to confront the criminal elements who had been used to making things difficult for the people. He was not the one to prevaricate, once convinced of the justness of his decision. He loved the people and defended their interests. He did not believe in abandoned projects. He did not allow any contractor to shortchange the people. He did not only fulfill his pledge to pay all salary arrears owed by the previous administration. He equally prioritised the welfare of workers and insisted on quality service.

Aketi had told a commissioner who tried to shield a criminal caught extorting money from market women that the High Priest would never tell lies. I had reported this clown who was a terror to the traders but felt adequately protected by certain elements in the government. He directed that the man should be removed from the Task Force on Environment immediately. I ensured that the man refunded every kobo taken illegally from the poor women. He was detained by the Police at the Scorpion Squad, Akure, until every person with verifiable claims of extortion and outright stealing levelled against this man got adequate refunds. Aketi did not bother to call me when some people called to plead for the man.

Aketi resisted the attempts by politicians to make him tinker with the organogram of the civil service. He frowned at the practice which ensured that unscrupulous elements in the service flouted the regulations with impunity. He openly discouraged the meddling of civil servants in partisan politics. Promotion was not only conducted on merit, there was also the insistence that no junior officer would be appointed above all his/her senior colleagues in service. We tried to reduce the incidence of ghost workers. He supported me to fight the syndicates responsible for recruitment racketeering in the state. We fought them to a standstill. He rejected the self-serving advice to change the official colour of the state. He insisted on serving the people at all times.

The cynical and mischievous are quick to forget the singular effort of this enigma on the increase in the internally generated revenue of the state. There was a phenomenal leap from the paltry sum of about N600 million to about N2 billion within the first three years. I was directed to coordinate the activities of motorcyclists and tricycle operators in the state, starting from October, 2017. The state realised a negligible sum of N400,000 (four hundred thousand naira only) monthly in the 18 local governments in the state. Security was threatened by the uncoordinated activities of the operators. The crime rate attributable to the motorcyclists was high. Aketi sought my advice on an outright ban. He confided in me that a new appointee and some politicians had perfected plans to bring in tricycles which would replace the motorcycles.

I made him realise the socio-economic impact that decision would have on the people generally. He trusted my judgement. He directed that all matters pertaining to motorcycle and tricycle operations should be brought under my supervision. He was shocked when I reported to him at a retreat held for top government functionaries in Owo in 2018 that the Ondo State Internal Revenue Service had recorded a height of over N8 million within a week of close monitoring. From the paltry sum of N400,000 monthly sum of inherited from the previous administration, we were able to generate between N65 million and N75 million monthly. This feat engendered intense lobby against the High Priest who was constantly reminded of his “alien” status in Ondo State. Aketi told them off till the end.

I must not fail to thank him for extending to me unflinching support in many ways. I thank him for the decisive interventions in my life at critical moments. He would want to be sure I was alright always. I thank him for making me an associate of Olujinmi and Akeredolu, against the relentless counsel of some of my adversaries. I thank him for giving me the opportunity to serve the good people of Ondo State. I enjoyed the warmth and resilience of these decent people while I was there. I can never forget these acts of kindness.

A giant has fallen indeed!

Doyin Odebowale (High Priest) writes from Ibadan.