I shall in few months be saddled with the task of providing responsible leadership, a leadership that would take our people from poverty and stagnation to productivity and prosperity, from pains and lamentation to joy and laughter.” —— Ondo State Governor-elect Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) after his official declaration by INEC as the winner of the Saturday, November 26 governorship poll.
It is my intention to deploy the above epigraph to interrogate the new socio-economic and political dynamics that must inevitably replace the eight-year old governance order in Ondo State starting from February 27, 2017. The keywords and/or phrases in the statement may have already pointed to the direction that the Akeredolu-led administration will travel in the state’s next political dispensation. The epigraph, to me, pre-supposes that critical governance architecture as well as its directive principles will be scrupulously geared towards, as well as revolve around the people of the state for a completely new lease of life. It also pre-supposes that the archaic, unproductive and lethargic state bureaucracy that gulps probably more than 80 percent of state revenue would be drastically reduced if the people’s “pains and lamentation” must turn to “joy and laughter” at the end of the day. One is therefore inclined to see the statement as the author’s overarching social contract with the people of Ondo State in which a common thread can be identified that also pre-supposes that a “responsible leadership” of the Akeredolu administration will liberate the people from “poverty and stagnation” whereby their “productivity and prosperity” will be harnessed and enhanced so that their “pains and lamentation” will turn to “joy and laughter” which ultimately translates into higher quality of life and new and improved standard of living for them. This is no doubt a daunting but not impossible proposition.
Judging from the post-election equanimity that pervaded the length and breadth of the state despite the serious acrimonies within and between parties, talk less of the ‘bad blood’ between the major contestants prior to the election in a state known for its recalcitrance and bull-headedness as followers had dug in behind their candidates – followed by myriads of congratulatory messages even from unlikely quarters – Akeredolu’s electoral victory may have triggered some kind of feeling in the people that a messiah may have arrived to liberate them from the bondage they have not only been subjected in the Mimiko administration but a needless socio-economic deprivation that has been their lot probably since the time of Pa Adekunle Ajasin. Because of this high level of expectations which for all practical purposes was reminiscence of President Muhammadu Buhari’s electoral victory in 2015, the governor-elect may not wait until his swearing-in to get cracking even if it’s by operating a mini, shadow administration either from his redoubt in Owo or the state capital. At the minimum, head-hunting of highly intellectually endowed indigenes whose creativity can extract water from a rock and their persuasive prowess so enchanting that they can sell ice to the Eskimos, if not groups with sound minds working on major policy directives of his government should be in top gear by now. This advanced preparation for governance should be of utmost importance if the subversion of the moribund, lethargic, unproductive self-conflicting and self-contradictory socio-economic paradigms that has rendered the state comatose, stale and inchoate must be accomplished and replaced with new life-enhancing, productive and sustainable socio-economic paradigms. This tectonic shift is necessary.
With the country facing such an unprecedented revenue depletion in its history which has brought into the fore and has called into question the sanity of the country’s military governments which created states that are never viable as they’re now unable to meet the very minimum obligation of paying salaries of their workers, no one needs to be told that unusual leaders with strong political will – as is being witnessed with Buhari at the centre – are what the political scientists ordered in the federating units as well. The governor-elect has demonstrated that he’s audacious enough to take the road less or never travelled and embark on unusual propositions that would be aimed at recalibrating the socio-economic templates to spur real growth and sustainable development. The people of Ondo State has scaled through the first test of the type of leadership needed to change the governance architecture when they elected Rotimi Akeredolu whose principled antecedent is undoubtedly one of the key hallmarks of “responsible leadership” to which he alluded in his maiden victory speech.
Perhaps Akeredolu’s next test on the road to running a successful and result-oriented government is for him to figure out what should be the nature, character and style of the All Progressives Party (APC) in the state in such a way that a robust and symbiotic relationship would exist between the political arm and administrative wing of the party in which the governor-elect now has the dual responsibility of leading. How he juggles these extremely important responsibilities would not only have telling effects on how long these two structures would endure in the state, but the level of health and wellbeing or otherwise of one has a direct correlation on the other. Aside the fact that there should be a fundamental restructuring of the party in the state in light of the internecine ‘war’ in the leadership prior to and after the primary, it may be extremely imperative to look at bringing in new hands whose only objective is to grow the party and are not in any way covetous of or interested in any positions in the government while members of the present leadership are assigned new roles in the next political dispensation. There’s perhaps nothing as nauseating and morally reprehensible to those with the acute understanding of what political parties should be and what should be the guiding principles of their members than the promiscuous shuttling of key players between parties when they perceive that their narrow political interests are more likely to be enhanced in another party or are threatened where they are, as the case may be. Nigerian political parties will remain weak and incapable of galvanising its members, let alone the general populace towards any noble ideals as long as this aberration continues.
While it can be argued that it may not be the most auspicious time for anyone to be in the top rung of political leadership in the polity as our mostly self-inflicted socio-economic problems has become such a complex labyrinth that seems intractable, the unfortunate present reality of our time equally presents us with the opportunity to chart a new course whereby those tangible and intangible pillars that has stood on our developmental pathway are deliberately subverted and completely jettisoned for the sake of our collective good and progress. It’s a time like this that leaders who’re still preoccupied with frivolities of power must be separated from the deep who can dive well into the deep. One would hope that Akeredolu belong to this latter category.