Eyitayo and Akeredolu: Battle of Two Former AGs For Ondo’s Soul | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Eyitayo and Akeredolu: Battle of Two Former AGs For Ondo’s Soul

Posted: Sep 8, 2016 at 12:39 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Messrs. Eyitayo Jegede and Rotimi Akeredolo, the leading governorship aspirants in the November 26 gubernatorial poll in Ondo State, have a few things in common apart from the fact that they’re both Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN). STEPHEN UBIMAGO in this piece sizes them up and their chances, noting that what is most important for Ondo indigenes is that head or tail, they would benefit from having an accomplished legal practitioner lead them into the future….

Granted no Nigerian lawyer have as yet been elected president of the Federal Republic, however, quite a significant number have in the past been elected or are currently state governors in Nigeria.

For example, as far back as the fifties, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), was premiere of old Western Region from 1952 to 1958, with legends made of his accomplishments as regional premiere and leader of Yoruba people under the aegis of now-rested Action Group (AG) and Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN).

“Awolowo is the best president Nigeria never had,” was how late Ikemba Nnewi, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu succinctly captured the enigma, who till date remains a reference point for purposeful leadership and good governance.

The Second Republic was also witness to the emergence of a harvest of lawyers as governors. They included the late Chiefs Bola Ige (SAN), Solomon Lar, Sam Mbakwe, Melford Okilo and Christian C. Onoh – governors of old Oyo, Plateau, Imo, Rivers and Anambra States, respectively.

It is instructive that as men of timbre, they also typified moral, intellectual and political leadership both in and outside public office. Indeed, they stood heads and shoulders above their peers in terms of accomplishment in high office.

They also displayed uncommon administrative skills and creative vision in governance; any wonder that the question has often arisen as to whether lawyers have special breeding by virtue of their training which seems to imbue them with leadership qualities.

Short-lived as it was, the Third Republic was also witness to the emergence of the likes of Chief Evan Ewerem, a lawyer, as Imo State governor.

And at the inauguration of the Fourth Republic on May 29, 1999, lawyers proved their political savvy yet again. At the time, an ample number of them were elected governors on different political platforms.

They included Donald Duke, Alhaji Abdulahi Adamu, Professor Oserheimen Osunbor, and Chief Adeniyi Adebayo – former governors of Cross River, Nassarawa, Edo and Ekiti States respectively.

Others were Sullivan Chime, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), Godswill Akpabio, Gabriel Torwua Suswam, Liyel Imoke and Alhaji Ibrahim Shema – immediate past governors of Enugu, Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Benue,

Cross Rivers, and Katsina States respectively.

And since May 29, 2015, the likes of Henry Seriake Dickson, Nyesom Ezewon Wike, Samuel Bako Lalong, and Aminu Waziri Tambuwal have also emerged governors of Bayelsa, Rivers, Plateau, and Sokoto States in that order.

But more significant is that for the forthcoming Ondo State governorship election slated for November 26, the two main contenders, namely Eyitayo Jegede and Rotimi Akeredolu of the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress (APC) are not just lawyers but senior advocates, SANs.

Indeed, this perhaps would be the first time two SANs would be slogging it out for a state governorship seat in Nigeria, reminiscent of the battle for the presidency of the Bar in recent times.

This is also perhaps the first time in Ondo State that two men, who at different times were Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice of the state, would be facing each other in the electoral boxing ring. Both are also products of Aquinas College, Akure.

But whether the fact that Akeredolu is older in the Bar (called in 1978) and had once being President of the Nigerian Bar (between 2008 and 2010) would prove advantageous relative his opponent, who was called much later in 1984 and had never been Bar president, can at best be a matter for speculation.

The determinants of how votes would sway in political contestation include the relative popularity of candidates just as much as the relative popularity of the party platforms from which they would be staking their claim for the people’s mandate.

However, how the candidates emerged from the primary elections of their various parties could also be a decider or very telling of their chances.

On his part, Akeredolu not only defeated 23 other aspirants, to emerge the APC candidate, he defeated to the second place and also to the disquiet of all expectations, the aspirant who enjoyed the blessing and endorsement of the party’s national leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu.

He polled 669 votes to beat the said aspirant, Chief Olusegun Abraham, who garnered 635 votes; while Chief Olusola Oke came third with 576 votes.

The incumbent senator representing Ondo North Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Professor Ajayi Boroffice, polled 471 votes to come fourth at the primaries, while the senator representing Ondo Central, Tayo Alasoadura, polled 206 votes; and a serving House of Representatives member, Bode Ayorinde, garnered 67 votes to come fifth and sixth respectively.

Suffice it to underscore that it was indeed a keenly contested Ondo APC primaries: for apart from being marked by a frenzied build-up to the election, it was also dogged by desperate acts of the aspirants which saw them having free recourse to fetish.

For observers however, the development was a pointer to the fact that the stakes were very high and that the APC platform is a highly prized and competitive one.

For a party that produced most of the state’s representatives at the National Assembly, the odds were that it would also produce the governor of the state.

In comparison, the emergence of Jegede as the PDP governorship candidate came by painless licking or practically without a real fight, which for some observers was indicative that the Ondo PDP platform was not as attractive or competitive.

The immediate past Attorney General of Ondo State had emerged winner of the party’s primary by polling 760 votes to defeat Saka Lawal who polled only 22 votes.

In any event, howsoever the ballot swings come November 26, what is given is that Ondo State would have as its next governor an accomplished member of the legal profession, which for many indigenes of the state would be a welcome development.

For one, by their training, lawyers belong to the class of philosopher-kings, about which Plato, one of the world’s greatest thinkers, fondly pontificated in his ‘The Republic.’

In his famous book, the philosopher said: “At last I came to the conclusion that all existing states are badly governed and the condition of their laws practically incurable, without some miraculous remedy and the assistance of fortune; and I was forced to say, in praise of true philosophy, that from her height alone was it possible to discern what the nature of justice is, either in the state or in the individual, and that the ills of the human race would never end until either those who are sincerely and truly lovers of wisdom come into political power, or the rulers of our cities, by the grace of God, learn true philosophy.”

If Plato’s insight is anything to go by, it then stands to reason that the poverty of political leadership in Nigeria stems from the dearth of philosopher-kings or seasoned lawyers in the nation’s political space as president, governors, chairmen of local council areas and parliamentarians, among others.

Thus, the more lawyers there are in public offices in Nigeria, the merrier, for by their discipline and training, lawyers are generalists; they’re versatile, broadminded, often urbane and cosmopolitan.

They are also trained to be resolvers of disputes; that is, they are trained to solve practical human problems, which predispose them to leadership roles in the community.

Moreover, their training imbues them with a high devotion to cold objectivity, truth, hard facts, or evidence.

All this tend to elevate them above the ordinary human ken; and having imbibed by dint of training the principles of natural justice, their approach to public administration is often founded in fairness, equity and good conscience.

In short, legal training affords one the best breeding for public administration and political leadership.

Born to the family of late Chief and Mrs. Johnson Jegede in Ondo, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) attended Aquinas College Akure from January 1973 to July 1978 for his Secondary Education.

He bagged a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from the University of Lagos and was called to the Nigeria Bar in 1984.

He was appointed a Notary Public in 1992 and was elevated to the rank of Senior Advocate on 16th December, 2008.

In 2009, Jegede was appointed the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice by the current Ondo State governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko.

He served in the two terms of Governor Mimiko until July 22, when he resigned his appointment to pursue his governorship ambition.

Jegede (SAN), is a member of the Council of Legal Education in Nigeria, and had twice served as Chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Yola branch. So much for candidate Jegede.

Fondly called Aketi by his admirers, Chief Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) was born on July 21, 1956 to Reverend J. Ola Akeredolu and Lady Evangelist Grace Akeredolu of Aderoyiju in Ondo State.

He attended Aquinas College, Akure, Loyola Colege, Ibadan and Comprehensive High School, Ayetoro, for his secondary school education and Higher School Certificate, respectively.

He bagged a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), in Ile-Ife, Osun State, in 1977 and was called to Bar in 1978.

Akeredolu was Attorney General of Ondo State from 1997 to 1999. In 1998 he became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria; and from 2005 to 2006 he was Chairman of the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria and president of the NBA from 2008 to 2010.

QUOTE: “By their training, lawyers belong to the class of philosopher-kings, about which Plato, one of the world’s greatest thinkers, fondly pontificated in his ‘The Republic.’”