Opinion: Lucky Aiyedatiwa: Riding on the prophesy of names

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By Segun Adeleye

The stage is set for the epic battle of who will become the next  Governor of Ondo State as the incumbent governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa on Tuesday formally declared his intention to contest.

 Aiyedatiwa  who became the governor on December 27, 2023, following the demise of his principal, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu will be contesting for the governorship ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at a primary coming up on April 24.

 As Akeredolu is no more around to physically anoint his successor, Aiyedatiwa in his speech at his formal declaration of intent graced by some elders and leaders of the Ondo State APC  did it for the departed soul saying, “I must re-echo what our late leader had always wished for in his life time – it was his wish that I succeed him, not through death though, as the next Governor of the State.

 “He was a courageous and visionary leader who had no time for pretense and so he expressed this wish at different fora in both public and private. All was with one conviction and implicit confidence in me to carry on the torch of accelerated development which he lit first in 2017 and later renewed under a joint ticket for both of us in the 2021 gubernatorial election.”

Report has it that Aiyedatiwa will be slugging it out with other aspirants at the APC governorship primary , such as a former Commissioner for Finance, Mr Wale Akinterinwa; a former member of the House of Representatives, Mayowa Akinfolarin; a former Secretary to the State Government, Mrs Oladunni Odu; a former Special Adviser to Governor Akeredolu on Health, Prof Francis Faduyile; a former governorship aspirant of the APC, Chief Olusola Oke; a former Chairman of the Ondo State Oil-producing Areas Development Commission, Mr Gbenga Edema; Senator Jimoh Ibrahim; Dr Paul Akintelure and  Brig. Gen. Olamide Ohunyeye (retd.).

 What cannot be missed is how providence and his name ‘lucky’ is playing out in the emergence of Aiyedatiwa as a force to reckon with in the political permutation of the Sunshine State.

Thrown up as a lesser threat when the  former deputy governor Agboola Ajayi resigned his membership of the APC and defected to the PDP in June 2020, Aiyedatiwa remained loyal and gentle to  be selected as the running mate of Governor Akeredolu in the 2020  election and on 11 October 2020, they were elected governor and deputy governor before being sworn into office on 25 February 2021,

As providence will have it again, Aiyedatiwa became acting governor  on 13 December 2023 as Akeredolu left for end-stage leukaemia treatment and was sworn in as governor on 27 December 2023 after Akeredolu passed on.

However, the political hostilities that Aiyedatiwa  faced between the time of the illness of his former boss and his demise would have consumed anyone that was not lucky or destined to go far.

At a time, the  Ondo State House of Assembly moved to impeach Aiyedatiwa  after Akeredolu came back from his 90 days of medical leave following allegations of gross misconduct. But after weeks of animosity, members of the  Assembly suspended the impeachment process following the intervention of the leadership of the APC.

 One can draw a resemblance in what is playing out in Ondo State- the political journey of Lucky Aiyedatiwa with the rise of former President Goodluck Jonathan which so much had been written about, particularly the part that ‘luck’ in his name played in his rise to prominence.

Jonathan was the running mate of Diepreye Alaimeyeseigha who won the election and became the first civilian governor of Bayelsa State in May 29, 1999. They were reelected in 2003 but on 9 December 2005, Jonathan was sworn in as the governor upon the impeachment of governor Alamieyeseigha  after being charged with money laundering in the United Kingdom. He later served as the vice president from 2007 to 2010 under the administration of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. He was named Acting President on 9 February 2010 following President Yar’Adua’s trip to Saudi Arabia in November 2009 for medical treatment. Jonathan was sworn in as the substantive president on 6 May 2010 following President Yar’Adua’s death on 5 May 2010. A year later, on 29 May 2011, he was sworn in as the Nigeria’s 14th Head of State after victory in the election.

Other leaders in the contemporary Nigeria whose rises are synonymous with the prophesies of their names include Chief Godswill Obot Akpabio, the current Senate President who as ‘Godswill’ was a Senior Prefect in secondary school, elected as the speaker of the parliamentary year in the University, previously served as governor of Akwa Ibom State, served as Senator from 2015 to 2019; served as Minister for Niger Delta Affairs from 2019 to 2022 and returning to serve as the current Senate President. Other leaders that can also come to mind with prophetic names that counted include Olusegun Obasanjo and Olusegun Mimiko.  Olusegun in Yoruba means God’s victory. While Mimiko was one of the most successful governors that ever ruled Ondo State, Obasano was a victorious soldier who played a senior role during the Nigerian Civil War and accepted the surrender of the Biafrans in 1970. He later served as Nigeria’s head of state from 1976 to 1979 and as president from 1999 to 2007. However, President Tinubu that didn’t have the heritage of a prophetic name in this context acquired one Asiwaju ‘leader’ along the way and prophesied by himself that ‘emilokan’ it’s my turn.

 While one can settle for the definition that luck is success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions, the other side of the wisdom is that luck or opportunity can only happen to those who are prepared or positioned for opportunities when they come. As Aiyedatiwa  could be said to be riding on the winds of luck, one can argue that if he had not gone to school, joined a political party when he did and build a network including a good relationship with the late Akeredolu and others, he would not have been considered, talk-less of going this far.

 Even, if one should play down the issue of luck in the current governor’s ascendancy, the prophesy in his second name Aiyedatiwa  cannot go unnoticed. Aiyedatiwa  means the world has become ours. The governorship seat which he currently occupies is a prophesy comes through, while the anointing claim with the political structure at stake is the next stage of the unfolding mystery.  

Having made the strongest claim to the impressive political structure left behind by Akeredolu, it’s left to be seen how other contenders will fight back to convince the people that they are equally integral part of the structure.

 Aiyedatiwa’s strategy to secure the APC gubernatorial ticket so far has not portrayed him as someone that wants to put all his political eggs in a basket of luck.

 In the speech at the formal declaration of intention to contest the November 16 governorship election, he said “My vision and mission for the people of Ondo State are greatly enriched, having served the State from 2021-2023, with our departed leader.. who in no small measure was an exemplar of purposeful and courageous leadership, empathy and good governance. I have a clear agenda to sustain Ondo State on the path of glory and development. Life must be more meaningful to our people.

 “My mission would focus on key developmental issues to alleviate poverty, banish hunger and make Ondo State self-sustaining. My development agenda is to emplace a State Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (SEEDS).”

He is also not a novice to know that getting the endorsement of the party’s leader, President Tinubu is key to the success of his ambition which may explain why he described the declaration of his intent as another milestone in the collective democratic trajectory in the Sunshine State as “we are gathered as a people not merely as party faithfuls to take another shot at consolidating governance, but also to celebrate the richness and beauty of our democracy under the transformational audacity of our President and Commander-In-Chief of Armed Forces, His Excellency Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, GCON.”

If he can also amplify what people are going to benefit from the SEEDS in his mission statement,  it’s not unlikely that independent minded stakeholders will take a look at him with a second thought that it is not all about politics.

With the SEEDS, he said he will enhance economic growth in the rural areas by improving productivity in agriculture, fishing, horticulture, and trading; accelerate economic growth in urban areas by encouraging private enterprises and economic activities for the urban poor; Improve the health of the people by addressing major diseases that cause mortality, most especially infant and maternal mortality; Improve essential infrastructure and social amenities of the State such as roads, water, electricity etc; Provide adequate housing, especially affordable houses in urban and rural areas; and ensure a congenial environment for the people; Ensure quality education for all including ability to read and write; Improve standard of research and development especially in education, industry, housing and skill acquisition; and Deliberate focus on youth and women development.

 Having survived many crises and still waxing stronger, the question that will come to mind is whether Aiyedatiwa is already qualified to be seen as a cat with seven lives or a stone which the builders rejected turning out to become the head of the corner? Time will tell.

*Segun Adeleye is the President/CEO World Stage Limited, publisher of WorldStage Newsonline and author of a new book ‘Tinubu The Audacity To Hope’.

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