We lost Akeredolu, the most critical voice in the Southwest – Ademola-Olateju

We lost Akeredolu, the most critical voice in the Southwest – Ademola-Olateju

Sunday, December 31, 2023 7:30 pm

Mrs Bamidele Ademola-Olateju

Mrs Bamidele Ademola-Olateju

Mrs Bamidele Ademola-Olateju, the Ondo State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, speaks on her relationship with the late governor of the state, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu.

Can you recollect the first time you met Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and your impression of him?

First of all, thank you for thinking of making me do this. I met Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu SAN, CON on February 24, 2021, on the day of his second inauguration as governor of Ondo State. My dearest friend Erelú Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi invited me to come along, having worked for him during the elections. At the time Covid-19 was still raging, we were still wearing masks. At the Presidential lodge where he lived, I took picture with him in the living room. A few moments later, we were at the dinning table together. When we removed our masks, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi asked if he knew who was sitting beside Erelú, he said no, Dr. Fayemi said; “that is Bamidele Ademola-Olateju, you often read on Premium Times”. He greeted me warmly and they started talking politics. Later, his real self, what I later came to know as his ocular self emerged when Pastor Itua Ighodalo was making his way in, “àwọn àlùfáà tí ń bọ̀ o”. From there on, it was pure funny banter. He had no airs, happy as a lark and funny as hell

How was it like working with him as his commissioner?

Working with him for me, started on December 13, 2021. That day was a signpost to all I experienced with him. I was all dressed in traditional Yoruba Iro and Buba. My Buba was a white lace and ìró was the crisp khaki colored Aṣọ Òfì called Sáyán. We were told to bring our favorite Bible or Qur’an. I took along with me, the Bible my mother’s baptismal Bible and a purse. On getting to the venue, the plan was changed, and we were given Bibles. That made things a bit unwieldly. As we were called to come sign the Oath, I forgot my pen. When it got to my turn, I asked the man next to me, to lend me his. Aketi as we fondly call him, said; “Bamidele, o gbàgbé pen nígbàtí o ti fi gbogbo owó ra’ṣọ tán! Ẹniti o gba pen lọ́wọ́ ẹ̀ ti di ọkọ ẹ ní cabinet nìyẹn”  Bamidele, you forgot your pen, having used all your money to buy what you are wearing. The man who lent his pen to you has become your husband in the cabinet by lending you, his pen.” We all cracked up, laughing. That was Aketi. No dull moment with him. He makes a joke out of everything. I was often the butt of his jokes.

Governor Akeredolu treated me kindly and with great respect. He called me BAO affectionately and he never hid his likeness for me. He often bragged about me, telling people, “Bamidele is very cerebral”. He was proud of me. Never for once did he shout at me or use harsh language. When I missed his call, he will often ask, “Bamidele, ṣe o sún ni àbí ó ti ṣeré lọ? – Bamidele, were you sleeping or went out playing?”

Arakunrin strove to bring out the best in his cabinet members by encouraging us to be our very best. Without a doubt, as a lawyer, a Senior Advocate, he had very effective communication skills in his Ọwọ dialect, the Yoruba language and of course English. He was dedicated, understanding, and empathetic. His sense of self-awareness was incredibly acute. He fostered a positive work environment, maintained morale within the cabinet, and he led us with courage, respect, compassion, and resilience.

Did you ever see him getting angry on any issue?

At one time or another, we all see or hear what can drive us to anger. What is unique about Aketi was that his anger did not last. He did not like to see anyone flustered. Sometimes he would frown as he entered Cocoa conference center or the Executive Council chamber, but the frown often dissolved into jokes and taunts. There is a kind of child like innocence in his behavior. With him, what you see is what you get. You cannot bear tales to him or share gossip. He would say it out loud and mention you as the purveyor. He was too free to care. To Aketi, everything and every situation could be made into a joke.

What is it that you will miss in him now that he is no more?

This loss is personal to me as an advocate. We have lost the most critical voice in the Southwest and indeed Nigeria. I will miss his moral courage and his jokes. On moral courage, I would like to put it on record that patriotism is not measured simply by vacuous avowals. The ability to challenge any act, which stands at variance with collective aspirations towards the advancement of the society, confirms the position of a person whose existence is dedicated to altruism. Speaking out at difficult moments is evidence of moral courage. Staying through with the conviction on the justness of a cause, regardless of who holds a contrary opinion, distinguishes courage from foolhardiness.

Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, SAN, CON, was committed to the defence of ethical principles. His position was anchored, firmly, on conviction. Group solidarity was of little significance to him. He speaks and acts. He was the quintessential gentleman of the Bar, an unyielding advocate of the masses.

Let me share a part of Aketi with you. I approached him that we needed to be at the United Nations General Assembly side events in 2022, to push the case of loss of biodiversity in our forests, and the issue of ocean surge threatening our coastal communities. He agreed and the process started. As we were getting ready, it became clear he would not be able to attend the session we had planned. I was flustered and downcast. I wasn’t willing to continue, and he noticed on one of the trips to his office to sign a document, he asked in Yoruba: “BAO, who and where were you made a chief?” I replied, my mother’s people Sir.” Are they aware their High Chief is always wearing pants?” We both laughed and he signed the documents. On my way out, I knew I had to go and do my best in New York. That was his way of dousing the tension and putting me at ease. Yet another joke.

What would you consider as his greatest achievement as Governor of Ondo State?

Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu laid the foundation for so many things, but history will record him as the man who stood up to rescue the Yoruba from marauders. Our President, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR said it best in his statement. Decades from now, historians will look at the Western Nigeria Security Network code named Amotekun that he championed and defended and mark it as far-sighted and epochal. He also fought hard for the license to build and operate a deep Seaport in Ondo State and got it. He will be remembered for good.

Is there any regret working with him?

My only regret was that I did not take pictures that will tell stories with him.

You might have stepped on toes on carrying out your duties and responsibilities, is there any you can recollect?

Continue to read from the source: Nigerian Tribune



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