Beyond the face-saving efforts of elders and spirited individuals, it is becoming increasingly indispensable that public officers gauge their public utterances.
There are statements that you just want to read every other day, speeches you want to memorize, you drink in the text and absorb them as if they offered some therapeutic effect. Such were the speeches of the former president of United States of America, Barrack Obama. He was such an inspiration in speech delivery that the white Americans could not but support his candidacy and bear him up to victory. Mahatma Ghandi was another. So deep were some of his statements that they remain relevant several years after he has left the scene. Mandela is yet another example. A wordsmith whose words weighed wisdom beyond the shores of the black race.
Just last week, in responding to the partial demolition of Music House by the Oyo state government, Senator Abiola Ajimobi had scorned the person of Yinka Ayefele, a music maestro. Unsettled by the barrage of public condemnation that greeted the action, the governor compared the successful entrepreneur to “a common thief”. Hear him: “They said we destroyed the building of that man, someone who broke the law. They said he is crippled. He can break the law because he is crippled? They said he is an employer of labour. Don’t thieves hire people to work for them?”, the governor asked rhetorically. They seem to have settled afterwards but the statements remain indelible.
In a similar fashion, I listened to a short speech delivered by the governor of Ondo state at an event a fortnight ago, I am convinced that he is in that office for self aggrandisement and personal agenda. Rather than inspire, he fuelled suspicion and rebellion among his listeners. It lacked finesse and was devoid of any promise or charisma. His pronouncement betrays his pedigree as a lawyer and former president of the Nigerian Bar Association who is supposed to be schooled in the art of public speaking and presentation.
There is a butt of joke (or so I thought) on the lips of many residents and indigenes of Ondo state. The nucleus of the joke underscores the non- or under-performance of the incumbent governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu. After his victory at the polls, he was said to have enthused that there was no work to be done, that his predecessor, Governor Mimiko had done so much work leaving almost nothing to be done. Thus, his mission in government house was simple: to come and enjoy life.
To my dismay and the chagrin of many of his listeners at the event, the governor unwittingly gave credence to this unconfirmed report. The venue was the annual convention of the Agape Christian Ministries which coincides with the 30th anniversary of the church. In his brief message, the presiding Bishop of the church, Bishop Felix Aderemi Adejumo had specifically acknowledged the government’s focus on industry, and had requested that the governor provided infrastructure for the teeming population of the state. In his response, Arakunrin Akeredolu made little of the bishop’s request. He derided our craving for good roads, stable power supply and quality health care system. He made reference to heaven and declared that he wants to go there. He is ready to go to heaven and wondered why the congregation wasn’t ready to go.
Referring to the bible, he stated there won’t be accidents in heaven; for the roads are made of gold. There’s stable power supply there, hence no need for generator. “Why are you not ready to go?” The governor asked, and answered: “For me, I am ready to go” He was quick to admit that different administrations can try to solve the numerous challenges facing us as a nation, but none would be able to solve all the problems. He therefore advised that we should pray that Christ would come quickly.
For about twelve minutes that he handled the microphone, the governor rather than inspire, successfully stirred rebellion in his audience. The only good thing which was perhaps worthy of commendation was his disclosure that there are about five companies that had shown interest in the Independent Power Project which he hopes would guaranty uninterrupted power supply in the state.
To say that his audience was disappointed with him is to put it mildly. One thing that strikes me is the fact that the governor either does not understand the enormity of the responsibility on his shoulders as the number one citizen of Ondo state, or he has chosen to make light of it. Expectedly the church did not hail him as he spewed those disparaging remarks. While some grumbled, majority showed their displeasure with their facial expressions.
Trust mama, she seized an opportunity. Rev Mrs Funke Felix-Adejumo who came next after him reminded the governor of the expectations of the electorates. “We know that the Lord cometh. And while we’re still waiting, we want light. We’re letting them know that we voted them into power. We love our politicians. But we challenge them to do something.” She went on to condemn the spate of insecurity in the land and demanded good governance.
He had also remarked that the Agape’s choir wasn’t the best, even when he wasn’t asked. Rather, he boasted that his church’s choir – All Saints Church, Ibadan – was the best. It is discouraging that the governor could consider another state as his favourite. He was not even patronizing of his church in Owo, his place of origin. This also confirms the side talks at his first attempt at the office of governor in 2012. Many saw him as not well grounded in Ondo state and the issues of the state. With that pronouncement, it is evident that Ondo state is only a second fiddle to Mr Governor.
The essentials of the office of the governor are seemingly lost on governor Akeredolu. He needs to be reminded that the capacity of his ability to remain in office is the provision of social infrastructures and delivering the dividends of democracy. Beyond the perks of office and the glamour that comes with it, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu should wake up from his dreams of heaven to the reality that stirs us in Ondo state and Nigeria. He would also need to be tutored on the rudiments of public pronouncements before he becomes a nightmare to his public relations handlers.
Whatever Mimiko may have achieved, there’s still a lot to be done in Ondo state. More than half of the towns and villages in Southern senatorial district are still in darkness for more than 10 years now. Many roads across the state are in bad shape, the army of unemployed youths is yet to reduce, industries are crying for attention and hunger is rife here.
Surely, heaven is a good place as the Bible describes it. Tuface Idibia, in one of his songs, rightly captures the mind of Nigerians: “Nobody wan die, but everybody wan go heaven”. And Akeredolu is a Nigerian too. And if the governor desires to go to heaven fast, well; he should count the cost because even God will ask him how he used his office to the betterment of Ondo state.
And for Governor Ajimobi, he might not need the re-election to become a governor having almost completed his constitutional term, hence his last minute recklessness. ‘Constituted authority’ would soon become history. In times like this, he should be concerned with how history would refer to him – the highhandedness of ‘Constituted Authority’ is still fresh on our minds and that of the students and staff of Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomoso.
Beyond the face-saving efforts of elders and spirited individuals, it is becoming increasingly indispensable that public officers gauge their public utterances. It is sad that most often than not they have to rely on scripted speech, and when they have to deliver extempore, they haul missiles at the people they are elected to serve. This is another omen for the dearth of leaders in our polity.
Adeosun is a communications specialist based in Akure.