Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State has been facing mounting pressure in recent weeks as calls for his resignation continue to resonate.
Since returning from a medical trip to Germany, the governor has been governing the state from Ibadan, Oyo State, sparking concerns about the effectiveness of governance in Ondo.
Governor Akeredolu left Nigeria on June 13, 2023, for medical treatment and returned on September 9 after spending approximately three months abroad.
During his absence, he had informed the Ondo State House of Assembly about his leave and entrusted his deputy with acting as the governor.
Despite his return, Governor Akeredolu has not visited the state capital, Akure, and has instead remained in his personal residence in Ibadan.
This has led to speculation that his wife, Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, may be exerting influence to allow him to continue governing despite reported health issues.
The political turmoil in Ondo State escalated upon the governor’s return, as his loyalists have been vigorously attempting to remove Deputy Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa for actions taken during Governor Akeredolu’s absence. Aiyedatiwa has been wrestling with the ongoing political battle and is now entangled in court proceedings.
The State Assembly loyal to Governor Akeredolu has compiled a list of 14 offenses allegedly committed by Aiyedatiwa, including gross misconduct, abuse of office, financial recklessness, and publication of media articles maligning the credibility of the governor.
Although the National Working Committee of the APC intervened and slowed down the impeachment process, the deputy governor appears to have been sidelined.
Ironically, attention has shifted from the deputy governor to Governor Akeredolu himself in recent weeks. Notably, Governor Akeredolu, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, was once vocal in advocating for the resignation of the then-president, Umar Musa Yar’Adua, due to health reasons.
Kennedy Peretei, the National Publicity Secretary of the Ondo State PDP, has called for the governor’s impeachment, citing a violation of the constitution. Peretei emphasized that the state has been “on auto-pilot” for nearly six months, hampering government activities due to the governor’s purported ill health.
However, the State Assembly has consistently defended Governor Akeredolu and dismissed any calls for action.
Legal experts suggest that in cases of health challenges, the process to remove the governor must commence with the commissioners, who possess the power to declare the governor incapacitated.
According to Section 189 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, only the Ondo State commissioners can initiate the process of declaring Governor Akeredolu incapacitated.
This process requires a two-thirds majority of the state executive council members to pass a resolution declaring the governor unfit for office.
Subsequently, the speaker must establish a medical panel comprising five practitioners, including the governor’s physician. The panel would determine the governor’s permanent incapacity to discharge their duties, and a notice thereof would be published.
However, legal practitioner Rasheed Bakare opines that the current law makes it challenging to remove Governor Akeredolu or any other governor in Nigeria under Section 189. Given that the commissioners were appointed by the governor himself, it is improbable for them to recommend their boss’s removal based on health grounds.
Last week, 33 out of the 35 State Executive Council members expressed their confidence in the ailing governor and pledged their loyalty to him.
Only Energy and Mineral Resources Commissioner Razak Obe and Commerce, Industry, and Cooperative Services Commissioner Akin Sowore abstained from signing the document.
Indications suggest that political actors in the state prefer to await the next election scheduled for November 2024, with the primary election set for April next year.