SIGNIFICANCE OF NDDC’S GOVERNING BOARD CONDOLENCE VISIT TO ONDO STATE GOVERNMENT
By; Jerome-Mario Utomi
It is an open secret that Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo state peacefully departed from this world in the early hours of Wednesday, December 27, 2023. Mr. Governor, aged 67, reportedly died after a prolonged health battle. Akeredolu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), ex-president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), and ex-Attorney General of Ondo State, was a second-term governor before his death.
Following this sad occurrence, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) board led by its Chairman, Barrister Chiedu Ebie, recently joined the increasing role call of high profiled dignitaries from across the country to pay condolence visit to the government and good people of Ondo state. The NDDC team was received by the new governor of the state, His Excellency, Mr. Lucky Aiyedatiwa.
Indeed, while the condolence visit may have come and gone and Nigerians continue to pray for the peaceful repose of the departed former Governor of the state, the experience arising from the visit of the board and management of the interventionist agency left not just an indelible significance in the sand of history but largely introduced something new and positively different.
Undeniably, some may describe as groundless or better still, see nothing exemplary about the visit. But in the estimation of Niger Deltans with critical minds, the single most powerful gain associated with the visit is that it has further postured NDDC board and management as both responsive and responsible team and proved beyond reasonable doubt that they are not fair-weather leaders notorious for providing ‘leadership by proxy’.
For the purpose of clarity, Ondo state is among the oil producing states in Nigeria and one of the states under NDDC development mandate/catchment areas. Looking at this level of relationship, the physical effect of being present, watching the pains of the people who lost their governor and illustrious son of the state can never achieve the same effect if condolence letter/message was couriered or electronically transmitted to the people of the state without being physically present. Such action could have only created false memories that are neither powerful nor emotional.
Again, aside from demonstrating a team laced with a mixture of sympathy and empathy, also interesting about the visit is the awareness that similar approach of ‘sympathy and empathy’ is daily deployed by Barrister Ebie led board in offering road map for restoring the health and vitality of Niger Deltans and development of strategies for the introduction of modernity in the region.
Viewed broadly, the visit offered the NDDC Chairman opportunity to ‘release’ his sterling encounter with the late governor.
In fact, from the NDDC Chairman’s remark, there is legitimate reason to believe that the now departed Governor was a great man.
Barrister Chiedu said; Aketi as he was fondly called was a man of deep candor and also a progressive. He contributed immensely not just to the development and growth of the legal profession in Nigeria where he served as the president of the Nigerian Bar Association, 2008, but also to the Socio- economic development of Ondo state and the country at large.
The one time that I got close to him, was on the 11th of May, 2021 where he chaired the Southern Governors Meeting in Asaba, Delta state. At that time, I served as Secretary to the State Government, and for the few hours that we spent together, he wowed me, if a may use those words. A lot of things were discussed at the meetings and I admired him so much for the way he conducted the meeting. I admired him so much for the way he conducted the meeting. He concluded.
Also alluring is the fact that the current State Governor of the State, Lucky Ayedatiwa, used the opportunity provided by the visit to explain a point about the late Governor Akeredolu, that will assist politicians change their ‘tone and understanding’ of both politics and public leadership in the country.
Ayedatiwa succulently remarked; the name of the late governor has been written in gold due to its impactful legacies. He was a man of great repute and a visionary leader, a transformational leader, an authentic leader and a leader with integrity. The people of Ondo state even nicknamed him ‘Mr. Talk and Do’, because whatever comes out of his mouth, he will stand by it.
Continuing, the Governor added; he was a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and some people even named him a Senior Advocate of the Masses (SAM), because he has always been an activist even right from his school days. That, he also brought into politics and governance. He was a man who speaks to authority no matter whose ox is gored. He will say the truth and he will stand by it. Once he has a conviction concerning any issue, especially when it is constitutional. As a lawyer, he will go all the way to prosecute such conviction with great courage.
At this point, the Ondo state governor narrated how Ilaje people in the state benefitted from the late Akeredolu’s goodness.
It was during his reign that we had the first Ilaje Deputy Governor in Ondo State in the person of my humble self. Yes, we might say that the way it came was a paradox, but I can say also that even in death, he produced the first Ilaje governor in Ondo state. The first flyover bridge in Ondo state was constructed by him; he brought industrialization back to Ondo state. The state governor stated.
The visit climaxed with presentation of condolence letter by the NDDC Chairman to the Ondo State Governor who in return thanked NDDC delegation for the visit.
Finally, as deltans continue to celebrate the NDDC governing board’s leadership style so far demonstrated, this piece believes that bringing sustainable infrastructural development and taking creative steps to complete the process of socioeconomic rejuvenation of the Niger Delta region which we have spent far too long a time to do should be the best way to have the late Ondo state governor immortalized.
Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy) at Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org/08032725374.