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Is Akerodolu’s death end of lawyer -governor activism?

The death of the former governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, has been mourned as the end of an era of activism which traverses lawyering…

The death of the former governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, has been mourned as the end of an era of activism which traverses lawyering and the exalted office of the governor.

Akeredolu was noted for his outspokenness and courage while being a senior lawyer and as a governor such that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) building he initiated in his time as the president of the association bears his name, “Rotimi Akeredolu House”.

Nigeria has known several lawyer activists such as the late Gani Fawehinmi and Fred Agbaje, and other living Senior Advocates of Nigeria such as Femi Falana and Olisa Agbakoba, whose achievements did not take to the government houses of their states to continue their struggles for a better society.

Apart from his battles as the former President of the NBA, Akeredolu’s activist part showed during the constitutional battle to establish the Southwest Security Network, otherwise known as Amotekun, which has helped to tame the incessant menace in the region.

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During the valedictory session for Akeredolu on February 19, the NBA president, Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), noted that “Aketi”, as he was popularly called, was “one of the country’s finest legal minds and political leaders.”

He described him as unassuming, adding that he rejected chieftaincy titles and ‘His Excellency’ appellations, which he was eminently qualified for. “In a society where it is taboo to fail to address a person by his titles – whether deserving or not, Akeredolu defied the norm. Instead, he chose to simply identify himself as Arakunrin – a gentleman. Simply a gentleman, and no more,” he said.

The NBA president stated that Arakurin was not a simpleton. Instead, he was “what the Yoruba would call ‘Okunrin Meta’ (a man who is more than three men). He excelled as a legal practitioner, and he was duly recognised in 1998 as the 139th legal practitioner to be conferred with the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria. He was Ondo State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice from 1997 to 1999, Chairman, Legal Aid Council from 2005 to 2006, and a two-term governor of Ondo State from 2017 till his demise.”

According to the NBA president, “Aketi was a dyed-in-the wool” Bar man”, who went on to “become the 24th President of the NBA from 2008 to 2010 – one of the most influential and courageous presidents ever to lead the NBA. He fought for the Bar, he worked for the Bar, and he led the Bar creditably.” 

The late Akeredolu was born on July 21, 1956, in Owo, Ondo State, Nigeria, and studied law at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University). He was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1978 and co-founded the law firm of Olujinmi & Akeredolu before entering politics and had held various positions including Attorney General of Ondo State, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, and President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).

He attended a government school in Owo for his primary education before proceeding to Aquinas College, Akure, Loyola College, Ibadan, and Ayetoro Comprehensive High School for his secondary education and Higher School Certificate, respectively. 

In 1997, Akeredolu was appointed as the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Ondo State, where he worked to reform the legal system and promote the rule of law. During his tenure, he was instrumental in the establishment of the Legal Aid Council and the Office of the Public Defender, which provided legal assistance to indigent citizens and ensured that the rights of the people were protected.

Akeredolu was elected as the 24th President of the Nigerian Bar Association in 2008, where he continued his advocacy for the protection of human rights and the promotion of the rule of law. He also worked to improve the welfare of lawyers in Nigeria and promote the ethical standards of the legal profession.

In 1998, Akeredolu was conferred with the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), which is the highest recognition given to legal practitioners in Nigeria. He has also served as a member of various committees and panels, including the Constitution Review Committee, the National Council on Establishment, and the Presidential Committee on Prison Reform and Decongestion.

In 2016, Akeredolu contested the gubernatorial election in Ondo State and emerged as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He went on to win the election and was sworn in as the governor of Ondo State on February 24, 2017. As the governor, Akeredolu had implemented various policies and programmes aimed at promoting economic growth and development in the state.

On 21 July, 2020, he was also declared as the Ondo governorship candidate after the primary elections under the platform of the APC. During his time as the governor of Ondo State, he also doubled as the chairman of Southwest Governors’ Forum, a forum consisting of governors of the Southwest Nigerian states.

However, Akeredolu was also embroiled in some controversies during his career. One of the most notable controversies was the impeachment of his deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi, in 2020.

Another controversy was the sour relationship between Akeredolu and his erstwhile deputy governor, now Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa. Trouble started when Akeredolu disbanded the media crew attached to Aiyedatiwa, giving an indication that all may not be well between numbers one and two citizens of the sunshine state.

According to Edmund Chino (SAN), late Governor Akeredolu’s contributions to the legal profession and public service are immeasurable. Known for his influence and bravery, he remains one of the most impactful leaders in the history of the NBA.

 

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