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‘Aketi’s father fondly called him Arakunrin’

By Kemi Olatunde

Born on July 21, 1956, in Owo, Ondo State, to late Rev. J. O. Ola Akeredolu and Lady Evang. Grace Akeredolu of Igbotu, Ese-Odo. Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, “AKETI”, as called by friends and admirers, started his primary education at Government School, Owo, before proceeding to Aquinas College, Akure, in 1968. He later proceeded to Loyola College, Ibadan, in 1969 to complete his secondary school. He also attended Comprehensive High School, Ayetoro, for his High School Certificate.

 Aketi was admitted into the famous University of Ife, popularly known as “Great Ife”, and now Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) in 1974. He obtained his LLB  (Bachelor of Law) in 1977 and proceeded to the Nigerian Law School for his B.L. (Barrister at Law) in 1978.

 The pedigree of Aketi tells a riveting story of a rebel with a cause. Apart from his illustrious ancestry and cosmopolitan upbringing, a peep into his tenure as elected Vice President of the Student Union in 1975/76 at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) showed the architecture of service, fame, and greatness in the making.

 As a leader of the Students Union at Ife, Aketi helped to engineer leadership focused on issues, robust debates, and constructive engagements.

As a practicing minister in the Temple of Justice, he served his professional body, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), in various capacities, both at the Branch and National levels.

In 1998, in recognition of his industry, erudition, service, and brilliance, he was conferred with the title of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), the highest honour in the legal profession in Nigeria. He was a Life Bencher until his demise.

Aketi became the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) unopposed in 2008-2010. He was unanimously nominated as the single and unopposed candidate; he became a brand for principled resistance to all tendencies which sought to undermine the tenets of law and justice. He used his tenure to expand the respect accorded to the legal practice, its practitioners, and the judiciary in general.

Apart from his services to the NBA, he also served as Secretary General of Loyola College Ibadan Old Boys Association, 1995-1999.

 In 1997, Aketi was appointed Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Ondo State. His tenure as the State’s Chief Law Officer also marked the institution of monumental initiatives of quality access to justice and proper documentation of proceedings and citations. Apart from being a member of the Judicial Service Commission, he also helped inscribed probity and accountability in governance.

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 Internationally known as a lawyer with exceptional skills and finesse, he was also a reputable social crusader, human rights activist, and an evangelist of ethical society. A veteran of countless campaigns for leadership integrity, political freedom, equal rights, and justice, Aketi, in company of other illustrious patriots, prosecuted the bitter struggle to validate the June 12, 1993 Presidential election, which was unjustly annulled by the then ruling military junta, thereby truncating the will of the people as freely expressed.

 He also personally led the street protests against the fuel hike in Ibadan in January 2012, when the government failed to back up its actions with reasons. As a seasoned lawyer and humanist, Aketi’s history is replete with humanitarian works and astute mentorship of young people with tremendous but repressed potentials.

 Aketi entered the scene of partisan politics on the platform of the then main opposition party in Nigeria, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Upon sighting him and his indubitable pedigree, Aketi was embraced by the people with a genuine warmth yet unprecedented for a newcomer in the murky waters of partisan politics. However, his first attempt in 2012 to govern Ondo State was unsuccessful.

By 2014, when the All Progressives Congress (APC) was formed, he became the first State Chairman (interim) and foremost mentor to the party in Ondo State. He, together with other illustrious leaders, led the party to a victorious presidential election in 2015. By 2016, in a free, fair, and credible primary election of the party in Ondo State, he was elected as the gubernatorial candidate of APC for the 2016 governorship election.

 On  November  26, 2016, when the gubernatorial election was eventually held, Aketi not only won overwhelmingly by popular votes, he also defeated his opponents, in the ruling  party  with an open, incontrovertible and landslide victory which shocked everyone, including bookmakers. Upon being sworn in as Governor on Friday February 24, 2017, he adopted the simple and populist office title of “Mr. Governor,” translated to “Arakunrin” (My brother) instead of the  “His Excellency”, which he termed as a title only meant for the Almighty God. “Arakunrin” was also the name his father called him.

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 As a devoted Christian with a warm and accommodating heart for people of other faiths, Aketi has limitlessly supported a wide range of religious organizations in Ondo State and beyond. An example of such was the recent dedication of  Chapel of Epiphany at his Owo residence for the propagation of the Gospel. He was honoured by the Lord Bishop of no less a denomination than the Anglican communion as the Chancellor of the Cathedral Church of St. Andrews, Owo, his hometown.

  As Chairman of the South-West Governors’ Forum, Aketi, alongside his colleagues in other South-West States, took up the battle to end worsening challenges confronting the region. Like a true general, he led the battle for the formation of the South-West Security Network, code-named “Amotekun”. He placed the interest and safety of the region far above his interest.  He was also the former Chairman of the Southern Governors’ Forum, a position his colleagues accorded him due to the reverence arising from his avowed commitment to the upliftment  of the downtrodden and his unyielding stance on the principles of nation-building.

To many people, he is “Mr. Talk and Do”. From his first day in office, Governor Akeredolu left no one in doubt that he was ready to work and leave his footprints in the sands of time in Ondo State. From the Ore Interchange Bridge (the redemption bridge) to the unprecedented number of roads constructed by his administration, he also earned the sobriquet “Mr. Road”.

In appreciation of a lifetime well spent in service, this quintessential man of letters was honored with a plethora of awards. Some of these include:

 Obafemi Awolowo University Alumni Association, Ibadan Branch Merit Award –

1994.

 NBA award in recognition of conferment of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria – 1998,

 Loyola College, Ibadan Old Boys Association, Alumni Merit Award,

 Law Student Society, OAU, Award of Merit as an advocate of repute,

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 Qatar Law Forum Award of a global leader in law – 2009,

 Nigeria Legal Awards, 2010 – Life Achievement Award,

 Honorary Doctorate Degree in Law (LL.D) from the Achievers University, Owo – 2014,

 Honorary Doctorate Degree in Law (LL.D) from the Igbinedion University, Okada;  2017,

 Honorary Doctorate Degree in Public Administration and Governance (DPA) 2018 from the Western Africa Union University (WAUU), Republic of Benin – 2018,

 National Award by the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN), December 2020,

  Governor of the Year Award by Vanguard- July 2021,

 Honorary Doctorate Degree in Law (LL.D) from Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo, Oyo State – December 2021,

 Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) by President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR – October 2022 and many more.

 On October 11, 2020, he was announced as the winner of the Ondo State Gubernatorial Election as flag bearer of APC, making him the third, Governor in history to be re-elected into office for a second term in Ondo State. He was also conferred with a national honour, Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), by President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR.

Aketi was a dogged fighter, indefatigable, and fearless. He was a tenacious advocate and a diligent solicitor who was unyielding and unbending in any cause he believed in. He was a gentleman in the finest and truest sense with his signature white beard.

Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, SAN, was an accomplished family man and a detribalized Nigerian. He was happily married to Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu and blessed with four children and many grandchildren. His hobbies included football, lawn tennis and singing.

 Until his demise, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, SAN, CON, was the Chairman of the South-west Governors’ Forum, the Chairman of the Southern Governors’ Forum, and the sixth democratically elected Governor of Ondo State.

 He peacefully departed in his sleep at a hospital in Germany, where he was undergoing treatment for prostate cancer on  December 26, 2023. He will be sorely missed for his impact on nation-building, courageous attitude, and boldness in confronting power. He will be guided by the benevolent hands of the angels of light, with whom he resided during his remarkable and fruitful journey on earth.

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