A friend who owns and runs a relaxation business called me one beautiful evening to come over and meet some people from my state of origin. As someone who knows the importance of networking and making new friends, especially for someone like me who had just relocated from the United States where I had spent a significant portion of my adult life, my friend expressed, and rightly so, that meeting them would be good for me. He was also a returnee from the UK where he trained as a veterinary doctor.


It was easy for him to call me to come over because I not only lived very close to his relaxation spot but his place was also my favorite rendezvous where I sometimes unwind with my favorite beer while talking about the socio-political affairs of the day with him and a handful of others before going home after the hustle and bustle of Lagos.


While there, he introduced me to the two gentlemen and left almost immediately after the introduction to attend to other matters.


“So, where are you from,?” one of them asked.


“Akure,” I replied.


They busted into thunderous giggles that I had to look around to see what could have amused them. I couldn’t fathom why a mere mention of my hometown would make them want to roll on the floor with uncontrollable giggling.


“So, what about you guys,?” I inquired after their giggling subsided.


“I’m from Akoko. He’s from Ondo town,” the lead speaker pointed to his friend.


“You people are not in charge. We are,” the Akoko man bragged about his sub-ethnic group and that of his friend from Ondo.


I didn’t have to ask him to explain himself further as the statement was pregnant with economic and political meaning, more so when someone you’re meeting for the first time could be that disrespectfully blunt with unabashed condescension.


So, to prevent the conversation from getting heated, instead of giving them a piece of my mind, I exercised restrain, especially not knowing how many bottles of beer they had each gulped either before my arrival or before they arrived at my friend’s relaxation joint, I pretended as if his declaration was not important to me. But it was, and thought-provoking too. I cleverly redirected the conversation to the trending socio-political issues of the moment.


My encounter with this duo happened at the tail end of the Mimiko administration in Ondo State.


If one must look at the “You’re not in charge. We are” statement of my Akoko brethren—-as invidious as it was—-from the prism of politics as the art (perhaps science as well) of who gets what, when, and by how much, the two sub-ethnic groups of Akoko and Ondo they represent may not be faulted because of their relative cohesion and unity of purpose as opposed to the dissonance and self-centredness that characterize a typical Akure person and his political elites.


So, if Akure people are constantly marginalized in the political scheme of things in a representative democracy despite their huge voting population, it is because a typical Akure person in a position of power and authority is almost always averse to empowering his fellow indigene.


I was introduced as a publisher from the United States to the late Prof. Olu Agbi (an Akure indigene) immediately after Dr. Segun Agagu’s inauguration as the governor of Ondo State by my childhood friend, Kunle Ashaolu. Prof. Agbi was Agagu’s Director General (DG) of his campaign that had culminated in Agagu’s electoral victory. Ashaolu’s belief, which I also shared, was since Prof. Agbi, who had the yam and the knife then as the DG of Agagu’s campaign, and an Akure indigene to boot, he would give me a slice of the action through patronage to internationalize Agagu’s inauguration with my celebrity-focused, soft-sell magazine. However, we were shocked by Agbi’s response after the introduction.


“But I have never heard of Esteem magazine,” Agbi said curtly.


As if that was not disappointing, if not hurtful enough, Prof. Agbi completely deflated my enthusiasm of having found an Akure person who could use his influence to patronize my U.S-based magazine when he declared that he wouldn’t have had any problem with Dele Momodu, publisher of the Ovation magazine with which my new magazine was essentially in competition then had “named his price” to showcase Agagu’s inauguration in his magazine. Prof. Agbi did not see any need to assist a kinsman and a struggling publisher then whereas an Akoko or Ondo person in Agbi’s position would most likely have done otherwise.


This latter anecdote was to buttress the fact that it was easy for others to marginalize us because they knew we were too willing to marginalize ourselves.


Although one may never know why Akure people and their city seem to have constantly, if not deliberately been denied political empowerment and infrastructural development at the expense of other sub-ethnic groups in the state, the political and infrastructural disenfranchisement are too glaring for the blind to see and a few anecdotal evidence will suffice here.


Aside from packing the state secretariat and other parastatals of the state with Ondo and Idanre indigenes (no thanks to Dr. Ademujimi, the governor’s Chief of Staff from Idanre), Mimiko stifled Akure’s effort to get a teaching hospital by withdrawing the CofO of the site that was designated for a teaching hospital along Owo road.


The community spent a lot of time trying to pry the land off him. By the time the community succeeded, time had lapsed and the money approved by former president Goodluck Jonathan through TETFund (N2.1 billion) had to be returned to the treasury via the TSA policy upon Buhari’s assumption of office in 2015.


Akure communities have been going cap in hand begging for money for that teaching hospital without any support from successive governors of the state whereas a Teaching Hospital is now sitting pretty in Ondo town.


Olusegun Mimiko encouraged Sunday Idowu, an Akure indigene who made his money in Akwa Ibom, to relocate to his state of birth to contribute to the state’s economic development. Idowu built state-of-the-art hospitality (Jojein Hotel & Resort) along Oba-Ile road banking on the former governor’s promise to construct and dualize the road on the axis because of the business. Mimiko did not touch that road in his eight years as the governor of the state. The hotel subsequently collapsed principally because of the unmotorable road despite the tremendous financial support Mimiko received from Idowu during his struggle to reclaim his mandate.


It is instructive that one of Idowu’s hotel halls was named after Godswill Obot Akpabio, now the Senate President, a detribalized Nigerian who made it possible for him to thrive beyond his wildest imagination when Akpabio was the governor of Akwa Ibom—and Idowu acknowledged the huge difference Akpabio made in his life with the naming of one of the hotel halls after him. You cannot ask for a better principal or a Nigerian public figure you should know than the current Senate President. His large-heartedness is legendary. Ditto Asari Dokubo, a deeply religious former militant from the Ijaw Nation with his unusual milk of kindness who supported, and continues to support Sunday Idowu to this day.


Please note that I preach a detribalized Nigeria. I believe in opportunities being given equally to foster a sense of belonging for all Nigerians. My people say we take the jewels to events from home. What I am calling attention to here is: Start from the grassroots, support the development of infrastructures, and build your people. These are the attributes that stand President Bola Tinubu and Senate President Godswill Akpabio out. But I digress.


Yet, Mimiko intentionally ruined Sunday Idowu, who’s yet to recover financially, because he’s an indigene of Akure kingdom.


If Segun Mimiko disliked Akure and its people with passion, the contempt with which the late Arakunrin Akeredolu treated them was perhaps pathological.


Akeredolu egregiously went ahead to annex the Ondo State Specialist Hospital in Akure to Ondo. This is a hospital that had been pledged by the Akure community during the struggle for the FUTA medical program as a take-off point for the clinical program of medical students. The hospital was originally developed by the Akure indigenes during the western region days. Akure people told him the history of the hospital. He didn’t listen. He annexed it to Ondo anyway thereby preventing the Akure people from using it for their teaching hospital. All efforts to beg him to build a new teaching hospital to serve the medical college in Ondo town and serve his purpose fell on deaf ears. From a reliable authority, Akeredolu tongue-lashed Ifedayo Abegunde and Tunji Ariyomo, two prominent Akure indigenes in one of his State Executive Council meetings when they advanced arguments that Akure ought to retain the specialist hospital to provide top-level secondary care. The duo offered to give him new land for his proposed teaching hospital. Today, FUTA is still in a conundrum over the location of clinical practice for the year 4 medical students. Akeredolu wilfully did what he wanted including the privatization of Ondo state government to his wife and first son.


Ifedayo Abegunde and Lekan Odere were two Akure sons who came all out to support Akeredolu to be governor when even his kinsfolks were not too sure if they should support him. They were with him way before the primary. Lekan was considered Akeredolu’s alter ego in Akure politics then. Although Abegunde was appointed the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), what many did not know was that no shishi was allocated to his office. It took a ‘World War’ to even allow him to have an official vehicle. Yet, some other members of the cabinet were given multiple cars including Hilux vans by Akeredolu while some controlled billions of Naira. As for Lekan, the late governor never for once considered him worthy of being given a job as an office clerk, let alone an aide.


Tunji “Light” Ariyomo was given the same Abegunde treatment as an ExCo member of the Akeredolu administration. Akeredolu not only refused to fund Ariyomo’s office but when Tunji brought in $57 million to the state’s coffers for a water program and also secured the approval of AfDB for an additional $124 million, the late governor removed him from the water project two weeks after he received bank alerts to commence the project. As if this deliberate collapse of Idowu’s hospitality business was not bad enough, the millions of Naira owed this Akure indigene by Mimiko’s government has not been paid to date.


Although one may never know when the rains started beating Akure and its people since the current democratic dispensation, it became torrential and the people of Oyemekun (one of our cognomens) got drenched to the bargain, particularly in the governments of Dr. Olusegun Mimiko and the late Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu.


Akeredolu then began a vicious campaign against the young man everywhere to mask his true objective and divert attention from the fact that his smear campaign was all about money.


It is important to bring these anecdotes to the fore now that the electorate is on the verge of choosing their governor in less than a year from now. While one is not under any illusion that Akure people will not pitch their electoral tent behind a single candidate, I hope that the town’s political stakeholders will not only be cohesive and speak with one voice in the way they interrogate the state’s politics this time around, a significant concession in terms of the empowerment of some of their leading lights and infrastructural development of the state capital must be extracted from any candidate (preferably APC) they would support.


But more fundamentally important, Akure people must love themselves and sacrifice for one another. It is only when others see that we have significant cohesion in our approach to the political and economic conditions that affect our existence that others will begin to take us seriously. And we do not have to make apologies about that just as other sub-ethnic groups are unapologetic about politically suppressing us while uplifting their own. Akure people are simply behind the 8th-ball of the state’s political and economic empowerment. It is time to change this unfortunate narrative.




_Femi Odere is a Senior Legislative Aide to the Senate President on Stakeholders’ Engagement and Mobilization. He can be reached at [email protected]._

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