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By Dr. Kayode Fayemi

There are individuals who leave an indelible mark, whose presence echoes in the corridors of our memories long after they have departed. Arakunrin OluwaRotimi Odunayo Akeredolu was one such radiant presence. As I render this tribute, my heart is filled with sadness on his demise, yet grateful to God for the gift of his friendship.

Aketi was a man of many parts. Comfortable in his own skin, confident in the elite ranks and relatable among the plebeians in society. One minute, he was at All Saints Church singing at a high octave in the choir, the next he was in the Kegites’ shrine dishing out unforgettable lyrics as the World Songito. As he danced to Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s Water no get enemy, you will find him gyrating to the melodious tunes of Orlando Owoh. Serious yet playful, his ideology, at all times, was the promotion of the common good and giving joy to the greatest number of the people.

In politics, where alliances are forged and battles fought, there are those rare individuals who transcend the political arena to become cherished friends and trusted confidants, whose presence graced our political journey with wisdom, camaraderie, and unwavering commitment to the good of the people. Having been deeply involved in his political journey, particularly his gubernatorial quest right from his unsuccessful 2012 bid to his tortuous but eventually successful bid in 2016 and his second term journey in 2020, I was a close witness to his trials and triumphs and cane to appreciate how his altruistic Christian instincts led him to a fulfilled life of public service.

Arakunrin was more than a political associate; he was a dear friend, a trusted advisor, a source of inspiration, and a pillar of support through the highs and lows of our shared endeavours. A true friend for all seasons. As a lawyer and politician, he was accomplished and successful, but his greatest legacy lies not in his many professional or political achievements, but in the countless lives he touched and the friendships he forged along the way. Many will fondly remember him as an irrepressible defender of the defenceless and a loud, often undiplomatic voice of the voiceless. As Chairman of the South West Governors Forum, he was the Field Marshal and Commander in Chief of the defenceless people of the territory and he led from the front in the establishment of the Western Security Network – popularly known as Amotekun. Today, his relentless campaign for multi-level policing popularly called “state police” is one that has received the support and almost total endorsement of the then naysayers. He went on to drive the Southern Governors Forum with the same sincerety of purpose, passionate consistency and courage of conviction when the situation in the political arena demanded same. He insisted, alongside his colleague Governors that the rotation of the presidency to the south was incontestable even when this position ran against the grain of certain powerful elements in his political party.

For Aketi, it didn’t matter much what side of the political divide you belonged; neither did he obsess about the part of the country from which a person hailed. As a patriot and a nationalist, he never lost sight of our common goal – the quest for public good and the building of a prosperous, united, safe and secure nation. Far was it from him to play the politics of bitterness, but he was also not apologetic for his stance on any issue because he’s always ready to speak truth to power in his consistent display of courage of conviction – even if that earned him some professional and political enemies. Indeed, there are many who never agreed with his approach. Some found him too abrasive and uncompromising. Others accused him of lack of tact and diplomacy. They are all entitled to their views. What is not in doubt is that he achieved results, timeless, tangible, enduring results that generations yet unborn will not forget.

As we reflect on his life and times during this evening of Tributes and on our shared experiences and the countless battles we fought, numerous challenges encountered and our many triumphs, we are reminded of the profound impact Arakunrin had on our lives and our society. His unwavering dedication to the greater good, his incredible zest for life, his tireless advocacy for justice and equity, and his unyielding commitment to serving others set an exemplary standard for us all to continue to follow.

As we navigate the void left by the passing of our beloved brother and friend, of course we are asking the unanswered question: how can death snatch such a person, so full of life from the uncompleted work of national rebirth and renewal? I’ve asked myself the same question repeatedly as we all have in this gathering because every death diminishes us. We all wish Aketi were here with us, but we take solace in the memories we shared, the laughter we enjoyed, and the lessons he imparted. He may no longer walk among us, but his spirit lives on in the necessary battles he fought on behalf of a better Nigeria, the service he rendered to the good people of Ondo State, the kindness he showed his compatriots, the wisdom he shared with all and sundry, and the lives he touched in his boundless peregrinations.

His legacy transcends the confines of his professional and/or political life; it lives on in the hearts of all who had the privilege of knowing him. The duty we all owe him is to continue to fight on behalf of the people, not necessarily in his inimitable manner but in our own ineluctable way in the collective quest for a Better Nigeria, a Nigeria that works for all her citizens.

On behalf of my wife, Bisi and the rest of our family, my prayer is that Almighty God will grant his soul a sweet repose and provide the family with immense fortitude to bear his irreplaceable demise. Nigeria has lost a good man. A very good man. May he rest in peace. Amen!

Dr Kayode Fayemi, CON
Former Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum and former Governor, Ekiti State.

Being Tribute rendered at the Night of Tributes in honour of Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu at the Jogor Centre, Ibadan on Monday, February 19, 2024.

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