During his 5-year tenure, former Nigerian President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was the subject of many memes and jokes on account how good fortune seemed to follow him like a talisman in his short but eventful political career. On two occasions, in 2005 and 2010, Jonathan rose from Deputy-Governor to Governor of Bayelsa State, and then from Vice-President to President of Nigeria, when misfortune befell his respective principals. It was a season when many spiritual-minded (or superstitious) Nigerians even christened their newborns ‘Goodluck’ at naming ceremonies across the land – in the hope that Jonathan’s brand of good fortune would be the child’s portion, too. A popular Nigerian stand-up comic even joked about how, after leaving office as President, Jonathan was appointed the deputy-head of an international organization – only for the head of said organisation to step down in panic and plead that Jonathan be made head instead, with himself as the deputy!
Jokes aside, it was hard for Nigerians not to draw parallels between Goodluck Jonathan’s fortuitous ascendancy to the Nigerian Presidency in 2010 on the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua and recent events in Ondo State, namely, the ascendancy of Mr. Lucky Aiyedatiwa as Governor of the state after the passing in late December 2023 of his predecessor, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN. And the rapidity of Aiyedatiwa’s ascendancy to the top job in the Sunshine State, from relative obscurity, has also been remarked upon; in some ways it bore a similarity to that of the former President. The circumstances surrounding the Yar’Adua-Jonathan transition and the Akeredolu-Aiyedatiwa transition are vaguely similar as well. Neither was a particularly smooth transition – if reports of underlying rancour and refusals to transmit power, and so forth, are anything to go by.
The dictionary defines luck as the success or failure that is apparently brought by chance, rather than through one’s own actions. Luck, it says, is a a force that brings good fortune or adversity, and describes the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual. So the lucky person – the person with ‘good luck’ is the person that came upon something desirable purely by chance, while the unlucky person failed to do so, or is visited by something undesirable, purely by chance, also. By that estimation, many citizens of Ondo State, and watchers of affairs in the Sunshine State say that Lady Luck has smiled on their new Governor. Even his middle name ‘Orimisan’ (Yoruba for ‘My head is good’) they also say, is working in his favour.
However fortuitous Gov. Aiyedatiwa’s rise may appear, though, there is nothing at all ‘chancy’ about his life-journey and career path before he made the momentous decision in 2011 to enter the world of partisan politics. Born on January 12, 1965 into the family of Mr. Titus Akande Aiyedatiwa and Mrs. Rosanah Moyebi Aiyedatiwa (both now deceased), Lucky Orimisan Aiyedatiwa hails from the oil-bearing community of Obe-Nlaan in Ilaje LGA of Ondo State, had his primary education at Saint Peter’s UNA (now FAC) Primary School, Obe Nla/Obe Adun between 1970 and 1976, after which he had his secondary education at Ikosi High School, Ketu, in Lagos, graduating in 1982. In 1986, he earned the Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) in Economics and Government from the Lagos State College of Education (now Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education), Ijanikin in Lagos. He thereafter obtained an Advanced Diploma in Business Administration from the University of Ibadan in 2001. Other certifications he obtained over the years include a Post-Graduate Certification in Chief Executive Education (CEP) in Business Management the Lagos Business School (Pan-Atlantic University) in Lekki, Lagos in 2009; as well as a Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom in 2013.
Aiyediwa enjoyed a steady, if unspectacular, career upon the completion of his studies – beginning with his role as an Inventory/Store Officer at SCOA Assembly Plant Plc. in Apapa, Lagos, between 1982 and ’83. During a brief stint in education, he was the Assistant Head Teacher at the Reliance International Schools in Ijokodo (a suburb of Ibadan, the Oyo State capital) after which he returned to retailing in 1990 as the Marketing Officer at the Universal Pharmaceutical Supply Co. Limited in Ikeja, Lagos. Two years later, he became an Assistant Investment Analyst at Global Trust Limited in Gbagada, Lagos. He also worked as General Merchandise Manager at Biz Mart Nigeria Limited in Lagos, before deciding to set up his own business.
In 1996, Aiyedatiwa established the Blue Wall Group of Companies- a multi-sectoral concern with interests in trading in commodities and forex, logistics as well as travel and tourism. The Governor served as the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Blue Wall Group of Companies – a role he understandably played in a less hands-on capacity as his political stock began to rise.
The new Governor began his odyssey in the world of active politics in 2011, when he became a card-carrying member of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), one of the parties which merged with political others in 2013 to form the All Progressive Congress (APC). He served as a delagate from Ondo State at the APC’s 2014 National Convention in Abuja, following which he ran for the federal House of Representative for the Ilaje/Ese-Odo Federal Constituency in the 2015 general elections. As a consequence of his rising profile in politics, Aiyedatiwa was, in 2018, appointed as the Federal Commissioner representing Ondo State on the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) serving in that role for one year.
In the run-up to the 2020 off-cycle gubernatorial election in Ondo State, the APC’s candidate and incumbent Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, SAN, CON, selected Aiyedatiwa to be his running-mate. The pair was successful in the polls held in October 2020, and in February 2021, Aiyedatiwa became the 8th Deputy-Governor of the Sunshine State since its creation in 1976 – following in the footsteps of Akin Omoboriowo, Olusegun Agagu, Afolabi Iyantan, Omolade Oluwateru, Ali Olanusi, Lasisi Oluboyo, and his immediate predecessor, Agboola Ajayi.
Disputes between state chief executives and their deputies (whether over matters of substance or of style) and the subtle or brazen power tussles that arise from them, are nothing new in Nigerian politics. Since 1999, almost no state has been spared the tension that these disputes engender in the polity. Ondo State, apparently, was not immune to this phenomen. But unlike in other states, the fissure between the deceased Governor and his successor only came to light as a fallout of Akeredolu’s illness and his decision, on various occasions throughout the year 2023, to seek medical treatment abroad. His failure (or refusal) to transmit power to Aiyedatiwa – in accordance with the relevant constitutional provisions – was the red flag that signaled that all was not well at the top of the power echelon in Ondo State. There were observers, both within and outside the state who dismissed the notion that the Governor’s action might have been a mere ommision, with no ulterior motives behind it; they countered with the reminder that, as a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association. According to inside sources, the departed Governor took that action (or non-action) because he was troubled by his deputy’s perceived disloyalty, and what some of the Governor’s associates saw as the Deputy-Governor’s ‘over-ambition.’
Whatever the truth of those allegations, Aiyedatiwa served as Acting-Governor of the state on various occasions during Gov. Akeredolu’s absences until the fateful day of December 27, 2023 when Akeredolu’s untimely death – at 67 – was announced. With that sad event, Aiyedatiwa became the state’s 7th civilian Governor since 1976 (and the first to assume the office on the incapacity or demise of a principal) as he followed in the footsteps of the illustrious Chief Michael Ajasin, the state’s first civilian Governor, as well as Chief Bamidele Olumilua; Chief Adebayo Adefarati; Dr. Olusegun Agagu; Dr. Olusegun Mimiko and, of course, Arakunrin Akeredolu.
The Governor and the state’s new First Lady, Mrs. Oluwaseun Aiyedatiwa are blessed with three children.
In promising, during his maiden address as Governor and in his New Year adress to the people of Ondo State, to immortalize his late boss and predecessor, as well as to build on Akeredolu’s legacy (especially in the areas of infrastrucrure and security) the new Governor also acknowledged the sad circumstances of his coming to office at this time. “(Akeredolu’s) death,” he said, “was preceded by events that tested us in diverse ways. But those challenges have shaped our resolve to, more than ever before, bring our people together and pursue the attainment of a peaceful and prosperous Ondo State. It is time to put the past behind us and focus all our human and material resources on building on the foundation that this administration has so far laid.”
Apart from the harsh times Nigerians – including residents of the Sunshine State – are presently facing, the state is bracing up for a series of electoral contests in 2024, including the contest for Governor. These challenges will test the new Governor’s leadership and his ability to bring together all stakeholders in the unity and progress of Ondo State. In view of these challenges, the Governor has expressed his wish that the elections would be “a contest of ideas and choices,’ rather than an opportunity to settle political scores or an excuse for calumny.
As the people of Ondo State and their compatriots across the nation and beyond mourn the departure of the charismatic former Governor and leader in the Nigerian legal community, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, SAN, CON, while welcoming the new hemslman at Government House, Akure, they are aware that in coming days, Gov. Aiyedatiwa will need more than just the aura of his first and second names to successfully navigate the challenges confronting his people.
His success will require more than just good luck. It will require good governance, inclusive leadership, wise policymaking and prudent implementation, and, most importantly, the support of the people of the state and developmental partners at home.
Then and only then, will the benefits of his good luck (also known as democracy dividends) be truly felt where it matters.