President Bola Tinubu, the Senate President, Senator Godswill Akpabio; former President Atiku Abubakar and Governor Ademola Adeleke of Osun State have joined other Nigerians in mourning the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu and former House of Representatives speaker, Ghali Umar Na’aba.
The two died almost about the same time in the early hours of today, December 27. While Governor Akeredolu died in a German hospital at the age of 67, Na’aba died in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT) at the age of 65.
In a statement he personally signed, President Tinubu said that it is a difficult task to have to pen a tribute and sing a dirge for a departing soul. It is a more difficult job in our African culture when one is compelled to do so for a younger person.
“Here am I having the difficult job of singing a dirge for Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, my beloved brother, confidant, political soulmate, and the Executive Governor of Ondo State.
“It is an impossible task to fully capture in words Rotimi’s towering figure and his human essence. Rotimi was a man who moved our nation towards equity, fairness and justice in his strident advocacy against every form of injustice in our country through the instrumentality of the law as a senior advocate, attorney-general of his beloved state, as President of the Nigerian Bar Association and Governor of Ondo State.”
Tinubu recalled that in a challenging moment of the statehood when marauding agents of darkness spread their tentacles across the country, Rotimi was a strong voice in wilderness “calling us to rethink our security architecture so we can have a more secure nation.
“His unrelenting advocacy led to the birth of the local police in the South West.
“Rotimi was a man of ideas and action. While he was with us, he taught us the power of action and service. In Ondo State, where he had the honour to serve as the Governor over the past six years, he served his people with absolute loyalty, dedication, and forthrightness. His footprints dot the entire landscape of the state through the hundreds of kilometres of roads he built, the many schools he built, and healthcare facilities that he provided.
“During the dark hours when marauding agents of darkness visited the state and killed defenceless citizens where 40 worshippers of the Catholic Church of Owo were killed on June 5, 2022, Rotimi’s leadership qualities as a true statesman and compassionate leader radiated brightly to the world. He was a mourner-in-chief who guided his people through an agonising period. Today, I mourn a fighter and fearless defender of truth and the masses.”
The President also recalled his personal journey with Rotimi that started as joint members of the progressive family. “We fought many battles together to restore progressive governance in the South West, Edo State, and Nigeria as a whole. During this uncertain period, Rotimi was resolute and unflinching. He showed uncommon courage as a member of our legal team in our battles to reclaim our stolen mandates in Ekiti, Ondo, Edo, and Osun States. A gallant lawyer and one of the finest of the legal profession. I beckoned on him to contest for the governorship position of Ondo State in 2012. Even though he did not make it in his first attempt, his enthusiasm and determination to serve his people never diminished.
“He eventually made it to the Alagbaka Government House in his second attempt in the 2016 election, Since he was sworn in in February 2017, he had served the people with devotion.
“Rotimi has played his role well and left us untimely. We will never see his likes again. Let me tell the people of Ondo State that I am grieving with you. We will honour Rotimi’s memory and make sure his legacy of service is never forgotten.
“In my grief and sadness, I have telephoned his wife, Betty, and Acting Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa to commiserate with them and urge them to take heart over this national tragedy.
“Governor Akeredolu was not just a friend and associate, the departed leader was a brother and a soulmate.
“His death is a blow to our governing APC and the progressive family as we are diminished by it.
“I hope that his successor Aiyedatiwa will hold steadfast to the vision of governance left by this towering political leader.
To Ghali Na’aba, President Tinubu sympathizes with his family, the government, and the people of Kano State over his death.
He said that late Na’Abba was Speaker of the House Representatives following the return of democracy in Nigeria from 1999 to 2003, succeeding Salisu Buhari.
He expressed profound grief at the loss, recalling the contributions of the late ex-lawmaker to nation-building through legislation, advocacy, and policy.
The President recalled Speaker Na’Abba’s determined struggle to defend the functionality and role of the legislature in governance, describing him as a disciplined and resolute politician.
President Tinubu prayed for the repose of the soul of the departed and comfort for those who mourn this painful loss.
On his part, President of the Senate and Chairman of the National Assembly, Senator Godswill Akpabio, expressed deep sadness at the death of Governor Akeredolu and Ghali Umar Na’Abba.
Senator Akpabio expressed shock over the death of “Governor, Chief Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, CON, SAN.”
Akpabio described the departed Governor as “a nationalist and the Iroko of the Sunshine state”
Akpabio, in a condolence message issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Hon. Eseme Eyiboh said that Akeredolu was a leader that knew his onions and was indeed the Iroko of Ondo state as he defended the state with all his strength as governor.
The Senate President eulogized the late governor whom he said spent his active life fighting for justice, fairness and equity adding that as a nationalist, “Akeredolu believed in true federalism, which he pursued with passion and vigour.
“I am sad that we have to lose Chief Rotimi Akeredolu this early in life. He was a leader that placed the interest of his people above every other consideration. He was a man of integrity and strong conviction with a strict work ethos and never paid lip service to the welfare of the people of the state.
“He was a fearless lawyer who spoke truth to power regardless of whose ox was gored. As governor, Chief Akeredolu left his footprints in the sands of history, executing landmark projects and implementing people-oriented policies that earned him a second term in office. A man of style, Chief Akeredolu was obsessed with excellence.
“I believe the people of Ondo, the South West, and the entire Nigeria, especially the progressives will sorely miss Chief Rotimi Akeredolu because he lived a purposeful and focused life and distinguished himself as a lawyer and one of the best-performing governors in the country.
“I wish to on behalf of my family and the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria extend my sincere condolences to the Acting Governor, Mr Lucky Aiyedatiwa, the Government and people of Ondo State and particularly his wife, Her Excellency, Mrs Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu and his immediate family. May God give you the fortitude to bear this untimely loss and may He have mercy on him and grant his soul eternal rest.”
The Senate President, in a statement by his spokesman, Hon Eseme Eyiboh said: “On behalf of my family and the entire National Assembly, it is with intense sadness that I received the news of the shocking death of the second speaker of the House of Representatives of the 4th Republic, Rt. Hon. Ghali Umar Na’Ábba, which occurred in the early hours of Wednesday, December 27, 2023, in Abuja.”
He described the former speaker as a patriot, selfless politician, and true democrat who sacrificed his ambition by repelling dictatorship and instituting the independence of the Legislature.
“I am indeed saddened at the news of the death of Rt. Hon. Ghali Umar Na’Abba, a patriot, a true democrat, a courageous and selfless politician, who staked his exalted position in the fight against dictatorship to preserve the independence of the Legislature and foster national development.
“I must say the mutual respect and understanding that exists between the Legislature and the Executive today is a direct product of the laudable antecedents of great leaders such as Na’Abba who sacrificed to institute genuine representative democracy in the country.
“As the second speaker of the 4th House of Representatives, I recall with nostalgia how Rt. Hon. Na’Abba stood like the great wall of gilbratar against the excesses of the Executive to give the Nigerian electorate value for their votes by ensuring that the right things were done to keep our democracy afloat.
“We, at the National Assembly and in fact, all Nigerians of goodwill and advocates of true democratic ethos hold you in high esteem and will always remember that you were one politician who practiced what you preached.
“As you transit to the next world, I pray that Allah will have mercy on your soul and grant you Aljannah Firdaus. Rest on Rt. Hon. Ghali Umar NaÁbba.”
In his condolence, Atiku Abubakar described it as a rude shock and sadness to read about the death of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and Ghali Na’Abba.
He said that Governor Akeredolu was a quintessential gentleman who took the finesse to governance.
Atiku described Akeredolu as a two-term elected governor of the Sunshine State, saying that he was a politician of class “because he was never known for destructive politics.”
He said that Na’Abba was able to raise the bar of legislative enterprise in Nigeria “as it is evident that the 1st Session of the National Assembly where he served with distinction between 1999-2003 remains one of the best in the annals of our legislatures.
“Both Governor Akeredolu, Aketi, as he was fondly called, and Speaker Na’Abba will be sorely missed for the inestimable roles that they played in our national development.
“I express deepest condolences to their respective families and pray to God to grant their souls a peaceful repose.
“I also join the good people and governments of both Ondo and Kano States to mourn the demise of these towering political figures.
Also Governor Adeleke expressed deep surprise about the news of the death of “Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN).”
Adeleke described his death as a huge national loss.
Governor Adeleke said that Governor Akeredolu made great contributions to the Nigeria in the legal field and public service.
“Arakunrin Akeredolu was one of the finest minds in the country’s legal profession, and as a colleague in the Governor’s Forum, his wise counsel and constructive contributions is hard to miss. Nigeria lost one of its finest, and I’m hugely shaken.
The Governor sympathised with the Acting Governor of Ondo State, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, the family of the deceased, the Government and the people of Ondo State over this painful loss, urging them to keep his memory alive by sustaining his legacy of good deeds and impacts.
“In this moment of grief and pain, I offer my deepest sympathy to everyone touched by Arakunrin Akeredolu’s demise and pray to God to grant him eternal rest while hoping for his immediate family, the government and people of Ondo State that he left behind finds comfort in the life full of accomplishments that he lived.”